Sat, 25 May 2019 15:27:31 GMT Sat, 25 May 2019 15:27:31 GMT Why Do We Fight? How Do We Fight? Douglas Macgregor

Today’s political and military leaders have no choice but to project technology and strategic conditions into the future while they develop their forces today. However, before such multi-billion dollar investments are made, critical questions should be answered.

What is the real mission set? In other words, whom do we fight? Where do we fight? How do we fight? And how do we get there? On Memorial Day, we must take a step back to properly address these questions because right now it’s not so clear. What we do have is a military spending strategy that is out of whack with reality and setting us up for failure when real threats arise.

The United States is primarily a global maritime and aerospace power, not a global land power. Washington is known for exaggerating threats, but is the notion of spending to fight a near-simultaneous war with Russia and China in 2030 a realistic goal? Wars with continental powers like Russia, China, or even Turkey or Iran, demand the persistent employment of large and powerful ground forces projected over thousands of miles. U.S. military advantages at sea and in the air are relegated to supporting roles as seen in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Long before U.S. forces entered World War II in 1942, the British Empire and the Soviet Union fought for years and sustained millions of casualties. Who are Washington’s allies today? How many field capable forces would be able to assist us in the field? How many are just military protectorates seeking to shift the burden of their defense to Washington?

Throughout the 20th century, strong majorities of Americans opposed involvement in all wars overseas. President John F. Kennedy’s statement that Americans “would pay any price, bear any burden…oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and success of liberty,” was false the moment JFK made it.

The answers to the questions above should align the structure and use of U.S. military power with strategic, technological, and fiscal realities. But in the senior ranks of the armed forces—especially in the U.S. Army and Marines—aligning military power with reality is sacrificed to the protection of “service equities,” meaning warfighting structures, equipment sets, and missions from unwanted changes in warfare wrought by technology.

Fair use excerpt. Read the rest here.]]> Sat, 25 May 2019 15:27:31 GMT
Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a Military-Industrial Takeover of US Elections Whitney Webb

Earlier this month, tech giant Microsoft announced its solution to “protect” American elections from interference, which it has named “ElectionGuard.” The election technology is already set to be adopted by half of voting machine manufacturers and some state governments for the 2020 general election. Though it has been heavily promoted by the mainstream media in recent weeks, none of those reports have disclosed that ElectionGuard has several glaring conflicts of interest that greatly undermine its claim aimed at protecting US democracy.

In this investigation, MintPress will reveal how ElectionGuard was developed by companies with deep ties to the US defense and intelligence communities and Israeli military intelligence, as well as the fact that it is far from clear that the technology would prevent foreign or domestic interference with, or the manipulation of, vote totals or other aspects of American election systems.

Election forensics analyst and author Jonathan Simon as well as investigative journalist Yasha Levine, who has written extensively on how the military has long sought to weaponize public technologies including the internet, were consulted for their views on ElectionGuard, its connections to the military-industrial complex and the implication of those connections for American democracy as part of this investigation.

In January, MintPress published an exposé that later went viral on a news-rating company known as Newsguard. Officially aimed at fighting “fake news,” the company’s many connections to US intelligence, a top neoconservative think tank, and self-admitted government propagandists revealed its real intention was to promote corporate media over independent alternatives.

Newsguard was among the first initiatives that comprise Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy” program, a program that the tech giant created under the auspices of protecting American “democratic processes from cyber-enabled interference [which] have become a critical concern.” Through its partnership with Microsoft, Newsguard has been installed in public libraries and universities throughout the country, even while private-sector companies have continued to avoid adopting the problematic browser plug-in.

Now, Microsoft is promoting a new “Defending Democracy” initiative — one equally ridden with glaring conflicts of interest — that threatens American democracy in ways Newsguard never could. ElectionGuard is touted by Microsoft as a system that aims to “make voting secure, more accessible, and more efficient anywhere it’s used in the United States or in democratic nations around the world.” It has since been heavily promoted by mainstream and US government-funded media outlets in preparation for its use in the 2020 general election.

However, according to Jonathan Simon, election forensic analyst and author of CODE RED: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy, this public relations campaign is likely just cover for more insider control over US elections. “It’s encouraging that after close to two decades of ignoring the security issues with computerized voting, there’s suddenly a scramble to protect our next election that suggests those issues are finally being taken seriously,” Simon told MintPress. “Unfortunately the proposed solution is just more computerization and complexity — which translates to more control by experts and insiders, though of course that is not part of the PR campaign.”

As to the likely identity of those insiders, the fact that Microsoft’s ElectionGuard was developed in tandem with a private military and intelligence contractor whose only investor is the US Department of Defense offers a troubling clue. As a consequence, ElectionGuard’s promise to “secure” elections is dubious, especially given that Microsoft itself is a US military contractor. Furthermore, amid the unfolding scandal of Israeli meddling in foreign elections, Microsoft’s growing ties to Israeli military intelligence and private Israeli cybersecurity firms raise even more concerns about whether ElectionGuard’s real purpose is to “secure” American elections for candidates friendly to the establishment, especially the military-industrial complex.

Explaining ElectionGuard

According to an announcement made in early May by Tom Burt, Microsoft’s Vice President for Customer Security and Trust, ElectionGuard is “a free open-source software development kit (SDK)” that “will make voting secure, more accessible, and more efficient anywhere it’s used.” Burt’s statement further claims that the ElectionGuard system “will enable end-to-end verification of elections, open results to third-party organizations for secure validation, and allow individual voters to confirm their votes were correctly counted.” While ElectionGuard may appear to concern itself only with electronic ballots, the announcement states that the system “is designed to work with systems that use paper ballots” through the use of an optical scanner.

Notably, Microsoft chose to announce ElectionGuard only after it had already partnered “with major election technology suppliers who are exploring the integration of ElectionGuard into their voting systems.” Burt further noted that Microsoft now has “partnerships with election technology suppliers responsible for more than half of the voting machines sold in the US” ElectionGuard partner companies include Democracy Live, Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic, BPro, MicroVote, and VotingWorks.

Another interesting, and deeply troubling, admission in the Microsoft announcement is that Microsoft’s ElectionGuard development partner, the Portland-based cybersecurity firm Galois, “recently received $10 million in funding from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a demonstration voting system to help evaluate secure hardware DARPA researchers are developing as part of a separate DARPA program.”

Microsoft’s announcement then notes that “the agency views ensuring the integrity and security of the election process as a critical national security concern and plans to implement the ElectionGuard SDK as part of their effort to enable an end-to-end verifiable component in future versions of their demonstration voting system.”

As deeply troubling as DARPA’s $10 million indirect investment in ElectionGuard may seem, it is merely scratching the surface, as Galois itself is essentially an extension of DARPA in the private cybersecurity industry.

The “private” company whose only investor is the Pentagon

Founded in 1999 by John Launchbury, Galois quickly became close to numerous government agencies that now – according to the Galois website – form the vast majority of its clientele. In fact, Galois currently only lists the following US government agencies in its “clients” section: DARPA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, “Intelligence Community” (i.e., CIA, NSA, etc.) and NASA. However, other clients of Galois include top US weapons manufacturer General Dynamics. Galois’ stated focus as a company is research and development in advanced computer science, with an emphasis on securing critical systems and cybersecurity. It also dabbles in artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, and machine learning.

Though it describes itself as “a privately held US-owned and -operated company,” public records indicate that Galois’ only investors are DARPA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR), both of which are divisions of the Department of Defense. In other words, while “officially” a private company, its only investor is the US government, more specifically the Pentagon.

However, the company’s connections to DARPA go even further. The company’s founder and chief scientist John Launchbury, left Galois in 2014 to become program manager and subsequently the director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, which deals with “nation-scale investments in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.” In 2017, he left DARPA and went back to work at Galois as the company’s chief scientist. DARPA’s Information Innovation Office’s official purpose is to develop advanced technology for issues of national security interest, but it also focuses on enhancing “human/machine partnership.”

A Galois spin-off company called Free & Fair, which develops election technology, partnered with Microsoft to produce ElectionGuard. Free & Fair’s website lists its partners as DARPA, Microsoft, voting machine manufacturer VotingWorks, vote tallying software developer Verificatum, the state government of Colorado, and the OSET (Open Source Election Technology) Institute. VotingWorks is a “non-profit” voting machine manufacturer founded by a former Mozilla director of engineering and closely affiliated with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). In addition to Colorado, other states like Minnesota have partnered with Microsoft’s “Defending Democracy” program, but it is unclear if they have adopted or plan to adopt ElectionGuard as a consequence of that partnership.

According to the CDT’s announcement of VotingWorks’ launch:
CDT will serve as a home for VotingWorks until it becomes its own non-profit entity. This partnership means VotingWorks is working closely with the CDT’s experienced team to rapidly ramp up operations and begin in earnest the development of affordable, secure, open-source voting machines for use in US public elections.”
The president and CEO of CDT is Nuala O’Connor, who was Amazon’s Vice President for Compliance and Customer Trust before becoming CDT president. O’Connor was also formerly chief privacy officer of the US Department of Homeland Security and has also worked at General Electric and the US Department of Commerce.

CDT’s board includes former Deputy Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator for the White House under Obama and current Principal Counsel at Apple Philippa Scarlett; Microsoft’s corporate vice president, Julie Brill; and Mozilla’s vice president of global policy, Alan Davidson. More troubling, however, is its advisory council, which includes representatives of RAND Corporation, Walmart, Verizon, the Charles Koch Institute, Facebook and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). MintPress readers are likely familiar with AEI, one of the country’s most notorious neoconservative think tanks, known for employing John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz, among others. One of Newsguard’s co-founders, Louis Gordon Crovitz, is also affiliated with the AEI.

Another partner of Galois’ Free & Fair is the Open Source Election Technology Institute (OSET Institute, or OSETI), whose flagship initiative is called “TrustTheVote.” One of OSETI’s co-founders and its current CTO is E. John Sebes, who has previously done work for DARPA and DHS. OSETI’s strategic board of advisors includes Chris Barr of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is a top investor in Newsguard; former Oregon Secretary of State Phil Keisling; former Deputy Director of the NSA William Cromwell; former head of DHS’ Cybersecurity Directorate and former DARPA project manager Doug Maughan; and Norm Ornstein of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and co-director of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project.

Aside from the numerous links to major corporations, government agencies and neoconservative think tanks, of particular concern to Free & Fair’s mission to develop “secure” election technology are its connections to DHS. This is because, before, during and after the 2016 election, DHS was caught attempting to hack into state electoral systems in at least three states — Georgia, Indiana and Idaho — with similar accusations also being made in Kentucky and West Virginia. In Indiana’s case, the DHS’ attempted hacks occurred nearly 15,000 times over a 46 day period. In an official answer to Georgia’s claim the DHS had tried to penetrate its electoral system’s firewall, DHS which initially denied being behind the attempted hack, later responded that the attempted breach was “legitimate business” aimed at “verifying a professional license administered by the state.” Some of the states targeted by DHS had turned down the department’s offer to “shore up” election systems prior to the 2016 election.

Compare this to the alleged Russian hacking into state electoral systems, which – to date – includes only the claim from the FBI that hackers alleged to be affiliated with Russian military intelligence penetrated voter registration data in two counties in Florida. That alleged hack, the details of which remain classified and for which no evidence of it even happening has been made publicly available, did not result in any alterations to data or other manipulation of those systems, per FBI officials. The DHS, in contrast, attempted to hack into the systems, not of individual counties, but entire states and acknowledged that it did so, even though they chose not to use the work “hack” and defended their activity. While focusing on foreign — and especially Russian — interference may make for a more patriotic story, the dangers posed by domestic actors with at least as great a stake in US election outcomes appear to have been grossly underestimated and virtually ignored by the media.

Free & Fair’s partnerships with groups tied to DHS seem to further undermine its stated mission of providing secure and trustworthy election technology, in addition to its parent company’s deep ties to the Department of Defense, especially DARPA.

Russian-American investigative journalist, and author of Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, Yasha Levine explained to MintPress why DARPA is likely interested in US election system software like ElectionGuard and why the agency’s interest is dangerous for American democracy:
Election systems are now being increasingly seen as a theater for warfare between competing nation states. So, if you are DARPA and your reason for existence is to create hi-tech weapons for the future, then you are going to be looking at electronic voting systems as a theater of war where the country could be attacked by a foreign adversary. That explains why DARPA is involved.

But DARPA and some of these companies involved can also be seen as foes of Americans’ popular will… We can hypothesize about what’s really going on and what their intentions are, but clearly the Pentagon R&D Lab for war should not be anywhere near America’s electoral system because it represents a huge and powerful and unaccountable force in the American political system whose interests often run counter to democracy.

The fact that we are handing over the keys of American democracy to the military-industrial complex — it’s like giving the keys to the henhouse to a fox and saying, ‘here come in and take whatever you want.’ It’s obviously dangerous.”
From mind control to vote control?

It’s worth briefly describing why DARPA’s role at Galois is of concern. This stems mainly from the fact that DARPA is currently developing Orwellian and nightmarish “Terminator” technologies — including efforts to implant chips into soldiers’ brains, replace most human soldiers with robot soldiers, and create killer “Terminator” robots — and autonomous artificial-intelligence targeting systems that will use social media to identify potential targets.

In 2015, Michael Goldblatt — then-director of the DARPA subdivision Defense Sciences Office (DSO), which oversees the “super soldier” program — told journalist Annie Jacobsen that he saw no difference between “having a chip in your brain that could help control your thoughts” and “a cochlear implant that helps the deaf hear.” When pressed about the unintended consequences of such technology, Goldblatt stated that “there are unintended consequences for everything.”

It goes without saying that the fact that an institution currently developing what essentially amounts to mind-control technology, and that also sees nothing wrong with such technology, has suddenly become so interested in creating and funding with millions of dollars a “free, fair and secure” election system to protect American democracy from interference, is beyond odd and suggests an ulterior motive.

Similarly, Microsoft’s claim that it “will not charge for using ElectionGuard and will not profit from partnering with election technology suppliers that incorporate it into their products” should also raise eyebrows. Considering that Microsoft has a long history of predatory practices, including price gouging for its OneCare security software, its offering of ElectionGuard software free of charge is tellingly out of step for the tech giant and suggests an ulterior motive behind Microsoft’s recent philanthropic interest in “defending democracy.”

In addition, Microsoft’s dual role as a major technology company and a contractor for both the US military and the US intelligence community should also raise red flags. Indeed, Microsoft has made it abundantly clear that it plans to forge ever closer ties with the US government, especially after Microsoft President Brad Smith announced last December that Microsoft is “going to provide the US military with access to the best technology … all the technology we create. Full stop.” A month prior to that statement, Microsoft secured a $480 million contractwith the Pentagon to provide the US military with its HoloLens technology.

This close relationship that Microsoft is building with the Pentagon may explain the company’s ulterior motive in creating and promoting ElectionGuard, as promoting the largely DARPA-funded election technology could help improve Microsoft’s chances in its current bid for a $10 billion cloud services contract with the Pentagon.

Furthermore, given the numerous corporate connections as well as the connections to the AEI, it could be argued that Microsoft and Galois’ intimate involvement in this system could be to help “guard” elections from candidates who threaten to regulate or rein in their industries, particularly the military-industrial complex. Of course, the claim that ElectionGuard is “open source” is meant to mitigate such speculation, as the open-source nature of the technology ostensibly means that no discrete code is hidden that could be used to manipulate results. However, as will be shown shortly, the fact that a technology is open-source does not necessarily mean that the data that passes through that technology is not open to manipulation from a third party.

ElectionGuard isn’t immune to manipulation

Microsoft’s press release announcing ElectionGuard highlights its claim that its system would make elections more verifiable, secure, and auditable; be open source-based; and improve the voting experience. While all of these things sound nice enough, there is reason to believe — based on the description given by Microsoft — that some of these claims are dubious and misleading. Unfortunately, for now, analysis of ElectionGuard is restricted to Microsoft’s description of the software as it is not yet available for public examination. The ElectionGuard software kit is expected to be released later this year on the GitHub platform.

The first aspect of the “verifiable” claim relates to a voter tracking system, where each voter is given a unique tracking ID which allows them “to follow an encrypted version of the vote through the entire election process via a web portal provided by election authorities.” Voters can choose the option of confirming “that their trackers and encrypted votes accurately reflect their selections.”

Yet Microsoft notes that “once a vote is cast, neither the tracker nor any data provided through the web portal can be used to reveal the contents of the vote,” meaning that while a person can track whether their vote was counted, they cannot verify whether the content of the vote (i.e., who they voted for) is counted correctly or not. Microsoft goes on to note that only “after the election is complete” will the tracker page allow the content of the vote to be seen.

The second “verifiability” component of ElectionGuard “is an open specification – or a road map – which allows anyone to write an election verifier.” Microsoft then notes that this open specification would mean that “voters, candidates, news media and any observers can run verifiers of their own or downloaded from sources of their choosing to confirm tabulations are as reported.”

Microsoft describes these two features as constituting “end-to-end verifiability” (E2E-V), which Free & Fair describes as “cryptographic technology that enables voters to vote in a normal fashion in a polling place and have evidence that the election is trustworthy.”

Another focus of ElectionGuard is security, for which the system employs “homomorphic encryption, which enables mathematical procedures – like counting – to be done with fully encrypted data” and this allows individually encrypted votes to be “combined to form an encrypted tabulation of all votes which can then be decrypted to produce an election tally that protects voter privacy.” Notably, homomorphic encryption is the only ElectionGuard security measure named in the press release.

Election forensics analyst Jonathan Simon, author of CODE RED: Computerized Elections and the War on American Democracy, was not fully persuaded by the E2E-V claim. “Pardon my skepticism,” Simon told MintPress, “but I’ve read Microsoft’s ‘good news’ ElectionGuard flyer and it reminds me very much of the flyers and PR material long served up by the vendors and programmers of the current voting equipment — the very computers that IT experts discovered could be hacked by outsiders and programmed to add, delete, and shift votes by insiders.”

Simon continued:
Right now, for example, they’re hawking expensive and completely unnecessary ballot-marking devices (BMDs) that turn your votes into a barcode, a code that no voter can read or verify. Very slick but yet another level of non-transparency, another step away from public, observable vote-counting, and another vector for fraud.

I’ve spent the last 17 years examining vote-count patterns and drawing attention to a parade of egregious red flags indicative of computerized vote-count manipulation. It has been a system designed for concealment and about as non-transparent as a process can be. It would be great if more advanced technology would bring transparency at last, as Microsoft seems to promise.

But what I see so far is even more complexity — encryption that, whether open source or not, requires the most rarefied experts to penetrate or understand. And just a short step to full-on internet voting — even more convenient and about as secure as, say, Facebook.

Pending a demonstration showing with perfect layperson-accessible clarity how a third-party entity can verify aggregate vote-counts without having to take on faith some step in the pipeline (individual verification that ‘your’ vote was ‘counted’ is a useless bell-and-whistle), it still feels like the same old ‘trust us’ game. I’m willing to be persuaded but the historical context here is very cautionary.”
Simon’s concerns reflect some controversial aspects of the ElectionGuard approach. While encryption would ostensibly protect votes from tampering and thus elections results, it is important to point out that homomorphic encryption is a malleable form of encryption.

According to
A malleable crypto-system is one in which anyone can intercept a cipher text, transform it into another cipher text, and then decrypt that into a plain text that makes sense. Malleability is generally considered undesirable in a crypto-system. Imagine you’re trying to send the message ‘I love you’ to your friend using encryption. You encrypt it and send it off. But, it is intercepted by a hacker on the way. All they see is some cipher text, but they can change that cipher text to something that will decrypt to ‘I hate you’ when your friend tries to decrypt it. That is why malleability is not usually wanted.”
If that’s the case, then what stops a “hacker” or another third party — say a US government agency like the NSA or a political operative with access to the electoral cyber-pipeline — from changing a person’s vote from Democrat to Republican or vice versa, or altering the encrypted tabulation of all votes?

While homomorphic encryption seems a reasonable choice in one sense, for allowing votes to be tallied without decrypting, there is an added layer of concern given Microsoft’s past, particularly Microsoft’s history of actually working with US government agencies to bypass encryption.

Indeed, documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that Microsoft actually helped the National Security Agency bypass its own encryption so the agency could decrypt messages sent via certain Microsoft platforms including Web chat, Hotmail email service, and Skype. In addition, in 2009, a senior NSA official testified before Congress that Microsoft and the NSA worked together to create its Windows 7 operating system, leading some to worry that Microsoft had built a “backdoor” into the operating system to aid government surveillance activities. Now that Microsoft’s ties to the US military and intelligence community are deeper than ever, it begs the question whether Microsoft’s covert cooperation with government agencies to the detriment of consumers is also a factor guiding its role in creating and promoting ElectionGuard.

Furthermore, with Microsoft’s president having vowed to hand over all its technologies to the US military, one wonders if this type of encryption and methodology was not chosen on purpose, especially given the fact that the NSA is quite accomplished at breaking much more secure types of encryption even without help from Microsoft.

Another of Microsoft’s talking points used to promote ElectionGuard is the fact that it will be open source, meaning the program’s code will be publicly available, a move apparently aimed at assuaging concerns that ElectionGuard’s code could contain hidden manipulations or vulnerabilities.

However, investigative journalist Yasha Levine likened Microsoft’s promotion of ElectionGuard’s still unreleased open source code to a “PR move.” Levine told MintPress:
Open source inevitably has bugs and vulnerabilities that are there accidentally because all code has vulnerabilities. This is true for open source and closed source systems. Open source just means that people can look at it, but then that code has to be run through a compiler that actually runs an executable program. So there you already have a degree of abstraction and separation from the open source code. But even if the executable code and the source code are the same, there are bugs which can be exploited.

So, what open source does is give a veneer of openness that leads one to think that thousands of people have probably vetted the code and flagged any bugs in it. But, actually very few people have the time and the ability to look at this code. So this idea that open source code is more transparent isn’t really true because few people are looking at it.”
Levine went on to note that there are many examples of open source systems — including widely used open source systems — having major vulnerabilities that go undetected for years. One of the best examples, in Levine’s opinion, is the “Heartbleed” bug, which was a security vulnerability in the open source OpenSSL software, a system that allows for the basic encryption of web traffic by encrypting “http” connections. The Heartbleed allowed hackers access to the memory of data servers for an estimated half a million websites and went undetected for years, despite the fact that OpenSSL is an open source system.

Levine also underscored the fact that both American and foreign intelligence agencies “more than any other person or group” are involved in seeking out such vulnerabilities and exploits, which they keep hidden from the public in order to give themselves an advantage in cyberwarfare. Some of the CIA’s lists of such exploits or vulnerabilities were revealed in the WikiLeaks Vault 7 release.

Microsoft’s ties to Israeli military intelligence

ElectionGuard is currently being promoted as a key step towards preventing the “interference” of a foreign government or state actor in US elections in the future. Yet, there is no guarantee that ElectionGuard itself is free from foreign influence, given that Microsoft has deep ties to the military intelligence community of a foreign nation: Israel.

Microsoft’s links to the Israeli military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200, which will be discussed momentarily, are troubling for more than a few reasons. The first is the fact that the main developer of a new election software system aimed at protecting US elections from “foreign interference” has close ties to a foreign military intelligence agency. It goes without saying that if the main developer of ElectionGuard had such ties with another foreign military intelligence agency, such as Russian military intelligence, the software would not stand a chance of adoption in the US and it would likely be a national scandal. The fact that Microsoft’s ties to Israeli military intelligence have not troubled proponents of ElectionGuard suggests that the problem is not foreign interference or influence as long as the foreign nation involved is an ally, not an adversary.

Arguably yet a graver concern in terms of the Microsoft-Unit 8200 relationship and Electionguard, is the recent slew of scandals surrounding Israeli interference in foreign elections all around the world. The most recent of those scandals involved the Israeli company the Archimedes Group and its social-media influence disinformation campaigns to target the elections in several African and Asian nations. According to the Times of Israel, the CEO of the Archimedes Group, Elinadav Heymann, is a former senior intelligence agent for the Israeli military. The group spent an estimated $800,000 on misleading Facebook ads as part of its disinformation campaign, a sum much larger than the $100,000 alleged to have been spent by a Russian company on a similar disinformation campaign in the 2016 election.

Prior to this latest scandal, several private Israeli companies were accused of seeking to collude with the Trump campaign in 2016, namely the now-shuttered PSY-Group — which was run by former Israeli intelligence operatives — and Wikistrat, which also has close ties to Israeli intelligence. The fact that private Israeli firms with ties to Israeli intelligence and Israeli military intelligence have been caught in recent election meddling scandals, including in the US, should be a major red flag when examining the many conflicts of interests that enshroud ElectionGuard’s developers and how those conflicts may inform the program’s functionality.

Microsoft has long had a presence in Israel, which dates back to 1989. However, in recent years, they have invested in and acquired in several companies with deep ties to the IDF’s Unit 8200.

In 2015, Microsoft acquired Israeli cloud security company Adallom for $320 million, which would go on to serve as a new foundation for Microsoft’s Research and Development (R&D) Center in Israel, which has been active since 1989. Adallom’s product was subsequently rebranded as Microsoft Cloud App Security. Adallom’s CEO and co-founder is Assaf Rappaport, who now heads Microsoft’s R&D Center in Tel Aviv. Rappaport, among other things, is a graduate of the elite IDF “Talpiot” program and also served in the Israeli military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200.

Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence (i.e., surveillance), cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is often described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.”

Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on projects such as the infamous Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware, a sophisticated strain of which was used to spy on countries engaged in negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. In addition, the NSA is known to work with veterans of Unit 8200 in the private sector, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli companies, whose executives are linked to Unit 8200, to create backdoors to all the major US telecommunications and major tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. The unit is also known for spying on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories for “coercion purposes” — i.e., gathering info for blackmail — and also for spying on Palestinian-Americansvia an intelligence sharing agreement with the NSA.

However, Microsoft’s connections to Unit 8200 go far beyond Adallom. Another example is Microsoft’s considerable investment in Illusive Networks, an Israeli cybersecurity firm created by Team8, in which Microsoft has also invested heavily. Team8’s CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, who used to lead Unit 8200, and two of the company’s three other co-founders are also veterans of Unit 8200. Former CEO of Google (now Alphabet), Eric Schmidt, is a major backer of Team8.

Team8 has cozied up to former NSA directors, with Zafrir giving presentations alongside former NSA director Keith Alexander, for example. Those efforts eventually culminated in Team8 hiring retired Admiral Mike Rogers, former director of the NSA and US Cyber Command, as a “senior adviser.” “I’ve worked with the highly talented resources of Unit 8200 in the past and so when I had the opportunity to join Team8, I knew this was a rare and valued opportunity,” Rogers said of his hire. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States.

Rogers’ hire by a firm headed by the former boss of a foreign military intelligence agency drew sharp criticism from veterans of the NSA. One of those ex-NSA employees — Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit — told CyberScoop that “Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the US government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to Microsoft’s ties to Unit 8200 through its connections to Adallom, Illusive Networks and Team8, Microsoft is also developing direct ties with Israel’s military, with the IDF having adopted the company’s HoloLens technology. The IDF’s C2 Systems Department has been using a pair of HoloLens devices to adapt the technology for use in war for the past three years, a precursor to what is sure to be a lucrative military contract for Microsoft, considering that their HoloLens contract with the US military was nearly half a billion dollars.

ElectionGuard a bloodless coup for the military-industrial complex

Following the 2016 election and the heavily promoted concerns about “Russian hackers” infiltrating election systems, federal agencies like the NSA have used that threat to lobby for greater control over American democracy. For instance, during a 2017 hearing then-NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers stated:
If we define election infrastructure as critical to the nation and we are directed by the president or the secretary, I can apply our capabilities in partnership with others – because we won’t be the only ones, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI – I can apply those capabilities proactively with some of the owners of those systems.”
With Rogers — who is now employed by the Microsoft-funded and Israeli military intelligence-connected company Team8 — having lobbied for the direct involvement of US government agencies, including the NSA and DHS, in supervising elections, it seems likely that ElectionGuard will help enable those agencies to surveill US elections with particular ease, especially given Microsoft’s past of behind-the-scenes collaboration with the NSA.

Given that ElectionGuard’s system as currently described is neither as “secure” nor as “verifiable” as Microsoft is claiming, it seems clear that the conflicts of interests of its developers, particularly their connections to the US and Israeli militaries, are a recipe for disaster and tantamount to a takeover of the American election system by the military-industrial complex.

“The great irony, and tragedy, here,” according to election forensics analyst Jonathan Simon, “is that we could so easily go the opposite direction and quickly solve all the problems of election security if we got the computers out of the voting process and were willing to collectively invest the modicum of effort needed for humans to count votes observably in public as they once did. If democracy is not worth that effort, perhaps we don’t deserve it.”

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.]]> Sat, 25 May 2019 13:48:00 GMT
Assange Hit With Espionage Act Violations As DoJ Unveils 17 New Charges Tyler Durden

The worst fears of Julian Assange's legal team have just been realized.

Just as Wikileaks' editor in chief anticipated, the DoJ has revealed that a grand jury in Virginia has returned a new 18-count superseding indictment against Assange that includes violations of the Espionage Act stemming from his role in publishing the classified documents leaked by Chelsea Manning, as well as his original charge of conspiring to break into a government computer, per the New York Times.

The DOJ said with the indictment that Assange will face a maximum of 10 years for each of the 17 Espionage Act violations, plus the five-year penalty for his earlier hacking charge.

In addition to significantly raising the punishment threshold (from a maximum of 5.5 years under the previous indictment to the prospect of a death sentence for violating the Espionage Act), the new charges will raise serious first amendment issues as Assange will become the first journalist charged under the Espionage Act.

Though it's not a guarantee, Espionage Act violations have, in the past, carried the prospect of a death sentence, though Assange's specific violations will likely spare him the possibility of such a fate (read more about Assange's charges here).

For context, the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used to convict suspected spies - most famously Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were famously put to death by electric chair in 1953.
The Justice Department’s decision to pursue Espionage Act charges signals a dramatic escalation under President Trump to crack down on leaks of classified information and aims squarely at First Amendment protections for journalists. Most recently, law enforcement officials charged a former intelligence analyst with giving classified documents to The Intercept, a national security news website.

Legal scholars believe that prosecuting reporters over their work would violate the First Amendment, but the prospect has not yet been tested in court because the government had never charged a journalist under the Espionage Act.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.
Per the NYT, the Obama administration considered bringing the Espionage Act charges against Assange, but balked because it didn't want to raise the First Amendment issue. While Wikileaks had warned of this possibility, they suspected that the US would wait until Assange was on American soil before bringing Espionage Act-related charges, since they would carry a much more severe penalty.

Wikileaks said the new charges were "madness" and that this would be "the end of national security journalism."

Remember, the UK and Ecuador promised that no serious harm would befall Assange - ie that Assange wouldn't be put to death, or face the possibility of rotting in prison for the rest of his life. Whether these new charges will help or hurt Assange's chances of successfully battling extradition remains to be seen.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.]]> Thu, 23 May 2019 22:07:08 GMT
Trump Wants 10K More Troops In The Middle East. For What? Daniel McAdams
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Nope, Guccifer 2.0 Was Not a Russian Creation Larry C. Johnson
Photo credit

Russia did not hack the DNC. This is not an opinion. It is a conclusion that flows from one very specific claim made by the Special Counsel—i.e., Guccifer 2.0 was a fictional identity created by Russian Military Intelligence, the GRU. If Guccifer was in fact a creation or creature of the GRU, then the forensic evidence should show that this entity was operating from Russia or under the direct control of the GRU. The forensic evidence shows something quite different—the meta data in the Guccifer 2.0 documents were manipulated deliberately to plant Russian fignerprints. This was not an accident nor an oversight due to carelessness.

What is meta data? This is the information recorded when a document is created. This data includes things such as the date and time the document was created or modified. It tells you who created the document. It is like the Wizard of Oz, it is the information behind the curtain.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s is correct in stating that Guccifer 2.0 was a “fictious online persona. ” He is wrong in attributing that action to Russian Military Intelligence. While Guccifer 2.0 was a "fictious" entity, the information recorded about when, how and who created the document show that deliberate choices were made to present the info as if it was created by someone Russian.

Let us first stipulate and agree that Russia and the United States engage in cyber espionage and covert action against each other. This has been the case since computers and the internet came into existence. Within the US Intelligence Community these activities generally are labeled with the acronym, CNO—Computer Network Operations. The Russians and the United States have cadres of cyber "warriors" who sit at computer terminals and engage in operations commonly known as hacking. Other countries, such as China, Iran and Ukraine do this as well.

CNOs are classified at the highest level in the United States and normally are handled within special restricted categories commonly known as SAPs (i.e, Special Access Programs). A critical element of these kinds of operations is to avoid leaving any fingerprints or clues that would enable the activity to be traced back to the United States. But this is not unique to the United States. All professional intelligence services around the world understand and practice this principle—leave no evidence behind that proves you were there.

The case implicating Russia in the hack of the DNC and Clinton emails, including those of her campaign Manager, John Podesta, rests on suspect forensic computer evidence—is present in the meta data in the documents posted on line by Guccifer 2.0. According to Disobedient Media, “the files that Guccifer 2.0 initially pushed to reporters contain Russian metadata, a Russian stylesheet entry and in some cases embedded Russian error messages.”

Why would the Russians make such a mistake, especially in such a high stake operation (targeting a national election with covert action most certainly is a high stake operation). Mueller and the US intelligence community want you to believe that the Russians are just sloppy and careless buffoons. Those ideologically opposed to the Russians readily embrace this nonsense. But for those who actually have dealt with Russian civilian and military intelligence operatives and operations, the Russians are sophisticated and cautious.

But we do not have to rely on our personal beliefs about the competence or incompetence of the Russians. We simply need to look at the forensic evidence contained in the documents posted by Guccifer 2.0. We will take Robert Mueller and his investigators at their word:

- Beginning in or around June 2016, the Conspirators staged and released tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents. They did so using fictitious online personas, including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” (p. 2-3)

- The Conspirators also used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to release additional stolen documents through a website maintained by an organization (“Organization 1”) [aka WIKILEAKS], that had previously posted documents stolen from US persons, entities, and the US government. (p. 3)

- Between in or around June 2016 and October 2016, the Conspirators used Guccifer 2.0 to release documents through WordPress that they had stolen from the DCCC and DNC. The Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, also shared stolen documents with certain individuals. (p. 15)

An examination of those documents tells a very different story. While it does not reveal who or what was Guccifer 2.0, it does undermine Mueller’s claim that it was the Russians who did these dastardly deeds.

One independent forensic computer investigator, who uses the name, “The Forensicator,” examined the meta data in some of the documents posted by Guccifer 2.0 and discovered the following:
Guccifer 2.0 published a file on 13 September 2016 that was originally copied on 5 July 2016 at approximately 6:45 PM Eastern time. It was copied and appeared as the “NGP VAN” 7zip file.

The estimated speed of transfer was 23 MB/s. This means that this initial data transfer could have been done remotely over the Internet. Instead, it was likely done from a computer system that had direct access to the data. “By “direct access” we mean that the individual who was collecting the data either had physical access to the computer where the data was stored, or the data was copied over a local high-speed network (LAN).”

This initial copying activity was done on a system that used Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) settings and was likely initially copied to a computer running Linux, because the file last modified times all reflect the apparent time of the copy, which is a characteristic of the Linux ‘cp’ command (using default options).

On September 1, 2016, a subset of the initial large collection of DNC related content (the so-called NGP/VAN data), was transferred to working directories on a system running Windows. The .rar files included in the final 7zip file were built from those working directories.
The alleged Russian fingerprints appeared in the first document “leaked” by Guccifer 2.0-- 1.doc—which was a report on Donald Trump. A forensic examination of the documents shows that given the word processor program used to create the Donald Trump Document released by Guccifer 2.0, the author consciously and purposefully used formats that deliberately inserted “Russian fingerprints” into the document. In other words, the meta-data was purposely altered, and documents were pasted into a "Russianified" word document with Russian language settings and style headings.

Here are the key facts:
The meta data shows that Slate_-_Domestic_-_USDA_-_2008-12-20.doc was the template for creating 1.doc, 2.docand 3.doc. This template injected “Warren Flood” as the author value and “GSA” as the company value in those first three Word documents. This template also injected the title, the watermark and header/footer fields found in the final documents (with slight modifications).

The Word documents published in June 2016 by Guccifer 2 also show a “last saved as” user id written in Cyrillic. The Anglicized name is “Felix Edmundovich“, aka “Iron Felix” (the infamous director of an early Soviet spy agency). If you are a Russian cyber spy trying to conduct a covert operation, why do you sign your document with the name of one of the most infamous leaders of Russian intelligence? Robert Mueller wants you to believe that this was just Russian audacity.
But the meta data tells a different story. When we examine The Revision Session Identifiers aka ‘RSID’s, in the Guccifer document, we see the same Russian style-headings in 1.doc, 2.doc and 3.doc. The document creation timestamps on docs 1, 2 and 3 also are all identical.

Given that MS word assigns a new random ‘RSID’ with each save when an element is added or edited (this function allows one to track changes made to a Word document), the only way to obtain identical creation timestamps means that someone either directly edited the source document or that there was one empty document open and that individual documents were copy-pasted and saved-as (1.doc), then contents deleted and new doc pasted and saved-as (2.doc), etc. This process also explains identical style-sheet RSIDs.

Reprinted with permission from Sic Semper Tyrannis.]]> Thu, 23 May 2019 14:18:10 GMT
US and UK Policy Toward Libya Shifts to ISIS and the Brotherhood Richard Galustian

“The West” is much divided over what should happen in Libya. This is particularly true for France and Italy, who each have vast oil and gas economic interests and are increasingly at odds with one another.

While admittedly the US and UK have an eye on their potential economic interests in a future Libya, theirs is more of an anti-terrorism focus aimed at eradicating ISIS’s presence in Libya and specifically to find ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who is thought to have recently moved to Libya and set up his new HQ.

ISIS released a few weeks ago an 18 minute video (which TV stations around the world only had access to a few minutes) of him speaking, thought to have been taped in Libya, the first such video showing al-Baghdadi, providing proof of life, to be released in five years.

In the intervening current period, the battle to take Tripoli continues by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

Also in almost tandem with the US/UK concentration on finding extremist terrorists in Libya (and elsewhere of course), views on the Muslim Brotherhood are being re-evaluated.

The East Libyan parliament has recently labelled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, while Washington is also contemplating the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. This would also impact on their affiliated organisation Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) based in the US.

London has a more close economic relationship with Qatar - one of two Muslim Brotherhood governments in the world, the other being Turkey - so the UK has a degree of reluctance to upset the Qataris; evaluation of their position on the Brotherhood in London is on-going.

The London based pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on Tuesday 14th May that Haftar accused the Muslim Brotherhood governments of both Turkey and Qatar of supporting extremist militias, that include ISIS, and Haftar stated further, that notably Turkey has been supplying “heavy” arms, shipped regularly to Misrata.

A factor in the shift in Haftar’s fortunes was the fact he received a telephone call of support, on Monday 15th April, from President Trump, despite the fact that that call instigated widespread criticism from the “international community’s” main stream media (MSM).

Could it be President Trump wants Haftar to capture or kill al-Baghdadi, A man compared to Bin Laden?

The consequence of Trump’s emboldening Haftar actually also creates the potential environment for a relatively bloodless take-over of Tripoli.

The critical question is how long will it take Haftar to secure Tripoli - will there be a long military stand-off between the two sides?

In a Bloomberg piece, it said of the phone call, “President Trump indicated in a call to Libyan strongman Haftar (on 15th April) that the US supported an assault on the country’s capital to depose its United Nations-backed government, according to American officials familiar with the matter.” It continues, “the revelation that the US President had tacitly recognised Haftar and addressed him as ‘Field Marshal’ in the statement, as a Libyan leader, abruptly undermined the country’s internationally-recognized government led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj.”

The response to that is to point out the fact that Serraj has zero legitimacy and zero credibility with the Libyan people. He is merely an unelected “Patsy” for the UN and “international community.”

The Bloomberg piece added, “Trump also spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a Haftar supporter, the day before the White House issued the statement acknowledging the call with Haftar.”

A Guardian piece stated, “ for Haftar’s offensive directly contradicts a formal statement a few days earlier from the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.”

All that confirms to us is something we already know: that America has little consensus amongst its political establishment on what should be their foreign policy in any country, not just Libya.

Looking ahead, what might be the potential best outcome for Libya and Libyans in the immediate future?

One might be Serraj’s resignation as Prime Minister - something France’s Macron suggested to him this month. The Brotherhood’s hold over him, not wishing to lose their ‘puppet,’ makes this unlikely unless of course the “International community” forces Serraj out. Another potential resolution would be for the selection by consensus of a new Prime Minister endorsed by his outgoing predecessor (Serraj) and, this being the most critical part, a man that Haftar accepts to actually be the new PM.

Neither Serraj or Haftar seem to want this now, resulting in effectively a political and military stalemate between the two sides, with the losers being the Libyan people.

It should be pointed out that Haftar, at 75 years of age, and in rather poor health, is thought to not have ambitions to be a dictator. He would like to continue to be a powerful player in Libyan affairs for the rest of his life. He appears to want to go down in history as the man who “saved his country” - not an unusual desired legacy for a soldier.

A few more important Libya facts not usually written about by the MSM:

- Haftar has always been careful to limit civilian collateral deaths and injury.

- The Serraj GNA Forces are NOT a cohesive force but rather a collection of extremists; militias that include former senior Al Qaeda, ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood members. These might hopefully dissipate under military pressure from Haftar’s Forces. On the other hand, they might not!

- Serraj’s militias in Tripoli, and more so in Misrata, are well financed in the main by Qatar. They employ many foreign mercenaries, most vividly and very embarrassingly, exposed by the downing recently of “an alleged Portuguese fighter pilot” over Tripoli by Haftar’s Forces. That pilot admitted he was based in Misrata. That might have been “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the Libyan people; the discovery of that fact.

The Brotherhood are particularly strong in Misrata.

- The Libyan people’s patience is at an end. They demand a solution.

- Haftar seems to want a coalition of the majority of the people not just by fighting, but by “negotiation” with many of his adversaries, a very Libyan solution!

- So far, Haftar has not granted Russia a military base in East Libya. This appeals of course to the US. But Haftar, with the East Libyan Parliament (the HOR), could change his mind if Trump’s America is indecisive over supporting East Libya and Haftar.

The hope is that the end of Libya’s “slow burning” simmering civil war is finally in its last stages.

The fact is the moral support given to Haftar by Trump’s call to him was important and significant and could prove to yet tip the balance of power in the civil war in Haftar’s favour.

That said the realistic sombre assessment of the situation leads one to conclude that the “impasse” could, on the other hand, last months unless the intransigence of one or both of these two men, Serraj and Haftar, is broken.
]]> Thu, 23 May 2019 12:57:52 GMT
Delusional Pentagon: 'We Beat Iran Without Firing A Shot!' Daniel McAdams
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Revisiting Ron Paul’s 1988 Case for Drug Legalization Adam Dick

Ron Paul Institute (RPI) Senior Fellow Adam Dick’s prepared comments for RPI’s May 18, 2019 Houston, Texas conference “Winning the War on the War on Drugs”:

Ron Paul helped many people discover libertarian ideas in his presidential campaigns. For me, during Dr. Paul’s 1988 presidential campaign, things worked the other way around. I was already familiar with libertarianism. And that familiarity led me to learn about Ron Paul.

When Dr. Paul came through San Antonio, Texas in that campaign, I went to find out more about this man who was seeking the presidency under the Libertarian Party banner. Dr. Paul, that evening, presented an informative and interesting extemporaneous exploration of current events and his approach to them rooted in libertarian ideas.

One of the things I valued most from the event was a pamphlet written by Dr. Paul that I brought home with me. That pamphlet, titled The Case for Drug Legalization, presented a strong, multifaceted argument for drug legalization that has held up well over the ensuing decades.

It was an argument that Dr. Paul was bold to present in his 1988 presidential campaign. 1988 was eight years before California voters approved Proposition 215 for legal medical marijuana that gave a big boost to rolling back marijuana prohibition across the country, a process that continues forward yet remains far from completion. 1988 was also at the end of two terms of President Ronald Reagan, an adamant drug warrior who helped expand the drug war in America with bipartisan support in Congress.

Ron Paul, in arguing for drug legalization in that election, was also challenging the general public attitude. A Gallup poll placed support for marijuana legalization at 66 percent countrywide in October of last year. In contrast, support was at under 30 percent in Gallup polls nearest to 1988. Back then, Gallup did not poll each year regarding marijuana legalization. Why bother? Legalization would not be happening anytime soon. Of course, a smaller minority of Americans back in 1988 supported the more radical proposal of legalizing all drugs.

But, there was Ron Paul in his 1988 campaign proclaiming in San Antonio and in campaign stops across the country that the entire drug war should be terminated. To boot, one of the handouts from the campaign was the extensive pro-legalization pamphlet. That pamphlet helped show me and other people that Dr. Paul was the real deal as a supporter of freedom.

Indeed, one of the most important things Dr. Paul did early on in his pamphlet The Case for Drug Legalization was emphasize that ending drug prohibition is, as he put it, “a policy based on the American tradition of Freedom.” Sure, there are plenty of pragmatic reasons for legalizing drugs, several of which Dr. Paul discussed in his pamphlet and on the campaign trail. But, fundamentally, the case for drug legalization is a case for respecting people’s freedom.

This emphasis on freedom is principled. It also is likely critical to the ultimate success of any effort to completely end the war on drugs. Consider marijuana legalization which is now the law in one in five American states. Practical arguments have helped bring about that legalization. But, I believe that the biggest driver for legalization has been people developing the opinion that, whether they think it is the right choice or not, the freedom of other individuals to use marijuana should be respected by government.

Dr. Paul’s freedom case for ending the drug war extends beyond emphasizing that the freedom to use drugs should be respected. Ron Paul wrote in his campaign pamphlet that what the government was really doing in the drug war was “assaulting civil liberties in the name of fighting drugs.” Ron Paul was declaring in his 1988 campaign what many more people have come to accept in the years since: The war on drugs is a war on people.

Some of the drug war abuses Dr. Paul detailed in his pamphlet are “bank surveillance that has sought to make every teller a monetary cop,” the construction of dossiers of innocent Americans, and seizures of property such as boats and cars when any illegal drugs are found in them.

Such rights abuses in the name of the drug war have continued and intensified in the years since. But, we have also in recent years seen an uptick in criticism of many drug war practices and even the implementation of restrictions on their use, especially at the state and local level.

One powerful story Dr. Paul tells in his pamphlet is of a family victimized by a SWAT team raid of their apartment. The brutal and destructive raid was justified by a false tip from an informant that drugs were present in the apartment. This is a story that has become more and more common over the years.

Eastern Kentucky University Professor Peter B. Kraska, testifying at a hearing of the United States Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in 2014, identified the late 1980s to early 1990s as the period in which the growth in use of SWAT teams took off in America. The result, he states, is “more than a 1,300 percent increase in the total number of police paramilitary deployments, or call-outs, between 1980 and the year 2000.” Much of this growth is due to the drug war. And, while SWAT team raids of the wrong homes are terrible, so also are SWAT team raids on homes of people who do possess illegal drugs.

You could say Dr. Paul was ahead of his time in criticizing SWAT team raids. He was similarly ahead of his time in condemning in the pamphlet that an elderly widow was “thrown in jail for possession of four marijuana plants,” despite her doctor saying she needed to use marijuana to deal with her glaucoma. Back in 1988, there was little common understanding of the medical benefits a variety of people obtain from using marijuana. Stories like the one Dr. Paul told would often be met with answers such as, “You just say that because you want to get high.” Boy have things changed. And they have only done so because people like Ron Paul, a doctor as well as a political candidate, were willing to stand up and publicly defend the medical use of marijuana, leading the way to the situation now where medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of the states and overwhelmingly supported by the American people.

Dr. Paul also addressed head-on in his 1988 campaign pamphlet some of the ulterior motives behind the drug war in America. He sought to educate people so they would not just accept the line that any negative consequences of the drug war were a necessary byproduct of a well-meaning government effort to keep Americans safe.

Ron Paul bluntly stated his general opinion for why the US government was pursuing a drug war. Dr. Paul wrote that he believed part of the reason “the drug hysteria was whipped up” was “to strengthen big government’s hold over us.” Measured against this goal, Dr. Paul explained, the drug war had been a great success, with accomplishments including a huge increase in the American prison population and a catalogue of liberty abuses undertaken in the name of enforcing prohibition.

But what of the purported compassionate goal of the drug war to prevent people from, via drug use, ruining their lives and the lives of others? Rubbish, answered Dr. Paul, asserting in his pamphlet that drug abuse rates were about the same in 1988 as in 1888, a hundred years earlier and decades before drug prohibition. Indeed, we have witnessed with the ending of alcohol prohibition countrywide last century and of marijuana prohibition in some states over the last few years that no big rise in use of the previously prohibited products materialized.

While prohibition had failed to reduce drug use, it had, Dr. Paul explained, managed to bring about much greater danger for Americans through a resulting rise in rates of property and violent crimes. And the drug war created additional dangers for illegal drug users. Dr. Paul notes in his pamphlet:
The major cause of death is not from drugs’ narcotic properties. It is from poisoned drugs and adulteration.
That danger, wrote Dr. Paul, “is 100% Made in Washington.”

Today politicians and commentators are calling for expansion of the drug war to counter the danger of fentanyl, an adulterant and another danger 100 percent made by government. Legalize drugs and the problem disappears. Here is how I put it in an October of 2017 Ron Paul Institute article:
With legalization, people could buy their drugs from established businesses that have a strong interest in maintaining a good reputation, can be sued for fraud and other wrongful acts, receive their drugs through regular supply chains not interrupted by government interdiction efforts, and sell drugs that are of consistent quality and thus have much more predictable effects when consumed.
Dr. Paul has long known that respecting freedom is inconsistent with fighting a drug war. But, he did not leave the matter at that. Dr. Paul investigated deeply and widely to develop expertise in the many facets of the prohibition debate. Indeed, in his 1988 campaign pamphlet alone he discussed in detail several additional facets of that debate that I have not mentioned here. Further, Ron Paul has taken the initiative over the years in campaigns, in the United States House of Representatives, and through private educational efforts, including with the Ron Paul Institute, to advance the case for drug legalization.

As we look at the success that has been made in rolling back marijuana prohibition and consider the potential of ending the entire drug war, we should be thankful for Ron Paul’s effective communication over the decades of a well-reasoned case for drug legalization. His efforts are a major factor contributing to how far we have come and how much we may yet accomplish in the war against the war on drugs.]]> Wed, 22 May 2019 14:21:23 GMT
Poll: Almost Half Of College Students Do Not Believe First Amendment Protects Hate Speech Jonathan Turley

We have previously discussed how speech codes and regulations are changing the way students are viewing free speech. There is now a steady message for students from elementary school to college that speech must be regulated and that even people can be punished for not just hate speech but the ill-defined category of “microaggressive” speech. Past polls showed that one-third of students believed that violence is justified in dealing with some exercises of speech. Now a survey of college students found almost half do not believe that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment — a chilling indication of the collapsing support for traditional free speech values on our campuses.

The Knight Foundation conducted the survey that showed that 41 percent of college students believe hate speech should not be protected under the First Amendment. The survey also showed that the support for free speech is lower among women with 53 percent believing that hate speech should not be protected.

Of course, these polls do not press students on how should decide what speech is hateful and what speech is merely controversial. The polling shows the success of various faculty members who have been waging a war on free speech in preventing opposing views to be heard on campuses or enforcing speech codes.

We have been discussing the rising intolerance and violence on college campuses, particularly against conservative speakers. (Here and here and here and here). Berkeley has been the focus of much concern over mob rule on our campuses as violent protesters have succeeded in silencing speakers, even including a few speakers like an ACLU official and James Comey. Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with whom they disagree and even student newspapers have declared opposing speech to be outside of the protections of free speech. At another University of California campus, professors actually rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display. In the meantime, academics and deans have said that there is no free speech protection for offensive or “disingenuous” speech. CUNY Law Dean Mary Lu Bilek showed how far this trend has gone. When conservative law professor Josh Blackman was stopped from speaking about “the importance of free speech,” Bilek insisted that disrupting the speech on free speech was free speech.

The United States could easily fall victim to the European movement to criminalize and regulate speech. While anathema to our defining values as a nation, many academics support the right to curtail speech that they deem to be offensive or hateful or insulting. The poll shows that students and faculty who believe in free speech must carry a greater burden if we are to preserve this fundamental right in the United States.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Wed, 22 May 2019 14:06:35 GMT
US Accuses Syria Of More Chemical Attacks Just As Chemical Weapons Narrative Crumbles Caitlin Johnstone

The Institute for Public Accuracy published a report today about the leaked engineering assessment from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigation into an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria which directly contradicts the findings of the official OPCW report on the matter. Until the unauthorized release of this internal document the public was kept entirely uninformed of its existence, despite the serious military consequences of the questions it raises; the official story that the Syrian government had dropped chemical weapons in Douma was used to justify an airstrike on Syria days later.

MIT professor Theodore Postol provided IPA with a basic analysis of some of the data in the engineering assessment, adding that he “will have a much more detailed summary of the engineering report later this week.”

“A second issue that is raised by the character of the OPCW engineering report on Douma is that it is entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council,” Postol concludes after his analysis. “This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.”

“A leaked OPCW document challenges claim that Assad used chemical weapons in Douma in April 2018, the basis for US military strikes,” tweeted journalist Aaron Maté of the new IPA report. “So far, Western media has ignored it, w/ only exceptions at the margins. Ted Postol is a leading expert; this should be impossible to ignore now.”

Hours later, the US State Department issued a statement once again accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, and now when you search Google for information on chemical weapons in Syria, the results you get look like this:


So that’s convenient.

The State Department’s release actually reads like a government trying to regain control of an important narrative. It begins with an unsubstantiated allegation of a chlorine gas attack by the Syrian government this past Sunday, and warns that the US and its allies will respond militarily if chemical weapons have been used. It condemns the Syrian government’s offensive to recapture the Al Qaeda-occupied Idlib province, then veers off into sheer narrative management, accusing the Russian government of lying about the White Helmets and citing the OPCW as a trustworthy source of authority:
Russia’s recent allegations against the White Helmets and others are part of a continuing disinformation campaign by the Assad regime and Russia to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting. Similarly, on November 24, 2018, the Assad regime and Russia attempted to fabricate a chemical weapons attack near Aleppo and blame it on opposition forces. At times, Russia and the Assad regime have made these false allegations as a pretext in advance of the Assad regime’s own barbaric chemical weapons attacks.

The facts, however, are clear: the Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria — a conclusion the United Nations has reached over and over again. The former Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigation Mechanism repeatedly verified and reported the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime’s culpability in horrific chemical weapons attacks is undeniable.
As I wrote the other day, the fact that the OPCW kept the engineering report from receiving not a whisper of attention severely undermines the organization’s credibility, not just with regard to Douma but with regard to everything, including the establishment Syria narrative as a whole and the Skripal case in the UK. Everything the OPCW has ever concluded about alleged chemical usage around the world is now subject to very legitimate skepticism, and now the State Department is trying to use this same dubious source in its narrative control campaign against a government long targeted by the US empire for regime change.

“Assad once again proving he’s either a total fool or just the biggest troll in history,” Off-Guardian tweeted sarcastically in response to the State Department’s allegations. “In the midst of the scandal over the OPCW repressing evidence that the Douma chemical attack was staged, Bashar just goes and does another one.”

“The US can’t attack Iran so it’s going to unleash its impotent rage on Syria,” tweeted journalist Sharmine Narwani. “One false flag CW attack by US-trained terrorists coming up.”

The notion that the Syrian government would use chemical weapons at this stage in the game is even more nonsensical than it was at the time of the Douma allegations in April 2018. President Bashar al-Assad has recaptured far more territory from the western-backed extremist factions, the eventual full recapture of the nation by Syria and its allies is a foregone conclusion barring direct military intervention by the US empire, and now the western imperialists are even beginning to lose the narrative war as well. There’s no reason to believe Assad would use chemical weapons at this point in the game unless you sincerely believe that he gains some sort of sexual gratification from committing war crimes that is so powerful it overwhelms his most basic survival instincts.

Chemical weapons, particularly chlorine gas, are not an efficient way of killing people. As Moon of Alabama once put it, “Chemical warfare is ineffective. That is why everyone agreed to ban it.” There is nothing about chemical weapons that is inherently more horrific than, say, nuclear weapons; the difference is that they’re just not a very efficient way of killing a large number of people, whereas nuclear weapons are. The Syrian government and its allies have been securing military victory after military victory over the occupying militias which had taken over large territories, and they have been doing so using far more effective conventional munitions. Assad would stand absolutely nothing to gain and absolutely everything to lose by using chemical warfare now.

At this point you almost wish America would just pick a target and stick with it. The US war machine is like a belligerent drunk at a pub with a broken bottle in his hand, menacing customer after customer while everyone silently prays he has a few more drinks and passes out on the floor. From Iran to Venezuela to Syria and more, the agenda to bully all the world’s nations into allowing themselves to be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized empire is causing conflict after conflict all around the globe, with devastating consequences for the civilians caught in the crossfire.

You may be certain that Syria remains a geostrategically crucial location for the empire because they keep working on manufacturing consent for interventionism there. They work to manufacture that consent because they need that consent; if everyone saw their government doing horrific things they widely disapproved of, the illusion of freedom and democracy would be shattered, and they’d lose their ability to propagandize the masses. Without the ability to propagandize the masses, they could not rule.

So the good news is that we can slow them down by using truth to disrupt their use of their narrative control arsenal. The bad news is that they’re as depraved and determined as ever.

Reprinted with author's permission from

Support Ms. Johnstone on Patreon or Paypal.]]> Wed, 22 May 2019 13:38:10 GMT
Fair Trial? US Steals Assange's Legal Papers Daniel McAdams
]]> Tue, 21 May 2019 16:31:24 GMT
Impeach Trump But Only for the Right Reason Jacob G. Hornberger

Notwithstanding the fact that their Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after a long detailed investigation, found no evidence that President Trump illegally conspired with Russian officials in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Democrats are still hell bent on impeaching Trump. The problem with their position, however, is that they want to impeach him for invalid reasons, reasons that do not amount to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard set forth in the Constitution.

For one thing, while “conspiring” or “colluding” to establish normal and friendly relations with Russia is considered a cardinal sin by the US national-security establishment and the Republican-Democrat political establishment, it does not constitute a “high crime or misdemeanor” under the US Constitution.

Realizing that, Democrats are falling back on the notion that President Trump engaged in “obstruction of justice” with respect to Mueller’s investigation. The problem with that charge, however, is that “obstruction of justice” is the federal government’s counterpart to local governments’ offense of “disorderly conduct.” It’s a classic example of a nebulous crime that turns on subjective interpretation, one whose purpose is to enable officials to target anyone they don’t like whenever they want.

And if anything is clear, it’s this: Democrats hate Trump so much that they are willing to do anything they can to remove him from office before his term is up, including employing the nebulous crime of “obstruction of justice” to do it.

But no matter how much Democrats and others might dislike Trump, the fact is that he won the election. He defeated Hillary Clinton by securing more electoral votes than she did. Under our system of government, he has the right to be president. Using the “crimes” of conspiring to establish normal relations with Russia or “obstruction of justice” to remove him from office would be akin to Third World coups that oust democratically elected leaders who are disliked by their military-intelligence establishment or by political elites within the nation.

This is especially true given the possibility that it was the US deep state that illegally meddled in the US presidential election in an effort to get Hillary Clinton, who had a vehement anti-Russia mindset, elected president. Trump is absolutely right to want a full investigation into that possibility.

Does that mean that Trump should not be impeached? No. Trump should be impeached, but only for the right reason.

What is that reason? Illegally waging war against foreign regimes without the congressional declaration of war that is required by the US Constitution.

The Constitution is the highest law of the land. It is the law that we the people have imposed on US officials, including the president. When Congress enacts laws, such as drug laws, we the people are expected to obey them. By the same token, federal officials are supposed to to obey our law, the law set forth in the Constitution.

It is undisputed that Trump is waging wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It is also undisputed that Congress has not issued a declaration of war against any of those nations. Those wars are killing people. Just last week, US bombers killed 18 Afghan police officers who were engaged in a firefight with the Taliban. The Pentagon has called it a “tragic accident.” But one thing is for sure: If Trump was not waging this illegal war, those police officers would not have been killed by US bombs. Trump’s undeclared wars in Syria and Iraq have also killed people in those two countries. With respect to Yemen, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out in his May 18 column:
It is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that drop the bombs on Yemen, but Washington supplies weaponry and intelligence that allow this war to drag on indefinitely. American policy is to support the starvation of Yemeni children because they are ruled by a faction with ties to Iran.
By waging wars without a congressional declaration of war, Trump is knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately violating the Constitution. By doing so he is committing a “high crime,” one that clearly warrants impeachment.

That’s what Trump should be impeached for — illegally waging war without the constitutionally required declaration of war — not for some trumped-up charges of conspiring to establish normal relations with Russia or “obstruction of justice.” 

It is crystal clear that the federal judiciary isn’t going to enforce that particular provision of the Constitution. Therefore, it is up to Congress to enforce the declaration-of-war provision in the Constitution through impeachment.

If Trump were impeached for waging illegal wars under our system of justice, he and his lawyers would undoubtedly defend by claiming that other presidents, including Democratic presidents like Truman, Johnson, and Obama, did the same thing. But under well-established principles of criminal justice, the fact that some people have violated the law with impunity does not serves as a license for other people to also violate the law.

Also, the fact that previous presidents have violated the law without being impeached for it does not constitute a de-facto amendment of the Constitution nullifying the declaration-of-war requirement.

The problem, of course, is that Democrats, no matter how much they hate Trump and want to see him removed from office, are not about to impeach him for waging illegal wars in foreign lands. That’s because they simply want a Democrat to take his place as president so that they can be the ones waging these illegal undeclared wars, just as Truman, Johnson, and Obama did.

Needless to say, on this issue the Republican members of Congress are on the same page as their Democrat counterparts. The last thing any Republican member of Congress wants to do is impeach Trump for the right reason — waging illegal wars in foreign lands. That includes those Republicans who claim to revere the Constitution and those who refer to themselves as “strict constructionists.”

The discomforting fact is that when it comes to enforcing the higher law that we the people have imposed on the president with respect to waging war without a congressional declaration of war, the Republican members of Congress are as big a disaster as their Democratic counterparts. All of them — Republicans and Democrats alike — should be impeaching and convicting Trump but only for the right reason: waging illegal undeclared wars under our form of constitutional government.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Tue, 21 May 2019 14:27:47 GMT
Do Iranian ‘Threats’ Signal Organized US-Israel Subterfuge? Gareth Porter

President Donald Trump’s national security team has been leaking “intelligence” about Iranian threats for a week now in an attempt to justify escalating tensions, including moving American air attack assets to the Persian Gulf. But a closer look suggests that National Security Advisor John Bolton and other senior officials are trying to pull off an intelligence deception comparable to the fraudulent pretense for war in Iraq.

There’s also credible evidence that Israel could be playing a key role in this subterfuge.

This deception has served to defend not only a US military buildup in the region, but an expansion of the possible contingencies that could be used to justify military confrontation. In Bolton’s White House statement on May 5, he said the deployment of assets to the Gulf would “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

But public claims by the White House about Iran don’t reflect “intelligence” in any technical sense of the word. No one has cited a single piece of hard evidence that justifies these claims of threats, let alone any that are “new,” as press leaks have suggested. All of them appear to be deliberate and gross distortions of actual facts. Thus do they parallel the infamous aluminum tubes of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, which were presented as proof of an incipient Iraqi nuclear weapons program, despite the fact that technical analysis had shown that they couldn’t have been used for that purpose.

The Washington Post reported on May 15 that Pentagon and intelligence officials had cited three “Iranian actions” that had supposedly “triggered alarms”:

- “Information suggesting an Iranian threat against US diplomatic facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Irbil.”

- “US concerns that Iran may be preparing to mount rocket or missile launchers on small ships in the Persian Gulf.”

- “A directive from [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and regular Iranian military units that some US officials have interpreted as a potential threat to US military and diplomatic personnel.”

None of those three claims describes actual evidence of a threatening Iranian “action”; all merely refer to an official US “concern” about a possible Iranian threat.

Fair use excerpt. Read the full article here.]]> Tue, 21 May 2019 14:00:11 GMT
Rockets In Baghdad's Green Zone - False Flag Or Iran Attack? Daniel McAdams
]]> Mon, 20 May 2019 16:56:06 GMT
Violence Against Women Act Does Violence to the Constitution Ron Paul

A common trick of big-government loving politicians is to give legislation names so appealing that it seems no reasonable person could oppose it. The truth is, the more unobjectionable the title, the more objectionable the content. Two well-known examples are the “PATRIOT Act” and the “Access to Affordable and Quality Care Act.”

Another great example is the Violence Against Women Act. Passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act provides federal grants to, and imposes federal mandates on, state and local governments with the goal of increasing arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of those who commit domestic violence.

Like most federal laws, the Violence Against Women Act is unconstitutional. The Constitution limits federal jurisdiction to three crimes: counterfeiting, treason, and piracy. All other crimes — including domestic violence — are strictly state and local matters.

The law also forbids anyone subject to a restraining order obtained by a spouse or a domestic partner from owning a gun. This is a blatant violation of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on federal laws denying anyone the right to own a gun. Whether someone subject to a restraining order, or convicted of a violent crime, should lose their rights to own firearms is a question to be decided by state and local officials.

At least the current law requires individuals receive due process before the government can deprive them of their Second Amendment rights. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation reauthorizing and making changes to the Violence Against Women Act. The most disturbing part of this “upgrade” gives government the power to take away an individual’s Second Amendment rights based solely on an allegation that the individual committed an act of domestic violence. The accused then loses Second Amendment rights without even having an opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge.

This is a version of “red flag” laws that are becoming increasingly popular. Red flag laws are not just supported by authoritarians like Senators Diane Feinstein and Lindsey Graham, but by alleged “constitutional conservatives” like Sen. Ted Cruz.

Red flag laws have led to dangerous confrontations between law enforcement and citizens who assumed that those breaking into their property to take their guns are private, rather than government, thieves.

The House bill also expands red flag laws to cover those accused of “misdemeanor stalking.” Many jurisdictions define misdemeanor stalking to include “cyber” or online stalking. These means someone could lose Second Amendment rights for sending someone an “offensive” Facebook or Twitter message.

Forbidding someone from owning a firearm because of offensive social media posts sets a precedent that could be used to impose legal sanctions on those posting “hate speech.” Since hate speech is defined as “speech I don’t agree with,” this could lead to the de facto outlawing of free speech online.

Instead of addressing concerns over the inclusion of new red flag type laws in the Violence Against Women’s Act, proponents of the bill have smeared their critics as not caring about domestic violence. As Reason magazine senior editor Jacob Sullum has pointed out, these progressives sound like neoconservatives who smear PATRIOT Act opponents as allies of Al Qaeda.

All decent people oppose domestic violence and terrorism. However, the desire to catch and punish wrongdoers does not justify violating the Constitution or denying anyone due process. When government violates the rights of anyone it threatens the liberties of everyone.]]> Mon, 20 May 2019 12:49:37 GMT
CONFIRMED: Chemical Weapons Assessment Contradicting Official Syria Narrative Is Authentic Caitlin Johnstone

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun responding to queries by the press about a leaked document which contradicts official OPCW findings on an alleged chemical weapons attack last year in Douma, Syria. The prepared statement they’ve been using in response to these queries confirms the authenticity of the document.

To recap, a few days ago the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM) published a document signed by a man named Ian Henderson, whose name is seen listed in expert leadership positions on OPCW documents from as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018. It’s unknown who leaked the document and what other media organizations they may have tried to send it to.

The report picks apart the extremely shaky physics and narratives of the official OPCW analysis on the gas cylinders allegedly dropped from Syrian government aircraft in the Douma attack, and concludes that “The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft,” saying instead that manual placement of the cylinders in the locations investigators found them in is “the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”

To be clear, this means that according to the assessment signed by an OPCW-trained expert, the cylinders alleged to have dispensed poison gas which killed dozens of people in Douma did not arrive in the locations that they were alleged to have arrived at via aircraft dropped by the Syrian government, but via manual placement by people on the ground, where photographs were then taken and circulated around the world as evidence against the Syrian government which was used to justify air strikes by the US, UK and France. There were swift military consequences meted out on what appears now to be a lie. At the time, the people on the ground were the Al Qaeda-linked Jaysh Al-Islam, who had at that point nothing to lose and everything to gain by staging a false flag attack in a last-ditch attempt to get NATO powers to function as their air force, since they’d already effectively lost the battle against the Syrian government.

We now have confirmation that, for whatever the reason may be, this assessment was hidden from the public by the OPCW.

British journalists Peter Hitchens and Brian Whitaker have both published matching statements from the OPCW on this report. Hitchens has been an outspoken critic of the establishment Syria narrative; Whittaker has been a virulent promulgator of it. The statement begins as a very mundane and obvious assertion that it takes information from numerous sources and then publishes its conclusions, but concludes with an admission that it is “conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.” This constitutes an admission that the document is authentic.

Here is the text of the statement in full; the portion I’m drawing attention to is in the second-to-last paragraph:
The OPCW establishes facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic through the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), which was set up in 2014.

The OPCW Technical Secretariat reaffirms that the FFM complies with established methodologies and practices to ensure the integrity of its findings. The FFM takes into account all available, relevant, and reliable information and analysis within the scope of its mandate to determine its findings.

Per standard practice, the FFM draws expertise from different divisions across the Technical Secretariat as needed. All information was taken into account, deliberated, and weighed when formulating the final report regarding the incident in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic, on 7 April 2018. On 1 March 2019, the OPCW issued its final report on this incident, signed by the Director-General.

Per OPCW rules and regulations, and in order to ensure the privacy, safety, and security of personnel, the OPCW does not provide information about individual staff members of the Technical Secretariat

Pursuant to its established policies and practices, the OPCW Technical Secretariat is conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.

At this time, there is no further public information on this matter and the OPCW is unable to accommodate requests for interviews.
This should be a major news headline all around the world, but of course it is not. As of this writing the mass media have remained deathly silent about the document despite its enormous relevance to an international headline story last year which occupied many days of air time. It not only debunks a major news story that had military consequences, it casts doubt on a most esteemed international independent investigative body and undermines the fundamental assumptions behind many years of western reporting in the area. People get lazy about letting the media tell them what’s important and they assume if it’s not in the news, it’s not a big deal. This is a big deal, this is a major story and it is going unreported, which makes the media’s silence a part of the story as well.

Also conspicuously absent from discussion has been the war propaganda firm Bellingcat, which is usually the first to put the most establishment-friendly spin possible on any development in this area. If Eliot Higgins can’t even work out how to polish this turd, you know it’s a steamer.

As near as I can tell the kindest possible interpretation of these revelations is that an expert who has worked with the OPCW for decades gave an engineering assessment which directly contradicted the official findings of the OPCW on Douma, but OPCW officials didn’t find his assessment convincing for whatever reason and hid every trace of it from public view. That’s the least sinister possibility: that a sharp dissent from a distinguished expert within the OPCW’s own investigation was completely hidden from the public because the people calling the shots at the OPCW didn’t want to confuse us with a perspective they didn’t find credible. This most charitable interpretation possible is damningly unacceptable by itself, because the public should obviously be kept informed of any possible evidence which may contradict the reasons they were fed to justify an act of war by powerful governments.

And there are many far less charitable interpretations. It is not in the slightest bit unreasonable to speculate that the ostensibly independent OPCW in fact serves the interests of the US-centralized power alliance, and that it suppressed the Henderson report because it pokes holes in the narratives that are used to demonize a longtime target for imperialist regime change. That is a perfectly reasonable possibility for us to wonder about, and the onus is now on the OPCW to prove to us that it is not the case.

Either way, the fact that the OPCW kept Henderson’s findings from receiving not a whisper of attention severely undermines the organization’s credibility, not just with regard to Douma but with regard to everything, including the establishment Syria narrative as a whole and the Skripal case in the UK. Everything the OPCW has ever concluded about alleged chemical usage around the world is now subject to very legitimate skepticism.

“The leaked OPCW engineers’ assessment is confirmed as genuine, which means the final report actively concealed evidence that the Douma chemical attack was staged by jihadists and the White Helmets,” tweeted British journalist Jonathan Cook. “The OPCW’s other Syria reports must now be treated as worthless too.”

When I first reported on the Henderson document the other day, I received a fair criticism from a Medium user that I was actually far too charitable in my reporting on just how thoroughly the official Douma narrative was rejected.

“This article doesn’t really express just how damning the report actually is,” the user said. “It’s much more than just on balance their observations are inconsistent with the cylinders being dropped from aircraft. Just about everything about the official narrative is shown to be plain impossible, from the angles of the broken rebar in the roof, through the damage to the gas cylinders, to the pile of fins on the balcony that couldn’t have been attached to the cylinder, and more. There’s simply no way they were dropped from helicopters.”

I strongly encourage readers to check out the 15-page document for themselves to understand its claims and make up their own minds, and then sit a bit to really digest the possible implications. We may have just discovered a major piece of the puzzle explaining how seemingly independent international organizations help deceive us into consenting to wars and regime change interventionism around the world.

The narrative that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is a monster who gasses his own people has been used to justify western interventionism in that nation which has included arming actual terrorist groups, enabling them to leave a trail of blood and chaos across Syria, as well as an illegal occupation of Syrian land and sanctions against the Syrian economy. This narrative is being used currently to maintain support for continuing to uphold the crippling sanctions that are making life hell for the average Syrian, today. This is not in the past, this is happening now, and there is no telling when these siege efforts towards regime change will be ramped up further into more overt forms of military action. The violence, displacement and economic hardship that is being inflicted upon the Syrian people by this interventionism is causing incalculably immense suffering, and it is all made possible by false narratives sold to the public.

Remember, they wouldn’t work so hard to manufacture your consent if they didn’t require that consent. So don’t give it to them. The first step to ending the suffering caused by western interventionism is to help free public consciousness from the incredibly complex and well-oiled propaganda machine which manufactures the consent of the governed for unconscionable acts of violence and devastation. Wake people up to what’s going on so we can all cease consenting.

Reprinted with author's permission from
Support Ms. Johnstone on Patreon or Paypal.
]]> Fri, 17 May 2019 19:33:09 GMT
Trump Administration Withholds Information That Could Debunk Russian Interference Claims Moon of Alabama

On Tuesday Russia's President Putin again rejected US claims that his country interfered in the 2016 elections in the United States. Additional statements by Foreign Minister Lavrov provide that there is more information available about alleged Russian cyber issue during the election. He pointed to exchanges between the Russian and US governments that Russia wants published but which the US is withholding.

On Tuesday May 14 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Sochi to meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergej Lavrov and with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. It was Pompeo's first official visit to Russia. Pompeo's meeting with Lavrov was followed by a joined news conference. The statements from both sides touched on the election issue.

The State Department published a full transcript and video of the press conference in English language. The Russian Foreign Ministry provided an official English translation of only Lavrov's part. Both translations differ only slightly.

Here are the relevant excerpts from the opening statements with regard to cyber issues.

We agreed on the importance of restoring communications channels that have been suspended lately, which was due in no small part to the groundless accusations against Russia of trying to meddle in the US election. These allegations went as far as to suggest that we colluded in some way with high-ranking officials from the current US administration. It is clear that allegations of this kind are completely false. [...] I think that there is a fundamental understanding on this matter as discussed by our presidents during their meeting last year in Helsinki, as well as during a number of telephone conversations. So far these understandings have not been fully implemented.
[W]e spoke, too, about the question of interference in our domestic affairs. I conveyed that there are things that Russia can do to demonstrate that these types of activities are a thing of the past and I hope that Russia will take advantage of those opportunities.
During the Q & A Shaun Tanron of AFP asked Pompeo about the election issue:
[I]f I could follow up on your statement about the election, you said that there are things that Russia could do to show that election interference is a thing of the past. What are those things? What do – what would you like Russia to do? Thank you very much.
Lavrov responded first to the question. He said that there is no evidence that shows any Russian interference in the US elections. He continued:
Speaking about the most recent US presidential campaign in particular, we have had in place an information exchange channel about potential unintended risks arising in cyberspace since 2013. From October 2016 (when the US Democratic Administration first raised this issue) until January 2017 (before Donald Trump's inauguration), this channel was used to handle requests and responses. Not so long ago, when the attacks on Russia in connection with the alleged interference in the elections reached their high point, we proposed publishing this exchange of messages between these two entities, which engage in staving off cyberspace incidents. I reminded Mr Pompeo about this today. The administration, now led by President Trump, refused to do so. I’m not sure who was behind this decision, but the idea to publish this data was blocked by the United States. However, we believe that publishing it would remove many currently circulating fabrications. Of course, we will not unilaterally make these exchanges public, but I would still like to make this fact known.
The communication channel about cyber issues did indeed exist. In June 2013 the Presidents of the United States and Russia issued a Joint Statement about "Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs)". The parties agreed to establishing communication channels between each other computer emergency response teams, to use the direct communication link of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers for cyber issue exchanges, and to have direct communication links between high-level officials in the White House and Kremlin for such matter. A Fact Sheet published by the Obama White House detailed the implementation of these three channels.

One inference from Lavrov's statement is that the "fundamental understanding on this matter" between the two presidents that has "not been fully implemented" is the release of the communications about cyberspace incidents. The Russians clearly think that a release of the communications with the Obama administration would exculpate them. That would also exculpate Trump from any further collusion allegations. Why then does the Trump administration reject the release? Who is blocking it?

Pompeo did not respond to Lavrov's points. His next meeting that day was with President Putin.

Putin let him wait for three hours. Both sides issued short opening statements. The English translations of what Putin said differ. In the version provided by Russia Putin explicitely denies the alleged election interference:
For our part, we have said many times that we would also like to restore relations on a full scale. I hope that the necessary conditions for this are being created now since, despite the exotic character of Mr Mueller’s work, he should be given credit for conducting what is generally an objective inquiry. He reaffirmed the lack of any trace or collusion between Russia and the current administration, which we described as sheer nonsense from the very start. There was no, nor could there be any interference on our part in the US election at the government level. Nevertheless, regrettably, these allegations have served as a reason for the deterioration of our interstate ties.
The State Department version does not include the Russian denial of election interference but doubles the rejection of the collusion claim:
On our behalf, we have said it multiple times that we also would like to rebuild fully fledged relations, and I hope that right now a conducive environment is being built for that, because, though, however exotic the work of Special Counsel Mueller was, I have to say that on the whole he had a very objective investigation and he confirmed that there are no traces whatsoever of collusion between Russia and the incumbent administration, which we’ve said was absolutely fake. As we’ve said before, there was no collusion from our government officials and it could not be there. Still, that was – that was one of the reasons certainly breaking our (inaudible) ties.
An English language live translation of that paragraph (vid) by the Russian sponsored Ruptly does not include the word 'election' in the highlighted sentence, nor does a live translation (vid) by PBS.

It seem that the Kremlin later inserted the explicit denial of election interference into Putin's statement. It is quite possible that Putin, who did not read from a prepared paper, mangled the talking point that Lavrov had already made.

After the meeting Putin, Pompeo held a short press availability with the US journalists accompanying him. There is no mentioning of Lavrov's point.

There were secret communications between the Obama administration and the Russian government about the alleged election interference and 'hacks' of the DNC and of Clinton's campaign manager Podesta. They are not mentioned in the Mueller report nor in any other open source. As Russia wants these communications released it might be possible to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to press for their publication. The Trump administration response to such a FOIA request could at least reveal the reasons why it is withholding them.

The allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 elections are partly based on the fact that a commercial Russian enterprise used fake characters on Facebook to sell advertisement. A review of the themes and ideological positions those fake characters provided demonstrates that they were not designed to influence the US elections.

In contrast to those Russian fakes other fake characters on Facebook, provided by an Israeli company and revealed today, were clearly designed to influence elections:
Facebook said Thursday it banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has canceled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation.
Many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that boasts of its social media skills and ability to "change reality."
On its website, Archimedes presents itself as a consulting firm involved in campaigns for presidential elections.

Little information is available beyond its slogan, which is "winning campaigns worldwide," and a vague blurb about the group's "mass social media management" software, which it said enabled the operation of an "unlimited" number of online accounts.
Don't expect any protest from Washington DC about such obvious election interference in other countries.

Hat tip to Aaron Maté for pointing out Lavrov's statement

Reprinted with permission from MoonOfAlabama.]]> Fri, 17 May 2019 14:27:24 GMT
Trump De-escalating? Satellite Intel Based On Tehran 'Misreading' US Intentions Tyler Durden

Soaring tensions of the past nearly two weeks paving the way for a potential direct military clash in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran could be de-escalating as rapidly as they began as the president attempts to reign in hawks in his own administration, per a new report in FT:
President Donald Trump said he hoped the US would not go to war with Iran, cooling tensions at the end of a week in which worries spiked over the risk of conflict between the US and the Islamic republic. As he stood outside the West Wing waiting to meet Swiss president Ueli Maurer on Thursday, Mr Trump was asked by a reporter whether the US was going to war with Iran. He replied: “I hope not.”
This as the WSJ also reports Trump is fast reigning in his two Iran hawk horsemen of the apocalypse Bolton and Pompeo: "There are sharply differing views within the Trump administration over the meaning of intelligence showing Iran and its proxies making military preparations, people familiar with the matter said," according to the report.

So Trump doesn't want war, and now with the Senate demanding it be given a comprehensive briefing on just what the increased Iran threat constitutes and the intelligence consensus behind it (or lack thereof), it looks like the war train could be grinding to a halt.

Bloomberg also agrees, per its latest report:
President Donald Trump is wary of drawing the US into a war with Iran, in part out of concern that an armed conflict with the Islamic Republic would imperil his chances at winning a second term, according to people familiar with the matter. US’s evidence of Iran threat readied for release by Pentagon.
But the Pentagon war machine's next move could hinge on what's been revealed as the initial key piece of intelligence "evidence" of Iran's "attack preparations" that got us here in the first place, starting with Bolton's May 5th announcement of a major Iranian threat escalation. The "smoking gun" that started it all apparently hinges on satellite photos showing Iranian paramilitary forces moving missiles on boats in the Persian Gulf (perhaps even in their own territorial waters!?).

The New York Times cited three defense officials who confirmed that, “The intelligence that caused the White House to escalate its warnings about a threat from Iran came from photographs of missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf that were put on board by Iranian paramilitary forces.”

But crucially, according to US intelligence officials cited by the WSJ, the "missile movement" satellite photographs may have just been picking up on Iranian defensive measures that came in reaction to Tehran's belief that a US military attack was on the horizon.

"Intelligence collected by the US government shows Iran’s leaders believe the US planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, according to one interpretation of the information," reports The Wall Street Journal's Warren Strobel, Nancy Youssef, and Vivian Salama.
However, what was originally set in motion itself has momentum enough to spark confrontation, given on Thursday two Navy destroyers have entered the Persian Gulf as the American military continues to add to its assets in the region to head off any planned Iranian "aggression," USNI reported.

The USS McFaul and USS Gonzalez traveled through the Strait of Hormuz Thursday afternoon without being challenged by IRGC forces. They joined the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is stationed in the Gulf of Oman, as well as a strike force that includes several B-52 bombers out of Qatar.

So there it is: formula for de-escalation; however, the chances of some "accident" happening which leads to clashes remains high and unpredictable, at which point the intelligence debate Congress is demanding could turn into a moot afterthought, as is the pattern with many US wars.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.]]> Fri, 17 May 2019 14:12:58 GMT
Venezuela Peace Talks Open In Norway; US Neocons Raging Mad! Daniel McAdams
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Iran Is Not a Major Sponsor of Terrorism, Not Even Close Larry C. Johnson

Self-delusion and denial with regards to Iran's alleged status as the leading sponsor of international terrorism are rampant in Washington and among the punditry. It is crazy, it is dishonest and it is wrong. This is not my opinion. I can do math. I can count. If Iran was actually continuing to act like it did 30 years ago, when it was a major sponsor of terrorism, then we would be able to point to those attacks. 

Here are the statistics for 2018. Do not take my word for it. Count them yourself. The vast majority of terrorism continues to be carried out by Sunni extremists that have support from places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Consider the numbers for January, February, March and December of 2018. There were 160 attacks recorded in January 2018. Only one of the groups listed as perpetrators is supported by Iran--that is Hamas. The incident recorded for Hamas in January was a drive by shooting that killed one person. Six groups accounted for 56 percent of all attacks. All are Sunni extremist groups--Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Islamic State aka ISIS and the Taliban. None of these are funded or supported by Iran. In fact, Iran and Hezbollah have been fighting and killing ISIS fighters in Syria.

We see the same pattern repeated in February, March and December.  There were 184, 176 NS 238 attacks respectively. A majority of the attacks and casualties were caused by the same five groups listed in the preceding paragraph.

The memo I drafted more than 18 months ago that was published by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity aka VIPS still stands. I wrote:
The depiction of Iran as ‘the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism’ is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool in the past, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years.
These facts are absent from the public debate. We ignore them at our peril.

January 2018--160 terrorist attacks.
9 by Al Qaeda
15 by Al Shabaab
3 by Allied Democratic Forces
1 by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Saudi)
1 by Atomwaffen Division
1 by Baluch Liberation Front
4 by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
3 by Barisan Revolusi Nasional
19 by Boko Haram
2 by Coordinadora Arauco Malleco
5 by Communist Party of India (Maoist)
8 by ELN (Colombia)
3 by FARC
2 by Hamas
1 by Hizbul Mujahideen (Pakistani sponsored)
32 by Islamic State
4 by Jaish Mohammed
1 by Kosovo AlbanianMilitants (suspected)
2 by Lashkar-e-Taiba (suspected)
1 by Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (suspected)
4 by New People's Army
1 by Palestinian nationalist
1 by Paraguayan People's Army
2 by PKK
23 by Taliban
7 by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
3 by YPG/PKK
1 Unknown

February 2018--186 terrorist attacks
4 by Abu Sayyaf
11 by Al Qaeda
14 by Al Shabaab
3 by Allied Democratic Forces
1 by Arm na Poblachta
1 by Armed Revolutionary Struggles
1 by Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia
1 by Baluch Liberation Front
1 by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
3 by Barisan Revolusi Nasional (suspected)
11 by Boko Haram
1 by Coordinadora Arauco Malleco
5 by Communist Party of India
11 by ELN
5 by FARC Dissidents
1 by Free Papua Movement
1 by GNLA
1 by Hizbul Mujahideen
34 by Islamic State
1 by Islamist
12 by Jaish-e-Mohammed
1 by Jaysh al-Islam (suspected)
1 by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
3 by Lashkar-e-Taiba
5 by New People's Army
1 by Northern Alliance (suspected)
2 by Palestinian nationalist
2 by PKK
1 by Popular Resistance Committees
1 by Rakhine nationalists (suspected)
1 by rightwing extremnist
1 by Tahrir al-Sham (suspected)
31 by Taliban
8 by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
1 by Unknown
3 by YPG / PKK

March 2018--174 terrorist attacks
2 by Abu Sayyaf
8 by Al Qaeda
12 by Al Shabaab
5 by Allied Democratic Forces
1 by Anarchist
1 by Balochistan Liberation Army
1 by Barisan Revolusi Nasional (suspected)
9 by Boko Haram
1 by Coordinadora Arauco Malleco
13 by Communist Party of India
1 by ELN
2 by EPL
1 by FAI FAR
5 by FARC Dissidents
1 by Hamas
1 by Hasma Movement
4 by Hizbul Mujahideen
40 by Islamic State
2 by Islamist
1 by Jaish ul-Adl
3 by Jaish-e-Mohammed
1 by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar
1 by Jaysh al-Islam (suspected)
2 by Lashkar-e-Taiba
1 by Mark Anthony Conditt
1 by National Socialist Council of Nagaland
1 by NDFA
3 by New People's Army
3 by Palestinian Nationalist
2 by PKK
1 by Sendero Luminoso
1 by Tahrir al-Sham (suspected)
1 by Takfir wal-Hijra
20 by Taliban
3 by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
2 by Unknown
1 by Volcanic Group Rupture Network Domination
4 by YPG/PKK

December 2018--238 terrorist incidents
1 by Abu Sayaaf
8 by Al Qaeda
14 by Al Shabaab
3 by Allied Democratic Forces
4 by Ambazonia Defence Forces
6 by Ambazonia Separatist
2 by Anarchists
5 by Ansar Al Sunna
1 by Ansar Al-Furqan
1 by Balochistan Liberation Army
1 by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters
2 by Barisan Revolusi Nasional (suspected)
16 by Boko Haram
1 by Celulas de Ataque contra la Devastacion de la Tierra
1 by Chadian Militants
1 by Cherif Chekatt
1 by Circulo Iconoclasta Michelle Angiolillo and N.A.N.G.U
2 by Coordinadora Arauco Malleco
1 by Cow Vigilante
2 by Communist Party of India
3 by Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda
2 by Dissident Republican
1 by East Indonesia Mujahideen
3 by ELN
1 by EPL
2 by FARC dissidents
1 by Free Papua Movement
3 by Fulani Herdsmen
2 by Grupo de Ataque Antipatriarcal Claudia López and N.A.N.G.U
1 by Guardians of Religion Organization (suspected)
2 by Hamas
4 by Hizbul Ahrar
1 by Iconoclastic Sect
1 by Immediate Action Group
1 by Individualistas Tendiendo a lo Salvaje
3 by Thai Insurgents
1 by Irish National Liberation Army (suspected)
1 by Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (suspected)
36 by Islamic State
5 by Islamists
2 by Jaish-e-Mohammed
1 by Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin
1 by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
2 by Lashkar-e-Taiba
2 by Militants
1 by National Socialist Council of Nagaland
8 by New People's Army
1 by Oromo Liberation Front
2 by Paraguayan People's Army
4 by PLGA
1 by Popular Fighters Group
1 by Rouse the Believers
1 by Sendero Luminoso
1 by Sociedad Silvestre Salvaje
1 by Sophia Perovskaya Cell
5 by Tahrir al-Sham
43 by Taliban
3 by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (suspected)
1 by ULFA
2 by Unknown
1 by Wilayah al-Qawqaz
1 by Wrath of Olives
4 by YPG

Reprinted with permission from Sic Semper Tyrannis.]]> Thu, 16 May 2019 13:43:42 GMT