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Ted Galen Carpenter

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Just Whose Coast Is the Coast Guard Guarding?

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Most Americans likely assume that the mission of the US Coast Guard is to protect the coasts of the United State from maritime threats. Increasingly, though, that is no longer true, as Coast Guard vessels and personnel now routinely operate thousands of miles from the US homeland. Moreover, they frequently are not engaged in "defensive" missions, but are instead part and parcel of Washington’s arrogant force projection around the world.

The traditional missions were not always sensible or achievable ones, to be sure. During the 1920s and early 1930s, Coast Guard cutters were tasked with trying to intercept shipments of liquor trying to reach thirsty consumers in the United States. Not surprisingly, that mission proved to be utterly futile and frustrating. More recently, the Coast Guard (along with other agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration) has pursued a similar quixotic effort to intercept vessels carrying cargoes of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other currently illegal drugs. Indeed, the Coast Guard itself boasts that it is "the nation’s first line of defense" against drug smugglers.

During both prohibition crusades, such efforts have proven more symbolic than substantive. Authorities confiscate only about 10 percent of the targeted contraband, and bootleggers and drug traffickers simply write-off such losses as part of the normal cost of doing business. Attempts to hype successful intercepts do not change that economic reality.
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How the National Security State Manipulates the News Media

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An especially dangerous threat to liberty occurs when members of the press collude with government agencies instead of monitoring and exposing the abuses of those agencies. Unfortunately, collusion is an all-too-common pattern in press coverage of the national security state’s activities. The American people then receive official propaganda disguised as honest reporting and analysis.

The degree of collaboration frequently has reached stunning levels. During the early decades of the Cold War, some journalists even became outright CIA assets. Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein’s January 1977, 25,000-word article in Rolling Stone was an extraordinarily detailed account of cooperation between the CIA and members of the press, and it provided key insights into that relationship. In some cases, the "journalists" were actually full-time CIA employees masquerading as members of the Fourth Estate, but Bernstein also confirmed that some 400 bona fide American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the ClA during the previous 25 years. He noted that "journalists provided a full range of clandestine services – from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go-betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs."

A December 26, 1977, investigative report in the New York Times described the scope of the CIA’s global campaign to influence opinion through media manipulation. "In its persistent efforts to shape world opinion, the C.I.A. has been able to call upon" an extensive network "of newspapers, news services, magazines, publishing houses, broadcasting stations and other entities over which it has at various limes had some control.
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Ugly Yankee: Washington Continues To Bully Mexico on the Drug War

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A nasty spat has emerged between the US and Mexican governments about alleged official corruption and drug trafficking. The latest incident began on October 16, 2020, when US authorities arrested Mexico’s former defense secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, at Los Angeles International Airport on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Cienfuegos Zepeda was a major player in Mexico’s military and political affairs, leading the country’s armed forces for six years under former president Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government protested, contending that Washington overstepped its authority and arguing that the allegations against Cienfuegos Zepeda were flimsy, at best. Lopez Obrador himself accused the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of "meddling" and failing to take any responsibility for its own long-standing relationship with the general. The case took an unexpected turn on November 17 when the US Justice Department, apparently responding to Lopez Obrador’s complaints, abruptly withdrew the charges and returned Cienfuegos Zepeda to Mexico.

But US drug warriors were not content to let tensions subside. Instead, they threatened to revive the prosecution of Cienfuegos Zepeda. The Justice Department and the DEA were especially upset when the Mexican government released details from shared documents that indicated just how flimsy Washington’s case might be. Angry US officials were adamant that they didn’t appreciate such unilateral efforts at transparency, and they hinted darkly that the move might jeopardize relations. Lopez Obrador responded with renewed, pointed criticism of Washington’s growing pressure. He also escalated his own criticism of Washington’s corruption allegations against Cienfuegos Zepeda, now accusing the DEA of "fabricating" the charges.
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The Futility and Cruelty of Washington’s Economic Sanctions

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A perennial favorite tactic for officials running U.S. foreign policy has been to impose economic sanctions on countries whose governments defy Washington’s wishes. Sanctions enjoy a reputation among the policy elite of being the responsible "middle option" between relying solely on diplomacy or using military force when dealing with an adversary.
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How the Media Has Whitewashed FBI Abuses in the Russia Probe

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The mainstream media not only continues to parrot the narrative that President Donald Trump is a Russian asset who collaborated with Moscow to steal the 2016 presidential election, but journalists have also minimized or dismissed evidence about FBI abuses during the course of the investigation into those allegations.

One point that emerged clearly when Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued his report in December 2019 was that the FBI had committed serious violations of its own procedures and basic requirements of due process. The scope and severity of that misconduct have become even more apparent with the passage of time.

Although Horowitz did not endorse the Trump White House’s core allegation that the FBI had initiated the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of the Trump campaign out of political bias, the IG report identified 17 major instances of improper behavior, including violations of standard procedures and safeguards for the rights of individuals targeted in an investigation. Most of the abuses occurred with respect to investigative warrants aimed at Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Especially disturbing violations included the withholding of exculpatory evidence in warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Among the offenses was the repeated failure to disclose that Page was working for the CIA during the period he was making contact with Russian diplomatic and intelligence officials. In one instance, FBI assistant general counsel Kevin Clinesmith even altered a document to make it state the opposite of its original language about Page’s role.
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How the Media Mangled the 'Russian Invasion' of the Trump Administration

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Throughout the Trump years, various reporters have presented to great fanfare one dubious, thinly sourced story after another about Moscow’s supposedly nefarious plots against the United States. The unsupported allegations about an illegal collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government spawned a host of subsidiary charges that proved to be bogus. Yet, prominent news outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC ran stories featuring such shaky accusations as if they were gospel.

The willingness of the press to circulate any account that puts Russia in a bad light has not diminished with the collapse of the Russia‐​Trump collusion narrative. The latest incident began when the New York Times published a front‐​page article on June 28, based on an anonymous source within the intelligence community, that Moscow had put a bounty on the lives of American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The predictable, furious reaction throughout the media and the general public followed. When the White House insisted that the intelligence agencies had never informed either the president or vice president of such reports, most press reactions were scornful.

As with so many other inflammatory news accounts dealing with Russia, serious doubts about the accuracy of this one developed almost immediately. Just days later, an unnamed intelligence official told CBS reporter Catherine Herridge that the information about the alleged bounties was uncorroborated. The source also revealed to Herridge that the National Security Agency (NSA) concluded that the intelligence collection report “does not match well‐​established and verifiable Taliban and Haqqani practices” and lacked “sufficient reporting to corroborate any links.” The report had reached “low levels” at the National Security Council, but it did not travel farther up the chain of command. The Pentagon, which apparently had originated the bounty allegations and tried to sell the intelligence agencies on the theory, soon retreated and issued its own statement about the “unconfirmed” nature of the information.
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The Foreign Policy Blob’s Alarmist Response to Trump’s Partial Troop Withdrawal

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Given the reaction from advocates of Washington’s foreign policy status quo in Europe (and nearly everywhere else in the world), one might think that President Trump’s reported decision to order a modest drawdown of 9,500 US troops stationed in Germany was a crime akin to Gen. Benedict Arnold’s defection to the British during the American Revolution. 

NATO partisans portray the move as a betrayal of America’s democratic European allies, an impulsive, dangerous gesture, and a geostrategic gift to, wait for it…Vladimir Putin. Council on Foreign Relations scholar Philip Gordon summarizes the foreign policy establishment’s indictment succinctly. “President Donald J. Trump’s order to withdraw nearly ten thousand US troops from Germany betrays a close ally, undermines confidence in Washington, and makes Europe and the United States less safe.”

All of the arguments against the move are deeply flawed. First, it was not an impulsive move, reflecting Trump’s supposed pique at German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refusal to attend the forthcoming G-7 summit in the United States. US officials have complained for years about Berlin’s anemic defense spending and its free‐​riding on America’s security commitment. 
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Preventing Liberty from Becoming a Coronavirus Fatality

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Public attitudes about the coronavirus outbreak increasingly exhibit features of a collective panic. That development creates the danger that government measures designed to deal with a very real public health problem may lead to enormous collateral damage both to the economy and the freedoms that Americans take for granted.

Governments at all levels have taken ever more extreme (even outrageous) actions in an effort to stem the outbreak. The governors of New YorkCalifornia, and other states have issued orders closing most private businesses and requiring residents not engaged in “essential” activities to remain in their homes. Nevada’s governor greatly restricted doctors from prescribing an anti-malaria drug that Trump administration experts suggested held promise for treating coronavirus, because in the governor’s opinion, such prescriptions might lead to hoarding. US Justice Department officials secretly asked Congress to give the executive branch the authority to seek orders from federal judges to detain indefinitely any individual during the current emergency or any future one.

Although appalling, such attempted eviscerations of constitutional liberties should not be surprising. Governments invariably exploit crises to expand their powers—often to a dangerous degree. That certainly has been the track record in the United States throughout our history. Worse, a significant residue of expanded powers always persists after the crisis recedes and life supposedly returns to normal.
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Syria: Another Forever War Beckons

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An explosion of criticism had erupted in Congress and the news media in response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw a small contingent of US troops stationed in northern Syria. Those forces served as a (mostly symbolic) barrier to Turkey’s ambitions to conduct a military offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces there. Ankara has now initiated that offensive.
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