Category Archives: World

Trump’s Veto on Yemen War Is a Sign That the Strongmen in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are Winning

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10:  U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media prior to his departure from the White House April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump will sign an executive order on energy and infrastructure during his visit at International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center in Crosby, Texas.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media prior to his departure from the White House on April 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Donald Trump invoked his veto power for only the second time in his presidency. Trump’s move struck down a congressional resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. In doing so, he stifled a moment of rare bipartisanship, flexing his own authoritarian tendencies to protect a fellow autocrat, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is known by the initials MBS.

By doing so, Trump not only signaled his loyalty to a prince who has been widely implicated in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as the imprisonment and torture of numerous human rights activists, but he has also ensured that the U.S. would remain complicit in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Far from an effort to protect the Constitution, as Trump claimed, the veto was rather the latest example of the autocratic, tit-for-tat deal-making that has in recent years increasingly dominated the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Far from an effort to protect the Constitution, as Trump claimed, the veto was rather the latest example of the autocratic, tit-for-tat deal-making.

Trump made clear that his decision was intended to augment his executive powers. In his statement, he called the bill — which would have made history as the first legislation under the 1973 War Powers Act to receive bipartisan support — a “dangerous attempt to weaken [his] constitutional authorities.” Trump said that scaling back U.S. involvement in the deadly Yemen conflict would imperil “American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.”

The bill, though, just like the president’s objection to it, had much more to do with Trump’s relentless and ill-advised devotion to MBS. The resolution first gained momentum in the aftermath of Khashoggi’s murder in October 2018, a crime that many — including the U.S. intelligence community — have linked to the crown prince. MBS is also responsible for leading the coalition of Persian Gulf states in its four-year offensive in Yemen, which has left thousands of Yemeni civilians dead and millions ravaged by famine and disease. In addition to overseeing this disastrous war, MBS has also ordered numerous crackdowns on his own civilians, including mass arrests and alleged torture of nonviolent human rights advocates.

By calling for an end to U.S. support for the war, Congress took aim at Trump’s obstinate and increasingly untenable loyalty to MBS. Since Khashoggi’s killing, even staunch supporters of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have grown critical of Riyadh. In contrast, Trump has persistently ignored the ongoing abuse of Saudi human rights activists and downplayed the mounting catastrophe in Yemen, calling Saudi Arabia a “truly spectacular ally.”

It was no great surprise, then, to see the president resort to veto power to protect MBS’s disastrous Yemen campaign. Beneath the shallow appeals to constitutionalism and national security, Trump is acting in accordance with a now-familiar pattern: gravitating toward fellow strongmen and personality-driven deal-making. This entrepreneurial narcissism has fueled much of the president’s volatile foreign policy, from his on-again-off-again “relationships” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to his rabid devotion to building a wall on the Mexican border.

This trend has dramatic implications in the Middle East. Since the collapse of the Arab Spring and in the wake of years of foreign intervention, hopes of democracy in the region have in large part given way to a cast of authoritarian rulers. From MBS in Saudi Arabia to Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey to the recently re-elected Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, the region has grown increasingly polarized under hawkish, right-wing leaders.

Among this fray, Trump, along with his his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, identified MBS as an ideal partner. The president and crown prince share an alarmist message of Iran as a regional menace and both use this stance to justify destabilizing policies, such as the dismantling of the Iran nuclear deal and the war in Yemen. Trump has also lauded MBS and the Saudis for their alleged work to curb extremism in the region, despite reports that Riyadh has cut deals with Al Qaeda fighters in Yemen.

The veto, for all its cynical implications about the state of U.S. foreign policy, should also concern Americans at home.

For his ongoing support, which includes billions in arms sales, Trump has expected cooperation from the Saudis on his own regional agenda, including in his efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Trump and Kushner are preparing to push for this “deal of the century” in coming months — a negotiation that has far more to do with backroom bargaining than any democratic or humanitarian concerns.

The veto, for all its cynical implications about the state of U.S. foreign policy, should also concern Americans at home. Tuesday’s announcement came barely a month after Trump’s first veto, which he used to enforce his border statement of emergency over congressional opposition. So Trump went to the outer limits of legality in pursuit of an irrational pet project, the so-called border wall with Mexico, at great financial and human cost. Such actions are only the logical extension of a presidency that began with the morally indefensible and constitutionally untenable “Muslim ban,” issued by executive order in the first days of the administration.

The president has repeatedly availed himself of these personalized, unilateral mechanisms of power. The effects of such a pattern cannot be held at bay by the occasional congressional override or dissident judge. Americans must recognize this dangerous erosion of democratic principles and, fighting fatigue, continue to resist.

The post Trump’s Veto on Yemen War Is a Sign That the Strongmen in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are Winning appeared first on The Intercept.

Alahednews:Haaretz Tells of “Israeli”-Saudi Relations: Intelligence, Cyber, Economy and Iran on Top of Partnership

english.alahednews.com.lb - Out of context and away from all the internal debate inside the apartheid entity, Haaretz daily chose to shed light on the Saudi kingdom. Under a file entitled “Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom in Turmoil”, H…


Tweeted by @AlahednewsEn https://twitter.com/AlahednewsEn/status/1118770114801864704

Secret IDB Proposal Would Give $48 Billion Infusion to Boost Venezuela’s Economy — But Only After Regime Change

The Inter-American Development Bank is quietly circulating an analysis that foresees an up to $48 billion infusion of capital into the Venezuelan economy should President Nicolás Maduro be removed from office. A pair of confidential documents, both called “Venezuela: Challenges and Opportunities,” outlines a four-year plan to open the country’s beleaguered economy to foreign corporations through privatization, structural reforms, and public-private partnerships.

The documents — slide decks that were obtained by The Intercept — are circulating in an 11-slide summarized version and a 27-slide full version, both classified as “confidential.” The author is marked in the first slides of both presentations as the bank’s secretary, who is responsible for organizing discussions between the bank, governments, and private companies. The presentations, which are dated March 15, are addressed to executive directors of the Inter-American Development Bank and IDB Invest, the bank’s investment arm aimed at lending to private companies.

Founded in 1959, the IDB offers financing and technical assistance for infrastructure, health, and education projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bank is owned by 48 countries: 26 borrowing member countries and 22 nonborrowing member countries. Currently, the five largest shareholders are the U.S., with 30 percent of voting shares; Argentina and Brazil, with 11.2 percent each; Mexico, with 7.2 percent; and Japan, which has 5 percent of voting shares.

The improvements in Venezuelans’ daily lives would allow self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó to claim a victory — by benefiting from international assistance that is being denied to the current leadership.

The dominant position of the U.S. has raised questions about the bank’s independence. Indeed, U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive stance on regime change helped urge IDB officials into pushing the analysis of a post-Maduro Venezuela, a source told The Intercept.

The Maduro regime has long claimed that the country’s economic collapse is the result of a capital crunch driven by sanctions and a coordinated financial assault by the United States for the purposes of undermining and overthrowing the socialist government. The emergence of the IDB-led plan will only heighten those suspicions.

The proposal for international largesse could be a boon to an incoming administration. If all went according to plan, the improvements in Venezuelans’ daily lives would allow opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó, or another incoming president, to claim a victory — by benefiting from international assistance that is being denied to the current leadership. Meanwhile, Venezuela would be stripped of its public assets.

The IDB documents were supposed to have been presented at the IDB’s annual meeting from March 26 to 31 in Chengdu, China. Controversy erupted, however, because the IDB had invited Guiadó’s economic coordinator and IDB representative, Ricardo Hausmann. Beijing — the meeting’s host, a Maduro ally, and a minority 0.004 percent shareholder with the bank — has not recognized Guiadó’s rule and denied a visa to Hausmann, a Harvard University economist and Guiadó’s representative to the IDB. The turmoil caused the cancellation of the China meeting just days before it was set to occur.

Another source, an IDB insider, told The Intercept that inside the bank, regime change in Caracas is seen as a question of when, not if, and many believe that it will happen soon. Nonetheless, the urgency around the plan apparently faded after the highly publicized failure of a plan by Guaidó and allies to bring truckloads of “humanitarian aid” over the Colombian border. The bank leaders, the source said, had hoped that the convoy would help trigger Maduro’s downfall. Bank leaders have since become less optimistic that he will be removed from power in the near term.

TOPSHOT - People try to salvage humaitarian aid after the truck carrying it was set ablaze on the Francisco de Paula Santander International Brige between Cucuta in Colombia and Ureña in Venezuela, on February 23, 2019. - A truck loaded with humanitarian aid was set ablaze on Saturday on the Colombia-Venezuela border, an opposition deputy told reporters amid rioting on the Santander bridge crossing. (Photo by Schneyder Mendoza / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SCHNEYDER MENDOZA/AFP/Getty Images)

People try to salvage humanitarian aid after the truck carrying it was set ablaze on the Francisco de Paula Santander International Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela on Feb. 23, 2019.

Photo: Schneyder Mendoza/AFP/Getty Images


The documents do not delve into specifics about where the full $48 billion investment would come from. The Intercept arrived at the total number by adding up subtotals for the three “key recovery areas” listed in the presentation: “urgent needs of the population,” “basic infrastructure,” and “institutional reforms.” The presentation broke down these estimated investments into two columns: phase one on one side, and annual totals for phases two and three combined on the other. Because phases two and three are expected to last for three years, those annual totals were multiplied by three and added to the first phase investments, leading to the grand total of $48 billion. (The slides noted that the investment levels required for “basic infrastructure” exclude investments in the country’s “hydrocarbons and energy sector.”)

Though the slide decks do not state where the money would come from, $48 billion in loans would likely be unprecedented in the IDB’s 60-year history. In response to an inquiry from The Intercept, a spokesperson for the IDB said, “While I have not seen the document you mention, by the size of the number, it probably refers to a much larger lending or assistance package involving many institutions, not just to IDB-financed operations. It is almost three times what the IDB approves in a single year.”

Two sources with direct knowledge of the proposal — one in the U.S. and one in Brazil — confirmed the authenticity of the documents, and a third source told The Intercept that the plan exists. All three sources requested anonymity to discuss the proposal because of fears of professional reprisal.

The Intercept is declining to publish the documents out of concerns over source protection.

A parallel business forum to the China summit — coordinated by IDB Invest, formerly known as the Inter-American Investment Corporation — was also canceled. CEOs of major companies had been invited to attend, including electrical giants such as the U.S.-based AES Corporation and Italy’s Terna; construction firms like South Korea’s DOHWA Engineering and Mexico’s ICA; and energy players like Colombia’s Terpel and Canadian Solar. (An IDB spokesperson told The Intercept that the 2019 annual meeting has not yet been rescheduled and that the business forum will no longer take place.)

In March, the IDB was the first multilateral international organization to recognize Guaidó as interim president, less than two months after Trump did.

Ricardo Hausmann, Venezuela National Assembly leader Juan Guaido's representative to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), listens during an interview in New York, U.S., on Friday, April 5, 2019. The bank passed a motion Friday to certify Hausmann, a Harvard University economist and longtime critic of Nicolas Maduro's regime, as the nation's IDB governor. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ricardo Hausmann, Venezuela National Assembly leader Juan Guaido’s representative to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), during an interview in New York on April 5, 2019.

Photo: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images


Hausmann, who served as the IDB’s first chief economist from 1994 to 2000 and more recently consulted for the bank, was instrumental in formulating the analysis circulated to the executive directors of the IDB and IDB Invest, according to one of The Intercept’s sources. (Hausmann did not respond to a request for comment.)

Over the past several months, Hausmann has been making public remarks about the need for international loans and investments in Venezuela to spur its economic recovery in the wake of Maduro’s fall. Speaking to The Economist last January, he said Venezuela would need a loan in excess of $60 billion over three years. In another interview with the Harvard Gazette a few days later, Hausmann said the reconstruction effort would “involve international financial assistance, probably a significant program led by the International Monetary Fund.”

Hausmann’s involvement with Guaidó’s purported interim government suggests that he is optimistic about the collapse of Maduro’s government — a view that at this time has not yet been borne out by events.

On April 11, Hausmann spoke before an assembled group of international finance ministers brought together by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “Today, the Ministers reviewed steps taken since January to increase financial pressure on the Maduro regime and additional steps to support the democratically elected National Assembly and Interim President Guaidó,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “The Ministers then discussed plans for future economic support of Venezuela. We welcomed to this discussion Dr. Ricardo Hausmann, whom Interim President Guaidó has designated as coordinator of his economic advisors.”

Mnuchin said after the meeting that $10 billion in international financing to spark trade would be made available to Venezuela once a new government came to power.

A gas flare is seen at the Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) Jose Antonio Anzoategui industrial complex (CIJAA) in Barcelona, Anzoategui state, Venezuela, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. Hunger is hastening the ruin of Venezuelan's oil industry as workers grow too weak and hungry for heavy labor. Absenteeism and mass resignations mean few are left to produce the oil that keeps the tattered economy functioning. Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A gas flare at the Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) Jose Antonio Anzoategui industrial complex in Barcelona, Anzoategui state, Venezuela, on Feb. 8, 2018.

Photo: Wil Riera/Bloomberg via Getty Images


The IDB documents provide an overview of Venezuela’s socioeconomic disaster under Maduro, describing a free fall in nearly every indicator from maternal mortality to soaring hyperinflation. The documents highlight that private investment represented a mere 0.7 percent of an already low gross domestic product in 2017 and that oil production fell by 60 percent over 12 years, reaching the lowest levels since 1949.

The oil factor has been crucial. Venezuela is home to the largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, which accounts for 92 percent of the government’s revenue. In 2011, oil was trading at over $100 per barrel but crashed in recent years. “Faced with declining external liquidity, the government has applied measures to ration hard currency and cut imports since 2013,” the full slide deck reads, noting that Venezuela produces only 25 percent of the food it needs.

Through the tragedy, the IDB sees a business “environment with opportunities,” particularly “abundant natural resources (minerals and oil)”; “commitment of support from the international community”; and a “resilient private sector committed to recovery.” The bank estimates that, with an annual investment of $14 billion, oil production could surpass 3 million barrels per day by 2029. By last December, the country was extracting 1.1 million barrels per day, according to data from the Organization Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The focus on ramping up oil production runs counter to many international institutions’ warnings about climate change. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said the world economy has 12 years to move rapidly in the opposite direction — cutting down its reliance on fossil fuels.

Under current law, the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA must have a majority stake in all oil projects, a hurdle to foreign investment.

The United States, for its part, has always been keenly interested in Venezuelan oil. “That’s the country we should be going to war with. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door,” Trump reportedly said in a private conversation in 2017, according to a book by former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. U.S. oil giants Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips filed billions in arbitration claims when Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez expropriated their Venezuelan operations in 2007. If Maduro were to fall, it would offer an opportunity for them and others to re-enter the Venezuelan market.

The proposed infusion of cash laid out in the IDB plan would serve as a carrot to induce foreign governments and business leaders to support the U.S.-led push to overthrow Maduro.

Notably, the IDB documents obtained by The Intercept lay out what the bank calls “priority actions”: eliminating obstacles for private companies, financing international trade, and establishing new legislation to re-privatize government-owned companies.

The proposed infusion of cash laid out in the IDB plan would serve as a carrot to induce foreign governments and business leaders to support the U.S.-led push to overthrow Maduro. The plan calls for $4.5 billion in the first year to repair basic infrastructure, such as electricity, water supply, and transportation. The figures, the bank stresses, do not include “private investments in the oil and energy sectors.”

The infusion of capital would have three specific goals, the documents say: “stability,” with the normalization of food stocks and health and education services; “execution” of basic infrastructure repairs; and institutional reforms aimed at “reversing the brain drain.” Professionals have been fleeing the country in droves and a recent nationwide blackout was likely exacerbated by the exodus of expertise needed to keep basic government services running.

Although it includes $11.5 billion for humanitarian aid, such as food distribution to 25 million people and unconditional cash transfers to 17 million, the bulk of the plan is based on the well-known neoliberal prescription adopted throughout Latin America during the 1980s and 1990s, with dubious results.

The subsidies and direct support — even on electricity and basic sanitation — in the IDB proposal could help a new government gain popular support and alleviate suffering during a crucial transitional period. But the subsidies and direct support funding would be cut dramatically over the course of four years.

The deepest changes in the economy would come only in the medium- and long-term. In a slide titled “What can be done in the energy sector?” the IDB proposes legislative reforms to open the electricity market to the private sector within the first 12 months following regime change, to be followed by public-private partnerships (“key to financing,” in the words of the bank), rate revisions (frozen since 2002), and only targeted subsidies.

Among the “urgent priorities for public administration,” the bank’s proposal demands steps such as “a budget law,” “recovering the capacity to generate statistics for policy formulation,” and “mechanisms for the gradual dismantling of electricity, water, gasoline, and public transportation subsidies.”

According to the IDB’s 2018 financial statement, the Venezuelan government has been considered to be in default since last May. Currently, $233 million in loans are in arrears. Since 2012, the bank has not made any new deals with Caracas and since 2017, all loan disbursements have stopped.

The post Secret IDB Proposal Would Give $48 Billion Infusion to Boost Venezuela’s Economy — But Only After Regime Change appeared first on The Intercept.

Nancy Pelosi Takes Control of U.S. Foreign Policy on Brexit With Stark Warning to U.K.

Addressing Ireland’s parliament in Dublin on Wednesday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized control of American foreign policy in relation to Brexit, saying that Congress would block any new trade deal with the United Kingdom if Britain’s exit from the European Union threatens the peace in Northern Ireland.

After introducing the slew of Irish-American lawmakers traveling with her, Pelosi praised the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to the British-governed territory of Northern Ireland in 1998 and removed the need for customs and security checkpoints along its border with Ireland.

“America will continue to stand with you in protecting the peace that the Good Friday accords have realized,” Pelosi said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord, including, but not limited to, the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”

“Let me be clear,” Pelosi added, “if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday accords, there would be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.”

Pelosi also recalled “the bravery of our late friend, the extraordinary Martin McGuinness.” Before renouncing violence for politics, McGuinness was a commander in the Irish Republican Army. “Martin is beloved and missed by his many friends in Congress,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi’s words on trade were a hammer blow to so-called Brexiteers in Britain, who have fed the hearts of their supporters on the fantasy that the U.K. can simply walk away from the European customs union and single market, and offset the damage to its economy by striking a free trade deal with the U.S.

The stumbling block to that plan is that the U.K. can only trade freely with the U.S. after it completely withdraws from the EU, but doing so would require customs and immigration checks between Ireland, which remains an enthusiastic member of the European bloc, and Northern Ireland, which would leave.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the peace in Northern Ireland has been the decrease in tension along that now-invisible line of partition, imposed on Ireland in 1921, when the British Empire divided the country in two. The prospect of once again fortifying it is seen by observers on all sides as a risk to the entire peace process.

To preserve the peace, EU negotiators initially proposed making Northern Ireland a special economic zone, which would remain inside Europe’s economic bloc with the rest of Ireland after Brexit. That proposal was popular with Northern Ireland’s business community — and the majority of the region’s voters, who opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum — but was ultimately rejected by the British government.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who depends on the support of a small party from Northern Ireland committed above all to maintaining the union with Great Britain, proposed instead that the whole of the U.K. would remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit if no other solution could be found to keeping the border open in Ireland. The catch, for those dreaming of a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S., is that countries that are in the European customs union are barred from striking their own independent trade deals with other nations.

That has led the most hardcore Brexit supporters in the British Parliament to propose simply leaving the EU without any special arrangement for Northern Ireland and taking U.S. President Donald Trump up on his offer of a comprehensive trade deal with the U.S.

Trade deals, however, have to be approved by Congress, which has, for decades, been packed with influential Irish Americans of both parties. Among those traveling with Pelosi to London and Dublin this week is Rep. Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who helped broker the Good Friday Agreement and is the current chair of the House Ways and Means committee, which oversees trade policy.

Neal is also the co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Ireland caucus with Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican. Another member of that caucus accompanying Pelosi, Rep. Brendan Boyle, told the Irish Times that the delegation had a heated exchange with members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, led by Conservative Member of Parliament Jacob Rees-Mogg, in London on Monday.

Boyle, whose father was born in Ireland, said that the delegation attempted to provide “a reality check” to those in Rees-Mogg’s group who claimed “that the border issue is ‘concocted'” by a secret cabal of anti-Brexit politicians “in London, Brussels, Dublin, and Washington, all in some sort of grand conspiracy to force them to do something that they don’t want to do.”

“We very much attempted to disabuse them of that sort of conspiracy-type thinking,” Boyle said.

Rees-Mogg’s group continues to insist that any border checks after Brexit could simply be handled by technology. The fact that no such technology appears to exist anywhere in the world has not deterred them.

The fanciful nature of that supposed solution was underlined on Tuesday by Karen Wheeler, the British customs agency’s senior official in charge of post-Brexit border planning. “There is no technology solution which would mean that you could do customs controls and processes and not have a hard border,” Wheeler told business leaders meeting on Tuesday night at a Belfast museum dedicated to the Titanic, which was built in the city. “There is no magic solution that would make that go away. If there was, trust me, we would have found it.”

As the Washington Post reported, Pelosi also confirmed that, during her delegation’s earlier stop in London, she delivered exactly the same message to both the British prime minister and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. “We made it clear to all that if there were any harm to Good Friday accords — no treaty,” Pelosi said. “Don’t even think about that.”

The post Nancy Pelosi Takes Control of U.S. Foreign Policy on Brexit With Stark Warning to U.K. appeared first on The Intercept.

Spies, Lies, and Algorithms

foreignaffairs.com - For U.S. intelligence agencies, the twenty-first century began with a shock, when 19 al Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and perpetrated the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil. In the wake of th…


Tweeted by @lprubin73 https://twitter.com/lprubin73/status/1118523160473813001

Top PNP official nabbed for extortion

manilastandard.net - Top PNP official nabbed for extortion A senior police officer was nabbed by operatives of the Philippine National Police Counter-Intelligence Task Force for alleged extortion in Baguio City on Monday…


Tweeted by @MlaStandard https://twitter.com/MlaStandard/status/1118499442783588352

War is Coming to the Baltic States

outsiderclub.com - The shadow of a resurgent Russia looms heavy over its former satellite nations. It's not something you hear very much about. Still, the reality of it is something that has very real, very serious imp…


Tweeted by @OutsiderClub https://twitter.com/OutsiderClub/status/1118481752400515072

Press: What dirt does Putin have on Trump?

thehill.com - One thing for sure, the Trump presidency is anything but boring. In fact, almost every week, if not every day, for the last two years, there’s been at least one “I can’t believe this is happening” mo…


Tweeted by @JudyBockel https://twitter.com/JudyBockel/status/1118384202850947074

Balakot Air Strikes and the Jaichand Moment

myind.net - “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” – Sun Tzu 26th February 2019, 3.30 AM will be a red letter day in the history of India, for on this day a paradigm shift occurred in t…


Tweeted by @myindmakers https://twitter.com/myindmakers/status/1118366031133773826

EU raises stakes in cyber espionage faceoff

politico.eu - POLITICO Pro is our premium policy intelligence service, providing the most distinct coverage of the EU and beyond. Request a trial here and discover why thousands of politics and policy professional…


Tweeted by @laurenscerulus https://twitter.com/laurenscerulus/status/1118144492484345859

Second edition of the essay competition “Sanremo New Voices in International Humanitarian Law” – International Institute of Humanitarian Law

iihl.org - On the occasion of the 42nd Round Table on Current Issues of International Humanitarian Law, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and the International Committee of the Red Cross are pleas…


Tweeted by @estubbinsbates https://twitter.com/estubbinsbates/status/1118135118084886528

‎Recorded Future – Inside Threat Intelligence for Cyber Security: 099 Chinese Charm Attempts to Alter American Political Opinion on Apple Podcasts

podcasts.apple.com - There’s an increasing awareness of foreign influence on American institutions through social media. U.S. intelligence agencies have asserted that Russians made a concerted effort to disrupt and influ…


Tweeted by @BlendedWing https://twitter.com/BlendedWing/status/1117939621067939840

Trust in Trump remains low worldwide

pewglobal.org - By Richard Wike, Bruce Stokes, Jacob Poushter, Laura Silver, Janell Fetterolf and Kat Devlin Confidence in the American president to do the right thing regarding world affairs is largely unchanged th…


Tweeted by @denisekessel https://twitter.com/denisekessel/status/1117789784880177154

Secret Report Reveals Saudi Incompetence and Widespread Use of U.S. Weapons in Yemen

Since the brutal murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi last October, Congress has increasingly pressured the Trump administration to stop backing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen and halt U.S. arms sales to Riyadh. In response, President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that if the U.S. does not sell weapons to the Saudis, they will turn to U.S. adversaries to supply their arsenals.

“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,” Trump told reporters in October, referring to a collection of intent letters signed with the Saudis in the early months of his presidency. “You know what they are going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else.”

But a highly classified document produced by the French Directorate of Military Intelligence shows that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are overwhelmingly dependent on Western-produced weapon systems to wage their devastating war in Yemen. Many of the systems listed are only compatible with munitions, spare parts, and communications systems produced in NATO countries, meaning that the Saudis and UAE would have to replace large portions of their arsenals to continue with Russian or Chinese weapons.

“You can’t just swap out the missiles that are used in U.S. planes for suddenly using Chinese and Russian missiles,” said Rachel Stohl, managing director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. “It takes decades to build your air force. It’s not something you do in one fell swoop.”

The Saudi-led bombing campaign in North Yemen primarily relies on three types of aircraft: American F-15s, British EF-2000 Typhoons, and European Tornado fighters. The Saudis fly American Apache and Black Hawk helicopters into Yemen from military bases in Saudi Arabia, as well as the French AS-532 Cougar. They have lined the Saudi-Yemen border with American Abrams and French AMX 30 tanks, reinforced by at least five types of Western-made artillery guns. And the coalition blockade, which is aimed at cutting off aid to the Houthi rebels but has also interfered with humanitarian aid shipments, relies on U.S., French, and German models of attack ships with, as well as two types of French naval helicopters.

The catalogue of weapon systems is just one revelation in the classified report, which was obtained by the French investigative news organization Disclose and is being published in full by The Intercept, Disclose, and four other French media organizations. The report also harshly criticizes Saudi military capabilities in Yemen, describing the Saudis as operating “ineffectively” and characterizing their efforts to secure their border with Yemen as “a failure.” And it suggests that U.S.  assistance with Saudi targeting in Yemen may go beyond what has previously been acknowledged.

 

Since the beginning of the war, the U.S. has backed the coalition bombing campaign with weapons sales and, until recently, midair refueling support for aircraft. But the French report suggests that U.S. drones may also be helping with Saudi munitions targeting.

“If the RSAF benefits from American support, in the form of advice in the field of targeting, the practice of Close Air Support (CAS) is recent and appears poorly understood by these crews,” the document says. A footnote after the word “targeting” specifies that the possible U.S. “advice” refers to “targeting effectuated by American drones.”

Though the U.S. has denied engaging directly in hostilities against the Houthis, American MQ-9 Reaper drones – a reconnaissance drone with hunt-and-kill capabilities – have flown over Houthi occupied territory. After the Houthis shot down one of the drones in October 2017, it led to speculation that the U.S. could be using them to collect intelligence for the Saudis. Targeting being effectuated by American drones could mean that U.S. drones play a more active role in coalition targeting, like laser-sighting precision-guided munitions drops, for example.

U.S. Central Command strongly denied that U.S. drones have any operational role in coalition targeting. “The U.S. military does not provide that type of support to the Saudi-led coalition,” a CENTCOM spokesperson told The Intercept by email. “Our role with the Saudi-led coalition is advisory only. We provide intelligence and advise the coalition on best practices, air-to-ground space awareness, and the law of armed conflict.”

French-made Leclerc tanks of the Saudi-led coalition are deployed on the outskirts of the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on August 3, 2015, during a military operation against Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies. Pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition retook Yemen's biggest airbase from Iran-backed rebels in a significant new gain after their recapture of second city Aden last month. AFP PHOTO / SALEH AL-OBEIDI        (Photo credit should read SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images)

French-made Leclerc tanks of the Saudi-led coalition are deployed on the outskirts of the Yemeni port city of Aden on Aug. 3, 2015, during a military operation against Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies.

Photo: Saleh Al-Obeidi/AFP/Getty Images


Dated September 25, 2018, the report was written to brief an October meeting of the French “restricted council,” a meeting of cabinet-level officials that included French President Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, and Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian. Its publication is likely to have significant political implications for the Macron government, which has steadfastly defended arms sales to Saudi Arabia, while simultaneously downplaying its own knowledge of how French weapons are used in Yemen.

In January, Parly told a host on France Inter, a major French public radio station, that she had “no knowledge as to whether [French] weapons are being used directly in this conflict,” and that “we have recently sold no weapons that could be used in the course of the Yemen conflict.” She has also told journalists that French weapons “have not been used against civilians,” and described the country’s weapons exports as “relatively modest,” adding that “we don’t sell weapons like they’re baguettes.”

But the report shows that the Saudis and Emiratis have made much wider use French military hardware than the French government has admitted. Since the war began in 2015, the coalition has used French tanks and armored vehicles to reinforce the Saudi border and defend Emirati military outposts in Yemen. The Saudis have stationed French long-range artillery guns along its border, capable of firing deep into Yemen’s northern governorates, while the Emiratis have piloted French multiengine fighter planes, equipped with French laser-targeting technology. And both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have used French warships to enforce the coalition blockade against the country.

Though the report lists the French arms used by Saudi Arabia and the and UAE, it consistently notes that French intelligence has not observed the same weapons on “active fronts” with coalition ground forces, which are largely made up of Yemeni fighters loyal to former President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as well as foreign mercenaries. One map notes the presence of French Leclerc tanks at a coalition base near the battle of Hodeidah, but the report also says that the UAE uses Leclerc tanks generally for defensive purposes.

In response to a detailed list of questions sent by Disclose, the French prime minister’s office sent a lengthy statement about France’s arms sales and its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The statement says that French arms sales are thoroughly reviewed and consistent with French and international law.

“France is a responsible and reliable partner,” the statement reads. “Offensive actions are regularly taken from Yemen against the territory of our regional partners – we have seen this with ballistic missile attacks or drones carrying explosives, for example. France maintains a constant dialogue with these partners to respond to their defense needs.”

It continues: “Moreover, to our knowledge, the French weapons available to the members of the coalition are mostly placed in a defensive position, outside Yemeni territory or on coalition holdings, but not on the front line, and we are not aware of civilian casualties resulting from their use in Yemeni theater.”

At no point does the report assess whether French arms have been used against civilians. One map, however, estimates that more than 430,000 Yemeni people live within range of French artillery guns on the Saudi-Yemen border.

The report is primarily concerned with the location of French weapons among coalition forces and says nothing about origin of Houthi weapons, some of which are known to have come from Iran. An appendix catalogues the major weapon systems used by the Saudis and Emiratis, but is not a complete list; it does not mention munitions, rifles, or several types of armored vehicles spotted by monitoring groups.

Overall, the appendix reinforces a point that observers of the war have made since the intervention began: that the military capability of the coalition has been created and sustained almost entirely by the global arms trade. In addition to the U.S., the U.K., and France, the report mentions radar and detection systems from Sweden; Austrian Camcopter drones; defensive naval rockets from South Korea, Italian warships, and even rocket launcher batteries from Brazil.

HODEIDAH, YEMEN - SEPTEMBER 21: Yemeni fighters aligned with Yemen's Saudi-led coalition-backed government, man a frontline position at Kilo 16, an area which contains the main supply route linking Hodeidah city to the rebel-held capital Sanaa, on September 21, 2018 in Hodeidah, Yemen. A coalition military campaign has moved west along Yemen's coast toward Hodeidah, where increasingly bloody battles have killed hundreds since June, putting the country's fragile food supply at risk. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Yemeni fighters aligned with the Saudi-led coalition-backed government man a frontline position at Kilo 16, an area which contains the main supply route linking Hodeidah city to the rebel-held capital Sanaa, on Sept. 21, 2018.

Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images


The report describes the Saudi-led air war in Yemen as “a campaign of massive and continuous airstrikes against territories held by the Houthi rebellion.” The coalition carried out a total of 24,000 airstrikes from the beginning of the war through September 2018, according to the report — a number that falls within the range estimated by the Yemen Data Project, an independent monitoring group.

French intelligence has observed five types of piloted fighters flying over Yemen, all of which are NATO aircraft. The only non-NATO aircraft mentioned in the report is the Wing Loong, a Reaper drone knockoff produced by the Chinese. Export controls have prevented the U.S. from selling armed drones to the UAE, so Abu Dhabi turned to China to acquire them. Last year, the UAE used a Chinese drone to kill Saleh al-Samad, president of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, who was widely viewed as an advocate for engaging in the U.N.-led peace process.

Despite their vast technological superiority, the Saudis in particular are failing to meet their military objectives, the report says, identifying Saudi targeting as in need of improvement. And it describes the Saudis as less effective participants in air and sea missions, noting that the Emiratis are largely responsible for the blockade. It speaks more favorably of Emirati pilots, saying that they have a “proven” ability to use guided munitions, and that they perform up to NATO standards during bombing missions.

The report opens with a discussion of the battle to retake Hodeidah, a port city on the Red Sea and the entry point for most commercial goods and humanitarian aid into Yemen. The UAE predicted a decisive victory in Hodeidah, where fighting began last summer. But the intelligence report assessed that the “taking by force of [Hodeidah] appears still out of reach” for UAE-backed militias, despite their having nearly twice as many forces on the ground as their adversaries at the time it was written. However, the report notes them slowly moving to encircle and besiege the city by trying to retake critical junctions on the road between Hodeidah and Sana’a, the capital, which the Houthis control.

Before the offensive began, humanitarian groups identified a protracted siege as a worst-case scenario because it could largely stop the flow of aid to some of the regions of the country most in need.

“Commercial and humanitarian shipments coming through Hodeidah port are a lifeline, not just for people in Hodeidah city, but for much of Yemen,” said Scott Paul, a humanitarian policy lead at Oxfam America. “Setting up a long-term front-line and siege on the perimeter of the city would have a dramatic impact on national commodities markets and endanger anyone struggling to pay for basic necessities like food, fuel, and medicine.”

Despite calls from aid groups, the U.S. did not pressure the Emiratis to back off the attack. One U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal that U.S. policy was to display a “blinking yellow light of caution,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement asking parties to respect the “free flow of humanitarian aid” but stopping short of calling on coalition forces to back off.

ADEN, YEMEN - SEPTEMBER 23: Humedan Hussin Abdullah, sits with father at a government hospital bed on September 23, 2018 in Aden, Yemen. Abdullah is waiting in the hospital to have shrapnel removed from his leg, an injury he sustained in Hodeidah province that killed two of his family members. A coalition military campaign has moved west along Yemen's coast toward Hodeidah, where increasingly bloody battles have killed hundreds since June, putting the country's fragile food supply at risk. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Humedan Hussin Abdullah, left, sits with his father at a government hospital on Sept. 23, 2018 in Aden, Yemen. Abdullah is waiting to have shrapnel removed from his leg, an injury he sustained in an attack in Hodeidah province that killed two of his family members.

Photo: Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images


Hodeidah saw some of the worst fighting of 2018, and the Norwegian Refugee Council estimated a total of 2,325 civilian casualties as a result. Aid groups also sounded the alarm about thousands of civilians who were trapped because of the fighting. An internationally brokered ceasefire in December slowed the pace of coalition airstrikes, but the ceasefire broke down in January and violence resumed.

The French intelligence report also describes a massive operation by the Saudis to secure their border with Yemen, and says that five brigades of the Saudi army and two brigades of the Saudi National Guard — about 25,000 men — are deployed along the border. The troops are reinforced by 300 tanks and a battalion of 48 French-made Caesar self-propelled Howitzer guns capable of firing dozens of miles into Yemeni territory.

The “unspoken goal” of this border operation is to penetrate Houthi-controlled areas and eventually advance on Houthi strongholds in the Yemeni governorate of Saada, the report says. But it says the Saudis’ lack of mobility leaves them highly vulnerable to guerrilla attacks and that their strikes are too imprecise be effective against the nimbler Houthi forces.

“Despite the defensive means deployed, the rebels maintain their nuisance capability: artillery salvos, missile shots, improvised explosive devices, ambushes and infiltrations into Saudi territory,” the report says. “The addition of infantry combat vehicles in empty spaces between the tanks, in the summer of 2016, did not allow for an improvement in the efficiency of Saudi tactics.”

Disclose is the first nonprofit newsroom of investigative journalism in France. Its mission is to reveal abuses and hold the powerful to account. Disclose supports strong and independent journalism that is focused on the public interest.

The post Secret Report Reveals Saudi Incompetence and Widespread Use of U.S. Weapons in Yemen appeared first on The Intercept.

CIA BLOCKS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST

teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com - CIA CAN’T CONFIRM OR DENY FILE ON YUGOSLAVIST WRITER - cites US Presidential Obama Executive Order by Sasha Uzunov Melbourne, Australia The United States’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has block…


Tweeted by @UZI9mmmm https://twitter.com/UZI9mmmm/status/1117616392004489216

The pitfalls of a 3rd Trump-Kim summit

news.cgtn.com - Editor's note: Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. He writes on topics pertaining to China, the DPRK, Britain and th…


Tweeted by @AlbrtSv https://twitter.com/AlbrtSv/status/1117329727990185984

Acoustic Kitty – Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org - Acoustic Kitty was a CIA project launched by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology, which in the 1960s intended to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. I…


Tweeted by @seanm850 https://twitter.com/seanm850/status/1117303202939117568

EU’s Collusion with Iran

gatestoneinstitute.org - On January 31, Britain, France and Germany announced a new payment mechanism known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). It was designed to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan o…


Tweeted by @yojudenz https://twitter.com/yojudenz/status/1117258599007342592

Heinrich Müller (Gestapo) – Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org - Heinrich Müller (28 April 1900; date of death unknown, but evidence points to May 1945)[1][2] was a German police official under both the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. He became chief of the Gest…


Tweeted by @GraviolaDOTfi https://twitter.com/GraviolaDOTfi/status/1117247541844893696

No ‘spying’ at the FBI

powerlineblog.com - At ReaclClearPolitics yesterday, the invaluable Eric Felten took a deep dive into the testimony of former FBI counterintelligence chief Bill Priestap before the House last year (and do read the whole…


Tweeted by @do6986 https://twitter.com/do6986/status/1117116788947476482

About country withheld content

help.twitter.com - If you see the above message, it means Twitter withheld the entire account based on local law(s) in response to a report filed through specific support intake channels. We use information that we may…


Tweeted by @Rukhsar_e_Gul https://twitter.com/Rukhsar_e_Gul/status/1117116523053821952

Thread by @_JakubJanda: “THREAD: One of the best Western counter-intelligence agencies Estonian KAPO just published 2018 annual report. – They use term “traitor” for […]”

threadreaderapp.com - #THREAD How CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana compromised the security and lives of millions of Indians under the #SmartCities project by collaborating with shady foreign spy firms who could now ex…


Tweeted by @albertusman https://twitter.com/albertusman/status/1117061230064279552

A Honduran Asylum-Seeker Was Brutally Murdered After Being Deported — From Mexico

Terror raced through Teresa Gonzales as both the clarity of the message and the ambiguity of the threat hit her at once. “We have a present for you waiting outside,” read the text, which appeared on her daughter Rosa’s cellphone during Saturday worship. “Mom, they’re threatening me,” said Rosa, eyes wide.

Teresa, whose family members’ names have been changed for their protection, had gone to worship at her church in central Tegucigalpa, bringing Rosa, 16, along with her. Teresa — a short, sturdy woman with round cheeks and tightly curled, black hair — tried to attend service with her family on a daily basis. On this particularly muggy Saturday, however, her older daughter, Leti, had been busy at work when she was interrupted during prayer.

Adrenaline racing, she made a quick calculation. The gang had caught up to her — it was time to run. Gathering up Rosa, she fled straight from the crowd at the cavernous Baptist church onto a bus, and straight to a cousin’s home in a nearby town.

It wasn’t the first time Teresa had fled threats like this. The year before, Rosa had caught the attention of a local gang member. The young girl refused his advances and death threats quickly spread from Rosa to the entire family, leading them to go into hiding — hopping from one place to another, only having a moment’s peace during the short time it took for the gangs to find their location again; ultimately, they attempted to flee north toward the perceived safety of the United States. They weren’t the first to leave either. Two of her other daughters had already fled, one to Spain and the other to join her brother in the United States, where she had gained asylum.

But it was the first time that her daughter Leti had stayed behind.

Leti, 20, had always been optimistic. Even after the death threats against the family began — when her little sister refused the advances of a local gangster — she was still cracking jokes about her siblings’ clothes or mocking how they talked, just to see them laugh. No matter how tired she was, she would always come home brimming with energy to help her mom with the household chores and to take care of her 2-year-old daughter, Keyla. “She was so happy,” said Teresa. She told me that during the family’s first attempt to escape the threats, they had crossed a river on a raft. “Throw me in here!” Leti had laughed “I want to learn how to swim!”

Back in Tegucigalpa, Leti would come home from work to see her mother wracked with worry and she would insist on giving Teresa a makeover, tut-tutting any sign that she had stopped taking care of herself. “Oh, when I’m old, I’ll never let myself go like this,” she would say while carefully applying eyeliner on her mother.

Leti herself was nearly always impeccably dressed, often in a white blouse (white was her favorite color). She had her mother’s cherubic cheeks and long, brown hair that flowed over her shoulders. And although Leti had just dropped out of her final year of school to take care of her daughter, she dreamed of studying psychology at university. As a kid, however, she wanted to be a lawyer. “To defend the poor,” Teresa told me. “She loved the idea of justice.”

“She wasn’t afraid, and she was so clear-headed,” said Teresa. “She would say that we don’t owe anyone anything, so we shouldn’t be scared.”

That Saturday, on Teresa’s way to her latest hiding place, the two spoke over the phone. Attempting to reassure her terrified mother and younger sibling, Leti asked them not to leave. “Don’t worry,” she implored her mother. “That boy isn’t going to do anything to you,” she said. “You are a child of God.”

“They left [her] in the wolf’s mouth,” said a family member.

Eight days later, Teresa received a troubling phone call. Leti had gone out on a double date with a childhood friend and never returned — she had been missing since Sunday.

Leaving Rosa asleep in their hiding place, Leti’s mother rushed to Tegucigalpa. She had only just arrived in front of her first stop, the national registry, when the phone rang. It was a call from her pastor.

“Tere, we found Leti,” he said.

Teresa breathed in sharply. “How is she?”

The pastor’s response was shattering: “She’s dead.”

Live images of the crime scene had begun rolling across her neighbors’ TV screens. The two women’s bodies had been found decomposing in a stream, only recognizable by the clothing they wore.

“She was tortured,” Teresa told me.

“Asphyxia by strangulation,” read the death certificate.

Leti’s family was devastated. But her death wasn’t a surprise for those who lived in turbulent neighborhoods like hers in Tegucigalpa. Honduras is beleaguered by warring gangs and police — unofficial armies in the unofficial, indiscriminate war that plagues the Northern Triangle of Central America, catching innocent civilians in the crossfire.

It also would not have surprised Hondurans that Leti was a deportee, detained and turned away after a final, defiant attempt four months prior to escape the death threats against her family. However, Leti was deported not from the United States, but from Monterrey, Mexico. And although the Gonzales women had a valid claim for asylum under Mexican law, and despite their repeated requests to immigration agents, they were never given the chance to apply for it before being put on a bus back to Honduras and Leti’s death.

According a Migration Policy Institute analysis of both U.S. and Mexican deportations, from 2015 to 2017, Mexico had already deported roughly 409,000 Central American migrants, nearly double the number of its northern neighbor. This was no accident. Much political pressure and direct funding from the United States has focused on Mexico’s immigration enforcement. And, according to Maureen Meyer, director of Mexico and migrant rights at the Washington Office on Latin America, Mexico has accepted its role as a barrier for those looking to reach the U.S. border.

“It’s shocking,” said Meyer, “knowing … the infrastructure in Mexico, the widespread abuses that happen against migrants in Mexico, and the very weak asylum system Mexico has, that we were still asking Mexico to do what they were doing.”

The United States has domestic and international obligations not to deport asylum-seekers to their deaths, but by expecting Mexico to do this work for them, the Trump administration can turn a blind eye to what happens next. Effectively, Trump’s wall has already been built — but on Mexican soil.

“It doesn’t always seem that their main interest at all is what happens to people in Mexico, as much as making sure people don’t get to our border,” said Meyer.

Mexico’s Wall

A year before Teresa’s family was sent back to Honduras, the Trump administration centered its 2016 campaign around the promise of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and making Mexico pay for it. After Trump took office, his administration continued funding projects begun under the Obama administration such as the $3 billion Mérida Initiative, which includes four pillars, the third of which is the creation of a Mexican “21st Century Border.” According to a Congressional Research Service report, this involves “support for securing Mexico’s porous and insecure southern borders,” including “$24 million in equipment and training assistance”; in addition, the U.S. government has obligated “$75 million more in that area.” According to the same report, these appropriations enable the U.S. government to “shape Mexico’s policies.” One such policy is Mexico’s Southern Border Plan, aimed at stopping migrants as they cross into Mexican territory from Guatemala. As reported by the New York Times, under the direction of the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department additionally funneled $20 million toward deportation flights from Mexico.

Then, entire caravans of asylum-seekers began flowing once again through Mexico toward the United States. “Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border,” Trump tweeted on November 25. Trump also began to pressure Mexico to become a “safe third country,” which would mean migrants would be legally obligated to request asylum in Mexico before doing so in the United States. Mexico resisted. But soon thereafter, at the end of 2018, the “remain in Mexico,” or “Migrant Protection Protocols,” plan was introduced. It would leave thousands of asylum-seekers sitting just south of the U.S. border, effectively leaving Mexico’s buckling immigration institutions to simultaneously take on both its own and the United States’s asylum-seekers.

Meanwhile, Mexico elected a new president as well. Andrés Manuel López Obrador called migration “a human right we will defend,” proposing a new politics of immigration in Mexico. Such a statement was a sharp contrast to the rhetoric and policies of the past administration — perhaps the most recent, glaring example of which was the militarized closing of the Mexico-Guatemala border, where tear gas was used as the first migrant caravans attempted to enter Mexico last year. Since taking office in 2019, López Obrador promised to clean up the practices of the National Migration Institute, known by its Spanish initials INM; invest in Central America; and bolster his asylum offices while also giving migrants the opportunity to stay and work in Mexico. But to this day, say many, he has not addressed the core of Mexico’s biggest problem — the deep rift between Mexico’s broken asylum system and the better-funded but deeply corrupt immigration forces.

Article 21 of Mexico’s refugee law states that that if a representative of the government becomes aware of a foreigner requesting asylum, they must tell the Ministry of the Interior or be sanctioned. Yet both a 2018 report from Amnesty International and the Mexican immigration authority’s own internal review in 2017 revealed many irregularities in INM’s handling of asylum-seekers. Rather than caring properly for asylum-seekers in detention, the INM has been actively seeking to forcibly deport migrants — no matter how well-founded their fear of return.

“The Mexican government is routinely failing in its obligations under international law to protect those who are in need of international protection,” said the Amnesty International report, “as well as repeatedly violating the non-refoulement principle, a binding pillar of international law that prohibits the return of people to a real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations. These failures by the Mexican government in many cases can cost the lives of those returned to the country from which they fled.”

Mexico’s asylum and refugee agency, the Commission for Refugee Aid, known by its Spanish acronym COMAR, currently operates with minimal personnel and an even lower budget than it did under the Peña Nieto administration. In 2019, the Mexican government approved an operating budget of roughly $1 million, about $250,000 less than in 2018. Meanwhile, the INM is still receiving over $70 million in support from the Mexican government, despite also its own budget also being cut.

According to Ruth Wasem, former congressional researcher and professor of public policy at the University of Texas, Mexico has the asylum laws, but not the institutions to implement them. “We have the laws and the institutions,” she says. “But we’re lacking the political will.”

Meanwhile, lives like Leti’s may continue to fall through the cracks.

border_revised-1554498134

Illustration: Cornelia Li for The Intercept

Fleeing North

Four months before Leti’s death on June 4, 2017, Teresa’s family and dozens of other migrants barreled north in the back of a suffocatingly hot shipping container.

“We were in the trailer for thirty hours without food or water,” Teresa told me in October from her hiding place in Honduras. “We were stacked in between each other’s legs.”

Once the train was well inside Mexico and they had escaped the inferno of the container, Leti and her family members, two of whom were now sick and covered in mosquito bites, were put on a bus going north. The Gonzales women had nearly arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border north of Monterrey when the bus lurched to a halt.

“Immigration had stopped it, and we hadn’t even realized,” said Teresa.

Teresa was delirious from stress and dehydration. However, when INM agents stopped her bus, Leti’s mother still managed to do what she had long ago decided: turn herself into the authorities and tell them that her family was fleeing for their lives. But when she presented her family’s papers, it was Mexican immigration agents she was facing, not the U.S. Border Patrol.

Quickly, all four of them were thrown into detention in Nuevo León.

According to Gabriela Zamora, an immigration researcher at Colegio de la Frontera Norte who is a co-founder of Casa Monarca, one of Monterrey’s most prominent migrant shelters, “they would have sent them forcibly … to a migration detention center, which Monterrey still lacks.” Zamora’s best guess for what would have been a likely location is Piedras Negras, in Coahuila, at the facility where members of the 2019 Honduran caravan would later be detained in February.

“I was so nervous after everything that had happened,” said Teresa. She again told the agents of the threats, of her fear for the lives of her children. According to Mexican law, Leti’s family had the right to hire legal counsel and to medical care and medication. In 2016, the INM had also signed a non-mandatory “alternatives to detention” agreement with COMAR and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, allowing asylum-seekers to be released from detention. But the INM agent speaking to Teresa pushed back. “They told me that we were already scheduled for deportation,” she said.

Teresa was scared. “I didn’t want to go back,” she said. But Leti, as usual, was worried for her mother — and for good reason. Teresa’s mind and health were quickly deteriorating. Her blood sugar levels had risen to be dangerously high. “Mommy, we don’t have issues with anyone,” she said, panicked that they were trapped in the center without medicine.

Teresa held tight, praying for the chance to at least stay in the relative safety of Mexico, despite her deteriorating health. She took solace in the biblical story of Noah. “He saved himself and his entire family, after floating for many years,” she said. “Sometimes I think, ‘If they suffered, why can’t we?’ That story gives me a lot of strength.”

Yet within 10 days, the bus arrived to deport their family back to Honduras. “They told me that the consul hadn’t come, so we had to go back to our country,” said Teresa. The agent told her that if she were to apply for asylum, she would have to wait for three months in detention. “My sugar had risen a lot,” she said. So she acquiesced to her daughter.

“Maybe if I had just stayed, Leti would be alive,” Teresa later told me, her voice shaking.

“It’s unfortunately all too common that potential asylum-seekers apprehended in Mexico are … not informed of the right to seek protection,” said Meyer. “And I think the overall consensus is that most immigration officers … are much more focused on the apprehension, detention, deportation side of things.”

Madeleine Penman, author of the 2018 Amnesty International report titled “Overlooked, Under-Protected: Mexico’s Deadly Refoulement of Central Americans Seeking Asylum,” conducted two years of research and more than 100 interviews with migrants and immigration officials alike. “What we saw was that on a routine basis, people were being returned to Honduras and El Salvador that had a clearly well-founded fear of danger. This is a clear violation of international law and Mexican law that we saw happening on a common basis.”

The INM did not respond to requests for comment.

Since the report’s publication, Penman said she has been personally involved in stopping deportations while visiting detention centers in Mexico. “Because the systems of the INM and COMAR are so poor and coordination is so poor, it’s not clear who’s on a deportation list and who’s actually an asylum-seeker.”

Seeking Refuge

If Leti and her family had been allowed to file a claim for asylum, there was still no assurance that it would have gone smoothly. INM agents have gone beyond just dissuading migrants from claiming asylum in the detention centers. Documents obtained by The Intercept show that COMAR has received fabricated letters from the INM that claim to be from migrants they have detained. These letters, claiming the migrant is renouncing asylum claims and requesting deportation, are later faxed to COMAR offices, effectively canceling any future chance at asylum in the country.

“This kind of situation is very common,” a source inside COMAR confirmed. “They present us with a handwritten note saying, ‘Thank you COMAR but I cannot continue with the process,’” said the source, who requested anonymity due to fears of professional retaliation. “It’s not the applicant, because they fill out their form, and when comparing the handwriting, it isn’t the same, the signature is not the same, and then that same person will come back requesting to continue with their claim, saying ‘I never signed this!’”

Pamela Lopez, a former asylum adjudication officer at Mexico’s COMAR in Tapachula, agrees. “Sometimes, because of capacity, they try to get rid of people, just to not have them there,” she said. In her experience, “[The INM] has falsified applicants’ writing many times.” She, too, has had applicants return past the border to check on their application, only to find that it had been withdrawn.

The Mexican interior secretary, Olga Sánchez Cordero, has estimated that there will be 48,000 asylum applicants in 2019. And according to new data from Mexico’s office of the UNHCR, January and February of this year saw an 185 percent increase in asylum applications in Mexico compared to the same months last year. But for those who listened to López Obrador’s rhetoric during the campaign, it came as a shock when his government cut COMAR’s already-minuscule budget for 2019.

On February 28, 2019, at a forum run by the Migration Policy Institute, Sánchez Cordero said that the answer to this gap in funding will be support from the UNHCR itself. “Traditionally, our country has been a friendly, hospitable country,” she said. “And we would like to continue to be one when it comes to asylum and refugees. We can strengthen COMAR, and with the support of the UNHCR, we can start to strengthen our agency … in order to expedite the requests we’ve received.”

But the last time UNHCR lent helped COMAR with hiring, Mexico’s corruption still got in the way. When the first migrant caravan began forming in October 2018, COMAR was pressured to aggressively pursue asylum applications for the migrants in the caravan before they reached the United States. At the time, Tapachula’s COMAR outpost only had a staff of about 30. The UNHCR stepped in to help Mexico hire 22 new employees for six months to support the intake of the caravan’s migrants. According to documents obtained by The Intercept and as reported in Mexico’s newspaper La Reforma, however, at least one of the jobs was taken by Roberto José Pacheco Alegría, the husband of COMAR’s head delegate in Chiapas, who was contracted as a registry assistant and listed as working on the intake of migrants seeking asylum. According to COMAR, the delegate was verbally reprimanded by the López Obrador administration. “Whilst there should be zero tolerance with respect to nepotistic practices,” wrote spokesperson Carmen Soriano in an e-mail, “the enormous workload, the caravan, and the overall excellent and committed job on the part of the delegate and COMAR’s weak operation capacity, we considered to keep the delegate in her job provided that such practice will not be tolerated in the future.”

Others who were contracted were young and inexperienced, and immediately went to work deciding the fate of migrants asking for asylum. COMAR told The Intercept that each and every staff member was trained by UNHCR staff and knowledgeable COMAR colleagues on basic refugee protection issues. Lopez, however, differs in her account. “They were never trained,” said Lopez. “Just sit at the desk, look it over, and here are your cases.” In Mexico, asylum decisions, which can mean the difference between safety and possible harm or death, are made largely by the one asylum officer you are assigned.

memory_final-1554498141

Illustration: Cornelia Li for The Intercept

A Parting of the Seas

After Leti’s murder, Teresa was determined to keep her last daughter in Honduras alive. First, they moved towns again to hide from Rosa’s pursuers, spending their days inside. After being cooped up for multiple weeks, Teresa finally took pity on her daughter and let her out to find work. Quickly thereafter, the threats flooded in yet again. “They sent me pictures and videos of her,” said Teresa.

In February, Teresa’s blood sugar levels spiked to 400, but the idea of losing another daughter was unbearable. So they traveled north, where they were caught once again by the INM and detained, this time in Tenosique. There, Teresa saw a doctor, but was given no medication.

According to an email from COMAR, the INM and COMAR have recently signed a cooperation agreement aiming at ending refoulement practices. But these changes, again, didn’t reach Teresa’s family.

“Better you go back to your country and try again,” the agent told her.

After their deportation, Rosa and Teresa hid in a friend’s hallway in Tegucigalpa. A neighbor, knowing the danger they faced, mortgaged her house and lent them the money to flee again.

This time — just as the Trump administration was preparing to send back the first asylum-seekers under the “remain in Mexico” program — Teresa and Rosa reached the United States. As their raft ran aground in the Rio Grande, on the shores of McAllen, Texas, they were immediately apprehended. The first and only thing Teresa said to Border Patrol: “We want asylum.”

One week after they were released from immigration detention, Teresa asked me to join her at church. “Miracles happen here!” proclaimed a giant LED sign on the wall. Red and blue spotlights crisscrossed the huge megachurch, and Teresa swayed to the Christian rock band playing at the pulpit. She hugged her granddaughter and Rosa, her feet firmly together and her hands raised up at the elbows. “Eternal, limitless. Borderless, I am,” sang the family, hundreds of voices in unison. Tears rolled town Teresa’s cheeks, and she frantically tried to fix her mascara, trading quick glances with her daughter.

At church now, she told me, Teresa asks God to give her strength —“that he protects my children.”

After leaving all their worldly possessions behind in Tegucigalpa and changing phones numerous times to shake their pursuers, Teresa and her family have lost most physical reminders of Leti. When she can bear it, Teresa returns to the memories that are still inscribed in her social media accounts. They are mostly family memories: trips to the river with Keyla, birthday parties. These moments now haunt Teresa, who still can barely speak of her lost daughter.

Later that afternoon, Teresa leaned back on her family’s bed in the United States, and I asked what her hopes are now. She looked out the window, her black curls falling around her face, her lips pressed together. “I often think about the Red Sea,” said Teresa, surrounded by the six family members that share her small studio apartment. “The U.S. is parting the seas so we can pass, giving us an opportunity.”

The family is now in deportation proceedings, with a court date set for March 2020. Without a way to legally work, they are uncertain how they will afford a lawyer or apply for asylum. But they are hopeful.

After their arrival, Rosa was busy with the basics of registering for high school: vaccinations, setting up English immersion classes. She told her mother, who is illiterate, that she wants to study and succeed for Leti and for her niece. “She told me, Keyla no longer has her mother, but I can give her a better life.”

This story was produced in partnership with the Global Migration Project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

The post A Honduran Asylum-Seeker Was Brutally Murdered After Being Deported — From Mexico appeared first on The Intercept.

China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority

theguardian.com - In mid-2017, Alim, a Uighur man in his 20s, returned to China from studying abroad. As soon as he landed back in the country, he was pulled off the plane by police officers. He was told his trip abro…


Tweeted by @JaneLinden5 https://twitter.com/JaneLinden5/status/1116943256225447936

Counter Intelligence – Heartbeat Vinyl

redbullradio.com - “There are only two kinds of music, good and the bad,” goes the motto at Paris’s Heartbeat Vinyl. And wax worshippers have become well accustomed to finding the …Read more


Tweeted by @redbull_radio https://twitter.com/redbull_radio/status/1116940329029181440

Millones de ataques cibernéticos a Ecuador se reportan tras detención de Julian Assange, según exjefe de Inteligencia Militar

eluniverso.com - Mario Pazmiño, exjefe de Inteligencia Militar y analista en geopolítica, seguridad y defensa, manifestó la mañana de este viernes que tras el retiro del asilo político del fundador de WikiLeaks, Juli…


Tweeted by @anonopsofficial https://twitter.com/anonopsofficial/status/1116853757084672005

Former FBI Agent: Mar-a-Lago Is ‘Counterintelligence Nightmare’ – The National Memo – Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

nationalmemo.com - A former FBI counterterrorism expert who helped to investigate the Al-Qaeda terrorist network is sounding the alarm about lax security at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate. “Mar-a-Lago may present the worst …


Tweeted by @NationalMemo https://twitter.com/NationalMemo/status/1116821044579438593

Sweden Considers Request to Reopen Rape Investigation of Julian Assange

As he awaits sentencing in England for breaching bail, and fights possible extradition to the United States, Julian Assange might soon face legal jeopardy in a third country, Sweden, where a woman who says the WikiLeaks founder raped her in 2010 has asked prosecutors to reopen their investigation.

Some legal observers think that the complex interaction of three separate justice systems could now work to Assange’s benefit, by making his extradition to the U.S. less likely.

Assange initially took refuge in Ecuador’s London Embassy in 2012, after England’s High Court ruled against his final appeal to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual molestation and rape leveled against him by two women.

In May 2017, Swedish prosecutors announced that they were closing their investigation into the sexual assault allegations in light of the asylum granted to Assange by Ecuador, and the fact that the statute of limitations on the claims made by one of the women had elapsed.

When Ecuador rescinded Assange’s asylum on Thursday, he was arrested for violating bail in 2012 and for allegedly conspiring with a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning, as she leaked classified material to WikiLeaks in 2010.

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer for Assange’s unidentified Swedish accuser, wrote on Twitter that her client still wanted him to stand trial in Sweden.

The woman’s complaint, Swedish prosecutors told England’s High Court in 2011, was that in her home, “Assange deliberately consummated sexual intercourse with her by improperly exploiting that she, due to sleep, was in a helpless state.”

“It is an aggravating circumstance,” the prosecutors added, “that Assange, who was aware that it was the expressed wish of the injured party and a prerequisite of sexual intercourse that a condom be used, still consummated unprotected sexual intercourse with her. The sexual act was designed to violate the injured party’s sexual integrity.”

Assange’s arrest on Thursday seemed to take Sweden’s chief prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, by surprise, and she said in statement that it was “news to us too.”

Later in the day, after the complainant’s lawyer went public with her desire for the case to be reopened, the Swedish Prosecution Authority announced that “the counsel for the injured party has requested the Swedish preliminary investigation concerning rape be resumed.”

Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, is currently conducting a review of the case, according to a spokesperson for her office. Persson stressed in a written statement that the investigation “has not yet been resumed” and offered no timetable for when the decision would be made.

But prosecution authority explained that the investigation could be reopened, now that Assange’s extradition to Sweden is possible, given that the statute of limitations for the suspected crime of rape is 10 years, and the offense was allegedly committed in mid-August 2010.

Assange immediately denied the allegation, and one of his lawyers, Mark Stephens, even claimed at the time that Sweden intended to stage a “show trial” as part of a plot to take revenge on the WikiLeaks founder for publishing documents that exposed wrongdoing by American soldiers and officials. “We saw the smirking American politicians yesterday,” Stephens said after Assange was taken into custody in 2010. “The honey-trap has been sprung. Dark forces are at work. After what we’ve seen so far, you can reasonably conclude this is part of a greater plan.”

David Allen Green, a contributing editor to the Financial Times on law and policy, who has written extensively about Assange’s failed legal battle against extradition to Sweden, suggested on Friday that if Sweden does renew its extradition request, it could make Assange’s extradition to the United States less likely.

Any request from Sweden, on behalf of a complainant who says that she has been waiting nine years for justice to be served, would probably be granted priority by an English court over the more recent request from the U.S., which wants Assange to stand trial for allegedly trying (and apparently failing) to help Manning crack a password to access classified documents.

If U.S. prosecutors tried to seek extradition following any legal proceedings in Sweden, Green observed, that could require the consent of courts in both Sweden and England, and could be challenged by Assange’s lawyers before the European Court of Human Rights. “Therefore any decision to extradite Assange onward to the United States would be subject to legal challenges in both Sweden and England, as well as at Strasbourg,” where the European Court of Human Rights sits.

Even if Sweden does not renew its investigation, Assange’s extradition to the U.S. is likely to be challenged by his lawyers with reference to Article 4 of the extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom signed in 2003, which states that “extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”

And extradition between the two countries is far from automatic. On at least nine occasions since the treaty was signed, the U.K. has declined extradition requests from the U.S. In 2012, then-Home Secretary Theresa May decided not to extradite Gary McKinnon, a British hacker with Asperger’s syndrome who admitted accessing U.S. government computers but claimed he was just looking for evidence of UFOs.

Last year, another alleged hacker with Asperger’s, Lauri Love, won a High Court appeal against his extradition to the U.S. Love, who allegedly stole troves of data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Pentagon, NASA and the FBI, convinced judges that there was a high risk that he would kill himself if sent to an American prison.

Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s current lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the announcement by Swedish prosecutors that they were considering the request to reopen their investigation.

The woman who brought that complaint has not been identified, but the second woman, whose case has now been dropped, is Anna Ardin. She told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in 2010 that the complaints were “not orchestrated by the Pentagon” but the result of actions by “a man who has a twisted attitude toward women and a problem taking no for an answer.”

On Thursday, she wrote on Twitter that she never wanted him to be extradited to the United States.

The post Sweden Considers Request to Reopen Rape Investigation of Julian Assange appeared first on The Intercept.

The IRGC Security and Intelligence Agencies

iranwire.com - The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important institution. The military-security institution commands huge influence in every aspect of Iranian public …


Tweeted by @IranWireEnglish https://twitter.com/IranWireEnglish/status/1116633317565054979

Confronting Iran

nationalinterest.org - Michael Rubin’s take-down of the main Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) misses a critical point: The reason this Iranian opposition group has survived for so long is precisely bec…


Tweeted by @NCRIUS https://twitter.com/NCRIUS/status/1116481699725107200

Ahvaz Evacuated as Floods Continue in Iran

ncr-iran.org - The floods that have been plaguing Iran since March 17 have now reached the south-western city of Ahvaz in oil rich Khuzestan Province, with the Governor of Khuzestan ordering that five regions of th…


Tweeted by @iran_policy https://twitter.com/iran_policy/status/1116420766818500608

The State of Qatar’s Hack of Our Democracies

investigativejournal.org - In one of the largest state-sponsored computer hacks ever detected, Qatar’s proxies cyberattacked more than 1,400 high-status and ordinary citizens who were exercising their free-speech rights in dem…


Tweeted by @davereaboi https://twitter.com/davereaboi/status/1116393319041466368

More Iranian Sanctions for What Purpose?

warontherocks.com - When yet more sanctions are always the answer, one has to ask why. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with a Trumpian title (“Build an Iranian Sanctions Wall”) on April 2, Mark Dubowitz acknowled…


Tweeted by @lucy_lamode https://twitter.com/lucy_lamode/status/1116324104724996096

Very Important

talkingpointsmemo.com - I want to show you a couple clips from Bill Barr’s testimony today. You’ve heard the headlines but the full language is pretty key. When Barr said he believed there was “spying” against the Trump cam…


Tweeted by @simonosbore https://twitter.com/simonosbore/status/1116306590116843520

Focus on the Leaking, Not Just the Spying

bloomberg.com - Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intell…


Tweeted by @EliLake https://twitter.com/EliLake/status/1116303400759701505

Julian Assange Arrested in London After Ecuador Withdraws Asylum

Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, was arrested on Thursday by London’s Metropolitan Police service, which said in a statement officers were “invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.”

Video of Assange being dragged from the embassy was captured on a live stream set up by Ruptly, a Russian government news agency.

Wikileaks confirmed that Assange was arrested inside the embassy.

Assange, 47, will be held at a central London police station until an appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court can be arranged, the police said. The force explained that it was acting on a warrant issued by that court after Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012, violating bail conditions by not returning to court for a hearing on his attempt to resist extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning on sexual assault allegations.

In May 2017, Swedish prosecutors announced they were closing their investigation into the sexual assault allegations in light of Assange’s asylum and the time that had elapsed.

Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, released a video statement explaining his decision to withdraw the diplomatic asylum granted to Assange by his predecessor, accusing Assange of “discourteous and aggressive behavior,” “hostile and threatening declarations against Ecuador and especially the transgression of international treaties.”

“He particularly violated the norm or not intervening in the internal affairs of other states,” Moreno added.

Moreno also said that British authorities had offered him a guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could be tortured or face the death penalty. That seemed like a clear reference to the United States, where, the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia accidentally revealed in November that it had filed a secret indictment charging Assange with crimes related to Wikileaks disclosures.

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was convicted of leaking military and diplomatic files to Wikileaks before having her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama, is currently in jail for refusing to testify about her decision in 2010.

Wikileaks has claimed in recent weeks that Ecuador had turned against Assange because of what Moreno took to be Assange’s part in the alleged hacking of his own phone.

Last week, after private photographs of Moreno and his family were posted online, the president told the Ecuadorean Radio Broadcasters’ Association that Assange did not have the right to “hack private accounts or phones” while enjoying diplomatic asylum.

Although Moreno did not directly connect Assange to that leak, Reuters reported that his government said it believed the photos were shared by WikiLeaks.

Assange’s arrest was condemned by many supporters, including Edward Snowden, who reminded journalists that the United Nations had “formally ruled his detention to be arbitrary, a violation of human rights.”

Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum, denounced the decision.

The post Julian Assange Arrested in London After Ecuador Withdraws Asylum appeared first on The Intercept.

Rich Roth on LinkedIn: “Just to make sure we all know Russia is still out there conducting the new version of a cold war,using cyber terrorism, no not espionage that is an actual attack on the USA by Russia. Russia actually has a fairly extensive track record of attacks like these all over Europe, and a few times in Africa. Now, it is hard for the USA to protest to much, our attack on Iran’s Atomic plants are fairly well documented. Both China and Russia have been building test facilities in their countries for over a decade. Part of the on going espionage attacks on our vendors who support our generation and infrastructure systems and technology. They need to keep up on the latest patches and fixes for those systems, which is an ongoing issue. Our tests on our own systems show that this type of attack can be devastating, we have actually made large , huge equipment physically destruct itself. . “

linkedin.com - Just to make sure we all know Russia is still out there conducting the new version of a cold war,using cyber terrorism, no not espionage that is an actual attack on the USA by Russia. Russia actually…


Tweeted by @RichRoth1 https://twitter.com/RichRoth1/status/1116138881613799424

Joint Intelligence Bulletin issued by Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation: “Russian government cyber actors probably conducted research and reconnaissance against all US states’ election networks leading up to the 2016 Presidential elections.”

themueller.live - Joint Intelligence Bulletin issued by Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation: “Russian government cyber actors probably conducted research and reconnaissance against all …


Tweeted by @themuellerlive https://twitter.com/themuellerlive/status/1116118112963788800

Demonizing and Dehumanizing Iran

lobelog.com - Commenting on the devastating and widespread floods that have engulfed 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo essentially blamed this huge natural disaster on the Iranian governmen…


Tweeted by @ejmalrai https://twitter.com/ejmalrai/status/1116029758406524929

Netanyahu Set for Victory as Israelis Vote for Never-Ending Military Rule of Palestinians

Voters in Israel delivered an overwhelming endorsement of the status quo by re-electing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has promised to simply ignore waning international pressure to end Israeli military rule over a captive population of millions of Palestinians living, without civil rights, in the territories it seized in 1967.

With more than 97 percent of the vote counted for Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu was in a commanding position to assemble a coalition of ethnic nationalist parties in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, including openly racist extremists who want to strip non-Jews of their citizenship and expel Palestinians from the occupied territories.

As soon as exit polls suggested that the prime minister’s Likud party was on course to be one of the two largest parties in the Knesset, allowing Netanyahu to stay in office, he led a crowd of supporters waving Likud posters and Donald Trump signs in jeering the “biased media.”

Signs of how own fans among the supporters of his ally Netanyahu did not escape Trump’s notice.

On the eve of the election, Netanyahu had appealed to ultranationalist voters by promising to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, where more than 400,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements that are illegal under international law, and maintain Israel’s military control over even those Palestinian population centers with limited self-government.

The prime minister’s pledge seemed to make formal what has been clear for the past decade of his rule: that Israel has no intention of ever honoring its commitments under the Oslo Peace Accords to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state, and plans instead to continue ruling over a de facto single state in which nearly half of the population is denied citizenship or the right to vote based on ethnicity.

The scale of his victory can be judged by the fact that the party that posed the largest threat to his leadership was led by former generals who boasted of their role in pummeling Gaza and offered no plan to end the occupation.

As the Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf explained last week on the +972 Magazine podcast, both Netanyahu’s Likud party, and its main rival, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz, the former army chief of staff, offered Jewish Israelis the choice to vote for the status quo, in which they could continue to enjoy the benefits of security ensured by a powerful military, in return for none of the sacrifices required to end the occupation and make peace.

“If you look at the occupation, and the sort of solutions that are being offered to Israelis, the most obvious one is the two-state solution and the least popular one is the one-state solution,” Sheizaf said. “Usually we treat them as a binary choice: if you don’t do the two-state solution, you’ll end up with the one-state solution.”

Since the population of Arabs and Jews is nearly equal in the entire territory now under Israel’s control, achieving peace through a single, binational state in which Arabs and Jews would enjoy equal civil and political rights would ensure democracy but end the century-old Zionist project of creating a Jewish state which would be, as Netanyahu has said recently, primarily for Jewish citizens and no one else.

“But I think that in the real framing, and this is where political decisions are made, both by the voters and by the leaders, there’s a third choice, of maintaining things as they are,” Sheizaf said, “let’s call it the status quo.”

“Israelis, when they look at the two-state solution in the style that was being promoted in the 90s,” Sheizaf continued, “it meant for Israelis withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, obviously, the dismantling of all the settlements that are now in the West Bank — a huge internal battle, significant financial costs and, we must also admit, significant military risk because nobody can predict what will happen 5, 10, 15 years from the day that peace is agreed, or the day that Israel leaves the West Bank.”

“The one-state solution, from an Israeli perspective, is even worse because you’re talking about annexation of the West Bank and Gaza and, in theory, full voting rights to all the population between the Jordan River and the sea,” Sheizaf said. “Then, at best, you will look at a different political system which will be in a sort of a draw; at worst, from an Israeli perspective, it will be dominated by Palestinians.”

“Netanyahu and the right have been saying to Israelis,” he added, “not only that the status quo is significantly better than the one-state or two-state solution, but some of the things that people said you can only achieve through a peace deal, can be achieved within the status quo.”

Among the benefits Israel has managed to accrue through sheer power politics, are close and increasingly less secret relations with Saudi Arabia and joint military operations with Egypt in the Sinai peninsula.

Despite some notable successes, and hysteria stoked by Israel’s government, the Palestinian-led effort to isolate Israel through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has so far failed to make it a pariah state equivalent to apartheid-era South Africa. On the eve of Israel’s election, the organizers of the government-backed Eurovision song contest, scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv in May, announced that their headline act would be Madonna.

“So, you take all this together,” Sheizaf concluded, “an Israeli would say, ‘There is an option where I don’t pay anything and I’m getting some of the benefits of the peace process. And if you understand that, you realize why the status quo, from an Israeli perspective, is far superior to the two other options.”

Responding to Netanyahu’s latest victory, and the threat of annexation, Saeb Erekat, a veteran Palestinian peace negotiator, said that it was clear that Israelis had chosen a path away from the two-state solution.

The increasingly naked disregard for the rights of non-Jews ruled by Israel was made plain on election day by Netanyahu’s Likud party, which dispatched volunteers to smuggle hidden cameras in to 1,200 polling places used by Arab citizens.

The morning after the election, Palestinians in the West Bank village of Ein Yabroud, who are deprived on the right to vote, unlike their neighbors in the Israeli settlement of Ofra, awoke to find triumphalist Israeli graffiti sprayed on their property. Car tires were slashed and doors and walls were covered in Star of David symbols and the word Hebrew word for “revenge.”

The extent to which the disparity between the rights of Palestinians living under military occupation in Ein Yabroud and those enjoyed by their Jewish neighbors in Ofra is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that homes in that settlement, built on stolen Palestinian land and in contravention to international law, are currently listed for rent on Airbnb.

In another sign of how little the ongoing occupation costs Israelis, the company announced on Tuesday that it had decided to reverse a decision announced in November to remove about 200 listings in West Bank settlements following pressure from BDS activists. “Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” the company wrote. “Any profits generated for Airbnb by any Airbnb host activity in the entire West Bank will be donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”

Airbnb’s reversal, which was denounced as “reprehensible and cowardly” by Amnesty International, came after a court settlement with dual Israeli-U.S. citizen settlers whose listings were to be removed and potential renters who filed suit in an American court.

The Center for Constitutional Rights recently filed a counterclaim in federal court accusing the settlers of violating the Fair Housing Act. One of the Palestinian-American plaintiffs in that suit, Ziad Alwan, was born in Ein Yabroud after it was occupied and now lives in Chicago.

As Mairav Zonszein reported in The Nation last month, Alwan “cannot rent the Ofra property because he is Palestinian; he cannot set foot in it, even though his family is the rightful owner of the farmland that settlers and Airbnb are now profiting from. He holds the title deed for the land, which is listed under his father’s name and registered by the Israel Land Registry.

Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, observed in a New York Times Op-Ed this week that election days in the West Bank offer the clearest illustration of Israel’s undemocratic rule, as Israelis “cast their votes for a Parliament that rules both Israeli citizens and millions of Palestinian subjects denied that same right.”

“Israeli settlers in the West Bank don’t even need to drive to a polling station inside Israel to vote on their Palestinian neighbors’ fate,” El-Ad wrote. “Even settlers in the heart of Hebron can vote right there, with 285 registered voters (out of a total population of about 1,000 settlers), surrounded by some 200,000 Palestinian nonvoters. Or as Israel calls it, ‘democracy.'”

The post Netanyahu Set for Victory as Israelis Vote for Never-Ending Military Rule of Palestinians appeared first on The Intercept.

Scotland’s Cyber Summit – OSP Cyber Academy

ospcyberacademy.com - SAS Blue Team – back door Assault Team Leader, Iranian Embassy Siege, SAS B Squadron, HQ Squadron 23 SAS permanent staff instructor, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, security consultant, close p…


Tweeted by @OSPcyberacademy https://twitter.com/OSPcyberacademy/status/1115947797784690694

CYBER SNAPSHOT: Sgt. Grant Ward

dvidshub.net - Hometown: Southbury, Conn. Military Occupational Specialty: Cyberspace Operations Specialist (MOS 17C) Duty position: Tool developer, D Company, 781st Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), Fort Ge…


Tweeted by @ARCYBER https://twitter.com/ARCYBER/status/1115712266568179714

Thread by @911CORLEBRA777: “THREAD 1/ This article from the Sydney Morning Herald 5mths ago, details a joint Australian/US counter-intelligence operation against China. […]”

threadreaderapp.com - How we vote today defines destiny of our future generation tmrw. A leader who wants to save persecuted Hindus v/s a sinister crook who hates Hindus & wants to punish them in their own homeland. A #th…


Tweeted by @threadreaderapp https://twitter.com/threadreaderapp/status/1115613503031738373

Stoning Gay People to Death in Brunei Is an Outrage and Not My Definition of Islam

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah proceeds to inspect honor guards during a welcome ceremony at the Istana on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah proceeds to inspect honor guards during a welcome ceremony at The Istana in Singapore on July 5, 2017.

Photo: Wong Maye-E/AP

I was 13 years old when I first heard of the Sultan of Brunei. The absolute ruler of a tiny, oil-rich kingdom in Southeast Asia, Hassanal Bolkiah was the subject of a much-discussed TV documentary by the British filmmaker Alan Whicker in 1992. As a young teenager, sitting in front of the television, I was in awe of this Muslim king. He was the richest man in the world! He earned a quarter of a million pounds every hour! He owned more than 150 cars!

Today, however, I’m filled not with awe but with disgust. Brunei has become the first country in Southeast Asia to impose capital punishment for “crimes” such as adultery and gay sex.

LGBTQ Bruneians, who are in particular danger, have been fleeing the kingdom. Can you blame them? According to the Associated Press, “Homosexuality was already punishable in Brunei by a jail term of up to 10 years. … But under the new laws, those found guilty of gay sex can be stoned to death or whipped. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offense and a left foot on their second. The laws also apply to children and foreigners, even if they are not Muslim.”

This is barbarism, plain and simple. How can a punishment rightly described as “cruel and inhuman” (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet), “vicious” (Amnesty International), and “medieval” (Human Rights Watch) be considered appropriate or acceptable in the 21st century? Has the Sultan — who isn’t exactly a paragon of moral rectitude himself — taken leave of his senses?

Then again, shamefully, Brunei isn’t alone. A recent study by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association found that there are already six countries that explicitly make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. And, as a Muslim, it is a source of deep frustration for me that 5 out of the 6 are Muslim-majority countries — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia — and in the sixth, Nigeria, the death penalty is imposed only in Muslim-majority or Muslim-plurality states. According to ILGA, there are also 70 member states of the United Nations that “criminalise consensual same-sex sexual acts” — and, again, Muslim-majority countries are disproportionately represented on that list. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in the vast majority of the world’s Muslim-majority nations, from Senegal in West Africa to Malaysia in Southeast Asia to Qatar in the Middle East. (Full disclosure: I host two shows on Al Jazeera English, which is funded by the government of Qatar. According to the Qatari penal code, gay sex can result in a prison sentence.)

It is easy to blame all of this rampant, state-sponsored homophobia in the Muslim-majority world solely on Islam. Indeed, the prominent British atheist, scientist, and Islamophobe, Richard Dawkins, cited Brunei’s barbaric new law in order to compare my faith to cancer.

Yet the truth is that nowhere in the Quran is a legal punishment prescribed for the sin, or the “crime,” of homosexuality. There are no authentic reports in any of the Muslim books of history of the Prophet Muhammad punishing anyone for same-sex acts. In fact, even many Muslims today are unaware that the Ottoman Empire decriminalized homosexuality in 1858. Got that? One hundred and nine years before the U.K. and 145 years before the United States, the biggest Muslim-ruled empire on earth decreed that there should be no penalty for being gay.

To be clear: The consensus position among mainstream Islamic scholars, whether Sunni or Shia, is that same-sex relations, like extramarital or premarital relations, are a sin. There is, however, no consensus among scholars about any earthly punishment for committing this sin. Don’t take my word for it — ask Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, described as “arguably the West’s most influential Islamic scholar.”

To point the finger only at Islam, or even at Islamists, doesn’t explain why Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power after toppling the Muslim Brotherhood and is now a hero to Ivanka Trump, has violently cracked down on LGBTQ communities; or why Muslim men are fleeing a “gay purge” in secular Chechnya.

Homophobia is not the monopoly of any one country, culture, or religion. Catholic-majority Brazil is believed to have the highest LGBTQ murder rate in the world. Orthodox-majority Russia passed a “gay propaganda law” in 2013. Here in the United States, anti-gay hate crimes are on the rise and, according to Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Federation, the Trump administration has “done so many things that are as anti-LGBTQ as you could possibly be.” The president has even joked that his vice president wants to “hang” all gay people. (As my friend Owen Jones, perhaps Britain’s best-known progressive and gay commentator, has observed, “If you only talk about LGBTQ rights to bash Muslims, you don’t care about LGBTQ rights.”)

For those of us who are Muslims, however, there is no point denying that queer people do face particular abuse, discrimination, demonization, and violence across the Muslim-majority world. It is long past time for us to engage in a frank discussion about our attitudes toward gay people in our midst. We have to find a way to try and reconcile our beliefs — and Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, has traditionally seen homosexuality as a sin — with the reality of life in modern, pluralistic, secular societies in which gay people cannot be wished away or banished from sight. Personally, as a practicing Muslim, I have had to think long and hard about this over the years, and I have also written before about my own homophobia when I was younger and the lack of compassion and understanding displayed by some in my own community.

Muslims, though, are not a monolith. In the United States, the majority (51 percent) of Muslims now support a legal right for gay couples to marry, compared to a majority (58 percent) of white evangelical Christians who remain opposed. There are a number of prominent Muslim-majority countries, from Turkey and Indonesia to Bosnia and Kosovo, where it isn’t a crime to be gay (though, of course, homophobic prejudice and discrimination still abounds).

And, in an interview on the Deconstructed podcast in February, the soon-to-be prime minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, told me that he plans to repeal his country’s anti-gay laws. Ibrahim, one of the most respected voices in the Muslim-majority world who was himself imprisoned on trumped-up charges of sodomy, said the laws are “archaic,” a hangover from the days of British colonialism, and “nothing to do with Islam or Christianity.” For Ibrahim, “you cannot condemn people for their sexual orientation” because “your sexual orientation is your business.” However, he added, “it will take time” for attitudes to “evolve.”

Here’s the problem though: Gay Bruneians no longer have time on their side. Their Muslim-majority neighbors have stayed silent while Brunei’s Western allies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, have issued the most tepid and halfhearted of condemnations. It has been left to Hollywood celebrities to publish scathing op-eds and launch a loud boycott campaign. So it’s time for the rest of us — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — to make some noise too, on behalf of members of a persecuted minority group who are in genuine fear for their lives.

Remember, this isn’t a debate about Islamic theology or ethics. This isn’t about changing sincerely held religious beliefs. We should all, of course, be free to believe what we want, but while I can’t and don’t speak for other Muslims, I’ll tell you this for free: Stoning innocent people to death is not my definition of Islam.

The post Stoning Gay People to Death in Brunei Is an Outrage and Not My Definition of Islam appeared first on The Intercept.

MI7 – Wikipedia

en.wikipedia.org - MI7 was a department in the British Directorate of Military Intelligence in both the First and Second World War. The group, which was part of British Military Intelligence, was established to control…


Tweeted by @MarquisLeDain https://twitter.com/MarquisLeDain/status/1115574022018883584

Cameras Linked to Chinese Government Stir Alarm in U.K. Parliament

It is a Chinese state-owned company that is implicated in disturbing human rights violations. But that has not stopped Hikvision from gaining a major foothold in the United Kingdom. Through a network of corporate partners, the Hangzhou-based security firm has supplied its surveillance cameras for use on the British parliamentary estate, as well as to police, hospitals, schools, and universities throughout the country, according to sources and procurement records.

Hikvision, whose technology the U.S. government recently banned federal agencies from purchasing, is generating millions of dollars in annual revenue selling its technology to British companies and organizations. At the same time, it has been helping to establish an oppressive surveillance state in the Xinjiang region of China, where the Uighur ethnic minorities have been held in secret internment camps.

British politicians are raising concerns about the technology — and are calling for an embargo on further purchases of it — on the grounds that Hikvision is complicit in human rights abuses and also represents a national security risk, as it is feared that Chinese intelligence agencies could potentially tap into camera feeds in sensitive locations. Some of the company’s cameras record audio and are connected to the internet, meaning that they can be monitored from anywhere in the world.

In January, the cameras were scheduled to be installed inside London’s Portcullis House, according to Adm. Lord Alan West, a member of the U.K. Parliament’s second chamber, the House of Lords. Portcullis House is an office building in Westminster used by more than 200 members of Parliament and 400 of their staff to carry out their daily work, which routinely involves discussion of confidential national security, economic, and foreign policy issues.

West told The Intercept that someone who was “concerned that this was happening” tipped him off about a contract that would equip the building with Hikvision surveillance equipment. He said he subsequently complained about the matter to authorities within the parliamentary estate.

“It seems to me to be extremely worrying — it’s rather like being able to get a Mata Hari into each office,” he said, referring to the Dutch exotic dancer who was accused of spying for Germany during World War I. “Are we sure we are happy with Chinese CCTV in members of Parliament’s offices, listening to what they say to their constituents, listening to what ministers say, filming the documents on their desks?”

A Parliament spokesperson denied the existence of a contract involving Hikvision and said that there was no plan to “install any additional cameras at Portcullis House this year.”

A source familiar with security on parts of the parliamentary estate, which, in addition to Portcullis House, consists of the Palace of Westminster, the Norman Shaw buildings, and Big Ben, told The Intercept that Hikvision’s equipment had “absolutely” been used there in the past. The source said they could not confirm whether any Hikvision cameras were currently active, as there are hundreds of cameras fitted both in and around all parliamentary and government buildings in the area.

“It’s rather like being able to get a Mata Hari into each office.”

It has previously been estimated that, throughout the U.K., there are more than 1.2 million Hikvision cameras. Procurement records and government contracts reviewed by The Intercept show that the company — which was 40% owned by China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime, as of June 2018 — has supplied its surveillance systems to a wide range of organizations and companies across the country.

The cameras have been installed widely in London, in boroughs including Hackney, Kensington, Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham. They have been purchased by local government authorities in Guildford, South Kesteven, Thurrock, Stockton, North Tyneside, Aberdeenshire, Falkirk, West Suffolk, and Kent.

In Wales last year, police began placing the Chinese cameras in 17 towns. In Northern Ireland, Hikvision’s surveillance equipment has been installed inside more than 300 buses. The cameras have been fitted inside hospitals in Hampshire, Lancashire, Kent, Northampton, Cornwall, Cumbria, and Yorkshire. They have been set up at schools in Surrey, Devon, Birmingham, and at a university in Plymouth. The cameras have also been deployed commercially: in the Southgate shopping center in Bath, the Gallions Reach shopping park in London, and at Tesco supermarkets and Burger King fast food restaurants.

Hikvision’s marketing materials say that its cameras can be used with facial recognition software and linked to a centralized database of photographs. The technology can distinguish between known faces and strangers, and trigger alerts when an unknown person enters a building or office, the company claims. It says its corporate mission is to “work together to enhance safety and advance sustainable development around the world.”

In China, Hikvision has been helping the government implement a nationwide surveillance network named Skynet. In recent years, the effort has aggressively focused on the Xinjiang region, where the Communist Party is implementing a crackdown on ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim minority, under the pretext of countering terrorism.

In Xinjiang, an estimated 1 million Uighurs — including children, pregnant women, the elderly, and disabled people — have been held in internment camps. Within these secretive facilities, Uighurs are forced to undergo a “re-education” process that includes mandatory recitals of Communist Party political songs and speeches. Those who resist are said to face punishments, such as beatings and solitary confinement.

According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese authorities are “committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang on a scale unseen in the country in decades.” The group said in a 2018 report that one of the most disturbing aspects of the repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang involves mass surveillance systems.

“Xinjiang authorities conduct compulsory mass collection of biometric data, such as voice samples and DNA, and use artificial intelligence and big data to identify, profile, and track everyone in Xinjiang,” the report said. “The authorities have envisioned these systems as a series of ‘filters,’ picking out people with certain behavior or characteristics that they believe indicate a threat to the Communist Party’s rule.”

Since at least 2010, Hikvision has been helping to establish a massive network of cameras in Xinjiang that police are using to spy on ethnic minorities. In 2013, Hikvision’s public security manager, Qian Hao, boasted that the company’s technology had enabled security forces to track and profile people. “We can help preserve stability by seeing which family someone comes from, then persuading their relatives to stop them from harmful behavior, like with Falun Gong,” a banned spiritual group, Qian said.

“We must be vigilant of any risk that Hikvision or any company may pose to U.K. national security.”

As China has ramped up its crackdown in Xinjiang, Hikvision has reaped the financial rewards.

The company is reported to have have a stake in more than $1 billion in business in the region, including five contracts in 2017 alone that were worth about $277 million. Among those contracts were deals to provide surveillance systems to state agencies for use in the internment camps, as well as on Xinjiang’s streets and inside its mosques, schools, and offices.

Hikvision declined to comment for this story. The company has in the past tried to downplay its connection to the Chinese regime, portraying itself as an independent corporation. However, the company’s own financial records disclose that its controlling shareholder is a Chinese government-owned entity called the China Electronics Technology HIK Group.

In September 2018, Chinese government official Weng Jieming declared that Communist Party leadership “is integrated into the corporate governance structure” at Hikvision, according to a government press release translated by IPVM, a video surveillance trade publication. Weng praised the company, saying that it had “resolutely implemented the spirit of the important instructions” from the country’s president, Xi Jinping.

In the U.K., Hikvision does not supply its cameras directly to its customers; instead, it sells the equipment through a network of wholesalers and subcontractors. The company’s latest U.K. accounts, from 2017, show a gross annual profit of $2.62 million and a turnover of $6.55 million. Its total global sales revenue for the same year totaled $6.65 billion, according to its promotional materials.

Hikvision has three offices across the U.K. and last year announced a plan to launch a new research and development hub within its British headquarters, near London’s Heathrow airport. The research and development division is headed by Pu Shiliang, who is based in China, where he has also reportedly worked for the government’s Ministry of Public Security, a feared agency known for targeting activists and political opponents.

The U.K. is an attractive prospect for any company working in the security industry. It is one of the most surveilled countries in the world, with up to an estimated 6 million cameras, one for every 11 people, throughout its towns and cities. Hikvision has managed to tap into the lucrative British market by undercutting its European competitors by a substantial margin. According to government procurement documents, a basic Hikvision surveillance system could be purchased for £1,000 ($1,310). In contrast, the cost was £3,000 ($3,930) for a system of similar specification made by Germany’s Bosch.

The British government has expressed concerns about the Chinese government’s involvement in the country’s critical infrastructure. In December, defense secretary Gavin Williamson said he would be looking “very closely” at the role of Chinese firm Huawei in upgrading the U.K.’s mobile networks from 4G to 5G. “We’ve got to recognize the fact … that the Chinese state does sometimes act in a malign way,” he said. However, Hikvision’s growing presence in the U.K. has not attracted the same level of scrutiny.

In the U.S., Hikvision has not had such an easy ride. In August of last year, an amendment was added to the National Defense Authorization Act that banned the U.S. military and government from purchasing Hikvision technology. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who authored the amendment, stated that the Chinese government was trying to “target the United States” by expanding the role of Chinese companies in the U.S. domestic communications and public safety sectors. “Video surveillance and security equipment sold by Chinese companies exposes the U.S. government to significant vulnerabilities,” she said, “and my amendment will ensure that China cannot create a video surveillance network within federal agencies.” The ban was eventually signed into U.S. law.

Karen Lee, a member of Parliament for the U.K.’s Labour Party, told The Intercept that she was urging the British government to consider boycotting Hikvision products, especially for use in publicly owned buildings. “At a time when digital interference in foreign political processes is increasingly being used to destabilize other countries, we must be vigilant of any risk that Hikvision or any company may pose to U.K. national security,” Lee said.

More evidence is needed to prove that Hikvision is implicated in Chinese government espionage, Lee added. “Regardless, it is unacceptable that a company which has been instrumental in human rights abuses is providing equipment to publicly owned U.K. agencies,” she said. “Divestment has a proud history at the center of civil rights campaigns, from apartheid South Africa to the American civil rights movement. The U.K. must send a clear message that we will do no business with any company that facilitates mass human rights abuse and ethnic repression.”

The post Cameras Linked to Chinese Government Stir Alarm in U.K. Parliament appeared first on The Intercept.

Murat ☁ Selcuk ☁ on LinkedIn: “The concern for the cyber-security industry is that as the nascent “internet of things” develops, powered by 5G mobile connectivity, the risk of cyber-attack will only increase. And as artificial intelligence becomes more widespread, it will become just another tool hackers can exploit. The arms race continues. h #business #artificialintelligence #technology #cloud #analytics #deeplearning #transformations #measurements ttps://https://lnkd.in/etupDCZ”

linkedin.com - The concern for the cyber-security industry is that as the nascent "internet of things" develops, powered by 5G mobile connectivity, the risk of cyber-attack will only increase. And as artificial int…


Tweeted by @MSelcuk https://twitter.com/MSelcuk/status/1115485253878132736

10 ways to resolve the border crisis

thehill.com - There is a growing humanitarian and security challenge at our southern border with Mexico. An unprecedented number of families are risking their safety to reach our country. The numbers are daunting:…


Tweeted by @cathleenfarrell https://twitter.com/cathleenfarrell/status/1115383837847162885

On the Eve of Israel’s Election, Netanyahu Thanks Trump for Sanctioning Iran at His Request

On the eve of Israel’s election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took credit for President Donald Trump’s decision to impose sanctions on Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, by designating it a foreign terrorist organization.

“Thank you, my dear friend, President Donald Trump,” Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew, “for answering another one of my important requests.”

As the Telegraph correspondent Raf Sanchez noted, Netanyahu’s choice of words seemed to imply that Trump’s earlier decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Syrian territory Israel seized by force in 1967, was also a gift given at the request of the embattled Israeli prime minister.

One day before Israelis go to the polls, Netanyahu is pulling out all the stops, since he faces both an immediate electoral challenge from Israel’s former military Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, and the prospect of a post-election indictment on corruption charges.

Joe Dyke, an Agence France-Presse correspondent, pointed out that Netanyahu omitted the claim that Trump’s move was made at his request in a subsequent tweet in English. That left the prime minister open to the charge often leveled at Palestinian leaders by Israelis, that they placate the international community in English and then say something quite different for domestic consumption in their native tongue.

Trump is popular with Israel’s right-leaning, nationalist electorate for a string of concessions to Israeli claims, including the de facto recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem as well as the Golan Heights. Netanyahu’s warm relations with the American president have featured heavily in his re-election campaign.

On Sunday, Netanyahu also shared a segment from Fox News in which Sean Hannity called Gantz “his crazy opponent,” for suggesting that Trump was meddling in Israel’s election.

Soon after Trump’s decision to sanction the Revolutionary Guard Corps was announced, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted that Trump’s action was the result of lobbying by “Netanyahu Firsters,” including John Bolton, who made paid speeches advocating regime change in Iran before he became the national security adviser, and Sheldon Adelson, a financial supporter of both the American president and the Israeli prime minister who once suggested a nuclear strike on Iran would be the best way to start negotiations.

It was, Zarif added, another “misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu.”

After Netanyahu’s Hebrew-language tweet taking credit for the decision, Zarif tweeted a screenshot of a report from the Israeli press with the letters “Q.E.D.” a Latin phrase used at the end of a mathematical proof, indicating that the truth of a proposition has been demonstrated.

Senior Pentagon and C.I.A. officials opposed Trump’s decision to impose sanctions on the military unit and affiliated companies and individuals, arguing that it would “allow hard-line Iranian officials to justify deadly operations against Americans overseas,” The New York Times reported. Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council, offered this as proof that Netanyahu now seems to have more sway over the president’s decisions than his own military and intelligence officials.

Maryam Rajavi, the leader of an Iranian exile group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen — which successfully lobbied to be removed from the official State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations with the help of paid supporters like Bolton — also took credit for the new sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran retaliated, as the BBC Persian correspondent Bahman Kalbasi noted, by designating The United States Central Command a terrorist organization and naming the U.S. government a supporter of terrorism.

The post On the Eve of Israel’s Election, Netanyahu Thanks Trump for Sanctioning Iran at His Request appeared first on The Intercept.

ICSIC 2019 E-Newsletter Sign-up

mailchi.mp - July 16-18, 2019 The International Cyber Security and Intelligence Conference (ICSIC) provides a rare opportunity for global experts in Cyber Security, Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism, National Infra…


Tweeted by @ICSIC_Canada https://twitter.com/ICSIC_Canada/status/1115283135816720384

The language of InfoSec – Microsoft Security

microsoft.com - As the cybersecurity industry has evolved, one dynamic has remained consistent: our industry-“speak”. We use a language that is very unique, difficult for new folks to understand, and oftentimes just…


Tweeted by @sattlert https://twitter.com/sattlert/status/1115271726907183104

The Counterintelligence Probe’s Phantom Origin | The American Spectator | Politics is too important to be taken seriously.

spectator.org - The guilty note that Susan Rice wrote to herself after Trump’s inauguration takes on more and more meaning as the shocking details of Obamagate come into focus. The Obama administration’s decision to…


Tweeted by @ShellhamerHeath https://twitter.com/ShellhamerHeath/status/1115188347280842752

This man Hillary Mutyambai

the-star.co.ke - Hillary Mutyambai has been sworn in as the new Inspector General of Police in a ceremony held on Monday at the Supreme Court. This follows his appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta. At his swearing…


Tweeted by @TheStarKenya https://twitter.com/TheStarKenya/status/1115177740452417541

The increase emphasis cyber threat intelligence

barclaysimpson.com - The information provided to you is motivated by the increased emphasis on cyber threat intelligence (TI) we have noted within the security market. This, in turn, has led to rising demand for TI speci…


Tweeted by @BarclaySimpson https://twitter.com/BarclaySimpson/status/1115163093548638208

Donald Trump, Not Ilhan Omar, Accused American Jews of Dual Loyalty

Addressing American Jews on Saturday in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump casually invoked the anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty by referring to Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “your prime minister.”

Given that Trump was speaking to Jewish Republicans — including Sheldon Adelson, the American casino magnate who is one of Netanyahu’s biggest donors — the president was not wrong to assume that the crowd was strongly pro-Israel, but the accusation that the loyalty of non-Israeli Jews to their home countries is somehow suspect has a long, ugly history.

Later in his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering, Trump referred a second time to American Jews as if they were Israelis by saying that a victory for Democrats in the 2020 election “would cripple our country and very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”

Trump’s remarks earned him a rebuke from the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, who urged the president, “to avoid language that leads people to believe Jews aren’t loyal Americans.”

The president’s comments were particularly striking because they came just minutes after he mocked Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, for her criticism of Israel. Last month, the ADL accused Omar of using “a vile anti-Semitic slur” after she said, in defense of her right to criticize Israeli policies, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Omar denied that she had questioned American Jews’ allegiance to the United States, saying that she objected to something different: political pressure on her, from Democrats as well as Republicans, to express loyalty to Israel. “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress,” Omar wrote in a Twitter thread. “I have not said anything about the loyalty of others, but spoke about the loyalty expected of me.”

Trump’s attack on Omar came just one day after the FBI announced the arrest of a 55-year-old man who had called the Congresswoman’s office and threatened to “put a bullet in her fucking skull.”

The investigation into this threat was aided by the fact that the man who made it, Patrick Carlineo, gave his name and number to the congressional aide who answered his call. Carlineo told a federal agent who found two guns in his upstate New York home that he “loves the president.”

Trump was also criticized for invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes when he addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition as a candidate, in 2015. On that occasion, early in the Republican primary when Adleson and other donors were supporting his rivals, Trump told the Jewish group: “You’re not gonna support me even though you know I’m the best thing that could ever happen to Israel… because I don’t want your money.”

“You don’t want to give me money,” he added, “You want to control your own politician.”

Video of this year’s event showed that the strongly pro-Trump crowd cheered many of his remarks, particularly when he boasted of permitting Israel to break international law by annexing the Golan Heights, Syrian territory seized by Israeli forces in 1967 and occupied ever since.

Trump’s strong support for Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza has thrilled supporters of Netanyahu’s far-right government, but it prompted a protest at the start of the president’s speech on Saturday by members of If Not Now, a group of young, Jewish-American progressives who chanted: “Jews are here to say, Occupation is a plague,” and “Jews are here to say, White nationalism is a plague.”

The post Donald Trump, Not Ilhan Omar, Accused American Jews of Dual Loyalty appeared first on The Intercept.

Fighting terrorism online

abc.net.au - It's very rare for an Australian intelligence agency to share some of its secrets and it's unprecedented for someone who works for one to speak publicly about what they do. But a woman who's been at …


Tweeted by @memeticists https://twitter.com/memeticists/status/1114986504919580677

A Veteran’s War Movie Sheds Damning Light on How the Marines Fight in Afghanistan

“Combat Obscura” begins with explosions. Half a second later, a great column of smoke materializes in the distance, quickly doubling and then tripling in size. But most frightening of all is what’s happening behind the camera. A man yells, in English, as the cloud grows past the top of the frame. “Holy shit,” he says. “That’s the wrong building!” Another explosion sounds, and a fireball billows. “Holy shit!” he yells again; he is gleeful, fascinated now. “Yeah, boy!” he shouts.

In “Combat Obscura,” a new documentary set in Afghanistan, Marines don’t do what they normally do in American-made documentaries about war – they don’t echo narratives of God and country, kill bad guys, and win hearts and minds. In “Combat Obscura,” Marines shoot guns and patrol, but they also insult women, shake their weapons at children, die needlessly and with little dignity, murder innocent people and cover it up. At one point in the film, a Marine points his gun at children passing by on donkeys. “Where’s the fucking Taliban? Where’s the fucking Taliban?” he screams in their faces. They look back in fear and incomprehension. The Marine hands one of the boys a chocolate bar, but it does not feel like a kindness.

combatobscura_poster_4764x4096-Combat-1554489755

“Combat Obscura” poster.

Photo: Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Director Miles Lagoze, 29, joined the Marines just after graduating from high school and quickly deployed to Afghanistan. His job in the Corps was what’s known as combat camera, a role that entails capturing footage of Marines for operational use on the battlefield and for PR back home. “Combat Obscura,” which was released March 15 with Oscilloscope Laboratories, is almost entirely comprised of footage Lagoze and another combat cameraperson, Justin Loya, shot for the Corps. The film amounts to a deft 110-minute condemnation of the behavior of U.S. troops and an excruciating lament for the needless loss of life caused by the American war in Afghanistan.

The Intercept talked to Lagoze about why he made the documentary, the legal process that preceded the film’s release, and his feelings about having taken part in the war. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What made you decide to enlist in the Marines right out of high school, when you were 18?

I think I was just kind of directionless. I had this preconceived notion that going to war would give me a perspective on life that I wouldn’t get somewhere else. And I always wanted to cover the war as a journalist. I wanted to go to grad school and stuff. I was a huge movie buff when I was a kid, and I saw “Full Metal Jacket” a bunch of times, and I was like, “Oh, you can just join the Marine Corps, they’ll give you a camera, and you just film for the military.'”

I think the military offered that easy, very direct path to another place. A lot of people think the military’s just these patriotic kids — guys that just want to serve their country. But it’s a lot of kids that are just on the fringe.

Where were you deployed and when?

We were in the Sangin-Kajaki area of Afghanistan in 2011. And we didn’t know it at the time, because they don’t really tell you anything when you’re going to these places, but there’s a dam in Kajacki. It basically powers the whole Helmand province with electricity. It was missing a third turbine. It was heavily occupied by the Taliban. We had to clear a route there to fix the dam. The dam is still broken. It’s sort of a metaphor for the whole war, I guess.

Combat camera is sort of like a PR tool for the military. In 2011, when I was there, we were supposed to be transitioning out of Afghanistan and handing it over to the Afghan army, the Afghan people. My job was to document those images: Marines working with the Afghan army, giving candy to kids — hearts and minds type of stuff. The big three no-nos were no cursing, no shots of guys smoking cigarettes, and they have to be in full gear. And then no casualties. That was a big one, not too much bloodshed. Because it was supposed to look like it was over, we were pulling out. This was eight years ago. And we’re still there.

What was your aim in making this documentary?

It’s supposed to be a poem. We want to give people the experience of the war, the uncertainty of it, and the paradoxes. And it’s sort of a meditation on what it’s like to be a solider, how absurd this war is — there wasn’t even a definition of what the outcome was going to be, what winning would even look like, or anything, really. And just the waste of life.

That’s really all I can do. That’s all I can hope for. I don’t want people to come away with some kind of answer to the conflict. I think when you see civilian documentaries about it, you sort of get that kind of closure, in some sense, like, okay, it’s all about camaraderie, or it’s all about the guys and being out there with one another. And oh man, they’re going to be so fucked up when they come back. No. I really want to unsettle people and put them in that moment.

That makes me think of a narrative choice that you made, which was not to do any kind of “Where are they now?” interviews, and not have voiceovers.  Why didn’t you use devices like that?

Well, people always want that. I’ll tell you: A lot of [the Marines in the film] are in jail. Some of them are doing okay, and some of them are not. And some of them are dead. Some of them killed themselves.

But this whole myth of the trauma hero of American war narratives — I didn’t want to do that. Every American war narrative tends to revolve around, Johnny’s got this naive notion of war, and he goes over and it’s not what he expected, and it’s total chaos and horror, and then he comes back, and he has no way to express what it was like. When I first set out to make the film, I did interviews with a lot of the guys that were in the film, in the present. When I started to get rid of that, I think that’s when it became more honest.

I want people to question them. Not just sympathize, but question, and look at who we were sending to fight these wars. I mean, it’s an all-volunteer military. It’s not like we were drafted. We all grew up watching “Full Metal Jacket,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon.” These are anti-war films that I think had the reverse effect on a lot of us, because we have this whole reified notion of war and trauma, and going to war, and that you’re going to learn something by going to combat. And it takes away from the actual reasons we’re over there.

What was it like when you would bring the camera out when Marines were smoking weed, for example? Was there resistance to it?

A lot of the guys in the film had been on multiple deployments, and they were getting out of the military. They were done with the Marine Corps; they hated the Marine Corps. [Some] of them had gotten DUIs and gotten into trouble. They were sick of it. And they were getting out in a few months, so some of them didn’t care at all and they wanted me to film.

And then other guys were like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, what are you doing?” But as a Marine, you can just be like, “Oh, fuck you,” and just do it. And you can see some of the guys in the film — they want to rap, they want to be on camera. I wasn’t going to show it to the command, so they weren’t worried about that.

EMS_COMBAT-CAMERA_20180125_v076.00_33_17_03.Still006-CombatObscura-Combat-1554490054

Photo: Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Another theme in the documentary is masculinity. Can you talk a little bit about that, and if your perception of it has changed since you were in Afghanistan?

It would actually be interesting to go see what the Marine Corps is like now that women are in combat roles, because when we were there, they weren’t allowed in the infantry. They could serve other jobs, but they couldn’t be in active combat. So the Marine Corps that I knew was extremely toxic. Even boot camp. The drill instructors would literally tell you that your girlfriends are whores and they’re cheating on you as we speak. So they instilled this innate hatred of women from the beginning.

It’s hard to imagine what fighting a war would look like if there wasn’t toxic masculinity involved in the training process. Because you’re being trained to kill people, and to not be thoughtful about those things, and to basically be excited to go to war.

Tell me about your decision to portray the shooting of a Marine, Jacob Levy. Was that a complicated one for you?

Yeah, definitely. I felt guilty for a long time for just filming it.

Instead of intervening?

Or just maybe not recording it. Just being like, “You know what, I’m not even going to film this. People don’t need to see this.”

There’s filming it, and then there’s showing it. Filming it, okay. You were there, this was my job to film, sure, whatever. But then showing that and not sanitizing it at all, and sort of emphasizing it almost —I think it is the longest sequence in the film — was definitely a tough decision.

I talked to his mom. All the guys that were there go to see her every year on his birthday, and on the day that he died, too, so she has this cult of veterans. She’s like a super Gold Star Mom, and so getting her permission was really important, but it’s always going to feel kind of exploitative.

Ultimately, you think of all the documentaries that have come out about Afghanistan or Iraq, they tend to show a lot of dead Iraqis, dead Taliban, dead Afghan women, children. It’s like there’s no problem to show that, but then when there’s a dead U.S. soldier, that’s off limits. We didn’t want to value one life over the other.

So you got permission from Levy’s mother to put that in the film. Did you have to get releases from everybody who appeared in the film?

Not everyone. I was moving around so much to each platoon that I didn’t know everyone. But the guys smoking weed, I wanted to make sure they didn’t have government jobs now, which would get them in trouble. The statute of limitations has passed so it’s not like they could be retroactively dishonorably discharged if they’d been honorably discharged. I talked to lawyers about that before anything.

There wasn’t really anything else that was illegal. The dead civilian — they were cleared to shoot that guy, even though he was unarmed. So that tells you a lot about what goes into the rules of engagement in Afghanistan.

The guy chasing the kids with the pistol, he has a wife and kids, so I wanted to be like, “Are you going to want them to see this?” And he was like, “Yeah, man.” A lot of them are at a point where they want to be judged to a certain degree. Stop saying, “Thank you for your service.” It doesn’t make sense. It’s totally absurd.

“Combat Obscura” trailer Video: Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

How did you get the footage home?

Maybe you’re thinking that the military’s this really organized body that keeps track of everything, and it’s not. It’s just as disorganized as any other business or bureaucracy or government institution. Everyone had cameras, so they weren’t looking through other people’s cameras. They were mainly looking for guys bringing drugs back, bringing weapons like AK-47s that they had found from dead Taliban. There was one guy who tried to bring a grenade on the plane back, which is obviously not a good idea for a lot of reasons. So they weren’t like, “Alright, everybody take out their cameras now.”

If you had been through that experience, you’d almost died filming a lot of the stuff, you’d want to keep it. It was a diary of our experience, and I wasn’t just going to throw that away.

Did you have a legal process as you got closer to releasing the film?

I reached out to a lot of different people along the way. One of them was Phil Klay, who wrote “Redeployment.” He’s a National Book Award winner, and he was public affairs in the Marine Corps around the same time that I was there. And I was like, “I want to get this released somehow, but I don’t want to deal with the Marine Corps itself, because I know that they would just flip out.” So he told me about the review process at the Pentagon. And I sent it to the Pentagon, they cleared it, it was unclassified.

But then the Marine Corps heard about it. The Pentagon sent it to the Marine Corps. The [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] was calling me, and different people at the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps Entertainment [Media] Liaison Office wanted to meet with me. And that’s when I was like, I need to get a lawyer or something.

[The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University] kind of took me in pro bono. Without them, I’d be in a whole bunch of legal trouble. And they got another legal firm involved called Jenner & Block that does a lot of pro bono stuff. Once I had them in my corner, I think just their presence had an effect on the Marine Corps. Right now, they’ve publicly stated that they’re not pursuing legal action.

You mentioned your guilt about filming a fellow Marine being shot. Do you feel guilt about participating in this war? And if so, how have you dealt with that?

Absolutely. The veterans that are actually honestly reflecting about it [have] a lot of conflicted feelings. On the one hand, you went there and you made it out alive, and it’s such a transformative experience at such a young age that it’s hard to disconnect from the emotional experience you had there and the friends that you lost, and the buddies who left body parts there. It’s hard to disconnect from that and go, “Our presence there was not just a waste, but my presence there probably could have made things worse.” I know a lot of vets who are unwilling to come to that because while they were out there, they truly felt that they were helping Afghans, because they were fighting against the Taliban.

But you have to think about it: While we were there, we created an almost uninhabitable environment for the Afghan civilians. Because before we were there, they were oppressed by the Taliban. While we were there, they were caught in the middle between two oppressive forces. And how many times did we bomb their houses? How many times did we mistakenly kill innocent people?

I can find myself debating with someone whether we should stay in or leave Afghanistan. The Afghan army has lost more soldiers the past two years than we did the entire time we’ve been there. They’re getting absolutely massacred by the Taliban. And these guys have lost their whole families to this conflict. This is going to haunt them forever — they’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice. Not U.S. troops. The Afghans themselves have lost more than we have by a landslide.

And some of them don’t want us to leave, because if we leave, then they’re done. Because they don’t want the Taliban to win, to go back to what it was before we were there. But there are civilians there that are like, “What are we going to do? A perpetual standoff? A conflict that’s never going to end?” And they’re just caught in the middle.

The personal aspects of the film where you can hear me, or where I’m asking questions, or where I’m filming in a certain way — we left that stuff in the film because of my responsibility and the role that I played and the guilt that I feel about it. I’ve been dealing with it by making this movie.

I want there to be some accountability. I don’t want people just to look at the soldiers and Marines as hapless victims that were sent out there, and it was just the big politicians that are responsible. No. I think the soldiers are responsible, the politicians are responsible, but also the American people are complicit. Our tax money funded the war. It’s not just the soldiers and the politicians. It’s the everyday citizens. We’re all responsible because we didn’t really give a shit. We didn’t notice it. We didn’t pay attention.

The post A Veteran’s War Movie Sheds Damning Light on How the Marines Fight in Afghanistan appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s Foreign Policy Isn’t the Problem

bostonreview.net - It reflects, like a funhouse mirror, a twisted image of U.S. imperialism. After two years of President Donald Trump, critics and commentators are still struggling to make sense of his foreign policy.…


Tweeted by @santinoregilme https://twitter.com/santinoregilme/status/1114826565685325825

The secret clubs of intelligence and security services: A look behind the scenes of counter-terrorism cooperation in Europe – GeoPol Intelligence

geopolintelligence.com - Jihadist violence and the support of a considerable number of European militants for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) evoked repeated and vociferous demands for improved counter-terrorism c…


Tweeted by @GeopolIntel https://twitter.com/GeopolIntel/status/1114772568010055681

Cyber Week in Review: April 5, 2019

cfr.org - Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed: So Much for the Ethics Board. Only a week after announcing its “Advanced Technology External Advi…


Tweeted by @christinayiotis https://twitter.com/christinayiotis/status/1114734455695073280

A wave of Islamic countries started to stand up to China over its persecution of its Muslim minority. But then they all got spooked.

businessinsider.com - China is waging a global campaign against the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority concentrated in its western frontier of Xinjiang. In the last two years the country has ordered tech companies…


Tweeted by @allysdad https://twitter.com/allysdad/status/1114620041595637760

The Russian collusion hoax meets unbelievable end

washingtonexaminer.com - As the Russia collusion hoax hurtles toward its demise, it’s important to consider how this destructive information operation rampaged through vital American institutions for more than two years, and…


Tweeted by @SportCorruption https://twitter.com/SportCorruption/status/1114513349528702976

Cyber intelligence agents helped defeat IS

standard.net.au - Australian cyber spies sitting at computers in Canberra played a critical role in defeating Islamic State terrorists during a major battle in the Middle East. And an intelligence agent assuming a fal…


Tweeted by @uTraced https://twitter.com/uTraced/status/1114378117135486976

Modern Information Warfare Hits Us All. Hard.

huffpost.com - 10 months ago warnings were already flying - including mine. #cybersecurity #electionhackinghttps://t.co/bXk7DyU5Fh — Alan W. Silberberg (@IdeaGov) May 28, 2017 10 months ago warnings were already fl…


Tweeted by @kelly2277 https://twitter.com/kelly2277/status/1114361957916844032

Is America serious about tracking domestic terror? A Homeland Security decision raises doubts. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

jta.org - WASHINGTON (JTA) — At first, it reads like a grim joke: Less than six months after the worst attack on Jews in U.S. history, the Trump administration took the bold decision to … shut down a unit trac…


Tweeted by @ultrascanhumint https://twitter.com/ultrascanhumint/status/1114327998977564672

A Top Progressive Consulting Firm Is Doing PR for an Israeli Spy Company

A prominent political communications shop that works on Democratic campaigns, employs Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaign alums, and boasts of its role in the fight for gun control and LGBT equality is representing an Israeli firm notorious for selling powerful surveillance technology to authoritarian governments around the world.

NSO Group, which is facing multiple lawsuits charging that its technology was used to spy on journalists and dissidents, hired SKDKnickerbocker to help with media inquiries as the spy firm tries to turn around its marred image.

The hiring, which was first reported by FastCompany, is the latest example of how SKDKnickerbocker is anything but progressive, despite the way it markets itself.

The agency, owned by a private equity firm run by former Clinton pollster Mark Penn, has done work for the LGBT group Human Rights Campaign and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, but it has also taken on clients like Amazon and Starbucks. Still, SKDKnickberbocker’s decision to work for NSO Group despite its close ties to repressive governments in Mexico and the Middle East is particularly striking.

Mark Penn, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado, U.S., on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The festival gathers some of the foremost thinkers in the world with civically-minded leaders in business, the arts, politics and philanthropy to share ideas and questions and drive thought to action. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mark Penn speaks during the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo., on July 1, 2014.

Photo: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images


“SKDKnickerbocker represents a number of cause-oriented clients and the work to prevent and investigate terrorism in order to save lives is a cause that is especially important,” SKDKnickerbocker said in a statement to The Intercept. “What sets NSO apart from many other cyber technology firms is its commitment to an ethical business framework that relies on the expertise of people with national security and intelligence backgrounds from around the world to evaluate potential customers and review current customers. In our post-9/11 world, keeping up with technologically sophisticated terrorists is a critical mission.”

The communications and consulting firm is now a central part of the NSO Group’s public relations offensive, launched after a spate of reports revealed how NSO’s infamous Pegasus spyware has invaded the phones of journalists and activists, turning their iPhones and Androids into walking spy devices. In addition to retaining the services of SKDKnickerbocker, NSO Group, a company worth $830 million, has created a website, bought Google Ads, and opened its doors to a television news crew.

“They’re trying to do damage control,” said Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Yet even with NSO Group’s supposed shift toward transparency, it continues to evade questions about how it evaluates potential government customers and what due diligence the company does to prevent its technology from being used to commit human rights abuses, critics say.

“It looks like they sell their Pegasus spyware to countries with poor human rights records who, predictably, abuse the spyware to target journalists and human rights activists,” said Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto-based project that researches spyware. “Instead of meaningfully engaging with these concerns, their PR push has so far dismissed them.”

Like many Israeli surveillance companies, NSO Group was launched by Israeli military veterans moving into the private sector following stints in Israel’s army. The company’s founders, Shalev Hulio and Omri Lavie, used technology created by veterans of Israel’s Unit 8200, the equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency, to launch Pegasus, the spyware that gains remote access to a target’s smartphone.

The spyware allows intelligence agencies to send innocuous-looking text messages with links that, if clicked on, turn a target’s smartphone into a mobile spy device. The technology circumvents encryption by getting direct access to phones and capturing targets’ conversations, personal contacts, e-mails, text messages, and pictures.

“NSO licenses its products to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to provide them the tools they need to prevent and investigate terrorism and crime,” the company said in a statement to The Intercept sent by SKDKnickerbocker.

According to Citizen Lab’s research, however, NSO Group’s products have gone after civil society members not involved in any crime. In August 2016, Citizen Lab researchers discovered that Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates, was targeted with spyware made by NSO Group and likely operated by Emirati security forces. (Mansoor had sent Citizen Lab copies of a text message he received which contained the spyware.)

Human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor shows Associated Press journalists a screenshot of a spoof text message he received in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. Mansoor was recently targeted by spyware that can hack into Apple's iPhone handset. The company said Thursday it has updated its security. The text message reads: "New secrets on the torture of Emirati citizens in jail." (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

Human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor shows Associated Press journalists a screenshot of a spoof text message he received in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, on Aug. 25, 2016. The text message reads, “New secrets on the torture of Emirati citizens in jail.”

Photo: Jon Gambrell/AP


Since their August 2016 discovery, Citizen Lab’s researchers have found that Pegasus spyware bought by the Mexican government has targeted Mexican journalists investigating corruption and organized crime. Separately, they confirmed that Pegasus targeted employees at the human rights group Amnesty International.

But NSO’s image took the biggest hit after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Subsequent news coverage highlighted how Pegasus invaded the phones of Khashoggi’s Saudi contacts, raising the possibility — still unconfirmed — that NSO Group assisted the Saudi government’s efforts to spy on, and ultimately kill, Khashoggi.

NSO Group denies having anything to do with the murder of Khashoggi. The Washington Post reported last week that the company has frozen its sales to the kingdom because of concerns that its spyware may be misused.

In a statement to The Intercept, the company said, “While we cannot discuss whether a particular government or agency has licensed NSO technology, anything that falls outside of preventing or investigating crime and terror is considered a misuse and will be investigated. The company takes misuse seriously and retains the right to shut down the system when necessary.”

Since facing questions about the group’s alleged involvement in tracking Khashoggi, Hulio, the co-founder, has given on-the-record interviews to prominent news outlets, even allowing CBS TV cameras into company offices in Israel.

The human rights groups pressing NSO over the sale of Pegasus to authoritarian governments say they’re skeptical that a company built on selling invasive tools to repressive regimes will radically change its business.

“Simply hiring a PR company to clean up their image without actually changing anything wouldn’t just be a failure to take responsibility, it would be an insult to the people who are demanding real answers and redress,” said Edin Omanovic, who leads the state surveillance program for Privacy International. “Instead of focusing on their PR, it’s time NSO Group, its owners, and its entire industry address the real harms which are being caused around the world.”

The post A Top Progressive Consulting Firm Is Doing PR for an Israeli Spy Company appeared first on The Intercept.