Did our intel leaders have any evidence when they pushed the Russia collusion line?
William McGurn reports: The one we need is for all the intelligence officials—including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s former Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe—who pushed the Russia conspiracy theory. The special counsel has just made clear they did so with no real evidence.
Mr. Mueller could have said he didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute. Instead he was categorical: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
This wasn’t for lack of trying on Moscow’s part. “Despite multiple offers” from Russia-affiliated individuals to help their campaign, Mr. Mueller reports, the Trump people didn’t take them up on it.
So why do 44% of Americans—according to a Fox News poll released Sunday—believe otherwise? Part of the answer has to be that the collusion tale was egged on by leading members and former members of the American intelligence community.
Intelligence professionals are trained to sift through the noise and distractions in pursuit of the truth. In this case, however, they went all in for a tale that the Russian government had somehow compromised Mr. Trump or his close associates. In peddling this line, their authority rested on the idea they had access to alarming and conclusive evidence the rest of America couldn’t see. Now it appears they never had much more than an unverified opposition-research dossier commissioned by Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
Nevertheless, they persisted. Start with the FBI’s Mr. McCabe, who boasts that he is the man who opened the counterintelligence probe into Russia and President Trump. Today the question has to be: On what evidence was this extraordinary step predicated, apart from Mr. Trump’s saying things the G-man didn’t like? Read the rest of this entry »
For nearly 40 years, Bill Burhans has steadfastly maintained he wasn’t drunk when, as an Air Force lieutenant colonel driving fellow U.S. military liaisons home from a holiday party with their Soviet counterparts in East Germany, he lost control of the car, careened up an embankment and slammed into a bus.
Matthew M. Burke and Marcus Kloeckner report: When the car came to a stop on Dec. 29, 1979, Air Force Lt. Col. James Tonge, his passenger, called to him to move the car to the shoulder. But Burhans sat frozen, except for his trembling hands.
It was as if he’d been “hit in the head with an ax at the slaughterhouse,” Tonge would later tell U.S. investigators in a sworn statement.
“He didn’t respond at all,” Tonge said of Burhans, who at the time was set to replace him as deputy of the U.S. Military Liaison Mission.
Based in Potsdam, near Berlin, the USMLM’s official mission was to serve as a liaison between the U.S. military command and its Soviet counterpart in post-war Germany, but its personnel also gathered intelligence, monitored Soviet forces and reported on readiness throughout the Cold War era. French, British and Soviet liaison missions did similar work.
After helping Burhans into the back seat, Tonge moved the car himself.
Police arrived in minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: New York Post
- John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, “got into a physical altercation” with a Chinese official during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- Kelly reportedly told colleagues he would not accept an apology from the official unless it occurred under a US flag in Washington, DC.
- Relations between Washington and Beijing are tense as Trump spars with the Chinese government over trade and other issues.
John Haltiwanger reports: John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, “got into a physical altercation” with a Chinese official during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year and refused to accept an apology, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The official was reportedly attempting to access the nuclear football, a 45-pound aluminum briefcase that’s always by the president’s side, carried by a military aide. It contains information and instructions for the president on how to conduct a nuclear strike.
Kelly told colleagues he would not accept an apology from the official unless it occurred under a US flag in Washington, DC, according to the report.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Kredo reports: Explanatory media website Vox has been receiving money from a Chinese communist government-backed front organization.
A recent Vox blog post by foreign editor Yochi Dreazen titled, “The big winner of the Trump-Kim summit? China” discloses at the bottom of the piece that the reporting was subsidized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation.
“This reporting was supported by the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a privately funded nonprofit organization based in Hong Kong that is dedicated to ‘facilitating open and constructive exchange among policy-makers, business leaders, academics, think-tanks, cultural figures, and educators from the United States and China,'” the post states in a note at the bottom.
CUSEF, as first noted by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, is a front organization backed by the Chinese government and established to spread the party’s propaganda.
“You know CUSEF is chaired by a top official in the Chinese Communist Party’s influence operations network, right?” Rogin queried Vox on Twitter.
“Tung Chee-hwa, CUSEF’s chair, is vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which is connected to the United Front Work Department, the Communist Party agency designed to advance party objectives with outside actors,” Rogin went on to note.
Vox’s ties to CUSEF are receiving increased scrutiny in light of efforts to lawmakers to counter China’s promotion of propaganda in the U.S. media. Read the rest of this entry »
The number of informants executed in the debacle is higher than initially thought.
Zach Dorfman reports: It was considered one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically dismantled the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.
How were the Chinese able to roll up the network?
Now, nearly eight years later, it appears that the agency botched the communication system it used to interact with its sources, according to five current and former intelligence officials. The CIA had imported the system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.
“The attitude was that we’ve got this, we’re untouchable,” said one of the officials who, like the others, declined to be named discussing sensitive information. The former official described the attitude of those in the agency who worked on China at the time as “invincible.”
Other factors played a role as well, including China’s alleged recruitment of former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee around the same time. Federal prosecutors indicted Lee earlier this year in connection with the affair.
But the penetration of the communication system seems to account for the speed and accuracy with which Chinese authorities moved against the CIA’s China-based assets.
“You could tell the Chinese weren’t guessing. The Ministry of State Security [which handles both foreign intelligence and domestic security] were always pulling in the right people,” one of the officials said.
“When things started going bad, they went bad fast.” Read the rest of this entry »
An explosion was reported on Thursday outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Bystanders shared video of the aftermath on social media, showing images of smoke unfurling in the street and what appeared to be police vehicles surrounding the building in the city’s Chaoyang District.
American and Chinese officials did not immediatly respond to comments on the incident.
The scene near the US Embassy in Beijing. pic.twitter.com/AbTc32f3cw
— Ahron Young (@AhronYoung) July 26, 2018
China and the U.S. are in the middle of a trade dispute … (more)
This is a developing story. Read the rest of this entry »
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh was on a tear on Wednesday over the media’s response to President Trump’s widely criticized summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Limbaugh dedicated one segment of the three-hour show to providing some uncomfortable flashblacks for Trump’s Democratic critics.
Limbaugh led into the discussion by quoting a June 2018 story by Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff titled, “Obama cyber chief confirms ‘stand down’ order against Russian cyberattacks in summer 2016“:
The Obama White House’s chief cyber official testified Wednesday that proposals he was developing to counter Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election were put on a ‘back burner’ after he was ordered to ‘stand down’ his efforts in the summer of 2016.
Here’s the video of Obama’s chief cyber official Michael Daniel revealing the “stand down” order in a Senate Intelligence Committee:
“This is the Obama administration,” said Limbaugh. “They knew the Russians were hacking. They knew Russians were engaging in cyber warfare, and the Obama White House chief cyber official testified that he was told to stand down. Read the rest of this entry »
U.S. strategy in region rooted in ‘principled realism’ and shared interests, defense secretary says.
SINGAPORE— Nancy A. Youssef reports: The U.S. and China appear to be headed for a more confrontational relationship in Southeast Asia as Washington warns of a more aggressive response to the militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the future from China’s moves to install weapons systems on islands in the sea. He didn’t specify what the consequences would be.
The warning, in response to a question from an audience member, came after a speech by Mr. Mattis in which he said “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”
He also called his decision to not invite China to the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, slated to begin later in June, “an initial response” to its increased militarization of the South China Sea. Read the rest of this entry »
John Sexton writes: There’s a certain view of Ben Rhodes which arose in the aftermath of the Iran deal and specifically after the publication of that infamous NY Times profile in which Rhodes talked about creating an “echo chamber” of know-nothing journalists to push the deal. After that story, it was easy to see him as a kind of Machiavellian character manipulating people from behind the scenes.
There a good reason Rhodes does his best work behind the scenes. He’s just a really bad actor. I mean ‘bad actor’ in the theatrical sense, i.e. someone who is playing a part in our national story with such overwrought pathos that it becomes unintentionally funny …
“I came outside just to process all this,” Rhodes says to the camera. “I can’t even….ah…uh…I can’t…I mean I, I, I, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t put it into words, I don’t know what the words are.”
… Rhodes has a book coming out about his experience in the White House. The NY Times profile of it suggests Obama’s reaction to Hillary’s loss wasn’t much better:
Riding in a motorcade in Lima, Peru, shortly after the 2016 election, President Barack Obama was struggling to understand Donald J. Trump’s victory.
“What if we were wrong?” he asked aides riding with him in the armored presidential limousine.
He had read a column asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. “Maybe we pushed too far,” Mr. Obama said. “Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.”
His aides reassured him that he still would have won had he been able to run for another term and that the next generation had more in common with him than with Mr. Trump. Mr. Obama, the first black man elected president, did not seem convinced. “Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
In April 2018 the Chinese Air Force 15th Airborne Corps completed a yearlong reorganization effort that involved disbanding the three airborne divisions (the 43rd, 44th and 45th) and reassigning divisional headquarters and support troops as well as the units of the airborne regiments to six independent airborne infantry brigades (127th, 128th, 130th, 131st, 133rd, and 134th) which now report directly to the headquarters of the 15th Airborne Corps. While the new airborne brigades have some support troops they now also receive logistics, maintenance, engineer and signal support from the 15th Corps Strategic Support Brigade, as well as the Aviation Brigade (over a hundred helicopters and large UAVs) and Special Operations Brigade (airborne commandos and recon troops).
After the reorganization, the Chinese airborne force still has about 35,000 personnel who still serve in the Air Force 15th Airborne Corps. The airborne units no longer operate as three airborne divisions and an aviation brigade. The airborne divisions no longer exist as the brigades can operate independently and report directly to corps headquarters. This brigade organization makes it easier to rapidly deploy airborne forces and copies a practice that many other nations have adopted over the last few decades.
The Chinese have had some airborne units since the 1950s and these belonged to the air force from the beginning. The 15th Airborne Corps was created in the 1960s and was always considered a strategic reserve unit. By the late 1980s, China had enough air transports to move an entire division (about 10,000 troops) anywhere in China. At the time such a movement took weeks to organize and monopolized most of the air transport aircraft the military had.
Moving a division anywhere by air on short notice was first done in 2008 when one division was sent to Sichuan province to assist in earthquake relief. The early large scale movements by air movements were experimental. Read the rest of this entry »
Deadly protests in the southern Iranian city of Kazerun continued for a second day following the deaths of two protesters Wednesday.
Ben Evansky reports: Former State Department official David Tafuri on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and Trump’s efforts to help protect jobs at Chinese company ZTE.
Deadly protests in the southern Iranian city of Kazerun continued for a second day following the deaths of two protesters Wednesday. Protesters aimed their wrath at the Iranian regime following a decision to split the city of nearly 150,000 into two townships.
“After anti-riot forces were dispatched to the city from Shiraz, the people charged at them and hand-to-hand clashes ensued,” a press release from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said. NCRI is a coalition of influential Iranian opposition groups.
The protests have left at least two people dead and six others injured.
The NCRI press release said that protesters had set fire to a trailer belonging to regime security forces and that four police vehicles had also been set ablaze. It said that parts of the city looked “war-torn.” It said smoke had filled the air close to the main square following the burning of tires by protesters. It also noted the Internet and mobile phones have been cut off.
Heshmat Alavi an Iranian political and rights activist who has been following the protests since they started last December, told Fox News that “the scene we are witnessing in Kazerun is merely one of the many flashpoints in Iran, a powder keg state considered ready to explode at any moment.”
Alavi said more protests have been occurring across the country.
“Reports from a variety of sources are indicating anti-regime rallies and protests throughout the country, staged by people from all walks of life,” he said. “This includes teachers, college students, store-owners and bazaar merchants, credit firm clients seeking their stolen savings.” Read the rest of this entry »
PAJU, South Korea, May 12 (Yonhap) — A group of North Korea defectors scattered leaflets critical of the North Korean regime across the border to the North on Saturday despite the government’s recommendation not to.
the border to the North Korean side were carrying 150,000 leaflets criticizing North Korea, as well as other gifts like United States dollar bills and USBs, Park Sang-hak, the head of the defectors’ group said.
Banners were also tied to the balloons, reading “Do not be fooled by Kim Jong-un‘s fake dialogue offer, disguised peace offensive.”
“Defectors’ leaflets to North Korea, which are intended to tell the facts and truth to some 20 million North Korean people, will never by stopped by any form of blockade or physical means,” Park noted.
The defectors group tried to fly the anti-North leaflets a week earlier but failed to do so when they were stopped by police and local residents.
The government has repeatedly advised the Fighters for a Free North Korea, as well as other groups that send leaflets to North Korea, against such activity.
“Spreading of anti-North leaflets runs against the spirit of the inter-Korean agreements under the Panmunjom Declaration agreed upon between the leaders of the two countries,” the Unification Ministry has told the groups, urging them to stop the activities. Read the rest of this entry »
MODERATOR: All right, thanks everybody. So we are glad to have with us today two folks to talk about the President’s decision today to withdraw from the JCPOA. This will be on background, embargoed until the end. Our two speakers with us today are [Senior State Department Official One], and next to him is [Senior State Department Official Two]. And so they’ll start with a few comments and then we’ll take some questions.
I think – you’d like to start?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Great, yeah. Hi.
MODERATOR: Senior State Department Official Number One.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Hi. So I thought we would just start with a little bit more substance, going one level deeper. You all heard the President’s remarks; you saw the Secretary’s statement. So we wanted to put a little bit more meat on the bones and then open it up for questions and use the time the way that you think is most useful for you all.
So the sanctions reimposition that the President talked about is going to come in two phases. There’s going to be one period for wind down that lasts about – that lasts 90 days, and one period of wind down that lasts six months. The six-month wind down – wind downs are, by the way, pretty standard across sanctions programs. So this is not Iran-specific, but oftentimes when we either impose sanctions or reimpose sanctions, we provide a wind down to allow both U.S. companies but foreign companies as well to end contracts, terminate business, get their money out of wherever the sanctions target is – in this case, Iran. Because what we want – we don’t want to do is we don’t want to impact or have unintended consequences on our allies and partners. We want to focus the costs and the pain on the target. And in this case, that’s the Iranian regime.
So wind downs are pretty natural. In this case, we’re providing a six-month wind down for energy-related sanctions. So that’s oil, petroleum, petrochemicals, and then all of the ancillary sanctions that are associated with that. So, for example, banking; sanctions on the CBI in particular, because the Central Bank of Iran is involved in Iran’s export of oil and the receipt of revenues. Shipping, shipbuilding, ports – all of those sanctions that are related to both the energy sector and then the banking and the shipping or transportation of that energy will all have a six-month wind down. Everything else is going to have a 90-day wind down. So that’s – the architecture of the Iranian sanctions program was quite complex, but everything else includes things like dealing in the rial, providing metal – precious metals and gold to the Iranian regime, providing U.S. banknotes.
So there’s a whole kind of swath of other sanctions that are all going to have a 90-day wind down. In addition, within the first 90 days, the Treasury Department is going to work to end – to terminate the specific licenses that were issued pursuant to the statement of licensing policy on civil aviation. So Treasury’s going to be reaching out to those private sector companies that have licenses and work to end – terminate those licenses in an orderly way that doesn’t lead to undue impact on the companies.
The other big action that has to be done is the re-designation of all of the individuals that were delisted pursuant to the JCPOA. There are over – I think 400 and some odd were specifically designated for conduct, and another 200 or so were identified as part of the Government of Iran. Treasury – that’s obviously a big – it’s a lot of work for Treasury. Their aim is to relist all of those individuals and entities by the end of the six-month wind down. They’re not going to relist entities and individuals overnight, and – both for practical reasons, but also for policy reasons. If some of those individuals and entities were relisted right away, it would impact the wind down, right? So if we’re allowing a six-month wind down for energy-related or petroleum-related business, and then you designate – you re-designate tomorrow an Iranian-related petroleum entity, it makes null and void the six-month wind down that you just provided. So that’s all going to be done in a coherent way to provide a real wind down period.
So that’s kind of the – putting a little bit of meat on the bones of what it means to reimpose the Iran architecture, sanctions architecture.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That’s great.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Do you want to open it up for questions?
QUESTION: I have a question. Lesley Wroughton from Reuters. You said it’s not meant to have unintended consequences, but it does. Nobody’s going to touch Iran or – and immediately I think the U.S. ambassador to Germany just said to – told all German companies to move out immediately, so it does have unintended consequences.
QUESTION: Do you have guarantees from the Europeans that they’re going to go along with this? Or like they have with the Cuba sanctions, are they going to fight it? Do you know?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So what we’re going to do and what we’ve already – since last December, when we started working with our European allies on both the nuclear file but then also the broader array of Iranian threats, we’re going to continue to work closely with them. We’re going to broaden that engagement. And like both the President said and I think the Secretary said in his statement, he’s going to lead an effort to build a global effort to constrain and to prevent, both on the nuclear front but then also on the ballistic missile front, support to terrorism and the – kind of the six or seven areas that the President has outlined as kind of the broad array of Iranian threats. We’re going to build a global coalition to put pressure on Iran to stop that behavior. That’s —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And let me just —
QUESTION: What was the —
QUESTION: We’ve heard from the Brits –
QUESTION: Sorry, could you just respond to her?
QUESTION: I was going to say, I mean – go on, Matt.
QUESTION: We’ve heard from others that they not only are not going to —
QUESTION: Would you mind? I had the first question.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Okay. Yep, I apologize.
QUESTION: And they haven’t even answered it.
QUESTION: If you don’t mind.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So I just wanted to say that those are actually intended consequences. We do think that, given the IRGC’s penetration of the Iranian economy and Iran’s behavior in the region, as well as its other nefarious activities, that companies should not do business in Iran. That’s an intended consequence. And we thank our ambassador out there for reaffirming that message.
QUESTION: So all those companies that have gone in are moving out?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We’re certainly going to encourage them to.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Why —
QUESTION: And what if they don’t?
QUESTION: If they don’t, are you prepared to sanction German companies, French companies?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Those are discussions we’re going to have with the Europeans.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, you’ve been having discussions —
QUESTION: Sorry, just a point of clarification on that. That would begin after the 180-day period is over, correct?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: If it’s energy-related or banking-related. If it’s related to the provision of precious metals or gold or any of the sanctions that are being re-imposed after 90 days, then that would be —
QUESTION: So you are planning to sanction European companies, or you will have those discussions? Like —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve already started the discussions this afternoon, right. The discussions are ongoing and the effort is ongoing. Hopefully we will build – and this is the Secretary and the President’s desire and focus, is to build this global effort to put renewed and strengthened pressure on Iran. And that will include trying to isolate Iran economically.
QUESTION: Well, why not keep the structure of the deal and address these concerns on the side, as has been discussed for the last few months?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I think as the President laid out, that the problem with the deal was that it reduced our ability to pressure Iran, right. It essentially cordoned off this huge area of the Iranian economy and said, “Hey, we know about the IRGC’s penetration of the economy. We know Iran’s doing all this nefarious, malign activities in the region. But because of this nuclear angle, which is only one aspect of Iran’s behavior – a critical one, but just one – you essentially can’t sanction these entities that are involved in all this other stuff.”
QUESTION: So wait, just – so the United States has basically no economic relationships right now with the Iranians, right? So there is no power of U.S. sanctions to prevent – in preventing U.S. economic activity. The only power that U.S. sanctions have is in preventing European and other economic activity, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Secondary sanctions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The secondary sanctions, correct.
QUESTION: Why get out of the deal until you know for sure that Europe is going to go along with that secondary sanction activity or whether you’re – they’ll fight you? Because if they fight you, you’re going to be in a worse situation vis-a-vis Iran than you are now and than you are previously, right? So you don’t actually know – you’re saying that the President’s going to start this global coalition, but you don’t actually know whether even your closest allies are going to be part of that coalition, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The President made clear on January 12th that he was giving a certain number of months to try to – for – try to get a supplemental agreement with the E3. We didn’t get there. We got close. We made a – we had movement, a ton of good progress, which will not be wasted, but we didn’t get there. So he was clear January 12th that if we don’t get this supplemental, he’s withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA, and that’s what he did. That being said, you could even see that President Macron tweeted only a few minutes after the President finished his statement that France is eager to be part of an effort – I forget the exact words, but part of an effort on a broader deal that addresses the nuclear file but also —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Syria, Yemen.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: — Syria, Yemen, and others. So you already see – you already see from President Macron a willingness to work on a broader deal; you see from the Saudis have also issued a statement supporting our withdrawal; the Israelis did as well. No one is saying this is going to be easy, right, but the President made clear his intention on January 12th. He made good on that – on that promise.
QUESTION: You don’t know right now whether you’re going to be in a better place or in a worse place; is that what you’re saying?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, we think we’re going to be in a better place.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, we know we’re —
QUESTION: But you don’t know.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We know we’re going to be in a better place because we don’t think that the current JCP – the JCPOA, as it is now, adequately protects U.S. national security. So —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Because it allowed Iran to enrich after sunsets, after those restrictions melted away —
QUESTION: In seven years.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: And even then, not enriching to a level where they could build a nuclear weapon.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Listen, after – after the Israelis revealed what they were able to find —
QUESTION: All old stuff, all old – before.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Listen, it was – we have acknowledged for quite some time that the Iranians had a nuclear weapons program, but nobody knew until the Israelis found it, this well curated archive, the level of detail, right. And the – I think it reinforced in a very meaningful way that all of the Iranian statements throughout the negotiations and after were lies.
QUESTION: So the President said that we would impose sanctions on countries who helped with Iran’s nuclear program, but actually, you will reimpose sanctions on companies and countries that do any – roughly any economic activity, no matter if it has anything to do with nuclear or anything, right?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: In the buildup – in the buildup to the negotiations that led first to the JPOA and the JCPOA, we had an extensive architecture of secondary sanctions that started more or less with CISADA in 2010. We had to use those secondary sanctions very, very rarely. In fact, we only ever sanctioned two banks with secondary sanctions, Kunlun and Elaf in Iraq. The leverage that we gained from the secondary sanctions is what we used throughout the world with engagement to get countries to partner with us to build the economic isolation of Iran. That’s what we want to do again. It’s not about sanctioning foreign companies; it’s about using the leverage and engaging the way we did before.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That’s right.
QUESTION: When you say that the – when you —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: This is a long-established practice, I mean, since ILSA in the late ‘90s, this is something the U.S. has been doing. Sorry.
QUESTION: When you say that the effort that you had in the negotiations with the E3 will not be wasted, will you be implementing any of that? Because I mean, it was the supposition that the U.S. would stay in the deal if these areas were addressed by the E3. The U.S. isn’t staying in the deal, so —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So we made a ton of progress on ICBMs, on access, on missiles writ large, on regional issues, and then we got stuck on sunsets, right? We didn’t quite make it. That work – we’re not sure. We have to – we’re starting those conversations with the E3 today, tomorrow, so I can’t – we can’t tell you exactly how it’s going to be used, but I can tell you it will be used. That work is not going to be wasted.
QUESTION: So you think they’ll go forward.
QUESTION: But if a ton of progress was made, then why not give it more time? Why take such a dramatic action that’s going to have you basically starting over from square one?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The President made very clear on January 12th his intention. If we got a supplemental agreement before May 12th, he would consider it. We didn’t get there. He said this – on January 12th, he said that was his last time waiving sanctions. He followed through on that promise.
QUESTION: And what was the sticking point? Can you just sort of tell us what didn’t work?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It was the one-year breakout.
QUESTION: The sunset program.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, after driving the United States into a foreign-policy wreck, it’s time for former members of the Obama administration to ask themselves the same question.
According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has recovered documents that demonstrate Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. These clandestine plans for five 10-kiloton nuclear warheads were hidden and stored by Iran while it was developing a ballistic-missile program that would be able to carry them to Tel Aviv.
So not only did the United States end up saving the Islamic Republic from economic ruin with the Iran deal, it allowed the nation to solidify its foothold in Syria and strengthen its terrorist proxy Hezbollah. And not only did the Obama administration allow a humanitarian disaster to unfold in Syria while it was placating Russia to save the deal, it destroyed a sanctions program that was working.
On top of that, we also now know that the Iran deal was sold to the American public in bad faith. Yet, even after these revelations came to light, the former Obama aides who established a media echo chamber meant to silence critics and mislead citizens were still taunting and whining from sidelines, offering one bizarre justification after the next to continue the charade.
Tommy Vietor, former spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, defended the Iran deal by making the bewildering accusation that President Trump was “cooking up intel with the Israelis” to start a war. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: New York Post
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a strongly nationalistic tone in his closing address Tuesday to the annual session of the ceremonial parliament, saying China would never allow “one inch” of territory to be separated from it.
Speaking before the nearly 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress who had earlier abolished term limits on his rule, Xi declared that the Chinese people were now “closer now than at any time in history to realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
“Maintaining national sovereignty, territorial integrity and complete unification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese,” Xi said.
“In the face of national righteousness and the tide of history, all attempts or tricks aimed at dividing the motherland are doomed to failure,” Xi said to loud applause. “All will receive the condemnation of the people and the punishment of history.”
Andrew Kugle writes: During eight years of former President Barack Obama’s weakness towards Russia, the country invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, propped up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and interfered in the 2016 election.
At the beginning of his administration, Obama and his administration were eager to “reset” the United State’s relationship with Russia. The reset began with the infamous photo of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presenting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a red “reset” button in 2009. One of Obama’s first foreign policy decisions was to scrap missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, which prompted celebration in Moscow.
In addition to scrapping missile defense, Obama announced in 2010 a historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty with Russia. The agreement was supposed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by a third. Over the course of the Obama administration, the Washington Free Beacon reported numerous violations of the START treaty by Russia as early as 2012.
Obama was caught on a hot mic in 2012 telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to give him “space” and that he would have more “flexibility” on missile defense after being reelected. Read the rest of this entry »
Kurt Schlichter: The Liberal Media’s Slobbering Over The Norks Reminds Us Why We Have The Second AmendmentPosted: February 14, 2018
Besides having bad taste, our mainstream media is revealing our ruling class once again.
Kurt Schlichter writes: America’s most effective advocate of the principle of an armed populace is now officially the liberal media that usually seeks to do the ruling class’s bidding and strip us Normal Americans of that sacred right. But after the media’s bizarre display of eager tongue-bathing of the semi-human savages who run North Korea, any patriot has got to be thinking, “I best load up, because it’s pretty clear what the establishment’s desired end state is.”
The New York Times quivered: “Kim Jong-un’s Sister Turns on the Charm, Taking Pence’s Spotlight.”
Reuters tingled: “North Korea judged winner of diplomatic gold at Olympics.”
And CNN harassed airport travelers with: “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.”
Let’s clarify something – this Kim Yo Jong woman, a key leader in a giant death cult that is torturing and killing people at this moment, is not cute, not figuratively and not literally. She’s not even a Pyongyang 6. Maybe at closing time. After a lot of soju.
But besides having bad taste, our mainstream media is revealing our ruling class once again. You watch the non-stop squee over these monsters and the only conclusion you can reasonably draw is that, for our worthless establishment, the North Korea murderocracy is not a cautionary example. It’s an objective.
Just think of it! The ability to simply make all those Normals who disagree with you go away – either for good or by exiling them to rural fun camps. No fuss, no muss, no more tiresome dissent by those banjo-jockies between the coasts!
“What? That’s crazy talk! How could you draw the conclusion from our giddy, giggling media lovefest that we approve of those adorable, wonderful North Koreans?”
Well, that’s fair. Maybe our elite doesn’t really dig the Great Big Leader’s vibe. Maybe our elite is just composed of morons. If the explanation for the media serfs’ tender fondling of these blood-drenched sadists is not a result of our morally illiterate elite’s desire to emulate the insane wickedness of the Juche Idea, then that leaves gross stupidity as the only other option.
Either they want us Normals dead or enslaved, or they are just idiots.
Spoiler: Neither option supports us giving up our guns. Read the rest of this entry »
Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper which in recent years had broken exclusive stories from Israel, says Israel was ‘on the verge’ of assassinating Soleimani, but the U.S. warned Tehran and thwarted the operation.
Every decade the Islamist regime has been in power, an uprising has cost it an element of its legitimacy.
Mark Dubowitz and Ray Takeyh report: Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans. It has done so again with the protests engulfing its major cities. The demonstrations began over economic grievances and quickly transformed into a rejection of theocracy.
“As with the Soviet Union in its last days, the Islamic Republic can no longer appeal to its ideals; it relies only on its security services for survival.”
The slogans must have unsettled the mullahs: “Death to Khamenei!” “Death to Rouhani!” “We will die to get our Iran back!” Imperialism has not revived the regime’s legitimacy, as the protesting Persians pointedly reject expending their meager resources on Arab wars: “Death to Hezbollah!” “No to Gaza, not Lebanon! Our life only for Iran!”
However the events on the streets unfold, their most immediate casualty will be the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and its false claim of pragmatic governance. In the aftermath of the Green Revolution of 2009, which rocked the foundations of the Islamic Republic, a sinister argument gradually pervaded Western salons and chancelleries. The convulsions of that summer, the claim went, were over no more than electoral irregularity. With the election of the so-called moderate Mr. Rouhani in 2013, the system rebalanced itself. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his allies supposedly learned some hard lessons on the need to yield to popular mandates. Iranians want gradual change, we have been told, and believe that the system’s own constitutional provisions and plebiscites can be used to nudge it toward moderation.
Then, last week, Iranians took to the streets.
Every decade of the Islamist regime’s rule has seen one of its political factions lose its legitimacy through national uprisings. In the 1980s, the Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists who sought to redeem the revolution’s pledge of a democratic order. The student riots of 1999 ended the reformist interlude and Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, which had promised that the expansion of civil society and elections would harmonize faith and freedom. The reformists lingered as discredited enablers of a repressive regime, but no one believed in their promises of change from within. The hard-liners offered their own national compact, one that privileged economic justice over political emancipation. But the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced only corruption and bellicosity.
Then came Mr. Rouhani and his centrist disciples with their pledge to revive the economy, primarily through foreign investment. Mr. Rouhani needed a nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce. The Obama administration was happy to deliver, and Iran received tens of billions of dollars in financial dividends, including $1.7 billion in paper currency. Read the rest of this entry »
The people haven’t closed ranks behind the regime.
“After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political,” wrote Erdbrink, “Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor.” He went on: “Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted.”
Erdbrink’s argument echoed rhetoric from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Responding to October’s announcement of new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Zarif tweeted: “Today, Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC.”
Politico reporter is punished for raising the curtain on Obama’s Hezbollah policy.
Lee Smith reports: A week after Josh Meyer’s Politico expose, “The Secret Backstory Of How Obama Let Hezbollah Off the Hook,” former Obama officials are still berating Meyer for his 13,000-word article detailing how the Obama administration killed a nearly decade-long DEA effort to stem a global Hezbollah cocaine-smuggling-and-organized-crime ring to help secure its nuclear deal with Iran. “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” former Defense Department analyst David Asher explained in the article. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Asher helped establish and oversee the project, codenamed Cassandra, that looked into Hezbollah’s wide-range of illicit activities across the globe, including weapons procurement, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Senior Obama officials, according to Asher, ignored the legal and financial instruments that he and others had provided to target a terrorist organization with American blood on its hands and was still plotting against the United States.
In response, a Twitter mob of mid-level bureaucrats and former intelligence officersorchestrated in the usual fashion attacked Asher in tandem with the media echo chamber used to sell the Iran Deal, with former political operatives from the Obama White House supplying the usual talking points to their hatchet-men. Meyer’s “on the record sources have undisclosed anti-Iran deal bias,” tweeted former Obama speechwriter Tommy Vietor, who has remade himself as a podcast host. Meyer’s “entire piece,” tweeted Obama lieutenant and former CIA officer Ned Price, “is based on pure speculation by these ‘1 or 2 sources’ w undisclosed anti-Iran deal bias.”
The catchphrase, “undisclosed anti-Iran deal bias,” is an extended replay version of the catchy slogans Team Obama used to market the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Opponents and critics of the nuclear deal were “warmongers” beholden to “donors” with “agendas” whose concerns were shaped by their loyalties not to America but rather to the Jewish state. Now, the echo chamber insisted, Meyer’s sources aren’t to be trusted because they were against the Iran deal, or have associated with think tanks that opposed the Iran Deal—which means that they are secret neocon slaves of Israel, of course. Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Meyer is not an ideologue, not a partisan, not a quack.
Matthew Continetti writes: ;Nothing has been more tedious over the last year than the constant reminders that good journalism is “now more important than ever.” The implication, of course, is that solid, groundbreaking reporting was not as essential so long as a liberal Democrat was in power. I’ve long assumed that the factotums mouthing such clichés lack the self-awareness to understand the true import of their words. But maybe I’ve been wrong. Recent days brought evidence that, no, liberals really mean it: The only meaningful investigative work is that which reflects poorly on Republicans.
“Meyer points to congressional testimony from former Treasury official Katherine Bauer, who said last February, ‘These investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.'”
Earlier this week, for example, Politico Magazine published a story by Josh Meyer headlined “The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook.” This epic and copiously sourced piece relates how, “in its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it [Hezbollah, not the Obama administration] was funneling cocaine into the United States.”
“President Obama, in other words, slow-walked counter-narcotics efforts for the inane ‘greater good’ of paying Iran billions to pretend to shut down its nuclear program for ten years. This is the very definition of ‘stupid stuff.'”
The law-enforcement program in question is called Project Cassandra, which for eight years “used wiretaps, undercover operations, and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.”
However, as investigators came closer to unraveling the globe-spanning conspiracy, “the Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.” Linger over that last item for a second.
“Meyer is not an ideologue, not a partisan, not a quack. He worked for the Los Angeles Times, for NBC News, and for the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative before joining Politico as a senior investigative reporter. His Twitter feed contains plenty of criticisms of President Trump and congressional Republicans. And his story is solid.”
Meyer cites “dozens” of interviews and documents as evidence. He quotes a veteran U.S. intelligence operative — the sort of guy whose every utterance is anonymously paraded in the newspapers and magazines so long as it’s anti-Trump — who says, “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision.” And the reason for this systematic decision, presumably, was to make Hezbollah’s Iranian backers more willing to deal with the Obama administration on nukes.
“He explores different angles and gives his subjects fair comment. He’s produced a classic example of the good journalism that our betters tell us we need more than ever. Except our betters don’t like it, not one bit, because it reflects poorly on the most significant – yet dubious and controversial – achievement of Barack Obama’s second term.”
Meyer points to congressional testimony from former Treasury official Katherine Bauer, who said last February, “These investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.” President Obama, in other words, slow-walked counter-narcotics efforts for the inane “greater good” of paying Iran billions to pretend to shut down its nuclear program for ten years. This is the very definition of “stupid stuff.”
“‘Non-fact based anti-Iran Deal propaganda,’ sneers former deputy national security adviser and creative-writing expert Ben Rhodes.”
Meyer is not an ideologue, not a partisan, not a quack. He worked for the Los Angeles Times, for NBC News, and for the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative before joining Politico as a senior investigative reporter. His Twitter feed contains plenty of criticisms of President Trump and congressional Republicans. And his story is solid. He explores different angles and gives his subjects fair comment. He’s produced a classic example of the good journalism that our betters tell us we need more than ever. Read the rest of this entry »
Project Cassandra leaders, who were working out of a DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, Obama Justice and Treasury Department officials delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.
Alex Pappas reports: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is launching a review of a law enforcement initiative called Project Cassandra after an investigative report was published this week claiming the Obama administration gave a free pass to Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations to help ensure the Iran nuclear deal would stay on track.
The Justice Department said in a statement to Fox News that Sessions on Friday directed a review of prior Drug Enforcement Administration investigations “to evaluate allegations that certain matters were not properly prosecuted and to ensure all matters are appropriately handled.”
“While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans,” Sessions said in a written statement. “We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”
According to a bombshell exposé in Politico on Sunday, an elaborate campaign led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, known as Project Cassandra, targeted the Lebanese militant group’s criminal activities.
“We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”
– Attorney General Jeff Sessions
But when Project Cassandra leaders, who were working out of a DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, Obama Justice and Treasury Department officials delayed, hindered or rejected their requests, according to Politico. Read the rest of this entry »
Now swap out “Trump” for “Obama” and “Russia” for “Iran” and imagine the eruption these revelations would generate. Because, by any conceivable journalistic standard, this scandal should’ve triggered widespread coverage and been plastered on front pages across the country. By any historic standard, the scandal should elicit outrage regarding the corrosion of governing norms from pundits and editorial boards.
Yet, as it turns out, there’s an exceptionally good chance most of your neighbors and colleagues haven’t heard anything about it.
Days after the news broke, in fact, neither NBC News, ABC News nor CBS News — whose shows can boast a collective 20 million viewers — had been able to find the time to relay the story to its sizeable audiences. Other than Fox News, cable news largely ignored the revelations, as well.
Most major newspapers, which have been sanctimoniously patting themselves on the back for the past year, couldn’t shoehorn into their pages a story about potential collusion between the former president and a terror-supporting state. Read the rest of this entry »
Congress Demands DOJ Turn Over All Docs Related to Obama Scheme to Nix Hezbollah Terror InvestigationPosted: December 22, 2017
Congress investigating former administration’s efforts to appease Iran.
The letter represents the first salvo in a new investigation by congressional leaders into allegations senior Obama administration officials thwarted a decade-long Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into Hezbollah’s illicit operations.
The Obama administration, in what congressional insiders described to the Free Beacon as a “potentially criminal” enterprise, interfered with the DEA’s investigation into Hezbollah drug activities in order to avoid angering the terror group’s chief patron Iran and preserve the landmark nuclear deal.
“I’ve long believed that the Obama administration could not have done any more to bend over backwards to appease the Iranian regime, yet news that the Obama administration killed the investigation into a billion dollar drug ring that lined the terrorist group Hezbollah’s pockets in order to save its coveted Iran deal may very well take the cake,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) said.
“Hezbollah is a brutal terrorist group with American blood on its hands and it would be unconscionable for American policy to deliberately empower such a nefarious group,” he said.
Congressional leaders have begun a formal investigation into the matter and petitioned the DOJ to hand over “all documents and communications” that may shine light on “interference with the DEA’s law enforcement efforts against Hezbollah,” according to a letter sent by Reps. DeSantis and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio.).
“We have a responsibility to evaluate whether these allegations are true, and if so, did the administration undermine U.S. law enforcement and compromise U.S. national security,” the lawmakers wrote to Sessions, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon. Read the rest of this entry »
North Korea Readying for Another Nuclear Test? Satellite Images Show Heightened Activity at Punggye-riPosted: December 13, 2017
Over the weekend, Radio Pyongyang broadcast secret coded messages hinting at a possible impending weapons test.
Experts say that after North Korea’s last nuclear test, minor tremors were detected near Mt Mantap, located close to the nuclear site. However, Pyongyang is now engaged in additional tunnel work at the site.
According to experts at 38North, a US-based think tank, the fresh activities were detected at the West Portal of the site – indicating that the site may be undergoing an expansion. Meanwhile, the North Portal, where the previous five tests were conducted, appears to have been temporarily abandoned.
“At the West Portal, there has been a consistently high level of activity since North Korea’s last nuclear test. This includes a routine presence of vehicles and personnel around the portal, movement of mining carts from the portal to the adjacent spoil pile and signs of fresh spoil being dumped onto the pile,” 38North experts said in a blog. “These activities suggest that tunnel excavation is underway at the West Portal, as the North Koreans expand the site’s potential for future nuclear testing.”
Ryan Barenklau, CEO and founder of Strategic Sentinel, a Washington-based nonpartisan geostrategic consulting agency, told IBTimes UK, “The tunneling is occurring at the West Portal and activity near that area has been relatively high for the last month. They are most likely digging deeper and expanding the complex underneath so they can continue their normal operations.” Read the rest of this entry »
A synagogue was attacked by around 20 masked men while hosting a youth party in Gothenburg, Sweden, local media have reported.
Police arrived at the scene, where Jewish students had taken refuge in the basement.A police spokesman said: “There are several molotov cocktails that have been thrown against the synagogue.”It’s about bottles and gasoline.”A fire broke out between vehicles in the car park, fire fighter Kristoffer Wahter told local news.
No injuries were caused and the building did not catch fire, Police inspector Peter Nordengard said.Initial local media reports suggest the group was around 20 men wearing masks carried out the attack.
He said: “We are in place with a number of units.”Online police have said: “We do not know much more than there are several molotov cocktails that have been thrown against the synagogue.”
Authorities have asked for asked for information on possible suspects from the local community. Security forces arrived at the scene around 10.10pm local time (9.10pm GMT).
The incident comes after protests in nearby Malmo were reported to by shout anti-Semitic chants while protests Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Police were at the scene at 10.10pm local time
There is no suggestion the incidents are linked.
The US President’s decision was greeted by international condemnation as his fellow world leaders spoke out against the move.A “Day of Rage” was called in Palestine with protests held across the world, including the UK. Read the rest of this entry »
Where is the ACLU when you really need them?
Thomas Farnan reports: What do you call a system of government that cannot tolerate a transition of power without corrupt machinations by those unwilling to cede control? Banana Republic is a term that comes to mind.
The Special Counsel was appointed to determine whether Russia colluded with Trump to steal the election. Michael Flynn was indicted for a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador on December 28, 2016, seven weeks after the election.
That was the day after the outgoing president expelled 35 Russian diplomats—including gardeners and chauffeurs—for interfering in the election. Yes, that really happened.
The Obama administration had wiretapped Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador, hoping to find him saying something they could use to support their wild story about collusion.
The outrage, for some reason, is not that an outgoing administration was using wiretaps to listen in on a successor’s transition. It is that Flynn might have signaled to the Russians that the Trump administration would have a different approach to foreign policy.
How dare Trump presume to tell an armed nuclear state to stand down because everyone in Washington was in a state of psychological denial that he was elected?
Let’s establish one thing early here: It is okay for an incoming administration to communicate its foreign policy preferences during a transition even if they differ from the lame duck administration.
In 1980, President-elect Reagan’s transition was dominated by negotiations between outgoing President Jimmy Carter and the Iranians about the fate of 52 hostages that were being held in the Tehran. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom DiChristopher reports: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared to threaten to disrupt Chinese crude oil shipments to North Korea following the hermit kingdom’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.
China’s refusal to completely cut off energy exports to North Korea have been a sticking point as the United States leads the charge to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
Haley revealed during a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York City that President Donald Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday morning to tell him the time has come for China to cut off crude oil supplies to North Korea.
“We now turn to President Xi to also take that stand. We believe he has an opportunity to do the right thing for the benefit of all countries. China must show leadership and follow through. China can do this on its own, or we can take the oil situation into our own hands,” she said.
Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are outspending the United States in the realm of soft power, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the National Democratic Institute’s annual Democracy Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. last night.
“Our budget is $650 million—a fraction of what our adversaries spend,” he said “Today, Russia is spending over a billion dollars on covert propaganda operations,” he added. “Russian TV, radio, and internet bots continue to push misinformation without almost no pushback from the US.”
The authoritarian threat required greater investment in non-kinetic resources for exerting influence abroad, Murphy added.
“We have more people working at military grocery stores than diplomats deployed abroad,” he said.
Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the [Kremlin’s] paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm, WIRED reports:
Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”
“The IRA are not amateurs, they’re clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.
The threat of disinformation and other active measures employed by the Kremlin requires adaptation and innovation from the advanced democracies, according to NATO’s Secretary General.
“Defense is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies,” Jens Stoltenberg said this week. “It’s also about countering misinformation. Protecting infrastructure. Making our societies resilient to attack.”
“The geography of danger has shifted,” he added.
The NDI dinner honored three civil society groups on the front lines of confronting disinformation and false news – . Rappler from the Philippines, the Ukraine-based StopFake and the Oxford Internet Institute.
“When a lie is repeated 1 million times it becomes truth, especially when it’s state-sponsored hate,” said Rapplerdotcom‘s Maria Ressa. “A sock puppet network of 26 fake accounts can reach 3 million.”
Disinformation “exploits the fracture lines of society,” she said, adding that she received an average of 90 hate messages per hour.” Read the rest of this entry »
The new bin Laden documents make clear that there was intelligence politicization during the 2012 campaign.
Jenna Lifhits reports: A top foreign correspondent at the New York Times said Friday that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed al Qaeda’s strength in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.
“The overall narrative that I think was being pushed to the press, and if you look back at the editorials that were done when that trove came out, was an image of bin Laden isolated, he had lost control of this group,” Rukmini Callimachi said during an event at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, referring to the 17 hand-picked documents released by the Obama administration in May of 2012.
“The narrative I would get is that . . . it had opportunistically taken the al Qaeda name in order to have prestige and scare people, and that in fact those people were just criminals.”
— Rukmini Callimachi
Her remarks triggered the following question from Kim Dozier, a former top correspondent for the Associated Press and CBS, and current executive editor of the Cipher Brief: “Do you think that was something that was kept from the public’s view because it revealed that there had to be reams of communication going back and forth, which means U.S. intelligence, Western intelligence, was missing this?”
“Suddenly, my worldview, which had been informed by officials . . . started to fall apart. Suddenly, I was seeing that this group that I was told really had no ties, with no connection . . . was in fact being micromanaged by al Qaeda central.”
— Rukmini Callimachi
“Think back to when bin Laden was killed. It was 2011, it was right before a major campaign season. I don’t want to underplay the role that the killing of Osama bin Laden had,” said Callimachi. “But I think that that was theorized into something much bigger.”
“The head of the organization has been killed, and now—these are literally quotes that I would get: the organization has been ‘decimated,’ the organization is in ‘disarray,’ the organization is ‘on the run,’” she continued. “At the same time that we were preparing to pull out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed.”
* * *The Trump administration released roughly 470,000 files in November that were captured in the Abbottabad raid. Only a few hundred were released under the Obama administration, despite one official’s description of the haul as enough to fill a “small college library.”
When Callimachi was covering West Africa in 2011, Obama administration officials and others told her that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which had just taken over the northern half of Mali, “was actually not really connected to al Qaeda.” Read the rest of this entry »
Prior to the election, Russian government’s online meddling was focused on trying to ‘denigrate Secretary Clinton.’
Nancy Scola and Ashley Gold report: Top lawyers from Facebook and Twitter said Tuesday that Russian-linked posts and advertisements placed on the social networks after Election Day sought to sow doubt about President Donald Trump’s victory.
Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch told a Senate Judiciary panel that content generated by a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency after Nov. 8 centered on “fomenting discord about the validity of his [Trump’s] election.” That’s a change from Russia’s pre-election activity, which was largely centered on trying to denigrate Hillary Clinton, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a January report.
“During the election, they were trying to create discord between Americans, most of it directed against Clinton. After the election you saw Russian-tied groups and organizations trying to undermine President Trump’s legitimacy. Is that what you saw on Facebook?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked at the hearing.
Stretch and his Twitter counterpart, Sean Edgett, called that an “accurate” statement.
The disclosure opened up a new wrinkle in the continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has increasingly focused on the role of the biggest internet companies. Tuesday’s hearing marks the first time Facebook, Google and Twitter have testified publicly about what they’ve learned about Kremlin meddling on their platforms in the presidential campaign. The companies face additional lawmaker scrutiny Wednesday with back-to-back hearings by the Senate and House Intelligence committees.
James Lewis, an international cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the revelation about Russian anti-Trump activity on social media post-election fits with typical Kremlin information warfare efforts.
“Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos,” Lewis said. “It went from being a grudge match against Clinton to what they thought was a priceless opportunity to inflict harm.”
The Silicon Valley giants have been slow to reckon with Russian use of social media to undermine American democracy. Days after the election — amid criticism that Facebook allowed the spread of hoax stories and misinformation — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was a “pretty crazy idea” that fake news on Facebook influenced the vote. But as reports have piled up about Russian manipulation, Zuckerberg last month said he regretted being dismissive about the concerns, though he continued to argue that Facebook had a “far bigger” positive effect by giving people and candidates a place to communicate. Read the rest of this entry »
Chance Miller reports: Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove several VPN apps from the App Store in China due to regulatory reasons. At the time, Tim Cook explained that he would rather not remove them, but was forced to comply.
Now, United States Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy are pressing Apple for more information…
In a letter sent to Tim Cook, Cruz and Leahy say Apple may be “enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” noting that China has an “abysmal human rights record.”
Specifically, Cruz and Leahy pointed to Cook’s acceptance of the Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award. While receiving the award, Cook remarked that Apple “enables people around the world to speak up.” The senators, however, argue that Apple’s removal of VPN apps in China do the exact opposite of that:
While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to “speak up.” To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese governments, it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.
Cook and Leahy outline a list of questions they want Cook to answer. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP) — It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.
The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.
The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.
What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.
Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.
The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the U.S. Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analyzing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services, the AP has learned. But the recordings have not significantly advanced U.S. knowledge about what is harming diplomats.
The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.
Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”
“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.
Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.
“That’s the sound,” one of them said.
The recording being released by the AP has been digitally enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise, but has not been otherwise altered.
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again. Read the rest of this entry »
A short list of very good, serious, totally factual reasons to be suspicious of the special counsel’s motives.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s got everyone convinced he’s such an upstanding public servant. In The Threat Matrix, Garrett Graff writes that “both political parties respect” Mueller as “a consummate law enforcement professional with a track record, forged in Vietnam, of grace under fire and getting organizations on track.”
Whatever. Don’t be fooled by Mueller’s Boy Scout act. As his critics point out, if America is never great again, it’ll be all Mueller’s fault. We have to admit, they’ve got some good points.
Here are 10 perfectly reasonable — not at all crazy or imaginary — reasons to hate him:
1. The guy’s a leaker.
Breitbart says so. Sure, Muller’s got a rep for rarely speaking in public or giving interviews. But behind the scenes he’s obviously spending day and night dishing dirt on Donald Trump and the president’s oh-so-honorable colleagues to any reporter who will listen. The deluge of daily stories disparaging President Trump, after all, began the day Mueller was appointed; before Mueller, Trump press coverage was constant sunshine and rainbows. Plus, it’s clearly to Mueller’s strategic advantage to have his investigative steps aired to the public in real time. Besides, who else would leak this kind of stuff? Only Mueller and his team have motive. The White House isn’t a factionalist den of vipers; the president’s legal team is a well-oiled machine that never leaks; defense lawyers are paragons of virtue. Don’t even get us started on tight-lipped congressional staff — those guys never talk. The only logical explanation here is information about the investigation is coming from Mueller.
2. Mueller is a highly political actor.
Thank God, Newt Gingrich has seen through Mueller’s act. He tweetedrecently that “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring.check fec reports. Time to rethink.” It’s quite a rethink. Mueller is so political that he’s spent his entire career going back and forth between politicians. He worked in the first Bush administration as an assistant attorney general, then he was a prosecutor on murder cases in Washington, D.C. after running the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and then he flip-flopped back to be a U.S. attorney in the Clinton administration. Get this: he then goes on to run the FBI for both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (a bipartisan Congress even extended his term for two years at Obama’s request).
The guy is so political he can’t even decide which side he’s on.
3. Mueller is too thorough and taking too long.
This thing is seriously taking forever. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke for all of us in saying that, “the president is frustrated by the continued witch hunt of the Russia investigation and he’d love for this to come to a full conclusion so that everyone can focus fully on the thing that he was elected to do.” You and me, both, friend. Could Mueller go any slower? It’s as if he’s a highly methodical actor systematically gathering strings on multiple broad areas simultaneously: Trump-Russia collusion, Trump Organization business dealings, misconduct in the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice. He needs to hurry this thing along. Trump just wants to be cleared without the fuss of an investigation. Wouldn’t you? The president knows he is innocent and only wishes to spare us all the pain of this drawn-out ordeal. Of course, Trump recently told the New York Times that “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.” It’s completely reasonable of Trump to be frustrated that this investigation — which doesn’t exist — is taking so long and that Mueller is being so thorough about it. Read the rest of this entry »