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The Secret Lie That Started the Afghan War and the War on Terror

Thanks to James Corbett for this important research and report detailing how a pre-planned fabrication led to the War on Terror.

How did the war in Afghanistan start? And how did NATO become involved in this conflict? These details are never discussed because they have for nearly two decades been hidden behind a shroud of secrecy. But now, after nearly two decades of lies, the remarkable truth about the secret documents that helped launch the Afghan war can finally be revealed. This is the story of The Secret Lie That Started the Afghan War.

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TRANSCRIPT

Yet another surge of violence in Afghanistan, including suicide bombings by the Taliban and retaliatory airstrikes by US forces, is reminding the world once again of the fact that the Afghan war is far from over.

AMY GOODMAN: In Afghanistan, a fierce battle is continuing over the control of the strategic city of Ghazni, four days after the Taliban attacked the city, killing more than 200 people—including over 100 soldiers and police officers. Many residents have fled the city.

SOURCE: Democracy Now, August 13, 2018

CHARLOTTE BELLIS: Ghazni morphed into an urban battlefield last Friday. People were trapped for five days in their homes as thousands of Taliban fighters and Afghan soldiers fought in the streets. U.S. helicopters, drones and a B-1 bomber patrolled overhead.

SOURCE: UN: Ghazni still dangerous for all after Taliban pushed out

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Afghanistan, Taliban fighters overran a military base, killing at least 17 soldiers. They attacked the site in Northern Faryab province and claimed dozens of soldiers surrendered.
SOURCE: PBS NewsHour August 14, 2018

HEATHER NEUERT: The horrific attack is a clear effort to foment sectarian violence and hold back the Afghan peoples’ hopes for a future of peace and security. It reminds us, once again, the importance of reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The United States continues to stand with the Government of Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan and will continue to support their efforts to achieve peace and security in their country.

SOURCE: State Department Press Briefing – August 15, 2018

“Peace” and “security.” For 17 years now the American people (and the people of the world) have listened to the US State Department tell us how the American military is working to bring “peace” and “security” to Afghanistan. But this lie is self-refuting.

At 17 years, the Afghan war is now the longest war in American history, and, despite recent reports about negotiations between the US and the Taliban, the deployment of troops in the country has actually increased in the Trump era.

JUJU CHANG: Breaking news on the nation’s long war in Afghanistan: President Trump in a prime time address declaring the US must continue the fight.

DONALD TRUMP: The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.

[…]

MARTHA RADDATZ: And while he didn’t commit to a specific number of additional troops (although he said we will see “overwhelming force”), the president has given Defense Secretary Mattis the authority to set troop levels, and Mattis has favored sending in about 4,000 more US troops.

SOURCE: Trump announces US troop increase in Afghanistan

But as the US falls deeper and deeper into the Afghan quagmire, we risk forgetting how this war was actually authorized. The public is merely reminded, in Pavlovian fashion, that:

TRUMP: 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan.

SOURCE: Trump announces US troop increase in Afghanistan

But how was that determination made? Who made it? When? And how did NATO become involved in this conflict? These details are never discussed because they have for nearly two decades, been hidden behind a shroud of secrecy. As we shall see, the entire war was waged on a false pretense, based on supposed evidence that was classified and withheld from the public.

But now, after nearly two decades of lies, the remarkable truth about the secret documents that helped launch the Afghan war can finally be revealed.

This is the story of The Secret Lie That Started the Afghan War.

You’re watching The Corbett Report.

Just one day after 9/11, while the toxic dust was still settling on Ground Zero, the North Atlantic Council—NATO’s decision-making body—met to discuss NATO’s response to the attacks.

NATO SEC. GEN. LORD ROBERTSON: On September the 12th the North Atlantic Council met again in response to the appalling attacks perpetrated yesterday against the United States of America. The Council agreed that if it is if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States it shall be regarded as an action covered by article 5 of The Washington treaty which states that an armed attack against one or more of the allies in Europe or in North America shall be considered an attack against them all.

[…]

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty stipulates that in the event of attacks falling within its purview, each Ally will assist the Party that has been attacked by taking such action as it deems necessary. Accordingly, the United States’ NATO Allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism.

SOURCE: NATO Press Briefing September 12, 2001

The “Washington Treaty,” more formally known as the North Atlantic Treaty, is the founding document of NATO. Consisting of 14 articles, it lays out the obligations of the signatory nations to their fellow NATO members. Article 5 states that:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

That the North Atlantic Council discussed the invocation of Article 5 on September 12th, 2001, is no small matter. It had never been invoked in the history of NATO up to that point, and its invocation would commit NATO forces to whatever war the US launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

But who directed those  9/11 attacks? That was the question, and, as Lord Robertson indicated, it would require the US to demonstrate that the attack “was directed from abroad.”

On October 2, 2001, the US government’s official answer to that question was provided by Ambassador Frank Taylor, the United States State Department Coordinator for Counter-terrorism. On that day, Taylor briefed the North Atlantic Council on Al Qaeda’s alleged connection to the events of 9/11.

LORD ROBERTSON: This morning, the United States briefed the North Atlantic Council on the results of their investigation into who was responsible for the horrific terrorist attacks which took place on 11 September.

The briefing was given by Ambassador Frank Taylor, the United States Department of State Coordinator for Counter-terrorism.

[…]

The briefing addressed the events of 11 September themselves, the results of the investigation so far, what is known about Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organisation and their involvement in the attacks and in previous terrorist activity, and the links between Al Qaeda and the Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

The facts are clear and compelling. The information presented points conclusively to an Al-Qaida role in the 11 September attacks.

SOURCE: Statement by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, October 2, 2001

So “clear and compelling” was Taylor’s briefing that the Council agreed to invoke Article 5 and commit NATO’s forces to the US government’s war of terror.

LORD ROBERTSON: On the basis of this briefing, it has now been determined that the attack against the United States on 11 September was directed from abroad and shall therefore be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack on one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.

I want to reiterate that the United States of America can rely on the full support of its 18 NATO Allies in the campaign against terrorism.

And, just like that, NATO members were committed to an operation in Afghanistan that sees their troops remaining in the country to this very day.

So what information did Ambassador Taylor present in that briefing? The 9/11 Commission, which would go on to deliver the official government conspiracy theory of 9/11 in its 2004 final report, still had not even been established. In fact, the establishment of such a commission was at the time still being actively blocked by the Bush Administration. And the mistranslated tape that the Pentagon would later falsely label the Osama Bin Laden “confession” tape had still not been magically “discovered” in a random house in Jalalabad. At this point, there had been no official evidence presented to the public that demonstrated that the operation was directed and coordinated from Afghanistan by Al Qaeda. Surely, then, the Taylor briefing would be filled with evidence that would put to rest any “outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th.”

. . . But there’s just one problem. The Taylor report was classified and any evidence it contained showing an Al Qaeda link to 9/11 was hidden from the public.

LORD ROBERTSON: Today’s was a classified briefing and so I cannot give you all the details. Briefings are also being given directly by the United States to the Allies in their capitals.

And so, for nearly a decade, the US government’s evidence that Al Qaeda had directed the 9/11 attacks—the very evidence that was used to launch the war on Afghanistan in particular and America’s war of terror in general—was forbidden to the public, hidden behind a cloud of official secrecy.

But then, in 2009, intelwire.com quietly posted a document online under the title “Secret Post-9/11 Briefing to World Leaders.” The document is a US State Department cable addressed to the American Embassies in the NATO countries and American allies around the world under the subject line “September 11: Working together to fight the plague of global terrorism and the case against Al-Qa’ida.” The cable is dated October 1, 2001—the day before Ambassador Taylor’s meeting with the North Atlantic Council—and instructs its recipients to brief their host countries’ government on “the information linking the Al-Qa’ida terrorist network, Usama Bin Laden, and the Taleban regime to the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93.”

The document went largely unnoticed until earlier this year, when Professor Niels Harrit wrote an article, “The Mysterious Frank Taylor Report: The 9/11 Document that Launched US-NATO’s ‘War on Terrorism’ in the Middle East,” connecting the dots between this document and the briefing that Ambassador Taylor gave to the North Atlantic Council.

HARRIT: This is a nice little story about grassroots activism, actually, and it starts in 2009 when I got an email from a Norwegian truth activist. His name is Torstein Viddal, and he sent me this PDF with a message, “Did you see this?” And I hadn’t seen this. And I opened it and read it, and it appeared to be the instructions going from the American State Department to all representations in the world—American representations in the world, embassies, consulates—about what to think and what to say about 9/11. And I did not find the contents particularly controversial (this is in 2009) because what was in there was completely in accordance with the official version. That is, nothing, basically. But it was very long and it was meticulous in instructing the recipients of this dépêche, I suppose you call it in in English, about what to do with it. Not to put it anywhere, only to use it for oral presentations.

But at that time I did not realize the importance of this document because it wasn’t until 2012 as I recall that Michel Chossudovsky came out . . . he wrote a paper about what happened in Brussels in the days after 9/11.

[…]

…So and still this document was sitting on my hard drive. But about a year ago another activist, a brilliant Danish journalist, his name is Tommy Hansen and he should be mentioned he’s a beacon on our local scene and unfortunately he passed away very recently but I want his name to be mentioned in this connection because when I was talking with Tommy I said casually that I have the dépêche which was sent to the American representations about what to say and what to think about 9/11. And he said, “Well, I would like to see that.”

Alright, so I went back home and dug it out from my archives and at that moment for the first time I looked at the date. Because according to the the email address it had been sent out on October 2nd and the document itself is dated October 1st. And then it struck me. So that, what a coincidence, because this was the same day as when Frank Taylor was giving his presentation in Brussels and about a day before all the national governments were briefed. So I started to take a closer look and then some details appeared that was striking. One thing is that Lord Robertson […] in his press conference is reading a section from this document.

ROBERTSON: The facts are clear and compelling[…] We know that the individuals who carried out these attacks were part of the world-wide terrorist network of Al-Qaida, headed by Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants and protected by the Taliban.

There, in Lord Robertson’s own mouth at the press conference announcing the delivery of the Taylor report are the very words from the document itself. The connection is undeniable: this State Department cable contains the talking points for the briefing that Taylor delivered to the North Atlantic Council.

Crucially, if unsurprisingly, the document presents absolutely no proof or evidence establishing a link between Al Qaeda and 9/11. After spending a full 15 pages talking in generalities about terror, about the US government’s officially-sanctioned history of Al Qaeda, and of previous attacks linked to Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, the document finally arrives at “Part III” purporting to demonstrate Al Qaeda’s involvement in the attacks. But Part III begins by admitting that the investigation into the attacks is “still in the early stage” and that “[t]here are still gaps in our knowledge.” It then goes on to detail circumstantial “evidence” that would not even rise to the level of warranting an indictment, let alone a conviction in a court of law.

After asserting without evidence that several of the alleged hijackers had been identified as “known Bin Laden associates” without clarifying the source of that identification, let alone how their identities and status as hijackers had been determined, we are then told that “Bin Laden and his associates seemed to be anticipating what we could only identify as an important event or activity.” Finally, the document talks about how the incident is “tactically similar to earlier attacks” because it involved planning and a desire to inflict mass casualties.

And that is it. That is the sum total of the evidence that both the document itself and Lord Robertson, evidently reading notes from Taylor’s briefing, calls “clear and compelling.”

HARRIT: This is in my mind with no doubt simply the legal basis for 18 years of perpetual war in the Middle East. This is the basis for for NATO’s activation of Article 5. And so what is in the document and what is the evidence? What is the evidence which Lord Robertson calls clear and compelling none there’s absolutely no evidence in that paper. It’s free for everyone to see and I’m sure you will present it to your audience.

All of this is in keeping with what we have long known about the war on Afghanistan: It was not waged in response to the 9/11 attacks, but was in fact prepared well in advance. Al Qaeda and the events of September 11th were nothing more than a convenient pretense for the US government to justify their illegal invasion and occupation of a key geostrategic landmass in South Asia.

In 1997, just four years before the NATO invasion, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote that “For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia[…]Now a non-Eurasian power is preeminent in Eurasia—and America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.”

Specifically, Brzezinski pinpointed Afghanistan and its neighbours—an area he called the “Eurasian Balkans”—as the most geopolitically significant region to control for its gas and oil reserves and mineral deposits. He argued that some form of extended American military intervention in the region would be necessary, warning that a global consensus on its foreign policy imperatives would be impossible “…except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”

Later that year, a senior delegation from the Taliban came to the United States for meetings with Unocal about securing the rights for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan across Afghanistan. In 2002, it was revealed that the United States had been negotiating with the Taliban to secure those oil interests, and that American negotiators had told the Taliban that they had a choice: “You have a carpet of gold, meaning an oil deal, or a carpet of bombs.” Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, a former Pakistani foreign secretary revealed to the BBC that a senior American official had told him in mid-July of 2001 that military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.

When the Bush administration came into office, its first substantive national security decision directive, NSPD-9, called for “military options against Taliban targets in Afghanistan, including leadership, command-control, air and air defense, ground forces, and logistics” and was presented to the president on September 4, 2001, seven days before 9/11.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Although this National Security Presidential Directive was originally a highly classified document, we arranged for portions to be declassified to help the Commission in its work, and I will describe some of those today. The strategy set as its goal the elimination of the al Qaeda network. [. . . ] And it ordered the leadership of relevant U.S. departments and agencies to make the elimination of al Qaeda a high priority and to use all aspects of our national power — intelligence, financial, diplomatic, and military — to meet this goal. [. . .]

And it directed the secretary of defense to — and I quote — “ensure that the contingency planning process include plans: against al Qaeda and associated terrorist facilities in Afghanistan, including leadership, command-control-communications, training, and logistics facilities; against Taliban targets in Afghanistan, including leadership, command-control, air and air defense, ground forces, and logistics; to eliminate weapons of mass destruction which al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups may acquire or manufacture, including those stored in underground bunkers.”

SOURCE: September 11 Commission: National Security Council

DONALD RUMSFELD: Dr. Rice has stated that she asked the National Security Council staff in her first week in office for a new presidential initiative on al Qaeda. In early March, the staff was directed to craft a more aggressive strategy aimed at eliminating the al Qaeda threat. The first draft of that approach, in the form of a presidential directive, was circulated by the NSC staff in June of 2001, and a number of meetings were held that summer at the deputy secretary level to address the policy questions involved, such as relating an aggressive strategy against Taliban to U.S.-Pakistan relations.

“By the first week of September, the process had arrived at a strategy that was presented to principals and later became NSPD-9, the President’s first major substantive national security decision directive. It was presented for a decision by principals on September 4th, 2001, seven days before the 11th, and later signed by the President, with minor changes and a preamble to reflect the events of September 11th, in October.”

SOURCE: RUMSFELD 9/11 COMMISSION TESTIMONY MARCH 23, 2004

The invasion of Afghanistan was not about Al Qaeda. It was not the response of the US government to the “evidence” connecting the Taliban to Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda to 9/11 that was missing from Ambassador Taylor’s report. It was a geopolitical gambit in search of a justification. And the events of 9/11 were the justification that the US used to sell NATO, and the world, on the war in Afghanistan.

Worse, 9/11 was the excuse for the entire war of terror itself, the complete transformation of the Middle East that is taking place thanks to American military might. The Taylor report was a blank check drawn on the events of that day. A check that is still being cashed.

HARRIT: This is the legal and the moral foundation and political foundation for the launch of the uninterrupted destruction of the Middle East. That’s what it is. The 18 years of wars.

We have refugees running all over the the highways in Europe. Europe is going down for the load of refugees and migrants, and it all started there. It all emerges from this single document, legally, morally, and politically. That’s why this document is important. It is the Achilles heel like Building 7 is the Achilles heel of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

So you may you may be cynical. OK, then you can be cynical about everything. But if there is any moral left in our Western society, then light should be shined on this document because this document is the legal and—I’ll say it again—the legal and the moral basis for launching of the NATO wars in the Middle East. And that’s something, I think.

17 years of warfare and bloodshed. 17 years of attack and counter-attack. 17 years of tears and shattered lives. 17 years of lies. And all of it based on the foundational lie of 9/11, and this virtually unknown document.

But now the truth of this deception is in our hands. And it is only by exposing that deception that we can ever hope to derail the wars waged in its name, and stop the death and destruction it has wrought.

Niels Harrit Exposes the Terror War Lie

Thanks to James Corbett for this important interview and report detailing how a pre-planned fabrication led to the War on Terror.

Prof. Niels Harrit is interviewed to discuss the mysterious “Frank Taylor report” that launched 17 years of NATO destruction in the middle east. He connects the dots with a little-known declassified document and exposes the lie that has resulted in the deaths of untold millions.

Please watch the full report for links and supporting documents: The Secret Lie That Started the Afghan War

CLICK HERE for the mp3 audio of this conversation.

By way of clarification on the question of the dates, from the Corbett Report user comments:

NES says:

I don’t get the significance of the document in question, dated 10/1 and released on 10/2 to be talking points for involved NATO countries. I’ve listened to the report 4-times now. Below I’ve listed the main points noted in the report. While I get the build-up of deceit that lead to the invasion of Afghanistan (usual), I do not ‘get’ the document’s connection as evidence. It sounds like a dating issue but I cannot identify that significance as seen by Harrit, et al.

1. Taylor — 10/02 briefing North Atlantic Council

2. Robertson – 10/02 clear and compelling speech calling for Article 5 and supported by the dated 10/01 document created for talking points only.

3. No official evidence by 10/02 but denial by Bush about “outrageous conspiracy theories” by the public.

4. No evidence to launch an attack against Afghanistan yet was launched.

5. 2009–IntelWire posted the 10/01 document about the 9/11 briefing which was given to world leaders and created by the US State Dept. Document dated 10/01

6. Cable instructing host countries to be briefed on several terrorist connections, Afghanistan, Bin Laden, 9/11 attack, crash of UA #93

7. Harrit writes an article 3/18 Mysterious Frank Taylor Report connected this document with the briefing of Ambassador Taylor gave North Atlantic Council on 10/2.

8. 2009–Harrit connects the Norwegian document find of the US State Dept directives to speakers about 9/11 for talking points, again it was dated 10/01.

9. 2012–Chossudovky publishes article about what happened in Brussels in the days after 9/11.

10. 2017–Danish activist Hansen and Harrit share the 10/01 document of concern when that same day Taylor was giving his speech in Brussels. Robertson reads a section from the 10/01 document in his speech.

11. Document provides no proof of Al-Qaida’s connection and nothing but circumstantial evidence–as always!

Based on all the preceding evidence–Brzezinski’s pin-pointing Afghanistan 4-yrs earlier as a resource to invade, the obvious gas pipeline interests going on long before the document was produced, the meeting in TX to force US oil interests onto the Taliban, as well as the statement by the Pakistan Secretary about the US threatening an invasion of Afghanistan in 07/01 and Bush’s NSPD-9 outlining military moves against Taliban targets presented on 9/4/11, I’m at a loss about the document in question.

Thanks, in advance, for any clarity you can lend.

  • manbearpig says:

    I too was confused and listened to the video several times before finally referring to Niels Harrit’s article where everything was crystal clear.

    From Niels Harrit’s article:

    “…The conclusion is inescapable – this dispatch IS the Frank Taylor report. It is the manuscript that served not only as the basis for Frank Taylor’s presentation, but also for the briefings given by US ambassadors to the various national governments. Identical presentations were given in all 18 capitals on 3 October, four days before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan…”

    and was also the doc from which Robertson partly read, if I’ve understood correctly…

    “…Tellingly, a section of this dispatch is copy-pasted into Lord Robertson’s statement on 2 October…”

    globalresearch.ca/the-mysterious-frank-taylor-report-the-911-document-that-launched-us-natos-war-on-terrorism-in-the-middle-east/5632874

How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites

DHS hacking.png

The narrative of Russian intelligence attacking state and local election boards and threatening the integrity of U.S. elections has achieved near-universal acceptance by media and political elites.  And now it has been accepted by the Trump administration’s intelligence chief, Dan Coats, as well. 

But the real story behind that narrative, recounted here for the first time, reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created and nurtured an account that was grossly and deliberately deceptive.

DHS compiled an intelligence report suggesting hackers linked to the Russian government could have targeted voter-related websites in many states and then leaked a sensational story of Russian attacks on those sites without the qualifications that would have revealed a different story. When state election officials began asking questions, they discovered that the DHS claims were false and, in at least one case, laughable.

The National Security Agency and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating team have also claimed evidence that Russian military intelligence was behind election infrastructure hacking, but on closer examination, those claims turn out to be speculative and misleading as well. Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU military intelligence officers does not cite any violations of U.S. election laws though it claims Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

A Sensational Story 

On Sept. 29, 2016, a few weeks after the hacking of election-related websites in Illinois and Arizona, ABC News carried a sensational headline: “Russian Hackers Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrated 4.” The story itself reported that “more than 20 state election systems” had been hacked, and four states had been “breached” by hackers suspected of working for the Russian government. The story cited only sources “knowledgeable” about the matter, indicating that those who were pushing the story were eager to hide the institutional origins of the information.

Behind that sensational story was a federal agency seeking to establish its leadership within the national security state apparatus on cybersecurity, despite its limited resources for such responsibility. In late summer and fall 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was maneuvering politically to designate state and local voter registration databases and voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” Such a designation would make voter-related networks and websites under the protection a “priority sub-sector” in the DHS “National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which already included 16 such sub-sectors.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior DHS officials consulted with many state election officials in the hope of getting their approval for such a designation. Meanwhile, the DHS was finishing an intelligence report that would both highlight the Russian threat to U.S. election infrastructure and the role DHS could play in protecting it, thus creating political impetus to the designation. But several secretaries of state—the officials in charge of the election infrastructure in their state—strongly opposed the designation that Johnson wanted.

On Jan. 6, 2017—the same day three intelligence agencies released a joint “assessment” on Russian interference in the election—Johnson announced the designation anyway.

Media stories continued to reflect the official assumption that cyber attacks on state election websites were Russian-sponsored. Stunningly, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2016 that DHS was itself behind hacking attempts of Georgia’s election database.

The facts surrounding the two actual breaches of state websites in Illinois and Arizona, as well as the broader context of cyberattacks on state websites, didn’t support that premise at all.

In July, Illinois discovered an intrusion into its voter registration website and the theft of personal information on as many as 200,000 registered voters. (The 2018 Mueller indictments of GRU officers would unaccountably put the figure at 500,000.) Significantly, however, the hackers only had copied the information and had left it unchanged in the database.

That was a crucial clue to the motive behind the hack. DHS Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications Andy Ozment told a Congressional committee in late September 2016 that the fact hackers hadn’t tampered with the voter data indicated that the aim of the theft was not to influence the electoral process. Instead, it was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.” Ozment was contradicting the line that already was being taken on the Illinois and Arizona hacks by the National Protection and Programs Directorate and other senior DHS officials.

In an interview with me last year, Ken Menzel, the legal adviser to the Illinois secretary of state, confirmed what Ozment had testified.

“Hackers have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006,” Menzel said, adding that they had been probing every other official Illinois database with such personal data for vulnerabilities as well.  “Every governmental database—driver’s licenses, health care, you name it—has people trying to get into it,” said Menzel.

In the other successful cyberattack on an electoral website, hackers had acquired the username and password for the voter database Arizona used during the summer, as Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan learned from the FBI. But the reason that it had become known, according to Reagan in an interview with Mother Jones, was that the login and password had shown up for sale on the dark web—the network of websites used by cyber criminals to sell stolen data and other illicit wares.

Furthermore, the FBI had told her that the effort to penetrate the database was the work of a “known hacker” whom the FBI had monitored “frequently” in the past. Thus, there were reasons to believe that both Illinois and Arizona hacking incidents were linked to criminal hackers seeking information they could sell for profit.

Meanwhile, the FBI was unable to come up with any theory about what Russia might have intended to do with voter registration data such as what was taken in the Illinois hack.  When FBI Counterintelligence official Bill Priestap was asked in a June 2017 hearing how Moscow might use such data, his answer revealed that he had no clue:

“They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said the struggling Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future elections by knowing what is there and studying it.”

The inability to think of any plausible way for the Russian government to use such data explains why DHS and the intelligence community adopted the argument, as senior DHS officials Samuel Liles and Jeanette Manfra (image on the right) put it, that the hacks “could be intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes and potentially the outcome.” But such a strategy could not have had any effect without a decision by DHS and the U.S. intelligence community to assert publicly that the intrusions and other scanning and probing were Russian operations, despite the absence of hard evidence. So DHS and other agencies were consciously sowing public doubts about U.S. elections that they were attributing to Russia.

DHS Reveals Its Self-Serving Methodology

In June 2017, Liles and Manfra testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that an October 2016 DHS intelligence report had listed election systems in 21 states that were “potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”  They revealed that the sensational story leaked to the press in late September 2016 had been based on a draft of the DHS report. And more importantly, their use of the phrase “potentially targeted” showed that they were arguing only that the cyber incidents it listed were possible indications of a Russian attack on election infrastructure.

Furthermore, Liles and Manfra said the DHS report had “catalogued suspicious activity we observed on state government networks across the country,” which had been “largely based on suspected malicious tactics and infrastructure.” They were referring to a list of eight IP addresses an August 2016 FBI “flash alert” had obtained from the Illinois and Arizona intrusions, which DHS and FBI had not been able to  attribute to the Russian government.

The DHS officials recalled that the DHS began to “receive reports of cyber-enabled scanning and probing of election-related infrastructure in some states, some of which appeared to originate from servers operated by a Russian company.” Six of the eight IP addresses in the FBI alert were indeed traced to King Servers, owned by a young Russian living in Siberia. But as DHS cyber specialists knew well, the country of ownership of the server doesn’t prove anything about who was responsible for hacking: As cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr pointed out, the Russian hackers who coordinated the Russian attack on Georgian government websites in 2008 used a Texas-based company as the hosting provider.

The cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect noted in 2016 that one of the other two IP addresses had hosted a Russian criminal market for five months in 2015. But that was not a serious indicator, either. Private IP addresses are reassigned frequently by server companies, so there is not a necessary connection between users of the same IP address at different times.

The DHS methodology of selecting reports of cyber incidents involving election-related websites as “potentially targeted” by Russian government-sponsored hackers was based on no objective evidence whatever. The resulting list appears to have included any one of the eight addresses as well as any attack or “scan” on a public website that could be linked in any way to elections.

This methodology conveniently ignored the fact that criminal hackers were constantly trying to get access to every database in those same state, country and municipal systems. Not only for Illinois and Arizona officials, but state electoral officials.

In fact, 14 of the 21 states on the list experienced nothing more than the routine scanning that occurs every day, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Only six involved what was referred to as a “malicious access attempt,” meaning an effort to penetrate the site. One of them was in Ohio, where the attempt to find a weakness lasted less than a second and was considered by DHS’s internet security contractor a “non-event” at the time.

State Officials Force DHS to Tell the Truth

For a year, DHS did not inform the 21 states on its list that their election boards or other election-related sites had been attacked in a presumed Russian-sponsored operation. The excuse DHS officials cited was that it could not reveal such sensitive intelligence to state officials without security clearances. But the reluctance to reveal the details about each case was certainly related to the reasonable expectation that states would publicly challenge their claims, creating a potential serious embarrassment.

On Sept. 22, 2017, DHS notified 21 states about the cyber incidents that had been included in the October 2016 report. The public announcement of the notifications said DHS had notified each chief election officer of “any potential targeting we were aware of in their state leading up to the 2016 election.” The phrase “potential targeting” again telegraphed the broad and vague criterion DHS had adopted, but it was ignored in media stories.

But the notifications, which took the form of phone calls lasting only a few minutes, provided a minimum of information and failed to convey the significant qualification that DHS was only suggesting targeting as a possibility. “It was a couple of guys from DHS reading from a script,” recalled one state election official who asked not to be identified. “They said [our state] was targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”

A number of state election officials recognized that this information conflicted with what they knew. And if they complained, they got a more accurate picture from DHS. After Wisconsin Secretary of State Michael Haas demanded further clarification, he got an email response from a DHS official  with a different account.

“[B]ased on our external analysis,” the official wrote, “the WI [Wisconsin] IP address affected belongs to the WI Department of Workforce Development, not the Elections Commission.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said DHS initially had notified his office “that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites.” But under further questioning, DHS admitted to Padilla that what the hackers had targeted was the California Department of Technology’s network.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Byron Dean also denied that any state website with voter- or election-related information had been targeted, and Pablos demanded that DHS “correct its erroneous notification.”

Despite these embarrassing admissions, a statement issued by DHS spokesman Scott McConnell on Sept. 28, 2017 said the DHS “stood by” its assessment that 21 states “were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure.” The statement retreated from the previous admission that the notifications involved “potential targeting,” but it also revealed for the first time that DHS had defined “targeting” very broadly indeed.

It said the category included “some cases” involving “direct scanning of targeted systems” but also cases in which “malicious actors scanned for vulnerabilities in networks that may be connected to those systems or have similar characteristics in order to gain information about how to later penetrate their target.”

It is true that hackers may scan one website in the hope of learning something that could be useful for penetrating another website, as cybersecurity expert Prof. Herbert S. Lin of Stanford University explained to me in an interview. But including any incident in which that motive was theoretical meant that any state website could be included on the DHS list, without any evidence it was related to a political motive.

Arizona’s further exchanges with DHS revealed just how far DHS had gone in exploiting that escape clause in order to add more states to its “targeted” list. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan tweeted that DHS had informed her that “the Russian government targeted our voter registration systems in 2016.” After meeting with DHS officials in early October 2017, however, Reagan wrote in a blog post that DHS “could not confirm that any attempted Russian government hack occurred whatsoever to any election-related system in Arizona, much less the statewide voter registration database.”

What the DHS said in that meeting, as Reagan’s spokesman Matt Roberts recounted to me, is even more shocking.

“When we pressed DHS on what exactly was actually targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computers system,” Roberts recalled.

Image below: National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. (Wikimedia)

In April 2018, a CBS News “60 Minutes” segment reported that the October 2016 DHS intelligence report had included the Russian government hacking of a “county database in Arizona.” Responding to that CBS report, an unidentified “senior Trump administration official” who was well-briefed on the DHS report told Reuters that “media reports” on the issue had sometimes “conflated criminal hacking with Russian government activity,” and that the cyberattack on the target in Arizona “was not perpetrated by the Russian government.”

NSA Finds a GRU Election Plot

NSA intelligence analysts claimed in a May 2017 analysis to have documented an effort by Russian military intelligence (GRU) to hack into U.S. electoral institutions. In an intelligence analysis obtained by The Intercept and reported in June 2017, NSA analysts wrote that the GRU had sent a spear-phishing email—one with an attachment designed to look exactly like one from a trusted institution but that contains malware design to get control of the computer—to a vendor of voting machine technology in Florida. The hackers then designed a fake web page that looked like that of the vendor. They sent it to a list of 122 email addresses NSA believed to be local government organizations that probably were “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The objective of the new spear-phishing campaign, the NSA suggested, was to get control of their computers through malware to carry out the exfiltration of voter-related data.

But the authors of The Intercept story failed to notice crucial details in the NSA report that should have tipped them off that the attribution of the spear-phishing campaign to the GRU was based merely on the analysts’ own judgment—and that their judgment was faulty.

The Intercept article included a color-coded chart from the original NSA report that provides crucial information missing from the text of the NSA analysis itself as well as The Intercept’s account. The chart clearly distinguishes between the elements of the NSA’s account of the alleged Russian scheme that were based on “Confirmed Information” (shown in green) and those that were based on “Analyst Judgment” (shown in yellow). The connection between the “operator” of the spear-phishing campaign the report describes and an unidentified entity confirmed to be under the authority of the GRU is shown as a yellow line, meaning that it is based on “Analyst Judgment” and labeled “probably.”

A major criterion for any attribution of a hacking incident is whether there are strong similarities to previous hacks identified with a specific actor. But the chart concedes that “several characteristics” of the campaign depicted in the report distinguish it from “another major GRU spear-phishing program,” the identity of which has been redacted from the report.

The NSA chart refers to evidence that the same operator also had launched spear-phishing campaigns on other web-based mail applications, including the Russian company “Mail.ru.”  Those targets suggest that the actors were more likely Russian criminal hackers rather than Russian military intelligence.

Even more damaging to its case, the NSA reports that the same operator who had sent the spear-phishing emails also had sent a test email to the “American Samoa Election Office.” Criminal hackers could have been interested in personal information from the database associated with that office. But the idea that Russian military intelligence was planning to hack the voter rolls in American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory with 56,000 inhabitants who can’t even vote in U.S. presidential elections, is plainly risible.

The Mueller Indictment’s Sleight of Hand

The Mueller indictment of GRU officers released on July 13 appeared at first reading to offer new evidence of Russian government responsibility for the hacking of Illinois and other state voter-related websites. A close analysis of the relevant paragraphs, however, confirms the lack of any real intelligence supporting that claim.

Mueller accused two GRU officers of working with unidentified “co-conspirators” on those hacks. But the only alleged evidence linking the GRU to the operators in the hacking incidents is the claim that a GRU official named Anatoly Kovalev and “co-conspirators” deleted search history related to the preparation for the hack after the FBI issued its alert on the hacking identifying the IP address associated with it in August 2016.

A careful reading of the relevant paragraphs shows that the claim is spurious. The first sentence in Paragraph 71 says that both Kovalev and his “co-conspirators” researched domains used by U.S. state boards of elections and other entities “for website vulnerabilities.”  The second says Kovalev and “co-conspirators” had searched for “state political party email addresses, including filtered queries for email addresses listed on state Republican Party websites.”

Searching for website vulnerabilities would be evidence of intent to hack them, of course, but searching Republican Party websites for email addresses is hardly evidence of any hacking plan. And Paragraph 74 states that Kovalev “deleted his search history”—not the search histories of any “co-conspirator”—thus revealing that there were no joint searches and suggesting that the subject Kovalev had searched was Republican Party emails. So any deletion by Kovalev of his search history after the FBI alert would not be evidence of his involvement in the hacking of the Illinois election board website.

With this rhetorical misdirection unraveled, it becomes clear that the repetition in every paragraph of the section of the phrase “Kovalev and his co-conspirators” was aimed at giving the reader the impression the accusation is based on hard intelligence about possible collusion that doesn’t exist.

The Need for Critical Scrutiny of DHS Cyberattack Claims

The DHS campaign to establish its role as the protector of U.S. electoral institutions is not the only case in which that agency has used a devious means to sow fear of Russian cyberattacks. In December 2016, DHS and the FBI published a long list of IP addresses as indicators of possible Russian cyberattacks. But most of the addresses on the list had no connection with Russian intelligence, as former U.S. government cyber-warfare officer Rob Lee found on close examination.

When someone at the Burlington, Vt., Electric Company spotted one of those IP addresses on one of its computers, the company reported it to DHS. But instead of quietly investigating the address to verify that it was indeed an indicator of Russian intrusion, DHS immediately informed The Washington Post. The result was a sensational story that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. power grid. In fact, the IP address in question was merely Yahoo’s email server, as Rob Lee told me, and the computer had not even been connected to the power grid. The threat to the power grid was a tall tale created by a DHS official, which the Post had to embarrassingly retract.

Since May 2017, DHS, in partnership with the FBI, has begun an even more ambitious campaign to focus public attention on what it says are Russian “targeting” and “intrusions” into “major, high value assets that operate components of our Nation’s critical infrastructure”, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors.  Any evidence of such an intrusion must be taken seriously by the U.S. government and reported by news media. But in light of the DHS record on alleged threats to election infrastructure and the Burlington power grid, and its well-known ambition to assume leadership over cyber protection, the public interest demands that the news media examine DHS claims about Russian cyber threats far more critically than they have up to now.

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Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His latest book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

The Real Russian Interference in US Politics

If Russia were trying to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, it wouldn’t be attempting to change the U.S. system but to prevent it from trying to change Russia’s, argues Diana Johnstone.

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was ostensibly a conflict between two ideologies and two socio-economic systems.

All that seems to be over. The day of a new socialism may dawn unexpectedly, but today capitalism rules the world. At first glance, it may seem to be a classic clash between rival capitalists. And yet, once again an ideological conflict is emerging, one which divides capitalists themselves, even in Russia and in the United States itself. It is the conflict between American unipolar dominance and a multipolar world.

The defeat of communism was brutally announced in a certain “capitalist manifesto” dating from the early 1990s that actually proclaimed: “Our guiding light is Profit, acquired in a strictly legal way. Our Lord is His Majesty, Money, for it is only He who can lead us to wealth as the norm in life.” The authors of this bold tract were Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who went on to become the richest man in Russia (before spending ten years in a Russian jail) and his business partner at the time, Leonid Nevzlin, who has since retired comfortably to Israel.

Loans for Shares

Those were the good old days in the 1990s when the Clinton administration was propping up Yeltsin as he let Russia be ripped off by the joint efforts of such ambitious well-placed Russians and their Western sponsors, notably using the “loans for shares” trick.

In a 2012 Vanity Fair article on her hero, Khodorkovsky, the vehemently anti-Putin journalist Masha Gessen frankly summed up how this worked:

The new oligarchs—a dozen men who had begun to exercise the power that money brought—concocted a scheme. They would lend the government money, which it badly needed, and in return the government would put up as collateral blocks of stock amounting to a controlling interest in the major state-owned companies. When the government defaulted, as both the oligarchs and the government knew it would, the oligarchs would take them over. By this maneuver the Yeltsin administration privatized oil, gas, minerals, and other enterprises without parliamentary approval.”

This worked so well that from his position in the Communist youth organization, Khodorkovsky used his connections to get control of Russia’s petroleum company Yukos and become the richest oligarch in Russia, worth some $15 billion, of which he still controls a chunk despite his years in jail (2003-2013).

His arrest made him a hero of democracy in the United States, where he had many friends, especially those business partners who were helping him sell pieces of Yukos to Chevron and Exxon. Khodorkovsky (image below), a charming and generous young man, easily convinced his American partners that he was Russia’s number one champion of democracy and the rule of law, especially of those laws which allow domestic capital to flee to foreign banks, and foreign capital to take control of Russian resources.

Vladimir Putin didn’t see it that way. Without restoring socialism, he dispossessed Khodorkovsky of Yukos and essentially transformed the oil and gas industry from the “open society” model tolerated by Yeltsin to a national capitalist industry. Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were accused of having stolen all the oil that Yukos had produced in the years 1998 to 2003, tried, convicted and sentenced to 14 years of prison each. This shift ruined U.S. plans, already underway, to “balkanize” Russia between its many provinces, thereby allowing Western capital to pursue its capture of the Russian economy.

The dispossession of Khodorkovsky was certainly a major milestone in the conflict between President Putin and Washington. On November 18, 2005, the Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 322 introduced by Senator Joe Biden denouncing the treatment of the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as politically motivated.

Who Influences Whom?

There is an alternative view of the history of Russian influence in the United States to the one now getting constant attention. It is obvious that a Russian who can get the Senate to adopt a resolution in his favor has a certain influence. But when the “deep state” and the corporate media today growl about Russian influence, they aren’t talking about Khodorkovsky. They are talking about alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. They are seizing, for example, on a joking response Trump made to a reporter’s snide question during the presidential campaign. In a variation of the classic “when did you stop beating your wife?” the reporter asked if he would call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stay out” of the election.

Since a stupid question does not deserve a serious answer, Trump said he had “nothing to do with Putin” before adding, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Many Trump opponents think this proves collusion. Irony appears to be almost as unwelcome in American politics as honesty.

When Trump revoked his security clearance earlier this month, former CIA chief John Brennan got his chance to spew his hatred in the complacent pages of The New York Times. Someone supposed to be smart enough to head an intelligence agency actually took Trump’s joking invitation as a genuine request. “By issuing such a statement,” Brennan wrote, “Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.”

As America’s former top intelligence officer, Brennan had to know that (even if it were true that Trump was somehow involved) it is ludicrous to suggest that Trump would have launched a covert intelligence operation on national television. If this were a Russian operation to hack Clinton’s private server it would have been on a need-to-know basis and there is no evident need for Trump or his campaign team to have known.

Besides, Clinton’s private server on the day Trump uttered this joke, July 27, 2016, had already been about nine months in possession of the Department of Justice, and presumably offline as it was being examined.

Since Brennan knows all this he could only have been lying in The New York Times.

The Russians, Brennan went on, “troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters.”

But which Russians do that? And who are those “individuals?”

‘The Fixer-in-Chief’

To understand the way Washington works, one can focus on the career of lawyer Jonathan M. Winer, who proudly says that in early 2017 the head of the Carnegie Endowment, Bill Burns, referred to him as “The Fixer-in-Chief.” Let’s see what the fixer has fixed.

Winer served in the Clinton State Department as its first Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Law Enforcement from 1994-1999. One may question the selectivity of Bill Clinton’s concern for international law enforcement, which certainly did not cover violating international law by bombing defenseless countries.

In any case, in 1999 Winer received the State Department’s second highest award for having “created the capacity of the Department and the U.S. government to deal with international crime and criminal justice as important foreign policy functions.” The award stated that “the scope and significance of his achievements are virtually unprecedented for any single official.”

After the Clinton administration, from 2008 to 2013, Winer worked as a high-up consultant at one of the world’s most powerful PR and lobbying firms, APCO Worldwide. As well as the tobacco industry and the Clinton Foundation, APCO also works for Khodorkovsky. To be precise, according to public listings, the fourth biggest of APCO’s many clients is the Corbiere Trust, owned by Khodorkovsky and registered in Guernsey. The trust tends and distributes some of the billions that the oligarch got out of Russia before he was jailed.

Corbiere money was spent to lobby both for Resolution 322 (supporting Khodorkovsky after his arrest in Russia) and for the Magnitsky Act. APCO president Margery Kraus is a member of the Institute of Modern Russia, which is headed by Khodorkovsky’s son Pavel, with the ostensible purpose of “promoting democratic values” – in other words, of building political opposition to Putin.

When John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, allowing Hillary to prepare her presidential campaign, Winer went back to the State Department. Winer’s extracurricular activities at State brought him into the public spotlight early this year when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) named him as part of a network promoting the notorious “Steele Dossier,” which accused Trump of illicit financial dealing and compromising sexual activities in Russia, in a word, “collusion” with Moscow.

By Winer’s own account, he had been friends with former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele since his days at APCO. Back at State, he regularly channeled Steele reports, ostensibly drawn from contacts with friendly Russian intelligence agents, to Victoria Nuland, in charge of Russian affairs, as well as to top Russia experts. Among these reports was the infamous “Steele dossier,” opposition research on Trump financed by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

But dirt seemed to pass the other way too. According to a Feb. 6 Washington Post story, Winer passed on to Steele the story of Trump being urinated on by prostitutes in a Moscow hotel with Russian agents allegedly filming it for blackmail material. The Post says the story was written by Cody Shearer, a Clinton confidante. A lawyer for Winer told the paper that Winer “was concerned in 2016 about information that a candidate for the presidency may have been compromised by a hostile foreign power. Any actions he took were grounded in those concerns.” Shearer did not respond to a request for comment from Consortium News. (Full disclosure: Cody Shearer is a member of the advisory board of the Consortium for Independent Journalism, which publishes Consortium News, and has been asked to resign.)

All this Democrat paid-for and created dirt was spread through government agencies and mainstream media before being revealed publicly just before Trump’s inauguration. The Steele dossier was used by the Obama Justice Department to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. 

Winer and the Magnitsky Act

Winer played a major role in Congress’s adoption of the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” (the Magnitsky Act), a measure that effectively ended post-Cold War hopes for normal relations between Washington and Moscow. This act was based on a highly contentious version of the November 16, 2009 death in prison of accountant Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky as told to Congress by hedge fund manager Bill Browder.  According to Browder, Magnitsky was a lawyer beaten to death in prison as a result of his crusade for human rights.

However, as convincingly established by dissident Russian film-maker Andrei Nekrasov’s investigative documentary (blacklisted in the U.S.), Magnitsky was neither a human rights crusader, nor a lawyer, nor beaten to death. He was an accountant jailed for his role in Browder’s business dealings, who died of natural causes as a result of inadequate prison care. The case was hyped as a major human rights drama by Browder in order to discredit Russian tax fraud charges against himself.

By adopting a law punishing Magnitsky’s alleged persecutors, the U.S. Congress acted as a supreme court judging internal Russian legal issues.

The Magnitsky Act also condemns legal prosecution of Khodorkovsky. Browder, on a much smaller scale, also made a fortune ripping off Russians during the Yeltsin years, and later got into trouble with Russian tax collectors. Since Browder had given up his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes, he had reason to fear Russian efforts to extradite him for tax evasion and other financial misdeeds.

It was Winer who found a solution to Browder’s predicament. As Winer wrote in The Daily Beast:

When Browder consulted me, he wanted to know what he could do to hold those involved in the case accountable. As Browder describes in his bookRed Notice, I suggested creating a new law to impose economic and travel sanctions on human-rights violators involved in grand corruption. Browder decided this could secure a measure of justice for Magnitsky. He initiated a campaign that led to the enactment of the Magnitsky Act. Soon other countries enacted their own Magnitsky Acts, including Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and most recently, the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have been trying for years to pursue their case against Browder (image on the right). Putin brought up the case in his press conference following the Helsinki meeting with Trump. Putin suggested allowing U.S. authorities to question the 12 Russian GRU military intelligence agents named in the Mueller indictment in exchange for allowing Russian officials to question individuals involved in the Browder case, including Winer and former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, among others. Putin observed that such an exchange was possible under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1999, back in the Yeltsin days when America was posing as Russia’s best friend.

But the naïve Russians underestimated the craftiness of American lawyers.

As Winer wrote, “Under that treaty, Russia’s procurator general can ask the U.S. attorney general … to arrange for Americans to be ordered to testify to assist in a criminal case. But there is a fundamental exception: The attorney general can provide no such assistance in a politically motivated case (my emphasis). I know this because I was among those who helped put it there. Back in 1999, when we were negotiating the agreement with Russia, I was the senior State Department official managing U.S.-Russia law-enforcement relations.”

The clever treaty is a perfect Catch-22. It doesn’t apply to a case if it is politically motivated, and if it is Russian, it must be politically motivated. (The irony is that Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU Russian military intelligence agents appears to be more a political than a legal document. For one thing, it accused the agents of interfering in a U.S. election but never charges them under U.S. electoral law.)

On July 15, 2016, Browder’s Heritage Capital Management firm registered a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice accusing both American and Russian opponents of the Magnitsky Act of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA); adopted in 1938 with Nazis in mind.

As for Russian lawyers attempting to bring their case against the Act to the U.S., the Heritage Capital Management brief declared:

While lawyers representing foreign principals are exempt from filing under FARA, this is only true if the attorney does not try to influence policy at the behest of his client. By disseminating anti-Magnitsky material to Congress, [lawyer Natalia] Veselnitskaya is clearly trying to influence policy and is therefore in violation of her filing requirements under FARA.”

Veselnitskaya was at the infamous Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 to lobby a possible incoming Trump administration to oppose the Magnitsky Act. A British music promoter, not a spokesman for the Russian government, offered dirt on Clinton in an email to Donald Trump Jr. No dirt was apparently produced and Don Jr. saw it as a lure to get him to the meeting on Magnitsky. Democrats are furiously trying to prove that this meeting was “collusion” between the Trump camp and Russia, though it was the Clinton campaign that paid for opposition research and received it from foreigners, while the Trump campaign neither solicited nor apparently received any at that meeting.

The Ideological Conflict Today

Needless to say, Khodorkovsky’s Corbiere Trust lobbied hard to get Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act. This type of “Russian interference intended to influence policy” goes unnoticed while U.S. authorities scour cyberspace for evidence of trolls.

The basic ideological conflict here is between Unipolar America and Multipolar Russia. Russia’s position, as Putin made clear in his historic speech at the Munich security conference in 2007, is to allow countries to enjoy national sovereignty and develop in their own way. The current Russian government is against interference in other countries’ politics on principle. It would naturally prefer an American government willing to do the same.

The United States, in contrast, is in favor of interference in other countries on principle: because it seeks a Unipolar world, with a single “democratic” system, and considers itself the final authority as to which regime a country should have and how it should run its affairs.

So, if Putin were trying to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, he would not be trying to change the U.S. system but to prevent it from trying to change his own.

U.S. policy-makers practice interference every day. And they are perfectly willing to allow Russians to interfere in American politics – so long as those Russians like Khodorkovsky, who aspire to precisely the same unipolar world sought by the State Department. Indeed, the American empire depends on such interference from Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, Russians, Cubans – all those who come to Washington to try to get U.S. power to settle old scores or overthrow the government in the country they came from and put themselves in power. All those are perfectly welcome to lobby for a world ruled by America.

Russian interference in American politics is totally welcome so long as it helps turn public opinion against “multipolar” Putin, glorifies American democracy, serves U.S. interests, including the military industries, helps break down national borders (except those of the United States and Israel) and puts money in appropriate pockets in the halls of Congress.

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This article was originally published on Consortiumnews.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. The memoirs of Diana Johnstone’s father Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, was published by Clarity Press, with her commentary. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr. She is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization  (CRG). 

Russia Is Buying Gold: Will It Save Russia From Dollar Sanctions? End of Dollar Hegemony?

Interview with Peter Koenig


Putin-gold

REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn

The German newspaper “Die Welt” announced that Russia actively seeks to get rid of dependency on the US dollar by purchasing gold and selling the bulk of the Moscow-owned US Treasury bonds.

According to political advisor and author James Rickards, cited by the newspaper, the Russian government pursues “a strategic plan” aimed at protecting the country from “dollar sanctions” by building up Russia’s gold reserves.

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Sputnik: The author of the article for “Die Welt” called gold ‘a perfect investment’ for Russia in the face of US sanctions. How much does this assessment correspond to reality? If it is true, why?

Peter Koenig: Yes, Mr. Zschäpitz, from the German “Die Welt“, quoting James Rickards, makes some good points.

The fact that Russia is stocking up on gold is not new. They have been doing this for years, especially during Mr. Putin’s leadership and more so since the imposition of the totally illegal sanctions that are based on falsehood and fabricated reasons in the first place – and continue on fabricated reasons, mostly by the US and the UK.

And to add injury to insult, the Swiss bank Crédit Swiss has just frozen roughly 5 billion dollars of money linked to Russia to avoid falling out of favors with Washington and risking sanctions. This is of course further increasing pressure on Moscow to de-dollarize as quickly as possible. Washington must know, of course, what these “sanctions” do. They are talking to Russian Atlantists – or Fifth Columnists – of whom there are still too many in Russia. And the sanctions against Russia are also propaganda-speak “we still command the world”.

These sanctions call for de-dollarization – which is already happening, and this on a rapidly increasing scale, as Mr. Zschäpitz points out. At the same time as Russia is buying gold, Russian dollar reserves have been reduced drastically over the past years.

They were replaced by gold and the Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) – since about two years the Yuan has been an officially recognized reserve currency by the IMF. The accumulation of gold, has made Russia the world’s fifth largest gold owner. They have increased their gold holdings from less than 500 tons in 2008 to almost 2000 tons in July 2018, including the latest purchase of 26 tons in July 2918.

The Russian Ruble today is covered twice by the value of gold. The ruble is no fiat currency like the dollar-based western monetary system, including the euro. The ruble is a solid currency, despite contrary western propaganda. When the western media demonizes the Russian currency as having lost 50% of its value due to sanctions – it is a manipulated half-truth. The 50% loss of value as compared to what? – Compared to the US dollar and other western currencies? With a western de-linked economy – a 50% devaluation, or any devaluation is irrelevant.

Being decoupled from the dollar, Russia will no longer be vulnerable to western sanctions – and no longer needs the western economy – which is already almost the case today. Russia has embarked on an effective “Economy of Resistance”.

As President Putin pointed out already years ago, the sanctions are the best thing that happened to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They forced Russia to rehabilitate and boost her agricultural production for food self-sufficiency, and likewise with the industrial sector. Today Russia is not only food-autonomous, but is by far the world’s largest wheat exporter; and Russia has developed a cutting-edge industrial park, no longer dependent on ‘sanctioned’ imports from the west.

And take this – as Mr. Putin pointed out, Russia will be supplying the world exclusively with organic food!

All of this confirms that investing in gold as a reserve currency and in Yuan, is a move away from the western dollar economy – and towards economic sovereignty. Besides, Russia has had for years a Yuan-Ruble swap agreement with the Central Bank of China, a sign of close economic and trade relations.

By the way – China has also been on a gold-buying spree for years. The Chinese Yuan is also covered by gold, plus by a solid national economy. Therefore, sanctions or ‘Trump’s tariff war’ have also only limited effect on China, if any. They serve more western anti-Yuan propaganda, alleging that tariffs and sanctions may weaken the yuan, thereby discouraging countries to buy yuans for their reserve coffers. It is a fact that the Yuan is rapidly replacing the dollar as a reserve currency.

Besides, both Russia and China are part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – the so-called SCO – and along with 6 other countries the SCO encompasses already close to 50% of the world population and controls about a third of the globes GDP. – Dependence on the west is no longer necessary.

Sputnik: The author also speaks about the growing importance of gold. What effect could its increased role have in the international financial system?

PK: It is half-secretly speculated that as a last-ditch effort to save the dollar, the US may return to some kind of a gold standard, thereby massively devaluing the dollar – and the US international debt – all those dollars currently still in many countries’ treasuries as reserves.

Having alternatives to dollars in a country’s reserve coffers, like gold and yuans, is of course a great defense mechanism. On the other hand, if such a move back to a kind of gold-standard by Washington, introduced by the FED and the US Treasury-controlled IMF, would take place – it would most likely boost the market value of gold – a good thing for those who have converted their reserves into gold.

Those who would suffer from such a move are as always, the poor countries, those that are highly indebted by IMF and World Bank loans, and may now be asked to pay back their debt in gold-convertible dollars.

Sputnik: What will happen to the dominance of dollar? What impact could it have on the US position on the world arena?

PK: It would most likely accelerate the fall of the dollar, meaning the end of US-dollar hegemony. It would probably also trigger the fall of the US economy which depends so much on the dollar hegemony – on being able to pressure countries into their following by ‘sanctions’.

I’m not a believer in gold as a sustainable ‘currency-alike’ in the long-run – because gold is also vulnerable to high-stakes manipulation and speculation. I more believe in a country’s economy as the true backing of a country’s currency. This is already happening in China, where the currency in circulation is backed by its strong economy. It may be soon, or is already, the case in Russia.

The use of gold, in my view, is but a temporary measure, and will last as long as the world still believes in the godly and historic and ancient powers of this precious metal. Today only about 10% of the available gold is for industrial use, the rest is “reserve money” and for pure speculation. If the world discovers that there is about 100 times more paper gold – gold derivatives – in circulation than physical gold – this miracle perception of gold may disappear. If all the derivative-paper gold would be cashed in at once – guess what would happen?

So, gold is good for now, but a temporary solution, in the longer run to be replaced by the actual strength of a country’s economy.

Sputnik: Amid US sanction policy, there have been calls for switching to national currencies in trade and ditch dollar. How efficient is this approach?

PK: Very efficient.

This is already happening. Russia and China are for years no longer trading in dollars but in local currencies, or even in gold, or in the case of China in gold-convertible yuan, especially for trading hydrocarbons, oil and gas. So are largely India, Iran, Venezuela and other countries that are eager to escape the dollar- hegemony with sanctions.

I think one of the ways out of the nefarious neoliberal globalization, is returning to sovereign country economies, with local currencies and satisfying local market needs. External trade with friendly nations, that share similar cultural and ideological values.

This is what China has done. China opened its borders to the west gradually in the mid-eighties, when she was self-sufficient in alimentation, health, education and shelter. And this practice is paying off until today. It is very difficult – if not impossible – to pressure China into anything – political or monetary – as Trump may soon find out – or knows already. China is fully autonomous and controls the Asian market, doesn’t really need the west in the long.

What Mr. Putin said, about the sanctions being the best thing that happened to Russia – for achieving economic sovereignty – which is really the key, goes in the same direction.

So yes, local production for local markets wit local currencies and trading with friendly nations – i.e. the SCO nations and nations participating in President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the future.

*

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

Can We Be Saved From Facebook?

Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg. (photo: B&T)

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

03 April 18

The social media giant has swallowed up the free press, become an unstoppable private spying operation and undermined democracy. Is it too late to stop it?

e shouldn’t be asking Facebook to fix the problem. We should be fixing Facebook. It’s our collective misfortune that this perhaps silliest-in-history supercorporation – a tossed-off hookup site turned international cat-video vault turned Orwellian surveillance megavillain – has dragged us all to the very cliff edge of modern technological capitalism.

We’ve reached a moment in history where many companies are more powerful than even major industrialized nations, and in some cases have essentially replaced governments as de facto regulators and overseers. But some of those companies suck just a little too badly at the governing part, leaving us staring into a paradox.

The Russians call this situation a sobaka na sene, a dog on the hay. Asleep in the manger, the dog itself won’t eat the hay. But it won’t let you eat it either.

We’ve got to get the dog off the hay.

For much of the past year and a half, the Social Network has been everywhere in the news. It’s ubiquitous in a bad way for the first time in its existence. The blithely addictive social media site bathed in unthreatening baby-blue graphics that one tech columnist derided as “the place where you check to see who married Jill the cheerleader” has found itself at the center of an exploding international controversy.

A recent Wired cover story is a typical press treatment. Legions of current and former employees whispered to the mag about Facebook’s toxic culture. The firm was said to have overreacted to conservative criticism some years back and gone too far the other way in an ill-fated search for “balance,” inadvertently handing Trump the White House in the process.

Facebook was also rocked by recent revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a firm partly owned by the same conservative Mercer family that became a primary sponsor of Donald Trump’s foundering campaign in the summer of 2016, may have used personal information from 50 million Facebook users to deliver targeted ads to likely Trump voters.

Cambridge Analytica has since been revealed to be a con’s con – in 2015, it was selling Ted Cruz on “secret sauce” intelligence services it hadn’t even finished designing yet. The story created instant worldwide panic, despite the fact that manipulating private information is the sort of service Facebook has long provided as a matter of routine. Any third-party app built on the site, not just those created by arch-conservatives, would be able to perform the same data-sucking trick. As former Facebook adviser Dipayan Ghosh puts it, “The problem goes far beyond the scope of the current controversies. The story here is about sheer market power.”

The headlines are scary, but the pathology behind them is actually the most alarming and unreported aspect of the Facebook story. The world seems simultaneously to be denouncing the company for having meddled with an election, and demanding that it meddle more responsibly in the future. From senators to members of the media to security officials, the solution to the problem of “fake news” and foreign intervention in our elections has been absurdly simplistic: Just have Facebook fix it.

All this outside pressure is hitting home. After years of resistance, Facebook’s polarizing supergeek CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is suddenly accepting the challenge of reforming an industry he knows nothing about, i.e., the press. Ominously, he recently vowed to spend 2018 working on “these important issues.”

It’s a seismic change. As recently as November 2016, Zuckerberg, who exudes all the warmth of a talking parking meter, could be heard lashing out at people who “insist we call ourselves a news or media company.” He later scoffed at the idea his firm played a significant role in the election, and refused to discuss the possibility that Facebook had responsibility for reversing the declining quality of news reporting.

But by the beginning of 2018, Facebook began a sharp – and subtly frightening – turnaround. No longer denying its outsize media role, the company announced one initiative designed to create a trustworthiness measurement for news, and another to increase the content you get from close friends and family, presumably as opposed to evil (and possibly foreign) strangers.

The goal, said Facebook News Feed chief Adam Mosseri, was to “make sure the news people see, while less overall, is high-quality.” Mosseri, who’s been with the company since its earlier days, tells Rolling Stone that Facebook’s original developers never imagined being in the position the firm is in now. “I don’t think anyone foresaw the scale that we got to,” Mosseri admits.

Now, he claims, Facebook is just trying to do the right thing. “We take our responsibilities seriously,” he says, explaining the thinking behind the new initiatives. “In a world where the Internet exists, how can we make the world better?”

Facebook’s decision to accept “responsibilities” in the news realm, even in this rudimentary and characteristically disingenuous way, has mind-blowing implications for a country that has functioned without a true media regulator for most of its history.

That’s because all of these horror-movie headlines about fake news and “meddling” gloss over the giant preceding catastrophe implicit in all of these tales. For Facebook to be both the cause of and the solution to so many informational ills, the design mechanism built into our democracy to prevent such problems – a free press – had to have been severely disabled well before we got here.

And it was. Long before 2016 had a chance to happen, the news media in the United States was effectively destroyed. For those of us in the business, the manner of conquest has been the most galling part. The CliffsNotes version? Facebook ate us.

Internet platforms like Zuck’s broke the back of the working press first by gutting our distribution networks, and then by using advanced data-mining techniques to create hypertargeted advertising with which no honest media outlet could compete. This wipeout of the press left Facebook in possession of power it neither wanted nor understood.

It was all an insane accident. Facebook never wanted to be editor-in-chief of the universe, and the relatively vibrant free press that toppled the likes of McCarthy and Nixon never imagined it could be swallowed by a pet-meme distributor.

But it happened. As a result, we’re now facing a problem potentially worse than either a Trump election or a Russian cyber-incursion: a world in which the informational landscape for billions of people is controlled more or less entirely by a pair of advanced private spying operations, Google and Facebook – and Facebook especially.

The Facebook mess is really the final chapter in a decades-long collision of the news media with the Internet. Many smart people expected this tale to end well. It hasn’t. The creators of the Internet sold their invention as inherently democratizing. Instead, information is now so concentrated that a 1984 scenario is just a few clicks away.

***

This may sound obvious, but since even Facebook appears not to have understood this issue, here’s a brief reminder: The media business has always been first and foremost about distribution.

News consumers once had direct and powerful relationships with publishers, before the technological changes that made Facebook possible. “People identified with the fact that they read the local newspaper,” says Jim Moroney, former publisher of The Dallas Morning News. “They connected with being readers of The Dallas Morning News, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and so on.” Newspapers developed those relationships over long periods of time via the hardcore brick-and-mortar process of building distribution networks.

“Your major advantage as a media business rested in your distribution system,” says David Chavern, director of the News Media Alliance. “Everything from your printing press, to the people loading papers into trucks, to the trucks themselves, to the stores, to the kids delivering papers to subscribers’ doorsteps.”

The physicality of the distribution system lent credibility to both news and ads. Moreover, the difficulty and expense in building those systems meant that few people could do it, and newspapers earned for themselves built-in revenue streams from services like employment and real-estate ads, where they were usually the only game in town.

This model allowed newspapers to be remarkably free of government regulation. The same wasn’t exactly true of radio and TV stations, which had to answer to the Federal Communications Commission. But TV and radio also once enjoyed enormous advantages that no longer exist.

“TV and radio, those were scarcity businesses,” says Moroney. “There were only so many licenses in a market, which meant only so many stations in a market. And beyond that, there were only so many 30-second ad spots you could sell. You couldn’t have a whole hour be ads. If you were good at managing your scarce inventory, you could make a lot of money.”

In the early part of the 20th Century, it wasn’t considered necessary for the government to meddle in news licensing. But in an ancient preview of the Internet, there was by the 1920s an explosion of new radio stations, resulting in a “cacophony of signal interference” that, much like today, made a mush of the news-following experience.

This led then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover and others to explore the question of how to weigh “spectrum scarcity” with the needs of a democratic society. The result was a pair of landmark federal laws, the Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934. It was a trade-off. Companies that licensed airwaves had to agree to operate in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”

Of course, the federal government, with its high-minded “public interest” standard that supposedly pushed broadcasters to serve “all substantial groups,” somehow managed to keep in place a brutal system of racial apartheid, among other huge misses. It also denied the viewpoints of anti-war activists, capitalist critics and a host of others. But the core idea, that a news media in the broad public interest must exist, has been in place almost from the start. Even the likes of Washington and Jefferson helped institute the practice of giving cheap or even free postage rates to newspapers.

“Abolitionist newspapers were sent to the South thanks to these policies,” notes University of Illinois professor Robert McChesney. “Even back then there was this idea of subsidizing reporting.”

With each new expansion of communications technology, Americans almost always came up with guidelines for how to sync up the citizenry’s informational needs to the new invention.

Then the Internet came along.

***

In many ways, the Facebook controversy is a canard. It’s less a real crisis about Russians, the Trump election or scamsters like Cambridge Analytica than a long-overdue reckoning. Americans who for decades have been clinging to reassuring myths about the origins and purpose of the Internet are finally beginning to ask important questions about this awesome Pentagon-designed surveillance tool they’ve enthusiastically welcomed into their homes, bedrooms, purses and pockets.

Conventional wisdom sees the Internet as an invention that, yes, was designed for narrow military uses, but unexpectedly blossomed into a powerful democratizer. “The Internet was viewed as a force for good, supporting inclusion and democracy,” says Dr. Lawrence Landweber, a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and former president of the Internet Society. “This view was widely held in the industry as well as among political leaders,” he says. “Remember Google’s motto around 2000 was ‘Don’t be evil.’ ”

There are, however, less-flattering histories of the Internet, which began as a defense project in the Sixties. Some critics, like Surveillance Valley author Yasha Levine, will tell you that keeping tabs on domestic and foreign resistance movements was one of the net’s original design goals, which is one reason it’s no surprise most of the big Internet-based firms today – Facebook, Google, Amazon – also contract with the military and/or security services.

In his book, Levine points to the fact that from the very start, the proto-Web banked info collected by the likes of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. “Surveillance was baked into the original mission of the Internet,” Levine says.

No matter what the intent behind the invention, it seems that little thought was given to how the Internet would impact the existing commercial news business. Landweber, for instance, says Internet developers never conceived of a world where Internet platforms would acquire hegemonic power in this sphere. “Getting most of one’s news via the Internet, as well as the notion that social media companies would manipulate one’s personal data for commercial or political benefit, was not anticipated,” he says. He adds, “The current situation would have shocked early Internet developers.”

Which brings us back to Facebook, which to this day seems at best to dimly understand how the news business works, as is evident in its longstanding insistence that it’s not a media company. Wired was even inspired to publish a sarcastic self-help quiz for Facebook execs on “How to tell if you’re a media company.” It included such questions as “Are you the country’s largest source of news?”

The answer is a resounding yes. An astonishing 45 percent of Americans get their news from this single source. Add Google, and above 70 percent of Americans get their news from a pair of outlets. The two firms also ate up about 89 percent of the digital-advertising growth last year, underscoring their monopolistic power in this industry.

Facebook’s cluelessness on this front makes the ease with which it took over the press that much more bizarre to contemplate. Of course, the entire history of Facebook is pretty weird, even by Silicon Valley standards, beginning with the fact that the firm thinks of itself as a movement and not a giant money-sucking machine.

This is how Zuckerberg described Facebook in Initial Public Offering (IPO) documents from 2012:

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.

“The great myth” about the company, says former Facebook ad manager Antonio García Martínez, “is that Zuck gives a shit about money.”

Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.

“The great myth” about the company, says former Facebook ad manager Antonio García Martínez, “is that Zuck gives a shit about money.”

García Martínez, whose absurdist memoir about his time at Facebook, called Chaos Monkeys, may be the funniest business book since Liar’s Poker, laughs as he recalls his time at the firm.”It’s more like a messianic cult,” he says. García Martínez is the most interesting and damaging defector to have ever left the ranks of Facebook. An iconoclastic combination of Travis McGee and Michael Lewis, he is a former physics Ph.D. candidate from Berkeley who worked at Goldman Sachs before his two years at Facebook, and now spends much of his time writing and sailing. He has lifted the curtain on ruthless profit-hoovering practices he helped design. His main gripe with Facebook seems to be its total lack of self-awareness about its own ambition.

García Martínez continually describes the company’s corporate atmosphere as an oddball religion where Zuckerberg is worshipped as an infallible deity – sort of like Scientology, but without Tom Cruise or space invaders.

“You can tell your value in the company by where you’re seated in relation to Zuck,” he says.

The Facebook religion doesn’t involve a virgin birth. It does, however, feature an asexual creation myth, glamorized by fictionalized accounts like The Social Network, in which Zuckerberg is shown one-upping God by creating the future in fewer than seven days of nerdly transcendence.

From there, Zuckerberg legendarily grew the company to fantastic dimensions. To this end, he had the help of Silicon Valley hotshots like Napster’s Sean Parker and early investment from the likes of PayPal founder, libertarian icon, future Trump supporter and Gawker-smashing press critic Peter Thiel.

Facebook ballooned in size at a spectacular rate – it’s gone from 100 million users in 2008 to more than 2.1 billion today, consistently adding 50 to 100 million users per quarter, steadily making itself into the town square of the world. And it boasts awesome revenues: a staggering $40.7 billion in 2017 alone.

That Facebook saw meteoric rises without ever experiencing a big dip in users might have something to do with the fact that the site was consciously designed to be addictive, as early founder Parker recently noted at a conference in Philadelphia.

Facebook is full of features such as “likes” that dot your surfing experience with neuro-rushes of micro-approval – a “little dopamine hit,” as Parker put it. The hits might come with getting a like when you post a picture of yourself thumbs-upping the world’s third-largest cheese wheel, or flashing the “Live Long and Prosper” sign on International Star Trek day, or whatever the hell it is you do in your cyber-time. “It’s a social-validation feedback loop,” Parker explained. “Exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

This echoes what García Martínez says about Facebook. “It isn’t a media company internally,” he says. “It’s a hacker company internally.”

Viewing Facebook through the hacker lens makes it a lot easier to understand. The firm’s overwhelming dependence on free or found content is one thing. Another is its casual rerouting of taxpaying responsibility through supposed “headquarters” in tax havens like Ireland. The company, like most of the modern tech giants, seems to pay almost nothing in taxes in the countries where it is most popular, for example paying just £4,327 in British taxes in 2014.

All of this smacks of a particular brand of piracy unique to the new generation of tech firms, whose leaders tend to celebrate the “move fast and break things” libertarian ethos. The Thiels and Zuckerbergs represent a new class of CEO who, like the wealthy self-financed superheroes in comic-book movies, could get the job done by themselves if only the pesky government toe-draggers would get the fuck out of the way. Rules, like paywalls and taxes, are for suckers: We reward people who can get past them.

Zuckerberg, on his profile in the days of “thefacebook.com,” even listed himself as “Enemy of the State.”

In his book, García Martínez describes a scene in which a college kid named Chris Putnam developed a virus that made your Facebook profile look like MySpace, and deleted user content to boot. Instead of taking legal action, Facebook hired him. “The hacker ethos prevailed above all,” García Martínez noted.

It’s a misconception that Facebook sells the personal data of its users. What it sells is its hackerish expertise in snatching and analyzing your personal info from everywhere – on the site and outside it. Facebook keeps tabs on who has an anniversary coming up, who’s in a long-distance relationship, who uses credit cards, who likes baseball and who likes cricket, who observes Ramadan, who’s participated in a time-share, and countless other things.

That such data is collected mainly to more efficiently shove ads in your face is widely understood today. What’s less well-understood is that monetizing user info was a key element of Facebook’s business model going back to its first days.

“We were always using the data,” says Mosseri, who runs the News Feed. “We did it to improve the user experience.”

Mosseri’s take – which whitewashes out the role data-powered ads played in the company’s early growth – is typical of Facebook defenders. Ironically, not unlike traditional media companies, whose editorial chiefs have always pissed on their own sales reps as lower life-forms and refused to admit their influence on news-coverage decisions, Facebook from its first years had a schizoid, embarrassed attitude toward its own ad department.

In the beginning, the company featured no ads. Zuckerberg, when he talked publicly about ads back then, said only that he might offer them in the “future” for purely utilitarian reasons, i.e., to “offset the cost of the servers.”

Not $40 billion or anything, just a few pennies here and there.

Facebook quickly established a pattern within the firm in which surrogates and partners developed the powerful money-making technology, while the Christ-complexing Zuckerberg focused on expanding the cloud of flatulent self-congratulation that began to hover over Facebook’s ballooning global presence.

Time after time, Facebook would make a move that publicly highlighted its “social mission,” while really it was just growing its economic footprint and increasingly monopolistic market share.

One of Facebook’s early problems, for instance, was that the novelty of people sharing pictures of their kids’ soccer trophies soon started to wear off. Without content with a little more heft, Facebook was what one snickering industry writer called “a stupid site, AOL for adults.”

That changed with the introduction of the News Feed in September 2006. This move revolutionized both social networking and the news business. Back then, the feed was clearly designed to be more in tune with the site’s toxic never-ending-high-school vibe than an actual news source.

“News Feed highlights what’s happening in your social circles on Facebook,” then-product manager Ruchi Sangvi wrote. “So you’ll know when Mark adds Britney Spears to his Favorites or when your crush is single again.”

In between finding out that Zuck likes Britney Spears or a prior stalking target had changed his or her relationship status, you might now also receive links to – news! Such simultaneously ridiculous and horrifying milestones litter the road to the Great Media Disaster of 2016.

***

Although it seemed frivolous on its face, the Facebook News Feed made a consumer mockery of the 24-hour cable-news channel, which was really just a repeating loop of a handful of daily reports. Facebook made it possible for users to see more than 1,000 news stories per day, and on average a user actually did see, in between all that other stuff, about 200. This was hacker culture writ large again, in that the feed was built around content grabbed for free out of the Internet ether.

“Media brands are diluted when people say things like, ‘I read this on Facebook,’ ” says Chavern.

This was more than a branding problem for media firms. It was a profound issue that spoke to how the decision-making processes of modern news consumers were being warped.

Once upon a time, a person had to make a conscious decision to pick up a newspaper, turn on the evening news or buy a magazine. Now, news came to you – was even offered to you, suggested in the way a magician offers a card – as part of an artificial entertainment experience that skewed consumer expectations in a highly specific way.

“I read this on Facebook” soon came to mean something like “I read this in a highly individualized intellectual masturbation session.” News became a thing that only made it through if it fit into those constant, round-the-clock sorties Facebook was flying straight to your personal pleasure center. Simultaneously, the news stopped being a broadcast program designed to be digested, for good or ill, by a group, as families had once done over their nightly meatloaf.

Most problematic of all, however, was the combination of algorithmic data analysis and free news content, which accelerated junk news trends that had already begun to poison the media business. TV stations like Fox had long ago ditched what you might call “eat your vegetables” media, i.e., news, often investigative, that either requires significant mental effort to understand, some willingness to question one’s own beliefs, or both.

To hear old newshounds tell it, there was allegedly a time when we media vermin didn’t sling junk out of pure shame. Old-timers even tell tales, probably apocryphal, of days when ad executives weren’t even allowed on the same floor as editorial staff.

But by the Eighties and Nineties, everyone in media was realizing that audiences cared more about seeing graphics, panda births and newscasters withstanding hurricane winds than they cared about news. The innovation of stations like Fox was to sell xenophobia and racism in addition to the sensationalist crap.

But even Fox couldn’t compete with future titans like Facebook when it came to delivering news tailored strictly for the laziest, meanest, least intellectually tolerant version of you. Facebook knew more about you personally, what you might like and also what might tickle your hate center, than any TV, radio station or newspaper ever had.

Ben Scott, who with Ghosh co-wrote a paper on Facebook called “Digital Deceit” for the New America Foundation, says the power of Internet platforms to match people to mental junk was unprecedented.

“Forget about ever seeing eat-your-vegetables media again,” says Scott. “In the new world, not only will you only see sugar media, but you’ll only see your favorite brand of sugar media. Other information, you won’t even know it exists.”

Dr. Ofir Turel of California State University-Fullerton, who’s written extensively about Facebook, says use of the site has a lot of the features of an addictive activity, like ease of use, variable rewards and feelings of anxiety when we’re not engaged with it.

“All addictions operate on the variable-reward system,” says Turel, who estimates that about five to 10 percent of the population could now meet the criteria of being at risk for social media addiction. Chronic users spend hours staring glassy-eyed at screens in search of the tiny rushes that come with likes or with the reading of articles validating their views. Mental horizons are narrowed. A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (yes, the acronym is PNAS) concluded, “Facebook users were more likely to interact with a limited number of news sources.”

Additionally, they posited, “The main driver of misinformation diffusion is the polarization of users on specific narratives rather than the lack of fact-checked certifications.” Translation: Lazy thinking and sheltered mental environs lead to more misinformation than fake news does.

Facebook’s News Feed was a big part of the reward system designed to keep people coming back. “The interest is not to inform you,” Turel says. “The interest is to get you to stay on the site.”

Peter Eckersley, chief computer scientist of the Electronic- Frontier Foundation, describes the News Feed in even starker terms. “It’s designed to match people to information that will reinforce their existing prejudices, whatever those are,” he says.

Facebook advocates justify basically all of their practices on the premise that connecting people is inherently a net plus for the world. A recent memo leaked to Buzzfeed showed one company exec conceding that terrorists may eventually use the site to successfully coordinate attacks, but so what because “we connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified.”

Moreover, company officers say using data collection to make both the ads you see and the news you’re exposed to more tailored to you personally is actually a good thing. Mosseri points out that Facebook is not a news program but an online community in which people talk about everything under the sun with their friends. And most people have so many friends that living in a bubble of endlessly automated stupidity, he says, is impossible.

“It’s hard to have hundreds of like-minded friends,” he says. “Broadly, it balances things out.”

Another thing that balances out? Age. There’s some evidence that the very young, as they often do, are rejecting a bad habit from their parents’ generation. About 100 million Facebook users in America are age 25-44 in 2018, but it gets dicey after that, with just 6.8 million users between the ages of 13 and 17.

Tech billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has been a heavy critic of Facebook, says time may reckon with the firm. “I think they are losing impact domestically, with zero influence on millennials and younger,” he says. “But [they have] overwhelming influence on boomers and Gen X’ers.”

***

As late as 2013, just before Facebook went public, executives tried to convince Zuckerberg to own his company’s basic nature and push the firm past a crucial ethical and financial Rubicon. The debate was over changing Facebook’s terms of service so that users would have to agree to allow data gleaned from the famed “like” button to be used for commercial purposes.

The company had at least superficially resisted this idea, and even with the IPO approaching, Zuckerberg balked. “Don’t use the like button,” he reportedly told García Martínez and others in early 2012.

A lot of Facebook’s value was in the like button. When users liked something, particularly in voluntary product reviews and surveys, it generated intelligence about how to effectively target those people with advertising. Moreover, users who see their friends liking a product are more likely to try that product themselves.

In any case, on May 18th, 2013, the company held its IPO, and launched with a market capitalization of $104 billion. But the IPO was considered a fiasco on Wall Street. It also caused a mild stir when the company’s first 10-K report was released, showing that the firm took advantage of stock-option loopholes to make more than a billion in profits without paying a dime in state or federal taxes – in fact, Facebook in 2013 received a $429 million tax rebate.

The big public rollout was also marred by lawsuits, and the stock price began declining in the wake of disappointing revenues. The shares originally sold at $38, and dropped to a low of $17.55 later that year.

As it had done consistently in its history, the firm, when faced with financial pressure, moved ever further in the direction of monetizing users’ personal data. In this case, it finally went after the like button.

A little over a year after the IPO, on June 12th, 2014, Facebook quietly announced a change to its terms of service. “Starting soon in the U.S., we will also include information from some of the websites and apps you use,” the company wrote. “This is a type of interest-based advertising, and many companies already do this.”

Facebook didn’t just use its data to help advertisers place targeted ads. It also used AI-enhanced technology and tools like GPS to track users’ information in order to learn more and more about them, all while constantly improving the reach and power of the company’s advertising capabilities. In perhaps the creepiest example, Facebook applied for (and received, last year) a patent for a tool called Techniques, for emotion detection and content delivery. It would use the camera in your phone to take pictures of you as you scroll through content. Facebook would then use facial analysis to measure how much you did or did not like the content in question, so as to determine what kind of stuff to send your way. Ideas like this are what make Facebook, at times, feel like a giant blood-engorged tick hanging off your frontal lobe.

Ghosh, who worked on global privacy and public-policy issues at Facebook, says that the company’s technology very quickly became effective beyond anyone’s imagination, and wasn’t limited to the placing of ads.

He points, for instance, to the “audience networks” program, where an advertiser might ask Facebook to not only put ads in front of the users most likely to respond to them, but to go after eyeballs on other sites.

“Maybe the advertiser is Nike and they’re looking to sell the new Air Jordans to men aged 18 to 35 in the D.C. metro area,” says Ghosh. “So they’ll put ads in front of 100,000 Facebook users, then leverage their own audience to place the ad in front of a similarly sized audience on other networks – maybe NBA.com or a sports site or whatever.”

Every time it places an ad in a campaign like this, a platform like Facebook learns more and more about how to most effectively interpret data, not just about its own users but about other sites and the users of other sites.

In Europe and in other parts of the world, these practices sometimes inspired protests and regulatory action. In 2015, Belgium demanded that Facebook stop tracking user data once the user has left the site, which it’s reportedly been doing since at least 2014.

This is what people don’t understand about the “fake news” problem. This isn’t a crack in the system. It is the system. The new age of targeted information distribution is designed to make campaigns of manipulation not just possible but inevitable. It is what the product was designed for.

Moreover, it’s all grounded in wholly legal advertising techniques. Scott, who co-wrote “Digital Deceit,” gives the example of fake-news campaigns deployed by European far-right parties.

“You’d see some fake story on some little blog somewhere, maybe about immigrants rioting in a big city,” he says. “Next thing you know, some tabloid picks it up with a headline: ‘Alleged Riot in Munich!’ Then you’d see someone promote the hell out of that story using target marketing. Because the platforms know exactly which people to target for you, you can pay to get that promoted content to all those people. From there, the users share the story themselves, and it goes viral,” Scott continues. “And every time the platforms do one of these campaigns, they learn more about who’s susceptible to what messaging.”

This is exactly how the “Russian troll farm” ads were supposedly used. The trolls described in the Robert Mueller indictment simply made use of standard tools that Facebook offers to advertisers. They would take a piece of content – for instance, the ludicrous image of Hillary Clinton as Satan, arm-wrestling Jesus under the headline “If I Win, Clinton Wins” – and blast it out to a targeted audience via the News Feed. The only clue that the ad has been commercially pushed to you comes via a tiny faded notation reading “sponsored” under the name of the origin page.

Despite frantic warnings from Senate Democrats about how a few dozen trolls spending a handful of dollars on these ads managed to reach 126 million people, the far more serious issue is that players with far deeper pockets were using the same tactics. “Facebook will sell to anyone if there’s a pot of gold at the end,” is how one political source puts it.

“That’s why the whole Russia story was misunderstood,” says Scott. “People are trying to understand how $100,000 worth of ads could reach 126 million people, when what they should be thinking about is the impact of the Trump campaign spending tens of millions of dollars using the same technology.”

Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director on the 2016 campaign, thinks the furor over Facebook being responsible for Trump’s election is misguided. They used a lot of Facebook ads, he says, because of the peculiar nature of Trump’s advertising needs.

Though The New York Times reported Parscale was persuaded to “try out the firm,” Parscale himself has scoffed at the role Cambridge Analytica played in the campaign and insisted that Facebook was just the natural choice for his candidate.

“Elections are identical to movies when it comes to advertising,” Parscale explained to me in an earlier interview. He talks about politicians with a kind of bemused detachment, like they’re no different from soaps or cereal brands. “You’ve got Rotten Tomatoes for movies, Real Clear Politics for elections, exact same thing. If it’s a completely new movie with new characters, then you go broad on TV to introduce the unknown new product. With Trump, the market knew him. It was a question of reaching a specific group of people in specific places who we needed to turn out. That happens to be exactly what Facebook is good for.”

But Facebook shouldn’t be blamed for being an effective advertiser. The problem is why it’s effective, beginning with its monopolistic scale.

Simply by growing so large that his firm ended up essentially standing between media publishers and media consumers, constantly creating rules about who saw what, Zuckerberg and Facebook have become a thing America has never had before: an entrenched, de facto media regulator. The universe in which most Americans get their news sifted through a giant filter has multiple major consequences.

“There’s the big economic effect,” says Chavern of the News Media Alliance. “We never had someone in the middle before. Now we do have someone in the middle, collecting all the dollars.”

The economics are the reason most newsrooms today look like post-nuclear wastelands. What sane person would buy ad space to sell cars on localnewspaper.com in the vague hope of catching the right eyeballs, when Facebook can instantly serve up 40,000 men age 18 to 54 who are likely to buy an automobile in the next six months?

Press outlets can only sell chunks of vaguely grouped audiences to advertisers. Facebook can bring merchants right to the individual buyer’s doorstep at almost the exact moment his hand is reaching for his wallet. There’s no comparison, which is why two companies – Google and Facebook – control 63.1 percent of all digital advertising and, as noted previously, nearly all of the growth in that business.

Market share is only one issue. The other problem – the presence of algorithms that effectively determine who gets to see what material – is much more serious.

“They’ve created rules about who gets to see which stuff,” says Chavern. “They also change the rules all the time. And they’re also secret rules.”

Talk to media executives about Facebook, and they’ll complain endlessly about two things: one, that they can never get a straight answer from the company about how the algorithm works (“You’re fucking lucky if you can even get someone on the phone,” hisses one publisher), and two, if they do get advice about how to optimize content, the advice changes constantly.

Media sites routinely shift their entire commercial strategies to try to reach more people through the Facebook News Feed – the latest mania was video content – only to have the algorithm change suddenly.

For a while, some media developers tried to build brands dedicated to gaming Facebook. But sites like Mashable and Upworthy are being sold or laying off workers after initial spikes of success. There’s just no way to build a consistent strategy around a constantly changing, secret system.

Still, Facebook’s recent move to re-weight the News Feed again, this time with unhelpfully euphemistic new values like “trusted sources” and “time well spent,” will likely put an end to the idea that news companies are not dependent upon Facebook to survive.

The latest changes will instead “serve as the final deathblow to almost two decades of delusional thinking,” as VentureBeat writer Chris O’Brien put it.

The arbitrariness of the algorithms has essentially forced media firms to lobby Facebook and Google the way other businesses would lobby government departments. A classic example is the battle over the so-called “first click free” rule.

For years, Google had a rule that gave greater visibility to media companies that offered at least some free content. Outlets complained about the rule, which they claimed shaped the industry early in the online age, forcing firms away from subscription-based models. Under pressure, Google finally scrapped the rule in October 2017, but the damage was already done.

About those subscription-based models: There are people out there who believe the media’s only hope is to organize, as a union would, and collectively enforce a giant paywall, denying Facebook and its hacker ethos the oceans of free content that are its lifeblood.

But one would be hard-pressed to find a media executive who believes such a strategy has a chance of working.

“You don’t call that play under normal circumstances, but it’s 4th and 30 for all of us,” says McChesney. “There is no commercial solution. There is no magical business model that will save the news business. It’s time we all faced reality.”

***

Whether Facebook is just a reflection of modern society or a key driver of it, the picture isn’t pretty. The company’s awesome data-mining tactics wedded to its relentless hyping of the culture of self has helped create a world where billions of people walk with bent heads, literally weighted down with their own bullshit, eyes glued to telescreen-style mobile devices that read us faster than we can read them.

Surveys show audiences trust the media less than ever but consume news more than ever. Those two deeply troubling data points suggest the Fourth Estate, which was designed to inform the public and provide a crucial check on power, is instead morphing into an entertainment product, which succeeds or doesn’t based on how quickly our brains ratify the information offered. This is the opposite of how news is supposed to work.

“Once, a citizen had a right to an opinion,” says García Martínez. “Now, they feel like they have a right to their own reality.”

Awful as that all is, it’s not even the most immediate emergency. Along with Google, Facebook is a clear duopoly, which simply has too much power in the fields of media distribution and digital advertising.

The recent controversies have inspired countless proposals for how to “improve” Facebook. Some have pressed for a tax that would kick Facebook revenues back to public-interest journalism. Others have called for a simple ban on new acquisitions, to prevent the firm from snatching up properties like Instagram and WhatsApp when it clearly can’t manage the ones it already has.

But when a tumor starts growing teeth and hair, you don’t comb the hair. You yank the thing. And it turns out we have a mechanism for just that.

We need to break up Facebook, the same way we broke up Standard Oil, AT&T and countless other less-terrifying overgrown corporate tyrants of the past. The moral if not legal reason is obvious: A functioning free press just can’t coexist with an unaccountable private regulator.

An antitrust action sounds extreme, but given the alternatives – different groups have proposed creating fact-checking star chambers either within government, Facebook or both – it may be the least-intrusive solution, one that moreover doesn’t create a “legitimacy” standard that could threaten alternative or dissenting media.

The question is, can we actually break up Facebook?

“It’s tough,” says former New York governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer, who policed Wall Street for nearly a decade. “Because market size alone, unless gained through improper means, is not a basis for action.”

According to the stiff test the government must meet to file successful antitrust actions today, the state not only has to demonstrate the existence of monopoly, but that consumers are worse off under it, subject to “supernormal” prices. The case against Facebook is not a legal slam dunk.

But not all market harm is about raw numbers, and some of the more celebrated recent antitrust actions, like the breaking up of Ma Bell, have opened the door for the government to consider factors other than mere price.

“Under the traditional antitrust analysis, the issue is whether the consumer pays more,” says Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy, a corporate lawyer by profession. “But courts are beginning to look at other types of economic harm.” Kennedy, a Republican, says the “black box” nature of firms like Facebook, combined with their unprecedented influence, make it urgently necessary for the government to consider all options.

“We’re in a brave new world,” he says. “We’re waking up and realizing some of these companies aren’t companies – they’re countries.”

The real solution to this problem would be to dial back the use of the data-collection technologies that have turned companies like Facebook into modern-day versions of the “propaganda stations” the Federal Radio Commission was so bent on keeping off the airwaves a century ago.

The difference is Facebook doesn’t push Nazism or communism or anarchism, but something far more dangerous: 2 billion individually crafted echo chambers, a kind of precision-targeted mass church of self, of impatience with others, of not giving a shit.

A generation of this kind of messaging is bound to have some pretty weird consequences, of which electing proudly ignorant bubble-thinker Donald Trump is probably just a gentle opener. Given that, we might be too late to fix Facebook – maybe we need to be saved from it instead.

Judicial warfare or Lawfare

By Oscar Laborde * from Pagina12

The constant persecution of ex-President Cristina Kirchner and the attempt to imprison Lula in Brazil are examples of a new tactic in the non-conventional war known as Lawfare.

The laws of our region have been adopted in recent years as the favoured mechanism to defeat popular governments and reviling the people running them, with the objective of replacing them in the government, imprisoning them or at least discrediting them cruelly. In this war there has been undue use of legal instruments for the purposes of political persecution, destruction of public image and disabling a political adversary. It combines apparently legal actions with wide press coverage to pressure the accused and those around them, including family members, in such a way that they are more vulnerable to the accusations without proof.

So what does Lawfare mean? The term describes “a mode of non-conventional war in which the law is used as a means to obtain a military objective” and is used in this sense in Unrestricted Warfare, a book from 1999 on military strategy. In 2001 the concept started to be used in places other than the U.S. armed forces after the publication of an article written by the Air Force General, Charles Dunlap of Duke Law School. The U.S. is one of the leading providers of assistance for the reform of the legal apparatus in Latin America and the U.S. Department of Justice has strengthened their ties with their equivalents in the region in recent years to combat corruption. One of the most important actions was the so-called “Bridges” project, which consisted of training courses for members of the judiciary of Brazil and other countries of the region. The star alumni is Judge Sergio Moro, behind the Lava Jato operation, who convicted Lula to nine years in prison.

This requires an obliging justice system and for the media to work in absolute agreement with the objective of breaking down the will of the people and politicians who take part in the attack, always propelled generously by the media and who then capitalize on the results of defeating, disqualifying and discrediting the usually left-wing representatives who confront the interests of big business

In recent years the judiciary in our countries has been converted into a powerful force where, almost without limits, destabilization and political persecution strategies are deployed, far from the republican principle of balance of powers. It is the only one which does not derive from the will of the people but rather from complex mechanisms of political designations and contests, added to the privileges which the other powers do not have. This allows them to operate politically under the institutional mantle. The one constant argument is corruption. Its base is that the State must be eliminated, appealing to the “good practices” of the private sector of efficiency and transparency, to displace the logic of the public, which is associated with the waste and mismanagement of politicians, to be replaced by apolitical technicians.

The activity of the mass media is more widely recognized and evident. In an outburst of unusual sincerity an editorial writer at Clarin characterized it as “war journalism”.

Politicians denounce corruption, the media echo it, politicians and media demanding swift justice, a mechanism of judicial power that discipline or exclude independent judges, who convict, without evidence and imprison without due process. This is what we are living under in Latin America. This is how Manuel Zelaya was ousted in Honduras, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and how the Vice-President of Ecuador, Jorge Glass and hundreds of supporters were imprisoned. This is to silence those representatives of the people by persecution and imprisonment who can intercede in their plan to undo the gains of recent years.

* Director Ideal-CTA. Parlasur representative.