Companies pay for campaign against Worker’s Party through WhatsApp

bolsonaro_whatsappContracts worth US$ 3 million break the law on undeclared political donations

Patrícia Campos Mello

FOLHA DE SÃO PAULO

Companies have bought packages of mass dispersal of messages against the Worker’s Party (PT) using WhatsApp and are preparing a big operation in the week before the final round.

The practice is illegal, as it consists of campaign donation by companies, which is forbidden under the electoral legislation, and was undeclared.

The Folha newspaper found that each contract is worth up to US$ 3 million, and that among the companies buying are Havan. The contracts are for the dispersal of hundreds of millions of messages.

The companies supporting the candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) bought a service called “mass dispersal”, using the user database of the candidate or databases sold by digital strategy agencies. This is also illegal, as the electoral legislation forbids buying the database from third parties, only allowing the use of lists of supporters of the candidate themselves (numbers given voluntarily).

When they use a third party database, these agencies offer segmentation by geographical region, and sometimes by income. The client is then sent delivery reports containing the date, time and content sent.

Among the agencies providing this type of services are Quickmobile, a Yacows, Croc Services and SMS Market.

Prices vary from R$ 0.08 to R$ 0.12 for dispersal of a message to the database of the candidate and from R$ 0.30 to R$ 0.40 when the database is supplied by the agency.

The user databases are often supplied illegally by credit companies or by staff from telephone companies.

Companies investigated by the report said they were unable to accept requests before 28th October, the date of the final round of the election, saying their services were booked for huge dispersal through WhatsApp in the week before bought by private companies.

Questioned whether he used mass dispersal, Luciano Hang, owner of Havan, said he “did not know what it was”, and that “We have no need. I did a ‘live’ broadcast here now. It was not boosted and already achieved 1.3 million people. What is the need to boost? Let’s say I have 2,000 friends. I send it to my friends and it goes viral.”

Asked for comment, the partner in QuickMobile, Peterson Rosa, said the company is not working in the political arena this year and that the focus is only on corporate media. He denied having signed a contract with political content dispersal companies.

Richard Papadimitriou, of Yacows said he would make no comment. SMS Market did not respond to requests for an interview.

The accounts for the candidate Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) show only that the company AM4 Brasil Inteligencia Digital as having received US$ 310,000  for digital media.

According to Marcos Aurelio Carvalho, one of the owners of the company, AM4 only has 20 people working on the campaign. “Those working on the campaign are the thousands of volunteer supporters throughout Brazil. The groups are set up and fed organically”, he said.

He said that AM4 only maintains groups on WhatsApp to denounce fake news, transmission lists and state groups called content committees.

However, the Folha newspaper found out from ex-members of staff and clients that the AM4 service is not restricted to that.

One of the tools used by the Bolsonaro campaign is the generation of overseas numbers automatically by sites such as TextNow.

Staff and volunteers have dozens of such numbers, which they use to administer groups or to take part in them. With area codes from other countries, these administrators escape the spam filters and the limitations imposed by WhatsApp — the maximum of 256 participants in each group and the automatic forwarding of a single message to up to 20 people or groups.

These administrators also use algorithms that segment the members of groups between supporters, detractors and neutral, and are thus able to customize the most efficient type of content sent.

Most of the content is not produced by the campaign but rather from supporters.

The administrators of Bolsonaro support groups also identify “influencers”: very active supporters who they contact to set up more groups and do other actions in favour of the candidate. This practice is not illegal.

There is no indication that AM4 signed contracts for mass dispersal; Carvalho denied that his company do user segmentation or manipulation of content.

Estimates of the number of people working in the sector on the number of WhatsApp anti-PT groups are very vague — between 20,000 and 300,000 — as it is impossible to calculate the closed groups.

Diogo Rais, Professor of electoral Law at the Mackenzie University, said the buying of WhatsApp dispersal services by companies to favour a candidate would be considered an undeclared campaign donation, which is forbidden.

He did not comment in specific cases, but reminds that this form could be qualified as a crime of abuse of economic power, and of judged to have influenced the election, lead to disqualification of the ticket.

IN MINAS GERAIS, ROMEU ZEMA HIRED A BOOSTER COMPANY

The candidate for governor of the Minas Gerais state of the Partido Novo, Romeu Zema, declared to the Superior Electoral  Court, payment of US$ 54,000 to Croc Services for diffusion of content. The state directorate of the party in Minas spent US$ 45,000 with the company.

The Folha newspaper had Access to the proposals and e-mail exchanges from the company with various campaigns offering mass dispersal using the database of third parties, which is illegal.

Questioned by Folha, Pedro Freitas, partner-director of Croc Services said: “The one who has to know the electoral legislation is the candidate, not me.”

Later, he back-pedalled and said he did not knowf his company provided services to Zema. Afterwards, he sent a message saying he had checked their records and that they had sold packages for mass dispersal over WhatsApp, but only to databases of the candidate himself, party members and Zema supporters —which is legal.

Asked for comment, the campaign said that they had “contracted the message service only for WhatsApp for the sending to party members, people registered to the web site and supporter mobilization events”.

The Folha newspaper found that voters in Minas received WhatsApp messages linking the vote for Zema to the vote for Jair Bolsonaro days before the first round. Zema, who was in third place in the polls, finished in first place.

Collaborators: Joana Cunha and Walter Nunes

The Brazilian marketer who imported the Trump’s campaign method to use in 2018

Andre Torretta

Andre Torretta, at his office in São Paulo. Luís Simione

Andre Torretta associated himself to Cambridge Analytica, the controversial agency who worked for the Republican

“Am I fooling you? No, I am just giving you what you want to see”, he says about the strategy
El País, São Paulo 15 Oct 2017

“I bought a beach and I don’t want others to go there. What is the best sign to put in the sand?”, marketer Andre Torretta asked as he showed two photos in a PowerPoint presentation on his MacBook. “This one, saying the beach is private, or this one, warning of sharks? The one about sharks works better”, he said smiling, at his office, at a colourful coworking and ostensibly friendly building in a prime area in São Paulo. And if there’s no shark on the beach it would be a lie, right? “If there were no shark, then it’s fake news”, he conceded. “I won’t do that, but it exists, it’s possible and can be done, at the limit of ethics”.

The metaphor of the shark ” at the limit of ethics” is part of the material the 52 year old from Bahia state takes to introduce his new company, Cambridge Analytica Ponte, in the competitive Brazilian political marketing market. The agency is a mixture of his old consultancy specialized in class C Brazilians, Ponte Estrategia, with the British multinational Cambridge Analytica, a company that had promised to change, using psychology and big data, the behaviour of voters and consumers. In its portfolio, Cambridge Analytica has nothing less than the successful – and controversial – campaign of Donald Trump in the United States. The strategy used is to track the personality of the individuals on the basis of classic precepts of psychology and on the digital breadcrumbs we leave every day, such as social network profiles, GPS locations of places visited, data from the use of public services and online purchases. From there, they say they can produce messages moulded practically to the individual level, and they work to ensure they are delivered. To the target.

Ever since Trump won, Cambridge Analytica, which boasts of having read the minds of 210 million Americans, has not left the centre of controversy. It’s principal shareholder is the billionaire Robert Mercer, known for having changed Wall Street using big data and for being an important financier of conservative and far-right activists. There are academics in the USA and in the United Kingdom saying there are terrified about the company, a precisely targeting propaganda machine, and which if used without scruples, could be damaging. Others say a lot of it is self-marketing and are sceptical if whether, in fact, their method can deliver. “Cambridge did an ad in which it seems there is a monster behind it, but there isn’t. It is about making it more efficient”, says Torretta, who says he has adapted the strategy of the company because of the legal and technological differences between the two countries. “I tropicalized the methodology.”

If in the USA the fame of Cambridge is associated with CEO Alexander James Ashburner Nix, a 41 year old  Englishman who only appears wearing well-cut suits, branded glasses and well-combed hair, Andre Torretta is definitively more tropical. On the Friday he received EL PAIS, the marketer who has worked for 20 years in the field and on campaigns such as those for the Jose and Roseana Sarney from Maranhão and that of ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, did not wear a suit and wore a bright lilac coloured shirts. The thick lens glasses were not of any definable brand. He didn’t stop making jokes, many of them about himself. “My jokes are off the record, for the Love of God.” He said he couldn’t speak English and is far from the technological genius type. Even so, he guaranteed, it was the British sensation from the world of political marketing who sought him out, not the other way round.

According to Torreta, when they were working for the Trump campaign, Cambridge were also looking to the Brazilian 2018 elections. He says he was sought out a year and a half ago by a Spanish executive from SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories), the mother company behind Cambridge Analytica. The envoy was looking for a partnership. That was when he heard for the first time of the Ocean methodology. “The guys were saying Ocean, Ocean. And I said, well, but tell me how and what it is. How do you get the egg to stand up?”, he said. The method (read further below) classifies people into five profiles in accordance the initial letters of the word – Openness (measures how open people are to new experiences), conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (emotional instability or how neurotic the person may be) – to then customize the campaigns for each profile. “So I saw they had a methodology able to make the egg stand up”.

In the United States, the ‘egg’ is ‘standing up’ thanks to around 7,000 data points that Cambridge, according to Torretta, is able to use on each individual. “The United States legislation is obscenely open. Thank God ours is not like that. It doesn’t allow me to go to Mastercard and buy all your data. It is forbidden both here and in England, in Germany it’s impossible. In the United States they even sell your soul”. In Brazil, Torretta calculates that this number of data points on everyone reaches 750 and that is where the tropicalization starts that he says he has done on the method. “The databases for Brazil are being built now. We have good well-stocked public databases. The government must have at least 500 to 700 data points on us, IBGE must have about 250 points, not personal, but of the micro-region where you live”, he explained. “So we already have 700 data points on each Brazilian. The credit rating agency, Serasa, must have another 40 data points”, he enthuses. He is convinced that, even if out data situation does not compare to the USA, his new company will work with much more information than any of his competitors. Not even private enterprise uses the potential of the data already available in Brazil, the marketer said.

The key, he argues, is going beyond the traditional stratifications of social class, place and sex to something much more specific. The campaigns in Brazil are already using some micro-targeting, but the bet has been made that the entry of big data and the consolidation of social networks changes the outlook profoundly. “Those going after Ivete Sangalo are the same as those going after Claudia Leite? No.” In other words, two women aged 35 from a prime area of Jardins, in São Paulo, may have completely different inclinations on the question of global warming and this can be decisive when buying a car or voting. In the calculations of the marketer,  if each presidential candidate, for example, has more or less 50 speeches on the programme for government, you only have to choose which is the most suitable for each one. Torretta goes back to the PowerPoint presentation to point out a slide with five photos of President Michel Temer in different circumstances. “I can tell you which photo is better, in accordance with the neighbourhood or social class or the psychographic trace [of the person]”, he said. “Am I fooling you? No, I am just giving you what you want to see.”

Ethical dilemmas and MBL

But can the production of speeches on demand not deepen ethical dilemmas already known in national political marketing? Up to what point can the technique go without manipulating or stealing elections? Torretta rejects the idea. “I am a professional of argument. I don’t need to lie. We talk about change of behaviour, behavioural communication”. He admits, however, that the example of the sign warning of supposed sharks at the beginning of the report, provoking or exacerbating the feeling of fear to induce the behaviour of not going to the beach, is already being used in Brazil. “There you have to have a change in the game that, for me, is more violent than technological. This type of communication, that MBL knows how to do very well, was used in war. It’s more deep-seated. Someone taught them this.”

Torretta said he would reject a proposal to work with the right-wing activists Movimento Brasil Livre, but praises the digital militancy expertise of the group, who he says have an excellent database. “I always highlighted their skill.” And with the candidate the group has supported up until now, the mayor of São Paulo, João Doria, Would he work with them? “I have already done lots of talks for Doria, for Lide [organization of companions set up by Doria]. That’s one conversation I cannot deny”.

With a lean “and well-paid” group of 12 people, the marketer says he has not yet closed a deal with any presidential campaign, but says he was sounded out by two of them in recent weeks. “And we are in two state pre-campaigns”, he adds, without revealing where or for whom. “The problem is that Cambridge is perhaps very sophisticated for the Brazilian regional market, because we don’t do any digital campaign well”, he said. “Now a breach has opened up for politicians to do boosting [to pay for publications to reach more people on Facebook).” Thus he believes that “Cambridge will be sexy” for the Brazilian market.

The change that allows paid political advertising on Facebook, approved in the Brazilian political reform, is at the centre of a scandal in the USA, with two revelations: that it was staff of the social network itself that had worked as consultants on the Trump campaign, which invested heavily in performance tests of different ads on the platform, and that Russia paid to broaden the sending of messages on the network to stimulate the political division in the USA. The centrality this discussion took on in the USA showed that this authorization of use in Facebook in Brazil could be crucial in 2018 both for companies such as Cambridge as well as the monitoring of social networks, which have been active in Brazilian campaigns since 2014. On one point, the tools of big data can mine the information of each voter. On another, the Facebook advertising machine which holds a much more complex map of the user inclinations will deliver the political campaign with precision.

Whatever the case, for Torretta, any strategy that only considers Facebook in Brazil will not be complete. “The big social network in Brazil is WhatsApp”, he says. And that is where the tropicalization of the method to which he referred will be complete, his preferred workaround. He intends to use all the databases within reach – the first one being that of the party for which he is working – to transform the WhatsApp users into digital activists. He says he merely wants to systematize what people are already doing on their own. “People are interested in politics, but the parties are not taking part in the discussion.” Torretta tells how he created an app similar to WhatsApp, which has to be downloaded by sympathizers to work as a channel with the campaign. With the app, one can Interact with voters and ask them to share the candidate’s content on all the social networks, and especially on WhatsApp itself. Even if the adherence is only 10%, the impact will be considerable, he believes.

To set up this distribution network the marketer plans to leave big data and the new tools and return to his experience as a consultant specialized in class C, accustomed to qualitative surveys and to explain to companies regional differences, especially in the north-east. The mine of his original company, Ponte, he argues, are the dozens of contacts that he calls antenna, which he gathered during years of trying to understand the level of consumption in poorer communities: a community leader, a rapper, a young person who has the most visited page on the extreme east zone in São Paulo, all could have been his antennas in some consultancy for private brands in the past.

It all sounds very ambitious, but the marketer says the workaround has been tested and is working. The laboratory was a image positioning campaign carried out for the state deputy at the beginning of the year in Amapa – he doesn’t reveal the name. His team went to the state in the north, mapped the antennas, distributed the application and started to send out material. “Brazil is like the jabuticaba fruit. No marketer from abroad has been successful here. Quite the contrary, we export marketers”, he says. “Something that works in New York may very well not work in Amapa. But something that works in Amapa works anywhere”, he laughs.

Besides the pilot in Amapa, the preparation for the 2018 campaigns also involved a classic research study, to monitor Brazilian humour and the principal matters of interest. One of the basic but essential discoveries, he says, is that the population wants to see empathy in politicians. Another, more surprising for him, is that the discomfort with the very high interest rates for consumers has come on to the agenda for once and for all, as a result of the majority of the electorate with at least secondary education. “I can elect a federal deputy Just talking about interest rates”, he says. Another of his conclusions is that the preaching for “smaller State” hasn’t yet got through to the class C population.

What are the chances of a radical candidate, from the left or the right? At this question, Torretta becomes serious. He says he doesn’t believe that radicals – without mentioning names – can win. “The intelligent radical is one who can fool the people and pretends to be in the centre. People do not like radical things”, he says. “And, thank God, our radicals are not very intelligent and society has not embraced their agendas. This is why they have only found an echo in their own groups “, he says, but adds with more humour than analysis: “I have faith. I go to church on Sunday, on Monday I go to umbanda and on Tuesday I go to the spirit centre”. And where are the white clothes of the candomble devotees if we on a Friday? Torretta turns in his chair and raises his leg up high, showing his white trousers. “Marketer and from Bahia. This is a profession with a very heavy karma.”

The Ocean method

Ocean is the initial of each word: Openness (measures how open people are to new experiences), Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (emotional instability or how neurotic the person may be) – to then customize the campaigns for each profile

To apply this technique, the person has to respond to a questionnaire consisting of about 20 statements, whose responses are made into scales of how much they agree or disagree with a given statement. The phrases are simple and direct, for example such as, “I have a vivid imagination”, or “I believe in the importance of art”, and “I tend to vote for liberal politicians” or “I don’t like myself”, “I insult people”, or “I run away from my responsibilities”.

Before seeing the result, you have to leave your e-mail or log in to a Facebook account, obliging the user to leave another data point to fatten the agency database.

Torretta explains it is possible to construct an Ocean scale, as it would be impossible to have a questionnaire responded to by 100% of the population. “Of course Cambridge dreams of having 7 billion people in the whole world answer the questionnaire”.

‘Mass dispersal’ of messages against the PT is illegal and may disqualify Bolsonaro

bolsonaro_whatsapp
Photo: Poenaroda

Report in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo affirms that four agencies were contracted by companies to carry out the service

Lu Sudré

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (SP)

18 October 2018 at 13:04

If the link of the campaign with illegal acts is proven, Bolsonaro may be ineligible to stand for eight years

An investigative report published by Folha de S. Paulo this Thursday (18th) denounced that companies are buying packages for mass dispersal of messages against the Worker’s Party (PT) on WhatsApp. According to the report, the companies prepared a large operation for the week before the second round.

Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), the companies used the database of contacts sold by digital strategy agencies and also that of the candidate. The law only permits the use of the list of supporters of the candidate, with contacts provided voluntarily.

To send hundreds of millions of messages, each contract signed reaches R$ 12 million. Among the buyers of the service is Havan, whose owner, Luciano Hang, obliged its staff to vote for Jair Bolsonaro. The practice is considered illegal, as it counts as a campaign donation by companies, if the direct connection between the institutions and the PSL candidate.

João Meira, Professor in Political Law, explains that articles 222 and 237 of the electoral legislation deal with the annulment of elections for illicit campaigning methods and for abuse of economic power.

“With the strength this propaganda through WhatsApp has and the industry of lies that has been set up, with ads practically impossible to be monitored, if it is proven that there was abuse of economic power of R$12 million, with illicit contracting, this results in a fraud that completely stains the electoral process. If it is proven that Bolsonaro and his campaign are linked to the actions of these groups of people carrying out illegal acts, even if he is elected, he can be disqualified and decreed ineligible to stand for eight years” says Meira.

Among the agencies identified by the report as responsible for ‘mass dispersal’ are Quickmobile, Yacows, Croc Services and SMS Market. However, the Bolsonaro campaign accounts show only that the company AM4 Brasil Inteligencia Digital, which received R$ 115,000 for digital media work.

The cost of the service varies from R$ 0.08 to R$ 0.12 to send the message to the candidate’s database and from R$ 0.30 to R$ 0.40 when the database is supplied by the agency. The agencies offer segmentation by geographical region and even by level of income.

Strategies

The Folha newspaper affirms that one of the tools used by the Bolsonaro campaign is the generation of numbers automatically overseas by sites such as TextNow. The report also cites that the databases of contacts are often supplied illegally by credit companies or by staff from telephone companies.

With area codes from other countries, the administrators are able to evade the spam filters and the limits imposed by WhatsApp, for example, the maximum of 256 participants in each group and the automatic forwarding of a single message to up to 20 people or groups.

Fernando Haddad, the principal target of fake news in these elections, said he would file court actions against the companies. He said the episode once again showed, that Bolsonaro does not respect democracy.

“We will be asking for steps to be taken by Electoral Justice and by the Federal Police, so that these corrupt businessmen are immediately arrested to stop these WhatsApp messages. There are already names of companies, the names of companies, contracts, the amount paid through the second set of books, caixa 2 , which is an electoral crime. He, who runs away from the debates, will not be able to run from Justice”, the petista declared on video.

In a press release, the PT said they had requested an “investigation by the Federal Police of the criminal practices by Bolsonaro”.

“This is a coordinated plan to influence the electoral process, which cannot be ignored by Electoral Justice nor go unpunished. We are taking all the judicial measures for him to answer for his crimes, including the use of caixa 2, because the spending of millions on the industry of lies are not declared by his campaign”, the text states.

“The criminal methods of deputy Jair Bolsonaro are intolerable in a democracy. The Brazilian institutions have the obligation to act to defend against damage to the electoral process. The social networks cannot watch their use passively to spread lies and offenses, becoming accomplices in the manipulation of millions of users”, the party denounced.

The report sought comment from Havan, but had received no response by the time of publication.

Editing: Nina Fideles

The Role the US Played in Reversing Latin America’s ‘Pink Tide’

9/12/07 Salon Blanco: Banco del Sur.A mere ten years ago almost all countries in South and Central America had left or center-left governments in office. Now only a handful remain. How did this happen? The Real News Network speaks to CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot about how Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon might have described to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the US effort to do help bring this change about

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network, I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Less than ten years ago, Central and South America’s pink tide was at its highest point. Most of the continent had leftists or center-left governments in power. However, since 2009, more or less, when Honduras’s president Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a right-wing coup, the tide turned. And now, a conservative or center-right tide is firmly in place in the region except for the recent development of López-Obrador in Mexico. How did this undoing off the left tide happen? Of course, opponents of the pink tide say that these governments were elected or forced out of office because of their own policy failures. Another interpretation of all of this is that U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America under President George W. Bush and under President Barack Obama played a key role in reversing tide.

Now, this argument can be found in a letter from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon, who managed Latin America policy desk for both presidents. In truth, it is actually a fictional letter about the advice of Shannon, what he might have given Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he resigned last month. This hypothetical letter was actually written by Mark Weisbrot, our next guest. Mark Weisbrot joins us now from Washington, D.C. to discuss U.S. Latin America policy managed under Latin American pink tide. Mark is the codirector of the Center for Economic Policy and Research and is the author of the book, Failed: What Experts Got Wrong About the Global Economy. Thanks for joining me, Mark.

MARK WEISBROT: Thanks for having me here, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Mark. Let’s start off with why you felt you had to pen this letter in order to draw attention to the undoing of the pink tide in Latin America.

MARK WEISBROT: Well, I thought it would be more interesting and readable. Most people are not that interested in the recent history of Latin America. And also, I want to emphasize that everything in there is true except for the fact that he didn’t actually write the letter. But everything he says in there, the facts are all sourced and they’re all public information. And even where it refers to positions that he took within the State Department, those are positions that were documented in the media.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Mark. In 2008, almost all of the South and Central American states had prgressive or center left governments in place. And this includes El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Brazil. Now only Bolivia, El Salvador and Venezuela and Nicaragua remain, with the last two of these, one could say Nicaragua and Venezuela, in a great deal of trouble and in crisis. So, give us a sense of what happened.

MARK WEISBROT: Well, some of it was due to the recessions that these countries experienced. So, for example in Brazil, they went into recession in 2014 and that’s when the opposition began to gain ground and eventually impeach Dilma, the president, Dilma Rousseff, who they impeached without ever actually accusing her of of a crime. And so, in all of these, countries there were various factors at play. But what I emphasize in this letter in the form of Thomas Shannon taking credit for it, is that the U.S. played a role in in most of these countries where there was a change of government.

Some of it is not well known. Obviously, some of it is. In the 2009 coup in Honduras, Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoirs that she helped ensure that the democratically elected president of Honduras did not come back to office after the coup. But in others, people don’t even know. So, for example, in Argentina the U.S. government under Obama opposed loans to the government and blocked some at the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. And this was a time when Argentina was having a balance of payments problem. So, that was important. And they did run into some economic trouble. It wasn’t severe, but I think it contributed to a close election result where the right was able to win at the end of 2015.

And also, I should say that in that in the case of Argentina they were severely hurt by a decision of a New York judge to take ninety percent of their creditors hostage and say that the government could not pay them until they paid the vulture funds. And that was very much a political decision. In fact, the judge lifted his injunction as soon as the right-wing President Macri was elected, and said it was because there was a new government that he was lifting the injunction. So, that was a major thing from the United States as well. And you can go through all of the countries. And some of it I’ve already said here on The Real News. There was a U.S. role, and of course we only see the tip of the iceberg.

Lula was interviewed a few months ago and he said, “It took us fifty years before we found out about the U.S. role in the 1964 coup.” And so, he was saying that to answer a question about what the United States was doing in Brazil. But you can see things that they did there as well. In fact, Shannon himself, Thomas Shannon met with the leader of the coup effort, the parliamentary coup in Brazil in 2016, when the leader in the Senate in Brazil of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Aloysio Nunes, came to the U.S. just a day after the vote to impeach Dilma took place in the House and met with Shannon. So, that was a signal to everyone in Brazil that the U.S. was behind this coup.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Mark. Now you argue that of course this kind of U.S. policy had a role to play in so many countries. Now, give us some examples, for example, Haiti and Honduras and Brazil, just remind people what the U.S. policy actually did in these countries.

MARK WEISBROT: Well, Haiti is a good example because they kind of did that in broad daylight. They took the president, the elected President, in 2004, flew them out of the country on one of those rendition planes, basically kidnapped him. And they didn’t even care. That was under George W. Bush, but the effort actually began under Clinton in 2000. There was an election there and the Organization of American States observers went there and they produced a report saying that everything was good. And then they changed that and they basically had a technical objection to some of the Senate elections. And they use that, and then the U.S. government under their first Clinton, then Bush, used that as a pretext to cut off almost all international aid to Haiti which was desperately poor.

And then, they by 2004, after four years of destabilization, they were funding opposition groups and they were also telling the President, Aristide, that he wouldn’t get aid restored until he reached an agreement with the opposition. And then at the same time, they were telling the opposition, don’t reach an agreement, don’t make any agreement with him because we’re going to get rid of him. And that’s how they did it. And they overthrew the government. And that was the second time they had overthrown the Haitian government since 1991. And so, that was just one example. Obviously, there was also the Honduran coup-.

SHARMINI PERIES: Before you go there, in Haiti’s case, they had the aid of a few other nations as well, France and Canada.

MARK WEISBROT: That’s right. And they got almost all the countries in the world to cut off their aid to Haiti between 2000 and 2004. And then, in 2011, there was an election in 2010, and in 2011, United States actually use the Organization of American States to overturn the results of the first round of the presidential election. And in that case, they also threatened Haiti to accept the results or they would cut off the post-earthquake aid, which was even more desperately needed. And so, they got to choose who made it into the second round and who became president there as well. And this really devastated Haiti in so many ways. I mean, you only had like a twenty percent turnout in the last presidential election in Haiti because the people have become so disenfranchised as a result primarily of U.S. intervention.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now one could argue having a poor country like Haiti, who was was so dependent on the U.S, the U.S. Can us can flex their muscles and make sure what they want takes place in Haiti. But what about a country like Brazil?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, I think they did. Like I said, I think that signal was important. The show of support for that coup I think helped. There was another show of support when John Kerry went down to Brazil on August 5 of the same year and he held a joint press conference with the acting Foreign Minister, Jose Serra and they said talked about how great their relationship was going to be going forward. And Dilma wasn’t even removed from office yet, she was still- the Senate hadn’t voted yet to remove her from office. So, that was another signal of support. Again, we don’t know what else they did.

Actually, we do know some other things. The Department of Justice was involved in the investigation, the big corruption investigation there. And so, we don’t know what they did, how it is that they managed to get Lula put in jail while the banks, who most of laundered the billions of dollars of corruption, there were no banks or financial institutions implicated in this whole investigation. So, that’s very odd. And of course, most Brazilians think that the Department of Justice intervention in the investigation was probably political and they have good reason to believe that.

SHARMINI PERIES: And Honduras, of course Argentina, Venezuela too, but let’s just dig into the Honduras case because I think that’s also left people’s memory.

MARK WEISBROT: Yes, well in 2009 there was a coup and the president was- in June of 2009, the president was flown out of the country in the middle of night. And he was overthrown, and the first statement that came out of the White House really foretold everything that was going to happen and showed what the real position of the United States was. Because it didn’t even condemn the coup. It just said all parties should work together and try and arrive at a solution. And when a military coup happens in the twenty-first century and you don’t even say anything bad about, and they knew it was coming as well. We found that out later. So clearly, they had time to prepare a statement. And they don’t even say anything’s wrong.

That was a massive signal to everyone that they supported it. And then, as the coup proceeded and the government needed to establish its legitimacy, the United States was practically alone in supporting the election that legitimated the coup later that year. And as I said, Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoirs that she helped make sure that the elected president didn’t go back, which was what almost all of Latin America wanted. And the U.S. manipulated the Organization of American States to prevent there from being stronger actions on their part to put Zelaya back in office. And in fact, out of that came the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which the left governments created because of the U.S. manipulation of the OAS, and that includes all of the countries of the hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right Mark, there’s much more to talk about because Latin America is known as a laboratory of the United States, its policies, and I’m sure we are feeling those laboratory experiments and their are reverberations throughout the world. We don’t have time to get into all of that, and we also didn’t talk about the media strategies involved in these kinds of political policy maneuvers on the part of the U.S. and how the media is used in that way or how media complies with it. But we’ll have to leave that for another time. I thank you so much for joining us today, Mark.

MARK WEISBROT: Thank you, Sharmini.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.

© The Real News Network

The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire (Documentary)

The Spider's Web

At the demise of empire, City of London financial interests created a web of secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it in a web of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth is hidden in British jurisdictions and Britain and its dependencies are the largest global players in the world of international finance.

The Spider’s Web was substantially inspired by Nicholas Shaxson’s book Treasure Islands and you can read an extract of it here: https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2011/jan/08/jersey-tax-haven-nicholas-shaxson

Subtitles available in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Korean, Hungarian, English, Turkish.

Lawfare: Justice’s way to neoliberalism

Justice

Published originally by CELAG | 23 Jan 2018 | Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador

The judgement of Lula has been carried out as part of the huge case known as “Lava Jato”, which was the apparently legal cover by which the coup against ex-President Dilma Rousseff was implemented [1]. This judgement is part of a strategy of Lawfare, as the specialists have called it [2], which implies: the undue use of legal mechanisms for political persecution, the use of the law as a weapon to destroy political adversaries by judicial means [3]. The above describes a process of judicialization of politics from the top down, where the judiciary apparatus is raised above the legislature and the executive powers in a dynamic which could lead to a “dictatorship of the judges”, and a complete loss of the balance between the powers [4]. In order to work, this legal warfare requires the articulation with the media and social networks, which operate to manufacture consent either against or in favour of certain personalities, groups or political sectors [5]. The acceptance or elimination and demoralization of the political adversary is carried out especially in the field of public opinion [6].

One objective of Lawfare in the short and medium term is also to obtain the restoration of neoliberalism by judicial means.

The legitimacy given to the process of judicialization of politics derives from the consensus about corruption being the fundamental problem of Latin America [7]. This was manifested by the international financial institutions and US government agencies promoting the structural adjustment and modernization of the State in the 80’s and 90’s [8], but which in recent years has been presented as a problem endemic to progressive governments or so-called “left-wing populists” [9]. International analysts, think tanks and “experts” argue in favour of this vision, which tends to be reproduced by the hegemonic press, feeding a common feeling that, for example, corruption is the cause of poverty [10], above all in those countries under competing democratic, but allegedly authoritarian regimes (as in the cases of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador during the Correa government and Argentina during the Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner government) [11].

The principal thesis of their argument is that these governments, in giving a greater role to the State, in particular in regulation of the economy, in repoliticizing and revaluing the public sector, prioritizing the use of influences and public funds for personal benefit and the use of the powers of the State to avoid any accountability. This is considered as the principal cause of the rise in poverty [12] and of the weakening of democracy to such a point, that according to the “experts”, people are willing to even support a military dictatorship so as to put an end to crime and corruption [13].

This basis of argument and the existence of processes of legal warfare against ex-members of progressive governments demonstrate that there are other interests behind the supposed impartial combating of corruption. One of the short and medium term objectives of Lawfare is also to obtain the restoration of neoliberalism by judicial means. A state of exception is used as a means of supposedly legal mechanisms, as defined by a judicial apparatus which is raised above the other powers, but which in deed lead to the omission of the law in favour of the violent imposition of a new order [14]. This order tries to show itself a legal, “naturally” predisposed to the rendering of accounts and to transparency, which is to say against corrupt practices, following the logic and the “correct” way of doing things of the private sector, in being restricted to and run by businessmen transformed into politicians.

The objective of bringing in the neoliberal order can be seen in greater clarity in those cases where the legal strategy is used for the opposite of what is supposed, that is, when the legal apparatus is raised above the other powers and the legal mechanisms are manipulated to guarantee the status quo, partnering with media to silence certain cases and to avoid the exposure of certain personalities to public opinion. In this way consent is manufactured in favour of these personalities or groups who have been raised as the guardians of neoliberalism.

BRAZIL

Undue use of legal mechanisms and selectivity

The case against Lula shows various judicial adulterations to the rule of Law used for political ends. The weakness of the legal arguments, the inconsistency, has been obvious in this case. There has been distortion in the sentencing and throughout the whole period of instruction and dealings: 1) the presumption of innocence; 2) the impartiality of the judge; 3) the doctrinaire motivations in the legal rulings; 4) the prohibition of non-legal evidence; 5) the principle of equality or citizenship [15]; 6) the publicising of procedural acts; 7) the disallowing of full defence; 8) the requirement of natural jurisdiction. Furthermore, questions are raised such as: a) the abuse of the coercitive arrest; b) preventive imprisonment; c) the use of selective and partial evidence; d) the use of confessions in extreme conditions. To summarize: the 238 page sentence of Judge Sergio Moro, as various jurists have suggested [16], shows how a conviction of “exception” was constructed, which is the mark of a state of exception [17]

By way of example: the principal charge in Lula’s Lava Jato case is linked to the triplex apartment in Guaruja for passive corruption [18]. None of the 73 witnesses testifying in the 23 hearings brought information that corroborated the charge [19]. Lula’s appeal hearing was scheduled for January 24 was brought forward in front of seven cases awaiting processing in relation to Lava Jato. The official bodies argue that it is not necessary to deal with the cases “in chronological order” [20], but the more obvious conclusion is that the objective pf the judgement is to eliminate the possibility of Lula standing in the presidential elections.

Furthermore, there is the favouring of businessmen. Marcelo Odebrecht, the leading executive and magnate implicated and responsible for the Odebrecht corruption, was transferred to house arrest after completing just two years in prison on 19 December 2017 [21]. Another example is the covering up the existence of kickbacks in various projects linked to Odebrecht, in which Admiral Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva was sentenced to 43 years imprisonment [22]. These four decades contrast with the fact that the businessmen implicated in the same case were able to reduce their penalties to six years in prison, although the less favoured will be imprisoned for 20 years [23].

Corruption: Brazil’s main problem

The discourse that legitimizes the elimination of the political enemy, Lula, the Worker’s Party etc., is that of corruption. Sergio Moro, the judge running Operation Lava Jato, is portrayed as the hero who can clean up Brazilian politics [24]. However, there is a lack of deep cleaning: “on the ground, we are fighting against organized crime, (if not) with institutionalized crime” [25]. The media emphasize “this decisive action against crime and corruption of the political class is in turn marked as a more global phenomenon of rejection of the establishment and the calling to account of politicians” [26]. Corruption is the truly guilty party, which does not give worth to democracy: “the scenario is so horrible, that some Brazilians ask whether democracy and the elections can offer the possibility of remaking the country again on a good path” [27].

Lawfare as a violent way to neoliberalism

Since his arrival in government via the coup against Dilma Rousseff, Michel Temer has taken measures to substantially reduce social spending and to eliminate worker’s rights to benefit the business sector. A wave of privatizations has been implemented in a wide range of sectors: airports, ports, highways, electrical power and oil companies etc. [28] Among the long term objectives is the privatization of Petrobras, the state oil company which in large measure is the symbol and realization of sovereign policies in terms of economic, technological and defence policies during the Lula government [29].

The measures were accompanied by a restructuring of the laws in favour of the realignment, notably the labour and retirement system reforms hated by workers and celebrated by the business sector, as described in the hegemonic press [30]. The strikes and demonstrations against these neoliberal reforms were countered by the widespread repression of the security forces in the streets of the large cities [31].

ARGENTINA

Undue use of legal mechanisms and selectivity

The judicial persecution against members of the Cristina Kirchner government has been scaled up after the arrival of the Let’s Change policy of Mauricio Macri to the presidency. In recent months, in addition to the case against the ex-President, there have been judgements and preventive imprisonments against the ex-Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and ex-Vice President Armando Boudou.

The fact that those accused did not try to escape seems irrelevant given that the media spectacle is a fundamental part of this new form of warfare.

Abuse of the criteria for preventive arrest is notable as a mechanism to judicialize politics. In the abuse of this resource, various federal judges have ignored international conventions which the country has adhered to in its constitution, which explicitly state that the primary duty is the liberty of those accused during the process. In strictly juridical terms, at the instruction stage, the only reason for using preventive arrest is either the risk of escape or obstruction of the investigation by the accused person. Innocence or guilt comes at a later stage and has to be demonstrated at the court hearing.

There are various symptomatic cases in relation to the first premise. Peñafort and Rua, defence lawyers for the ex-Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman, argued in his appeal that the accused travelled frequently abroad for reasons of his medical treatment for liver cancer, and that he had always returned within the scheduled times as evidence of the lack of basis for his preventive imprisonment.

In the case of ex-Vice President Amado Boudou, the statement from the same expert highlighted that preventive imprisonment should be the exception rather than the rule, and that the accused always had rights. Nevertheless, the fact that those accused did not try to escape seems irrelevant given that the media spectacle is a fundamental part of this new form of warfare. By way of illustration, the government sent the police to the home of the ex-Minister of Planning, Julio De Vido, knowing that he was not at home, but the mass media used this photograph as if he had been arrested.

In relation to the second point, in cases of preventive imprisonment requested for members of the opposition, the judges did not describe the supposed influences, nor how justice might be obstructed. Furthermore, there is evident differential treatment for members of the Kirchner government, as in no case are the same measures taken for members of the current government.

As in the case of Brazil, in Argentina the businessmen involved are taken care of. At no time is business complicity examined, but only that of the government. One of the most scandalous cases is the granting of credit by President Mauricio Macri to his father in 2016, the businessman Franco Macri. The Macri Group acquired the Argentinean Post Office concession in the 1990’s until 2003, when Kirchner took it back into state ownership for lack of payment from March 2000. After 12 years of the Argentine government rejecting all the post-breakdown payment plans for excessive debts, with the arrival of Macri to the Presidency however, the State quickly accepted the receiving of just 1.18 % of the debt [32].

Corruption: the cancer of Kirchnerism

Ever since his taking office, President Macri has taken the opposite position in his administration to that of the Kirchners, with special emphasis on the combating of corruption. This was backed also by the like minded media, to such a point that the leading newspapers, Clarin and La Nación, introducing a specific tag “La corrupción K”. Mauricio Macri declared that now “there is less reporting and more truth”. In regard to the economic adjustment measures, he justified: “He came to the State devastated by corruption” [33], and, “…after a decade of pillage and corruption, we are normalizing the power service” [34]. In constructing the direction this government, every negative result of the application of its neoliberal policies uses the idea that this is the only possible way. A large part of the population has appropriated that idea thanks to the mass media which has imposed their agenda of persecution of the supposed ¨corruptos k¨ in our news every day.

The violent path to neoliberalism

In whitewashing his presidential aspirations, the Cambiemos alliance promised that if he were elected to the Casa Rosada “he would defend the institutions and republicanism”. Nevertheless, his arrival involved precisely the change activating the Judiciary that steamrollered the rule of law, to the point of rolling back basic guarantees in legitimate process and penalizing the political world, a state of exception. The Milagro Sala case is one of the most outstanding examples of this.

But the “exceptionality” has been there from the start. The economic measures affecting a large part of the population, some imposed by decree, were rejected by mass union and civil society protests. Under such pressure, the government put their repressive measures to the test. One important event was the march in support of Santiago Maldonado being found alive [35], where the police actions were newsworthy: 31 people were arrested arbitrarily, spending up to 48 hours in police stations, including tourists, journalists and photographers. But more significant was that during the demonstration against changes to the retirement and pension law in December 2017, demonstrators suffered police brutality, and the use of water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, once again being detained at random and having their homes broken into. Here again police were infiltrated among those starting the trouble.

ECUADOR

Undue use of legal mechanisms and selectivity

Judges in Ecuador have conducted a campaign against ex-Vice-President Jorge Glas, who was sentenced to six years in prison, the highest ranking public figure convicted in Latin America in the huge Odebrecht scandal, and against inner circle staff. Curiously, these “legal” suits have not touched the mayor of Quito, Mauricio Rodas, nor indicate investigating Guillermo Lasso, the candidate opposing Alianza País during the presidential elections, whom accusations point towards for receiving bribes from Odebrecht for the Quito metro contract [36], or for being immersed in the Panama Papers scandal –considering that most of the wealth of these politician businessmen is in offshore accounts [37].

It is important to remember that the legal case against ex-Vice-President Glas was begun after a message from the U.S. Justice Department notifying of payment of US$ 33.6 million from Odebrecht to corrupt public servants between 2007 and 2016 [38]. One message coinciding with the electoral campaign underway in December 2016 favoured the interests of the Guillermo Lasso and Andres Paez bid [39]. Both right-wing leaders were mentioned in numerous cables revealed by Wikileaks [40], placing them amongst the most privileged close informants in favour of United States interests [41].

Whilst ex-Vice-President Glas was convicted, those who provided most of the information to the U.S. Justice Department, were the Brazilian businessmen Jose C., Simoes P., Ricardo V. and Mauricio G., one time members of staff at Odebrecht and whose full names have not been published. No injunctions having been served against them, because the Ecuadorean prosecutors signed a cooperation agreement to provide information to gather evidence for investigations, and under article 494 of the Criminal Code, which states that injunctions must be suited to guarantee success of the investigations [42]. One fundamental detail to be taken into account is the expulsion of the Odebrecht company from Ecuador between 2008 and 2010, demanded by ex-President Rafael Correa, who took that decision for not Odebrecht not having complied with the engineering standards of the San Francisco hydroelectric dam, and due to indications of manipulation and corruption in the contracting processes, which the judge of the case did not take into account, and neither was this mentioned in the conventional media, which in due course criticized the expulsion measure of the Brazilian company as authoritarian [43].

Corruption: Correa’s “main problem”

From the beginning of his mandate, President Lenin Moreno initiated a set of actions to disassociate himself from his predecessor and party colleague, Rafael Correa. In an interview with a Spanish daily newspaper, he said he was “horrified, because (…) there had been rampant corruption, principally in the last period of the previous government (…) and apparently the President (Correa) had turned a blind eye on more than one occasion, because he was not thinking of the country, but rather of the next election” [44].

The interesting thing is that in Ecuador, the anti-corruption discourse has been transformed into a process of judicial persecution carried out by Lawfare, supported from the highest levels of the judiciary and with the backing of right-wing parties. The “problem of corruption” in Ecuador has taken on such a proportion for so many people, that it is to be included in the next referendum and plebiscite to be held in a fortnight.

The path to neoliberalism (with Lenin)

The process of judicialization of politics and persecution of members of the previous government has generated fertile ground for the “change”. Since he came to power, Lenin Moreno has put in place a series of neoliberal reforms, overturning Correa’s policies.

Moreno celebrated the visit from the IMF, and later said he would ask for their help, a warning message due to the implications of a change in direction of the country’s economic policy. He is disposed to hand over management of electronic money to a private bank, competing against the income generated by the Ecuador Central Bank in this area. Going against the recommendation by the National Assembly and the Economic Revitalization Law, this allows imports on a massive scale, leading to a significant reduction in the trading surplus in 2017, increasing imports by 21 % and weakening national production. Likewise, in the next plebiscite and referendum, the progressive value-added Law, which impedes land speculation in urban areas, is intended to be reversed [45]. It is no coincidence that in lockstep with this question in the plebiscite, the persecution of “corrupt” members of the previous government is included.

COLOMBIA

Little has been examined and even less published in the mass media about the way in which the Constitutional Court worked against the peace agreement, by making the discussion mechanism via FastTrack unsustainable, which impedes the advance in legislation towards the peace process and which has once again opened up the discussion on the key points of the agreement, placing the peace achieved thus far at risk.

Unlike the previous cases, in Colombia, the strategy of Lawfare is done inversely, using low intensity legal warfare, where the objective is the permanence and concealment, by over exposing certain cases, with the completely rotten from corruption justice system in collusion, impeding perception of the drivers and actors of a system that is now in crisis. The strategy of legal warfare is only of high intensity in the few cases where the left is able to occupy space in the formal political sphere, after combating paramilitary harassment and a merciless hostile media system. Only then are all the alarm bells set off and all the institutional and legal avenues activated to deal with the threat.

Undue use of legal mechanisms and selectivity

The so called judges cartel is an example of the use of justice for the benefit of the right-wing political caste linked to the corrupt and the criminal, which has been ensuring the guaranteeing of the well-being of neoliberalism. But this case is only the tip of the iceberg as there are many loose ends, and through the over exposure of some actors by the media ensures that people do not ask about the links between certain state and regional personalities with the heirs of the family dynasties that currently hold power. Santos, Lleras, Lopez, Gomez, Pastrana, are some of the most recurring names who have known how to handle political, judicial and communication institutions in their own interests.

This key role justice has played has been uncovered whereby certain judges worked in the Supreme Court of Justice in alliance with the Anti-corruption Prosecution Service, postponing and delaying legal processes against politicians linked to the paramilitaries or to cases of corruption, in exchange for spectacular amounts of money. That is not to mention the multiplicity of family businesses which have grown in the shadow of the illegal activity of the judges.

Corruption: the “problem with the left”

Corruption is presented as a disease of the left. This is the case of ex-mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, who is now a candidate for the Presidency, persecuted and turned out of office by the extreme right-wing prosecutor, Alejandro Ordoñez, whose rulings against the ex-mayor of the Progressive Movement were overturned by the Interamerican Human Rights Commission, allowing him to continue his mandate and by the State Council, which showed evidence three years later of the use of judicial warfare against the mayor.

Access to the Special Justice for Peace is denied to civilians committed to crimes against humanity, or to financiers or backers of the paramilitaries, and the political reform that promised a democratic opening was scuttled, with seats or blocks being denied to the victims in Congress, and the regulation of comprehensive land reform has not even been started, amongst other things [46].

On the other hand, the protection given by the judiciary and the media to certain people is quite clear in the case of Alvaro Uribe, who had more than 186 legal processes against him, including one about his use of the State-DAS intelligence apparatus to intimidate, persecute and spy on the opposition and neighbouring governments, or for the buying of votes in the Senate to enable his re-election in 2006. All the cases in the commission of inquiry remaining intact in the Chamber of Representatives have little possibility of being brought to any judgement due to it being made up of Uribe or ex-Uribe politicians [47].

Lawfare: part of the neoliberal status quo

Odebrecht has been documented to have financed the campaign of President Juan Manuel Santos when he was supported by Uribe in 2010, as well as having supported the campaigns of Santos and his main rival, the Uribe ally, Zuluaga in 2014 [48]. There are also investigations underway into the payment of bribes of at least US$ 31.5 million delivered to highly placed members of the Uribe and Santos governments in return for infra-structure contracts passed in 2006 and 2016 [49]. Nevertheless, not one of these members of the government has been charged, except for one deputy minister and three Senators, who are assisting inquiries and will be given light sentences, closing the Odebrecht mega-scandal with some mid-level leadership figures being convicted, but maintaining the status quo.

The use of the judicial apparatus to safeguard the instituted order of things has played a key role in a process where the responsibilities and miseries of neoliberal policies which has been operating for decades is evident [50], sustaining the same families in power and shielding political dynasties enjoying the benefits of the State despite being seen to have committed serious crimes [51]. The policy of reduction of the role of the State in its socio-economic dimension in favour of the historically marginalized, together with a growth in favour of the private sector is evident, which is well received by the mass media and is not investigated or questioned, considering that the corruption has two parties, those who give and those who receive, i.e. private companies and those associated with the State.

Corruption in the full neoliberal, privatized model, with the State reduced to the extreme, represents 4% of Colombian GDP, about US$ 17 billion a year according to data from the Colombian comptroller office [52]. This scheme depends on the impunity and on the connivance of the judicial system, the media and violence to repress critical voices, such as the 120 civil society movement leaders assassinated in 2017 [53]. This impunity associated with neoliberal policies in relation to the status quo is counselled by the United States, with reports of corruption cases involving “made in USA” companies as in the case of Reficar not being referred to public opinion [54]. The same applies to the Odebrecht case, both in Brazil and Ecuador. To the contrary, highly placed Colombian public servants convicted of corruption have been protected, as in the case of ex-Uribe minister Andres Felipe Arias [55].

[1]http://www.celag.org/lawfare-la-judicializacion-de-la-politica-en-america-latina/

[2]http://lawfareinstitute.com/publications/

[3] https://thelawfareproject.org/lawfare/what-is-lawfare-1/

[4]https://www.cidob.org/content/download/58165/1509781/…/1/…/domingo_85-86.pdf

[5]Herman, Edward and Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing consent. The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon, 1988

[6]http://www.celag.org/lawfare-la-judicializacion-de-la-politica-en-america-latina/

[7]http://www.celag.org/la-corrupcion-problema-america-latina-2/

[8]https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/international-support-for-justice-reform-latin-america-worthwhile-or-worthless

[9]https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/11/economist-explains-12

[10]https://blogs.imf.org/2017/09/21/corruption-in-latin-america-taking-stock/

[11] https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/latin-america%E2%80%99s-authoritarian-drift-threat-populist-left

[12]https://blogs.imf.org/2017/09/21/corruption-in-latin-america-taking-stock/

[13]http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/23/populism-is-coming-for-latin-america-in-2018/

[14]Sotelo Felipe, M. (2018) “Lawfare, this crime call justice”. In Proner, C., Citadino, G., Ricobom, G. and Dornelles, J. Comments on a notorious verdict. The Trial of Lula. CLACSO https://www.clacso.org.ar/libreria-latinoamericana/libro_detalle.php?id_libro=1338&orden=&pageNum_rs_libros=0&totalRows_rs_libros=1256

[15] Equality is the concept of equal civil and political rights if citizens.

[16] Carol Proner et al. (orgs.) Comentarios a uma sentença anunciada: o Processo Lula. Bauru: Canal 6, 2017.

[17]Sotelo Felipe, M. (2018) “Lawfare, this crime call justice”. In Proner, C.; Citadino, G.; Ricobom, G. and Dornelles, J. Comments on a notorious verdict. The trial of Lula. CLACSO.

[18] http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-40589237

[19] https://www.alainet.org/es/articulo/190468

[20] https://www.telesurtv.net/news/Brasil-Caso-de-Lula-pasa-por-delante-de-otras-7-actions-de-Lava-Jato-20180108-0034.html

[21] http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2017/12/19/marcelo-odebrecht-sale-de-la-carcel-para-cumplir-prision-domiciliaria/

[22]https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/835/brazils-nuclear-power-program-undone-corruption

[23] http://politica.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,justica-condena-ex-presidente-da-eletronuclear-a-43-anos-de-prisao,10000066863

[24] https://www.nytimes.com/es/2017/08/30/juez-sergio-moro-java-lato-lula-brasil/?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Findex

[25] http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias/2014/12/141209_brasil_juez_escandalo_petrobras_perfil_gl

[26] http://www.pulsamerica.co.uk/2016/11/corruption-charges-and-the-decline-of-populism-latin-americas-rejection-of-its-political-class/

[27] http://themercury.com/endless-corruption-is-a-cancer-in-brazil/article_c2c826b7-75c8-526a-8c6a-862c956cb32f.html

[28] https://www.telesurtv.net/telesuragenda/Privatizations-en-Brasil-20170906-0038.html

[29] http://www.celag.org/brasil-and-el-cono-sur-en-la-geopolitica-estadounidense/

[30] http://www.eleconomista.es/economia/noticias/8737826/11/17/Brasil-estrena-una-reforma-laboral-odiada-por-los-sindicatos-and-festejada-por-las-empresas.html

[31] https://www.infobae.com/america/america-latina/2017/04/28/barricadas-protestas-and-huelga-general-contra-las-reformas-impulsadas-por-michel-temer-en-brasil/

[32]http://www.lanoticiaweb.com.ar/noticia/47193/mauricio-es-fue-and-sera-siempre-macri

[33]http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1920318-encontre-un-estado-devastado-por-la-corrupcion-and-otras-frases-destacadas-de-mauricio-macri

[34]https://www.clarin.com/politica/apertura-sesiones-ordinarias-mauricio-macri-dijo-ahora-relato-verdad_0_H1Nd98E5g.html

[35]http://www.celag.org/santiago-maldonado-desdibujando-al-estado-derecho/

[36]https://www.telesurtv.net/telesuragenda/Lasso-and-Rodas-apellidos-del-escandalo-Odebrecht-en-Ecuador-20170316-0034.html

[37]https://www.pagina12.com.ar/27029-lasso-en-jaque-por-los-negocios-en-panama

[38] https://www.nacion.com/el-mundo/politica/corte-constitucional-de-ecuador-acepta-judge/J2G7EIQVU5GSDCZGM443NLBJDE/story/

[39]http://www.vistazo.com/seccion/country-politica-nacional/politica-nacional/paez-analiza-ir-eeuu-por-informacion-de-caso

[40]https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07QUITO768_a.html

[41] http://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/politica/2/investigacion-revela-presunto-vinculo-de-paez-con-stanford

[42] http://www.celag.org/la-corrupcion-problema-america-latina-2/

[43] http://www.ecuadorinmediato.com/index.php?module=Noticias&func=news_user_view&id=2818813271

[44] http://www.abc.es/internacional/abci-lenin-moreno-estoy-espeluznado-corrupcion-galopante-government-correa-201712140224_noticia.html

[45] http://www.celag.org/ecuador-regreso-una-economia-tutelada/

[46]http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/fast-track-corte-constitucional-tumba-voto-en-bloque/525563

[47]http://www.elcountry.com.co/colombia/alvaro-uribe-velez-tiene-mas-de-186-procesos-en-la-comision-de-acusacion.html

[48] http://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2017/07/13/fiscalia-de-colombia-asegura-que-odebrecht-asumio-gastos-de-campanas-de-santos-and-zuluaga/ and http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/fiscal-hay-evidencia-certera-del-ingreso-de-dinero-de-odebrecht-a-campana-de-oscar-ivan-zuluaga/544784

[49]http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/investigacion/la-ruta-de-los-sobornos-de-odebrecht-en-colombia-113000

[50] http://www.celag.org/la-crisis-neoliberal-and-la-paz-en-colombia-por-javier-calderon-castillo/

[51] https://www.elespectador.com/elections-2018/noticias/politica/los-candidatos-mal-rodeados-articulo-727973

[52] http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/delitos/precio-de-la-corrupcion-en-colombia-61749

[53] https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/paz/mas-de-120-lideres-comunales-han-sido-asesinados-en-2017-articulo-724083

[54] http://caracol.com.co/programa/2016/01/28/6am_hoy_por_hoy/1453984041_656591.html

[55] http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/investigacion/vinculacion-de-andres-felipe-arias-con-caso-odebrecht-esta-en-manos-de-la-fiscalia-119426

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.