Category Archives: US

“It is Babel”, says Brazilian Supreme Justice on the US$ 680 million for Car Wash Foundation

marco-aurelioTales Faria at UOL

Justice Marco Aurélio Mello of the Brazilan Supreme Federal Court considers the destination of US$ 650 million to a foundation managed by the Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) prosecutors to promote anti-corruption policies to be absurd. The money was deposited in January. It is the fruit of an agreement between US authorities, Petrobras and the team of the so-called Republic of Curitiba where Lava Jato is based. It represents 80% of the capital the Brazilian state company had to return to the US Treasury due to the irregularities found in Car Wash. According to Marco Aurélio Mello, such a destination, besides being illegal, sets up a super-entity and bypasses any oversight or control of its accounts. To this blog, he argued:

As has always been sustained by the Supreme Court, public bodies are funded only through the budget approved by the legislature. The mixing of public and private is not in the interests of the State, is not in the interests of society. It is  pernicious to allow ‘super-entities’, and not to allow financial oversight. It is a loss of parameters, it is out of control, it is an administrative mess. It is Babel.

The power conferred on the prosecutors of Paraná is provoking fear in Bolsonaro’s closest circles. Allies of the President argue that he puts off to a possible second mandate his proposal to repeal re-election. Without the chance to run again, Bolsonaro would leave his government vulnerable during the campaign “Moro 2022”.

Sergio Moro is the leading judge behind Operation Car Wash which found alleged corruption in Lula’s PT government, sentenced him to prison and took him out of the running for the Brazilian Presidency, and who then became Justice Minister in the government that took power in Lula’s absence.

The foundation proposed is dangerous because with the same bias that took out Lula from the election, if present in the efforts of education and propaganda, could simply be used to support judge Moro’s political ambitions to get elected to lead the next government.

Venezuela: US sending planes with guns, ammo and radios for President Maduro’s enemies

The weapons intercepted at Arturo Michelin airport in Venezuela from Miami on February 3, 2019. Photo: Venezuela Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace.
  • Boeing 767 belonging to US freight company has made dozens of flights between Miami, Colombia and Venezuela since January 11
  • Official said materiel was ‘destined for criminal groups and terrorist actions’ and ‘financed by the fascist extreme right’ and the US government

Venezuelan authorities say a US-owned air freight company delivered a crate of assault weapons earlier this week to the international airport in Valencia to be used in “terrorist actions” against the embattled government of Nicolas Maduro.

An air freight company, 21 Air, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, operates the Boeing 767 aircraft the Venezuelans claim was used in the arms transfer. The flight originated in Miami on Sunday.

The Boeing 767 has made dozens of flights between Miami International Airport and destinations in Colombia and Venezuela since January 11, a flight tracking service shows, often returning to Miami for only a few hours before flying again to South America.

The discovery of the weapons was on Tuesday – two days after the flight landed briefly in Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city – as tax authorities and other inspectors conducted a routine inspection of cargo from the flight, according to a statement by the Carabobo state governor’s office.

Bolivarian National Guard General Endes Palencia Ortiz, Venezuela’s vice-minister of citizen security, said authorities found 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges, and 90 military-grade radio antennas, among other items.

“This materiel was destined for criminal groups and terrorist actions in the country, financed by the fascist extreme right and the government of the United States,” Palencia Ortiz was quoted as saying.

The freight company, which started five years ago, operates two cargo planes, a Boeing 747 and a Boeing 767, according to the 21 Air website. The Boeing 767, a 32-year-old aircraft once flown by the now-defunct Brazilian carrier Varig, carries the registration N-881-YV and is the aircraft that landed in Valencia on Sunday.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through its website. The mobile phone of the company’s chief executive, Michael Mendez, had a recording on Thursday afternoon that said it could not accept calls.

An Ottawa, Canada-based analyst of unusual ship and plane movements, Steffan Watkins, drew attention to the frequent flights of the 21 Air cargo plane in a series of tweets on Thursday.

“All year, they were flying between Philadelphia and Miami and all over the place, but all continental US,” Watkins said in a telephone interview. “Then all of a sudden in January, things changed.”

That is when the cargo plane began flying daily to destinations in Colombia and Venezuela and sometimes several times a day, Watkins said. The plane has made nearly 40 round-trip flights from Miami International Airport to Caracas and Valencia in Venezuela, and Bogota and Medellin in Colombia since January 11.

The most recent tracking of the aircraft showed it arrived from Medellin into Miami airport after midnight on Thursday.

The air cargo company’s website says the Boeing 767 has a payload capacity of 42 tons.

The aircraft in question has passed through many hands since Varig took delivery of it in 1987. In 2004, it was passed to GE Capital Aviation Services, a leasing company that is part of the General Electric conglomerate, according to an operator history on the planespotters.net website. Tampa Cargo, Avianca Cargo and Dynamic Airways later controlled the aircraft until 21 Air received it in 2014.

The provenance of the alleged weaponry was not apparent. And questions about who the arms shipment was destined for, if the Venezuelan version of events is true, only mounted. Delivery at a commercial airport would indicate somebody with authority there would have had a hand.

The weapons intercepted at Arturo Michelin airport in Venezuela from Miami on February 3, 2019. Photo: Venezuela Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace.
The weapons intercepted at Arturo Michelin airport in Venezuela from Miami on February 3, 2019. Photo: Venezuela Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace.

Venezuelan authorities displayed the weaponry they said was delivered by the 21 Air cargo plane on open-air tables draped in red cloth. Some of the rifles included stands for long-range targeting. The shipment included 15 AR-15 assault weapons, a Micro Draco semi-automatic pistol with a jumbo magazine, a Colt 7.62 rifle and two telescopic sights, the governor’s statement said.

The weapons intercepted at Arturo Michelin airport in Venezuela from Miami on February 3, 2019. Photo: Venezuela Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace.
The weapons intercepted at Arturo Michelin airport in Venezuela from Miami on February 3, 2019. Photo: Venezuela Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace.

Valencia was a former manufacturing and economic hub before the collapse of the nation’s economy.

Flight records from the tracking site flightradar24.com, monitored by Watkins, indicate the 21 Air cargo plane flew at least four times to Valencia from Miami and another four times to Caracas from Miami since January 11. In many cases, the flights would head on to Bogota or Medellin before returning to Miami.

If a US entity was trying to provide arms to a Venezuelan resistance movement, it would be taking a familiar page from the history books.

The CIA operated a dummy airline, known as Air America, from the early 1950s until the mid 1970s for air operations in Southeast Asia, including airdropping weapons to friendly forces.

More than a decade later, Sandinista soldiers shot down a cargo plane taking weapons to the US-backed Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government. A US Marine veteran, Eugene Hasenfus, survived the 1986 crash and told reporters he was working for the CIA, paving the way for his release and return to the United States.

Curiously, one of the figures in the Ronald Reagan administration instrumental in delivering support to the contras, former assistant secretary of state Elliott Abrams, was named by President Donald Trump late last month as his special envoy overseeing policy towards Venezuela.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Plane from Miami brought arms for ‘terrorist action’

From the Barracks to the Courtroom: US ‘Lawfare’ in Action

bolsonaro

Wayne Madsen | 18.01.2019

Somewhere along the line in recent history, some US think tank in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency must have come up with the idea that overthrowing governments in Latin America by military coups came with bad optics for the coup plotters. Often, democratically-elected Latin American leaders were demonized by a cabal of military officers who left their barracks and laid siege to the presidential palaces. After taking control of the national radio stations, these generals would announce they had seized control of the government to “protect” the people from “communism” or some other concocted bogeyman.

Beginning in the early 2000s, another plan was devised by US national security planners ensconced in their faux academia “think tanks.” Their plan was simple: overthrow anti-American elected leaders in Latin America through the courts. In effect, lawyers and judges, not generals, caudillos, or military juntas, would carry out coups by abusing constitutional provisions and laws as a clever ruse.

Under Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, the Central Intelligence Agency relied on the old tried and true method of promoting coups via the façade of a “popular” rebellion. After the 1973 CIA-directed coup in Chile, which saw Socialist president Salvador Allende die in a hail of bullets fired from aircraft and tanks at the La Moneda presidential palace, the CIA began to look at other avenues to overthrow presidents in the Western Hemisphere.

For decades, CIA-influenced media, including the dubious Wikipedia, have insisted Allende committed suicide with an AK-47 assault rifle presented to him by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. However, nature would later provide the evidence that Allende was assassinated. The proof came in a 300-page top secret report found in the debris of the house of a former military officer. The house had been destroyed in the 2011 Chilean earthquake. The story of Allende’s “suicide” was spread around CIA-friendly media to mask the agency’s role in yet another assassination of a foreign leader. The CIA’s media manipulation was honed during its pre-eminent role in covering up the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King. For the CIA, however, assassinations were costly in terms of the agency’s public image, so some other method of dispatching targeted leaders was in order.

A formerly CONFIDENTIAL CIA “Intelligence Memorandum,” dated December 29, 1975, concluded that Latin America had to be weaned away from “Third Worldism.” The conclusion was based on the votes of certain Latin American countries that had voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. The countries were Brazil, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana, and Mexico. Eleven other countries in the Western Hemisphere abstained.

As the bloody coups in Chile, the Dominican Republic, and other countries showed, there had to be a simpler and less lethal way for the US to bring about undemocratic changes in governments in the hemisphere.

If the CIA were able to infiltrate a nation’s judiciary and law enforcement structures — the latter having already been thoroughly subsumed through CIA-financed “training programs” – it could bring spurious charges against targeted heads of state. This form of coup d’état would become known as “lawfare.”

The leader of the French left, Jean Luc Melenchon, recently condemned the use of lawfare against former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula, as he is popularly known, has been imprisoned since April 2018 on trumped up charges of corruption. Melenchon told the Brazilian press that “lawfare is now used in all countries to get rid of progressive leaders. This is what they did with Lula.” Melenchon added, “the judge [Sergio Moro] who condemned Lula is now a minister [minister of justice and public security] of Jair Bolsonaro, the new president of Brazil.” Lula was sentenced to 12 years in prison on politically-motivated money-laundering charges ginned up by Moro and other neo-fascists in the Brazilian judiciary. Bolsonaro, a champion of Brazil’s former military dictatorship and an admirer of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Donald Trump, has vowed to keep Lula in prison. Lula would have defeated Bolsonaro for the presidency had he been released from prison and allowed to run for political office. However, Moro and his fellow lawfare practitioners ensured that appeals to the Brazilian Supreme Court for Lula’s release were all dead-on-arrival.

Melenchon also stated “Lula has been a direct victim of accusations to destroy his work and image, built in more than 40 years of public life.” British human rights attorney Geoffrey Robertson QC echoed Melenchon in comments made to the “New Internationalist” in January 2018. Robertson cited the “extraordinarily aggressive measures” taken to imprison Lula and prevent him from running for president. Robertson cited as Lula’s enemies the judiciary, media, and “the great sinews of wealth and power in Brazil.”

Lawfare coups have been embraced by both Republican and Democratic administrations over almost two decades. The first example of a coup by semi-constitutional fiat was the February 28, 2004 forced removal from office of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. US Marines and American mercenaries escorted Aristide and his party from the presidential palace to a white plane with no other markings except for an American flag on the tail. The United States claimed Aristide voluntarily resigned his office, something that Aristide and his advisers vehemently denied. Aristide was literally tossed off the plane, along with his wife, in Bangui, Central African Republic. Through the abuse of “national emergency” provisions, the United States installed Haiti’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Boniface Alexandre, in the presidential palace. The coup began after CIA-supported rebels and narcotics-gangs seized control of northern Haiti and marched to the capital of Port-au-Prince with the intention of ousting Aristide.

The second lawfare coup was against Honduras’s president, Manuel Zelaya. Staged on June 28, 2009, the coup was approved in advance by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as leaked cables from the US embassy in Tegucigalpa attest. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti cited the Honduran Constitution and a decision by the Supreme Court as providing legitimacy for Zelaya being marched from his home in his pajamas to a waiting plane that flew him to Costa Rica. The military junta that replaced Zelaya said that his letter of resignation had been approved by the National Assembly. Zelaya declared the letter to be a forgery.

The third major lawfare coup came in 2012. Paraguay’s democratically-elected president, Fernando Lugo, was ousted in a political impeachment carried out by right-wing forces in the Paraguayan Congress and Senate, with the full support of the US-trained and equipped Paraguayan military. From Washington, Secretary Clinton moved hastily to recognize the right-wing vice president, Federico Franco, and his new right-wing government to replace the center-left government of Lugo. As with Haiti and Honduras, the Paraguayan coup was accomplished with the thin veneer of the constitution.

In 2016, it was Brazil’s turn in the lawfare arena. The impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff of the left-wing Workers’ Party ensured that Michel Temer, her right-wing vice president, assumed the presidency. Without Rousseff in the presidential palace, her predecessor, Lula, became fair game for the right-wing.

Next on the American hit list was Venezuela. On December 6, 2015, the US-backed rightist opposition won control over the National Assembly. The rightists immediately commenced procedures to remove progressive socialist President Nicolas Maduro from power through dubious “constitutional” means. However, the plan faltered in Venezuela. In reaction, Washington applied crippling economic sanctions on the country, something that was to be repeated by the Trump administration against both Venezuela and the democratically-elected government of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

Pro-democracy forces in Latin America and elsewhere no longer have to worry about sudden troop movements and tanks converging on presidential palaces, but armies of judges and lawyers armed with nothing more than constitutional provisions and criminal codes stretched to the point of incredulity.

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 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.

For those with limited bandwidth, CLICK HERE to download a smaller, lower file size version of this episode.

For those interested in audio quality, CLICK HERE for the highest-quality version of this episode (WARNING: very large download).

TRANSCRIPT

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

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

SOURCE: Democracy Now, August 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

SOURCE: State Department Press Briefing – August 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

SOURCE: Trump announces US troop increase in Afghanistan

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

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

SOURCE: Trump announces US troop increase in Afghanistan

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

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

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

You’re watching The Corbett Report.

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

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

[…]

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

SOURCE: NATO Press Briefing September 12, 2001

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE: September 11 Commission: National Security Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niels Harrit Exposes the Terror War Lie

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

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

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

CLICK HERE for the mp3 audio of this conversation.

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

NES says:

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

1. Taylor — 10/02 briefing North Atlantic Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • manbearpig says:

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

    From Niels Harrit’s article:

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

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

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

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

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

DHS hacking.png

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

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

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

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

A Sensational Story 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DHS Reveals Its Self-Serving Methodology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Officials Force DHS to Tell the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NSA Finds a GRU Election Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mueller Indictment’s Sleight of Hand

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for Critical Scrutiny of DHS Cyberattack Claims

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

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

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

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