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[l] at 2/3/23 8:29am
Some of the countries the Western media claims are horrific repressive dictatorships are way happier than the U.S. So let me ask: Are you happy? Do you spend a lot of time laughing in the sun? Do you feel at peace in your life? If you live in the U.S., like me, then I’ll bet you a KFC Family Bucket meant for one person; the answer is, “No! What are you? Crazy? Have you looked around? We’ve got a climate crisis, a wage slave society, tainted water, smoggy air, most of our meals have more pesticide than food particles, and the only human interaction we get is when someone clicks thumbs down on the Instagram photo of our pesticide-filled dinner, and we have an addle-brained octogenarian in the White House. How could anyone feel at peace?” Well, what if I told you there are countries where people do feel at peace? For example, Nicaragua. As reported by Ben Norton, Gallup the other day found that “Nicaragua is the world’s #1 country where citizens feel at peace.” From the Gallup Blog: Worldwide, the percentage of people who say they ‘always’ feel at peace with their thoughts and feelings… ranges from a low of 11% in Zimbabwe to a high of 73% in Nicaragua. The list of countries worldwide where the majority of people say they always feel [at peace] is dominated by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Latin America? Nicaragua? That can’t be right. If you read U.S. media, you know Nicaragua is a repressive totalitarian hellhole. Norton continues, “The United States and Western media outlets have long demonized Nicaragua’s Sandinista government and its President Daniel Ortega, sponsoring violent coup attempts against him and imposing illegal unilateral sanctions aimed at hurting the Central American nation’s economy.” So why haven’t we couped Nicaragua recently? Well, we tried. Norton and Max Blumenthal reported on it for The Grayzone, “In 2018 the US govt funded media designed to fuel a violent coup in Nicaragua, aimed at bringing down President Ortega.” It didn’t work, though. Apparently, too much of the country felt at peace. And too many Nicaraguans actually like Ortega. According to M&R Consultores – one of the top polling companies in Latin America – over 77 percent of Nicaraguans support him. Seventy-seven percent! That’s double the percentage of Americans who approve of Joe Biden’s job performance. U.S. attacks on the happy, at-peace people of Nicaragua haven’t stopped. A year ago, Ortega was sworn in for a fourth term under a U.S. and E.U. imposed economic war. In fact, NBC News was so eager to push propaganda against President Ortega that they accidentally called him President Noriega multiple times in an article. Manuel Noriega was, of course, the corrupt dictator of Panama who we actually installed as dictator because much like Saddam Hussein, he was a close friend of the U.S. until it overthrew him in a coup. Watch the full report above. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post Were Trying To Crush The Happiest Country On Earth – Lee Camp on Nicaragua appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, Foreign Affairs, Top Story, coup, Lee Camp, Nicaragua, president ortega, United States, Western media]

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[l] at 2/3/23 8:10am
The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. Via the Twitter Files, new Twitter owner Elon Musk has helped to reveal several hair-raising stories about the extent of U.S. national security state operations on social media. However, as today’s guest explains, Musk himself is a key cog in the military-industrial and surveillance states being built by Washington. Joining Lowkey today is return guest Alan MacLeod, a Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017, Alan published two books: “Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting” and “Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent,” as well as a number of academic articles. The podcast begins with Alan discussing Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, a space firm and military contractor with close links to the CIA. He describes how SpaceX’s Starlink communications devices are being used by both the Ukrainian military and by anti-government activists in Iran to further Washington’s goals in those two countries. As Alan explains, Starlink is “an internet service which allows anyone with a terminal to directly connect to one of many thousands of satellites that are orbiting the earth.” Such channels of communication can prove to be of use towards the CIA and other intelligence services in the region, such as Mossad, which retains an illustrious reputation of purporting misinformation to support the overthrow of democratically elected governments in the Middle East. Stalinks also allow ways for U.S.-backed groups inside the country to remain online and in communication with one another without the knowledge of the government. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has been one of the U.S.’ prime targets for regime change. Suspicion towards Musk continued to rocket, as we delved further into his relationship with both NASA and more generally the National Security State. Alan describes how, from the very outset, Musk’s company was nurtured by the CIA in with the explicit expectation that it would work closely with Washington and become a key asset once established. SpaceX was also bankrolled by the U.S. government to the tune of billions of dollars. The dialogue then shifts to the revelations discovered from the Twitter Files, the direct involvement of American intelligence personnel in the production of the video game series “Call of Duty,” and later the role played by U.S., Israeli and even German intelligence agencies in carrying out the assassination of Iranian general and statesman, Qassem Soleimani. The pair also discuss the disastrous effects of U.S. militarism, noting that at least 6 million people have died in America’s post-9/11 wars, a crusade that has only resulted in destroying the region. Watch the whole interview here, exclusively at MintPress News. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic, political campaigner, and a MintPress video and podcast host. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique, and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network, and The Peace and Justice Project founded by Jeremy Corbyn. The post Elon Musks Cozy Ties With The Military Industrial Complex, With Alan MacLeod appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Podcasts, Top Story, Alan MacLeod, CIA, Elon Musk, government contracts, Iran, Lowkey, Starlink, Twitter Files, Ukraine]

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[l] at 2/2/23 9:00am
The latest Arab Opinion Index 2022 is yet more proof that Arab societies are diverse in every possible way, from their assessment of their economic situation and living conditions to their take on immigration, state institutions and democracy, with one single exception: Palestine. Seventy-six percent of all respondents to the poll, which is carried out annually by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, said that Palestine is a cause for all Arabs, not Palestinians alone. Source | Arab Center Washington DC Three important points must be kept in mind when trying to understand this number: First, Arabs are not merely expressing sympathy or solidarity with Palestinians. They are irrevocably stating that the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli Occupation is a collective Arab struggle. Second, these views are the same across all sections of society throughout the entire geographic expanse of the Arab world, from the Gulf to the Maghreb regions. Third, equally important is that the public opinions that have been examined in the poll come from countries whose governments have either full diplomatic ties with Israel or vehemently reject normalization. The study is quite extensive, as it included 33,000 individual respondents and was carried out in the period between June to December 2022. Once again, the Arab people collectively reject normalization with Israel, with Algeria and Mauritania topping the list at 99 percent each. Source | Arab Center Washington DC Though some might discount the detailed study by claiming that Arabs inherently hate Israel due to their deep-seated aversion to the Jews, the study breaks down the reason why Arab masses have such a low opinion of Israel. When they were asked as to why they reject diplomatic ties between their countries and Israel, the respondents mostly “cited Israel’s colonial and expansionist policies, as well as its racism toward the Palestinians and its persistence in expropriating Palestinian land.” Only five percent cited religious reasons behind their position, and that too cannot be dismissed as mere religious zealotry, as indeed many Arabs formulate their views based on the moral values enshrined in their religions; for example, the need to oppose and speak out against injustice. Source | Arab Center Washington DC It must be stated that this is hardly new. Arabs have exhibited these views with an unmistakable consistency since the start of the Arab Opinion Index in 2011, and one would dare argue, since the establishment of Israel atop the ruins of Palestine in 1948. But if that is the case, why are the latest poll results deserving of a discussion? While examining the American public view of Russia, the state of democracy in the US, or the greatest threat to national security, opinion polls often fluctuate from one year to the other. For example, 70 percent of all Americans considered Russia an enemy to the US in March, compared to only 41 percent in January. Source | Arab Center Washington DC The massive jump in two months is not directly related to the Russian war in Ukraine, since Ukraine is not a US territory, but because of the anti-Russia media frenzy that has not ceased for a moment since the beginning of the war. However, for Arabs, neither media shift in priorities, internal politics, class orientation, nor any other factor, seems to alter the status of Palestine as the leading Arab priority. In 2017 and 2022, respectively, two American presidents visited the Arab region. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden labored to execute a major shift in the regions political priorities. Biden summed up his agenda in a meeting with six Arab leaders in Jeddah in July by stating, “This trip is about once again positioning America in this region for the future. We are not going to leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill.” None of these self-serving priorities seem to be paying any real dividends. That said, the pressure to dismiss the centrality of Palestine as an Arab cause does not only come from the outside. It is also guided by the internal dynamics of the region itself. For example, some pan-Arab news networks, which put much focus on Palestine in previous years, have been relentlessly and, sometimes, purposely ignoring Palestine as an urgent daily reality in favor of other topics that are consistent with the regional policies of host countries. Source | Arab Center Washington DC Yet, despite all of this, Palestine remains the core of Arab values, struggles and aspirations. How is this possible? Unlike most Americans, Arabs do not necessarily formulate their views of the world based on the media agenda of the day, nor do they alter their behavior based on presidential speeches or political debates. To the contrary, their collective experiences made them particularly cynical of propaganda and fiery speeches. They formulate their views based on numerous grassroots channels of communication, whether using social media tools or listening to the Friday sermon in their local mosque. The struggle for Palestine has been internalized in the everyday acts of the average Arab woman or man, from the names they choose for their newborn to the quiet muttering of prayers before falling asleep. No amount of propaganda can possibly reverse this. Arab public opinion obviously matters, even though most Arab countries do not have functioning democratic systems. In fact, they matter most because of the lack of democracy. Every society must have a system of political legitimacy, however nominal, for it to maintain relative stability. It means that the collective Arab view in support of Palestinians and rejection of normalization without an end to Israeli Occupation would have to be taken seriously. Though some Arab governments are listening to their people and thus condition normalization on Palestinian freedom and sovereignty, the US and Israel insist on ignoring the Arab masses, as they have done for many years. However, if Washington believes that it can simply compel the Arabs to hate Russia and China and love Israel while the latter continues to kill Palestinians and occupy their land, it will be sorely disappointed, not only today but for many years to come. Feature photo | Vahid Salemi | AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Palestine is My Cause: New Poll Shows Arabs Rejecting Push to Embrace Israel appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Arab, Israel, normalization, poll, Public Opinion]

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[l] at 2/2/23 8:24am
Throughout January, a deluge of previously concealed evidence exposing how journalists, spies and social media platforms perpetuated and maintained the RussiaGate fraud has entered the public domain at long last, via the Elon Musk-approved “#TwitterFiles” series. While Twitter’s Pentagon-connected owner evidently has a partisan agenda in releasing this material, the at-times explosive disclosures amply confirm what many independent journalists and researchers had long argued. Namely, false claims of Kremlin-directed bot and troll operations online were duplicitously weaponized by an alphabet soup of U.S. intelligence agencies to bring major social networks to heel, and enduringly enshrine their status as subservient wings of the national security state. Yet, while RussiaGate only becomes ever-more dead and buried over time, and the true purposes it served becomes increasingly stark, a central component of the conspiracy theory stubbornly clings to life. In June 2017, The Intercept published a leaked N.S.A. document, which it claimed revealed “a months-long Russian hacking effort against the U.S. election infrastructure.” Ever since, it has been an article of faith in the mainstream media and among Democratic politicians that Russian G.R.U. cyberwarriors “hacked” the 2016 election, if not others too, by malevolently attempting to alter vote tallies to skew results. Moreover, Reality Winner, the N.S.A. analyst who leaked the document and ended up in jail as a result, has been elevated to the status of a heroic whistleblower on a par with Edward Snowden. These outcomes, or at least something like them, may well have been the specific objectives of the individual and/or entity that furnished the N.S.A. with the information contained in the leaked report. For as we shall see, there are strong grounds to believe Winner unwittingly walked into a trap laid by the C.I.A.   G.R.U. “Hacking Operations” Before The Intercept had even published its scoop on the leaked file, Reality Winner was in jail, pending trial for breaches of the Espionage Act. Her arrest, announced by the Department of Justice on the same day the story was published, only added to the mainstream frenzy that erupted in the wake of its publication. Overnight, the hitherto unknown Winner, a United States Air Force Intelligence Squadron veteran who’d received a medal for aiding the identification, capture, and assassination of hundreds of “high-value targets,” became a major cause célèbre for Western liberals, and campaigns calling for her release backed by major press freedom and digital rights groups sprouted in profusion. A Twitter users post showing a #Justice4Reality billboard in Augusta, Georgia, circa 2021 Winner’s incarceration, and the failure of the N.S.A. to take action on the report’s findings publicly or privately, also furthered suspicions that proof of Donald Trump’s ties to the Kremlin being subject to a politicized coverup at the highest levels, in which the ostensibly independent U.S. intelligence community itself was implicated. It is perhaps due to Winner becoming the main focal point of the scandal, combined with desperation among liberal politicians and journalists to substantiate the RussiaGate narrative, that the leaked report’s details were never subject to serious mainstream scrutiny. While The Intercept declared the document “displays no doubt” that a wide-ranging cyberattack in which spear-phishing emails were dispatched to over 100 local election officials mere days before the 2016 election “was carried out by the G.R.U.,” its contents suggest nothing of the kind. The report, authored by an N.S.A. intelligence analyst, does attribute this activity to the G.R.U. But the underlying “raw intelligence” – evidence upon which that conclusion is based – is not contained in the file. It is abundantly clear, though, the finding was far from concrete anyway. For one, the report states, “it is unknown if the G.R.U. was able to compromise any of the entities targeted successfully.” Still, more significantly, the agency is said only to be “probably” responsible – an “analyst judgment” based on the purported hacking campaign having “utilized some techniques that were similar to other G.R.U. operations.” The analyst is nonetheless forced to concede “this activity demonstrated several characteristics that distinguish it [emphasis added]” from known prior G.R.U. hacking operations. Yet further cause for doubt about the report’s clearly unsupported headline claim is provided by the extremely unsophisticated methods employed by who or what was behind the spear-phishing efforts, which included the use of a blatantly fraudulent Gmail account. Evidently, this was not a professional operation and had very little chance of succeeding. Why would an elite intelligence agency stoop to such rudimentary tactics, particularly if its operatives were seriously determined to compromise U.S. election integrity? Even more dubiously, among the named recipients of a purported G.R.U. spear-phishing email is the election office of American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory located in the South Pacific, southeast of Samoa itself. Its population is just 56,000, and they cannot vote in mainland elections. While a criminal hacker might have an interest in personal data held by such an entity, it is difficult to conceive what possible grounds a military intelligence agency would have for seeking access to such a trove. This interpretation is furthered by a chart in the N.S.A. report referring to how the same hacker also attempted spear-phishing campaigns targeting other email addresses, including those registered with Mail.ru, a Russian company. These shortcomings, rather than a concerted coverup, may account for why the report was not publicized or acted upon by the N.S.A. The Intercept, however, bombastically dubbed the document “the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.”   “Speed and Recklessness” When asked by journalist Aaron Maté in a September 2018 interview about “the possibility that the significance of this document has been inflated,” Jim Risen, senior national security correspondent at The Intercept and director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund (which supported Winner’s legal defense) was at a total loss. Audibly flustered and irritated by this repeated line of questioning, Risen then terminated the interview abruptly when Maté sought to probe him over “criticism” of how The Intercept handled the document, which all but ensured Winner’s identification and imprisonment. Now departed co-founder of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald rightly branded Winner’s exposure “deeply embarrassing,” claiming it resulted from “speed and recklessness.” A New York Times post-mortem of the debacle confirmed the two reporters who took the lead on the story, Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito – whose sloppiness and dishonesty landed C.I.A. whistleblower John Kiriakou in jail in 2012 for disclosing secrets about the Agency’s torture program – were “pushed to rush the story to publication.” It would be entirely unsurprising if this pressure emanated from Betsy Reed, then editor-in-chief of The Intercept, a committed RussiaGate advocate who in 2018 slammed left-wing skeptics of the narrative as “pale imitations” of Glenn Greenwald, lacking his “intelligence [and] nuance.” When former FBI director Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation conclusively found no indication of a secret relationship between Trump and the Kremlin the next year, she claimed the failed probe, in fact, identified “plenty” of “soft loose” collusion. The outlet’s haste to publicize the leaked N.S.A. report meant in-house digital security specialists at The Intercept were not consulted, leading Cole and Esposito to make a number of shocking blunders in attempting to verify the document pre-publication. First, they contacted a U.S. government contractor via unsecured text message, informing them they had received a printed copy of the document in the mail, postmarked Augusta, Georgia, where Winner then lived. This contractor subsequently informed the N.S.A. Then, The Intercept approached the N.S.A. directly with a copy of the report. As Winner’s arrest warrant attests, examination of the material showed pages within it were creased, “suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.” Winner leaves a District Courthouse in Augusta, Ga., following a bond hearing in 2017.  Michael Holahan | Augusta Chronicle | AP   While all color printers embed borderline invisible patterns on each page, allowing for individual devices to be identified via serial number, the N.S.A. simply checked which of its staffers had printed the document. Six had, and Winner was among them. Further checks of the sextet’s desk computers showed she, and only she had used hers to contact The Intercept. The outlet’s failure to undertake even the most basic measures to protect their source terminally damaged its reputation and remains a stain upon it and its senior staff to this day. Nonetheless, there has never been any acknowledgment of how inept and incautious Winner’s own actions were. Even if The Intercept had not readily handed over distinguishing clues to the N.S.A, her highly self-incriminating use of a work computer to email the outlet, along with identifying the specific area where she resided, were in themselves smoking guns that almost inevitably would have led to her exposure.   “Ignore Dissenting Data” Winner has always claimed she acted alone, and there is no reason to doubt that she felt it was her patriotic duty to release the document. But her clumsiness, naivety and incompetence suggest she may well be easily manipulable, and a great many individuals and organizations had an interest in the dud intelligence report’s release. Foremost among them, elements of the C.I.A. loyal to John Brennan, Agency director between 2013 and January 2017. Two weeks before Donald Trump took office, Brennan presented an Intelligence Community Assessment (I.C.A.) on “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.” It declared American spooks had “high confidence” that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election to help the upstart outsider seize power. While the document contained nothing to substantiate that charge, its dubious assertions were eagerly seized upon by the media. It was not revealed until four years later that this “confidence” wasn’t shared by the U.S. intelligence community. Instead, Brennan personally authored the report’s incendiary conclusions, then selected a clique of his own confidantes to sign off on them. This subterfuge irked many analysts within and without the C.I.A. who assessed Russia, in fact, favored a Hillary Clinton victory, given Trump was an unpredictable “wild card” calling for much-increased U.S. military spending. “Brennan took a thesis and decided he was going to ignore dissenting data and exaggerate the importance of that conclusion, even though they said it didn’t have any real substance behind it,” stated a senior U.S. intelligence official. The only trace of dissent to be found in the I.C.A. is a reference to the N.S.A. not sharing the “confidence” of the C.I.A. in its findings. While wholly overlooked at the time, this deviation was massively consequential, given the N.S.A. closely monitors the communications of Russian officials. Its operatives would therefore be well-placed to know if high-level figures in Moscow had discussed plans to assist Trump’s campaign or even viewed him positively. Brennan fudged the I.C.A. findings to keep the F.B.I. Trump-Russia “collusion” investigation alive. Launched by the Bureau in 2016, it found no evidence Trump or members of his campaign were conspiring with Moscow. The N.S.A. publicly breaking ranks would have inevitably been poorly received by Brennan and his allies in Langley, given it undermined their malign objectives. As such, it is an obvious question whether Winner’s leak – in addition to furthering the RussiaGate fiction and damaging Trump – also served to discredit the N.S.A. by creating the illusion it had been asleep at the wheel over Kremlin meddling, if not actively suppressing evidence of this activity from the public. Winner need not have been a willing or conscious collaborator in this scenario; the introduction of the report she leaked notes opaquely that information about the purported G.R.U. hacking effort became available in April 2017. The nature of this information and its source is unstated; could it have been the C.I.A. or operatives thereof?   “Exposing a White House Coverup” Winner was convicted in August 2018 and jailed for 63 months, the longest sentence ever imposed for the unauthorized release of classified information to the media in U.S. history. Her appallingly harsh sentence was accordingly framed as politically motivated, yet further proof then-President Donald Trump had been compromised by and/or owed his upset election victory to the Kremlin and was desperate for this to be swept under the rug. Released in June 2021, Winner remains under probation until November 2024, is not allowed to leave southern Texas, has to obey a strict curfew, and must report any interaction with the media in advance, a shocking coda to her time behind bars. Still, while allegedly facing imprisonment for discussing the document she leaked publicly, a documentary on her case is in production, and she has conducted multiple interviews with both mainstream and independent journalists. In Winner’s most prominent media appearance to date, in July 2022, CBS aired a highly sympathetic, lengthy sit-down discussion with her, likely watched by millions. Apparently unconcerned about legal ramifications, she made a number of bold claims and statements throughout, at total odds with comments at her sentencing, when she told the judge, “my actions were a cruel betrayal of my nation’s trust in me.” For its part, CBS rather unbelievably declared, based on the word of “two former officials,” that her leak “helped secure the 2018 midterm election,” as it revealed the “top secret emails” used by the hackers. Quite what threat those addresses could have posed, or why they would continue to be used a year-and-a-half after the report became publicly available, is not clear. The program’s framing of Winner, in her own words, “exposing a White House coverup” as “the public was being lied to” was even more curious. A clip of Trump being interviewed by John Dickerson – “typical of the time,” according to CBS – was inserted, in which the President stated, “if you don’t catch a hacker in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking.” “I’ll go along with Russia, could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups,” he added before a CBS narrator stated dramatically, “but it was Russia, and the NSA knew it,” as Winner “had seen proof in a top-secret report on an in-house newsfeed.” The program then cut back to the former N.S.A. analyst: “I just kept thinking, ‘My God, somebody needs to step forward and put this right. Somebody.’” In that clip, Trump was, in fact, discussing which party was responsible for purported cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee servers (D.N.C.), not the spear-phishing attack on election officials detailed in the leaked N.S.A. report. This dishonest sleight of hand by the program’s producers is nonetheless illuminating, for it highlights another potential utility of that report’s leak from the perspective of the C.I.A. – obfuscating its own role in the hack-and-leak of Democratic Party emails. That the D.N.C. servers were hacked by Russian intelligence is widely accepted, a conclusion based primarily on the findings of D.N.C. contractor CrowdStrike. Yet, when grilled under oath by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the matter in December 2017, the company’s chief, Shawn Henry, revealed he, in fact, possessed no “concrete evidence” the files were “actually exfiltrated” by anyone – dynamite testimony that was hidden from public view for over two years. CrowdStrike’s case for Russian culpability was predicated on a number of seemingly injudicious errors on the part of the hackers, such as their computer username referencing the founder of the Soviet Union’s secret police, Russian text in their malware’s source code, and ham-fisted attempts to use the Romanian language. However, WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 disclosures show the CIA’s “Marble Framework” deliberately inserts these apparent failings precisely into a cyberattack’s digital footprint to falsely attribute its own hacking to other countries. The Agency would have had good reason for falsely attributing the emails’ source. For one, at this time, the C.I.A. was tearing its proverbial hair out attempting to link WikiLeaks – the organization that published them – and its founder Julian Assange with a foreign actor, preferably Russia, to secure legal justification for engaging in hostile counterintelligence operations against the organization and its members. By framing the emails as Russian-hacked, media and public attention were also diverted from the communications’ contents, which revealed corruption by the Clinton Foundation and meddling in the Democratic Party primaries to prevent Bernie Sanders from securing the Presidential nomination. Meanwhile, concerns about whether D.N.C. staffer Seth Rich’s still-unsolved July 2016 murder was in any way related to his potential role in leaking the material were very effectively silenced. The fate of Assange (and perhaps Rich, too) is a palpable demonstration of what can so often befall those who publish damaging information powerful people and organizations do not want in the public domain. Winner’s veneration by the U.S. liberal establishment, and post-release promotion by the mainstream media, should, at the very least, raise serious questions about who or what ultimately benefited from her well-meaning, personally destructive actions. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg. The post Did the CIA Set Up NSA Leaker Reality Winner? appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, CIA, collusion, G.R.U., nsa, Reality Winner, Russiagate]

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[l] at 1/30/23 5:40pm
On January 19, during one of its raids in the Occupied West Bank, the Israeli military arrested a Palestinian journalist, Abdul Muhsen Shalaldeh, near Al-Khalil (Hebron). This is just the latest of a staggering number of violations against Palestinian journalists and freedom of expression. A few days earlier, the head of the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS), Naser Abu Baker, shared some tragic numbers during a press conference in Ramallah. “Fifty-five reporters have been killed, either by Israeli fire or bombardment since 2000,” he said. Hundreds more were wounded, arrested or detained. Although shocking, much of this reality is censored in mainstream media. The murder by Israeli occupation soldiers of veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 was an exception, partly due to the global influence of her employer, Al Jazeera Network. Still, Israel and its allies labored to hide the news, resorting to the usual tactic of smearing those who defy the Israeli narrative. Palestinian journalists pay a heavy price for carrying out their mission of spreading the truth about the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Their work is critical not only to good and balanced media coverage but to the very cause of justice and freedom in Palestine. In a recent report on January 17, PJS detailed some of the harrowing experiences of Palestinian journalists. “Dozens of journalists were targeted by the occupation forces and settlers during the last year, which (recorded) the highest number of serious attacks against Palestinian journalists.” However, the harm inflicted on Palestinian journalists is not only physical and material. They are also constantly exposed to a very subtle but equally dangerous threat: the constant delegitimization of their work.   The Violence of Delegitimization One of the writers of this piece, Romana Rubeo, attended a close meeting involving over 100 Italian journalists on January 18, which aimed at advising them on how to report accurately on Palestine. Rubeo did her best to convey some of the facts discussed in this article, which she practices daily as the Managing Editor of the Palestine Chronicle.  However, a veteran Israeli journalist, often touted for her courageous reporting on Palestine, dropped a bombshell when she suggested that Palestinians cannot always be trusted with the little details. She communicated something to this effect: Though the truth is on the Palestinian side, they cannot be totally trusted about the little details, while the Israelis are more reliable on the little things, but they lie about the big picture. As outrageous let alone Orientalist such thinking may appear, it dwarfs in comparison to the state-operated hasbara machine of the Israeli government. But is it true that Palestinians cannot be trusted with the little details? When Abu Akleh was killed, she was not the only journalist targeted in Jenin. Her companion, another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was present and was also shot and wounded by an Israeli bullet in the back. Naturally, al-Samoudi was the primary eyewitness to what had occurred that day. He told journalists from his hospital bed that there was no fighting in that area; that he and Shireen were wearing clearly marked press vests; that Israeli soldiers intentionally targeted them, and that Palestinian fighters were not anywhere close to the range from which they were shot. All of this was dismissed by Israel and, in turn, by western mainstream media since supposedly ‘Palestinians could not be trusted with the little details.’ However, investigations by international human rights groups and, eventually, a bashful Israeli admission of possible guilt proved that al-Samoudi’s account was the most honest detailing of the truth. This episode has been repeated hundreds of times throughout the years where, from the outset, Palestinian views are dismissed as untrue or exaggerated, and the Israeli narrative is embraced as the only possible truth, only for the truth to be eventually revealed, authenticating the Palestinian side every time. Quite often, facts are revealed too little too late. The tragic murder of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Durrah remains the most shameful episode of western media bias. The death of the boy, who was killed by Israeli occupation troops in Gaza in 2000 while sheltered by his father’s side, was essentially blamed on Palestinians before the narrative of his murder was rewritten, suggesting that he was killed in the ‘crossfire.’ That version of the story eventually changed to the reluctant acceptance of the Palestinian reporting on the event. Unfortunately, the story didn’t end here, as Zionist hasbara continued to push its narrative, smearing those who adopt the Palestinian version as being anti-Israel or even ‘antisemitic.’   (No) Permission to Narrate Though Palestinian journalism has proved its effectiveness in recent years with the Gaza wars being a prime example thanks to the power of social media and its ability to disseminate information directly to news consumers, the challenges remain great. Nearly four decades after the publishing of Edward Said’s essay “Permission to Narrate” and over ten years after Rafeef Ziadah’s seminal poem “We Teach Life, Sir,” it seems that, in some media platforms and political environments, Palestinians still need to acquire permission to narrate, partly because of the anti-Palestinian racism that continues to prevail, but also because, per the judgment of a supposedly pro-Palestinian journalist, Palestinians cannot be entrusted with the little details. However, there is much hope in this story. There is a new, empowered, and courageous generation of Palestinian activists authors, writers, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and artists that is more than qualified to represent Palestinians and to present a cohesive, non-factional, and universal political discourse on Palestine.   A New Generation’s Search for the Truth  Indeed, times have changed, and Palestinians no longer require filters as in those speaking on their behalf since Palestinians are supposedly inherently incapable of doing so. The authors of this article have recently interviewed two representatives of this new generation of Palestinian journalists, two strong voices that advocate authentic Palestinian presence in international media: journalists and editors Ahmed Alnaouq and Fahya Shalash. Shalash is a West Bank-based reporter who discussed media coverage based on Palestinian priorities, counting many examples of important stories that go unreported. “As Palestinian women, we have a lot of obstacles in our life, and they are (all) related to the Israeli Occupation because it’s very dangerous to work as a journalist. All the world saw what happened to Shireen Abu Akleh for reporting the truth on Palestine,” she said. Shalash understands that being a Palestinian, reporting on Palestine is not just a professional but an emotional and personal experience, as well. “When I work, and I am on the phone with the families of Palestinian prisoners or martyrs, sometimes I break into tears.” Indeed, stories about the abuse and targeting of Palestinian women by Israeli soldiers are hardly a media topic. “Israel puts on the democracy mask; they pretend that they care for women’s rights, but this is not at all what happens here,” the Palestinian journalist said. “They hit Palestinian female journalists because they are physically weaker; they curse them with very inappropriate language. I was personally detained for interrogation by Israeli forces. This affected my work. They threatened me, saying that if I continued to depict them as criminals in my work, they would have stopped me from being a journalist.” “In Western media, they keep talking about women’s rights and gender equality, but we don’t have rights at all. We do not live like any other country,” she added. For his part, Alnaouq, the head of the Palestine-based organization ‘We Are Not Numbers,’ explained how mainstream media never allow Palestinian voices to be present in their coverage. Even pieces written by Palestinians are “heavily edited.” “It is also the editors’ fault,” he said. “Sometimes they make big mistakes. When a Palestinian is killed in Gaza or the West Bank, the editors should say who the perpetrator is, but these publications often omit this information. They do not mention Israel as the perpetrator. They have some kind of agenda that they want to impose.” When asked how he would change the coverage of Palestine if he worked as an editor in a mainstream Western publication, Alnaouq said: “I would just tell the truth. And this is what we want as Palestinians. We want the truth. We don’t want Western media to be biased toward us and attack Israel; we just want them to tell the truth as it should be.”   Prioritizing Palestine  Only Palestinian voices can convey the emotions of highly charged stories about Palestine, stories that never make it to mainstream media coverage. When they do, these stories are often missing context, prioritize Israeli views if not outright lies and sometimes omit Palestinians altogether. But as the work of Abu Akleh, al-Samoudi, Alnaouq and Shalash, and hundreds more, continues to demonstrate, Palestinians are qualified to produce high-quality journalism with integrity and professionalism. Palestinians must be the core of the Palestinian narrative in all of its manifestations. It is time to break away from the old way of thinking that saw the Palestinian as incapable of narrating or of being a liability on his/her own story, of being secondary characters that can be replaced or substituted by those deemed more credible and truthful. Anything less than this can be rightfully mistaken for Orientalist thinking of a bygone era; or worse. Feature photo | Nasser Ishtayeh | Associated Press Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out.’ His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth.’ Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net. Romana Rubeo is an Italian writer and the Managing Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. Her articles appear in many online newspapers and academic journals. She holds a Master’s Degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and specializes in audio-visual and journalism translation. The post Palestinians Are Not Liars: Confronting the Violence of Media Delegitimization appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, algorithmic censorship, Delegitimization, Israel, Media, Palestanian voices, Palestine]

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[l] at 1/30/23 9:37am
PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — Empires in terminal decline leap from one military fiasco to the next. The war in Ukraine, another bungled attempt to reassert U.S. global hegemony, fits this pattern. The danger is that the more dire things look, the more the U.S. will escalate the conflict, potentially provoking open confrontation with Russia. If Russia carries out retaliatory attacks on supply and training bases in neighboring NATO countries, or uses tactical nuclear weapons, NATO will almost certainly respond by attacking Russian forces. We will have ignited World War III, which could result in a nuclear holocaust. U.S. military support for Ukraine began with the basics — ammunition and assault weapons. The Biden administration, however, soon crossed several self-imposed red lines to provide a tidal wave of lethal war machinery: Stinger anti-aircraft systems; Javelin anti-armor systems; M777 towed Howitzers; 122mm GRAD rockets; M142 multiple rocket launchers, or HIMARS; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Patriot air defense batteries; National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); M113 Armored Personnel Carriers; and now 31 M1 Abrams, as part of a new $400 million package. These tanks will be supplemented by 14 German Leopard 2A6 tanks, 14 British Challenger 2 tanks, as well as tanks from other NATO members, including Poland. Next on the list are armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) ammunition and F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. Since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022, Congress has approved more than $113 billion in aid to Ukraine and allied nations supporting the war in Ukraine. Three-fifths of this aid, $67 billion, has been allocated for military expenditures. There are 28 countries transferring weapons to Ukraine. All of them, with the exception of Australia, Canada and the U.S., are in Europe. The rapid upgrade of sophisticated military hardware and aid provided to Ukraine is not a good sign for the NATO alliance. It takes many months, if not years, of training to operate and coordinate these weapons systems. Tank battles — I was in the last major tank battle outside Kuwait City during the first Gulf war as a reporter — are highly choreographed and complex operations. Armor must work in close concert with air power, warships, infantry and artillery batteries. It will be many, many months, if not years, before Ukrainian forces receive adequate training to operate this equipment and coordinate the diverse components of a modern battlefield. Indeed, the U.S. never succeeded in training the Iraqi and Afghan armies in combined arms maneuver warfare, despite two decades of occupation. I was with Marine Corps units in February 1991 that pushed Iraqi forces out of the Saudi Arabian town of Khafji. Supplied with superior military equipment, the Saudi soldiers that held Khafji offered ineffectual resistance. As we entered the city, we saw Saudi troops in commandeered fire trucks, hightailing it south to escape the fighting. All the fancy military hardware, which the Saudis had purchased from the U.S., proved worthless because they did not know how to use it. NATO military commanders understand that the infusion of these weapons systems into the war will not alter what is, at best, a stalemate, defined largely by artillery duels over hundreds of miles of front lines. The purchase of these weapons systems — one M1 Abrams tank costs $10 million when training and sustainment are included — increases the profits of the arms manufacturers. The use of these weapons in Ukraine allows them to be tested in battlefield conditions, making the war a laboratory for weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin. All this is useful to NATO and to the arms industry. But it is not very useful to Ukraine. The other problem with advanced weapons systems such as the M1 Abrams, which have 1,500-horsepower turbine engines that run on jet fuel, is that they are temperamental and require highly skilled and near constant maintenance. They are not forgiving to those operating them who make mistakes; indeed, mistakes can be lethal. The most optimistic scenario for deploying M1-Abrams tanks in Ukraine is six to eight months, more likely longer. If Russia launches a major offensive in the spring, as expected, the M1 Abrams will not be part of the Ukrainian arsenal. Even when they do arrive, they will not significantly alter the balance of power, especially if the Russians are able to turn the tanks, manned by inexperienced crews, into charred hulks. So why all this infusion of high-tech weaponry? We can sum it up in one word: panic. Having declared a de facto war on Russia and openly calling for the removal of Vladimir Putin, the neoconservative pimps of war watch with dread as Ukraine is being pummeled by a relentless Russian war of attrition. Ukraine has suffered nearly 18,000 civilian casualties (6,919 killed and 11,075 injured). It has also seen  around 8 percent of its total housing destroyed or damaged and 50 percent of its energy infrastructure directly impacted with frequent power cuts. Ukraine requires at least $3 billion a month in outside support to keep its economy afloat, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director recently said. Nearly 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced — 8 million in Europe and 6 million internally — and up to 18 million people, or 40 percent of Ukraine’s population, will soon require humanitarian assistance. Ukraine’s economy contracted by 35 percent in 2022, and 60 percent of Ukrainians are now poised to live on less than $5.5 a day, according to World Bank estimates. Nine million Ukrainians are without electricity and water in sub-zero temperatures, the Ukrainian president says. According to estimates from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 100,000 Ukrainian and 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war as of last November. “My feeling is we are at a crucial moment in the conflict when the momentum could shift in favor of Russia if we don’t act decisively and quickly,” former U.S. Senator Rob Portman was quoted as saying at the World Economic Forum in a post by The Atlantic Council. “A surge is needed.” Turning logic on its head, the shills for war argue that “the greatest nuclear threat we face is a Russian victory.” The cavalier attitude to a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia by the cheerleaders for the war in Ukraine is very, very frightening, especially given the fiascos they oversaw for twenty years in the Middle East. The near hysterical calls to support Ukraine as a bulwark of liberty and democracy by the mandarins in Washington are a response to the palpable rot and decline of the U.S. empire. America’s global authority has been decimated by well-publicized war crimes, torture, economic decline, social disintegration — including the assault on the capital on January 6, the botched response to the pandemic, declining life expectancies and the plague of mass shootings — and a series of military debacles from Vietnam to Afghanistan. The coups, political assassinations, election fraud, black propaganda, blackmail, kidnapping, brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, U.S. sanctioned massacres, torture in global black sites, proxy wars and military interventions carried out by the United States around the globe since the end of World War II have never resulted in the establishment of a democratic government. Instead, these interventions have led to over 20 million killed and spawned a global revulsion for U.S. imperialism. In desperation, the empire pumps ever greater sums into its war machine. The most recent $1.7 trillion spending bill included $847 billion for the military;  the total is boosted to $858 billion when factoring in accounts that don’t fall under the Armed Services committees’ jurisdiction, such as the Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons maintenance and the infrastructure that develops them. In 2021, when the U.S. had a military budget of $801 billion, it constituted nearly 40 percent of all global military expenditures, more than the next nine countries, including Russia and China, spent on their militaries combined. As Edward Gibbon observed about the Roman Empire’s own fatal lust for endless war: “[T]he decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of the destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of the ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted for so long.” A state of permanent war creates complex bureaucracies, sustained by compliant politicians, journalists, scientists, technocrats and academics, who obsequiously serve the war machine. This militarism needs mortal enemies — the latest are Russia and China — even when those demonized have no intention or capability, as was the case with Iraq, of harming the U.S. We are hostage to these incestuous institutional structures. Earlier this month, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, for example, appointed eight commissioners to review Biden’s National Defense Strategy (NDS) to “examine the assumptions, objectives, defense investments, force posture and structure, operational concepts, and military risks of the NDS.” The commission, as Eli Clifton writes at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, is “largely comprised of individuals with financial ties to the weapons industry and U.S. government contractors, raising questions about whether the commission will take a critical eye to contractors who receive $400 billion of the $858 billion FY2023 defense budget.” The chair of the commission, Clifton notes, is former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who “sits on the board of Iridium Communications, a satellite communications firm that was awarded a seven-year $738.5 million contract with the Department of Defense in 2019.” Reports about Russian interference in the elections and Russia bots manipulating public opinion — which Matt Taibbi’s recent reporting on the “Twitter Files” exposes as an elaborate piece of black propaganda — was uncritically amplified by the press. It seduced Democrats and their liberal supporters into seeing Russia as a mortal enemy. The near universal support for a prolonged war with Ukraine would not be possible without this con. America’s two ruling parties depend on campaign funds from the war industry and are pressured by weapons manufacturers in their state or districts, who employ constituents, to pass gargantuan military budgets. Politicians are acutely aware that to challenge the permanent war economy is to be attacked as unpatriotic and is usually an act of political suicide. “The soul that is enslaved to war cries out for deliverance,” writes Simone Weil in her essay “The Iliad or the Poem of Force”, “but deliverance itself appears to it an extreme and tragic aspect, the aspect of destruction.” Historians refer to the quixotic attempt by empires in decline to regain a lost hegemony through military adventurism as “micro-militarism.” During the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.) the Athenians invaded Sicily, losing 200 ships and thousands of soldiers. The defeat ignited a series of successful revolts throughout the Athenian empire. The Roman Empire, which at its height lasted for two centuries, became captive to its one military man army that, similar to the U.S. war industry, was a state within a state. Rome’s once mighty legions in the late stage of empire suffered defeat after defeat while extracting ever more resources from a crumbling and impoverished state. In the end, the elite Praetorian Guard auctioned off the emperorship to the highest bidder. The  British Empire, already decimated by the suicidal military folly of World War I, breathed its last gasp in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Britain withdrew in humiliation and became an appendage of the United States. A decade-long war in Afghanistan sealed the fate of a decrepit Soviet Union. “While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book, “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.” “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micro-military operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.” The plan to reshape Europe and the global balance of power by degrading Russia is turning out to resemble the failed plan to reshape the Middle East. It is fueling a global food crisis and devastating Europe with near double-digit inflation. It is exposing the impotency, once again, of the United States, and the bankruptcy of its ruling oligarchs. As a counterweight to the United States, nations such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Iran are severing themselves from the tyranny of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a move that will trigger economic and social catastrophe in the United States. Washington is giving Ukraine ever more sophisticated weapons systems and billions upon billions in aid in a futile bid to save Ukraine but, more importantly, to save itself. Feature photo | Illustration by Mr. Fish Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report. The post Chris Hedges: Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Top Story, Chris Hedges, NATO, Russia, Ukraine, War]

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[l] at 1/27/23 9:49am
On Jan. 11, Israel’s new minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, named Facebook senior employee, Jordana Cutler, as the ministry’s director general. The ministry is notorious for combatting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and promoting a positive image of Israel abroad. Yet with Cutler’s biography and Facebook’s history of censoring Palestinian content, experts and activists are sounding the alarm over the appointment. Cutler worked as Facebooks public policy director for Israel and the Jewish diaspora since 2016. During her time there, the social media giant was consistently accused of restricting Palestinian content on its site — a problem that persists today. Palestinian digital rights organization SadaSocial said in a statement to MintPress News: We believe that Jordana Cutlers appointment as director general of Israels Ministry of Strategic Affairs underscores the mutual relationship between the two parties, Israels official level and social media platforms, which translates on the ground into the suppression of Palestinian content. A senior #Facebook employee will be #Israels Director General of the Strategic Affairs Ministry in Netanyahus gov. Prior to joining Facebook, Jordana Cutler used to be an advisor to Netanyahu, a Likud campaign strategist & advisor to Israels Embassy in the US!#RevolvingDoor pic.twitter.com/jNHzZWsikJ — Muhammad Shehada (@muhammadshehad2) January 12, 2023 Cutler’s new government role is not the first time she has been involved in politics, however. She worked for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 2005-2007 and then again in 2013- 2016 as its Chief of Staff. From 2009 to 2013, she was an advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, during Benjamin Netanyahu’s time as head of state. Before that, she also worked on the political campaigns of Likud – Netanyahu’s political party.   “Our woman at Facebook” In 2020, Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, called Cutler “Our woman at Facebook” and subsequently named her one of the 50 most influential Jews of 2022. “My job is to represent Facebook to Israel, and represent Israel to Facebook,” Cutler told the outlet. Throughout her time at Facebook, the social media behemoth consistently topped the list of tech companies violating Palestinian digital rights, according to data from SadaSocial and 7amleh – The Arab Center For the Advancement of Social Media. In 2021, 7amleh recorded 585 violations occurring on Facebook. In 2020, SadaSocial reported 801 violations on the social media platform. And in 2018, SadaSocial documented 370 violations on Facebook, that number jumped to 779 in 2019. 7amleh recorded more violations of Palestinian rights by Facebook during Cutlers time at the tech firm than on any other platform. Source | 7amleh “This makes us very worried that one of the people working for the government of occupation is in direct contact with one of the biggest social media platforms, which could lead to more censorship, repression, and digital aggression,” SadaSocial said, adding that Cutler’s appointment may increase the arrests of Palestinians for their social media posts. A September 2022 report by the independent consulting firm, Business for Social Responsibility found that Meta (the company which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) violated Palestinian users’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political participation, and non-discrimination during Israel’s May 2021 assault on Gaza. Specifically, the findings conclude Meta over-enforced rules on Arabic content and under-enforced Hebrew content. The report confirmed long-standing accusations that Meta silenced Palestinian voices online during the events of May 2021. As Israel rained missiles on Gaza and violently arrested Palestinians in the flashpoint Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, activists reported that social media companies, particularly Instagram and Facebook, removed their content under the pretext it violated community guidelines. Facebook admitted to the content takedowns during that period in a statement to MintPress News: We know there have been several issues that have impacted people’s ability to share on our apps, including a technical bug that affected Stories around the world, and an error which temporarily restricted content from being viewed on the Al Aqsa mosque hashtag page. There have been countless incidents of Facebook restricting content or deactivating accounts belonging to Palestinian activists, news agencies, and non-governmental organizations over the years. In 2021, Facebook removed the page of pro-Palestinian protest network, Palestine Action, allegedly for violating its community guidelines. This occurred after the organization succeeded in shutting down Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems’ factory in Shenstone, U.K. Following the success of the Elbit factory shut-down, Facebook has unpublished Palestine Actions account | join us at https://t.co/ZD80Xg7cU0 pic.twitter.com/s5rZVGYCGw — Palestine Action (@Pal_action) February 2, 2021 “Facebook has long suppressed Palestinian voices and their moderation policies have been plainly driven by anti-Palestinian racism,” Palestine Action told MintPress News. This was not the first time the activist group faced social media censorship. Palestine Action said in a statement to MintPress News: In our own experience, Facebook has regularly attempted to stifle our campaigns against firms supplying Israel with arms. Our Facebook profile was removed after less than two months of our founding, and our Instagram profile has been shadowbanned, locked, or shut down for days at a time. Facebook’s move against Palestine Action appeared to be at the behest of U.K. Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), a pro-Israel lawfare group. “Facebook’s action follows UKLFI’s letter to them, highlighting Palestine Action’s breaches of their Community Standards and requesting that the organization’s Facebook page be removed,” UKLFI wrote after Facebook deactivated Palestine Action’s account. According to the nonprofit resource center, the Charity & Security Network, UKLFI is tied to the Israeli government. UKLFI was featured on Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and co-sponsored a conference in London with the Israeli Embassy. The organization’s international director, Yifa Segal, previously worked as the Chief of Staff to Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and is the founder of the International Legal Forum (ILF), which is connected to Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. According to the Charity & Security Network, the ILF administered a grant program funded by the Strategic Affairs Ministry and partnered with the ministry to host its first legal conference in 2018. Segal also worked with Shurat HaDin, a law firm revealed to take direction from Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, and Israel’s National Security Council on what cases to pursue.   An Israeli ministry peddling propaganda The government department Cutler is expected to work in was shuttered in 2021 by the Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid government but has now been revived under Benjamin Netanyahu. The ministry’s previous mission was battling the BDS movement, but will now reportedly focus on Iran, relations with the U.S., and expanding and deepening the Abraham Accords, the set of Israeli normalization agreements with Arab countries. The ministry’s more covert role, however, has been spreading Israeli propaganda through social media networks. Through its company, Kela Shlomo, or Solomon’s Sling, the ministry carried out activities to improve Israel’s image and fight delegitimization attempts online, through smear campaigns, lobbying efforts, and sponsored content. For instance, the ministry budgeted NIS 2.6 million ($740,000) in 2017 to promote content on social media and search engines, including Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, according to a freedom of information request provided to Israeli newspaper The Seventh Eye and regulatory movement Hatzlacha. Additionally, an NIS 2 million ($570,000) was reserved for producing multimedia content for Act.il, a-now defunct app designed to lead an online army of pro-Israel trolls in spreading disinformation, reporting content critical of Israel, and increasing hate speech directed towards Palestinians. A 2018 study by 7ameleh revealed how the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs takes an active role in silencing Israels critics online. Source | 7amleh The Ministry of Strategic Affairs also created the website 4IL.org.il (now part of the Foreign Affairs Ministry) which recruits individuals to disseminate pro-Israel content, often engaging in smear campaigns of prominent Palestinian human rights defenders. For instance, the site published an article accusing Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq’s director, Shawan Jabarin, of terrorism. Once packed with ex-Israeli spies, the ministry has also been involved in monitoring social media activity. According to Al-Jazeera’s documentary series “The Lobby”, it tracks information from social media about BDS supporters. The Strategic Affairs Ministry is not the only government unit using social media to its advantage. According to 7amleh, Israeli authorities have relied on Facebook to censor content since 2016 — when Cutler took up her position at the social media giant. This is done through the Israeli Justice Ministry’s Cyber Unit which submits content removal requests to social media companies based on purported violations of domestic law and the companies’ community guidelines. According to a 2020 7amleh report, former Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked said in 2016 that “‘Facebook, Google, and YouTube are complying with up to 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that the Israeli government says incites Palestinian violence.’” With Facebook’s Cutler now at the forefront of an Israeli ministry’s propaganda efforts, social media may become an even more contentious battleground for Palestinian activists. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News. The post Facebook’s Jordana Cutler Appointed Head of Controversial Israeli Ministry, Sparking Censorship Fears appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Inside Stories, Investigations, News, Top Story, Censorship, Facebook, Human Rights, Israel, Jordana Cutler, Meta, ministry of strategic affairs]

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[l] at 1/27/23 7:35am
For how long will I be in captivity? After so many years, where are the state and the people of Israel? These were the words, uttered in Hebrew, of a person believed to be Avera Mengistu, an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin who was captured and held in Gaza in 2014. Footage of Mengistu, looking nervous but also somewhat defiant, calling on his countrymen to end his 9-year incarceration mostly ended speculation in Israel on whether the soldier was alive or dead. The timing of the release of the footage by Hamas was obvious, and is directly linked to the Palestinian group’s efforts aimed at conducting a prisoner exchange similar to the one carried out in 2011, which saw the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. The main target audience of Hamas’ message is the new government and, specifically, the new military leadership. Israel now has a new army chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, who has replaced the departing chief, Aviv Kochavi. The latter seemed disinterested in Mengistu’s cause, while the new chief arrives with lofty promises about uniting the country behind its military and opening a new page where the army is no longer involved in everyday politics. It may appear that Hamas and other Gaza groups are in a stronger position than the one they enjoyed during Shalit’s captivity, between 2006 and 2011. Not only are they militarily stronger but, instead of capturing one Israeli, they have four: aside from Mengistu, they also have Hisham al-Sayed, and what is believed to be the remains of two other soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. But this is when the story gets particularly complicated. Unlike Shalit, who is white and holds dual Israeli-French citizenship, Mengistu and al-Sayed are Ethiopian Jew and Bedouin, respectively. Racism based on color and ethnicity is rife in Israel. Although no Israeli officials will admit to this openly, Israel is in no rush to rescue two men who are not members of the dominant Ashkenazi group, or even of the socially less privileged Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews. Black Jews and Bedouins have always been placed at the bottom of Israels socio-economic indicators. In 2011, the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post shared numbers from a disturbing report, which placed poverty among children of Ethiopian immigrants at a whopping 65 percent. The number is particularly staggering when compared to the average poverty rate in Israel, of 21 percent. Mengistu, pictured right, poses in an undated family photo released to the media Things have not improved much since then. The Israeli Justice Ministrys annual report on racism complaints shows that 24 percent of all complaints are filed by Ethiopians. This racism covers most aspects of public life, from education to services to police mistreatment. Not even enlisting in the military Israels most revered institution is enough to change Ethiopians’ position in Israeli society. The famous story of Demas Fikadey in 2015 is a case in point. Then only 21, the Ethiopian soldier was beaten up severely by two Israeli police officers in a Tel Aviv suburb for no reason at all. The whole episode was caught on camera, leading to mass protests and even violent clashes. For Ethiopian Jews, the humiliation and violence carried out against Fikadey was a representation of years of suffering, racism and discrimination. Many believe that the governments lackluster response to Mengistus prolonged capture is directly linked to the fact that he is black. Israels discriminatory behavior against African asylum seekers, which often leads to forceful deportation following humiliating treatment, is well known. Amnesty International described this in a report in 2018 as “a cruel and misguided abandonment of responsibility”. But discriminating against a black soldier, who, by Israels own estimation, is believed to suffer from mental illness, is a whole different kind of ‘abandonment.’ A former Israeli army official, Col. Moshe Tal did not mince words in a recent national radio interview when he said that Mengistu and al-Sayed are a low priority for the public “on the account of their race,” Haaretz reported. “If we were speaking about two other citizens from other backgrounds and socio-economic statuses … the amount of interest would be different,” Tal said. In contrast to Shalits story, the government’s “attention to the affair (and) the media pulse is close to zero.” Israel’s Ethiopian Jews number around 170,000, hardly an important political constituency in a remarkably divided and polarized society. Most of them are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who arrived in Israel between 1980 and 1992. Though they are still known as the Falasha, they are sometimes referred to by the more dignified name of Beta Israel or House of Israel. Superficial language alterations aside, their struggle is evident in everyday Israel. The plight of Mengistu, as expressed in his own question, “where are the state and the people of Israel?” sums up the sense of collective loss and alienation this community has felt for nearly two generations. When Mengistu arrived with his family at the age of 5 in Israel, escaping a bloody civil war in Ethiopia and historic discrimination there, the family, like most Ethiopians, hardly knew that discrimination would follow them, even in the supposed land of ‘milk and honey’. And, most likely, they also knew little about the plight of Palestinians, the native inhabitants of that historic land, who are victims of terrible violence, racism and much more. Palestinians know well why Israel has done little to free the black soldier; Mengistu and his Ethiopian community also understand how race is an important factor in Israeli politics. Although a prisoner exchange could potentially free Mengistu and an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel and discrimination against Ethiopian Jews will carry on for much longer. While Palestinians are resisting Israel’s military occupation and apartheid, Ethiopian Jews should mount their own resistance for greater rights. Their resistance must be predicated on the understanding that Palestinians and Arabs are not the enemy but potential allies in a joint fight against racism, apartheid and socio-economic marginalization. Feature photo | A banner showing captive Israeli civilian Avera Mengistu, left and dead Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul center, and Hadar Goldin. Tsafrir Abayov | AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Israels Racism Exposed in Ongoing Imprisonment of Ethiopian-Born Soldier Avera Mengistu appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, Avera Mengistu, Ethiopian, Israel, Prisoner exchange, racsim]

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[l] at 1/26/23 8:12am
The Jordanian Ambassador to the State of Israel was recently denied entry to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem – the third-holiest site in Islam. This is an incident that is so severe and so dangerous that not only the Jordanian government but the entire Arab and Muslim world – as well as the West – should have reprimanded Israel severely. The governments of Israel and Jordan decided to downplay this incident, but there must be no mistake; it marks a dangerous new development for the Holy Sanctuary, or Haram Al-Sharif, where the mosque sits. With this “incident,” Israel and particularly the new czar of national security the racist thug turned minister Itamar Ben-Gvir is telling the Arab and Muslim world, “theres a new sheriff in town.” Preventing the Jordanian Ambassador from entering the Al-Aqsa compound was unacceptable on several levels. As a Muslim, he has the right to go and pray at the mosque at any time he pleases; as an ambassador and representative of another country, he should be afforded courtesy and respect; and as the ambassador of the state which is the custodian of the entire compound, the entire Holy Sanctuary, he is entitled to visit at any time and needs no permission from any other authority.   A sacred site like no other Known in English as the Holy Sanctuary, Haram al-Sharif takes up about one-sixth of the Old City of Jerusalem or about one-half square mile. In 2022, I interviewed Dr. Yousef Natshe, one of the leading authorities on Islamic art and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The compound is composed of three levels of topography and over one hundred architectural structures, representing some of the finest examples of Islamic art and architecture. There are fifteen gates leading to the compound, four of which are currently blocked. As Dr. Natshe describes it, “it is a narrative within a narrative.” The Haram Al-Sharif has been constantly cared for and developed by the most notable figures in Islam going back to Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, who entered Jerusalem in the seventh century, CE. “Wherever you look you see the fingerprints of an amir or a king,” all of whom added something, Dr. Natsche says. He also added what many Palestinians – young and old – have expressed over and over again: Al-Aqsa is the last resort, the final refuge. As Palestinians lose land and rights and the ability to survive, not to mention lose their children to Israeli bullets, they look to Al-Aqsa as a place of refuge and the place they will protect with everything theyve got. “Each Palestinian sees him or herself as the protector of Al-Aqsa,” he explained. We have seen this in recent years as settlers and soldiers storm the site and Palestinians from all walks of life stand to protect it. The Israeli government knows this, and the current administration is challenging Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims by desecrating the Holy Sanctuary, demanding it for themselves. And while this was done slowly and gradually in the past, the current government is marching forward with no regard for the consequences. What we saw take place with the Jordanian Ambassador was the first shot in a war they are declaring on Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims everywhere.   Unacceptable on several levels While Israel tried to describe the incident with the Jordanian Ambassador as little more than a misunderstanding, it was nothing of the sort. Militarized and heavily armed Jerusalem police patrol the Al-Aqsa compound regularly in order to intimidate and show who is in charge. The only way to describe these police officers is “goons”; they are large, brutish, usually unshaven, easily provoked and with a dangerous propensity for violence. I have personally seen them many times, including when they are on the attack. Based on tradition that goes back more than fifteen hundred years, and on diplomatic and legal agreements that have been signed and reaffirmed over and over in the last century, custodianship of the Holy Sanctuary today belongs to the Kingdom of Jordan. That means, in simple language, that they have the authority in the compound. The Waqf, or religious trust that governs the Holy Sanctuary, which includes Al-Aqsa mosque and all that exists within the compound, is a Jordanian institution, governed by the Kingdom of Jordan. One could perhaps compare it to an embassy, and the authority and sovereignty within the embassy belongs to the state it represents. In the summer of 2022 I visited the Waqf, which is where I interviewed Dr. Yousef Natshe. I had to walk into the offices of the Waqf, the Islamic religious trust, and it was like entering an office within Jordan. For reasons beyond understanding, I had to negotiate with Israeli police about the right to enter the office, which for all legal purposes is under the sovereignty of the Jordanian government and not the Israeli police. My reflections on joining a militarized Israeli settler tour of the temple mount of #AlAqsa in #Jerusalem. pic.twitter.com/j8bKVOds7o — Miko Peled (@mikopeled) May 26, 2021   Grave concern If there is anyone watching the developments surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa compound who is not gravely concerned, then they need to wake up. Claims made by Zionists to Al-Aqsa would be equivalent to someone demanding the Vatican – which was built much later than Al-Aqsa – be removed because before it was built there was a temple for some other deity and they have the right to build their own temple again. If someone was mad enough to make such claims, they would be laughed at, and rightly so. It is probably not possible for someone who is not a Muslim or at least close enough to Islam to comprehend the importance, the significance and the awe surrounding Al-Aqsa. It is equally not possible therefore to comprehend the danger in what Israel is doing. Israel and its current zealot-led government are fully aware that they are placing not only Jerusalem, not only Palestine, not even only the entire Middle East but the entire world on the edge of an unpredictable catastrophe. It is time for the international community to step in. It is time for Americans to prepare for the possibility that the Sixth Fleet – which controls the Mediterranean region – be mobilized to rescue Palestinians. The longer the world waits, the more Palestinians die and the closer we get to what will surely be an unimaginable loss. Feature photo | A view of Al-Aqsa Mosque The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Occupied Palestine on December 29, 2022. Beata Zawrzel | NurPhoto via AP Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post New Sheriff in Town: Israels Dangerous Challenge to Al-Aqsa Custodianship Threatens World Peace appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, Top Story, Al-Aqsa, Custodianship, Haram Al-Sharif, Israel, Jordan, temple mount]

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[l] at 1/26/23 7:20am
Today, “Behind The Headlines” host Lee Camp speaks to Omali Yeshitela, a man raided by the FBI for the crime of being a black socialist. Together, the two discuss the revolutionary black liberation movement, U.S. imperialism, racism, and the corruption of the two-party system. In August of last year, the FBI raided the offices of the African Peoples Socialist Party (APSP), with agents using flash-bang grenades at 5 am on a Friday to startle and arrest individuals inside its headquarters. Yeshitela helped found the APSP in 1972, at a time when the Black Liberation movement was being similarly quashed by government forces. The group’s mission is to advocate for the rights and self-determination of African people globally. The organization has been a sharp critic of the U.S. and NATO-backed war in Ukraine and a defender of poor nations threatened by American sanctions, coups, embargoes, and blockades. Yeshitela himself was an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s, an organization that came into existence as a bridge between the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement. SNCC was also harassed by the FBI, with many of its leaders arrested or chased out of the country. It is important to note that the APSPs activism is not limited to the United States, but extends globally, resonating with African people throughout the world. The organizations focus on self-determination and economic development for African people is crucial in addressing the systemic issues faced by the African diaspora. The recent raid by the FBI serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts to silence and repress marginalized communities and their advocates. In addition to its political activism, the APSP also focuses on building self-sufficient and sustainable communities for African people. This includes efforts to establish cooperatives and collective ownership of land and resources, as well as programs to address issues such as housing, education, and healthcare. The organization believes that the only way for African people to truly be free is through economic and political control of their own lives and communities. The APSP also operates the Uhuru Movement, which includes a variety of organizations working towards the same goals, such as the African Peoples Education and Defense Fund, the International Peoples Democratic Uhuru Movement, and Black Star Industries. These organizations work on various fronts, from education and cultural preservation to economic development and community organizing. The repression faced by the APSP is not an isolated incident, but is part of a larger pattern of targeting black liberation movements and organizations. The FBIs Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) was a covert and often illegal program of the 1960s and 1970s, with the goal of disrupting and neutralizing political organizations considered to be a threat to national security. This program targeted a wide range of groups, including the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, and the Puerto Rican independence movement. The recent raid on the APSP, as well as the continued targeting of Black liberation organizations, is a reminder of the ongoing efforts to silence and repress marginalized communities and their advocates. It is crucial to support and amplify the voices of these organizations and their efforts to build self-sufficient and sustainable communities for African people. Watch the full interview only at MintPress News. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post Raided by The FBI for Being Socialist, with Omali Yeshitela appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, News, Top Story, African People's Socialist Party, black liberation, COINTELPRO, FBI, Lee Camp, Omali Yeshitela, socialism]

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[l] at 1/24/23 7:18am
In this livestream interview, Lee Camp speaks with Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the female-led anti-war group CODEPINK. Benjamin has been on a tour of late, discussing her most recent book, War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict. The book delves into the ongoing conflict and aims to raise awareness and inspire grassroots activism to prevent a potential World War III. The interview begins with Camp mentioning some of his previous interviews with notable figures such as Julian Assanges wife, Stella, and Julians father, John Shipton. Camp then plays a video of Benjamins most recent disruption, which took place at an event hosted by a Washington think tank and featuring Adam Smith, the hawkish head of the House Armed Services Committee. In the clip, Benjamin can be heard shutting down Smiths speech and bringing attention to the dangers of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the potential for nuclear war. Benjamin explained that Smith was giving a talk at the Brookings Institute about his work, but she felt it was important to bring attention to the fact that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine – fueled by billions of dollars in military spending – is taking us to the brink of nuclear war. She references the chair of the Joint Chief of Staff, Mark Milley, who said that negotiations are necessary to prevent war. Throughout the interview, Camp and Benjamin continue to discuss the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the dangers of escalating military spending. They also touch on the importance of peaceful negotiations and the role of grassroots activism in preventing war. The interview ends with Benjamin encouraging viewers to read her book and get involved in the movement to prevent war and promote peace. Benjamin also speaks about her experiences as an anti-war activist and the challenges she has faced along the way. Mainstream corporate media refuse to cover issues related to war and peace properly, so it falls to activists and alternative media to raise awareness of the most important stories of our time. Tirelessly committed to non-violent resistance in achieving change, Benjamin notes that one of the key factors holding society back is the lack of transparency and accountability in government. By keeping the public in the dark about the true costs and consequences of war, politicians can continue pushing for military spending and escalating conflicts without facing any real opposition. She calls on the public to demand more from their representatives and to hold them accountable for their actions. International cooperation, Benjamin insists, is absolutely crucial in addressing the extinction-level threats of nuclear war and climate change. She argues that the current system, in which nations act in their own self-interest, is unsustainable and leads to conflicts and war. Instead, what must be built is a system in which nations work together to find peaceful solutions to global issues. The interview provides a thought-provoking and insightful look into the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the dangers of escalating military spending. War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the conflict and the impact it has on the world. Benjamin’s message of peaceful activism and grassroots mobilization is sorely needed in todays world, and her dedication to raising awareness and promoting peace is an inspiration to us all. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post Making Politicians Uncomfortable, with Anti-War Activist Medea Benjamin appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, Top Story, activist, anti war, interview, Lee Camp, Medea Benjamin]

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[l] at 1/23/23 8:55am
If you watched the 2021 movie “Farha,” you will relate to the following story. I had a quiet evening and decided to watch the film on Netflix. I was pleased to see that there was no Israeli funding involved, as there often is even for Palestinian films. The movie opens with lovely scenes from rural Palestine and young girls playing around. One girl, who we later learn is “Farha”, stands out. So far, so good. However, somewhere between the middle and the end of the film, I felt like someone kicked me in the gut so hard I would never be able to get up again. When it was over, I remained sitting, unable to get up and unsure what to do. My only thought was, “who could I call that would appreciate what I was feeling?” Just then, out of the blue, my friend Katie Halper texted me. “Have you seen ‘Farha?’” she asked. The film opens by showing the beauty of pre-Zionist rural Palestine. The film was shot in Jordan, where the landscape is very similar. We see Farha in her village, we meet her father and uncle, and it seems like what one would expect in a Palestinian village in pre-Zionist Palestine. And yet, I could not help feeling that something terrible was brewing. Maybe because I know all too well what had happened to Palestinians in 1947- 48, how the ethnic cleansing campaign had caught most Palestinians by surprise. Maybe because of the countless stories I had heard of how the Zionist assault, like an unexpected storm, came suddenly, violently, and disrupted daily lives and destroyed plans that people had for themselves and their children. Without giving away too much of the movie, it gives us a glimpse, a short moment if you will, of the personal story of Farha the girl. We see it described in some detail. How her ambitions contrasted with the old traditions of a Palestinian village, how her father, the Mukhtar of the village played by my friend Ashraf Barhom, needs to make an important decision about his daughter and about the future of the community his family has led for generations. Farha has no mother and up to this point the movie is quite innocent and lovely.   A kick in the gut The attack on the village and its consequences come as no surprise to anyone who knows the history of Palestine. However, what transpired after the assault and the fate that befalls Farha is not at all expected. The chaos that follows turns the story to Farha and her particular strengths and ability to deal with enormous personal difficulty. She knows very little about the fate of her family, her village and her country. However, it slowly becomes clear to the viewer that the difficulties in which she finds herself cannot be separated from the fate of her people and her country. Other than a small glimpse of the unbelievable horror that Palestinians had faced during that time, the movie shows and tells us very little. But the power within the little we do see, and the way in which Farha sees it, is so powerful that it kept me feeling like I had been kicked in the gut.   If the hat fits In case there is anyone out there who is not familiar with the saying, “If the hat fits, wear it,” it refers to someone getting defensive before they have been accused. The official Israeli and pro-Israel response to the movie made me think of this phrase. Very little reference is made to Israel, and even that is only noticeable to someone who knows the history of Palestine. Israel, Jewish people or Zionism are never mentioned in the movie. We hear very little Hebrew spoken, but only Hebrew speakers can understand it, as it is not completely clear. However, whatever the movie did not tell us about Israel’s culpability, Israel and its allies did. Demands were made on Netflix to drop the picture, and when that did not help, there were calls to boycott Netflix. Some Israelis, so we are told, even canceled their Netflix subscription. Clearly that made very little difference as it was recently reported that Netflix has experienced a huge rise in subscription levels and the company is reporting record profits. Israeli papers and Israeli public figures complained that the movie was anti-Semitic; that it was spreading vicious rumors about their soldiers murdering innocent civilians. So, it seems Israel is admitting — albeit by its fervent denials – that indeed Israeli soldiers committed crimes during 1947-48, even though the movie makes no such direct claim.   A Second Nakba Israel officially denies that there were forced expulsions and massacres during 1947-48; in other words, that there was no Nakba. In fact, in a recent interview Benjamin Netanyahu gave to Jordan Peterson, he said that when the Jews came to Palestine at the turn of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the country was empty and barren. The Jews, according to Netanyahu, made the country bloom and prosper and that was when Arabs (who now call themselves Palestinians) began to come. These Arabs, Netanyahu says, were welcomed by the Jews, who were happy for everyone to live and prosper together. However, several Israeli public figures refer to the Nakba regularly when they want to threaten and frighten Palestinians. Only last weekend, a crowd of settlers gathered in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, chanting “we want Nakba now”. Today the settlers are calling again for a Nakba in Sheikh Jarrah. We want Nakba now theyre chanting. This is no property dispute. Ethnic cleansing is what theyre after, and ethnic cleansing is what their doing.#SaveSheikhJarrah pic.twitter.com/ueftPl88j5 — Free Jerusalem (@FreeJerusalem1) January 20, 2023 Two interesting things to note regarding the movie and the reactions to it. The first, the Nakba is never mentioned, it is the story of one girl in one village. The second is that there are many, many movies that show soldiers committing war crimes. Germans and Japanese perhaps more than any, but certainly Americans, French, Danish, and on and on. I cannot recall any of the governments or the people of these countries reacting as the Israelis did with regard to Farha. One has to assume that Israel and its supporters are particularly brittle. Feature photo |  Still from the Netflix film Farha. Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post Israel’s Hysterical Response to “Farha” Proves the Movies Effectiveness appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Top Story, anti-semetism, boycott, Farha, film, Israel, Nakba, Netflix, Palestine]

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[l] at 1/23/23 8:07am
The Global Firepower ranking was published on January 6. The annual report classifies the world’s strongest militaries based on over 60 factors, including size, spending and technological advancements. The report, which placed the United States military on top, followed by Russia, China, India and the UK, raised more questions than answers, with some accusing GFP, the organization that compiled the report, of being biased, sloppy and highly politicized. For example, while Russia maintained its former position as the second strongest military in the world, Ukraine jumped by seven spots, to occupy the 15th position. This raises questions: how did GFP possibly estimate the current capabilities of the Ukrainian military nearly a year after a devastating war that destroyed much of Kyiv’s original military hardware, especially when the Pentagon itself is still unable to track the massive shipments of weapons delivered to Ukraine since the start of the war? A more pertinent set of questions must be asked: is this truly the time for chest-thumping about military strength and frivolous spending on hardware, an act that is ultimately aimed at generating profits, instilling fear and killing people? Following the Paris Agreement on the environment of 2015, many governments appeared to have finally risen to the occasion, by collectively agreeing that climate change is, indeed, the greatest danger facing humankind. That promising moment did not last for long, however, as the US Administration of Donald Trump reneged on Washington’s earlier commitment, thus weakening the resolve of others to lower greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, shifting the world’s attention increasingly away from what suddenly seemed to be a less urgent climate crisis. For some, the new focus was mere survival; for others, the devastating economic consequences of the pandemic; for the poorest countries, it was both. “The world’s poorest countries have been hardest hit, with women and children bearing a disproportionate burden,” according to a report published by Oxfam in March 2022. This is to be expected. Even before the world managed to heal from its global ailment and its equally deadly variants, the Russia-Ukraine war began early last year. For Russia, it was, in part, a bold attempt at confronting the decade-long violence in the Donbas; for the West, it was a last stand to defend an unsustainable unipolar world order. The resultant global competition is unprecedented since World War II, which killed up to 60 million people, shattered many economies, led to mass migrations, devastated the environment and redrew the map of many nations and, by extension, the world’s geopolitics. And, just like that, we are back to the harsh realities of the ‘great games’ of yesteryears and with it, the unbearable price tag of death toll, economic dissolution and the gradual, but at times, irreversible damage to the environment. In times like this, the number of dead becomes, for some of us, daily statistics devoid of emotions or meaning. Thus, tens of thousands of dead and many more wounded cease to become individuals with feelings, hopes and aspirations. They are mere fodder in a war that must be won at any price so that an old world order can be sustained a bit longer, or a new one is allowed to be born. The millions of war refugees also become detached from their real value as people with rooted identities, a deep sense of belonging, and histories that span many generations. Their usefulness barely extends beyond the need to serve as one of the numerous facets of a propaganda war, where one side, and one side alone, deserves all the blame. Rarely do we also reflect on the unintended and sometimes intended consequences of the war. While, ironically, Europe continues to pray for a warm winter to survive its ongoing energy crisis, others are too deep in their own crises resulting from the war. Is all of this worth the price of blood and gore that is being paid on a daily basis? Warmongers often think so, and not because of some pathological urge for violence, but because of the astronomical profits often associated with long-term conflicts. Global conflicts often lead to sharp increases in arms sales, worldwide, as every government wants to ensure, in the post-war world order, it will be able to command greater influence and respect. Those who have climbed in the GFP ranks, naturally, want to maintain their hard-earned status; those who fell in rank would do anything to rise again. The outcome is predictable: more weapons, more conflicts and more profits. And, in the midst of it all, poverty, homelessness, social inequality, climate disasters, and global responses to pandemics are all relegated to the bottom of our collective list of priorities, as if the once critical matters are of no particular urgency. But what is the point of having a strong army, and a weak, unequal, unfree, impoverished, and pandemic-ravished society? This is certainly not a question for Global Firepower to answer because change does not start through the ranking of strong or weak militaries but is spawned within society itself. Feature photo | A Russian T-72 moves to a firing position in the course of Russias military operation in Ukraine, at the unknown location. Konstantin Mihalchevskiy | Sputnik via AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Strong Militaries, Weak Society: The Missing Story in the Global Firepower Ranking appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, News, arms sales, Global conflict, Global Firepower Ranking, Ramzy Baroud, study]

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[l] at 1/20/23 10:38am
MintPress News can reveal the existence of a secret British intelligence network that fed top journalists and the world lies and misinformation about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, thereby amping up tensions with Russia and paving the way for World War Three. On December 23, it was announced Facebook’s parent company Meta would pay $725 million to U.S.-based users whose personal information was harvested by Cambridge Analytica, the largest ever data privacy class action settlement in history. The development represents the culmination of a global scandal that erupted in the initial months of 2017, led to official investigations into Cambridge Analytica and Facebook in multiple countries, triggered widespread public debates about online privacy and the malign influence of behavioral advertising and microtargeting in the democratic process, precipitated the abrupt collapse of the company and its parent, Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) Group, and dominated mainstream headlines for years. Yet, for all the relentless coverage and hype over so long, there is a dimension to the farrago that has never previously been explored. Now, it must be. MintPress can reveal a secret British intelligence network fed top journalists and the world lies and misinformation about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, distorting perceptions, misdirecting attention and public anger, amping up tensions with Russia, and paving the way for World War Three.   A highly profitable, ignoble lie Ironically, perhaps the most notable thing about Meta’s record-breaking settlement is that it went almost entirely unremarked upon by mainstream journalists. Even Carole Cadwalladr, the writer most prominently associated with the story and never typically one to pass up an opportunity for nauseating self-promotion remained silent. In part, this may be due to the results of an investigation by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (I.C.O.), the largest in its history, comprehensively incinerating her most explosive, headline-dominating claims about Cambridge Analytica, back in October 2020. That probe was triggered in March 2018 after it was confirmed that Cambridge Analytica had effectively stolen the Facebook data of 50 million U.S. citizens by exploiting a loophole in the platform’s developer interface. This ill-gotten yield was then exploited in online propaganda campaigns that sought to manipulate voters in favor of right-wing candidates and campaigns, albeit with little success. Having forensically examined over 700 terabytes of data seized from the company’s servers not long after the controversy erupted, the I.C.O. found no evidence that; Cambridge Analytica played any role whatsoever in the 2016 Brexit referendum; its much-vaunted psychographic techniques were at all unique or even vaguely effective at influencing target audiences’ behavior, let alone insidiously compelling people to vote a particular way; or there was any link whatsoever between the firm and Russia. Of all the myths to arise from the Cambridge Analytica furor, the notion the company was, one way or another, linked to the Kremlin, and somehow served as its covert nucleus for destabilizing American and British democracy, is the most pervasive and enduring. In part, this is due to the narrative’s partisan political utility. In March 2018, twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton alleged Cambridge Analytica’s “advice” on voter personality profiles could’ve helped Russia’s Internet Research Agency “target their messages so precisely” and help Trump win. This baseless conjecture, directly informed by conspiracy theorizing from Cadwalladr who in turn leaped upon it as validation of her false reporting did much to further the then-burgeoning Russiagate farce. More sinisterly, though, there was a concerted, wide-ranging black propaganda campaign clandestinely run by elements of British intelligence, aggressively pushing the Cambridge Analytica-as-Russian-compromised narrative for a variety of malign purposes. We live with the noxious legacy of this malicious misdirection to this day, the effects of which have been literally fatal.   “We use the same techniques as Hitler” Strategic Communication Laboratories began life as Behavioural Dynamics, a firm founded in 1990 by public relations impresario Nigel Oakes. From its inception until its dying day, it was a quintessentially British company in every way. The same was true of the myriad of shadowy subsidiaries to which it subsequently gave birth. Oakes, a graduate of the upper-class private school Eton, had by its launch been romantically linked to members of the royal family and rumored to moonlight as a spy for MI5, London’s domestic intelligence service. Very quickly, Behavioural Dynamics carved a niche employing innovative strategies to give commercial clients the edge over competitors. In 1992, an advertising industry magazine detailed how Oakes sought to “win hearts and minds” and “mould public opinion,” such as pumping particular odors into retail outlets “to influence customers” and peppering in-store radio programs with subtle references to security guards to deter shoplifters. “We use the same techniques as Aristotle and Hitler,” he boasted. “We appeal to people on an emotional level to get them to agree on a functional level. Quickly, Behavioural Dynamics became SCL and began deploying these methods in election campaigns for Western-backed rulers in democratizing countries. By 2013, Oakes’ firm had morphed into a nexus of theoretically separate but intimately interlinked entities, operating from the same London address, sharing staff, and all providing much the same psychological warfare services to corporate and state clients. It was that year the consortium’s U.S. division was rebranded as Cambridge Analytica and began receiving funding from Stateside oligarchs, which eventually included the reclusive Mercer family and Trump Svengali, Steve Bannon. Still, SCL Group remained a Western establishment to the marrow. Its staff was overwhelmingly comprised of British military and intelligence veterans, with Conservative party grandees, aristocrats, and defense contractors ensconced at its highest levels. Its roster of clients included NATO, multiple allied governments, and their respective defense departments and armies. Reflecting this, the company officially enjoyed “List X” status for many years, a rarely-bestowed British state security accreditation meaning it was trusted to store top secret government information on its premises. Only the most sworn by contractors, staffed by individuals with the highest security clearances, can attain this distinction. Simultaneously, SCL’s patented DARPA and Defence Science and Technology Laboratories-approved Target Audience Analysis was considered by British officials a weapons-grade resource comparable to bullets, guns, and missiles and subject to formal export controls as a result, limiting its sale overseas. An example of SCLs Target Audience Analysis model adopted for NATO by STRATCOM Export Target Audience Analysis – and other skulduggery, much of it honed against enemy armies and governments – SCL and its subsidiaries eagerly did, primarily in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South America. One of Carole Cadwalladr’s earliest reports on Cambridge Analytica, in May 2017, cut to the core of this raison d’etre, and modus operandi. “What’s been lost in the coverage of this ‘data analytics’ firm is the understanding of where the firm came from: deep within the military-industrial complex. A weird British corner of it populated, as the military establishment in Britain is, by old-school Tories,” Cadwalladr explained. SCL/Cambridge Analytica was not some startup created by a couple of guys with a Mac PowerBook. It’s effectively part of the British defence establishment. And, now, too, the American defence establishment.” A nameless former Cambridge Analytica operative also characterized their time at the company as “like working for MI6, only it’s MI6 for hire”: It was very posh, very English, run by an old Etonian and you got to do some really cool things. Fly all over the world. You were working with the president of Kenya or Ghana or wherever. It’s not like election campaigns in the West. You got to do all sorts of crazy shit.” All consideration of this background would quickly vanish from Cadwalladr’s reporting, though, and never return.   “Tools of malign influence” In late 2018, documents exposing the internal workings of Integrity Initiative began leaking online. The incendiary material showed that the organization, staffed by British military and intelligence veterans and funded to the tune of millions by the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence, Lithuanian government, NATO, and Facebook, among others, was conducting arm’s length, state-backed information warfare operations designed to tarnish Russia on London’s behalf. Domestic enemies such as then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were also in its firing line. As part of this effort, the Initiative maintained an international constellation of “clusters” – clandestine networks of journalists, academics, pundits, politicians and security officials – through which black propaganda could be spread, to influence government policy and public perceptions. All their members were formally trained in the art of online trolling. An example of the devastating real-world effects these nexuses could achieve when corralled was provided throughout 2017, when Integrity Initiative’s Spanish chapter perpetuated the bogus narrative that the Kremlin was meddling in the Catalan independence referendum. By covertly feeding dubious, evidence-free dossiers rife with misleading data and false claims to Spanish journalists, think tanks and politicians, and coordinating social media messaging, the cluster not only severely damaged previously warm relations between Madrid and Moscow, but framed WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange as a Russian agent leading the charge against Catalonia, prompting the Ecuadorian Embassy to cut off his contact with the outside world, which laid the foundations for his forced removal and resultant incarceration in April 2019. Cadwalladr was openly named in the Initiative leaks, and like many other confirmed cluster members had a shameful history of smearing Assange and Corbyn as Kremlin assets. This raises the obvious prospect that she was likewise taking direct orders from British intelligence. The Initiative files indicated Cadwalladr was a speaker at an event the Initiative convened in November 2018, “Tackling Tools of Malign Influence”, at London’s prestigious Frontline Club. There, she delivered an hour-long presentation on “The Fake News Challenge to Independent Journalism.” An accompanying internal bio stated she had “broken several exclusive stories on how Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to steal private data and the Vote Leave campaign to disseminate misinformation to skew the Brexit referendum.” When grilled about the leaked files on Twitter, Cadwalladr claimed to have conducted the talk for innocent reasons. She also insisted she did not receive a fee for participating – despite crowdfunding her work at the time, a corporate media salary apparently insufficient to support her professional and personal expenses. Cadwalladr used the opportunity to advance false allegations about WikiLeaks knowingly abetting Russian intelligence, although went quiet when further probed about her relationship with Integrity Initiative. She has remained silent on the question ever since, apart from unbelievably claiming the Initiative leaks were a Kremlin hacking operation specifically intended to discredit her journalism.   “Compiled in good faith by spies” A witness statement Cadwalladr submitted to court while being sued for libel by Arron Banks persuasively indicates she was in close contact with Integrity Initiative, and it sought to directly influence her reporting. Made public before her victory, a particularly revealing section of the statement references Cadwalladr “[speaking] to individuals on an off the record basis” between July 2018 and December 2019 about Banks, a pro-Brexit British oligarch with uncertain sources of wealth who she had implied in multiple articles and interviews was a Russian asset. One such individual was an ex-Foreign Office official “who worked at an agency that was contracted to undertake work countering Russian disinformation in Europe” on behalf of the Foreign Office. This was the official cover description of Integrity Initiative. He contacted Cadwalladr as “he was alarmed by information that he had come across that implicated [Banks] in a Russian influence operation.” She then verified his “status” by checking his LinkedIn profile before meeting him at his employer’s offices. There, he provided her with two “intelligence files,” one detailing Banks’ “involvement in organized crime in South Africa, including money laundering and cigarette and diamond smuggling,” the other anxieties about his Russian-born wife, Katya. Cadwalladr’s source claimed Katya “had entered Britain on a passport…sequentially numbered to the passport of Katia Zatuliveter,” a Russian woman who’d had an affair with then-Labour MP Mike Hancock many years prior. MI5 believed Zatuliveter was a honeytrap spy, sent to infiltrate British politics at its highest levels and sought to have her forcibly deported from the country. London’s shadowy Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a court typically concerned with trials of terror suspects on British soil, begged to differ. It ruled the agency’s case against Zatuliveter was nonsensical and unsupported by anything approaching evidence. What substantiation had been provided by Britain’s domestic spying service was inversely found to directly contradict the charge she was a spook. Moreover, as Cadwalladr noted in her statement, controversial Western government-funded investigations collective Bellingcat claimed to have identified the alleged poisoners of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018 as GRU operatives on the basis they had sequential passport numbers too. While she found this convincingly suspicious, a cynic might suggest MI6 propagandists are simply not very imaginative. According to Cadwalladr, the intelligence dossiers “were very detailed and contained a wealth of information that was not in the public domain,” based on “human intelligence sources.” There was also content, such as photographs of Katya’s “notebook” with “personal details, drawn from “non-public sources” included in the haul. Based on “the nature and credibility of the source” alone, Cadwalladr “believed these dossiers had been compiled in good faith” by “individuals close to, if not in, the intelligence services.” She considered the content highly credible by reflex and thus worthy of further exploration. Cadwalladr also didn’t smell a rat when her source encouraged her to investigate further on the basis that they and the organization they represented were apparently unable to do so because of their Foreign Office contract – a flagrant lure. Nonetheless, as she “could not verify the information” – which may well have been falsified – the bombshell content on Banks and his inner circle remained undivulged until her libel trial.   “If no catastrophe happens…” A core component of the Integrity Initiative scandal was the organization’s use of its Twitter account for party political purposes, namely to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, which is illegal under Foreign Office funding rules. Integrity Initiative’s Twitter output more generally pointed to the individuals and organizations in its crosshairs behind-the-scenes, and the assorted propaganda narratives it sought to perpetuate publicly. It is striking then that the account published multiple critical tweets about Arron Banks, in particular suggestions he was working for Moscow. One leaked Integrity Initiative file confirms the hardcore Brexiteer was a specific target of the organization. In it, operative Euan Grant lists mainstream journalists with whom he secretly coordinates and on what topics, mentioning that he had recently briefed a reporter at The Financial Times on the “African activities of Russia and, especially, the Israeli links,” which “lead into things which are not unconnected to Arron Banks.” On Twitter, Integrity Initiative took a keen interest in allegations of Russian meddling in Brexit. Fittingly, the first mainstream voice to level this charge, in December 2016, was British Labour MP Ben Bradshaw – a member of the organization’s U.K. cluster. The account was also used to regularly promote flamboyant self-styled Cambridge Analytica “whistleblower” Chris Wylie, a key source for the most lurid (and almost universally since discredited) claims about Cambridge Analytica’s operations, and psychological warfare wizardry. Curiously, most of these tweets were deleted after its internal files began leaking. Thus, it is almost inconceivable the organization Cadwalladr described in her witness statement was not Integrity Initiative. The ex-Foreign Office official who briefed her is therefore almost certain to have been Guy Spindler, a veteran MI6 operative with a public LinkedIn profile, who was posted to the British Embassy in Moscow at the same time as Christopher Steele, author of the dodgy Trump-Russia dossier. Integrity Initiative may have had a cynical self-interest in sabotaging the Cambridge Analytica scandal. British Army psyops specialist Steve Tatham, former head of SCL’s defense wing, who personally taught NATO personnel “techniques to counter Russia’s propaganda,” is part of its U.K. cluster. Gaby van den Berg, a longtime SCL luminary who created many of the company’s methods of manipulation, was, according to the leaked files, invited to join the Initiative’s Dutch cluster in June 2018. Reportedly “very interested” and expressing a desire “to come to meetings and be involved,” she was duly summoned to the cluster’s first formal summit in September that year. As MintPress has revealed, van den Berg subsequently founded a firm offering the same services as Cambridge Analytica. British intelligence would, by definition, also wish to ensure Cambridge Analytica’s high-level connections to Western governments, spying services and militaries, and meddling throughout the Global South on their behalf, were not subject to public scrutiny. Today, London relies on an incestuous network of private contractors staffed by former soldiers and spies to do its dirty work abroad. This is never discussed in the mainstream media, and the full scale of these operations is not known – and likely never will be. However, there was a much darker agenda behind Integrity Initiative’s intervention in the scandal. The organization’s founders, such as longtime NATO and British Army defense advisor Chris Donnelly, were all fervent anti-Russia hawks of some standing, who subscribed to the hazardous notion that the West was already at war with Moscow, but the governments and citizens of Europe and North America did not know it yet. As such, as an October 2016 Integrity Initiative memo on “how Russia can be managed and deterred…by doing things that are serious” put it, “if no catastrophe happens to wake people up and demand a response,” it was necessary to manufacture such a catastrophe – or several. By fraudulently linking Cambridge Analytica to Russia, and the firm to the victory of Brexit and the election of Trump, those events were effectively transformed into direct, deliberate attacks by the Kremlin on the U.S. and Britain. In response, significant proportions of their respective populations felt violated and angry, and clamored for something to be done. Integrity Initiative was heavily involved in seeding similar malign narratives the world over. The result in every case was widespread public and political hostility to Russia, and refusal by governments to engage constructively with Moscow. Were it not for the organization’s machinations, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may well have been avoided. It is surely no coincidence that both Chris Donnelly and Guy Spindler are leading Britain’s contribution to the proxy war, their explicit strategy one of endless escalation and provocation. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress news Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg. The post How British Intelligence Sabotaged Cambridge Analytica Scandal appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, Behavioural Dynamics, Cambridge Analytica, Carole Cadwalladr, Facebook, Integrity Initiative, Meta, MI5, Nigel Oakes, SCL]

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[l] at 1/20/23 7:54am
NATO has begun plans to make the “human mind” their new “domain of war.” And yes, that’s as horrifying as it sounds. No mainstream media outlet has covered NATO’s new “domain of war” declaration, leading press freedom group Project Censored to include it in its 25 most-censored stories of the year. As Project Censored wrote: On October 5, 2021, the NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) sponsored a forum on what panelists described as the ‘weaponization of brain sciences’ to exploit ‘vulnerabilities of the human brain’ in service of more sophisticated forms of social engineering and control. As Ben Norton reported for The Grayzone, ‘with its development of cognitive warfare strategies,’ NATO has added a new, sixth level to the five operational domains—air, land, sea, space, and cyber…” The weaponization of brain sciences to exploit vulnerabilities of the human brain? Does that sound like you’ll be free? I thought part of the mythos of America was that we have freedom. Of course, we don’t actually have freedom. The U.S. is the largest prison state in the world, most of us are trapped in wage slave jobs we hate, and we’re trapped in Brock Lesner-sized mountains of debt, but I thought the one free place we had left was our minds. Here is NATO saying they want to make our brains a battlefield over which they hope to gain control. Ruling our minds is nothing new for the military state. To pick just one example, there was the CIA’s MKUltra mind control program from 1953 to 1973. When MKUltra was revealed in 1975, Americans were furious. The CIA claims it no longer tries to control the minds of unwitting Americans, but, of course, the CIA and other government agencies are still trying – and sometimes succeeding – at controlling our gray matter. To give another example of known efforts to control minds – In 1994, the U.S. Military spent a million dollars researching the creation of a Gay Bomb that would deploy a gas that could cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and irresistibly attractive to one another. Advertisements are also a form of social engineering. Would 50 percent of Americans have believed Russia got everyone to vote for Trump by putting up $8 of Facebook images showing the devil high-fiving Hillary if those Americans hadn’t seen a billion hours of CNN’s Jake Tapper doing his propaganda tap-dance and acting like it was true? No! Social engineering is everywhere. That’s the only way you could have a country where three people hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the country, as reported in Forbes. That’s roughly 165 million people! We have to be socially engineered to think that makes any sense at all. We also have to be socially engineered to think that half of all our societal rules make any sense. Like that guys with guns should tell people not to stand still in a public area. Anyway, you get the point. It takes massive amounts of social engineering and mental manipulation to achieve the society in which we live. However, what differentiates what we’ve seen in the past from these new efforts by NATO is both how forthright they are with their goals to treat our brains as a battlefield and the breadth of the effort. From the Project Censored report, “One [NAOC] panelist… stated that ‘the rapid evolution of neurosciences as a tool of war’ hinges on developments in artificial intelligence, big data, and social media.” Using advanced A.I., gargantuan amounts of data and pervasive social media could – eventually – create a fully gas lit society, in which nearly everyone is living in some form of false reality, not actually understanding the root layers of their existence. Watch the full report above. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post NATO Creating Plans For Mass Mind Control appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, Top Story, brain sciences, domain of war, mind control, MKUltra, NATO, Social engineering]

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[l] at 1/20/23 7:37am
The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. Support for the British Monarchy has rapidly declined, especially among young people, where near equal amounts of respondents say the country should become a republic as continue with the current system. In this episode of “The Watchdog,” Lowkey speaks to Symon Hill, a British activist who was recently arrested for questioning the proclamation of Charles as King following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth. Lowkey begins by scrutinizing the infrastructure of information in British society. In doing so, the British-Iraqi rapper makes multiple references to the coordinated smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, and how it was orchestrated by private organizations following his nomination to lead the Labour Party. The conversation then shifts to the main topic of today, the unpopularity of King Charles III. Charles has been pelted in public with eggs on two separate occasions since his mother’s death. Protesting the proclamation of King Charles III, Symon Hill, who had been arrested, stressed how he: Finds it hard to stomach that in the 21st century, anybody being told that we must accept a head of state, with no say at all in who that is…so when this was said about Charles as Lord and King, I called out, who elected him?” Talking about his detention, Hill added: It was me who they grabbed hold of and dragged me away and arrested me…what really appalls me, if you watch the video of that man heckling [Prince] Andrew, is that a few royalists in the crowd basically grab him and start beating him up and yet the police don’t arrest them.” Formerly a campaigns manager at the Peace Pledge Union, Hill currently teaches history via evening courses for the Workers Educational Association. “…If you can be arrested for saying a couple of sentences in the street that the establishment don’t like, then I think we’re in a very scary place,” he said. The conversation steers to the absurdities of the recently passed Police Crime Sentencing Courts Act (2022). Equipping the Metropolitan Police with arbitrary powers, the law will “restrict movement at protests…it allows them [the police] to close down protests that are considered too noisy,” Hill warned. According to many domestic organizations, the act itself is a fundamental threat to the ideals and standards of British democracy and should be repealed immediately. Watch the whole interview here, exclusively at MintPress News. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic, political campaigner, and a MintPress video and podcast host. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique, and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network, and The Peace and Justice Project founded by Jeremy Corbyn. The post Meet The Man Arrested for Questioning King Charles – Lowkey Talks to Symon Hill appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Podcasts, Top Story, British Monarchy, King Charles, Lowkey, Symon Hill, United Kingdom]

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[l] at 1/19/23 8:49am
In a self-congratulatory article published in the Atlantic in 2017, Yossi Klein Halevi describes Israeli behavior at the just-conquered holy Muslim shrines in Occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 as “an astonishing moment of religious restraint.” “The Jewish people had just returned to its holiest site, from which it had been denied access for centuries, only to effectively yield sovereignty at its moment of triumph,” Halevi wrote with a lingering sense of pride as if the world owes Israel a ton of gratitude in the way it conducted itself during one of the most egregious acts of violence in the modern history of the Middle East. Halevi’s pompous discourse on Israel’s heightened sense of morality compared to, according to his own analysis, the lack of Arab appreciation of Israel’s overtures and refusal to engage in peace talks is not in any way unique. His is the same language recycled umpteen times by all Zionists, even by those who advocated for a Jewish state before it was established on the ruins of destroyed and ethnically cleansed Palestine. From its nascent beginnings, the Zionist discourse was purposely confusing disarranging history when necessary and fabricating it when convenient. Though the resultant narrative on Israel’s inception and continuation as an exclusively Jewish state may appear confounding to honest readers of history, for Israel’s supporters and certainly for the Zionists themselves Israel, as an idea, makes perfect sense. When Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir raided al-Aqsa Mosque on January 3 to re-introduce himself to Jewish extremists as the new face of Israeli politics, he was also taking the first steps in correcting, in his own perception, a historical injustice. Like Halevi, and, in fact, most of Israel’s political classes, let alone mainstream intellectuals, Ben Gvir believes in the significance of Jerusalem and its holy shrines to the very future of their Jewish state. However, despite the general agreement on the power of the religious narrative in Israel, there are also marked differences. What Halevi was bragging about in his piece in the Atlantic is this: soon after soldiers raised the Israeli flag, garnished with the Star of David, atop the Dome of the Rock they were ordered to take it down. They did so, supposedly, at the behest of then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, quoted in the piece as saying to the army unit commander: “Do you want to set the Middle East on fire?” Eventually, Israel conquered all of Jerusalem. Since then, it has also done everything in its power to ethnically cleanse the city’s Palestinian Muslim and Christian inhabitants to ensure an absolute Jewish majority. What is taking place in Sheikh Jarrah and other Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem is but a continuation of this old, sad episode. However, the Haram al-Sharif Compound where Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock and other Muslim shrines are located was nominally administered by the Islamic Waqf authorities. By doing so, Israel managed to enforce the inaccurate notion that religious freedom is still respected in Jerusalem even after Israel’s so-called unification of the city, which will remain, according to Israel’s official discourse, the “united, eternal capital of the Jewish people.” The reality on the ground, however, has been largely dictated by the Ben-Gvirs of Israel, who, for decades, have labored to erase the Muslim and Christian history, identity and, at times, even their ancient graveyards from the Occupied city. Al-Haram Al-Sharif is hardly a religious oasis for Muslims but the site of daily clashes, whereby Israeli soldiers and Jewish extremists routinely storm the holy shrines, leaving behind broken bones, blood and tears. Despite American support of Israel, the international community has never accepted Israel’s version of falsified history. Though the Jewish spiritual connection to the city is always acknowledged in fact, it has been respected by Arabs and Muslims since Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab entered the city in 638 Israel has been reminded by the United Nations, time and again, regarding the illegality of its Occupation and all related actions it carried out in the city since June of 1967. But Ben Gvir and his Otzma Yehudit Party. Like all of Israels major political forces, care little for international law, authentic history or Palestinians rights. However, their main point of contention regarding the proper course of action in Al-Aqsa is mostly internal. There are those who want to speed up the process of fully claiming Al-Aqsa as a Jewish site and those who believe that such a move is untimely and, for now, unstrategic. The former group, however, is winning the debate. Long marginalized at the periphery of Israeli politics, Israels religious parties are now inching closer to the center, which is affecting Israel’s priorities on how best to defeat the Palestinians. Typical analyses attribute the rise of Israel’s religious constituencies to the desperation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is arguably using the likes of Ben Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and Aryeh Deri to stay in office. However, this assessment does not tell the whole story, as the power of religious parties has long preceded Netanyahu’s political and legal woes. The Zionist discourse has, itself, been shifting towards religious Zionism; this can be easily observed in the growing religious sentiment in Israel’s judicial system, among the rank and file of the army, in the Knesset (Parliament) and, more recently, in the government itself. These ideological shifts have even led some to argue that Ben-Gvir and his supporters are angling for a ‘religious war’. But is Ben-Gvir the one introducing religious war to the Zionist discourse? In truth, early Zionists have never tried to mask the religious identity of their colonial project. “Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine,” the Basel Program, adopted by the First Zionist Congress in 1897, stated. Little has changed since then. Israel is “the national state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said in March 2019. So, if Israel’s founding ideology, political discourse, Jewish Nation State Law, every war, illegal settlement, bypass road and even the very Israeli flag and national anthem were all directly linked or appealed to religion and religious sentiments, then it is safe to argue that Israel has been engaged in a religious war against Palestinians since its inception. The Zionists, whether ‘political Zionists’ like Theodore Hertzl or ‘Spiritual Zionists’ like Ahad Ha’am’ and now Netanyahu and Ben Gvir have all used the Jewish religion to achieve the same end, colonizing all historic Palestine and ethnically cleansing its native population. Sadly, major part of this sinister mission has been achieved, though Palestinians continue to resist with the same ferocity of their ancestors. The historical truth is that Ben-Gvir’s behavior is only a natural outcome of Zionist thinking, formulated over a century ago. Indeed, for Zionists religious, secular or even atheists the war has always been or, more accurately, had to be, a religious one. Feature photo | An ultra-Orthodox believer and two Israeli soldiers pray on Jerusalems Wailing Wall. Frank Rumpenhorst | dpa | AP Images Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is ‘Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out’. His other books include ‘My Father was a Freedom Fighter’ and ‘The Last Earth’. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Israels War Has Always Been About Religion: On Ben Gvir and the Adaptability of Zionism appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Israel, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Jewish Supremacy, judaism, Palestine, zionism]

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[l] at 1/19/23 7:28am
The first FBI agent close to the Leonard Peltier case is calling for his freedom. Coleen Rowley recounts, in this wide-ranging and exclusive interview, her time as an agent in the Minneapolis field office. For nearly 50 years, the FBI has indoctrinated its agents on a specific version of events that led to Leonard Peltier’s arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. The mentality then, Rowley argues, is little different than the mentality today. That’s why she decided to break the silence and is calling on President Joe Biden to grant Leonard Peltier executive clemency. Rowley gives us an insider’s view of the FBI and how the dark and violent history of COINTELPRO, which targeted civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and social movements like the Black Panthers and AIM, didn’t end in 1971. It morphed and evolved over the years and continued well into the U.S. war on terror. Despite attempts at reform and accountability, the FBI continues its ongoing persecution of political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and the unarmed Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Watch the full interview with Coleen Rowley above. Feature photo | Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley speaks outside FBI headquarters in Washington, Jan. 17, 2011, during a demonstration in support of Chelsea Manning. Jacquelyn Martin | AP The Red Nation is dedicated to the liberation of Native peoples from capitalism and colonialism. The post Ex-FBI Agent Coleen Rowley Breaks Silence on Leonard Peltier and COINTELPRO appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: National, clemency, COINTELPRO, Coleen Rowley, FBI, Leonard Peltier]

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[l] at 1/18/23 9:31am
In this latest edition of “Behind The Headlines”, Lee Camp sat down with Mike Papantonio. Papantonio is one of the most successful lawyers in the U.S., and has built up a reputation for holding corporate America accountable. He has also hosted successful TV and radio shows, such as “Ring of Fire.” In this interview, the two discuss the power and influence of social media. Papantonio’s work has shown that social media is far more nefarious than most of us believe. “The empirical data is very clear. What’s happening right now is that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and all of them have figured out the formula for making a kid stay on their network for as long as possible,” he said. “The studies that these tech companies did were to figure out how to make that kid feel that they aren’t good enough. How do you make them feel like they don’t [shape] up with their peers? How do you make them feel like they need acceptance all the time – and if they don’t have acceptance, they’re just not normal?” he added. The effect of this is equally clear. As Papantonio notes, there has been a wave of childhood depression and suicides directly attributable to the toxic messaging children across the world are internalizing. This leads Papantonio to compare social media addiction to that of cigarettes or opium. He is currently in the process of a class action-style lawsuit against big tech corporations. The pair also discuss another alarming trend in social media (and one that we at MintPress News have been covering in-depth): the astonishing closeness between the deep state and Silicon Valley. Talking with Camp, Papantonio lays out the quid-pro-quo between big tech and big government. Washington has agreed to look the other way as these giant online platforms surveil their users, illegally store their data and use it to make billions in the process. In return, big tech companies have allowed hundreds of deep state officials to come in and take up influential posts within their organizations – positions that allow Washington to dictate what the world sees (and doesn’t see) in its social media feed. Consequently, this gives the U.S. incredible power over the means of communication globally. Besides the financial incentives, why are big tech companies going along with this? Papantonio explains: They do it to protect themselves; they feel like ‘if we can load up with ex-FBI and CIA agents, they are not going to come after us, because we can flex our muscle and say ‘listen, we have three spooks working here. Are you sure you want to come after us?” Watch the full interview only at MintPress News. Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years. The post Social Media Is Filled With Spooks! With Mike Papantonio appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headlines, National, News, Top Story, big tech, childhood depression, childhood suicide, Lee Camp, Mike Papantonio, Social Media]

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[l] at 1/18/23 7:29am
The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. In this week’s episode of “The Watchdog,” Lowkey begins discussing how the mainstream media silences academics, musicians to award-winning filmmakers, such as Ken Loach, for their outspoken stance on Palestinian rights. Lowkey is joined by Professor David Miller, formerly of Bristol University and Zeeshan Ali, who runs the successful YouTube channel, Smile2Jannah. David, who was subjected to a coordinated three-year campaign by the Zionist lobby, is a leading British scholarly critic of Israel. Kick-starting the podcast, Lowkey wastes no time in discussing the ousting of Professor David Miller from Bristol University, drawing attention to the support of Zeeshan Ali, who published a petition in support of him. The petition accumulated over 40,000 signatures. “This is getting ridiculous now. Enough is enough…it’s just a matter of time till it comes knocking on your doorstep and there’s no one left to defend you,” Ali said. But when did all this type of censorship begin? Was it during the Corbyn era, or did it precede that? The topic of discussion then shifts to the 2022 World Cup, and the way the success of the Moroccan team was dealt with in the mainstream media. Teams from the Global South succeeding was not taken well in many places in Europe. Commentators on Danish television, for example, compared the scenes of Moroccan players hugging family members with monkeys. Later to the anatomy of the campaign against Qatar, with Miller identifying several Israel lobby groups as key to the groundswell of pushback against Qatar hosting the World Cup. The final section of the podcast focuses on the Canadian academic Jordan Peterson, and his recent pro-Israel turn. Lowkey reveals some interesting connections between his employer, The Daily Wire, and key Israel military and intelligence institutions – connections you will only find out about if you watch the interview here, exclusively at MintPress News. Watch the whole interview here, exclusively at MintPress News. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic, political campaigner, and a MintPress video and podcast host. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique, and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network, and The Peace and Justice Project founded by Jeremy Corbyn. The post World Cup Racism, The Israel Lobby, and Jordan Peterson, with Smile 2 Jannah and David Miller appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Podcasts, Top Story, David Miller, interview, Israel, Israel Lobby, Lowkey, Racism, Smile 2 Jannah, Zeeshan Ali]

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[l] at 1/17/23 8:44am
Elon Musk has announced that he is helping to smuggle hundreds of Starlink satellite communications devices into Iran. The South African-born billionaire made the admission on December 26, replying to a tweet lauding female Iranian protesters for refusing to cover their hair. “Approaching 100 Starlinks active in Iran”, he tweeted, clearly implying a political motivation to his work. That Musk is involved in Washington’s attempts to weaken or overthrow the administration in Tehran has been clear for some months now. In September – at the height of the demonstrations following the suspicious death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini – Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that the U.S. was “taking action” “to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information for the Iranian people” and “to counter the Iranian government’s censorship,” to which Musk replied, “Activating Starlink…” While this could be understood as a positive step, unfortunately, what Washington means by internet freedom and the free flow of information (as we at MintPress News have covered before) is nothing more than the liberty of the U.S. government to flood foreign countries with relentless pro-U.S. messaging. Starlink is an internet service allowing those with terminals to directly connect to one of over 3,000 small satellites in low Earth orbit. Many of these satellites were launched by Musk’s SpaceX technologies company. Terminals are, in effect, small, portable satellite dishes that can be used by those in the near vicinity to skirt national government restrictions on communications and get online anywhere at any time. The process of smuggling Starlinks into Iran has been far from easy – or cheap. Each terminal has cost more than $1000 to purchase and transport, as couriers have charged high premiums on the risky cargo. Nevertheless, some sources have suggested as many as 800 have made it over the border unscathed.   Keeping Ukraine fighting Musk’s Iran operation bears a striking resemblance to his actions earlier this year in Ukraine – another current top priority of the United States. In the aftermath of February’s Russian invasion, Musk garnered worldwide goodwill after declaring that he was “donating” thousands of Starlink terminals to Ukraine in order to keep the country online. However, these were inordinately given to the Ukrainian military and soon became the backbone of its efforts at stalling Russian advances. Ukraine’s hi-tech, Western-made weaponry relies upon online connections, the military using Starlink’s services for everything from thermal imaging, target acquisition and artillery strikes to Zoom calls. With more than 20,000 terminals in operation, Starlink is, according to Western media, a “lifeline” and an “essential tool” without which Ukrainian resistance would have been broken. The government agrees; “SpaceX and Musk quickly react to problems and help us,” deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov said recently, adding that there is “no alternative” for his forces, other than Musk’s products. A Starlink antenna covered with a camouflage net in use by Ukrainian fighters in Donetsk, December 2022. Maxym Marusenko | NurPhoto via AP It soon transpired, however, that Musk’s donation might not have been as generous as first thought. USAID – an American government agency that has frequently functioned as a regime-change organization – had quietly paid SpaceX top dollar to send what amounted to virtually their entire inventory of Starlinks to Ukraine. In December, Fedorov said that more than 10,000 extra terminals would shortly be heading to his country. It is not clear who will pay for these, but it is known that, two months earlier, SpaceX and the U.S. government were in negotiations about funding for additional devices to be sent to Ukraine.   Musk and the military industrial complex While the controversial billionaire’s role in American regime change operations and proxy wars might surprise some, the reality is that, almost from the very beginning of his career, Elon Musk has enjoyed extremely close connections to the U.S. national security state. The Central Intelligence Agency was integral to both the birth and the growth of SpaceX. Of particular importance in the company’s story is Michael Griffin, the former president and chief operating officer of the CIA’s venture capitalist wing, In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel was established to identify individuals and businesses that could work with or for the CIA, with the goal of maintaining the U.S. national security state’s technological edge vis-à-vis its opponents. Griffin was an early believer in Musk, calling him a future “Henry Ford” of the rocket industry. So strong was Griffin’s desire to get the South African on board that in early 2002 (even before SpaceX had been founded) he accompanied him on a trip to Moscow in order to purchase intercontinental ballistic missiles from Russian authorities – a fact that, in today’s geopolitical reality, beggars belief. Musk’s attempts to buy Russian rockets failed, and for many years, it appeared likely that SpaceX would be a giant flop. In 2006, the company was in difficult financial waters and was still years away from making a successful launch. But Griffin – who by this time was head of NASA – took a huge “gamble” in his own words, his organization awarding SpaceX with a $396 million contract. Nevertheless, even this giant cash injection was not enough to stop the company hemorrhaging money. By 2008, Musk thought it likely that both SpaceX and his electric vehicle business, Tesla, would both go under. Fortunately, SpaceX was saved again by an unexpected $1.6 billion check from NASA. Thanks to the government’s largesse, SpaceX has grown into a behemoth, employing around 11,000 people. Yet, its ties to the U.S. national security state remain as close as ever. The corporation’s primary clients are the military and other government agencies, who have paid billions of dollars to have their spy satellites and other hi-tech equipment blasted into orbit. In 2018, for example, SpaceX won a contract to deliver a $500 million Lockheed Martin GPS system into space. Although spokesmen were keen to play up the civilian benefits of the satellite, it is clear that its primary purposes were military and surveillance. SpaceX has also won contracts with the Air Force to deliver its command satellite into orbit, with the Space Development Agency to send tracking devices into space, and with the National Reconnaissance Office to launch its spy satellites. These satellites are used by all of the “big five” surveillance agencies, including the CIA and the NSA. This collaboration has only been growing of late. Documents obtained by The Intercept showed that the Pentagon envisages a future in which Musk’s rockets will be used to deploy a military “quick reaction force” anywhere in the world. The Department of Defense has also partnered with SpaceX in order to explore the possibility of blasting supplies into space and back to Earth, rather than flying them through the air, thereby allowing the U.S. to act faster worldwide than ever before. And in December, SpaceX announced a new business line called Starshield, an explicitly military hardware brand that CNBC reported would be focussed on securing big money Pentagon contracts. The brand’s new motto is “supporting national security.” Therefore, Musk and his organization can be said to be cornerstones of both the global surveillance program that individuals like Edward Snowden warned us about, and crucial to the United States’ ability to carry out endless global warfare.   Iran in the crosshairs Ever since the revolution of 1979 that deposed the American-backed shah, Iran has been a prime target of U.S. regime change. A 2012 report from the National Endowment for Democracy explains that the U.S. is involved in a “competition” to promote color revolutions (i.e. regime change operations) in Russia, Belarus, Venezuela, Iran and other countries, while those governments seek to prevent them. Iran has been the subject of international attention since September and the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini had been detained by Iranian authorities for not wearing a headscarf correctly. Very quickly, Western media began claiming that she had been beaten to death, an accusation that sparked nationwide protests. Iranian authorities released footage of Amini’s collapse and medical records suggesting that she had an ongoing serious brain condition, and announced they were reviewing their policy of mandatory headcovers for women. Yet even as protests continued, they were overtaken by much more violent confrontations between authorities and Kurdish separatist movements, with Western media not caring to differentiate between them. Twitter was crucial in drawing the world’s attention to Iran. The platform’s moderators put news of the protests on its “What’s Happening” sidebar, alerting users around the world to them. Pro-demonstration and anti-government hashtags were also boosted across Western countries to a remarkable degree. According to the Twitter Trending Archive, on September 18 alone, there were 1.6 million tweets from American users using the Farsi-language Amini hashtag (#مهسا_امینی). This total was beaten two days later when over 2 million tweets were sent using that hashtag, making it by far the most used in the United States that month. On Sep. 19, 2022 alone, US-based users supposedly generated 1.6 million tweets in Farsi with the hashtag: #مهسا_امینی (Mahsa Amini). In Israel, however, the astroturfing was turned up to 11. In just four days between September 21 and September 24, accounts based in Israel sent over 43 million tweets about the protests – quite an achievement, given that only around 634,000 Israelis have a Twitter account – an average of 68 tweets per account. Musk, center, stands next to the very pro-Israel Jared Kushner, left, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, December 18, 2022. David Niviere | Sipa via AP Images It is far from clear whether these huge displays of support from Western governments help or harm genuine activists in Iran. What is certain, however, is that Twitter and other big social media companies work closely with the U.S. government in order to advance attempts at regime change. Late last year, for instance, the Twitter Files revealed that the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) had given Twitter lists of dozens of accounts it operated as part of a psychological operations program against Iran, Syria, Yemen and across the Middle East. Twitter aided them in this process, whitelisting those accounts, protecting them from scrutiny and artificially boosting their reach. Many of these accounts, The Intercept reported, accused the Iranian government of lurid crimes, including flooding Iraq with crystal meth and harvesting the organs of Afghan refugees. This is merely the latest episode in a long history of collaboration with U.S. authorities to destabilize Iran, however. In 2009, at the behest of Washington, Twitter postponed a scheduled site maintenance which would have required taking its platform offline. It did this because the U.S.-backed leaders of a large anti-government protest were using the app to coordinate. Meanwhile, in 2020, Twitter announced that it was partnering with the FBI, and that, at the bureau’s insistence, it had removed around 130 Iranian accounts from its platform. In addition to the cyberwar, the U.S. government is also prosecuting an economic war on the country. American sanctions have severely hurt Iran’s ability to both buy and sell goods on the open market and have harmed the value of the Iranian rial. As prices and inflation rise rapidly, ordinary people have lost their savings. Even crucial goods like medical supplies are lacking, as Washington’s maximum pressure campaign makes sure to punish businesses that trade with Iran. Despite this, the U.S. government has been very careful to ensure that big social media companies are not affected by the sanctions and continue to operate inside Iran – a fact that suggests that Washington sees them as a crucial tool in its arsenal. Indeed, even as the State Department was announcing new rounds of sanctions, supposedly in response to Tehran’s handling of the protests, it also revealed that it was taking steps to make sure Iran was opened up as much as possible to digital communications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.   Big tech and big government On Iran, Silicon Valley has long collaborated with the national security state. After the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, big tech companies blocked any messages of support for the slain statesman, on the grounds that the Trump administration had declared him a terrorist. “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its leadership,” a Facebook spokesperson said. This ban stood even for individuals inside Iran itself, where Soleimani was overwhelmingly popular. A University of Maryland study found that, even before he was turned into a martyr, more than 80% of the country saw Soleimani positively or very positively, making him the most admired figure in the country. This was because Soleimani and his IRGC were crucial in crushing terrorist groups like ISIS and the al-Nusra Front – a fact that Western media once frequently acknowledged. Yet Iranians were blocked from sharing majority opinions across social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp with other Iranians – even in Farsi – because of the proximity of big tech and big government. Another indicator of how closely the national security state works with social media is the extraordinary number of former spooks and spies now work in the upper echelons of big tech corporations. Twitter itself is swarming with feds; a June MintPress study found dozens of former FBI agents working at Twitter, most of whom held influential positions in politically sensitive fields such as security, trust and safety, and content moderation. Also present at Twitter were a considerable number of ex-officials from the CIA or the Atlantic Council. Many of them directly left their jobs in government for roles at Twitter, suggesting that either the company is actively recruiting agents, or that the national security state is infiltrating social media in order to influence it. In Part 7 of the recently-released Twitter Files, journalist Michael Shellenberger built upon this, noting that there were so many FBI agents working at Twitter that they had their own private communications channel on Slack. The former feds even created a translation cheat sheet so that agents could turn FBI jargon into its Twitter equivalent. The FBI was instrumental in deciding what accounts to suppress and which to promote, sending the company lists of users to ban and demanding Twitter comply with its witch hunt against what it saw as an all pervasive network of Russian disinformation. When Twitter executives replied that, after investigating the FBI’s leads, they could find little to no evidence of a Russian operation of any note, the bureau became exasperated. Thus, current FBI agents were sending information and orders to “former” feds working at Twitter in an attempt to control online speech worldwide – something that undermines the oft-quoted line that Twitter is a private company and therefore not subject to the First Amendment. It also raises profound national security questions for every other government in the world about whether they should allow a platform that is so obviously controlled by the U.S. national security state and used as a gigantic psychological operation to be available in their countries at all. Despite this collaboration, the Twitter Files also revealed that the FBI bemoaned Twitter’s relative lack of compliance with their dictates in comparison to other big social media networks. Yet, while Musk himself has very publicly fired thousands of employees, it appears that relatively few of the spooks have been among those losing their jobs. Indeed, when asked point blankly last month “how many former FBI agents are currently employed at Twitter?” he responded with a bizarre non-answer, simply stating, “To be clear, I am generally pro-FBI, recognizing, of course, that no organization is perfect, including [the] FBI,” thereby ducking the question. Twitter is far from alone in bringing in armies of state officials to decide what content the world sees and does not see, however. Both Facebook and Google have done the same thing, employing dozens if not hundreds of ex-CIA agents to run their internal affairs. Meanwhile, in April, a MintPress investigation uncovered what it termed a “NATO-to-TikTok pipeline”, whereby copious numbers of individuals associated with the military alliance had mysteriously changed careers to work for the video platform. This relationship between the government and tech is far from new. In their 2013 book, “The New Digital Age,” then Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen (both of whom left top national security state jobs to work for Google), wrote about how companies like theirs were fast becoming the U.S. empire’s most potent weapon in retaining Washington’s control over the modern world. As they said, “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first.” Indeed, writers like Yasha Levine have argued that Silicon Valley from its very beginning was a product of the U.S. military. While it remains to be seen what impact sending hundreds of Starlinks into Iran will have, the intention of those involved is clear. Equally plain-to-see is that big tech is not a liberatory force in modern society but is a critical weapon in the U.S.’ regime change arsenal. And while Musk continues to present himself as a renegade outsider, he has a very long history of working closely with the security state. This Iran operation is merely the latest example. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post How Elon Musk Is Aiding the US Empires Regime Change Operation in Iran appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Investigations, News, Top Story, CIA, Elon Musk, Iran, Protests, Regime Change, Starlink]

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