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[l] at 9/13/19 12:18pm

AMRAN, YEMEN — The offensive war on Yemen, the most impoverished nation in the Middle East, was launched in 2015 by a U.S.-backed coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, the richest nation in the Middle East. It has plunged a nation already struggling to provide basic services to its citizens into chaos, a nation now ruled by a ragtag consortium of different groups all thirsting for power.  The result? A complete absence of law and order that has given rise to a black Suq (market) of human trafficking on a scale never before seen in Yemen.

Thirty-five-year-old Tawfiq hails from Amran, a small city in west-central Yemen famous for its ancient mud-brick high-rises dating back two millennia to the Sabean kingdom. Tawfiq was among 17 Yemeni victims of human trafficking who agreed to speak to MintPress about their harrowing ordeals. In 2016, Tawfiq — desperate to bring money home to his family, as the then-fledgling war decimated the already shaky Yemeni economy — was told by a friend that he could earn as much as $7,000 for one of his kidneys. Days later Tawfiq was on a bus to Saudi Arabia, traveling through al-Wadeeah port on the Yemen-Saudi border. 

Today, Tawfiq suffers from complications arising from his kidney extraction and is now unable to carry heavy objects. He told MintPress , “I thought that removing a kidney would be a simple arrangement, but now I live in a hell of pain and suffering.” Tawfiq’s operation was crude and involved no follow-up care. 

Ismail, the owner of a small electronics store in Taiz, told MintPress, as he pointed to the place where one of his kidneys use to reside, “I needed money to feed my children.” Ismail hesitated while he recounted his story, worried that the shame of what he had done would reach his family. Yet thousands of Yemeni civilians who are living in abject poverty as a result of the ongoing war are willing to allow a part of themselves to be cut out and sold in order to be able to sustain their families. 

Ali al-Jailai, head of the Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, told MintPress that the wave of famine that hit the country in 2015, when the Saudi-led war began, has augmented Yemen’s human trafficking network and left women and children the most vulnerable.

“A while back there was a case of a man who was traveling to Egypt to sell his kidney,” al-Jailai told MintPress. “We talked to him and tried to persuade him not to go, but he refused; he needed the money.” With an economy now decimated by more than four years of war, many working-class Yemenis have abandoned hopes of working a normal job and instead turn to one of the few options that remain: to sign up for the fight against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or to sell their organs to survive.

Over 20 million Yemenis are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. Salaries for teachers and other public-sector workers have not been paid regularly since the war began and Saudi Arabia seized control of Yemen’s Central Bank, leaving vulnerable populations at increased risk of falling victim to human trafficking.

Yemen human trafficking

A Yemeni boy looks back while laying on the ground as he begs for money in an alley of the old city of Sanaa, Yemen. Muhammed Muheisen | AP

The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, a Sana’a-based NGO, has documented over 10,000 cases of organ sales from the start of the war in March 2015 to 2017. According to the organization, actual figures could be much higher, as many cases go unreported owing to the illegality of the practice, religious concerns, and the associated stigma of the practice in Yemen’s conservative society.

Although he lost one of his kidneys, Tawfiq was lucky. Hundreds of Yemenis, including women and children, forced to “donate” their organs, lose their lives after their livers, kidneys, spleens, corneas, or even their hearts are removed. One Yemeni family recounted to MintPress, on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case, how they found their son after he went missing: “After his abduction we found his body thrown in the street, you could see there had been an operation on his body; we asked for an autopsy and were in shock after we found his heart was gone.” 

 

Blockading a way out

In addition to poverty and the absence of law enforcement, there are other reasons why human trafficking flourishes in Yemen, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country to seek better health care, employment opportunities and safety abroad — including, somewhat ironically, in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Now — with seaports, airports, highways and especially the once-bustling Sana`a International Airport effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for stints of work to earn some cash, leaving many with few options but to resort to selling their organs out of desperation to make ends meet.

The blockade has also left a large number of Yemenis stranded abroad, including some students and others who have managed to find a way out in hopes of receiving medical treatment. It is estimated, according to data provided by the Sana`a International Airport Media Center, that nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad. Many of the stranded are left in a state of legal limbo, unable to secure citizenship in neighboring countries and therefore unable to work, leaving them with no way to earn money short of begging on the street or agreeing to sell their organs

Yemen human trafficking

A Yemeni vendor sells coffee and in the old market in Najran, Saudi Arabia. Hasan Jamali | AP

The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that many Yemenis who fled when the war broke out are now stuck abroad and that the organization has recorded as many as 300 cases of Yemenis stranded abroad selling their kidneys out of desperation.

 

Officials work with brokers and smugglers

Maha, who wished to be identified only by her first name, and her friend, who asked to remain anonymous, recounted how a Yemeni broker had managed to secure passports for them by contacting staff members at the Yemeni Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who then, together with a Saudi black-market organ dealer, created a formal medical report to make the sale of Maha and her friend’s kidneys look like a legitimate donor transplant. The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that collusion by government officials is rampant in Egypt thanks to the large fees government employees charge for coordinating organ sales. “I used to travel to Egypt every month along with a group of girls where we would attend concerts at the Emirati Embassy; the trips were coordinated by high-level employees at the Yemeni Embassy,” Maha told MintPress .

Last year, Musa Al-Ezaki, the editor of Yemen’s widely-circulated Al-Hayat newspaper, made a very public offer to sell one of his kidneys to the highest bidder. Al-Ezaki coordinated with his brother, who was living in Egypt at the time, to place an ad in a Cario newspaper with the caption, “Under compelling circumstances I regret to announce the sale of my kidney to pay rent; if someone wants to buy a kidney, please call me.” It’s unknown if Al-Ezak ever found a buyer.

Yemen’s penal code calls for 10 years’ imprisonment for those engaged in human trafficking. However, not only are those laws not being implemented, government officials, especially those in the Aden-based government of Saudi-backed Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, are often directly involved in smuggling victims abroad and issuing permits to make the sale of organs appear as legitimate donations to recipients in countries that are supposed to require the approval of the Yemeni Embassy, especially Egypt.

“[In one case] we formally contacted embassy officials to coordinate with Egyptian authorities in order to return a human trafficking victim to Yemen, but they refused to respond,” al-Jailai told MintPress . “We have accurate information about the complicity of the Yemeni Embassy [staff] in Egypt and unfortunately, organized crime has been able to penetrate it.”

Owing to the collapse of an organized health care system in Yemen, organized criminal elements are smuggling victims to Egypt, the Saudi Arabia and China, according to the Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking. Yet, of the victims and brokers who spoke to MintPress , all indicated that Egypt is still one of the most favored destinations to which brokers and smugglers bring their victims.

MintPress interviewed three Yemeni brokers who said officials in Yemen were assisting them in obtaining travel documents for their victims and connecting them with brokers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to arrange their travel, accommodation, and surgeries in direct coordination with staff in their countries’ embassies. “The government entities here [in Yemen] and in Saudi Arabia make bringing Yemenis abroad easy for us,” one of the brokers who asked to be identified as Abu Saiyad, which translates to The Hunter in English, told MintPress .

Organ brokers in Yemen do not work under the radar as their peers do in neighboring countries. They are known to most residents and wander through camps for the internally displaced and most major slums in large cities.

 

Harvesting prisoners of war

Owing to the increased demand for human organs, attributable in large part to the many troops who have sustained injuries while fighting in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also become a sizable market for Yemeni victims of human trafficking. Even some Yemeni prisoners of war captured on Yemeni battlefields have awoken to find their kidneys removed; others have had their organs harvested and been left for dead. 

A number of families of prisoners of war said their loved ones had become victims of human trafficking after being captured on the front lines. They say Saudi Arabia has thus far refused to hand over their bodies. One such family told MintPress that they had evidence that the Saudi army extracted their son Ibrahim’s spleen and cornea from him before he was killed, but MintPress was unable to independently verify the claim.

In June 2019  the United States added Saudi Arabia to a list of countries it says are not doing enough to combat human trafficking. Instead, the U.S. said, the Kingdom has often jailed, fined or deported human trafficking victims, accusing them of immigration violations or prostitution rather than providing them assistance.

Despite the blacklisting of its Saudi ally, the United States is very much complicit in the human trafficking that has come to plague Yemen, according to many Yemenis, who feel that if the United States did not offer such generous support to the Coalition, their country would not be suffering a famine and hence no one would be forced to sell their organs, or their honor, to feed their children.

While Yemen’s penal code calls for 10 years’ imprisonment for those engaged in buying or selling human beings, the U.S. State Department has done nothing to publicly reprimand its coalition allies for failing to tackle trafficking in Yemen — this despite the fact the U.S.’ own report lays much of the blame at the feet of the Coalition-backed government in Aden.

 

Yemen’s women and girls at risk

The trafficking of human beings involves not only human organs but also sexual exploitation, and Yemen is no exception. Trafficked Yemeni women are subjected to rape, violence, extreme cruelty, and many other forms of pressure and coercion. Female trafficking victims who spoke to MintPress reported being forced into prostitution networks in Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis.

Yemen human trafficking

A displaced girl stands in her shelter in Abyan, Yemen, Feb. 9, 2018. Nariman El-Mofty | AP

One victim, who wished to be identified only as Samerah, told MintPress

I traveled to Egypt in February 2018. I was taken to a party featuring the Saudi Ambassador and the head of the military police in Saudi Arabia by a Yemeni and Egyptian woman. That night I was forced into having sex and the next day I was given money and returned to the embassy.”

Another trafficking victim who was forced into sex work and who refused to be identified spoke to MintPress from a rehabilitation center run by the Houthis in Sana`a. She told MintPress that she is afraid to return to her home for fear of being killed for violating her family’s honor. 

Wealthy Saudi and Emirati patrons often rely on professional brokers’ networks that send trafficked women and girls to hotels in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Egypt and Dubai in exchange for a commission, according to a number of testimonies given to MintPress by both trafficked victims and brokers.

Before the war, Saudi Arabia was already using Yemen as a hub for so-called “marriage tourism.”   Saudi soldiers, businessmen, and ordinary citizens would travel to Yemen to marry young girls from poor families. Many of these girls would travel back to Saudi Arabia only to be used temporarily for sex and then simply or abandoned on the streets or sold to traffickers.

Even those who voluntarily seek to sell their organs out of desperation fall victim to smugglers and brokers. Aisha, who agreed to sell her kidney to a wealthy Bahraini woman told MintPress that the woman buying her kidney told her that she had paid $30,000 for it. Aisha received only $5,000.

Feature photo | People walk in a shelter for displaced persons in Ibb, Yemen, in this Aug. 3, 2018, photo. Nariman El-Mofty | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Human Trafficking is Booming in Yemen as the War Enters its Fifth Year appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Yemen Coverage, Egypt, human trafficking, organ harvesting, Saudi Arabia, Yemen]

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[l] at 9/12/19 3:12pm

 
Moscow — In a simple meeting room at the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry building, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova gave me a generous hour of her time in a conversation peppered with bemused laughter at Western allegations about Russia and clear frustration at the West’s incessant vilification of all things Russia.

I traveled to Moscow in August, where to my delight I had the opportunity to interview Zakharova. Given that Russia is the focus of obsessive and largely negative Western media reporting, and also the country’s role in eliminating the proliferation of terrorist groups that once controlled large swaths of Syria, I wanted to ask Zakharova for her take on a variety of topics related to both Russia and Syria.

In our wide-ranging discussion, Zakharova spoke of the U.S. sanctions regime against Russia and of the Western interference in Russian domestic issues — such as the protests seen in Moscow in July and August.

On Syria, she addressed the issue of exploitation of children in propaganda against Syria and Russia — notably Omran Daqneesh , a child whose image was splashed across newspapers and screens worldwide in 2016, incriminating Russia and Syria in an airstrike that was later proven to have never happened. An official apology from one of the most adamant perpetrators of that narrative, CNN’s Christian Amanpour, also never happened.

One cannot discuss the war in Syria and related propaganda without addressing the massively-funded White Helmets . In discussing the group, Zakharova gave examples of its role in fomenting support for Western military intervention, including in pushing responsibility on the Syrian government for the alleged but unproven and, by most honest accounts, staged chemical attack in Douma , eastern Ghouta, in 2018. Footage of the attack included video starring the White Helmets and another exploited Syrian boy, Hassan Diab, whose testimony of the events ran in stark contrast to the allegations against the Syrian government that were being circulated in the Western media.

Zakharova also addressed the inconsistencies around the Skripal case, the historic importance of Crimea’s referendum, and the U.K. “media freedom” conference of July 2019, where cases of imprisoned journalists like Julian Assange and Kirill Vyshinsky were notably not part of the conference program.

In an unexpected development since my discussion with Zakharova, Ukrainian-Russian journalist and editor Vyshinsky was released from his over 15 months of imprisonment without trial by Ukraine. Referring to his imprisonment, Zakharova described him as a hostage.

https://videos-a.jwpsrv.com/content/conversions/45KhFJ6S/videos/E8UFXNpO-32036104.mp4?hdnts=exp=1568331813~acl=*/E8UFXNpO-32036104.mp4~hmac=84da5c598536ff2f03999d62ddfe6c19b7f1529108bd4224d569a68f25b8a5ab

The interview took place at a time when Western media reporting would have one believe that the streets of Moscow were full of chaos and unrest with the protests. In fact, contrary to media reporting, Moscow was calm, as were the protests I attended on August 10 . Once again, it seemed, the media was hyping and distorting reality , as they have so often done elsewhere in the world.

Zakharova’s words are a reality check and offer an informative insight into the Russian perspective on Russian, Syrian, and global events.

Feature photo | Maria Zakharova sits down with Eva Bartlett at a Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry building in Moscow, Russia in August, 2019.  Eva Bartlett | MintPress News

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza

The post MintPress Sits Down with Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Top Story, Eva Bartlett, interview, Maria Zakharova, Protests, Russia, Syria] [Link to media]

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[l] at 9/12/19 2:14pm

National Security Advisor John Bolton’s firing may be the 9/11 anniversary gift the war-weary American public wanted, but the support he received from the establishment demonstrates that the war machine is much greater than one man. 

Bolton, the neoconservative movement’s standard bearer in the Trump administration, took up a crusade against high-level talks between Trump and the Taliban at Camp David — what appears to be the impetus for his firing. That made him the momentary champion for the interests of the traditional GOP establishment and the liberal establishment. In effect, he was trying to pull the brakes on U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan.

The national security advisor’s reputation as a war hawk preceded him. He was a director of the influential Project for a New American Century (PNAC) think tank, which is widely credited for providing much of the political support needed to invade Iraq, and a hype man for hire for the MEK. When Bolton met then-Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis for the first time after joining the Trump administration, the latter quipped “I’ve heard that you’re absolutely the devil incarnate.”

The war in Afghanistan, phase one of the War on Terror, is going worse for the United States than it ever has before, by a number of metrics. The regime-change campaign against the Taliban may have been swift, but as with other regime-change projects of the United States, the blowback would be enormous and enduring. It meant the militarization of American police through the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, more than two thousand American troops killed, scores of innocent civilians murdered and the complete destruction of the society — at a price tag of $ 975 billion by the end of 2019. That money has largely fallen into the hands of contractors.

The occupation of Afghanistan itself will soon be old enough to enlist in one of America’s forever wars. 

“We should withdraw from Afghanistan,” Max Abrahms , a leading expert on terrorism and Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University, told MintPress, adding “I don’t see a lot of progress. The Taliban’s territorial holdings are substantial. The violence that the group wields is substantial… I have no illusions that the U.S. staying there will dramatically improve the country.”

One may be tempted to view the peace talks with the Taliban and Bolton’s departure from the White House as signs of a turning tide; of Trump making good on his anti-interventionist campaign promises. This, however, is a misguided reading, even beyond Trump saying that the peace talks “are dead” in response to the killing of an American soldier. Abrahms told MintPress News that the negotiations are really a tactic to keep the United States in Afghanistan indefinitely. 

But perhaps the best single explanation for why the war in Afghanistan has dragged on so long, why the tide is not turning, and why there has been so little progress is that many of the U.S. officials and businessmen who worked in support of the precursor to the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan continue find shelter in Washington as they try to put out the fire they started 40 years ago, politically unhindered by the repeated failures of U.S. policies since. 

Afghanistan Civilians

Afghans inspect their home damaged in a Taliban car bomb last week in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 10, 2019. Rahmat Gul | AP

As the number of civilian casualties continues to mount at the hands of American forces and the U.S.-trained Afghan military, with bombings up and peace now off the table, the dire situation in Afghanistan today is a direct result of U.S. policies spearheaded in part by Zalmay Khalilzad, a neocon who was able to quietly shape both the Afghanistan and Iraqi governments under George W. Bush. For a time, Khalilzad even flirted with seizing power for himself, but today he leads the United States in negotiations with the Taliban.

For Trump, the clear goal of the talks was to have some term-defining foreign policy moment to bring into the 2020 election, but the advanced negotiations with the Taliban have already proven undeniable diplomatic progress.

As such, the decision to call off the meeting that would have seen top Taliban officials flown in to Camp David, Maryland brought a fresh breeze into the swamp. Beltway creatures could go on with their business of selling bombs, aircraft, and all other kinds of weapons of war to the United States and Afghan military in the fight against the Taliban. 

Imagine getting fired for the advice "Don't throw a 9/11 party for the Taliban" https://t.co/wkZf9v6PbN

— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) September 10, 2019

Former CIA director and Obama’s air force commander for Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, said the meeting’s “’symbolism would’ve been troubling.” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, blasted the proposed meeting on Twitter. Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News talking head and supporter of the Iranian terrorist cult MEK, called out the president as well. As Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen put it: “The establishment is surely pleased with Trump’s decision” to cancel the peace talks. The meeting was panned across establishment media.

It bears repeating to an American audience that the Taliban did not conduct the attacks on September 11, 2001 — the hijackers were based in the United States. The Taliban harbored Osama bin Laden, who helped construct tunnels for the CIA against the Soviets, and al-Qaeda, an organization that similarly grew to prominence in the Afghan civil war, a conflict fueled by the $630 million provided annually for weapons by the United States during the years prior. The CIA itself endorsed bin Laden’s passage back to Afghanistan after the Taliban took power, according to Blumenthal.

 

The life’s work of a lesser-known neocon

John Bolton wasn’t the only veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan now charged with resolving it. Nor was he the only PNAC veteran in the Trump administration. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the top American official in the negotiations, was a PNAC charter member and has been quietly overseeing the destruction of Afghanistan for most of his political career — longer than the Taliban has existed as an organization. 

Khalilzad worked closely with late National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who took a leading role in Operation Cyclone under President Carter. The secret CIA program pumped the Afghan Mujahideen up with cash, weapons, training, and jihadist school books. The Brooklyn-based Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center — a front for Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization co-founded by Osama bin Laden — would become key to this endeavor.

Brzezinski’s aim, as he stated , was to give the Soviets their own Vietnam quagmire. Back then, his message to the Mujahideen fighters that would become al-Qaeda and the Taliban was : “Your cause is right and God is on your side.” Even after the devastating attacks of September 11, Brzezinski defended the decision to support the Mujahideen in the name of defeating the Soviet Union.

The United States’ support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and later Bosnia, was intended to bleed the Soviet Union. It is no surprise that the same leeches — the Taliban and al-Qaeda — that were trained by the United States, would turn on their masters. In the case of the Taliban, clinging on to the U.S. for nearly two decades, slowly sucking away all the while. In the case of al-Qaeda, the attacks on the World Trade Center dealt massive blows. The end-game tactics mirror the CIA’s philosophy in training the Mujahideen against the USSR.

U..S officials like Khalilzad would spend decades in luxurious buildings in and around Washington while the people of Afghanistan would continue to suffer nearly another two decades of conflict because of their policies. 

Driven by prospects of an American oil pipeline through Afghanistan to combat Iran and Russia’s energy dominance in the region, President Clinton sought to build a coalition government that included the Taliban, according to The Management of Savagery: How America’s National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump by journalist Max Blumenthal. The consensus was that they were the best defenders of such a project — and so they got the contracts from the company, Unocal. Members of both the Taliban and al-Qaeda were flown into the U.S. by the government and the company in 1997, where they were joined by Khalilzad for a reception. He was spotted “chatting pleasantly” with “leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime about their shared enthusiasm for a proposed multibillion-dollar pipeline deal,” according to a story in the Washington Post a few months after 9/11.  

Khalilzad advised the company in 1996. According to the Institute for Policy Studies

[Khalilzad] had been an early supporter of the Taliban during the brutal internecine fighting that accompanied the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan. And he remained in touch with the fundamentalist forces after they trounced opposing warlords and took power in Kabul in 1996.”

By this time, Khalilzad had worked with Brzezinski under President Jimmy Carter, served as a senior State Department advisor on the Soviet-Afghan war under President Ronald Reagan and worked for the Pentagon under George Bush senior. Under George W. Bush, Khalilzad worked on “preparations for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq” according to a White House press statement . That was until 9/11, when his experience with Afghanistan propelled his rise in the administration as Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan. 

Zalmay Khalilzad

Zalmay Khalilzad views weapons handed over to a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Laghman, Afghanistan, June 19, 2005. Musadeq Sadeq | AP

Hamid Karzai, a former Mujahideen fundraiser, was installed as president by the U.S. after the Taliban was toppled, largely thanks to the political support of Zalmay Khalilzad. Karzai had been offered the post of ambassador to the UN by the Taliban, but the regime never attained formal recognition. 

Khalilzad would even play a leading role in the drafting of Afghanistan’s new constitution. This under-scrutinized behemoth in the American foreign policy scene would go on to help shape the new Iraqi government as U.S. ambassador to the country. His continued “service” in the United States government is itself a humanitarian threat.

 

A violent backdrop to a shaky peace process

The New York Times reports that American negotiations with the Taliban have been “undergirded by increasing battlefield pressure by the American military.” What is being opaquely alluded to is the increased bombings and engagements under Trump, with 2018 marking the most bombings on record and 2019 so far outpacing even that. Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly seeking to up the CIA’s arsenal of supposedly anti-extremist mercenaries to transition through the withdrawal of 5,400 of its 14,000 troops under the conditions of the unofficial agreement with the Taliban. As MintPress News has previously reported , some of these CIA-backed death squads are able to call in airstrikes and are frequently accused of torture. One medical worker whose home was raided by one of these units even mistook them for ISIS. “I thought it was the caliphate people,” he said.

The Taliban’s five-year regime was quickly shut down within months of the American invasion. It’s likely they want to maintain the territorial gains they have since fought so hard to reclaim. While the U.S. abruptly stopped tracking the amount of area controlled by the government and the Taliban in late May, Washington think tanks estimate that about 49 percent of the country is contested and 16 percent of it is under Taliban control. According to the BBC , the Taliban now controls more territory than it has since the United States expelled them in 2001.

….an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2019

Prof. Abrahms favored the cancellation of the Camp David meeting and has been generally critical of the negotiations, arguing that the United States could withdraw from the country and promise the group a swift return should they again harbor terrorists:

It seems to me that negotiations are actually an impediment to the United States reducing its military involvement in that country. If we wait for negotiations to go through the U.S., the Taliban and the Afghan government, then we’ll never leave that country.”

Abrahms went on to call the peace process a “tactic to keep the U.S. there indefinitely,” adding that he had not come across any solid arguments in terms of U.S. national security interests. He went on to characterize the threat from the Taliban:

The Taliban is a murky group. It is different from say ISIS in terms of its target selection. You don’t see Taliban attacks all over the world. This is true in their target selection and their code of conduct. ISIS was following a playbook calling for indiscriminate targets all over the world. If you look at the Taliban’s guidelines for the places where it’s permitted to strike — which I have — they’re local and not civilian. The focus of Taliban violence is against what it considers government targets: the Afghan government, NATO targets, and not indiscriminate ones against civilians.

That said, the Taliban does have a lot of blood on its hands against Afghan civilians. The Taliban doesn’t attack American civilians. The Taliban doesn’t do terrorism against Americans.”

The Taliban certainly has no shortage of innocent blood on its hands and deserves absolutely zero material support given its treatment of women, homosexuals, and ethnic and religious minorities. Yet so far in 2019 the United States and the Afghan military it oversees have killed more civilians than has the Taliban, according to a July 30 report from the UN Mission in Afghanistan . The UN body found 717 deaths attributable to the U.S. and its partner on the ground compared with 531 to “anti-government forces.”

Representing the Taliban at the most recent talks with the United States in Doha, Qatar were co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzaim, both of whom are former Mujahideen fighters. Baradar was advocating for a peace process in 2010 when he was arrested by Pakistani authorities at the request of the United States. He was released at the direction of Zalmay Khalilzad after the first round of talks, which Khalilzad has been heading for the Americans. 

Stanikzaim came to the United States in 1996 as the Taliban’s foreign minister to ask the Clinton administration to extend diplomatic relations with the government. According to journalist Michael Rubin , Khalilzad “arranged for a senior Taliban official to come to the United States to meet with Clinton administration officials and business leaders.” While the attempt to get recognition from the White House was unsuccessful, the Clinton administration continued to use the bin Laden-connected Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center to funnel misguided young American Muslims to the killing fields in Bosnia. 

 

Dr. Frankenstein chases his monster

Though al-Qaeda and the Taliban’s relationships with the United States are both closing in on four decades, the nature of the two have differed dramatically. Unlike the Taliban, which has spent the post-9/11 era in open conflict with the United States, al-Qaeda went on to resume its role as an American ally of convenience.

Over the past year, the United States has been trying to stave off a Syrian government liberation of the Idlib province. In 2017, then-Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk called Idlib “the largest al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11, tied directly to Ayman al-Zawahiri,” the leader of al-Qaeda. McGurk added:

The approach — I obviously will not talk about anything the U.S. government has done in certain parts of Syria on this problem — but the approach by some of our partners, to send in tens of tons of weapons and looking the other way as these foreign fighters come into Syria, may not have been the best approach, and al-Qaeda has taken full advantage of it.”

Throughout the war on Syria, the United States funneled weapons to the so-called “moderate rebel” groups fighting to depose President Bashar al Assad. But as they were often in the same trenches as al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, those weapons invariably ended up in al-Qaeda hands.

Abrahms painted a more complex portrait of Afghanistan than Syria, which he argued was in many ways less complex. The professor has been a consistent advocate against U.S. military assistance to the anti-government jihadist factions of Syria. “I never want to be in the position of actively supporting al-Qaeda,” Abrahms said.

In January, al-Qaeda took over complete control of Idlib, a move which has not yet stopped the United States from defending the last bastion of its proxy insurgency against Syria’s Assad.

Syria Tanf

Unidentified Syrian rebels surround a piece of US weaponry during training by an American special forces member in Tanf. Photo | Hammurabi’s Justice News

In Yemen, the United States also finds itself partnered with allies of al-Qaeda. The Arabian Peninsula affiliate of the terrorist organization has fought alongside the Saudi-led Coalition against the Houthi government, being allowed safe passage out of cities they have pillaged and looted for spoils to fill their war chests.

The Taliban has offered the exact deal that the United States is now trying to reach before — one that would see the group refuse to provide a haven for future attackers in exchange for a troop withdrawal. They offered “legal guarantees” that Afghanistan would not be used as a launch pad for terrorist attacks in 2009, which the Obama Administration ignored.

“There was a time when … leaders of the Taliban movement were seeking peace but at that time the Americans and the Pakistanis … both were against peace in Afghanistan,” former President Karzai has said . But it wasn’t just Karzai and the Taliban vying for power in Afghanistan during the Obama years. Khalilzad reportedly tried to have himself installed as ruler of the country after leaving the Bush administration.

While Prof. Abrahms characterizes negotiations as a means of forestalling a meaningful withdrawal, it is not for that reason that the meeting at Camp David was so unanimously opposed by the Beltway elite, which wants the war in Afghanistan to go on forever in order to keep weapons contractors’ pockets lined and to keep an eye on Iran. While “ post-9/11 wars have caused military contracts to increase to their highest levels since World War II” according to the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University,” the number of contractors in Afghanistan has increased by 65 percent under Trump.

John Bolton is far from the only player with such inclinations, and a handful of PNAC holdovers continue to subvert peace around the world, with the Trump administration as their vehicle.

Progressive icon Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who famously grilled PNAC member Elliott Abrams during hearings related to his nomination into the Trump administration, called supporters of the Camp David meeting “hypocrites.” The implication was that Trump — not herself, as has been the narrative in right wing media — was soft on the Taliban. These kinds of knee jerk responses to Trump’s dovish posturing do not support peace.

If progressives in Congress really want to support peace in Afghanistan and put an end to an 18-year-old bloodbath of an era of United States foreign policy, they should renew their own push for a troop withdrawal as an alternative to Trump’s proposal and refuse to confirm any more appointees with ties to the Project for a New American Century, or any of Washington’s pro-regime-change outfits. They should also call for the resignation of policy makers like Khalilzad, who have consistently failed over the years at huge cost to human life and the pockets of U.S. taxpayers. They should call for a new era of accountability in Washington so that the American public doesn’t continue to get lied into wars and the American government can no longer arm. 

The impunity granted to the likes of Bolton, Elliot Abrams, and Khalilzad established their permanency on the scene. There will be no peace with former PNAC cadres in power.

Americans should demand that the United States stop its tacit political support for al-Qaeda’s mission in Syria’s Idlib and demand that Afghanistan is given the opportunity to be the master of its own destiny. This is the only way to put an end to the cascading violence that has continued through the Cold War and into the War on Terror, starting with the deranged experiment in Afghanistan. It is up to the United States to decide whether the world will have a future without the scourge of terrorism.

Feature photo | Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the U.S. Institute of Peace, in Washington, Feb. 8, 2019. Jacquelyn Martin | AP

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

The post Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent & PNAC Member appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan, John Bolton, PNAC, Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad]

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[l] at 9/12/19 6:28am

The death of Israa Ghrayeb has ignited furious reactions regarding the so-called ‘honor-killings’ in Palestine and throughout the Arab world. 

It also wrought confusion with respect to the jurisprudential foundation of such crimes, which are often committed in the name of protecting the honor of the family. 

Israa, a 21-year-old makeup artist from the town of Beit Sahour in the West Bank, was reportedly beaten to death by her own brother for ‘dishonoring’ the family. The tragic episode was ignited by a video posted on social media where Israa was seen spending time with her soon-to-be fiancé. 

Israa Ghrayeb

Israa Ghrayeb. Photo | Twitter

While Palestinians and other Arab communities are genuinely angry regarding the violent mistreatment of women, others have found another platform to indict Islam and condemn Arab society. Predictably, the issue quickly and conveniently branched into the realms of politics, ideology and religion.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Lenient laws regarding ‘honor killing’ in the Middle East (and other parts of the world) do not originate from Islamic Sharia law, but from the so-called Napoleonic code of 1810, which largely tolerated “crimes of passion”. In countries like France and Italy, laws concerning ‘honor killing’ were not abrogated until 1975 and 1981 , respectively. 

The exploitation of weaknesses in Arab and Muslim societies is an old and thriving business . Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric has always been at the forefront of every military and political campaign by the West, from the early colonial era to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. For many years, elaborate discourses have aimed at justifying war and rationalizing intervention to distract from the real motives of economic exploitation and violence.

“Mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes,” said former US President George W. Bush in January 2002, celebrating his country’s supposed ‘victory’ in Afghanistan. “Today, [Afghani] women are free.” 

Bush made that preposterous claim only weeks after his wife, Laura, supposedly the defender of women worldwide, declared in November 2001 that “the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”. 

The fact that hundreds of thousands of girls and women were killed and millions of others were widowed or orphaned in America’s protracted ‘war on terror’ doesn’t seem to impede the fallacious logic in any way. The sad, but predictable, truth is that the rights and wellbeing of Afghani, Arab and Muslim women have sharply deteriorated as a result of US-western military interventions. 

But this is the crux of the problem. As intellectuals, educators and human rights activists, we often find ourselves trapped in a restricting paradigm. Aware of the real motives of western media and official propaganda, we engage in a battle of self-defense, desperately trying to shield our religions, countries and societies from ill-intentioned criticism. In the process of doing so, however, we often neglect to speak out on behalf of the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, the likes of Israa Ghrayeb and millions like her. 

We neglect our responsibility to stand up for the marginalized sectors of our society because we are afraid to be misunderstood, and for our words to be misinterpreted and misused by the rising far-right propagandists from the US to France, and from India to Brazil. 

But this is hardly fair to Israa and millions of other women. Palestinian and Arab women are suffering from dual injustices that men don’t experience. They are victims of war, political instability and economic marginalization, but are also victims of patriarchal societies and outdated laws

It is infuriating and inexcusable, for example, that Palestinian women in the West Bank and Gaza are coping with multilayered forms of violence, emanating both from the Israeli occupation and from their own family and society; the former justifying its violence in the name of ‘security’ and the latter in the name of ‘honor’ and tradition.  

Israel | Palestine | Aqsa

Israeli border police officer manhandle a Palestinian woman in the Old City of Jerusalem on, July 26, 2015. Photo | AP

But where is the honor in the fact that nearly 30 percent of all married women in the West Bank and 50 percent in Gaza “have been subjected to a form of violence within the household”? According to the United Nations group, UN Women, the majority of these women prefer to remain silent in the face of these abuses, most likely to protect their families and avoid further abuse. 

Palestinian and Arab women (and many men) are not just angry over ‘honor killings’ and the tolerant laws that make it possible for criminals to get away with their brutal deeds; they are also angry because the practice merely symbolizes a much wider phenomenon, where women are marginalized and victimized as a matter of course in all societal aspects. 

21 Palestinian women and girls have been killed in so-called honor killings in 2018, reports Amnesty International. This requires immediate attention and a complete overhaul of Palestinian laws that allow criminals to walk free after serving reduced prison sentences. But the fight should not end there. Palestinian women are more educated than men, yet enjoy far fewer work opportunities. Despite their crucial role in the resistance against Israeli occupation and apartheid, they are marginalized in politics and decision-making.  

Those who killed Israa and hundreds of women like her in the name of ‘honor’ should know that the agonizing screams of their sisters and daughters are no different from the cries of pain of Razan Al-Najjar , after she was shot and killed by Israeli snipers at Gaza’s March of Return; that the same pain endured by these women is the pain being felt every hour of every day by Israa Ja’abis and her sisters in Israeli prisons; that the abuse of women at the hands of their families is the same abuse they experience at Israeli military checkpoints and by unhinged Israeli Jewish settlers. 

‘Justice is indivisible’, and it is time that we break our silence and respect this noble maxim. Speaking out against violence, discrimination and marginalization of women in our societies should be part and parcel of any genuine struggle against human rights abuses, regardless of the identity and motive of the abuser. 

Let the screams for help and pleas for mercy of Israa Ghrayeb be our guide as we fight against injustice in all of its forms and manifestations. 

Feature photo | Two Palestinian women hold placards during a rally in front of the Prime Minister’s office, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sept. 2. 2019, to demand an investigation into the death of Israa Ghrayeb, a 21-year-old woman whom many suspect was the victim of a so-called honor killing. Nasser Nasser | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is ‘These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons’ (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net .

The post ‘Justice is Indivisible’:The Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Honor Killing, Israa Ghrayeb, Palestinian, Women]

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[l] at 9/11/19 5:44am

Today the event that defined the United States’ foreign policy in the 21st century, and heralded the destruction of whole countries, turns 18. The events of September 11, 2001 remains etched into the memories of Americans and many others, as a collective tragedy that brought Americans together and brought as well a general resolve among them that those responsible be brought to justice. 

While the events of that day did unite Americans in these ways for a time, the different trajectories of the official relative to the independent investigations into the September 11 attacks have often led to division in the years since 2001, with vicious attacks or outright dismissal being levied against the latter. 

Yet, with 18 years having come and gone — and with the tireless efforts from victims’ families, first responders, scientists and engineers — the tide appears to be turning, as new evidence continues to emerge and calls for new investigations are made. However, American corporate media has remained largely silent, preferring to ignore new developments that could derail the “official story” of one of the most iconic and devastating attacks to ever occur on American soil.

For instance, in late July, commissioners for a New York-area Fire Department, which responded to the attacks and lost one of their own that day, called for a new investigation into the events of September 11. On July 24, the board of commissioners for the Franklin Square and Munson Fire District, which serves a population of around 30,000 near Queens, voted unanimously in their call for a new investigation into the attacks.

While the call for a new investigation from a NY Fire Department involved in the rescue effort would normally seem newsworthy to the media outlets who often rally Americans to “never forget,” the commissioners’ call for a new investigation was met with total silence from the mainstream media. The likely reason for the dearth of coverage on an otherwise newsworthy vote was likely due to the fact that the resolution that called for the new investigation contained the following clause:

Whereas, the overwhelming evidence presented in said petition demonstrates beyond any doubt that pre-planted explosives and/or incendiaries — not just airplanes and the ensuing fires — caused the destruction of the three World Trade Center buildings, killing the vast majority of the victims who perished that day;”

In the post-9/11 world, those who have made such claims, no matter how well-grounded their claims may be, have often been derided and attacked as “conspiracy theorists” for questioning the official claims that the three World Trade Center buildings that collapsed on September 11 did so for any reason other than being struck by planes and from the resulting fires. Yet, it is much more difficult to launch these same attacks against members of a fire department that lost a fireman on September 11 and many of whose members were involved with the rescue efforts of that day, some of whom still suffer from chronic illnesses as a result.

Rescue workers climb on piles of rubble at the World Trade Center in New York, Sept. 13, 2001. Beth A. Keiser | AP

Another likely reason that the media monolithically avoided coverage of the vote was out of concern that it would lead more fire departments to pass similar resolutions, which would make it more difficult for such news to avoid gaining national coverage. Yet, Commissioner Christopher Gioia, who drafted and introduced the resolution, told those present at the meeting’s conclusion that getting all of the New York fire districts onboard was their plan anyway.

“We’re a tight-knit community and we never forget our fallen brothers and sisters. You better believe that when the entire fire service of New York State is on board, we will be an unstoppable force,” Gioia said. “We were the first fire district to pass this resolution. We won’t be the last,” he added.

While questioning the official conclusions of the first federal investigation into 9/11 has been treated as taboo in the American media landscape for years, it is worth noting that even those who led the commission have said that the investigation was “set up to fail” from the start and that they were repeatedly misled and lied to by federal officials in relation to the events of that day. 

For instance, the chair and vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, wrote in their book Without Precedent that not only was the commission starved of funds and its powers of investigation oddly limited, but that they were obstructed and outright lied to by top Pentagon officials and officials with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). They and other commissioners have outright said that the “official” report on the attacks is incomplete, flawed and unable to answer key questions about the terror attacks.

Despite the failure of American corporate media to report these facts, local legislative bodies in New York, beginning with the fire districts that lost loved ones and friends that day, are leading the way in the search for real answers that even those that wrote the “official story” say were deliberately kept from them.

 

Persuasive scientific evidence continues to roll in

Not long after the Franklin Square and Munson Fire District called for a new 9/11 investigation, a groundbreaking university study added even more weight to the commissioners’ call for a new look at the evidence regarding the collapse of three buildings at the World Trade Center complex. While most Americans know full well that the twin towers collapsed on September 11, fewer are aware that a third building — World Trade Center Building 7 — also collapsed. That collapse occurred seven hours after the twin towers came down, even though WTC 7, or “Building 7,” was never struck by a plane.

It was not until nearly two months after its collapse that reports revealed that the CIA had a “secret office” in WTC 7 and that, after the building’s destruction, “a special CIA team scoured the rubble in search of secret documents and intelligence reports stored in the station, either on paper or in computers.” WTC 7 also housed offices for the Department of Defense, the Secret Service, the New York Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and the bank Salomon Brothers. 

Though the official story regarding the collapse of WTC 7 cites “uncontrolled building fires” as leading to the building’s destruction, a majority of Americans who have seen the footage of the 47-story tower come down from four different angles overwhelmingly reject the official story, based on a new YouGov poll released on Monday. 

WTC 7 fall animation GIF

Source | Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth

That poll found that 52 percent of those who saw the footage were either sure or suspected that the building’s fall was due to explosives and was a controlled demolition, with 27 percent saying they didn’t know what to make of the footage. Only 21 percent of those polled agreed with the official story that the building collapsed due to fires alone. Prior to seeing the footage, 36 percent of respondents said that they were unaware that a third building collapsed on September 11 and more than 67 percent were unable to name the building that had collapsed.

Ted Walter, Director of Strategy and Development for Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, told MintPress that the lack of awareness about WTC 7 among the general public “goes to show that the mainstream media has completely failed to inform the American people about even the most basic facts related to 9/11. On any other day in history, if a 47-story skyscraper fell into its footprint due to ‘office fires,’ everyone in the country would have heard about it.” 

The fact that the media chose not to cover this, Walter asserted, shows that “the mainstream media and the political establishment live in an alternative universe and the rest of the American public is living in a different universe and responding to what they see in front of them,” as reflected by the results of the recent YouGov poll.

Another significant finding of the YouGov poll was that 48 percent of respondents supported,  while only 15 percent opposed, a new investigation into the events of September 11. This shows that not only was the Franklin Square Fire District’s recent call for a new investigation in line with American public opinion, but that viewing the footage of WTC 7’s collapse raises more questions than answers for many Americans, questions that were not adequately addressed by the official investigation of the 9/11 Commission.

The Americans who felt that the video footage of WTC 7’s collapse did not fit with the official narrative and appeared to show a controlled demolition now have more scientific evidence to fall back on after the release of a new university study found that the building came down not due to fire but from “the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.” The extensive four-year study was conducted by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alaska and used complex computer models to determine if the building really was the first steel-framed high-rise ever to have collapsed solely due to office fires. 

The study, currently available as a draft , concluded that “uncontrolled building fires” did not lead the building to fall into its footprint — tumbling more than 100 feet at the rate of gravity free-fall for 2.5 seconds of its seven-second collapse — as has officially been claimed. Instead, the study — authored by Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey, Dr. Feng Xiao and Dr. Zhili Quan — found that “fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] and private engineering firms that studied the collapse,” while also concluding “that the collapse of WTC 7 was a global [i.e., comprehensive] failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.”

This “near-simultaneous failure of every column” in WTC 7 strongly suggests that explosives were involved in its collapse, which is further supported by the statements made by Barry Jennings, the then-Deputy Director of Emergency Services Department for the New York City Housing Authority. Jennings told a reporter the day of the attack that he and Michael Hess, then-Corporation Counsel for New York City, had heard and seen explosions in WTC 7 several hours prior to its collapse and later repeated those claims to filmmaker Dylan Avery. The first responders who helped rescue Jennings and Hess also claimed to have heard explosions in WTC 7. Jennings died in 2008, two days prior the release of the official NIST report blaming WTC 7’s collapse on fires. To date, no official cause of death for Jennings has been given. 

 

Still “crazy” after all these years?

Eighteen years after the September 11 attacks, questioning the official government narrative of the events of those days still remains taboo for many, as merely asking questions or calling for a new investigation into one of the most important events in recent American history frequently results in derision and dismissal. 

Yet, this 9/11 anniversary — with a new study demolishing the official narrative on WTC 7, with a new poll showing that more than half of Americans doubt the government narrative on WTC 7, and with firefighters who responded to 9/11 calling for a new investigation — is it still “crazy” to be skeptical of the official story?

9/11

Firefighters hose down the smoldering remains of 7 World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001, in New York. Ryan Remiorz | AP

Even in years past, when asking difficult questions about September 11 was even more “off limits,” it was often first responders, survivors and victims’ families who had asked the most questions about what had really transpired that day and who have led the search for truth for nearly two decades — not wild-eyed “conspiracy theorists,” as many have claimed. 

The only reason it remains taboo to ask questions about the official narrative, whose own authors admit that it is both flawed and incomplete, is that the dominant forces in the American media and the U.S. government have successfully convinced many Americans that doing so is not only dangerous but irrational and un-American. 

However, as evidence continues to mount that the official narrative itself is the irrational narrative, it becomes ever more clear that the reason for this media campaign is to prevent legitimate questions about that day from receiving the scrutiny they deserve, even smearing victims’ families and ailing first responders to do so. For too long, “Never Forget” has been nearly synonymous with “Never Question.” 

Yet, failing to ask those questions — even when more Americans than ever now favor a new investigation and discount the official explanation for WTC 7’s collapse — is the ultimate injustice, not only to those who died in New York City on September 11, but those who have been killed in their names in the years that have followed.

Feature photo | Workers use cutting torches as they clear the site of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, Jan. 23, 2002. Richard Drew | AP

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post More Americans Questioning Official 9/11 Story As New Evidence Contradicts Official Narrative appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, National, 9/11, conspiracy, investigation, September 11, World Trade Center, WTC-7] [Link to media]

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[l] at 9/10/19 4:14pm

NEW YORK — For nearly two decades, one of the most overlooked and little known arrests made in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks was that of the so-called “High Fivers,” or the “Dancing Israelis.” However, new information released by the FBI on May 7 has brought fresh scrutiny to the possibility that the “Dancing Israelis,” at least two of whom were known Mossad operatives, had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Shortly after 8:46 a.m. on the day of the attacks, just minutes after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, five men — later revealed to be Israeli nationals — had positioned themselves in the parking lot of the Doric Apartment Complex in Union City, New Jersey, where they were seen taking pictures and filming the attacks while also celebrating the destruction of the towers and “high fiving” each other. At least one eyewitness interviewed by the FBI had seen the Israelis’ van in the parking lot as early as 8:00 a.m. that day, more than 40 minutes prior to the attack. The story received coverage in U.S. mainstream media at the time but has since been largely forgotten.

The men — Sivan Kurzberg, Paul Kurzberg, Oded Ellner, Yaron Shimuel and Omar Marmari — were subsequently apprehended by law enforcement and claimed to be Israeli tourists on a “working holiday” in the United States where they were employed by a moving company, Urban Moving Systems. Upon his arrest, Sivan Kurzberg told the arresting officer, “We are Israeli; we are not your problem. Your problems are our problems, The Palestinians are the problem.”

For years, the official story has been that these individuals, while they had engaged in “immature” behavior by celebrating and being “visibly happy” in their documenting of the attacks, had no prior knowledge of the attack. However, newly released FBI copies of the photos taken by the five Israelis strongly suggest that these individuals had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The copies of the photos were obtained via a FOIA request made by a private citizen .

dancing Israelis

A high-quality photo, top, shows the area the dancing Israelis were staged. Credit | Panamza

According to a former high-ranking American intelligence official who spoke to the Jewish Daily Forward in 2002, the FBI concluded in its investigation that the five Israelis arrested “were conducting a Mossad surveillance mission and that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, NJ, served as a front.” At least two of the men arrested were determined to have direct links to the Mossad after their names appeared in a CIA-FBI database of foreign intelligence operatives. According to one of their lawyers, one of the men, Paul Kurzberg, had previously worked for the Mossad in another country prior to arriving in the United States. Another of those arrested, Oded Ellner, subsequently stated on Israeli TV that the five Israelis had been in New York at the time “to document the event,” meaning the attack on the World Trade Center.

The FOIA release of the photos is notable because responses to prior FOIA requests to the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI, had previously claimed that all of the photos taken by the Israeli nationals had been destroyed in January 2014. The photos themselves are heavily redacted, making it impossible to see the Israelis’ facial expressions. However, previously declassified yet heavily redacted FBI reports state that the Israelis are “visibly happy” in nearly every photo, even when the burning towers are in the background. The photos released are also not original copies and instead appear to be photocopies of photocopies of the original pictures. In addition, of the original 76 pictures developed by authorities from the camera in the Israelis’ possession, only 14 were released.

Based on the impressions of the French website Panamza and subsequently MintPress , three of these photos — despite the heavy redaction and poor quality — appear damning. Since 2001, even though the photos were never released until now, it had been known that one of the Israelis arrested — Sivan Kurzberg — was seen in a photo “holding a lighted lighter in the foreground, with the smoldering wreckage [of the twin towers] in the background,” according to Steven Noah Gordon, then-lawyer for the five Israelis, as cited in a New York Times report from November 2001. 

The picture of Kurzberg with the lit lighter appears to be photo #5 in the new FOIA release. Yet, the picture released includes a visible date of September 10, 2001, the day before the attacks, as do two other photos — images #7 and #8 in the collection — whereas all other photos with dates show only the month and the year (9 ‘01). The FOIA release did not provide any information as to the apparent discrepancy in dates.

While this could be explained away as the camera in question being programmed with a slightly inaccurate date, that doesn’t seem to be the case for two reasons. First, only three out of the 14 pictures appear to carry that date and, second, previously declassified FBI reports report an eyewitness adamantly stating that Sivan Kurzberg had visited the Doric Apartments on September 10, 2001 at around 3 p.m. with at least one other man, with whom he was conversing in a foreign language, and had identified himself as a “construction worker” to a tenant (page 61 of declassified FBI report ). 

Dancing Israelis lighter photo

Sivan Kurzberg holds a lit lighter with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The date September 10, 2001 visible in the bottom right corner | Photo #5

In addition, the FBI report noted that a van from Urban Moving Systems, the company that employed the five Israelis at the time of their arrest, was present and was involved in moving a tenant out of the complex on September 10 and that the movers all had foreign accents. Thus, images 5, 7 and 8 may have been taken at the same complex a day before the attacks. 

This raises two possibilities. First, that there are two images of Kurzberg with a lit lighter in front of the towers, one taken before the attack and one taken at the time of the attack, and that the FBI released only one of them. Second, that Kurzberg took the picture with the lighter only the day before the attack and his lawyer misrepresented the contents of the photo to the New York Times. Given that the background of the photo — particularly the state of the towers — is indiscernible in the recently released photo, it is difficult to determine which is the case.

Dancing Israelis pointer

One of the Israelis points to what is presumably the World Trade Center, in Manhattan on September 11, 2001 | Photo #2

However, other analysts have interpreted the photos quite differently. For instance, Ryan Dawson, formerly of Newsbud, cited the police report that details the clothing of some of the Israelis at the time of their arrest and used that to link identities to the redacted faces in the pictures. He believes that the Israeli holding the lighter is not Sivan Kurzberg, but his brother Paul. Meanwhile, the person who filed the FOIA request that resulted in the picture’s release, who wished to remain anonymous, thought that Omer Marmari was more likely to be the man with the lighter. 

Both have stated that all pictures were likely to have been taken on the day of the attacks. One reason given for the appearance of the date of September 10, 2001 in only some of the photos is due to the heavy editing, which rendered it invisible in the remaining photos. Dawson asserted that the incorrect date was due to the Israelis’ panicking when they were pulled over and attempting to edit the date and hour on the camera upon the arrest in an effort to hide the evidence. Another explanation put forth is that it was the result of a camera configuration error.

Given the highly redacted and edited nature of the pictures, what is most notable of all is the fact of what is not seen (i.e. edited out) in the photos. Clearly, there was an interest in preventing the public from seeing the state of the towers at the time of the photos were taken and also in preventing the public from seeing the facial expressions of the Israelis, despite it being known from the FBI report that they are “visibly happy” and “jovial.” The state of the towers being edited out is particularly telling, especially considering that

As to whether any of the Israelis knew of the attacks in advance, the relevant section of the FBI report that asks “1. Did the Israeli nationals have foreknowledge of the events at WTC and were they filming the events prior to and in anticipation of the explosion?” is notably redacted in its entirety, suggesting that the FBI did not determine the answer to that question to be an emphatic “no.”

 

One of the 9/11 loose-ends coverups?

If images 5 and 7 were indeed taken the day prior to the attack, the question then becomes why the FBI officially concluded that the arrested Israelis had no prior knowledge of the attacks? One report from ABC News dated June 2002 suggests that the Bush administration intervened in the investigation. That report states that “Israeli and U.S. government officials worked out a deal — and after 71 days, the five Israelis were taken out of jail, put on a plane, and deported back home [to Israel].” If the Bush administration had cut a deal with Israel’s government to cover up the incident, it certainly would not have been the first time a U.S. presidential administration had done so on Israel’s behalf.

Further evidence that higher-ups in the administration intervened is the fact that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft personally signed off on the detainees’ release. Upon his entering the private sector as a lobbyist and consultant in 2005, the Israeli government became one of Ashcroft’s first clients .

A cover-up certainly seems to have happened to some extent, between the destruction of records of the investigation and the fact that official conclusions of the investigation do not add up. In the latter case, the FBI  — in a file dated September 24, 2001– officially stated that they “determined that none of the Israelis were actively engaged in clandestine intelligence activities in the United States.” However, that conclusion was directly contradicted by U.S. officials a year later and by the fact that Israel’s own government subsequently acknowledged that the five Israelis had indeed been involved in “clandestine intelligence activities in the United States.”

In addition, the new FOIA release of the photos suggests that another FBI conclusion — that “none of the pictures developed from the film found inside the 35-mm camera depicted the twin towers prior to the attack” — was inaccurate. This may explain why the images released via the recent FOIA request were heavily edited leaving details in the background greatly obscured, making it impossible to determine whether the photos were taken prior to or during the attacks based solely on the state of the towers.

 

“Tourists” with cash-stuffed socks, box cutters, and explosives?

Beyond the photos and observed activities of the so-called “Dancing Israelis,” it is worth revisiting several other suspicious circumstances linked to their arrest that clearly show that the men in question were hardly the “tourists” they had claimed to be. One often cited example is the fact that one of the men, Oded Ellner, had a “white sock-like sack filled with $4,700 in cash ,” as well as maps of the city with certain places highlighted, and box cutters. In addition, the van in which the Israelis were arrested was “oddly” lacking “equipment typically used in a moving company’s daily duties,” according to the FBI, and residue of explosives was found in the van.

Of the explosive residue, the declassified FBI report states:

A search of the van and individuals was conducted at the time of the vehicle stop. The vehicle was also searched by a trained bomb-sniffing dog which yielded a positive result for the presence of explosive traces. Swabs of the vehicle’s interior were taken, and those samples were sent to the FBI laboratory for further analysis. Final results are still pending.”

In total, the FBI reported that four items related to explosives were found in the ban and are labeled in the report as “Fabric Sample (Explosive Residue),” “Control Swabs – SA [ – ] Gloves,” “Control Swabs – (Bomb Suits),” and “Blanket Samples For Explosive Residue.” In addition, a VHS tape and some still photographs found in the van “were sent to Laboratory Examiner [ redacted ] (Explosives Unit).”

In addition to the strange nature of some of the Israelis’ possessions in the van and on their person, the company that employed them — Urban Moving Systems — was of special interest to the FBI, which concluded that the company was likely a “fraudulent operation.” Upon a search of the company’s premises, the FBI noted that “little evidence of a legitimate business operation was found.” The FBI report also noted that there were an “unusually large number of computers relative to the number of employees for such a fairly small business” and that “further investigation identified several pseudo-names or aliases associated with Urban Moving Systems and its operations.”

The FBI presence at the Urban Moving Systems search site drew the attention of the local media and was later reported on both television and in the local press. A former Urban Moving Systems employee later contacted the Newark Division with information indicating that he had quit his employment with Urban Moving Systems as a result of the high amount of anti-American sentiment present among Urban’s employees. The former employee stated that an Israeli employee of Urban had even once remarked, “Give us twenty years and we’ll take over your media and destroy your country” (page 37 of the FBI report ).

The FBI returned to search the premises of Urban Moving Systems a month later, but by that time found:

The building and all of its contents had been abandoned by…the owner of Urban Moving Systems. This [was] apparently being done to avoid criminal prosecution after the 09/11/2001 arrest of five of his employees and subsequent seizure of his office computer systems by members of the FBI-NK on or around 09/13/2001.”

The company’s owner — Dominik Otto Suter, an Israeli citizen — had fled to Israel on September 14, 2001, two days after he had been questioned by the FBI. The FBI told ABC News that “Urban Moving may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.” Surprisingly, since at least 2016, Suter has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he works for a contractor for major tech companies like Google and Microsoft. According to the public records database Intelius , in 2006 and 2007 Suter also worked for a telecommunications company — Granite Telecommunications — that works for the U.S. military and several other U.S. government agencies.

In addition to Urban Moving Systems, another moving company, Classic International Movers, became of interest in connection with the investigation into the “Dancing Israelis,” which led to the arrest and detention of four Israeli nationals who worked for this separate moving company. The FBI’s Miami Division had alerted the Newark Division that Classic International Movers was believed to have been used by one of the 19 alleged 9/11 hijackers before the attack, and one of the “Dancing Israelis” had the number for Classic International Movers written in a notebook that was seized at the time of his arrest. The report further states that one of the Israelis of Classic International Movers who was arrested “was visibly disturbed by the Agents’ questioning regarding his personal email account.”

 

A crowded dance floor

While the case of the “Dancing Israelis” has long been treated as an outlier in the aftermath of September 11, what is often overlooked is the fact that hundreds of Israeli nationals were arrested in the aftermath of the attacks.

According to a FOX News report from December 2001, 60 Israelis were apprehended or detained after September 11, with most deported, and a total of 140 Israelis were arrested and detained in all of 2001 by federal authorities. That report claimed that the arrests, ostensibly including the “Dancing Israelis,” were in relation to an investigation of “an organized [Israeli] intelligence gathering operation designed to ‘penetrate government facilities.’”

The report also added that most of those arrested, in addition to having served in the IDF, had “intelligence expertise” and worked for Israeli companies that specialized in wiretapping. Some of those detained were also active members of the Israeli military; and several detainees, including the “Dancing Israelis,” had failed polygraph tests when asked if they had been surveilling the U.S. government.

Watch | FOX News December 2001 report on Mossad spying prior to 9/11

.
A key aspect of that report, compiled by journalist Carl Cameron, also states that federal investigators widely suspected that Israeli intelligence had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks. In the report, Cameron stated:

The Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins’ but when asked for details he flatly refused to describe them saying: ‘Evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about the evidence that has been gathered. It is classified information.’”

One exchange between Cameron and host Brit Hume included in the report is particularly telling:

HUME : “Carl, what about this question of advanced knowledge of what was going to happen on 9/11? How clear are investigators that some Israeli agents may have known something?”

CAMERON : “Well it’s very explosive information obviously and there is a great deal of evidence that they say they have collected. None of it necessarily conclusive. It’s more when they put it all together a big question they say is, ‘How could they have not known?’ — almost a direct quote, Brit.”

However, it is essential to note that Israeli intelligence did attempt to warn the U.S. government at least twice beginning in August 2001 as did the intelligence agencies of many other countries, including France, the UK, Egypt, Russia and Jordan. Yet, no people connected to any other intelligence agency other than Israel were caught celebrating the attacks as they took place in the area nor were accused by mainstream media of operating a large spy ring within the U.S. at the time. One theory to explain this discrepancy is that the Mossad elements of which the “Dancing Israelis” and other alleged Israeli spies could have been part of a specific section of Israeli intelligence that were acting independently as a rogue agency. Such a possibility is not unusual given that divisions of or groups within the CIA have been known to “ go rogue ” on several occasions.

 

9/11 as a big — and acknowledged — Israeli win

If the “Dancing Israelis”, and more broadly the Mossad and the Israeli government, had foreknowledge of September 11, why would they remain silent and not attempt to warn the American government or public of the coming attacks? In the case of the “Dancing Israelis,” why would Israelis celebrate such an attack?

One of the detained “Dancing Israelis,” Omer Marmari, told police the following about why he viewed the September 11 attacks in a positive light:

Israel now has hope that the world will now understand us. Americans are naïve and America is easy to get inside. There are not a lot of checks in America. And now America will be tougher about who gets into their country.”

While Marmari’s statement may suggest one reason some of the “Dancing Israelis” were so “visibly happy” in their photographs, there are also other statements made by top Israeli politicians that suggest why the Israeli government and its intelligence agency declined to act on apparent foreknowledge of the attack.

When asked, on the day of the 9/11 attacks, how the attacks would affect American-Israeli relations, Benjamin Netanyahu — the current Israeli prime minister — told the New York Times that “It’s very good,” before quickly adding “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” He then predicted, much as Marmari had, that the attacks would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.”

Netanyahu, in a candid conversation recorded in 2001, also echoed Marmari’s claim that Americans are naïve. In that recording, Netanyahu said :

I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction. … They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way… 80 percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

In addition, also on the day of the September 11 attacks, Netanyahu — who at the time was not in political office — held a press conference in which he claimed that he had predicted the attacks on the World Trade Center by “militant Islam” in his 1995 book, Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism. In that book, Netanyahu had posited that Iranian-linked “militants” would set off a nuclear bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center.

During his press conference on the day of the attacks, Netanyahu also asserted that the 9/11 attacks would be a turning point for America and compared them to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Netanyahu’s statement echoes the infamous line from the “ Rebuilding America’s Defenses ” document authored by the neoconservative think tank, the Project for a New Ameican Century (PNAC). That line reads. “Further, the process of transformation [towards a neo-Reaganite foreign policy and hyper-militarism], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor.”

Then again, years later In 2008, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that Netanyahu had stated that the September 11 attacks had greatly benefited Israel. He was quoted as saying : “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq.”

Indeed, it goes without saying that the aftermath of 9/11 — which involved the U.S. leading a destructive effort throughout the Middle East — has indeed benefited Israel. Many of the U.S.’ post-9/11 “nation-building” efforts have notably mirrored the policy paper “ A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm ,” which was authored by American neoconservatives — PNAC members among them — for Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister.

That document calls for the creation of a “New Middle East” by, among other things, “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria” and “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” As is known now, both of those main objectives have since come to pass, each with strong Israeli involvement .

Update | This article was updated to include and accommodate alternative analyses of the newly released photos as well information on Israeli intelligence warnings to the U.S. prior to September 11, 2001 that came to the attention of MintPress after initial its publication.

Feature photo | Four of the Israeli nationals arrested for “puzzling behavior” during the September 11 attacks are seen casually posing together in front of the Manhattan skyline while the September 11 attacks were in progress | Photo #1

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

The post The Dancing Israelis: FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, National, News, 9/11, Dancing Israelis, FOIA, Israel, Mossad, September 11, urban moving systems]

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[l] at 9/9/19 5:04pm

 
It’s been a summer of unrest in Hong Kong, and the Western mainstream press has been in uproar providing non-stop coverage of what they’ve described as a “pro-democracy movement fighting for freedom” against the repressive Chinese government. 

Since March, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets each week, clashing with police and security forces, escalating into a fight over who should control Hong Kong’s future.

The protests erupted over a proposed amendment to an extradition treaty between Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan. 

Hong Kongers feared that the new treaty would allow the Chinese government to arrest and imprison dissidents or whomever from Hong Kong the government deems a threat, effectively ending freedom of expression. Hong Kong has been a haven for many anti-Beijing dissidents and political figures and many felt the proposed law would dilute the island city’s already limited independence.

Protest leader Joshua Wong conveyed the movement’s five core demands, which include: 

Hong Kong protest demands

Joshua Wong | Twitter

Just this week, Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam withdrew the extradition bill that ignited the protests to begin with. But it seems now that the demonstrators are just getting started. 

And if you’ve been following the mainstream corporate media coverage, it seems like the media are just getting started too. 

We’re talking about the same media that have gone silent on the hundreds of thousands of non-violent Yellow Vest protesters in France who have been demonstrating against corruption, inequality and neoliberalism for almost a year. This same media have rushed to cover and even applaud the demonstrations in Hong Kong. 

Indeed, much of the protest appears to be geared towards a Western audience.

Protesters are openly calling on the United States to intervene and liberate Hong Kong as they wave the stars and stripes of the American flag. Meanwhile, others broke into the Hong Kong state legislature and hung the colonial United Kingdom flag — a reference to the era before 1997 when the British directly controlled the island as a colony. 

Perhaps what’s more bizarre is that protesters have been seen waving Pepe the Frog flags , a symbol of the Alt-Right. 

Hong Kong protesters fly high Pepe the Frog Flag. LMAO pic.twitter.com/cD0dRm5wwy

— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) August 10, 2019

This message is getting right to the heart of America’s regime-change hawks, receiving the blessings of none other than Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and even President Donald Trump — the same bloodthirsty avatars of war under the current administration that have been openly destabilizing Venezuela by pouring in millions to prop up a right-wing insurgency.

And what’s already taking place in Hong Kong is looking all too familiar, which begs the question: Does Washington have any influence over the protest movement in Hong Kong, whether directly or indirectly? 

A closer look actually gives us a clear answer — that the West has more to do with this movement than it would like us to know. It’s the ugly face of Washington’s long-standing foreign policy directed at destabilizing one of its long-standing economic foes: China.

Gone are the days where the CIA would directly overthrow foreign governments it didn’t like, such as Iran in 1953 or Brazil in 1964. 

Today regime change is achieved through front organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, that influences thought and culture through covert means. 

Washington uses the NED as a “soft power” tool to influence and interfere in the politics and society of foreign countries in order to bring about governments that are conducive to the interests of big business. The NED does this under the guise of being a charitable organization promoting democracy and human rights. 

The idea is to create a buffer, 3rd-party organization to distance the U.S. government from funding political parties and groups and organizing regime-change operations. 

The NED was founded in 1983, following a series of scandals that exposed the CIA’s blood-soaked covert actions against foreign governments that resisted U.S. economic and political bullying. 

In 1986, NED President Carl Gershman told the New York Times , “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the Sixties, and that’s why it has been discontinued.” 

One of the NED’s founders, Allen Weinstein, was more blunt. He told the Washington Post , “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” 

In recent years, the NED has trained, supported and funded demonstrations and regime-change ops in Venezuela, Ukraine and Nicaragua, designed to look like grassroots uprisings. 

It’s not surprising considering the NED’s board of directors includes two infamous war criminals: Elliott Abrams, who helped funnel weapons and funds to right-wing contras in Nicaragua that terrorized civilians through torture, rape and murder, then tried to cover up these war crimes; and Victoria Nuland, who directed the U.S. policy in Ukraine to fund and arm a right-wing insurgency that engineered the overthrow the democratically elected government — an insurgency that has committed countless war crimes against civilians. 

Destabilizing China carries forward this global mission. 

Hong Kong Protests

A U.S. Consulate representative receives a letter from protesters that marched to the US consulate in Hong Kong, Sept. 8, 2019. Kin Cheung | AP

Before the Hong Kong protests erupted, NED President Gershman called China a “resurgent despotic regime tightening repression internally and expanding its power globally,” claiming that “democracy is under threat” and we must “come to its defense.” 

Since 2014, the year of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Protests, the NED has (officially) poured over $29 million into the island city or the mainland in order to “identify new avenues for democracy and political reform.” That’s according to the NED’s website. 

But as the organization has already formally identified the Chinese government as despotic and a threat to democracy, this means that the money is, de facto, supporting groups to undermine that government. And as MintPress has reported , much of the money went to the very groups that organized the latest protests.

The man described in the media as the “face of the Hong Kong protests” is Joshua Wong, a young activist who came to attention during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution demonstrations against the Chinese government. 

Wong is almost universally described in corporate media as a “pro-democracy leader” or “ freedom campaigner .” But if Wong loves democracy so much, why does he continually meet with Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the chief architects of regime change against Latin American countries? And why does the political party he founded maintain such a close relationship with the NED?

Another leader of the movement is media mogul Jimmy Lai, whom the New York Times and Wall Street Journal called “the Rupert Murdoch of Asia.” A devotee and close friend of late American libertarian economist Milton Friedman, Lai funded the 2014 Umbrella Revolution and has used his media empire to push a strong anti-China message that promotes disturbing xenophobia. 

Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper depicted mainland Chinese people as an invasion of locusts infecting Hong Kong. 

Lai has met with senior White House officials, including notorious warmonger and coup-plotter John Bolton, who organized regime-change attempts in Venezuela, pushes for nuclear war with Iran, and has been called a chief “architect of the Iraq War.” 

Meanwhile, American diplomat Julie Eadeh was recently photographed in a meeting with other leaders of the Hong Kong protests.

Imagine for a second if a Russian or Iranian diplomat or politician had been seen meeting with the Standing Rock or Occupy Wall Street protesters! The movement’s credibility would have been finished and it would have been international news.

But unlike at Standing Rock or Occupy Wall Street, Hong Kong protesters have resorted to violent tactics where they’re seen on camera attacking and detaining journalists and medical staff. They even intentionally tried to provoke security services into responding with violence — though unlike in the Yellow Vests protests, nobody among the protesters has been killed — by throwing Molotov cocktails , shutting down streets and attacking drivers , in what the New York Times describes as “aggressive non-violence.” 

All of this is strongly reminiscent of the tactics used by other NED-backed protest groups in Venezuela, Ukraine and Nicaragua. 

It is hard not to root for any people embracing activism and taking to the streets to assert or protect democratic rights — in fact, it’s inspiring. It’s even harder not to support protests when the target is a powerful nation with a traditional anti-democratic bent.

Indeed, this view and the halo bestowed by the corporate media have many in the U.S. asking why the people here , outraged at the depravity and authoritarian behavior of Donald Trump and his regime, haven’t emulated the Hong Kong protesters and taken to the streets of America.

That is the danger of a reductionist and simplistic media lens. The Hong Kong situation is far from black and white and not exactly David and Goliath.

As in other indirect global confrontations — whether in Venezuela, Libya, Ukraine, Syria or any country that doesn’t kowtow to Western economic interests — there are powerful forces behind the lines, geopolitical agendas at play, plenty of unwitting pawns, and a very manipulative corporate media that will do whatever it can to pull at the heartstrings to get you onboard the “humanitarian intervention” war machine that could make any peacenik end up supporting a war agenda.

So before that happens to the best of us, we have to ask: Can people like Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai really be trusted to lead a democratic uprising? 

Thousands of Hong Kong residents, many motivated by genuine grievances, are being led by actors with their own agendas and affiliations, actors who are closely connected with foreign governments and intelligence services. 

This reality warrants, at the least, a careful parsing, caution about a rush to judgment, and more than a grain of salt.

Feature photo | United States flags are reflected on glasses of a protester during a protest in Hong Kong, Sept. 8, 2019. Kin Cheung | AP

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

The post The NED Strikes Again: How Neocon Money is Funding the Hong Kong Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headline, Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, China, Hong Kong, Joshua Wong, NED, protest, United States] [Link to media]

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[l] at 9/6/19 2:27pm

Following the arrest and subsequent death in prison of alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a little-known Israeli tech company began to receive increased publicity, but for all the wrong reasons. Not long after Epstein’s arrest, and his relationships and finances came under scrutiny, it was revealed that the Israeli company Carbyne911 had received substantial funding from Jeffrey Epstein as well as Epstein’s close associate and former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist and prominent Trump backer Peter Thiel. 

Carbyne911, or simply Carbyne, develops call-handling and identification capabilities for emergency response services in countries around the world, including the United States, where it has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and has partnered with major U.S. tech companies like Google. It specifically markets its product as a way of mitigating mass shootings in the United States without having to change existing U.S. gun laws.

Yet, Carbyne is no ordinary tech company, as it is deeply connected to the elite Israeli military intelligence division, Unit 8200, whose “alumni” often go on to create tech companies — Carbyne among them — that frequently maintain their ties to Israeli intelligence and, according to Israeli media reports and former employees, often “blur the line” between their service to Israel’s defense/intelligence apparatus and their commercial activity. As this report will reveal, Carbyne is but one of several Israeli tech companies marketing themselves as a technological solution to mass shootings that has direct ties to Israeli intelligence agencies. 

In each case, these companies’ products are built in such a way that they can easily be used to illegally surveil the governments, institutions and civilians that use them, a troubling fact given Unit 8200’s documented prowess in surveillance as a means of obtaining blackmail and Israel’s history of using tech companies to aggressively spy on the U.S. government. This is further compounded by the fact that Unit 8200-linked tech companies have previously received U.S. government contracts to place “backdoors” into the U.S.’ entire telecommunications system as well as into the popular products of major American tech companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, many of whose key managers and executives are now former Unit 8200 officers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it no secret that placing Unit 8200 members in top positions in multinational tech companies is a “deliberate policy” meant to ensure Israel’s role as the dominant global “cyber power”, while also combating non-violent boycott movements targeting Israel’s violations of international law and stifling the United Nations’ criticisms of Israeli government policy and military operations abroad.

As Jeffrey Epstein’s links to intelligence in both the United States and Israel — the subject of a recent four-part series exclusive to MintPress — began to be revealed in full, his financing of Carbyne came under scrutiny, particularly for the company’s deep ties to Israeli intelligence as well as to certain Americans with known connections to U.S. intelligence. Ehud Barak’s own role as both financier and chairman of Carbyne has also added to that concern, given his long history of involvement in covert intelligence operations for Israel and his long-standing ties to Israeli military intelligence.

Another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has his own company that, like Carbyne, is set to profit from the Trump administration’s proposed hi-tech solutions to mass shootings. Indeed, after the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas , President Trump — who received political donations from and has been advised by Thiel following his election — asked tech companies to “detect mass shooters before they strike,” a service already perfected by Thiel’s company Palantir, which has developed “pre-crime software” already in use throughout the country. Palantir is also a contractor for the U.S. intelligence community and also has a branch based in Israel.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, whatever technological solution is adopted by the Trump administration, it is set to use a controversial database first developed as part of a secretive U.S. government program that involved notorious Iran-Contra figures like Oliver North as a means of tracking and flagging potential American dissidents for increased surveillance and detention in the event of a vaguely defined “national emergency.” 

As this report will reveal, this database — often referred to as “Main Core” — was created with the involvement of Israeli intelligence and Israel remained involved years after it was developed, and potentially to the present. It was also used by at least one former CIA official on President Reagan’s National Security Council to blackmail members of Congress, Congressional staffers and journalists, among others.

Given recent reports on the Trump administration’s plan to create a new government agency to use “advanced technology” to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” using data collected by consumer electronic devices, the picture painted by the technology currently being promoted and implemented under the guise of “keeping Americans safe” is deeply Orwellian. In fact, it points directly to the genesis of a far-reaching surveillance state far more extensive than anything yet seen in American history and it is being jointly developed by individuals connected to both American and Israeli intelligence.

 

Demystifying Carbyne

Carbyne911, which will be referred to simply as Carbyne in this report, is an Israeli tech-startup that promises to revolutionize how calls are handled by emergency service providers, as well as by governments, corporations and educational institutions. Not long after it was founded in 2014 by veterans of Israeli military intelligence, Carbyne began to be specifically marketed as a solution to mass shootings in the United States that goes “beyond the gun debate” and improves the “intelligence that armed emergency responders receive before entering an armed shooter situation” by providing video-streaming and acoustic input from civilian smartphones and other devices connected to the Carbyne network.

Prior to Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest in July, Carbyne had been receiving high praise from U.S. and Israeli media, with Fox News hailing the company’s services as the answer to the U.S.’ “aging 911 systems” and the Jerusalem Post writing that the company’s platform offers “hi-tech protection to social workers and school principals.” Other reports claimed that Carbyne’s services result in “a 65% reduction in time-to-dispatch.” 

Carbyne’s call-handling/crisis management platform has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and the company has offices not only in the U.S. but also in Mexico, Ukraine and Israel. Carbyne’s expansion to more emergency service provider networks in the U.S. is likely, given that federal legislation seeks to offer grants to upgrade 911 call centers throughout the country with the very technology of which Carbyne is the leading provider. One of the main lobby groups promoting this legislation, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), has a “strong relationship” with Carbyne, according to Carbyne’s website . In addition, Carbyne has also begun marketing its platform for non-emergency calls to governments, educational institutions and corporations.

Yet, what seemed like the inevitability of Carbyne’s widespread adoption in the U.S. hit a snag following the recent arrest and subsequent death of sex trafficker and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who exploited underage girls for the purpose of obtaining “blackmail” on the rich and poweful, an operation that had clear ties to intelligence . Epstein, after his first arrest and light sentence for soliciting sex from a minor in 2007, was tapped by former Israeli Prime Minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence Ehud Barak, to become a key financial backer of Carbyne. 

Ehud Barak Carbyne

Ehud Barak, center, poses with Carbyne co-founders Alex Dizengof, Amir Elichai and Lital Leshem. Photo | Yossi Seliger

As a result of increased scrutiny of Epstein’s business activities and his ties to Israel, particularly to Barak, Epstein’s connection to Carbyne was revealed and extensively reported on by the independent media outlet Narativ , whose exposé on Carbyne revealed not only some of the key intelligence connections of the start-up company but also how the architecture of Carbyne’s product itself raises “serious privacy concerns.”

MintPress detailed many of Carbyne’s main intelligence connections in Part III of the investigative series “ Inside the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail .” In addition to Barak — former Israeli prime minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence — serving as Carbyne’s chairman and a key financer, the company’s executive team are all former members of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, which is often compared to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). 

Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander and current board member of AIPAC Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem , also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. The only Carbyne co-founder that didn’t serve in Unit 8200 is Alex Dizengof, who previously worked for Israel’s Prime Minister’s office.

As MintPress noted in a past report detailing Israeli military intelligence’s deep ties to American tech giant Microsoft, Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence (i.e., surveillance), cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is frequently described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.”

Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on numerous projects, most infamously on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware . In addition, the NSA is known to work with veterans of Unit 8200 in the private sector, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli companies , to create backdoors into all the major U.S. telecommunications systems and major tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Both of those companies, Verint and Narus, have top executives with ties to Israeli intelligence and one of those companies, Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys), has a history of aggressively spying on U.S. government facilities. Unit 8200 is also known for spying on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories for “coercion purposes” — i.e., gathering info for blackmail — and also for spying on Palestinian-Americans via an intelligence-sharing agreement with the NSA.

Unlike many other Unit 8200-linked start-ups, Carbyne also boasts several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — another investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board , alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.

Yet, privacy concerns with Carbyne go beyond the company’s ties to Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence contractors like Peter Thiel. For instance, Carbyne’s smartphone app extracts the following information from the phones on which it is installed: 

Device location, video live-streamed from the smartphone to the call center, text messages in a two-way chat window, any data from a user’s phone if they have the Carbyne app and ESInet, and any information that comes over a data link , which Carbyne opens in case the caller’s voice link drops out.” (emphasis added)

According to Carbyne’s website , this same information can also be obtained from any smartphone, even if it does not have Carbyne’s app installed, if that phone calls a 911 call center that uses Carbyne or merely any other number connected to Carbyne’s network.

Carbyne data collection

Carbyne gathers data points from users’ phones as well as a myriad of other web-connected devices.

Carbyne is a Next-Generation 9-11 (NG911) platform and the explicit goal of NG911 is for all 911 systems nationwide to become interconnected . Thus, even if Carbyne is not used by all 911 call centers using an NG911 platform, Carbyne will ostensibly have access to the data used by all emergency service providers and devices connected to those networks. This guiding principle of NG911 also makes it likely that one platform will be favored at the federal level to foster such interconnectivity and, given that it has already been adopted by several counties and has ties to the Trump administration, Carbyne is the logical choice.

Another cause for concern is how other countries have used platforms like Carbyne, which were first marketed as emergency response tools, for the purpose of mass surveillance. Narativ noted the following in its investigation of Carbyne:

In May, Human Rights Watch revealed Chinese authorities use a platform not unlike Carbyne to illegally surveil Uyghurs. China’s Integrated Joint Operations Platform brings in a much bigger data-set and sources of video, which includes an app on people’s phones. Like Carbyne, the platform was designed to report emergencies. Chinese authorities have turned it into a tool of mass surveillance.

Human Rights Watch reverse-engineered the app. The group discovered the app automatically profiles a user under 36 “person types” including “followers of Six Lines” which is the term used to identify Uyghurs. Another term refers to “Hajj,” the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The app monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations [and] power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”

Such technology is currently used by Israeli military intelligence and Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet to justify “pre-crime” detentions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As will be noted in greater detail later in this report, Palestinians’ comments on social media are tracked by artificial intelligence algorithms that flag them for indefinite detention if they write social media posts that contain “tripwire” phrases such as “the sword of Allah.”

Carbyne’s platform has its own “pre-crime” elements, such as it’s c-Records component , which stores and analyzes information on past calls and events that pass through its network. This information “enables decision makers to accurately analyze the past and present behavior of their callers , react accordingly, and in time predict future patterns .” (emphasis added)

Concerns have recently been raised that “pre-crime” technology may soon become more widely adopted in the U.S., after President Trump stated that one of his planned solutions to mass shootings in the wake of the recent tragedy in El Paso was for big tech companies to detect potential shooters before they strike.

 

Israeli intelligence, Blackmail and Silicon Valley

Though many of the individuals involved in funding or managing Carbyne have proven ties to intelligence, a closer look into several of these players reveals even deeper connections to both Israeli and U.S. intelligence.

One of Carbyne’s clearest connections to Israeli intelligence is through its chairman and one of its funders, Ehud Barak. Though Barak is best known for being a former prime minister of Israel, he is also a former minister of defense and the former head of Israeli military intelligence. He oversaw Unit 8200’s operations, as well as other units of Israeli military intelligence, in all three of those positions. For most of his military and later political career, Barak has been closely associated with covert operations. 

Prior to the public scrutiny of Barak’s relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, following the latter’s arrest this past July and subsequent death, Barak had come under fire for his ties to disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Indeed, it was Ehud Barak who put Weinstein in contact with the Israeli private intelligence outfit Black Cube, which employs former Mossad agents and Israeli military intelligence operatives, as Weinstein sought to intimidate the women who had accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan led Black Cube’s board until his death in 2016 and Carbyne co-founder Lital Leshem is Black Cube’s former director of marketing .

After Barak put him in contact with Black Cube’s leadership, Weinstein, according to The New Yorker , used the private spy firm to “‘target,’ or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories.” In addition, The New Yorker noted that “Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally” and “also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.”

Yet, more recently, it has been Barak’s close relationship to Epstein that has raised eyebrows and opened him up to political attacks from his rivals . Epstein and Barak were first introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 2002, a time when Epstein’s pedophile blackmail and sex trafficking operation was in full swing. 

Barak was a frequent visitor to Epstein’s residences in New York, so often that The Daily Beast reported that numerous residents of an apartment building linked to Epstein “had seen Barak in the building multiple times over the last few years, and nearly half a dozen more described running into his security detail,” adding that “the building is majority-owned by Epstein’s younger brother, Mark, and has been tied to the financier’s alleged New York trafficking ring.” Specifically, several apartments in the building were “being used to house underage girls from South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union,” according to a former bookkeeper employed by one of Epstein’s main procurers of underage girls, Jean Luc Brunel.

Barak is also known to have spent the night at one of Epstein’s residences at least once, was photographed leaving Epstein’s residence as recently as 2016, and has admitted to visiting Epstein’s island, which has sported nicknames including “Pedo Island,” “Lolita Island” and “Orgy Island.” In 2004, Barak received $2.5 million from Leslie Wexner’s Wexner Foundation, where Epstein was a trustee as well as one of the foundation’s top donors, officially for unspecified “consulting services” and “research” on the foundation’s behalf.

In 2015, Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel for the explicit purpose of investing in Carbyne (then known as Reporty) and invested millions of dollars in the company, quickly becoming a major shareholder and subsequently the company’s public face and the chairman of its board. At least $1 million of the money invested in this Barak-created company that was later used to invest in Carbyne came from the Southern Trust Company, which was owned by Jeffrey Epstein.

In July, Bloomberg reported that Epstein’s Southern Trust Company is identified in U.S. Virgin Islands filings as “a DNA database and data mining” company. Given Carbyne’s clear potential for data-mining and civilian profiling, Epstein’s investment in Carbyne using this specific company suggests that Carbyne’s investors have long been aware of this little advertised aspect of Carbyne’s product.

In a statement to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz , Barak asserted:

I saw the business opportunity and registered a partnership in my control in Israel. A small number of people I know invest in it…Since these are private investments, it wouldn’t be proper or right for me to expose the investors’ details.” 

However, Barak later admitted that Epstein had been one of the investors.

MintPress’ recent series on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal noted in detail Epstein’s ties to CIA/Mossad intelligence assets, such as Adnan Khashoggi; CIA front companies, such as Southern Air Transport; and organized crime, through his close association with Leslie Wexner. In addition, Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, has family links to Israeli intelligence through her father, Robert Maxwell. While it appears that Epstein may have been working for more than one intelligence agency, Zev Shalev, former executive producer for CBS News and journalist at Narativ , recently stated that he had independently confirmed with two unconnected sources “closely connected to the Epstein story and in a position to know” that Epstein had “worked for Israeli military intelligence.”

Exclusive: We have two independent sources confirming Jeffrey Epstein worked for Israeli military intelligence. In each case the source is closely connected to the Epstein story and in a position to know. You can take it to the bank. @narativlive https://t.co/BdK1DrZEO6

— Zev Shalev (@ZevShalev) August 20, 2019

Notably, Epstein, who was known for his interest in obtaining blackmail through the sexual abuse of the underaged girls he exploited, also claimed to have “damaging information” on prominent figures in Silicon Valley. In a conversation last year with New York Times reporter James Stewart, Epstein claimed to have “potentially damaging or embarrassing” information on Silicon Valley’s elite and told Stewart that these top figures in the American tech industry “were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs.” Epstein also told Stewart that he had “witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex” and claimed to know “details about their supposed sexual proclivities.”

In the lead-up to his recent arrest, Jeffrey Epstein appeared to have been attempting to rebrand as a “tech investor,” as he had done interviews with several journalists including Stewart about technology investing in the months before he was hit with federal sex trafficking charges. 

Jessica Lessin, editor-in-chief of The Information , told Business Insider that a journalist working for The Information had interviewed Epstein a month before his recent arrest because “he was believed to be an investor in venture capital funds.” However, Lessin claimed that the interview was not “newsworthy” and said the site had no plans to publish its contents. Business Insider claimed that the way the interviews with Epstein had been arranged “suggests that someone in Silicon Valley may have been trying to help Epstein connect with reporters.”

Though it is unknown exactly which Silicon Valley figures were most connected to Epstein and which tech executives were potentially being blackmailed by Epstein, it is known that Epstein associated with several prominent tech executives , including Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. 

Last year, Epstein claimed to be advising Tesla and Elon Musk, who had been previously photographed with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell. A few years ago, Epstein also attended a dinner hosted by LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, where Musk had allegedly introduced Epstein to Mark Zuckerberg. Google’s Sergey Brin is known to have attended a dinner hosted by Epstein at his New York residence where Donald Trump was also in attendance.

Elon Musk Ghislaine Maxwell

Elon Musk with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell at an Oscars after-party on March 2, 2014. Kevin Mazur | VF14

These associations suggest that the person in Silicon Valley who was trying to boost Epstein’s image as a tech investor before his arrest may have been Peter Thiel, whose Founders Fund had also invested in Carbyne. Thiel was an early investor in Facebook and is still on its board, connecting him to Zuckerberg; he is also a funder of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a former colleague of Musk’s through PayPal. In addition, Thiel has ties to Reid Hoffman and both Thiel and Hoffman are prominent backers of Facebook.

It is unknown whether Epstein’s “damaging information” and apparent blackmail on notable individuals in the American technology industry were used to advance the objectives of Carbyne, which recently partnered with tech giants Google and Cisco Systems — and, more broadly, the expansion of Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies into the American tech sector, particularly through the acquisition of Israeli tech start-ups linked to Unit 8200 by major U.S. tech companies. 

The latter seems increasingly likely given that the father of Ghislaine Maxwell — one of Epstein’s chief co-conspirators in his intelligence-linked sexual blackmail operation involving minors — was a Mossad operative who helped sell software that had been bugged by Israeli intelligence to government agencies and sensitive facilities around the world, including in the United States.

As will be noted later in this report, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to whom all of Israel’s intelligence agencies answer by virtue of his position — has stated on more than one occasion that the acquisition of Israeli intelligence-linked start-ups by foreign tech giants, especially in Silicon Valley, is a current and “deliberate policy” of the state of Israel.

 

Carbyne’s ties to U.S. intelligence

While Epstein and Barak are the two financiers of Carbyne whose ties to intelligence are clearest, another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has ties to U.S. intelligence and a history of investing in other companies founded by former members of Unit 8200. Thiel co-founded and still owns a controlling stake in the company Palantir, which was initially funded with a $2 million investment from the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel and quickly thereafter became a contractor for the CIA. 

After the success of its contract with the CIA, Palantir became a contractor for a variety of federal agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and the military’s Special Operations Command, among others. Last year, it won a contract to create a new battlefield intelligence system for the U.S. Army. Palantir is also in demand for its “pre-crime technology,” which has been used by several U.S. police departments. According to the Guardian , “Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters, child traffickers and what they refer to as ‘subversives’… it is all done using prediction.”

Thiel has gained attention in recent years for his support of President Trump and for becoming an adviser to Trump following the 2016 election, when he was “a major force in the transition,” according to Politico , and “ helped fill positions in the Trump administration with former staff.” One of those former staffers was Trae Stephens, who is also on Carbyne’s board of advisers. Thiel also has business ties to Trump’s son-in-law and influential adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as to Kushner’s brother Josh. A senior Trump campaign aide told Politico in 2017 that “Thiel is immensely powerful within the administration through his connection to Jared.”

Thiel has also backed some prominent Israeli tech start-ups connected to Unit 8200, such as BillGuard, which Thiel funded along with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other investors. BillGuard was founded by Raphael Ouzan, a former officer in Unit 8200, who serves on the board of directors of Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) alongside neoconservative American hedge fund manager Paul Singer, neoconservative political operative and adviser Dan Senor, and Terry Kassel, who works for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management. 

Peter Thiel Netanyahu

Peter Thiel greets Netanyahu during a 2017 meeting in Israel. Photo | Israel PM

SUNC is an organization founded by Paul Singer, who has donated heavily to both President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Since it was founded in 2012, SUNC has sought to integrate Unit 8200-connected Israeli tech start-ups into foreign companies, primarily American companies, and has helped oversee the shift of thousands of high-paying tech jobs from the U.S. to Israel. 

Another Carbyne-connected individual worth noting is the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who serves on Carbyne’s board of advisers. In addition to Chertoff’s ties to DHS, Chertoff’s company, The Chertoff Group, employees several prominent former members of the U.S. intelligence community as principals, including Michael Hayden , former director of the CIA and former director of the NSA; and Charles Allen , former assistant director of Central Intelligence for Collection at the CIA, who worked at the agency for over 40 years.

The Chertoff Group has a long-standing and lucrative contract with the company OSI Systems, which produces full-body scanners and markets itself as a solution to mass shootings and crisis events, not unlike Carbyne. While Chertoff’s company was advising OSI Systems, Chertoff went on a media blitz to promote the widespread use of the machines produced by OSI Systems and even called on Congress to “fund a large-scale deployment of next-generation systems.” Chertoff did not disclose his conflict of interest while publicly promoting OSI’s full-body scanners.

Some have also alleged that Chertoff’s mother, Livia Eisen, had links to Israeli intelligence. According to her 1998 obituary , cited by both researcher/author Christopher Bollyn and journalist Jonathan Cook, Eisen participated in the Mossad operation code-named “Magic Carpet” while working for Israel’s El Al Airlines. Both Bollyn and Cook have suggested that Eisen’s participation in this covert Israeli intelligence operation strongly indicates that she had ties to the Mossad.

 

Melding into Silicon Valley

Beyond its troubling connections to Silicon Valley oligarchs, Israeli military intelligence and the U.S.-military industrial complex, Carbyne’s recent partnerships with two specific technology companies — Google and Cisco Systems — raise even more red flags.

Carbyne announced its partnership with Cisco Systems this past April, with the latter announcing that it would begin “aligning its unified call manager with Carbyne’s call-handling platform, allowing emergency call centers to collect data from both 911 callers and nearby government-owned IoT [Internet of Things] devices .” A report on the partnership published by Government Technology magazine stated that “Carbyne’s platform will be integrated into Cisco Kinetic for Cities, an IoT data platform that shares data across community infrastructure, smart city solutions, applications and connected devices.” The report also noted that “Carbyne will also be the only 911 solution in the Cisco Marketplace.”

As part of the partnership, Carbyne’s President of North American Operations Paul Tatro told Government Technology that the Carbyne platform would combine the data it obtains from smartphones and other Carbyne-connected devices with “what’s available through nearby Cisco-connected road cameras, roadside sensors, smart streetlamps, smart parking meters or other devices.” Tatro further asserted that “Carbyne can also analyze data that’s being collected by Cisco IoT devices … and alert 911 automatically, without any person making a phone call, if there appears to be a worthy problem,” and expressed his view that soon most emergency calls will not be made by human beings but “by smart cars, telematics or other smart city devices.”

A few months after partnering with Cisco Systems, Carbyne announced its partnership with Google on July 10, just three days after Carbyne funder Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on federal sex trafficking charges. Carbyne’s press release of the partnership described how the company and Google would be teaming up in Mexico “to offer advanced mobile location to emergency communications centers (ECCs) throughout Mexico” following the conclusion of a successful four-week pilot program between Carbyne and Google in the Central American nation.

Netanyahu Eric Schmidt

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt meets Netanyahu at his Jerusalem office. Israel PM | YouTube

The press release also stated:

Carbyne will provide Google’s Android ELS (Emergency Location Service) in real time from emergency calls made on Android TM devices. Deployment for any ECC in the country won’t require any integration, with Carbyne providing numerous options for connection to their secure ELS Gateway once an ECC is approved. The Carbyne automated platform, requiring no human interaction, has the potential to save thousands of lives each year throughout Mexico.”

The reason Carybne’s partnerships with Cisco Systems and Google are significant lies in the role that Cisco and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt have played in the creation of a controversial “incubator” for Israeli tech start-ups with deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, American neoconservative donor Paul Singer, and the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). 

This company, called Team8, is an Israeli company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. Two of the company’s other three co-founders are also “alumni” of Unit 8200. Among Team8’s top investors is Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who also joined Peter Thiel in funding the Unit 8200-linked BillGuard, as well as major tech companies including Cisco Systems and Microsoft.

Last year, Team8 controversially hired the former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Retired Admiral Mike Rogers, and Zafrir stated that his interest in hiring Rogers was that Rogers would be “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) hacking unit, told CyberScoop :

Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

Team8 has also been heavily promoted by Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) . SUNC prominently features Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website and also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

SUNC itself has deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, with former Unit 8200 officer Raphael Ouzan serving on its board of directors. Another example of SUNC-Unit 8200 ties can be seen with Inbal Arieli , who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel, alongside Team8. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC and several other top SUNC staffers are also connected to Israeli military intelligence.

Thus, Google and Cisco’s connections to Team8 suggests that their partnerships with another Israeli military intelligence-connected firm like Carbyne is a deepening of those two companies’ links to the growing bi-national security state that is uniting key players in the U.S. military-industrial complex and Israeli intelligence.

 

Mossad-backed Panic Buttons, coming to a school near you

Carbyne is hardly the only Israeli intelligence-linked tech company marketing itself in the United States as a solution to mass shootings. Another Israeli start-up, known as Gabriel, was founded in 2016 in response to a shooting in Tel Aviv and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in the United States, which took place just days apart. 

Created by Israeli-American Yoni Sherizen and Israeli citizen Asaf Adler, Gabriel is similar to Carbyne in the sense that elements of its crisis response platform require installation on civilian smartphones as well as devices used by crisis responders. The main difference is that Gabriel also installs one or a series of physical “ panic buttons ,” depending on the size of the building to be secured, that also double as video and audio communication devices connected to the Gabriel network.

As with Carbyne, the ties between Gabriel and Israeli intelligence are obvious. Indeed, Gabriel’s four-person advisory board includes Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad and former director-general of Israel’s intelligence ministry; Yohanan Danino, former chief of police for the state of Israel; and Kobi Mor, former director of overseas missions for the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet. The only American on the advisory board is Ryan Petty, the father of a Parkland shooting victim and friend of former Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Gabriel’s only disclosed funder is U.S.-based MassChallenge, a start-up accelerator non-profit. Gabriel is funded by MassChallenge’s Israel branch, which was opened six months prior to Gabriel’s creation and is partnered with the Israeli government and the Kraft Group. The Kraft Group is managed by Robert Kraft, who is currently embroiled in a prostitution scandal and is also a close friend of President Trump.

Notably, one of MassChallenge Israel’s featured experts is Wendy Singer, the executive director of SUNC, the organization created and funded by neoconservative Trump backer Paul Singer with the explicit purpose of promoting Israel’s tech start-ups and their integration into foreign, chiefly American, businesses. As was noted in a recent MintPress report on SUNC, Wendy Singer is the sister of neoconservative political operative Dan Senor, who founded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative with Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, and was previously the director of AIPAC’s Israel office for 16 years.

Gabriel’s founders have been quite upfront about the fact that the uptick in shootings in the U.S. has greatly aided their company’s growth and success. Last November, Sherizen told The Jerusalem Post that new mass shootings in the U.S. not only increased U.S. demand for his company’s product but also were opportunities to show the effectiveness of Gabriel’s approach: 

Unfortunately every month there seems to be another high-profile event of this nature. After the Vegas shooting, we were able to show [that] our system would have managed to identify the location of the shooter much quicker.”

The Jerusalem Post noted that Gabriel is set to make considerable profits if concern over mass shootings continues to build in the U.S., writing:

With more than 475,000 soft targets across the US and amid increasing security fears, the potential market for Gabriel is huge. The company could gain revenues of almost $1 billion if only 10% of soft targets were to invest around $20,000 in its alert systems.”

Sherizen told the Jerusalem Post :

Our starter kit costs $10,000. Depending on the size and makeup of the community building, it would cost between $20-30,000 to fully outfit the location. We have made it very affordable. This is a game-changer for the lock-down and active shooter drills that are now a standard part of any child’s upbringing in the States.” 

 

Much more than just a start-up

While it is certainly possible that numerous former officials and commanders of elite Israeli intelligence agencies may have no ulterior motive in advising or founding technology start-up companies, it is worth pointing out that top figures in Israel’s military intelligence agencies and the Mossad don’t see it that way. 

Last March, Israeli media outlet Calcalist Tech published a report entitled “ Israel Blurs the Line Between Defense Apparatus and Local Cybersecurity Hub ,” which noted that “since 2012, cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that in some cases were built for this exact purpose .” (emphasis added)

The article notes that beginning in 2012, Israel’s intelligence and military intelligence agencies began to outsource “activities that were previously managed in-house, with a focus on software and cyber technologies .” (emphasis added) 

It continues: 

In some cases, managers of development projects in the Israeli military and intelligence arms were encouraged to form their own companies, which then took over the project,’ an Israeli venture capitalist familiar with the matter told Calcalist Tech.”

Notably, Calcalist Tech states that the controversial company Black Cube was created this way and that Black Cube had been contracted, and is likely still contracted, by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The private security agency Black Cube is known to have two separate divisions for corporations and governments. The firm was recently caught attempting to undermine the Iran nuclear deal — then also a top political objective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — by attempting to obtain information on the “financial or sexual impropriety” (i.e., blackmail) of top U.S. officials involved in drafting the accord. NBC News noted last year that “Black Cube’s political work frequently intersects with Israel’s foreign policy priorities.” As previously mentioned, one of Carbyne’s co-founders — Lital Leshem, also a veteran of Unit 8200 — worked for Black Cube prior to starting Carbyne.

Black Cube | Israel Hackers

The entrance to Black Cube’s offices on the 26th floor of a Tel Aviv high rise, Feb. 8, 2019. Raphael Satter | AP

One of the main companies profiled in the Calcalist Tech report appeared to be a front for Israeli intelligence, as its registered owner was found not to exist: even high-level employees at the company had never heard of him; his registered addresses were for nonexistent locations in Israel’s capital of Tel Aviv; and the three people with that name in Tel Aviv denied any association with the business. 

This company — which Calcalist Tech was unable to name after the Israeli military censor determined that doing so could negatively impact Israeli “national security” — was deliberately created to service the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence. It is also “focused on cyber technologies with expertise in research and development of advanced products and applications suitable for defense and commercial entities.” (emphases added) In addition, the company’s management consists largely of “veterans of Israeli military technology units.”

Notably, a former employee of this company told Calcalist Tech that “crossing the lines between military service and employment at the commercial outfit was ‘commonplace’ while he was working at the company.”

It’s not exactly clear why Israel’s military intelligence and other intelligence agencies decided to begin outsourcing its operations in 2012, though Calcalist Tech suggests the reasoning was related to the difference in wages between the private sector and the public sector, with pay being much higher in the former. However, it is notable that 2012 was also the year that Paul Singer — together with Netanyahu’s long-time economic adviser and former chair of the Israeli National Economic Council, Eugene Kandel — decided to create Start-Up Nation Central.

As MintPress noted earlier this year, SUNC was founded as part of a deliberate Israeli government effort to counter the nonviolent Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to make Israel the dominant global “cyber power.” This policy is aimed at increasing Israel’s diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians. 

Last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin whether the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector, specifically tech start-ups, was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu again outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech Conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” 

The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Israel’s government and the successful effort led by SUNC and other companies and organizations to place former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major multinational technology companies reveal that this “deliberate policy” has had a major and undeniable impact on the global tech industry, especially in Silicon Valley.

 

Mossad gets its own In-Q-Tel

This “deliberate policy” of Netanyahu’s also recently resulted in the creation of a Mossad-run venture capital fund that is specifically focused on financing Israeli tech start-ups. The venture capital fund, called Libertad, was first announced by Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and was created with the explicit purpose of “increasing the Israeli intelligence agency’s knowledge base and fostering collaboration with Israel’s vibrant startup scene” It was modeled after the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel, which invested in several Silicon Valley companies turned government and intelligence contractors — including Google and Palantir — with a similar goal in mind.

Libertad declines to reveal the recipients of its funding, but announced last December that it had chosen five companies in the fields of robotics, energy, encryption, web intelligence, and natural language processing and text analysis. In regard to its interest in web intelligence, a Mossad employee told the Jerusalem Post that the intelligence agency was specifically interested in “innovative technologies for [the] automatic identification of personality characteristics – personality profiling – based on online behavior and activity , using methods based on statistics, machine learning, and other areas.” (emphasis added)

According to Libertad’s website , in return for its investment, now set at NIS 2 million (~$580,000) per year per company, “the Mossad will receive access to the IP [initial product] developed during R&D [Research and Development] while under contract, and a non-commercial, non-exclusive license to use it. Libertad’s contract with the company will not provide it with any additional rights.” In an interview with Calcalist Tech , Mossad Director Yossi Cohen told the paper that the Mossad’s partnership with civilian companies in Israel is “excellent” and that the agency will continue to strengthen those ties.

Israeli intelligence has a documented history in placing “backdoors” into technology products for the purpose of surveillance, with one well-known case being Israel’s repurposing of the PROMIS software, discussed in Part III of MintPress’ series on Jeffrey Epstein. Furthermore, given that U.S. intelligence, specifically the NSA, had “backdoors” placed into the products of major Silicon Valley companies (a service performed by Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies no less), Mossad may very well plan on doing the same with the technology products of companies it backs through Libertad.

Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing , told MintPress that the Mossad’s continuation of such practices through Libertad was definitely plausible, especially given what Shorrock described as the “unusual” choice of Libertad choosing not to release the identities of the companies in which it invests. 

“The Mossad is trying to hide what they are investing in,” Shorrock stated, adding that Libertad’s secrecy “raises a lot of questions” particularly given that it w

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/6/19 2:27pm

Following the arrest and subsequent death in prison of alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a little-known Israeli tech company began to receive increased publicity, but for all the wrong reasons. Not long after Epstein’s arrest, and his relationships and finances came under scrutiny, it was revealed that the Israeli company Carbyne911 had received substantial funding from Jeffrey Epstein as well as Epstein’s close associate and former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist and prominent Trump backer Peter Thiel. 

Carbyne911, or simply Carbyne, develops call-handling and identification capabilities for emergency response services in countries around the world, including the United States, where it has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and has partnered with major U.S. tech companies like Google. It specifically markets its product as a way of mitigating mass shootings in the United States without having to change existing U.S. gun laws.

Yet, Carbyne is no ordinary tech company, as it is deeply connected to the elite Israeli military intelligence division, Unit 8200, whose “alumni” often go on to create tech companies — Carbyne among them — that frequently maintain their ties to Israeli intelligence and, according to Israeli media reports and former employees, often “blur the line” between their service to Israel’s defense/intelligence apparatus and their commercial activity. As this report will reveal, Carbyne is but one of several Israeli tech companies marketing themselves as a technological solution to mass shootings that has direct ties to Israeli intelligence agencies. 

In each case, these companies’ products are built in such a way that they can easily be used to illegally surveil the governments, institutions and civilians that use them, a troubling fact given Unit 8200’s documented prowess in surveillance as a means of obtaining blackmail and Israel’s history of using tech companies to aggressively spy on the U.S. government. This is further compounded by the fact that Unit 8200-linked tech companies have previously received U.S. government contracts to place “backdoors” into the U.S.’ entire telecommunications system as well as into the popular products of major American tech companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, many of whose key managers and executives are now former Unit 8200 officers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it no secret that placing Unit 8200 members in top positions in multinational tech companies is a “deliberate policy” meant to ensure Israel’s role as the dominant global “cyber power”, while also combating non-violent boycott movements targeting Israel’s violations of international law and stifling the United Nations’ criticisms of Israeli government policy and military operations abroad.

As Jeffrey Epstein’s links to intelligence in both the United States and Israel — the subject of a recent four-part series exclusive to MintPress — began to be revealed in full, his financing of Carbyne came under scrutiny, particularly for the company’s deep ties to Israeli intelligence as well as to certain Americans with known connections to U.S. intelligence. Ehud Barak’s own role as both financier and chairman of Carbyne has also added to that concern, given his long history of involvement in covert intelligence operations for Israel and his long-standing ties to Israeli military intelligence.

Another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has his own company that, like Carbyne, is set to profit from the Trump administration’s proposed hi-tech solutions to mass shootings. Indeed, after the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas , President Trump — who received political donations from and has been advised by Thiel following his election — asked tech companies to “detect mass shooters before they strike,” a service already perfected by Thiel’s company Palantir, which has developed “pre-crime software” already in use throughout the country. Palantir is also a contractor for the U.S. intelligence community and also has a branch based in Israel.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, whatever technological solution is adopted by the Trump administration, it is set to use a controversial database first developed as part of a secretive U.S. government program that involved notorious Iran-Contra figures like Oliver North as a means of tracking and flagging potential American dissidents for increased surveillance and detention in the event of a vaguely defined “national emergency.” 

As this report will reveal, this database — often referred to as “Main Core” — was created with the involvement of Israeli intelligence and Israel remained involved years after it was developed, and potentially to the present. It was also used by at least one former CIA official on President Reagan’s National Security Council to blackmail members of Congress, Congressional staffers and journalists, among others.

Given recent reports on the Trump administration’s plan to create a new government agency to use “advanced technology” to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” using data collected by consumer electronic devices, the picture painted by the technology currently being promoted and implemented under the guise of “keeping Americans safe” is deeply Orwellian. In fact, it points directly to the genesis of a far-reaching surveillance state far more extensive than anything yet seen in American history and it is being jointly developed by individuals connected to both American and Israeli intelligence.

 

Demystifying Carbyne

Carbyne911, which will be referred to simply as Carbyne in this report, is an Israeli tech-startup that promises to revolutionize how calls are handled by emergency service providers, as well as by governments, corporations and educational institutions. Not long after it was founded in 2014 by veterans of Israeli military intelligence, Carbyne began to be specifically marketed as a solution to mass shootings in the United States that goes “beyond the gun debate” and improves the “intelligence that armed emergency responders receive before entering an armed shooter situation” by providing video-streaming and acoustic input from civilian smartphones and other devices connected to the Carbyne network.

Prior to Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest in July, Carbyne had been receiving high praise from U.S. and Israeli media, with Fox News hailing the company’s services as the answer to the U.S.’ “aging 911 systems” and the Jerusalem Post writing that the company’s platform offers “hi-tech protection to social workers and school principals.” Other reports claimed that Carbyne’s services result in “a 65% reduction in time-to-dispatch.” 

Carbyne’s call-handling/crisis management platform has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and the company has offices not only in the U.S. but also in Mexico, Ukraine and Israel. Carbyne’s expansion to more emergency service provider networks in the U.S. is likely, given that federal legislation seeks to offer grants to upgrade 911 call centers throughout the country with the very technology of which Carbyne is the leading provider. One of the main lobby groups promoting this legislation, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), has a “strong relationship” with Carbyne, according to Carbyne’s website . In addition, Carbyne has also begun marketing its platform for non-emergency calls to governments, educational institutions and corporations.

Yet, what seemed like the inevitability of Carbyne’s widespread adoption in the U.S. hit a snag following the recent arrest and subsequent death of sex trafficker and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who exploited underage girls for the purpose of obtaining “blackmail” on the rich and poweful, an operation that had clear ties to intelligence . Epstein, after his first arrest and light sentence for soliciting sex from a minor in 2007, was tapped by former Israeli Prime Minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence Ehud Barak, to become a key financial backer of Carbyne. 

Ehud Barak Carbyne

Ehud Barak, center, poses with Carbyne co-founders Alex Dizengof, Amir Elichai and Lital Leshem. Photo | Yossi Seliger

As a result of increased scrutiny of Epstein’s business activities and his ties to Israel, particularly to Barak, Epstein’s connection to Carbyne was revealed and extensively reported on by the independent media outlet Narativ , whose exposé on Carbyne revealed not only some of the key intelligence connections of the start-up company but also how the architecture of Carbyne’s product itself raises “serious privacy concerns.”

MintPress detailed many of Carbyne’s main intelligence connections in Part III of the investigative series “ Inside the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail .” In addition to Barak — former Israeli prime minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence — serving as Carbyne’s chairman and a key financer, the company’s executive team are all former members of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, which is often compared to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). 

Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander and current board member of AIPAC Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem , also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. The only Carbyne co-founder that didn’t serve in Unit 8200 is Alex Dizengof, who previously worked for Israel’s Prime Minister’s office.

As MintPress noted in a past report detailing Israeli military intelligence’s deep ties to American tech giant Microsoft, Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence (i.e., surveillance), cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is frequently described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.”

Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on numerous projects, most infamously on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware . In addition, the NSA is known to work with veterans of Unit 8200 in the private sector, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli companies , to create backdoors into all the major U.S. telecommunications systems and major tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Both of those companies, Verint and Narus, have top executives with ties to Israeli intelligence and one of those companies, Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys), has a history of aggressively spying on U.S. government facilities. Unit 8200 is also known for spying on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories for “coercion purposes” — i.e., gathering info for blackmail — and also for spying on Palestinian-Americans via an intelligence-sharing agreement with the NSA.

Unlike many other Unit 8200-linked start-ups, Carbyne also boasts several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — another investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board , alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.

Yet, privacy concerns with Carbyne go beyond the company’s ties to Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence contractors like Peter Thiel. For instance, Carbyne’s smartphone app extracts the following information from the phones on which it is installed: 

Device location, video live-streamed from the smartphone to the call center, text messages in a two-way chat window, any data from a user’s phone if they have the Carbyne app and ESInet, and any information that comes over a data link , which Carbyne opens in case the caller’s voice link drops out.” (emphasis added)

According to Carbyne’s website , this same information can also be obtained from any smartphone, even if it does not have Carbyne’s app installed, if that phone calls a 911 call center that uses Carbyne or merely any other number connected to Carbyne’s network.

Carbyne data collection

Carbyne gathers data points from users’ phones as well as a myriad of other web-connected devices.

Carbyne is a Next-Generation 9-11 (NG911) platform and the explicit goal of NG911 is for all 911 systems nationwide to become interconnected . Thus, even if Carbyne is not used by all 911 call centers using an NG911 platform, Carbyne will ostensibly have access to the data used by all emergency service providers and devices connected to those networks. This guiding principle of NG911 also makes it likely that one platform will be favored at the federal level to foster such interconnectivity and, given that it has already been adopted by several counties and has ties to the Trump administration, Carbyne is the logical choice.

Another cause for concern is how other countries have used platforms like Carbyne, which were first marketed as emergency response tools, for the purpose of mass surveillance. Narativ noted the following in its investigation of Carbyne:

In May, Human Rights Watch revealed Chinese authorities use a platform not unlike Carbyne to illegally surveil Uyghurs. China’s Integrated Joint Operations Platform brings in a much bigger data-set and sources of video, which includes an app on people’s phones. Like Carbyne, the platform was designed to report emergencies. Chinese authorities have turned it into a tool of mass surveillance.

Human Rights Watch reverse-engineered the app. The group discovered the app automatically profiles a user under 36 “person types” including “followers of Six Lines” which is the term used to identify Uyghurs. Another term refers to “Hajj,” the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The app monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations [and] power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”

Such technology is currently used by Israeli military intelligence and Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet to justify “pre-crime” detentions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As will be noted in greater detail later in this report, Palestinians’ comments on social media are tracked by artificial intelligence algorithms that flag them for indefinite detention if they write social media posts that contain “tripwire” phrases such as “the sword of Allah.”

Carbyne’s platform has its own “pre-crime” elements, such as it’s c-Records component , which stores and analyzes information on past calls and events that pass through its network. This information “enables decision makers to accurately analyze the past and present behavior of their callers , react accordingly, and in time predict future patterns .” (emphasis added)

Concerns have recently been raised that “pre-crime” technology may soon become more widely adopted in the U.S., after President Trump stated that one of his planned solutions to mass shootings in the wake of the recent tragedy in El Paso was for big tech companies to detect potential shooters before they strike.

 

Israeli intelligence, Blackmail and Silicon Valley

Though many of the individuals involved in funding or managing Carbyne have proven ties to intelligence, a closer look into several of these players reveals even deeper connections to both Israeli and U.S. intelligence.

One of Carbyne’s clearest connections to Israeli intelligence is through its chairman and one of its funders, Ehud Barak. Though Barak is best known for being a former prime minister of Israel, he is also a former minister of defense and the former head of Israeli military intelligence. He oversaw Unit 8200’s operations, as well as other units of Israeli military intelligence, in all three of those positions. For most of his military and later political career, Barak has been closely associated with covert operations. 

Prior to the public scrutiny of Barak’s relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, following the latter’s arrest this past July and subsequent death, Barak had come under fire for his ties to disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Indeed, it was Ehud Barak who put Weinstein in contact with the Israeli private intelligence outfit Black Cube, which employs former Mossad agents and Israeli military intelligence operatives, as Weinstein sought to intimidate the women who had accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan led Black Cube’s board until his death in 2016 and Carbyne co-founder Lital Leshem is Black Cube’s former director of marketing .

After Barak put him in contact with Black Cube’s leadership, Weinstein, according to The New Yorker , used the private spy firm to “‘target,’ or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories.” In addition, The New Yorker noted that “Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally” and “also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.”

Yet, more recently, it has been Barak’s close relationship to Epstein that has raised eyebrows and opened him up to political attacks from his rivals . Epstein and Barak were first introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 2002, a time when Epstein’s pedophile blackmail and sex trafficking operation was in full swing. 

Barak was a frequent visitor to Epstein’s residences in New York, so often that The Daily Beast reported that numerous residents of an apartment building linked to Epstein “had seen Barak in the building multiple times over the last few years, and nearly half a dozen more described running into his security detail,” adding that “the building is majority-owned by Epstein’s younger brother, Mark, and has been tied to the financier’s alleged New York trafficking ring.” Specifically, several apartments in the building were “being used to house underage girls from South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union,” according to a former bookkeeper employed by one of Epstein’s main procurers of underage girls, Jean Luc Brunel.

Barak is also known to have spent the night at one of Epstein’s residences at least once, was photographed leaving Epstein’s residence as recently as 2016, and has admitted to visiting Epstein’s island, which has sported nicknames including “Pedo Island,” “Lolita Island” and “Orgy Island.” In 2004, Barak received $2.5 million from Leslie Wexner’s Wexner Foundation, where Epstein was a trustee as well as one of the foundation’s top donors, officially for unspecified “consulting services” and “research” on the foundation’s behalf.

In 2015, Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel for the explicit purpose of investing in Carbyne (then known as Reporty) and invested millions of dollars in the company, quickly becoming a major shareholder and subsequently the company’s public face and the chairman of its board. At least $1 million of the money invested in this Barak-created company that was later used to invest in Carbyne came from the Southern Trust Company, which was owned by Jeffrey Epstein.

In a statement to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz , Barak asserted:

I saw the business opportunity and registered a partnership in my control in Israel. A small number of people I know invest in it…Since these are private investments, it wouldn’t be proper or right for me to expose the investors’ details.” 

However, Barak later admitted that Epstein had been one of the investors.

MintPress’ recent series on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal noted in detail Epstein’s ties to CIA/Mossad intelligence assets, such as Adnan Khashoggi; CIA front companies, such as Southern Air Transport; and organized crime, through his close association with Leslie Wexner. In addition, Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, has family links to Israeli intelligence through her father, Robert Maxwell. While it appears that Epstein may have been working for more than one intelligence agency, Zev Shalev, former executive producer for CBS News and journalist at Narativ , recently stated that he had independently confirmed with two unconnected sources “closely connected to the Epstein story and in a position to know” that Epstein had “worked for Israeli military intelligence.”

Exclusive: We have two independent sources confirming Jeffrey Epstein worked for Israeli military intelligence. In each case the source is closely connected to the Epstein story and in a position to know. You can take it to the bank. @narativlive https://t.co/BdK1DrZEO6

— Zev Shalev (@ZevShalev) August 20, 2019

Notably, Epstein, who was known for his interest in obtaining blackmail through the sexual abuse of the underaged girls he exploited, also claimed to have “damaging information” on prominent figures in Silicon Valley. In a conversation last year with New York Times reporter James Stewart, Epstein claimed to have “potentially damaging or embarrassing” information on Silicon Valley’s elite and told Stewart that these top figures in the American tech industry “were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs.” Epstein also told Stewart that he had “witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex” and claimed to know “details about their supposed sexual proclivities.”

In the lead-up to his recent arrest, Jeffrey Epstein appeared to have been attempting to rebrand as a “tech investor,” as he had done interviews with several journalists including Stewart about technology investing in the months before he was hit with federal sex trafficking charges. 

Jessica Lessin, editor-in-chief of The Information , told Business Insider that a journalist working for The Information had interviewed Epstein a month before his recent arrest because “he was believed to be an investor in venture capital funds.” However, Lessin claimed that the interview was not “newsworthy” and said the site had no plans to publish its contents. Business Insider claimed that the way the interviews with Epstein had been arranged “suggests that someone in Silicon Valley may have been trying to help Epstein connect with reporters.”

Though it is unknown exactly which Silicon Valley figures were most connected to Epstein and which tech executives were potentially being blackmailed by Epstein, it is known that Epstein associated with several prominent tech executives , including Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. 

Last year, Epstein claimed to be advising Tesla and Elon Musk, who had been previously photographed with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell. A few years ago, Epstein also attended a dinner hosted by LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, where Musk had allegedly introduced Epstein to Mark Zuckerberg. Google’s Sergey Brin is known to have attended a dinner hosted by Epstein at his New York residence where Donald Trump was also in attendance.

Elon Musk Ghislaine Maxwell

Elon Musk with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell at an Oscars after-party on March 2, 2014. Kevin Mazur | VF14

These associations suggest that the person in Silicon Valley who was trying to boost Epstein’s image as a tech investor before his arrest may have been Peter Thiel, whose Founders Fund had also invested in Carbyne. Thiel was an early investor in Facebook and is still on its board, connecting him to Zuckerberg; he is also a funder of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a former colleague of Musk’s through PayPal. In addition, Thiel has ties to Reid Hoffman and both Thiel and Hoffman are prominent backers of Facebook.

It is unknown whether Epstein’s “damaging information” and apparent blackmail on notable individuals in the American technology industry were used to advance the objectives of Carbyne, which recently partnered with tech giants Google and Cisco Systems — and, more broadly, the expansion of Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies into the American tech sector, particularly through the acquisition of Israeli tech start-ups linked to Unit 8200 by major U.S. tech companies. 

The latter seems increasingly likely given that the father of Ghislaine Maxwell — one of Epstein’s chief co-conspirators in his intelligence-linked sexual blackmail operation involving minors — was a Mossad operative who helped sell software that had been bugged by Israeli intelligence to government agencies and sensitive facilities around the world, including in the United States.

As will be noted later in this report, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to whom all of Israel’s intelligence agencies answer by virtue of his position — has stated on more than one occasion that the acquisition of Israeli intelligence-linked start-ups by foreign tech giants, especially in Silicon Valley, is a current and “deliberate policy” of the state of Israel.

 

Carbyne’s ties to U.S. intelligence

While Epstein and Barak are the two financiers of Carbyne whose ties to intelligence are clearest, another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has ties to U.S. intelligence and a history of investing in other companies founded by former members of Unit 8200. Thiel co-founded and still owns a controlling stake in the company Palantir, which was initially funded with a $2 million investment from the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel and quickly thereafter became a contractor for the CIA. 

After the success of its contract with the CIA, Palantir became a contractor for a variety of federal agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and the military’s Special Operations Command, among others. Last year, it won a contract to create a new battlefield intelligence system for the U.S. Army. Palantir is also in demand for its “pre-crime technology,” which has been used by several U.S. police departments. According to the Guardian , “Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters, child traffickers and what they refer to as ‘subversives’… it is all done using prediction.”

Thiel has gained attention in recent years for his support of President Trump and for becoming an adviser to Trump following the 2016 election, when he was “a major force in the transition,” according to Politico , and “ helped fill positions in the Trump administration with former staff.” One of those former staffers was Trae Stephens, who is also on Carbyne’s board of advisers. Thiel also has business ties to Trump’s son-in-law and influential adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as to Kushner’s brother Josh. A senior Trump campaign aide told Politico in 2017 that “Thiel is immensely powerful within the administration through his connection to Jared.”

Thiel has also backed some prominent Israeli tech start-ups connected to Unit 8200, such as BillGuard, which Thiel funded along with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other investors. BillGuard was founded by Raphael Ouzan, a former officer in Unit 8200, who serves on the board of directors of Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) alongside neoconservative American hedge fund manager Paul Singer, neoconservative political operative and adviser Dan Senor, and Terry Kassel, who works for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management. 

Peter Thiel Netanyahu

Peter Thiel greets Netanyahu during a 2017 meeting in Israel. Photo | Israel PM

SUNC is an organization founded by Paul Singer, who has donated heavily to both President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Since it was founded in 2012, SUNC has sought to integrate Unit 8200-connected Israeli tech start-ups into foreign companies, primarily American companies, and has helped oversee the shift of thousands of high-paying tech jobs from the U.S. to Israel. 

Another Carbyne-connected individual worth noting is the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who serves on Carbyne’s board of advisers. In addition to Chertoff’s ties to DHS, Chertoff’s company, The Chertoff Group, employees several prominent former members of the U.S. intelligence community as principals, including Michael Hayden , former director of the CIA and former director of the NSA; and Charles Allen , former assistant director of Central Intelligence for Collection at the CIA, who worked at the agency for over 40 years.

The Chertoff Group has a long-standing and lucrative contract with the company OSI Systems, which produces full-body scanners and markets itself as a solution to mass shootings and crisis events, not unlike Carbyne. While Chertoff’s company was advising OSI Systems, Chertoff went on a media blitz to promote the widespread use of the machines produced by OSI Systems and even called on Congress to “fund a large-scale deployment of next-generation systems.” Chertoff did not disclose his conflict of interest while publicly promoting OSI’s full-body scanners.

Some have also alleged that Chertoff’s mother, Livia Eisen, had links to Israeli intelligence. According to her 1998 obituary , cited by both researcher/author Christopher Bollyn and journalist Jonathan Cook, Eisen participated in the Mossad operation code-named “Magic Carpet” while working for Israel’s El Al Airlines. Both Bollyn and Cook have suggested that Eisen’s participation in this covert Israeli intelligence operation strongly indicates that she had ties to the Mossad.

 

Melding into Silicon Valley

Beyond its troubling connections to Silicon Valley oligarchs, Israeli military intelligence and the U.S.-military industrial complex, Carbyne’s recent partnerships with two specific technology companies — Google and Cisco Systems — raise even more red flags.

Carbyne announced its partnership with Cisco Systems this past April, with the latter announcing that it would begin “aligning its unified call manager with Carbyne’s call-handling platform, allowing emergency call centers to collect data from both 911 callers and nearby government-owned IoT [Internet of Things] devices .” A report on the partnership published by Government Technology magazine stated that “Carbyne’s platform will be integrated into Cisco Kinetic for Cities, an IoT data platform that shares data across community infrastructure, smart city solutions, applications and connected devices.” The report also noted that “Carbyne will also be the only 911 solution in the Cisco Marketplace.”

As part of the partnership, Carbyne’s President of North American Operations Paul Tatro told Government Technology that the Carbyne platform would combine the data it obtains from smartphones and other Carbyne-connected devices with “what’s available through nearby Cisco-connected road cameras, roadside sensors, smart streetlamps, smart parking meters or other devices.” Tatro further asserted that “Carbyne can also analyze data that’s being collected by Cisco IoT devices … and alert 911 automatically, without any person making a phone call, if there appears to be a worthy problem,” and expressed his view that soon most emergency calls will not be made by human beings but “by smart cars, telematics or other smart city devices.”

A few months after partnering with Cisco Systems, Carbyne announced its partnership with Google on July 10, just three days after Carbyne funder Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on federal sex trafficking charges. Carbyne’s press release of the partnership described how the company and Google would be teaming up in Mexico “to offer advanced mobile location to emergency communications centers (ECCs) throughout Mexico” following the conclusion of a successful four-week pilot program between Carbyne and Google in the Central American nation.

Netanyahu Eric Schmidt

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt meets Netanyahu at his Jerusalem office. Israel PM | YouTube

The press release also stated:

Carbyne will provide Google’s Android ELS (Emergency Location Service) in real time from emergency calls made on Android TM devices. Deployment for any ECC in the country won’t require any integration, with Carbyne providing numerous options for connection to their secure ELS Gateway once an ECC is approved. The Carbyne automated platform, requiring no human interaction, has the potential to save thousands of lives each year throughout Mexico.”

The reason Carybne’s partnerships with Cisco Systems and Google are significant lies in the role that Cisco and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt have played in the creation of a controversial “incubator” for Israeli tech start-ups with deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, American neoconservative donor Paul Singer, and the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). 

This company, called Team8, is an Israeli company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. Two of the company’s other three co-founders are also “alumni” of Unit 8200. Among Team8’s top investors is Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who also joined Peter Thiel in funding the Unit 8200-linked BillGuard, as well as major tech companies including Cisco Systems and Microsoft.

Last year, Team8 controversially hired the former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Retired Admiral Mike Rogers, and Zafrir stated that his interest in hiring Rogers was that Rogers would be “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) hacking unit, told CyberScoop :

Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. …It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

Team8 has also been heavily promoted by Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) . SUNC prominently features Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website and also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

SUNC itself has deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, with former Unit 8200 officer Raphael Ouzan serving on its board of directors. Another example of SUNC-Unit 8200 ties can be seen with Inbal Arieli , who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel, alongside Team8. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC and several other top SUNC staffers are also connected to Israeli military intelligence.

Thus, Google and Cisco’s connections to Team8 suggests that their partnerships with another Israeli military intelligence-connected firm like Carbyne is a deepening of those two companies’ links to the growing bi-national security state that is uniting key players in the U.S. military-industrial complex and Israeli intelligence.

 

Mossad-backed Panic Buttons, coming to a school near you

Carbyne is hardly the only Israeli intelligence-linked tech company marketing itself in the United States as a solution to mass shootings. Another Israeli start-up, known as Gabriel, was founded in 2016 in response to a shooting in Tel Aviv and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in the United States, which took place just days apart. 

Created by Israeli-American Yoni Sherizen and Israeli citizen Asaf Adler, Gabriel is similar to Carbyne in the sense that elements of its crisis response platform require installation on civilian smartphones as well as devices used by crisis responders. The main difference is that Gabriel also installs one or a series of physical “ panic buttons ,” depending on the size of the building to be secured, that also double as video and audio communication devices connected to the Gabriel network.

As with Carbyne, the ties between Gabriel and Israeli intelligence are obvious. Indeed, Gabriel’s four-person advisory board includes Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad and former director-general of Israel’s intelligence ministry; Yohanan Danino, former chief of police for the state of Israel; and Kobi Mor, former director of overseas missions for the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet. The only American on the advisory board is Ryan Petty, the father of a Parkland shooting victim and friend of former Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Gabriel’s only disclosed funder is U.S.-based MassChallenge, a start-up accelerator non-profit. Gabriel is funded by MassChallenge’s Israel branch, which was opened six months prior to Gabriel’s creation and is partnered with the Israeli government and the Kraft Group. The Kraft Group is managed by Robert Kraft, who is currently embroiled in a prostitution scandal and is also a close friend of President Trump.

Notably, one of MassChallenge Israel’s featured experts is Wendy Singer, the executive director of SUNC, the organization created and funded by neoconservative Trump backer Paul Singer with the explicit purpose of promoting Israel’s tech start-ups and their integration into foreign, chiefly American, businesses. As was noted in a recent MintPress report on SUNC, Wendy Singer is the sister of neoconservative political operative Dan Senor, who founded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative with Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, and was previously the director of AIPAC’s Israel office for 16 years.

Gabriel’s founders have been quite upfront about the fact that the uptick in shootings in the U.S. has greatly aided their company’s growth and success. Last November, Sherizen told The Jerusalem Post that new mass shootings in the U.S. not only increased U.S. demand for his company’s product but also were opportunities to show the effectiveness of Gabriel’s approach: 

Unfortunately every month there seems to be another high-profile event of this nature. After the Vegas shooting, we were able to show [that] our system would have managed to identify the location of the shooter much quicker.”

The Jerusalem Post noted that Gabriel is set to make considerable profits if concern over mass shootings continues to build in the U.S., writing:

With more than 475,000 soft targets across the US and amid increasing security fears, the potential market for Gabriel is huge. The company could gain revenues of almost $1 billion if only 10% of soft targets were to invest around $20,000 in its alert systems.”

Sherizen told the Jerusalem Post :

Our starter kit costs $10,000. Depending on the size and makeup of the community building, it would cost between $20-30,000 to fully outfit the location. We have made it very affordable. This is a game-changer for the lock-down and active shooter drills that are now a standard part of any child’s upbringing in the States.” 

 

Much more than just a start-up

While it is certainly possible that numerous former officials and commanders of elite Israeli intelligence agencies may have no ulterior motive in advising or founding technology start-up companies, it is worth pointing out that top figures in Israel’s military intelligence agencies and the Mossad don’t see it that way. 

Last March, Israeli media outlet Calcalist Tech published a report entitled “ Israel Blurs the Line Between Defense Apparatus and Local Cybersecurity Hub ,” which noted that “since 2012, cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that in some cases were built for this exact purpose .” (emphasis added)

The article notes that beginning in 2012, Israel’s intelligence and military intelligence agencies began to outsource “activities that were previously managed in-house, with a focus on software and cyber technologies .” (emphasis added) 

It continues: 

In some cases, managers of development projects in the Israeli military and intelligence arms were encouraged to form their own companies, which then took over the project,’ an Israeli venture capitalist familiar with the matter told Calcalist Tech.”

Notably, Calcalist Tech states that the controversial company Black Cube was created this way and that Black Cube had been contracted, and is likely still contracted, by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The private security agency Black Cube is known to have two separate divisions for corporations and governments. The firm was recently caught attempting to undermine the Iran nuclear deal — then also a top political objective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — by attempting to obtain information on the “financial or sexual impropriety” (i.e., blackmail) of top U.S. officials involved in drafting the accord. NBC News noted last year that “Black Cube’s political work frequently intersects with Israel’s foreign policy priorities.” As previously mentioned, one of Carbyne’s co-founders — Lital Leshem, also a veteran of Unit 8200 — worked for Black Cube prior to starting Carbyne.

Black Cube | Israel Hackers

The entrance to Black Cube’s offices on the 26th floor of a Tel Aviv high rise, Feb. 8, 2019. Raphael Satter | AP

One of the main companies profiled in the Calcalist Tech report appeared to be a front for Israeli intelligence, as its registered owner was found not to exist: even high-level employees at the company had never heard of him; his registered addresses were for nonexistent locations in Israel’s capital of Tel Aviv; and the three people with that name in Tel Aviv denied any association with the business. 

This company — which Calcalist Tech was unable to name after the Israeli military censor determined that doing so could negatively impact Israeli “national security” — was deliberately created to service the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence. It is also “focused on cyber technologies with expertise in research and development of advanced products and applications suitable for defense and commercial entities.” (emphases added) In addition, the company’s management consists largely of “veterans of Israeli military technology units.”

Notably, a former employee of this company told Calcalist Tech that “crossing the lines between military service and employment at the commercial outfit was ‘commonplace’ while he was working at the company.”

It’s not exactly clear why Israel’s military intelligence and other intelligence agencies decided to begin outsourcing its operations in 2012, though Calcalist Tech suggests the reasoning was related to the difference in wages between the private sector and the public sector, with pay being much higher in the former. However, it is notable that 2012 was also the year that Paul Singer — together with Netanyahu’s long-time economic adviser and former chair of the Israeli National Economic Council, Eugene Kandel — decided to create Start-Up Nation Central.

As MintPress noted earlier this year, SUNC was founded as part of a deliberate Israeli government effort to counter the nonviolent Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to make Israel the dominant global “cyber power.” This policy is aimed at increasing Israel’s diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians. 

Last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin whether the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector, specifically tech start-ups, was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu again outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech Conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” 

The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Israel’s government and the successful effort led by SUNC and other companies and organizations to place former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major multinational technology companies reveal that this “deliberate policy” has had a major and undeniable impact on the global tech industry, especially in Silicon Valley.

 

Mossad gets its own In-Q-Tel

This “deliberate policy” of Netanyahu’s also recently resulted in the creation of a Mossad-run venture capital fund that is specifically focused on financing Israeli tech start-ups. The venture capital fund, called Libertad, was first announced by Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and was created with the explicit purpose of “increasing the Israeli intelligence agency’s knowledge base and fostering collaboration with Israel’s vibrant startup scene” It was modeled after the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel, which invested in several Silicon Valley companies turned government and intelligence contractors — including Google and Palantir — with a similar goal in mind.

Libertad declines to reveal the recipients of its funding, but announced last December that it had chosen five companies in the fields of robotics, energy, encryption, web intelligence, and natural language processing and text analysis. In regard to its interest in web intelligence, a Mossad employee told the Jerusalem Post that the intelligence agency was specifically interested in “innovative technologies for [the] automatic identification of personality characteristics – personality profiling – based on online behavior and activity , using methods based on statistics, machine learning, and other areas.” (emphasis added)

According to Libertad’s website , in return for its investment, now set at NIS 2 million (~$580,000) per year per company, “the Mossad will receive access to the IP [initial product] developed during R&D [Research and Development] while under contract, and a non-commercial, non-exclusive license to use it. Libertad’s contract with the company will not provide it with any additional rights.” In an interview with Calcalist Tech , Mossad Director Yossi Cohen told the paper that the Mossad’s partnership with civilian companies in Israel is “excellent” and that the agency will continue to strengthen those ties.

Israeli intelligence has a documented history in placing “backdoors” into technology products for the purpose of surveillance, with one well-known case being Israel’s repurposing of the PROMIS software, discussed in Part III of MintPress’ series on Jeffrey Epstein. Furthermore, given that U.S. intelligence, specifically the NSA, had “backdoors” placed into the products of major Silicon Valley companies (a service performed by Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies no less), Mossad may very well plan on doing the same with the technology products of companies it backs through Libertad.

Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing , told MintPress that the Mossad’s continuation of such practices through Libertad was definitely plausible, especially given what Shorrock described as the “unusual” choice of Libertad choosing not to release the identities of the companies in which it invests. 

“The Mossad is trying to hide what they are investing in,” Shorrock stated, adding that Libertad’s secrecy “raises a lot of questions” particularly given that it was modeled after the CIA’s In-Q-Tel. Shorrock noted that In-Q-Tel and other venture capital funds with ties to U.S. intelligence or the U.S. military rarely, if ever, hide the identities of the companies they finance.

However, Libertad is merely the latest and most public expression of the Mossad’s interest in Israeli tech start-ups, the lion’s share of which are created by veterans of Unit 8200 or other Israeli intel

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[l] at 9/3/19 12:48pm

ADEN, YEMEN — In a complicated turn of events, the battle in southern Yemen between opposing factions of the Saudi-led Coalition has sparked a new tragedy, affecting civilians who were already suffering under the four years of war that the Coalition has waged on their country — a war that has killed thousands of their loved ones and led to famine and the spread of disease, and set their country’s already-faltering development back decades.

“The only option for staying safe was to flee,” Jameel, a father of three, told MintPress, as his family, including young children, looked on with fear. MintPress caught up with Jameel and his family as they fled along the rugged al-Rahedah road after being forced to evacuate their home in the Kreter region of Aden on Sunday. “We found no shelter except for the mountains. So we will scatter into the empty places between the rocks.” Jameel’s car was one of the dozens laden with escapees – mostly children and women – on the highway linking the Taiz and Aden governorates.

Thousands of families in Aden, Abyan and Shabwa evacuated their homes to al-Turbah districts in Taiz, al-Mahrah, Sana`a and Marib provinces to escape the mutual ethnic-cleansing campaigns being waged by forces loyal to Saudi-backed former Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC). The campaigns come amid an already acute shortage of food, clean drinking water, and medicine.

Ahmed Salem, an internally displaced Yemeni citizen (IDP), told MintPress that his home was raided and he was severely beaten in front of his four children before being given a chance to flee the city. His was one of 6,978 cases of grave human rights violations committed by pro -UAE forces against civilians in the southern Yemeni provinces of Aden, Abyan and Shabwah during the month of August, according to the Yemeni American Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights, an independent human-rights group.

That figure was confirmed by the Amsterdam-based human-rights group Rights Radar, which said in a statement that pro-UAE forces had carried out a campaign of mass arrests and attacks on civilians: 

Field monitors of Rights Radar said that Aden has witnessed a campaign of mass arrests and home attacks committed by the militants of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council against the local residents for political reasons since August 10.”

However, a number of IDPs were not as lucky as Ahmed Salem and were killed while fleeing, while other families were trapped in their homes by fighting, unable to secure food and without medical aid and clean water. “It’s total chaos here. There was fighting in the city all day yesterday. Things appear to have calmed down a bit this morning, but we expect the hostilities to resume at any point,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Programme Manager Caroline Seguin said in a statement. Fighting has since resumed since Seguin’s statement was made. In fact, in just one day, 51 people were killed, 10 of them already dead by the time they reached the hospital, according to MSF. 

 

Saudi, UAE proxies take turns killing Yemeni civilians

According to witness testimony given to MintPress , after Saudi-backed militants pulled out of Aden, forces from the STC began to raid homes, hotels, businesses and popular neighborhoods, and arrested scores of pro-Hadi activists, politicians and clerics belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, accusing them of terrorism. Dozens were killed, dragged onto the streets in scenes reminiscent of those during ISIS takeovers of cities in Syria and Iraq.

In early August, pro-UAE troops managed to capture Aden, Abyan and Shabwah from pro-Saudi forces, but those same Saudi-backed forces were able to reclaim the three provinces is a series of violent clashes on August 28 that left 200 people dead. The UAE-backed STC immediately rebounded the next day, supported by UAE warplanes, fully recapturing Aden. Amidst the tit-for-tat, pro-Saudi forces reportedly killed off dozens of pro-UAE civilians and deported others from the city, according to independent southern activists who spoke to MintPress .

Yemen Aden

Southern Transitional Council fighters line up to storm the presidential palace in the port city of Aden, Yemen. Photo | AP

Attacks on civilians have also extended to detainees, hospital patients, travelers and hotel guests. Pro-Saudi detainees and wounded persons in hospitals were executed when “a group belonging to the Security Belt forces stormed homes belonging to the Hadi government in Dar Saad, Kreter districts, and Zenjebar and killed many pro-Saudi [people],” according to witnesses who spoke to MintPress

Tensions between pro-Saudi forces and pro-UAE forces came to a head when both sides began launching attacks against the other last month. On Thursday, UAE warplanes pounded positions of Saudi mercenaries in the Alam area at the eastern entrance of Aden, killing and injuring more than 300 fighters and forcing Islah and other militias from the Abyan and Hadi tribes, who had entered the port city a day earlier, to withdraw.

Exiled former Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi slammed the UAE’s attacks against “his forces.” His office said in a statement on Thursday: 

We were shocked by the UAE’s air raids against citizens and members of our national army amid populated neighborhoods across the temporary capital Aden, which led forces to withdraw from the Aden province.”

The UAE has labeled pro-Hadi groups as terrorist militias, saying that the precise and direct airstrikes that hit Saudi mercenaries were carried out in “self-defense after attacks by armed groups affiliated with terrorist organizations.”

The recent clashes are not the first time the two sides have engaged in deadly fighting. Three days of battles in January killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds in Aden. According to Yemenis in Aden, the victims of the fighting are always Yemeni, not citizens or soldiers from Saudi Arabia or the UAE, and are part of a larger Saudi-UAE strategy to keep Yemen divided.

The attack in the Alam area was not the only escalation against pro-Hadi forces from the Islah Party. On Sunday, the UAE carried out seven airstrikes on a jail in Dhamar where prisoners of war were being held, killing more than 80 and wounding 100 others who were supposed to be part of a local prisoner swap, according to the head of Yemen’s National Committee for Prisoners Affairs (ICRC) Abdul Qader al-Mortada. Al-Mortada said that the “ICRC visited the location several times” and that “the detention facility is known to Coalition [forces] as a place for captured [Muslim] Brotherhood fighters fighting alongside the Coalition.”

Warning | Graphic Content

 

Saudi Arabia reportedly used a double-tap airstrike in the attack, significantly increasing the number of civilian casualties, as rescuers who rushed to help the victims of the first airstrike were again targeted by a subsequent Saudi strike. The deadly tactic has been used by the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen in attacks on a funeral hall, markets, a restaurant, a mosque and residential areas.

For its part, the Coalition claimed in a statement on Sunday that its aerial assault on Dhamar had targeted a military site belonging to the Houthis — saying, “Houthi fighters had stored drones and air defense systems at the site” — yet there was no evidence of weapons recovered from the site of the attack.

Saudi airstrikes also killed more than 100 pro-Saudi prisoners of war in the Kitaff district, north of Sadaa, including 20 Saudi troops in three airstrikes on Saturday.

 

The Coalition opens a new social media battlefront

Pro-Saudi social media users launched an unprecedented attack on the UAE government following the recent hostilities, urging Saudi Arabia to expel the Emiratis from the Coalition.  Activists said it was necessary to break up the partnership with the UAE and refrain from remaining silent on its abuses against the “legitimacy of Hadi,” on whose behalf the Coalition launched its war on Yemen. Under an Arabic hashtag translated as “the expulsion of the UAE is a national demand,” mostly Saudi users slammed the UAE as traitors, demanding action against the UAE.

Any new attacks by the UAE against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen threatens to drive a wedge between the Coalition partners, as both countries share the strategic objective of keeping Yemen feeble in order to implement their own, often divergent, visions of post-war Yemen.

Yemenis who once fought alongside Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now saying what the Houthis have repeated since the war on Yemen began four years ago — that Saudi Arabia and the UAE did not go to Yemen to liberate it, but to occupy its islands and ports and to steal its fortunes; that the Coalition has not treated its allies as partners, but as followers; that it did not support legitimacy but instead supported separatists. It did not guarantee the unity of Yemen but divided it. It has not reinforced security but rather chaos.

Indeed, the latest fighting could spark a civil war, turning southern Yemen into a new battlefield, which will inevitably worsen the humanitarian situation in the country, where civilians throughout Yemen are already suffering from a lack of basic services, worsening economic crisis, and a collapsed healthcare and education system. Certainly, the displaced are the first to suffer in this situation.

For their part, the Houthis commented on the new developments by saying, “These events prove the strategic mistake other Yemeni groups have committed when they called for foreign Saudi and UAE intervention in Yemen.”

The rift, which continues to widen, between Coalition partners and their former allies has served the Houthis, the main force resisting the Coalition since it began its war on Yemen in 2015.  The group has seen an unprecedented rise in its popularity amid large withdrawals of former pro- Saudi and -Hadi troops from battlefields in Yemen, especially those near the border.

Today, the situation in Yemen’s south remains extremely fluid, and both sides say they are now in control of different areas. But what is certain is that a new front has opened in Yemen, forcing thousands of families to open new chapters in the tragic stories of Yemen’s displacement and suffering. 

“Was it necessary to reach this conclusion so that we [could] know the alien does not liberate our land but invade it?” a mother who fled the clashes in the Dar Sa’d district asked. Until recently, she used to raise images of Saudi King Salman at every pro-Coalition demonstration.

Feature photo | A Yemeni southern separatist fighter inspects the wreckage of government forces vehicles destroyed by UAE airstrikes near Aden, Yemen, Aug. 30, 2019. Wail al-Qubaty | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media

The post As Saudi and UAE Proxies Trade Blows in Southern Yemen, Yemeni Civilians Pay the Price appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Yemen Coverage, Aden, Saudi Arabia, southern transitional council, UAE, Yemen]

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[l] at 8/31/19 1:00pm

OCCUPIED LYDD, PALESTINE — Matan Kahana — a retired IDF colonel, fighter pilot, and former soldier in Israel’s notorious murder squad, Sayeret Matkal — is now running for a seat in the Knesset with Naftali Bennett’s New Right Party. He is a “religious Zionist,” which is a designation used by fanatic religious-Zionist settlers who roam around the West Bank terrorizing Palestinians. 

Kahana says that he is not a “Settler,” a statement with which most Israelis would agree because he lives in a town that is not in the West Bank. Yet in a recent tweet , he posted a video of himself speaking in front of Israeli high school students and, perhaps unknowingly, admitting to being not only a settler but a thief. Here is what he said in response to a question by one of the students:

Do we want peace? Of course we want peace. Do we want to have a terrorist state right here along route 6 [the main highway going north to south], with tunnels into Kfar Saba [an Israeli colony that is not in the West Bank] and missiles pointing at Ben Gurion airport? We don’t want that. 

I live in Beit Gamliel; it is not a settlement, it is between Rehovot and Yavne, [i.e., inside the 1948 borders]. In my parents’ vineyard there is a well and the well was dug by Palestinians. The orange orchard in our town, and orchard from which I ate oranges as a boy, was planted by Palestinians prior to 1948. 

The twisted logic that says if we go back to the 1967 borders there will be peace and all will be good is stupid. It won’t happen, ok, it won’t happen. That’s why first of all we have to be strong and to defeat our enemies, and when they understand that no one will move us from here, then we will start to talk to them about how we lead normal lives here. That is what we believe.”

In the Israeli political discourse, “Settler” and “Settlement” refer only to Israeli colonies and to the Israelis who live in the West Bank. I responded to Kahana’s tweet, stating that this means he knows that the land, the orchard and the well were stolen from Palestinians. So how is this his homeland? His reply:

 Obviously, just like Tel-Aviv University sits on land that used to belong to Palestinians.” 

He then told me about the Bible and how his people were exiled two thousand years ago, though it is highly unlikely he can prove his family’s roots are Palestinian going back two thousand years. 

 

The message to young Israelis 

Kahana is a veteran of the two most admired and respected branches of the Israeli army. Practically every young Israeli boy wants to be a fighter in Sayeret Matkal , the most prestigious commando brigade in the Israeli army. Practically all soldiers who end up in other commando units tried first and failed to get into Sayeret Matkal . It is a badge of honor that lasts a lifetime, albeit a dubious one if one is familiar with the record of the Israeli army. The only other military service that is considered more prestigious is to be a fighter pilot. 

Kahana did both.

Matan Kahana

Matan Kahana via his Twitter page

He first completed his mandatory three-year service in the commando unit and then went on to become a fighter pilot. To be clear, this is not stated here in order to glorify what had to have been a career of savagery soaked in Palestinian blood. However, this is the type of person that an Israeli high school student would look up to. Some would even admire and want to emulate, even if it meant accomplishing only one of his military successes. This is the man speaking at an Israeli high school and telling students that the only way for them to survive, to live in what he calls “our homeland,” is to defeat the other people who call Palestine home, the indigenous people of Palestine, the Palestinians. Once they are defeated we will talk to them.

 

Right of the Likud

It is hard to imagine what it means to be to the “right of the Likud” or the “right of Netanyahu.” However, Kahana claims that he and his party are just that and so a vote for them will ensure a strong right-wing voice in the Israeli Knesset, as though that is what is missing from Israeli politics. The parties that identify themselves as “right of Netanyahu” are also pushing hard for the annexation of Area C, which means in practical terms that Palestinians will have no access or right to live in the largest part of the West Bank. They also want to see a more aggressive push for “Judaizing” the expanded Jerusalem, which means more home demolitions and land confiscation in the towns bordering the city. 

Netanyahu understands this risk and knows he must appease the right-wing base. He is acting to get as many of these right-wing voters to vote Likud as opposed to the smaller parties. If he can in fact take two or three seats from the extreme right — what one might call neo-fascist in other countries — he will be victorious once again and, unlike following the election results of last April, he will have no problem forming a coalition. 

 

Teaching hate

The short clip of Matan Kahana speaking to high school students can be considered only as teaching hate. He presents a perspective that allows for the conflict to be resolved only by force. He also makes mention of the Palestinians only as unwilling to compromise and as a people whose very recognition poses a threat of violence: a Palestinian entity will be a “terror state” that will lead to terror tunnels and missiles. Furthermore he justifies the theft and disposession Palestinians have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of Zionist colonizers, and he adds: 

Anyone who believes giving away part of the homeland will bring peace is living in La La Land.”

Feature photo | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks through the periscope of the INS Rahav submarine during a tour inside it with Israeli Commander Ram Rothberg. Photo | Israel GPO

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Matan Kahana: Will Ultra-Right Candidates Upset Netayahu’s Re-Election Plans? appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Israel, Knesset, Likud, Matan Kahana, New Right Party]

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[l] at 8/30/19 10:58am

BEIRUT — Economic sanctions are not only a very important topic in present international relations but have also come to pepper daily news headlines. Sanctions have become an increasingly prevalent measure for disciplining a state’s “unacceptable behavior” by banning trade with said state and disrupting its financial relations for political purposes.

Economic sanctions can be imposed by international organizations, be they global in scope like the United Nations or regional like the Europen Union, but they also can appear in the form of a unilateral act of a single state. Unilateral sanctions are broadly criticized as being contrary to international law and often face a lack of support by international lawyers.

Despite this, there exists no universally accepted mechanism in international law to determine whether an economic sanction is lawful or not. Thus the issue remains one of the least developed areas of the international law framework. 

 

An undisguised political purpose

On Friday August 29, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Jammal Trust Bank SAL, a Lebanon-based financial institution, under the pretext the bank was facilitating the activities of Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party with an armed wing. The sanctions also hit Jammal Trust’s Lebanon-based subsidiaries Trust Insurance SAL, Trust Insurance Services SAL, and Trust Life Insurance Company SAL, for being owned or controlled by Jammal Trust. 

The U.S. Treasury claimed it was targeting Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries for enabling Hezbollah’s financial activities for the Hezb’s Executive Council and the Martyrs Foundation, which pays remittances to the families of Hezbollah fighters killed in action, whom the Treasury labeled as “suicide bombers.. 

Jammal Trust Bank is the second Lebanese bank to be listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and, as will be explained below, effectively turned into a liquidated bank — the first was the Lebanese Canadian Bank .  The charges against Jammal Bank are not related to money laundering, however; rather it is the practice of regular banking operations, such as opening accounts and paying salaries to institutions listed by U.S. regulators as “terrorist organizations.”

Lebanese Canadian Bank

The building that houses the Lebanese Canadian Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 11, 2011. Grace Kassab | AP

News of the new sanctions on Jamal Trust was leaked to Banque du Liban BDL (Lebanon’s Central Bank) before the U.S. Treasury report was even released. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is reported to have been informed about the matter by BDL Governor Riad Salameh hours before the Treasury’s report was released at 10 p.m. Beirut time. The report said that the Treasury’s action highlights how “Hezbollah continues to prioritize its interests, and those of its chief sponsor, Iran, over the welfare of Lebanese citizens and Lebanon’s economy.”

The “political” statement of the Treasury raises several questions. The move comes in the context of local and regional events that are inseparable from the course of financial and military pressure exerted by the United States and Israel on Lebanon.

This time, U.S. pressure carries a clear message in targeting a bank owned by a Shia businessman who is primarily affiliated with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. It is one of only four Lebanese banks owned by Shia businessmen. Such a move would cause widespread confusion in the banking sector and hearkens back to what happened with the Lebanese Canadian Bank in 2011 on the day the U.S. Treasury Department decided to put it on OFAC’s list and subsequently forced it to shut down.

When a bank is placed on this list, it is no longer able to carry out any transactions related to the U.S. dollar, such as transferring funds from Lebanon abroad and vice versa and opening credits to merchants, or other banking activities. These types of sanctions make it nearly impossible for any bank to deal with foreign banks and forces it to operate locally using only Lebanese pounds. In other words, the bank effectively becomes liquidated.

This targeting of a “Shia bank” is not unprecedented. It was preceded by clear threats to other Shia-owned banks, such as the Phoenicia Bank, whose name was added a few weeks ago to a list related to the lawsuit filed by the families of American dead and wounded in Iraq. Dozens of Shia businessmen are said to have been added to the list of defendants alongside the Phoenicia Bank. In 2015, the owner of the Middle East and North Africa Bank, Qassem Hojeij, was also added to OFAC’s list , prompting him to withdraw from the bank and relinquish his responsibilities in it.

 

Violating international law

The application of unilateral economic sanctions is an explicit violation of international law under the United Nations’ (UN) and the Organization of American States’ (OAS) charters, human-rights stipulations, and even the United States’ own law. Despite that truth, they have become President Donald Trump’s favorite tool to assert his foreign policy goals around the world.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has been implementing a Lebanon sanctions program since August 1, 2007, when then-President George W. Bush issued an executive order to “Block Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions.” Apart from the question of who designated the U.S. as the police of Lebanon, the U.S. itself failed to notify the Lebanese public when and how Hezbollah had ever undermined their sovereignty, while Israel continues to violate Lebanese sovereignty on a daily basis but has never been hit by any sanctions.

The names of individuals and entities designated pursuant to Bush’s executive order, whose property and interests in property are therefore blocked, are published in the Federal Register and incorporated into OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List ( SDN List ).

Unless otherwise authorized or exempt, transactions by U.S. persons or in or involving the United States are prohibited if they involve transferring, paying, exporting, withdrawing, or otherwise dealing in property or interests in property of an entity or individual listed on the SDN List. The property and interests in property of an entity that is 50 percent or more owned — whether individually or in the aggregate, directly or indirectly — by a person on the SDN List are also blocked, regardless of whether the entity itself is listed.

However, what happens if a person or an entity “violates” these U.S. imposed sanctions? Well, civil monetary penalties of up to the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of the underlying transaction may be imposed administratively against any person who violates, attempts to violate, conspires to violate or causes a violation of the imposed sanctions. Upon conviction, criminal fines of up to $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to 20 years, or both, may be imposed on any person who willfully commits or attempts to commit, or willfully conspires to commit, or aids or abets in the commission of a violation of these sanctions.

In 2015 the U.S. Congress approved a law to allegedly tighten its grip on Hezobollah’s financing. In fact, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, on Dec. 18, 2015, imposing sanctions on foreign financial institutions that deal with Hezbollah and its affiliated Al-Manar TV channel. OFAC issued a list comprising around 100 names that the U.S. considers related to Hezbollah with addresses in Lebanon.

Lebanese banks were already in compliance with former sanctions simply because the Lebanese economy is dollarized and Lebanese banks could not function without their correspondent U.S. banks. According to Lebanon’s central bank BDL statistics , 65 percent of deposits in Lebanon are in U.S. dollars and 72 percent of loans are denominated in U.S. dollars. Therefore, Lebanese banks are in need of correspondent banks in the U.S. to clear their transactions in U.S. dollars.

Lebanese commercial banks have now found themselves in hot water for simply providing financial and banking services to their clientele because of sanctions that, to say the least, are illegal per international law.

According to Chapter VII of the UN Charter , sanctions are to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council, following a determination that there is a threat to, or a breach of, international peace and security. This means that a sole UN member state is not entitled to impose economic sanctions upon another member or any sovereign state. The application of said unilateral sanctions itself violates the UN’s Declaration on the Principles of International Law, concerned with friendly relations and cooperation among states. 

The resolution, in accordance with its charter, was adopted by the General Assembly in October 1970, and references “the duty of States to refrain in their international relations from military, political, economic or any other form of coercion aimed against the political independence or territorial integrity of any State.”

The fact that the U.S. sanctions countries whenever its president pleases could in itself be considered a hostile act. Even in wartime, these sorts of collective punishments are illegal under the Geneva Conventions . Illegal U.S. sanctions mostly affect the poorest sectors of society, lead to violations of human rights, and are aimed at coercing foreign entities. 

What happened with Jamal Trust Bank leaves many question marks in the Lebanese banking sector about the fate of depositors and borrowers. And more questions about how the BDL will deal with this issue? What will be the stance of the Lebanese political blocs? How will the Lebanese Association of Banks, which abides by all U.S.-imposed regulations and actions, deal with this new dilemma? Will Lebanese officials be able to alleviate the U.S.’s unending harassment of Lebanon’s banking sector at every regional or international geopolitical crossroad? And finally, until when will the international community watch in silence as the U.S. continues to violate international law to coerce sovereign nations to abide by the empire’s own foreign policy?

Feature photo | People walk past a branch of Jammal Trust Bank in Beirut, Lebanon,, Aug. 30, 2019. The Lebanese bank targeted by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for “knowingly facilitating banking activities” for Hezbollah group has denied the charges, saying it abides by international laws. Bilal Hussein | AP

Dr. Marwa Osman is a University Lecturer at the Lebanese International University and Maaref University. She is a political writer and commentator on Middle East issues and her work appears in many international outlets.

The post Trump Hits Lebanon Bank with His Favorite Econo-Political Battering Ram appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Hezbollah, Jammal Trust Bank, Lebanon, Sanctions, United States]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/28/19 10:45am

Israel’s decision to bar two United States Democratic Representatives, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, from entering Israel and visiting Palestine has further exposed the belligerent, racist nature of the Israeli government.

But our understanding of the Israeli decision, and the massive controversy and discussion it generated, should not stop there. Palestinians, who have been at the receiving end of racist Israeli laws, will continue to endure separation, isolation and travel restrictions long after the two Congresswomen’s story dies down.

A news feature published by the British Guardian newspaper last June told the story of Palestinian children from Gaza who die alone in Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem.

Ever since Israel imposed near-complete isolation on the Gaza Strip in 2007, thousands of Palestinian patients requiring urgent medical care which is available in Palestinian East Jerusalem or elsewhere in the West Bank faced options, all of them painful. As a result, many died at home, while others waited for months , if not years, to be granted permission to leave the besieged Strip.

The Guardian reported on 56 Gaza babies who were brought to the Makassed Hospital, alas without any family accompanying them. Six of these babies died alone.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, puts this sad reality in numbers. When the Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing between Gaza and Israel is not completely shut down, only 100 Gazans are allowed to cross into Israel (mostly on their way to the West Bank) per day. Before the breakout of the Second Palestinian Intifada, the Uprising of 2000, “the monthly average number of entries to Israel from Gaza by Palestinians was more than half a million.”

One can only imagine the impact of such a massive reduction on the Palestinian community in the Strip in terms of work, health, education and social life.

This goes well beyond Gaza. Indeed, if there is one consistent policy that has governed Israel’s relationship with Palestinians since the establishment of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948, it is that of separation, siege and physical restrictions.

While the establishment of Israel resulted in the massive influx of Palestinian refugees who are now numbered in the millions and are still denied the right to even visit their own homeland, those who remained in Palestine were detained in small, cut off spaces, governed by an inhumane matrix of control that only grows more sophisticated with time.

Immediately after the establishment of Israel, Palestinian Christian and Muslim communities that were not ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias during the war endured years of isolation under the so-called Defense (Emergency) Regulations. The movement of Palestinians in these areas were governed by military law and the permit system.

Following the 1967 occupation of the remaining 22 percent of historic Palestine, the emergency law was also applied to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, in the period between 1967 and 1972, all of the occupied territories were declared a “closed military area” by the Israeli army.

In the period between 1972 and 1991, Palestinian laborers were allowed entry to Israeli only to serve as Israel’s cheap workforce. Hundreds of thousands of impoverished, desperate, though often well-educated Palestinians, faced the inevitable option of enduring humiliating work conditions in Israel in order to sustain their families. But even that route was closed following the First Intifada of 1987 particularly after the Iraq war in 1991. Total closure was once more imposed on all Palestinians throughout the country.

Rashida Tlaib Grandmother

Muftia, the grandmother of Rashida Tlaib outside her home in Beit Ur Al-Fauqa in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 16, 2019. Mohamad Torokman | Reuters

The Oslo Agreement, which was put into effect in 1994 formalized the military permit system. Oslo also divided the West Bank into three Zones, A, B, C and with the latter two (comprising nearly 83 percent of the total size of the West Bank) falling largely under total Israeli control. This ushered in yet another horrific reality as it isolated Palestinians within the West Bank from one another.

Occupied East Jerusalem also fell into the same matrix of Israeli control. After 1967, Palestinian Jerusalemites were classified into those living in area J1 – Palestinians with blue cards living in areas annexed by Israel after the war and incorporated into the boundaries of the Israeli Jerusalem municipality; and J2- Palestinians residing outside the municipality area. Regardless, both communities were denied “fundamental residency rights to adequate housing and freedom of movement and their rights to health, work, (and) education,” wrote Fadwa Allabadi and Tareq Hardan in the Institute for Palestinian Studies.

The so-called ‘Separation Wall’ , which Israel began building in June 2002, did not separate between Palestinians and Israel, for that has already been realized through numerous laws and restrictions that are as old as the Israeli state itself. Instead, the wall created yet more restrictions for Palestinians, who are now left isolated in Apartheid South Africa-style ‘Bantustans’ . With hundreds of permanent and “flying” military checkpoints dotting the West Bank, Israel’s separation strategy was transformed from isolating all Palestinians at once, into individualized confinement that is aimed at destroying any sense of Palestinian socio-economic cohesion and continuity.

Moreover, the Israeli military “installed iron gates at the entrances to the vast majority of West Bank villages, allowing it to isolate them within minutes and with minimal personnel,” according to Israeli rights group, B’Tselem research.

It does not end here, of course. In March 2017, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) approved an amendment to the law that would deny entry to foreign nationals who “knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel.” The “Boycott law” was rooted in a 2011 bill and an Israeli Supreme Court decision (upholding the legal argument in the bill) in 2015.

According to the Israeli website, Globes , in 2018, almost 19,000 visitors to Israel were turned away at the country’s various entry points, compared to only 1,870 in 2011. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will now be added to that dismal statistic.

Every Palestinian, anywhere, is subjected to these restrictions. While some are denied the right to visit their families, others are dying in isolation in besieged areas, in “closed military zones”, while separated from one another by massive walls and numerous military checkpoints.

This is the story of Palestinian isolation by Israel that we must not allow to die out, long after the news cycle covering the two Congresswomen’s story move on beyond Omar, Tlaib and Israeli transgressions.

Feature photo | Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, (D-Minn) consoles Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) as she talk about Israel’s refusal to allow them to visit the country during a news conference, Aug. 19, 2019 at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Jim Mone | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is ‘These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons’ (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Systematic Palestinian Isolation: What Is Missing from the Omar, Tlaib Story appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, boycott, Gaza, Ilhan Omar, Israel, Palestinian, rashida tlaib]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/28/19 8:32am

On the night of June 30 until the early morning of July 1, 2019, Israel carried out its biggest attack against Syria’s air defense since 1982. The attack ultimately killed 16 Syrian civilians near Damascus and injured 12 Syrian military personnel in Homs. This was the extent of the damage revealed at the time but, according to Syrian military sources, the damage was much more severe and served to significantly weaken Syria’s air-defense capabilities.

Many questions have gone unanswered about what truly happened during that attack, how it happened, and what implications the attack may have.

According to a Syrian Air Defense officer who writes post-mission reports, and who spoke to MintPress on condition of anonymity owing to security concerns, Israel delivered a brutal blow during the June 30 attacks, resulting in the lowering of Syria’s air defense capabilities by roughly 60 percent. It is estimated that Israel fired upwards of 150 cruise missiles at Syria’s early-warning air-defense systems, completely destroying at least five of the targeted systems. All of the systems targeted were specifically responsible for dealing with Israeli airstrikes and in total were worth up to $500 million.

The attack was a violation of the sovereignty of Syrian territory as well as a violation of the UN Charter of 1945 , with the use of force by states in this manner being considered illegal under customary international law as well as by treaty law. But perhaps the most revealing detail of the airstrikes is that they constitute the largest attack on Syrian Air Defense since Operation Mole Cricket 19 , on June 9, 1982, conducted by Israel towards the end of the Lebanon-Israel war. It is also the largest single attack by Israel on Syrian territory since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

 

Israeli-U.S. coordination?

As it has demonstrated during the ongoing Syrian war, Syria has built a reputation for its air-defense capabilities. Syrian air defenses posed a considerable challenge for enemies of the embattled country, including Israel, attempting to pull off successful attacks. While some missiles would get through and hit their targets, Syria was able to deal with strikes conducted against it by the U.S., U.K., France and Israel without sustaining too much damage, many times deflecting the bulk of the incoming missiles. These defense capabilities were further bolstered by the more recent addition of the Russian S-300 air-defense systems to Syria’s arsenal. Syria was able to down Israeli fighter jets and drones, and shoot down the majority of Israel’s incoming missiles.

Israel had grown frustrated at Syria’s increasingly effective air-defense capabilities and, with the latest spat of strikes, sought to act on that frustration. It was reported in May of this year that Israel was attempting to locate Syria’s air-defense systems, sending drones and even balloons into Syrian airspace to identify potential targets.

It is also likely that the U.S. coordinated with Israel in setting Syria up for such a bombardment. On the morning of June 30, before Israel began its own airstrikes, the United States launched an unprecedented strategic airstrike against two leaders of an Al Qaeda-linked militant group in Western Aleppo, called Hurras al-Deen. The strike was highly unusual, as the United States ordinarily strikes areas of Syria where there are no air defenses and it is not a usual thing for it to target groups that control what is deemed as the Idlib pocket. Prior to the execution, the U.S. reportedly communicated with Russia to request Syrian forces to disable their GPS jamming equipment so as not to interfere with the airstrike. The U.S. was able to kill six militants and the Syrian government, assuming the U.S. was looking to launch more attacks against militant groups, kept its GPS jamming equipment offline.

On that same day, specialists attached to a Lebanese Hezbollah contingent were traveling back to Lebanon from Eastern Syria, where they were partnered with Iraqi PMUs (Popular Mobilization Units) operating in Abu Kamal . The movement of these groups, both arch-enemies of the Israeli government, gave Syrian forces ample reason to believe that they could be potential targets of an Israeli attack — which further contributed to Syria’s confusion. Syria has dealt with strikes against Hezbollah on its soil many times prior to this, so if they were preparing for a similar situation, this may have been a distraction.

On June 11, Israel launched an attack on Syria’s Northern Daraa province, destroying an early-warning radar on the Tal al-Harra hilltop and depriving Syrian forces from monitoring the skies over the Golan Heights and Northern Israel.

The combination of these factors left Syria’s vision impaired, it’s GPS jamming systems down, justification for Israel to strike, and Syria open to Israeli airstrikes and diversions.

 

Not the “normal” attack

When the Israeli onslaught finally came, it perhaps not surprisingly rendered a bigger challenge for Syria’s air defenses than usual. Syrian forces were not expecting such a large attack and, from the size of the bombardment, is clear that Israel planned the operation in advance. The usual Israeli attacks, of which there have been hundreds during the course of the Syrian war, consisted of 60 missiles at most — Israel used in excess of 100 during this attack.

Syria air defense map

Map shows early warning radar positions, June 19, 2019. Andrew Illingworth | MintPress

Israel also attacked from three different locations: from Northern Lebanon into Homs; from the occupied Golan Heights into the Damascus region; and from the sea near Southern Lebanon into Damascus. It did so using Delilah as well as Popeye Turbo cruise missiles. 

Several areas were reportedly struck in and around Damascus, including Al-Dimas, Jamraya, Mezzeh Airbase and Al-Kisweh/Jabal al-Mani. Three air-defense sites in Homs city and two in the al-Qusayr area, linked to a single radar, were also destroyed.

Syria air defense map

Map showing early warning radar sites after July 1, 2019. Andrew Illingworth | MintPress

Considering both the types of missiles used as well as the locations from which they were fired, it is likely that Israel used both F-15 and F-16 aircraft as well as a Navy vessel to deliver its deadly payload of cruise missiles. 

The 36 D6 radars, which are part of the S-300 systems, were also reportedly targeted in this attack. However, Syrian military sources that spoke to MintPress claim that the S-300 was not used, maintaining that only more antiquated older S-200 systems were used and that the S-300 missiles weren’t used due to timing. That same S-200 system was what led to a Syrian missile landing on the Island of Cyprus last June when it went astray after attempting to down an Israeli jet. 

The sheer scale of the Israeli attack left Syria so isolated that it was forced to focus primarily on defending its own surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, leaving much of the rest of the country exposed, a fact Israel then exploited.

If the extent of the damage to Syria’s air defenses claimed by Syrian military sources is accurate, Syria is now left with only two minutes of warning prior to a potential Israeli attack — previously it had somewhere between 10 and 15. Unless Russia resupplies Syria with new equipment, this deficit will likely mean that future Israeli attacks will claim even more lives and reap even more destruction.

Israel refused to comment on the attacks and no explanation was given as to why it conducted them. While an attack of this scale on virtually any other sovereign nation would likely provoke a major response from the international community, this attack has barely registered.

Feature photo | Damascus skies erupt with surface to air missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, April 14, 2018. Hassan Ammar | AP

Robert Inkalesh is a journalist, writer and Middle-East analyst.

The post Recent Israeli Attacks “Significantly Weakened” Syria’s Air-Defense Systems appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Air Defense, aistrike, Israel, Syria]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/27/19 2:02pm

GAZA, OCCUPIED PALESTINE — In her new documentary film, Gaza Fights for Freedom , journalist Abby Martin places the Gaza Strip under a microscope for the viewers to see. The result is an excellent movie that is difficult to watch, and disturbing at times, precisely because it presents a true, realistic view of life in Gaza. The movie shows how a small, courageous nation — locked up in the world’s largest concentration camp, facing inexcusable, unjustifiable and unforgivable violence — refuses to give up on its hopes and dreams and continues to fight for life.

 

Nothing left but bones

Heroism and cliches aside, the conditions in the Gaza Strip are horrifying. As one father interviewed in the movie says: “We are alive only by name… Gaza is no longer Gaza; all that is left of it are bones.” He may be referring to the distant past when the city of Gaza was one of the most important, prosperous and prestigious cities not only in Palestine but in the entire Middle East.

Perhaps what is most refreshing about Martin’s work is that the voices one hears are clear, authentic, Gazan voices. She makes no attempt to create the artificial “balance” one too often has to endure in movies and reports about Palestine in general and Gaza in particular. As though the Israelis who kill and maim and keep 2.2 million civilians caged and under siege in the Gaza Strip have a right to be heard. As though an explanation or justification can be given to the sheer cruelty and brutality exercised by Israel.

 

More than just bombs

Israel kills people in Gaza in more ways than one might imagine. While bombs make the headlines, the other methods are more subtle and rarely make it to the headlines. In Gaza Fights for Freedom , all of these draconian methods are brought to light. Here are a few examples:

    • It is no secret that if we want to kill people, other than shooting them, denying them water is a sure bet. Some 98 percent of the freshwater in the Gaza Strip is toxic and unfit for human consumption. 
    • Food insecurity has been the reality in Gaza for many years. Israel allows only enough food to enter so as to avoid total starvation. Similar to the German policy of counting calories in the concentration camps during World War II, Israel too uses calorie counting in Gaza.
    • Electricity is available only sporadically and people go for 16 to 20 hours per day with no power. This means water pumps do not work. The danger of fire increases due to the extensive use of candlelight; medicine that requires refrigeration goes bad. Operation rooms in hospitals cannot function.
Gazafightsforfreedom gif

Watch the film now

  • Access to health care is denied. While excellent health care facilities are available just a few short miles from the Gaza Strip, only Israelis and a very few Palestinians are given access. One example of the devastating results of this can be seen by comparing breast cancer survival rates, which among Israeli women are up to 86 percent but in the Gaza Strip are only 30 percent.
  • When Israel bombs Gaza one usually hears the casualty count and little notice is given to those who are injured. However, without access to proper facilities the wounded are, as Abby Martin puts it, “sentenced to a slow and painful end.”

 

 

Savages

Israel’s foremost talk-show host and “journalist” Yaron London recently said on Israeli television that Arabs as a whole are savages and that the Arab culture is savagery. Gaza Fights for Freedom accomplishes several important objectives, not the least of which is showing a clear distinction between the two competing, opposing parties in this story. On the one side the Israeli savagery and its well oiled PR machine and on the other the bare-chested Palestinians — men, women and children who are literally sacrificing life and limb so that the world will hear their cry for freedom. 

On the one hand, Israeli tanks and troops waving Israeli flags. The clean-cut well-spoken, Israeli spokesmen and -women trained by Hasbara experts that have taken control over the corporate media spew their well-rehearsed lies, telling a story about terrorists that they call Khamas and about people who they say fell prey to Khamas’ lies and are sacrificed on the altar of Khamas’ goal of inflicting death and destruction on Jews. 

On the other side, Palestinians who lost nearly everything, speaking from the heart. In an honest, articulate, and measured way, young and old talk about their desire for freedom, their losses and their willingness to fight for it. As though they have a choice. It isn’t as though if Palestinians in Gaza sat quietly and did nothing they would be spared the death and destruction inflicted by Israeli savagery. The past seven decades have shown that Palestinians are killed regardless of whether they stand and fight or lie in their beds sleeping.

 

Razan Al-Najjar

In Gaza Fights for Freedom , Martin describes several groups that are supposed to be given protection under international law but in reality are not: children, people with disabilities, journalists, and medical teams such as paramedics. Israel has targeted, injured and killed Palestinians belonging to all of these groups. When on June 2, 2018, Razan Al-Najjar, a young female paramedic was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper, her death was a moment — just a single moment — in which the world seemed to stop and pay attention. Maybe because she was a woman, maybe because she was young, maybe because she was beautiful, and maybe because all of the above, she could not be painted as anything but innocent. Yet a sniper took aim and shot her. 

Razan Al-Najjar

Razan Al-Najjar reacts to tear gas at the scene of clashes at Israel-Gaza border, April 1, 2018. Photo | Reuters

“This was the first time she participated in an action, in a march, because this was a peaceful activity [in which] we all participated; even I participated in the March,” says Razan’s mother, Sabreen Al-Najjar. 

The emergency medical crews in Gaza were, and continue to be nothing if not heroic, going far beyond the call of duty, day in and day out as the casualty count continues to grow. Razan was there from day one and her dedication and sacrifice moved the world — though again, only for a brief moment.

 

A small brave nation

The great Palestinian writer, political leader and martyr, Ghassan Kanafani, whom I often quote, in his now-famous interview from 1970 said that the Palestinians are “a strong brave nation” and that they will go on fighting for their cause and their rights. If anyone had any doubt that this was indeed the case, Abby Martin’s film, Gaza Fights for Freedom will put that doubt to rest. 

Feature photo | Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian, 14-month-old, Seba Abu Arar, during her funeral in Gaza City, May. 5, 2019. Gaza’s Health Ministry said a Palestinian infant was killed when Israeli aircraft hit near their house. Abu Arar, 14-month-old, died immediately and her pregnant relative died later, the ministry added. Khalil Hamra | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Abby Martin’s Film Gaza Fights For Freedom Humanizes World’s Largest Concentration Camp appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Abby Martin, film, Gaza, Gaza Fights for Freedom]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/27/19 2:02pm

GAZA, OCCUPIED PALESTINE — In her new documentary film, Gaza Fights for Freedom , journalist Abby Martin places the Gaza Strip under a microscope for the viewers to see. The result is an excellent movie that is difficult to watch, and disturbing at times, precisely because it presents a true, realistic view of life in Gaza. The movie shows how a small, courageous nation — locked up in the world’s largest concentration camp, facing inexcusable, unjustifiable and unforgivable violence — refuses to give up on its hopes and dreams and continues to fight for life.

 

Nothing left but bones

Heroism and cliches aside, the conditions in the Gaza Strip are horrifying. As one father interviewed in the movie says: “We are alive only by name… Gaza is no longer Gaza; all that is left of it are bones.” He may be referring to the distant past when the city of Gaza was one of the most important, prosperous and prestigious cities not only in Palestine but in the entire Middle East.

Perhaps what is most refreshing about Martin’s work is that the voices one hears are clear, authentic, Gazan voices. She makes no attempt to create the artificial “balance” one too often has to endure in movies and reports about Palestine in general and Gaza in particular. As though the Israelis who kill and maim and keep 2.2 million civilians caged and under siege in the Gaza Strip have a right to be heard. As though an explanation or justification can be given to the sheer cruelty and brutality exercised by Israel.

 

More than just bombs

Israel kills people in Gaza in more ways than one might imagine. While bombs make the headlines, the other methods are more subtle and rarely make it to the headlines. In Gaza Fights for Freedom , all of these draconian methods are brought to light. Here are a few examples:

    • It is no secret that if we want to kill people, other than shooting them, denying them water is a sure bet. Some 98 percent of the freshwater in the Gaza Strip is toxic and unfit for human consumption. 
    • Food insecurity has been the reality in Gaza for many years. Israel allows only enough food to enter so as to avoid total starvation. Similar to the German policy of counting calories in the concentration camps during World War II, Israel too uses calorie counting in Gaza.
    • Electricity is available only sporadically and people go for 16 to 20 hours per day with no power. This means water pumps do not work. The danger of fire increases due to the extensive use of candlelight; medicine that requires refrigeration goes bad. Operation rooms in hospitals cannot function.
Gazafightsforfreedom gif

Watch the film now

  • Access to health care is denied. While excellent health care facilities are available just a few short miles from the Gaza Strip, only Israelis and a very few Palestinians are given access. One example of the devastating results of this can be seen by comparing breast cancer survival rates, which among Israeli women are up to 86 percent but in the Gaza Strip are only 30 percent.
  • When Israel bombs Gaza one usually hears the casualty count and little notice is given to those who are injured. However, without access to proper facilities the wounded are, as Abby Martin puts it, “sentenced to a slow and painful end.”

 

 

Savages

Israel’s foremost talk-show host and “journalist” Yaron London recently said on Israeli television that Arabs as a whole are savages and that the Arab culture is savagery. Gaza Fights for Freedom accomplishes several important objectives, not the least of which is showing a clear distinction between the two competing, opposing parties in this story. On the one side the Israeli savagery and its well oiled PR machine and on the other the bare-chested Palestinians — men, women and children who are literally sacrificing life and limb so that the world will hear their cry for freedom. 

On the one hand, Israeli tanks and troops waving Israeli flags. The clean-cut well-spoken, Israeli spokesmen and -women trained by Hasbara experts that have taken control over the corporate media spew their well-rehearsed lies, telling a story about terrorists that they call Khamas and about people who they say fell prey to Khamas’ lies and are sacrificed on the altar of Khamas’ goal of inflicting death and destruction on Jews. 

On the other side, Palestinians who lost nearly everything, speaking from the heart. In an honest, articulate, and measured way, young and old talk about their desire for freedom, their losses and their willingness to fight for it. As though they have a choice. It isn’t as though if Palestinians in Gaza sat quietly and did nothing they would be spared the death and destruction inflicted by Israeli savagery. The past seven decades have shown that Palestinians are killed regardless of whether they stand and fight or lie in their beds sleeping.

 

Razan Al-Najjar

In Gaza Fights for Freedom , Martin describes several groups that are supposed to be given protection under international law but in reality are not: children, people with disabilities, journalists, and medical teams such as paramedics. Israel has targeted, injured and killed Palestinians belonging to all of these groups. When on June 2, 2018, Razan Al-Najjar, a young female paramedic was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper, her death was a moment — just a single moment — in which the world seemed to stop and pay attention. Maybe because she was a woman, maybe because she was young, maybe because she was beautiful, and maybe because all of the above, she could not be painted as anything but innocent. Yet a sniper took aim and shot her. 

Razan Al-Najjar

Razan Al-Najjar reacts to tear gas at the scene of clashes at Israel-Gaza border, April 1, 2018. Photo | Reuters

“This was the first time she participated in an action, in a march, because this was a peaceful activity [in which] we all participated; even I participated in the March,” says Razan’s mother, Sabreen Al-Najjar. 

The emergency medical crews in Gaza were, and continue to be nothing if not heroic, going far beyond the call of duty, day in and day out as the casualty count continues to grow. Razan was there from day one and her dedication and sacrifice moved the world — though again, only for a brief moment.

 

A small brave nation

The great Palestinian writer, political leader and martyr, Ghassan Kanafani, whom I often quote, in his now-famous interview from 1970 said that the Palestinians are “a strong brave nation” and that they will go on fighting for their cause and their rights. If anyone had any doubt that this was indeed the case, Abby Martin’s film, Gaza Fights for Freedom will put that doubt to rest. 

Feature photo | Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian, 14-month-old, Seba Abu Arar, during her funeral in Gaza City, May. 5, 2019. Gaza’s Health Ministry said a Palestinian infant was killed when Israeli aircraft hit near their house. Abu Arar, 14-month-old, died immediately and her pregnant relative died later, the ministry added. Khalil Hamra | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Gaza Fights for Freedom: Abby Martin’s New Film is Difficult to Watch and Worth the Effort appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Abby Martin, film, Gaza, Gaza Fights for Freedom]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 8/26/19 11:54am

SANA’A, YEMEN — Yemen was once described as a living museum, but U.S. made bombs dropped by the Saudi-led Coalition’s jets have not only killed thousands of civilians and led to famine and the spread of disease but also pulverized the country’s rich architectural history and left its inimitable heritage at the mercy of the highest bidder.

“I remember how light filtered through the stained glass of the patterned crescent window ( qamarias ) onto the white gypsum plaster in the resting room ( Deirmanah ) on the top floor. At night, lights tossed dapples of color into the sky,” Saleh Ali al-Aeini recounted to MintPress from his partially destroyed high-rise apartment, continuing, “Now, only scattered glass remains amid a mound of dust and mud, thanks to American bombs.” 

Old Sana'a destroyed

Four historic buildings in Sana’a’s old quarter, including the home of Saleh Ali al-Aeini, were destroyed when U.S. made bombs were dropped by Saudi warplanes in June, 2015. Photo |  MintPress News

Saleh’s ancient tower-house was one of four historic buildings in the old quarter of Sana’a that were destroyed by U.S. bombs dropped from Saudi warplanes in June, 2015. The buildings’ many-storied tower-houses, three of them rising to 110 feet, were more than 2,500 years old. The newest of them was more than 1,000 years old, built long before the United States even existed as a nation.

The effects of airstrikes on the UNESCO-listed Old City, perched on a highland plateau more than 7,200 feet above sea level, can be noticed at a glance. Cracks show on the more than 1,975 densely-packed homes, threatening them with collapse. Labyrinths, hidden gardens, steam baths, busy markets and streets have all been affected by airstrikes on the city that was said to have been founded by Shem, the son of Noah. In fact, the ancient city has been targeted at least four times with over 30 airstrikes according to the General Authority for the Preservation of Historic Cities.

Yet Saudi airstrikes extend far beyond Sana’a’s historic sites — to Sadaa, Shibam Hadramout, Zabid in Hodeida, Shibam Kuban, east of Sana’a, Shabwa, Aden, Amran, Taiz, and other areas of the country’s history that have also fallen victim to coalition bombing. Airstrikes and shelling have destroyed at least 66 historic sites according to Muhannad al-Sayani, chairman of the Yemeni General Authority for Antiquities 

Coalition raids have targeted ancient castles and forts, museums, religious shrines housing cultural treasures; and ancient dams, including the world-famous Great Marib Dam.

Al-Sayani told MintPress that targeting of the country’s historic sites by the Saudi-led Coalition is deliberate: “These are open sites, mostly in desert areas where weapons cannot be stored.” Following many of the attacks, the Coalition often accuses the Houthis of using archaeological sites as weapons depots; however, no evidence has been provided to substantiate these allegations.

The undersecretary of the General Authority for the Preservation of Historic Cities, Amat al-Razzaq Jahaf, told MintPress that most of the monuments or sites have been damaged or destroyed by Saudi airstrikes since the Saudi-led campaign began without any justification.

 al-Hadi Mosque Yemen

The al-Hadi Mosque shown here has been targeted several times. Built around 897, it is the final resting place of Imam al-Hadi ila’l-Haqq Yahya, the Zaydi imam of Yemen, August 22, 2019. Ali al-Shurqbai | MintPress News

The United States says it does not make targeting decisions for the Coalition. But it does support Coalition operations through arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft, and the sharing of intelligence. Just last Thursday, a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed in the city of Dhamar near the historic Dhamar Museum, which was leveled by a direct Saudi airstrike in June 2015 .

 

Nothing can bring these back

Al-Aeini’s wife, who told MintPress than an American-made bomb had destroyed her home and killed her sons, accused international aid organizations of neglecting their suffering. “Lots of organizations visited us and provided only [promises] without doing anything,” she went on, “We rebuilt a part of the house by ourselves, just to have shelter for me and my husband, without any help.” Yemen’s General Authority of Antiquities complained to MintPress that the country’s heritage has been neglected by international organizations and communities.

Now, the buildings — which have stood tall for thousands of years in the historic city that surrounds the remnants of al-Aeini family home — are subject to eroding foundations and ominous cracks that line their ancient walls built of mud and stone, as a result of repeated Saudi attacks and the inability of Yemen’s government to address the deterioration amid four years of Saudi bombardment.

Yemen Sana'a Old City

People gather in the Bab al Yemen Bazaar in Sana’a’s old city in 2009 before it was reduced to rubble by Saudi airstrikes. Judith Lienert | Shutterstock

To make matters worse, Yemen is in the midst of its rainy season, adding to the challenges in rebuilding archaeological sites that have been targeted. “Of course, what has been destroyed is still devastating and every day the dangers [to those sites] is multiplied due to our inability to carry out operations to reduce the aggravation of damage because of the costs of rebuilding,” Jahaf told MintPress . Al-Qasimi’s house in Sultan’s orchard in ancient Sana’a, which was destroyed in another Saudi airstrike, is an example of this.

“If peace is brought to Yemen — and with it, compensation is provided — infrastructure, roads, schools, and hospitals could all be rebuilt; but nothing can bring back the historic architecture that has been destroyed,” Mohaned al-Sayani, chairman of the Yemeni General Authority for Antiquities, told MintPress .

 

Centuries in building, seconds in destroying

“Here, generations of my grandparents lived; why is it that the Coalition can so easily destroy it?” Hashem Ali, who fled to Sana’a after airstrikes leveled his family home in the historic Rahban area of Saada, asked MintPress. “This is the first time in nearly 600 years that my family is without a home.” 

The attack on ancient Sana’a was the first of many violent assaults on Yemen’s architectural history, but the worst hit historic area has been Yemen’s northern province of Saada, the hub of the ancient Minaean Kingdom of Ma’in, founded before the fourth century B.C. 

Saada’s old city, which is among the world’s oldest human-carved landscapes, once consisted entirely of historic, centuries-old multi-story homes. Now, it has been wiped out, after Saudi Arabia declared it a military zone — even the city’s hand-carved wooden doors have been reduced to ashes.

Yemen Saada Destruction

In this Oct. 9, 2016 photo, a Yemeni man walks past houses damaged by Saudi-led airstrikes, in the Old City of Saada, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Just hours after the Coalition issued a warning on May 10, 2015, dozens of airstrikes rained down on the historic city, including on the ancient al-Hadi Mosque, which was founded nearly 1,200 years ago and is the final resting place of Imam al-Hadi ila’l-Haqq Yahya, the Zaydi imam of Yemen

To understand Saudi Arabia’s motivation to essentially exterminate Yemen’s heritage, one must understand Yemen’s history as well as that of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi-based Wahhabi faith, which provides religious justification for targeting heritage sites under the guise of eradicating polytheism.

In ancient times, Yemen was home to several flourishing civilizations — including Ma’in, Qataban, Hadramaut, Ausan, Himyar and Saba (Sheba), which lasted for 11 centuries and was mentioned in the Quran and other ancient holy books. The Saban civilization was marked by its distinctive architecture, based almost entirely on local building materials, a style unique in the Middle East.

In contrast to Yemen’s rich and ancient history, civilization did not make its way to the Arabian Gulf until the 1930s. The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia’s fellow coalition war partner, didn’t take root until 1971.

Many Yemenis, including Saleh Ali al-Aeini, believe that Saudi Arabia harbors severe jealousy over Yemen’s history and heritage and the unique role that it has played in human history. According to some historians, that history spans 60,000-70,000 years, when the country received its first Homo sapiens who migrated across the Red Sea from Africa to the Middle East before traveling west to Europe and east to Asia and Australia.

Moreover, Wahhabism — the official state religion of Saudi Arabia, based on a puritanical and widely rejected interpretation of Islam — sees the preservation of historic and religious sites as tantamount to idolatry. The Wahhabi establishment in Saudi Arabia has not even spared the Kingdom’s own tombs and monuments in Mecca and Medina and shows special disdain for Yemen’s historic sites, especially those located in northern Yemen, the seat of the Shia Zaydis for over a thousand years.

 

Looting what was not destroyed

Yemenis see their historic sites as a social-cultural fabric linking generations to their early ancestors. “I’ve lived here for dozens of years but now I have no house; there are no more gatherings of my ones-loved on the weekend,” al-Aeini said. He continued: “Another thing to worry about is our remaining legacy being looted.”

Destruction from the air is not the only threat to Yemen’s ancient legacy. During their war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have established smuggling networks in the country to loot historic sites.

A.M.M., who asked to be identified only by his initials, worked as an antiquities smuggler for a security outfit based in the UAE. A.M.M. told MintPress that his team sold four 2,500-year-old mummies, a gilded Torah scroll, and dozens of bejeweled daggers from the early Islamic era. “They always stressed the importance of keeping [the items] from being damaged so that they will be accepted by their American friends,” he said.

The smuggling of Yemeni antiquities is often carried out by diplomats operating out of Yemeni embassies from Saudi Arabia, the UAE,  Bahrain and Egypt in return for lucrative sums of money allegedly provided by patrons from the United States and Israel. Yemen is the cradle to many civilizations and home to multiple faiths — particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which all thrived in Yemen for millennia. For the Israelis, many of Yemen’s antiquities are seen as the rightful property of the Jewish people and there is reason to believe that Israel is also involved in the looting of Yemen’s heritage.

Israel Yemen Jews

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a 500 hundred-year-old Torah scroll as he poses with some Yemeni Jews brought to Israel, at the Knesset on March 21, 2016. Haim Zach | GPO

Officials in Sana’a say they have strong evidence that Yemeni artifacts are being sold off to American and Isreali buyers. “Artifacts featuring the Star of David or Jewish names are our priority; they often fetch a higher price than the other artifacts,” A.M.M told MintPress . “I sold one Hebrew manuscript to a UAE officer for $20,000,” he added.

Aden, in the eastern province of Marib, is favored by smugglers for shuttling stolen artifacts abroad. Here — according to the testimonies of a number of smugglers arrested by Houthi forces and now serving their sentences Sana’a’s Central Prison — smugglers are able to work in broad daylight in facilities provided to them by high-ranking officials in the ousted government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, with direct coordination of both Emirati and Saudi officials.

 

More weapons to destroy what remains?

“We want compensation to rebuild our house again,” al-Aeini said, perched atop the stone rubble of his destroyed ancient home. “We should get compensation from the Americans. American bombs have killed more of us than were killed in the September 11 attacks.”

Al-Aeini was sardonically referring to the duality of moral attitudes in the United States, where on one hand Saudi Arabia is asked to pay compensation to the families of victims of the September 11 attacks, yet do nothing for victims of the war in Yemen, who are often killed with U.S. weapons sold to Saudi Arabia. “If there hadn’t been an American bomb, I would be at home now with my children and grandchildren, but they took everything,” al-Aeini said.

Smoke rises from Al-Qahira castle, an ancient fortress from Saudi-led airstrikes in Taiz city, Yemen, May 12, 2015. Abdulnasser Alseddik | AP

Many Yemenis are pessimistic about the future of their heritage. They say President Donald Trump’s recently-announced sales of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will destroy what remains of their country’s legacy. The sale includes precision-guided missiles manufactured by Raytheon as well as precision guidance parts for Paveway IV bombs used on Eurofighter and Tornado warplanes — the same type that have been blamed for much of the destruction of Yemen’s historic sites and civilian casualties alike in the Saudi-UAE air campaign in Yemen. 

An old Yemeni proverb used for generations to encourage the preservation of the country’s rich heritage reads Eli maluh awal maluh taley (Whoever has no first, has no second). Many Yemenis, al-Aeini among them, fear that Yemen is already losing its heritage, much like al-Aeini lost his home, to American weapons.

Feature photo | People stand amid the rubble of the site of a Saudi-led airstrike in the old city of Sana’a, Yemen, Sept. 19, 2015. The airstrikes hit an apartment building in the center of the capital, a UNESCO world heritage site, killing a family of nine. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post US and Israeli Collectors Buy Up What Remains of Yemen’s Ancient Heritage appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, News, Yemen Coverage, Heritage, historic site, historic sites, looting, Yemen]

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[l] at 8/26/19 10:52am

 
The role of journalism in a democracy is publishing information that holds the powerful to account — the kind of information that empowers the public to become more engaged citizens in their communities so that we can vote in representatives that work in the interest of “we the people.” 

There is perhaps no better example of watchdog journalism that holds the powerful to account and exposes their corruption than that of WikiLeaks, which exposed to the world evidence of widespread war crimes the U.S. military was committing in Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists; showed that the U.S. government and large corporations were using private intelligence agencies to spy on activists and protesters; and revealed how the military hid tortured Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Red Cross inspectors. 

It’s this kind of real journalism that our First Amendment was meant to protect but engaging in it has instead made WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange the target of a massive smear campaign for the last several years — including false claims that Assange is working with Vladimir Putin and the Russians and hackers, as well as open calls by corporate media pundits for him to be assassinated. 

The allegations that Assange conspired with Putin to undermine the 2016 election and American democracy as a whole fell completely flat earlier this month when a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed this case as “factually implausible,” with the judge noting that at no point does the prosecution’s “threadbare” argument show “any facts” at all, and concluding that the idea that Assange conspired with Russia against the Democratic Party or America is “entirely divorced from the facts.”

Perhaps the brazen character-assassination was priming the public to become apathetic towards Assange in preparation for his brutal fate, which would land him in the hands of U.S. and British authorities after spending years isolated inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. 

Today, Assange sits behind bars in a London prison under shocking conditions even a murderer wouldn’t expect. Renowned filmmaker and journalist John Pilger visited him there and fears for Assange’s life, noting he is held in isolation, heavily medicated and denied the basic tools needed to fight his charge of extradition to the United States.

Do not forget Julian #Assange. Or you will lose him.
I saw him in Belmarsh prison and his health has deteriorated. Treated worse than a murderer, he is isolated, medicated and denied the tools to fight the bogus charges of a US extradition. I now fear for him. Do not forget him.

— John Pilger (@johnpilger) August 7, 2019

The United Nations has consistently condemned the actions of the U.S., U.K. and Swedish governments, and called for Assange’s immediate release . Their special rapporteur on torture and ill-treatment visited him in May, declaring :

  [Assange has been] deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively [more] severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture…The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

On May 23, Assange was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for the possession and dissemination of classified information given to him by army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, marking the first time the Espionage Act has been used against a journalist for publishing classified information. He now faces a sentence of 175 years in jail if found guilty.

But you may not have known any of this because it seems clear the very media that spent years dragging Assange’s name through the mud are deliberately engaging in a media blackout on his treatment. So if you were waiting for the corporate media or their lapdog pundits to defend freedom of the press and freedom of speech, you’d be disappointed. 

It is important to ask ourselves what Julian Assange’s real crime is. In an era, dubbed the Information Age, where the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate, Assange worked to prevent that imbalance from becoming a rout, and stuck like a bone in the throat of the mighty.

A double chorus of voices across the mainstream media spectrum cheered the destruction of the First Amendment. The New York Times applauded Trump, claiming he’d “done well” to charge Assange with an “indisputable crime.” CNN demanded that Assange finally “ face justice ,” while others claimed the day in court of the “ narcissistic ” “ internet troll ” who attacked America with his “ vile spite ” was “ long overdue .” 

All around the world, Assange’s treatment seems to have given the green light to governments to intimidate and hassle journalists. Australian police, for instance, recently conducted a raid on journalist Annika Smethurst’s home. Smethurst had not long before that revealed that the government had been secretly requesting permission to spy on its own citizens. Meanwhile, independent media everywhere are being marginalized by the crackdown on internet freedom. 

In a clear sign to the world, Assange held up Gore Vidal’s book The History of the National Security State to the cameras while being dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy. The book warns of an increasingly powerful and unaccountable authoritarian government taking over the country. Part of that is silencing dissent and limiting or destroying the freedoms centuries of struggle have won us. 

If Assange is successfully prosecuted it will send a message to the world that the era of freedom to speak and publish is well and truly over. He will not be the last to be persecuted. The more a power oppresses and takes away rights, the more it needs to oppress and take away rights, until the last vestiges of opposition are destroyed or driven far underground. We cannot expect corporate media to stand up to the corporate state. We have to do it ourselves, or any citizen of the world can be next. Will you heed this warning?

Feature photo | Police watch Assange supporters protesting outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Friday, June 14, 2019. Frank Augstein | AP

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups

The post Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Behind The Headline, Daily Digest, National, Behind the headline, Espionage Act, Journalism, Julian Assange, Mnar Muhawesh, Wikileaks] [Link to media]

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[l] at 8/26/19 8:35am

Before we examine the “progressive” Democratic candidates, we should note in passing the likelihood that the Democratic nominee will face off against Donald Trump. Trump’s net approval rating is virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s at a similar point in his presidency , and his sycophancy towards Israel assures him of continued backing by big-money Zionists like Sheldon Adelson. That he can maintain his political base, whilst “draining the swamp” by awarding its most execrable denizens key posts in his administration (John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, et al.), is frankly astounding, but perhaps these partisans have been effectively mesmerized by the hopium of QAnon and other Trumpesque psyops.

It would be a waste of time to review the position of the corporatist Democratic candidates, many of whom can be expected soon to fall by the wayside, while one of the front-runners amongst them is likely to be chosen as the final nominee, assuring us of four more years of Trumpism one way or the other, give or take a few sops. However, one of these, Elizabeth Warren, has buffaloed her way into prominence with her pseudo populism, so we’ll mention her en passant :

Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear recognizes Joe Biden as Bill Clinton redivivus . It doesn’t take much more political acuity to unmask Kamala Harris as a black Hillary Clinton. But because of her shrewd chameleon-like camouflage, some wannabe progressive Democrats do not yet perceive that Elizabeth Warren is, correspondingly, a white Barrack Obama. 

Early on, she hopped aboard the increasingly popular Sanders Medicare-for-all train. Perhaps this was mere political opportunism on her part, but some suspect, and not without cause, that she has the tacit support of the DNC to take the wind out of Sanders’ sails, after which she will herself be summarily jettisoned unless the preferred corporatist candidates prove unviable. Her “economic patriotism” is nothing more than refried Trumpian economic nationalism (mercantilism) designed to appear attractive to and siphon off Trump’s Republican supporters, should push ever come to shove. But that old saw — that when the Democrats run a pseudo-Republican against a real one, the real one invariably wins the election — will undoubtedly apply. 

Let’s turn, then, to the four candidates still in the race for the Democratic nod who are typically identified as “progressive” by pundits. We’ll compare three key foreign policy positions for each (the “special relationship” with Israel, Russiagate, and Venezuelan interventionism), with an especially close look at the domestic policy of one of them: Andrew Yang, vis-a -vis that of rival Bernie Sanders.

 

Marianne Williamson: Selective reparation?

We begin with a look at marginal candidate Marianne Williamson, who, unless her vaunted Course in Miracles has really equipped her to pull one off, stands hardly any chance in the race. Despite her ecumenical pretentions, she seems at heart a Zionist who has reportedly spent many a sojourn making aliyah in the Promised Land. She carefully calibrates her support for the human rights of the benighted Palestinians with pearl-clutching concern for the “security of Israel.”

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson talks to reporters after the first Democratic presidential primary debate, July 30, 2019. Carlos Osorio | AP

She has taken the controversial view that American blacks who are descendants of slaves should be given reparations…to the tune of $2 billion. She recently corralled all the whites in a local church to publicly apologize to their black neighbors for the enslavement of their ancestors, which they dutifully did on the spot. Righting historical wrongs is certainly a progressive idea, but here’s the problem: the oppression and genocide of Palestinians are happening in real time . When Williamson shows this same chutzpah and has her fellow Jews in Israel apologize to their (Palestinian) neighbors, and return to them their homes and lands expropriated by Israeli state terrorism, then she can claim to be progressive with some integrity — in the meantime she appears more to be projecting Israel’s contemporary collective guilt onto American whites. Hasn’t America already done enough acting out for the Chosen People, with our lavish economic and military aid to Israel and our costly, bellicose, Israelocentric foreign military adventurism? 

Foreign policy pronouncements are rarer for Williamson than for most other candidates. While she takes a boldly anti-interventionist line that supports self-determination for the people of Venezuela, she parrots the Democratic Party’s fabricated narrative about Russian intervention in U.S. elections, Ukraine, etc.

 

Bernie Sanders: Democratic? Socialist?

Bernie Sanders is considered by many the “progressive” Democrat most likely to succeed, at least at this juncture. True to form, this self-styled “democratic socialist” comes loaded with sops for the working class, from an increased minimum wage to Medicare for all. But what of his foreign policy? It is said that, until the most recent AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force), Senator Sanders never met a military spending bill he didn’t like. And here’s his official statement on Venezuela: 

The Maduro government in Venezuela has been waging a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election that many observers said was fraudulent. Further, the economy is a disaster and millions are migrating.” 

To his credit, Sanders goes on to oppose U.S. intervention or coup support, but what are the crippling U.S. economic sanctions, to the point of pirating food-laden ships bound for Venezuela, if not intervention? Don’t they go far to explain the very economic crisis that Sanders here blames on its victims? Nary a word on this from the “Bern.” 

Moreover, he also intones ad nauseam the Democratic Party Russiagate claptrap from start to finish. He’s another new Cold Warrior, which may — who knows? — ultimately endear him sufficiently to Democratic Party insiders, perhaps a calculated gambit on his part — hard to believe he really accepts such rubbish. 

His statements about the Israel-Palestine situation have been mealy-mouthed, though he says he opposes “new settlements.” Big deal — there is hardly anywhere left in Occupied Palestine to create any. To his credit, Sanders is the only candidate who has ever suggested that U.S. aid to Israel might need to be reconsidered — not, to be clear, because of Israel’s genocidal war on Palestinians, but because of Netanyahu’s recent refusal to allow unconditional visits to Israeli-occupied territory by two sitting U.S. congresswomen, an ox gored much closer to home. In sum, while Sanders may be considered “progressive” in terms of his domestic agenda, his foreign policy fairly reeks of reaction.

 

Tulsi Gabbard: Islamophobe on a mission?

Then comes much-heralded Tulsi Gabbard. I admit having once been smitten by her seeming earnestness in opposing U.S. wars — until that is, she slavishly voted in favor of the anti-BDS resolution (HR 246), whereupon I took a deeper dive into her record. The scales soon fell from my eyes, though not unaccompanied by a few rueful tears. Tulsi, I discovered to my horror, is most likely a hawk in dove’s clothing. This is not to suggest that she is dishonest — a bit disingenuous, maybe, but not dishonest — no, far from it! She flatly says what she believes. And what exactly does she say?

Well, first of all, she says she is an ardent supporter of Israel. Anyone with any doubt about this should watch her stomach-churning speech at the Christians United for Israel conference in 2015. Were she nominated, Trump might find himself with a serious competitor for his deep-pocketed Zionist patrons! 

 
Gabbard has been described by some credible commentators, like Kevin Barrett, as an “Islamophobe.” Given her religious background, this would not be surprising, no more than is her affinity for her fellow Hindu, the proto-fascist Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.

When Gabbard says she is a “hawk in the war on terror” she should be taken at her word — she’s a true believer. She is as clueless that 9/11 was a false-flag operation to launch that murderous juggernaut as she is that the various permutations of Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda are just so many creatures of the Deep State to perpetuate that murderous rampage and pave the way for their (Zionist/neocon-induced) imperialist agenda. 

When she says she’s “on a mission,” we would do well to take Major Gabbard literally. That she considers the regime-change wars a hindrance to her mission again demonstrates either abject stupidity on her part or, to be more charitable, extreme political naivete. The War on Terror is nothing but a pretext for Zionist-directed regime-change wars, for the successive (and largely successful) reduction of Israel’s regional competitors into failed states. This is by no means a diversion; rather, it clarifies the ulterior motive. 

And this is not to suggest that Major Gabbard doesn’t really believe her own false narrative. Only by fully appreciating her laser focus on militarily defeating ISIS and “Islamo-terrorism” (which she continues to hold responsible for 9/11) can her more progressive stances on the other two foreign policy issues we are here examining be understood. She is consistent in opposing regime-change efforts in Venezuela, and seems committed to respecting Venezuelan self-determination — no Al Qaeda in Caracas! Uniquely among the “progressive” Democratic candidates, she wastes no ammunition on demonizing Russia. This, too, is consistent with her mission: Russia is clearly a valuable potential ally in the war against “Islamo-terrorism,” which it is her stated mission to fully vanquish. 

It is a serious error to view Gabbard as an anti-interventionist or anti-militarist in principle — she is neither. That she opposes regime-change wars as inimical to her military objective is true enough, but for all intents and purposes, this puts her in the position of the deluded denizens of Plato’s allegorical cave, who see only the shadows cast on its walls, and never look behind to see the manipulators who create the spectacle. Because she is blind to the elephant in the room, and indeed has demonstrated characteristic sycophancy towards Zionist Israel, she cannot represent a truly progressive alternative, even in her stock-in-trade foreign policy arena. Nor, by the way, is her mission compatible with the DNC-controlled Democratic Party’s agenda — she can, therefore, expect only continued marginalization and resistance from that quarter.

 

Andrew Yang: A New New Deal?

This leaves us with the fourth of the “progressive” Democratic candidates, Andrew Yang, on whom the rest of this analysis will focus. Yang’s foreign policy is, sadly, no less reactionary than the rest of this rogues’ gallery’s — indeed, it is more deplorable in every respect. He carries water for the Democratic Party’s Russophobia like some latter-day Gunga Din, commits to protecting our relationship with Israel (reliable ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, etc.), and openly supports pretender-cum-imperial-stooge Juan Guaido in Venezuela. I would place him just to the left of John Bolton in terms of foreign policy, but not very far to the left. And I grant him this only because he wants to chip off about 10 percent of the military budget to fund domestic infrastructure projects — would that it were 90 percent!

But Yang’s claim to fame is not foreign, but domestic policy. His proposed universal basic income (UBI), dismissed by critics as a “gimmick,” is the most radical structural economic reform to come down the pike since the New Deal. It would not be hyperbole, in my opinion, to call it a “New New Deal.” Before proceeding with what I hope will prove a useful comparison between Sanders’ and Yang’s proposed economic reforms, it will be helpful to briefly rehearse the essential contradictions of capitalism that reformers Yang and Sanders seek to address with varying degrees of clarity:

The essential contradiction of capitalism is the constant aggregation of surplus value, in the form of “profit” in all its forms (interest, stock dividends, ground rent, etc.) to the owning class, and its relative diminution for the producing class, by far the majority of the consuming population. This leads to a chronic imbalance between productive capacity of capitalism and purchasing power of its working majority to consume it, leading to the recurrent “crises of capitalism,” (aka, the “business cycle” or boom-bust cycle). As Lenin explained in his classic work on the subject, this leads each capitalist country to seek foreign markets (and cheaper labor and resources) to pick up the slack, often to the point of military force — modern imperialism. An attendant contradiction of capitalism has to do with its innate drive to make capital more productive, which typically translates to a reduction of labor costs. This, in turn, drives the dynamic of automation of labor. 

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang, holds a turkey leg during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Aug. 9, 2019. Neibergall | AP

Andrew Yang, to his credit, quite openly recognizes this latter problem, and his UBI solution seeks to address it directly. He posits that automation is a social phenomenon, or a shared product or process of society as a whole — a part of the “commons” –and therefore that all citizens should share in its benefits. While classic socialism seeks to resolve capitalism’s contradictions through socialized ownership of the means of production, thus assuring that the full value of a socially useful product is returned to its actual producers (workers), Andrew Yang’s approach is, effectively, to socialize some of the surplus value itself. 

Essentially, it is a profit-sharing scheme, in which all Americans would have an equal share. It is a clever approach insofar as it not only indemnifies workers, to some degree, against the job-displacing effects of automation, but it also helps readjust the disparity in consumer power between the owning and working classes, and thus extends capitalism’s lease on life by addressing to some extent its overarching contradiction of income disparity (see above). 

Sanders’ economic proposals, in contrast, constitute damage control — palliatives for the destructive effects of capitalism on the livelihoods of working people: increasing minimum wage (which immediate gain would likely soon by swallowed up by inflationary increase in prices, as capitalists seek to recover profit margins) and universal health care (the quality of which remains to be seen). Some enlightened capitalists do grasp the ultimate benefit of offloading healthcare responsibility to the government and support this latter reform, so Sanders is not without inter-class support for this particular endeavor.

But Yang’s UBI likewise has its votaries among capitalists, particularly in the high-tech sector. Just as Henry Ford once recognized that only if he paid his workers a living wage could they afford to buy the Model-T’s they made, so today some high-tech-sector entrepreneurs realize that sacrificing a share of their profits to ensure a ready market for their product is in their long-term interest (as well as short-term interest, if predictions of a significant near-term recession are accurate). Yang, too, has a program that appeals across class lines. 

Importantly, both Yang and Sanders speak approvingly of worker cooperatives. Sanders might call such reform “democratic socialism” whereas Yang would likely term it something like “people’s capitalism,” but a rose by any other name smells as sweet — and both candidates end up smelling like one in this vital area, because only such a radical restructuring of capitalism, from a corporatist to a worker-cooperative model, can ultimately resolve its aforementioned contradictions. For my money, Yang is even more enthusiastic on this score than Sanders, but judge for yourself.

 
Unfortunately, I believe, a Yang administration would likely be an LBJ redux: a genuinely progressive political economy coupled with an aggressive foreign policy — the old welfare-warfare state in a new guise.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, none of the existing Democratic Party presidential candidates, whether or not styled “progressive,” offers us any hope of a genuinely humane and pacific foreign policy. On the domestic front, Sanders offers the traditional social-democratic reforms to make life a bit more livable for the working people distressed by the contradictions of capitalism, whereas Yang offers genuine structural reform that would directly offset some of the income disparity between owning and working classes, incidentally ameliorating the mounting problem of homelessness and cushioning working people against the predictably deleterious effects of automation on their livelihoods.

In sum, unless someone new enters the race or one of the existing candidates is stricken on the road to Damascus, there will be no genuinely progressive foreign policy offered by either of the two major political parties in the 2020 presidential election. But who knows? Perhaps Andrew Yang will suddenly bolt from the Democratic Party, pair himself with someone who can complement his progressive economic platform with a genuinely progressive foreign policy — someone like, say, Cynthia McKinney — and the two of them, working in tandem, will offer Americans a brighter and morally satisfying future. We can always dream!

Feature photo | Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to striking telecommunications workers on,Aug. 25, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Sanders showed his support for the striking workers before attending a rally in the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bruce Schreiner | AP

Ken Freeland is an independent political commentator and antiwar activist. He serves on the local station board of Pacifica station KPFT in Houston, and briefly served on its national board.

The post Rogues’ Gallery: A Sober Look at the “Progressive” Democratic Presidential Candidates appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Insights, National, Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Candidates, foreign policy, Marianne Williamson, Tulsi Habbard] [Link to media]

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[l] at 8/23/19 2:14pm

It may be a new low in propaganda. National Public Radio (NPR) used the news that Syrian First Lady Asma Assad had overcome breast cancer to mock her and continue the information war against Syria.  They interviewed a Human Rights Watch staffer named Lama Fakih who is an American from Michigan now based in Beirut.

Do you believe Ms. Fakih in Beirut or do you believe people who live in Syria who say we are being lied to?  Lilly Martin is such a person. Although she is American from Fresno California, Lilly has lived in Syria for nearly 25 years. She is married to a Syrian and has two Syrian sons.  Dr. Nabil Antaki is another such person. He is a medical doctor in Aleppo, fluent in English and French as well as his native Arabic. 

While NPR snorts about Asma Assad “sporting a chic blonde pixie cut”, Lilly Martin points out that she was recently bald while fighting for her life. 

While Ms. Fakir in Beirut says that there is “quite a lot of anger” because Asma Assad has conquered cancer, Dr. Antaki says that Syrians are happy at the news.  Asma Assad is First Lady, mother to three children, and known for her compassion. Lilly Martin says that even while she battled cancer Mrs. Assad continued her charitable work. 

Asma Assad NPR cancer

While Ms. Fakih says that the “Assad government has been systematically targeting medical facilities and medical personnel”,  Dr. Antaki, who has remained in Aleppo throughout the conflict, says this is not true. While there are many western accusations that the Syrian government attacks hospitals, the evidence is remarkably thin.  One of the most highly publicized cases was regarding “Al Quds Hospital” in east Aleppo. In April 2016 there was a media blitz about this hospital having been destroyed by the Syrian Army. Following the departure of the “rebels”, it was discovered that “Al Quds Hospital” was an unmarked portion of an apartment building, that it had NOT been bombed and was the LEAST damaged building in the area. It was determined that the nearby Nusra (Al Qaeda) headquarters and ammunition depot was the Syrian army target. Accusations that “Al Quds Hospital” was bombed were false. It was a media stunt. 

Ms. Fakih says that “Syrians have not been able to benefit from medical care in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2012”.   Lilly Martin simply says “This is factually untrue. The Syrian system of national hospitals, free services to the public, are in every area of Syria and have run continuously throughout the war.”  Dr. Antaki is an example; he is one of THOUSANDS of doctors working at HUNDREDS of hospitals throughout Syria. But you would never know it from NPR or Ms. Fakih. 

It is true that there have been disruption and damage to many hospitals, as demonstrated in this jihadi assault on Al Kindi Hospital.  These are the “rebels” supported by Ms. Fakih and Human Rights Watch. They effectively supported them in east Aleppo until they were expelled from the city. Now Ms. Fakih and HRW is supporting the “rebels” in their last redoubt in Idlib.  There are countless videos demonstrating the cruelty and fanaticism of the “rebels”. For example, the aftermath of the above assault on Kindi Hospital and the execution of the Syrian soldiers who defended the hospital.  Those who are cheerleading for the “rebels” and trying to prevent the Syrian reclaiming Idlib should look at the execution video to see what they are supporting.

The West has provided weapons and other support to the “rebels”. In parallel, there has been a campaign to whitewash the “rebels” and demonize the Syrian government. On top of this, the USA has imposed crushing sanctions on Syria which make it difficult or impossible to get critical medicines and replacement parts for western medical equipment. Dr. Antaki says it took him 1.5 years to obtain a replacement part for a Japanese medical instrument.  I had my own experience with the draconian and inhumane sanctions. It took one year and endless hassle to send hearing aid batteries to help a deaf child in Syria.  

This is one among hundreds of Syria “regime change” propaganda pieces broadcast on NPR. Behind a facade of authority and objectivity, there is bias and misinformation along with crocodile tears.   As Lilly Martin says, “While the Syrian government medical system has tried to meet all the needs of Syrian civilians during 8 years of armed conflict, still there are numerous cases where the needs were not met and Syrians have suffered, and that blame must be shouldered by every person who held a gun against Syria and their foreign supporters who have succeeded in bringing the Syrian people into the depths of destruction and despair.” 

As to Asma Assad and her integrity, it is best to listen and judge for yourself.  At about 5:30 of the interview she speaks of the families of 100 thousand Syrian martyrs who died defending their country. “On a personal level, I am humbled by their determination, by their resilience, and by their love of Syria. They are my biggest source of strength and hope for the future.”  

The sneers,  misinformation, unverified accusations and de facto defense of Nusra/Al Qaeda by  NPR and Lama Fakih stand in stark contrast.

Feature photo | Asma al-Assad visits the children of Basma Association, which cares for children with cancer. Photo | Syrian Presidency

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com

The post NPR Mocks Cancer Survivor in Drumbeat of Syria Propaganda appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Asma Assad, Media, NPR, Propaganda, Syria]

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[l] at 8/23/19 12:17pm

On August 10 th , and for several days after, speculation swirled after it was announced that Jeffrey Epstein had been found dead in his cell. His cause of death has officially been ruled suicide by hanging. 

Epstein, the billionaire pedophile and sex trafficker with a myriad of connections to the rich and powerful in the United States and several other countries, had told those close to him that he had feared for his life prior to his sudden “suicide,” the Washington Post reported, while his defense lawyers claimed that he had planned to cooperate with federal authorities. 

Following the controversial conclusion by the New York Medical Examiner that Epstein’s death was a suicide — a conclusion contested by Epstein’s attornies as well as by independent forensic pathologists, given the apparent evidence pointing towards strangulation — corporate media coverage of the Epstein case has slowed to a trickle, save for sensationalist stories about his alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell and new salacious details of his past. Gone from corporate media are any hints of the larger scandal, revolving around the admission that Epstein had “belonged to intelligence.”

In this four-part series, “ The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail ,” MintPress has revealed that Epstein’s activities — a sexual blackmail operation involving minors and connected to intelligence agencies — was one of many such operations that have taken place for decades, developing from the nexus forged between the CIA, organized crime and Israeli intelligence shortly after World War II. 

As Part II of this series revealed, these sexual blackmail operations proliferated during the Iran-Contra affair, which involved this same dark alliance between U.S./Israeli intelligence and organized crime. Though this series has thus far largely focused on the ties of Republican officials to those operations and associated crimes, the final installment of this series will focus on Democratic politicians, namely the Clinton family, and their ties to this same network as well as Jeffrey Epstein.

The Clintons’ own involvement in Iran-Contra revolved around the covert activities at Arkansas’ Mena Airport, which involved the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and occurred while Clinton was governor. Just a few years into the Clinton presidential administration, Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein would play a major role in Southern Air Transport’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio, leading to concerns among top Ohio officials that both men were not only working with the CIA, but that Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to use the CIA-linked airline for smuggling.

During that same period of time, Epstein had already forged close ties to important Clinton White House officials and prominent Clinton donors like Lynn Forester de Rothschild and made several personal visits to the official presidential residence.

Some of these ties appear related to Epstein’s shady financial activities, particularly involving currency markets and offshore tax havens — activities he began to perfect while working for prominent Iran-Contra figures in the early 1980s, several of whom were tied to the CIA-linked bank Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and had known relationships with Israeli intelligence, namely the Mossad. The nature of Epstein’s work for these individuals and other evidence strongly suggests that Epstein himself had a relationship with BCCI after leaving Bear Stearns and prior to the bank’s collapse in 1991.

Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity, a relationship still under investigation by MintPress

It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion. 

Far from being the work of a single intelligence agency or a single country, the power structure revealed by this network connected to Epstein is nothing less than a criminal enterprise that transcends nationality and is willing to use and abuse children in the pursuit of ever more power, wealth and control. Existing for decades and willing to use any means necessary to cover its tracks, this criminal racket has become so integrated into the levers of power, in the United States and well beyond, that it is truly too big to fail.

 

Iran Contra, Mena Airport and the Clintons

When one thinks back to the now-famous Iran-Contra scandal, names like Ronald Reagan, Oliver North and Barry Seal comes to mind, but former President Bill Clinton also played an outsized role in the scandal — using his home state of Arkansas, where he was then serving as governor, as a sort of rallying point for the CIA’s U.S.-side of the Central American operation.  

In fact, during Clinton’s reign as governor a small town called Mena, nestled in the Ozark Mountains west of Arkansas’ capital Little Rock, would be propelled into the national spotlight as a hub for drug and arms smuggling and the training of CIA-backed far-right militias.

Under the close watch of the CIA, then led by William Casey, the Mena Intermountain Regional Airport was used to stockpile and deliver arms and ammunition to the Nicaraguan Contras. The arms were sometimes exchanged for cocaine from South American cartels, which would then be sent back to Mena and used to fund the covert CIA operation. 

 
Though efforts have been made to dismiss Clinton’s role in the scandal, his direct intervention in the Contras’ attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua suggests Clinton had some sort of personal stake in the efforts and was unlikely aloof to the major smuggling operation taking place in his state while he had been governor. In fact, while governor, Clinton split with many other state governments in sending a contingency of the Arkansas National Guard to Honduras to train the Nicaraguan Contras on how to overthrow their Sandinista government. Clinton would also discuss his first-hand knowledge of the operation with now-Trump administration Attorney General William Barr.

Much of this channeling of both weapons and drugs was carried out by notorious drug smuggler and alleged CIA/DEA operative Barry Seal. According to the book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair:

A federal investigation aided by the Arkansas State Police established that Barry Seal, a drug dealer working for the Medellin cartel as well as with the C.I.A. and the D.E.A., had his planes retrofitted at Mena for drug drops, trained pilots there and laundered his profits partly through financial institutions in Arkansas. Seal, at this time was in close contact with [Oliver] North, who acknowledged the relationship in his memoir. These were the years in which North was constructing his covert supply lines for the contras.”

Seal was known to use aircraft that belonged to the company Southern Air Transport and he also employed flight crews that worked for that same company. Southern Air Transport, formerly Air America, was once directly owned by the CIA and today is remembered for being a CIA front during Iran-Contra. Less known is the relationship between the CIA-linked airline and Leslie Wexner and his then-close associate Jeffrey Epstein, which will be discussed in detail later in this report.

Seal seemed to always operate with much less than six degrees of separation from Clinton while the latter served as governor. In his 1999 confessional expose, Cross-fire: Witness in the Clinton Investigation , former Arkansas policeman turned personal driver and security guard for Bill Clinton, L.D. Brown, recounts how Clinton encouraged him to seek out a post at the CIA. Clinton allegedly went so far as to edit the essay Brown wrote for this employment application. The essay topic was drug smuggling in Central America. Upon receiving his application, the CIA put Brown in touch with none other than Barry Seal. Seal would later be gunned down in 1986 while serving six-months probation for drug-smuggling charges.

Seal was not the only affiliate of Oliver North running a Contra-connected operation in Arkansas. Terry Reed, who had worked for North since 1983, claimed to have been put in touch with Seal by North and established a base just 10 miles north of Mena — in Nella, Arkansas — where “Nicaraguan Contras and other recruits from Latin American were trained in resupply missions, night landings, precision paradrops and similar maneuvers,“ according to Cockburn and St. Clair. Reed further asserted that drug money was being laundered through Arkansas financial institutions.

After Clinton’s half-brother Roger was busted for cocaine smuggling (Clinton would later pardon him while president) the CIA sought to move Contra operations out of Arkansas, hoping to put a damper on the increasingly public and sloppy Arkansas-based operation. According to Terry Reed in his book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA , co-written with John Cummings, a hushed meeting was held in a bunker at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. During the meeting, William Barr, who represented himself as the emissary of then-CIA Director Bill Casey told Clinton:

The deal we made was to launder our money through your bond business but what we didn’t plan on was you and your n****r here start taking yourselves seriously and purposely shrinking our laundry.”

Bar chastised Clinton for his sloppy handling of the delicate operation and his half-brother’s very public fall from grace. He would later tell Clinton, according to Reed

Bill, you are Mr. Casey’s fair-haired boy … You and your state have been our greatest asset. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you fuck up and do something stupid, you’re No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job that you’ve always wanted. You and guys like you are the fathers of the new government. We are the new covenant.”

Attempts to investigate Clinton’s role in the Mena operations and more broadly in the Iran-Contra affair were allegedly axed by Clinton’s own confidantes, who consistently denied he played a role in the scandal. According to the Wall Street Journal , former IRS investigator William Duncan teamed with Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch in what became a decade-long battle to bring the matter to light. In fact, of the nine separate state and federal probes into the affair, all failed.

Duncan would later say of the investigations, “[They] were interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was subverted,” and a 1992 memo from Duncan to high-ranking members of the attorney general’s staff notes that Duncan was instructed “to remove all files concerning the Mena investigation from the attorney general’s office.” The attorney general, serving under George H. W. Bush, at that time was William Barr, who is currently attorney general under Trump.

 

The Bank of Crooks and Criminals International

Another Clinton connection to the CIA and the Iran-Contra affair runs through the family’s connection to Arkansas financier Jackson Stephens and the CIA-linked Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which critics nicknamed the “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.” Stephens was among the richest people in Arkansas and was also a major donor and backer of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton . He also played a key role in the rise of Walmart .

Jackson Stephens and other members of the Stephens family bankrolled Bill Clinton’s rise to political prominence , contributing large sums of money to both Clinton’s gubernatorial and his later presidential campaigns. In addition, Worthen Bank, which was majority-owned by Stephens, provided Clinton’s first presidential campaign a $3.5 million line of credit. In addition, Stephens’ many businesses were frequently represented by the Rose Law Firm, where Hillary Clinton was a partner.

A redacted FBI report from 1998 describes Stephens as having “lengthy and continuing ties to the Clinton administration and associates” and also discusses allegations that Stephens has been involved in the “illegal handling of campaign contributions to the Democratic National Party.”

BCCI had originally been founded by a group of bankers from Pakistan, though Newsweek later reported that CIA officials appeared to have been involved in the bank’s founding and that BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi had been encouraged by the CIA to found the bank after “the agency realized that an international bank could provide valuable cover for intelligence operations.” CIA documents that later surfaced during congressional hearings on the bank’s activities and related scandals stated that BCCI was directly involved in “money laundering, narco-financing, gunrunning and holding large sums of money for terrorist groups.”

BCCI cocaine and cash

Evidence in the case against BCCI shows cocaine seized from a warehouse and suitcases full of cash to be laundered. Photo | FLMD District Court

Though BCCI was known for its CIA links, Catherine Austin Fitts — former Assistant Secretary for Housing–Federal Housing Commissioner at HUD during the George H. W. Bush administration, and investment banker with the firms Hamilton Securities Group and Dillon, Read & Co. — believes that those links went well beyond the CIA. Fitts — who was placed on the board of the BCCI subsidiary First American Bank following BCCI’s collapse — told MintPress that, after reading through troves of documents regarding the bank’s activities prior to its implosion, it was clear to her that there was “no way” its clandestine activities were carried on without the full knowledge of the Federal Reserve, specifically the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the White House.

BCCI also played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair and accounts of the bank were used to send payoffs to individuals linked to the scheme. Adnan Khashoggi, a key figure and intermediary in the scandal, used one BCCI account to move more than $20 million related to illegal arms sales and BCCI created fake documentation, including checks signed by Oliver North, allowing the sale to go forward. The bank later, when its activities subsequently came under congressional scrutiny, claimed it had no records of these transactions.

In addition, BCCI appears to have been involved in the sex trafficking of underage girls, including girls that had not yet reached puberty. According to the report entitled “ The BCCI Affair ,” by then-U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Hank Brown (R-CO), BCCI officials were alleged to have obtained leverage with powerful individuals, including prominent members of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), by providing them with young virgins.

The report (page 70) specifically states :

According to one U.S. investigator with substantial knowledge of BCCI’s activities, some BCCI officials have acknowledged that some of the females provided some members of the Al-Nahyan family [one of the ruling families in the UAE] were young girls who had not yet reached puberty, and in certain cases, were physically injured by the experience. The official said that former BCCI officials had told him that BCCI also provided males to homosexual VIPs.”

BCCI was largely brought into the United States business community through the efforts of Jackson Stephens and Bert Lance, former budget director for Jimmy Carter, who assisted with BCCI’s acquisition of First American Bank. The law firm involved in this effort was Arkansas’ Rose Law Firm and it involved several of the firm’s lawyers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Webster Hubbell and C.J. Giroir. Also involved in the effort was Clark Clifford, former Secretary of Defense under Lyndon B. Johnson, and Kamal Adham, former director general of Saudi intelligence.

One of the men added to the BCCI board after the acquisition of First American Bank was Robert Keith Gray, whom Newsweek described as often having “boasted of his close relationship with the CIA’s William Casey; Gray used to say that before taking on a foreign client, he would clear it with Casey.” As was discussed in Part II of this series, Gray was also an expert in homosexual blackmail operations for the CIA and was reported to have collaborated with Roy Cohn in those activities. Some of Gray’s clients at the powerful PR firm he led, Hill & Knowlton, included BCCI clients and Mossad-linked individuals, such as Adnan Khashoggi and Marc Rich.

While the Rose Law Firm was assisting BCCI’s entrance into the American financial system, it also represented the Stephens-owned financial services company, Stephens Inc., as well as the data-processing company Systematics Inc., which Stephens acquired in the late 1960s. According to James Norman in his book The Oil Card: Global Economic Warfare in the 21st Century , Systematics was “a primary vehicle or front company for the National Security Agency in the 1980s and early 1990s to market and implant bugged software in the world’s major money-center banks and clearinghouses as part of the Reagan/Bush ‘follow the money’ effort to break the Soviets.” 

The late journalist Michael Ruppert asserted that this “bugged software” was none other than the Promis software, which both U.S. and Israeli intelligence had bugged in order to spy on intelligence and which had been marketed in part by Robert Maxwell, father of Jeffrey Epstein’s madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. Ruppert cited Systematics as “a primary developer of Promis for financial intelligence use.” Promis had originally been leased by Inslaw Inc., a small software company founded by Bill Hamilton, to the Department of Justice — which later stole it from Inslaw, forcing it to declare bankruptcy.

According to a 1995 document sent on behalf of Inslaw’s founders to then-independent Counsel Ken Starr that asked him to review Inslaw’s case, Systematics had “covertly implanted [software] into the computers of its bank customers” that allowed “allied intelligence agencies surreptitiously to track and monitor the flow of money through the banking system” and had done so at “the behest of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its partner in Israeli intelligence.” Inslaw also stated that the software was used by these same intelligence agencies in the “laundering of money, especially drug profits.”

Systematics also had a subsidiary in Israel that, according to a former Israeli intelligence officer,  was operated by contractors for the Mossad and sold software to banks and telecommunications companies. According to Richardson’s letter, that Israeli subsidiary of Systematics also had a Massachusetts-based front company, which was partially owned by a former U.S. intelligence official.

Two partners in the Rose Law Firm who would later serve in the Clinton administration, Vince Foster and Webster Hubbell, acquired significant financial interests in Systematics through ownership in Alltel, which purchased Systematics in the early 1990s. The Hamiltons also provide considerable evidence that Foster’s distress prior to his death in 1993 appears to have been related to concerns about litigation involving Systematics and the on-going litigation over Promis’ theft.

BCCI itself was known to employ the Promis software after its theft by the DOJ; and one of its subsidiaries, First American Bank, also “ filtered PROMIS money ” — i.e., laundered the money generated from the sale of the stolen Promis software — according to the late journalist Danny Casolaro. 

Casolaro had been investigating an international crime syndicate he termed “ the Octopus ” at the time of his death in 1991. Casolaro believed that this “Octopus” involved powerful individuals in the private and public sectors as well as the criminal underworld and that they were collectively responsible for some of the biggest scandals of the 1980s, including Iran-Contra, BCCI and the theft of the Promis software. 

Casolaro had told friends and family that he was close to concluding his investigation and several people close to him had seen documents involving money transfers involving BCCI and the World Bank to people involved in these scandals, such as Earl Brian and Adnan Khashoggi. Casolaro went to Martinsburg, Virginia to meet with some sources to get the final piece of the puzzle and “bring back the head of the Octopus.” Two days after arriving in Martinsburg, Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room and his briefcase full of his research notes and evidence was missing. His death was ruled a suicide.

Casolaro crime scene

Crime scene photos show deep lacerations in Casolaro’s arms

Many, including Casolaro’s family, do not believe that Casolaro committed suicide. A week before his death, Casolaro told his brother he had been receiving death threats and the manner in which he died, deep slashes in his arms, was not consistent with Casolaro’s well-known squeamishness around even minor amounts of blood. Speculation only grew following the FBI investigation , given that the FBI lied to Congress, pressured its own agents not to question whether it was a suicide and lost 90 percent of its files related to Casolaro’s death — among other glaring inconsistencies.

In a 1994 letter provided to MintPress by Inslaw Inc., Inslaw lawyer Charles Work told then-Assistant Attorney General John Dwyer that one of Inslaw’s confidential sources in government had stated that Casolaro had been injected with a substance that deadened his nerves from the neck down, explaining the apparent lack of struggle and that the substance used had come from the U.S. Army inventory. The person who had arranged Casolaro’s final meeting before his death was a U.S. military intelligence officer named Joseph Cuellar.

The same year that Casolaro died, there were several other suspicious deaths involving people directly connected to the Promis scandal or involved in Casolaro’s investigation of “the Octopus” —  including Alan Standorf , one of Casolaro’s sources; Robert Maxwell , father of Ghislaine Maxwell, Mossad operative, and salesman of the bugged Promis software; and John Tower — the former Texas senator who assisted Maxwell in selling the bugged Promis software to the Los Alamos laboratories.

 

Jeffrey Epstein and “The Dirtiest Bank of All”

While the role Arkansas played in Iran-Contra is one aspect of the scandal that is often overlooked, so to is the key role played by Israeli intelligence-linked arms dealers and smugglers who would later be connected to powerful individuals in the Mega Group and Jeffrey Epstein, such as Marc Rich and Adnan Khashoggi.

One of the key players in the Iran-Contra affair was Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, uncle of the slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. One lesser known fact about Adnan Khashoggi is that, at the time of his Iran-Contra dealings, he was working for the Israeli Mossad, according to former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky. 

Ostrovsky, in his #1 New York Times bestseller “ By Way of Deception ,” notes that Khashoggi had been recruited by the Mossad years before and that his private jet had been fitted in Israel. In relation to Iran-Contra, Ostrovsky claims that it was a $5 million bridge loan that Khashoggi provided that helped to overcome the lack of trust between Israel and Iran during the initial arms deals in the early 1980s, and thus his participation was critical to the success of the scheme.

According to journalist Vicky Ward , Adnan Khashoggi was a client of Jeffrey Epstein’s in the early 1980s, not long after Epstein’s departure from Bear Stearns in 1981. The reason Epstein left the bank remains murky. Though some former Bear Stearns employees claim he was fired, others — including Epstein himself — claimed that he resigned of his own volition. 

Ward suggests that Epstein may have left the bank owing to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into insider trading in a case that involved a tender offer placed by the Seagrams corporation for St. Joe Minerals Corp. Seagrams owner Edgar Bronfman, son of Meyer Lansky associate Samuel Bronfman and member of the Mega Group, had tipped off several investors and bankers of the coming tender offer. Epstein resigned from Bear Stearns the day after the SEC opened the case and later claimed he had left the company as a result of a relatively minor “Reg D” violation and rumors that he had an “illicit affair with a secretary.”

Yet, as Ward noted:

The SEC never brought any charges against anyone at Bear Stearns for insider trading in St. Joe, but its questioning seems to indicate that it was skeptical of Epstein’s answers. Some sources have wondered why, if he was such a big producer at Bear Stearns, he would have given it up over a mere $2,500 fine.”

Regardless of the exact reason for Epstein’s sudden departure, it was immediately after he left the bank that “the details [of Epstein’s work history] recede into shadow. A few of the handful of current friends who have known him since the early 1980s recall that he used to tell them he was a “bounty hunter,” recovering lost or stolen money for the government or for very rich people. He has a license to carry a firearm.” 

Writing in Salon , a former friend of Epstein’s, Jesse Kornbluth, also stated that Epstein had claimed to be a “bounty hunter” for the rich and powerful:

When we met in 1986, Epstein’s double identity intrigued me — he said he didn’t just manage money for clients with mega-fortunes, he was also a high-level bounty hunter . Sometimes, he told me, he worked for governments to recover money looted by African dictators. Other times those dictators hired him to help them hide their stolen money .” (emphasis added)

One of Epstein’s clients after leaving Bear Stearns, per Ward’s sources, was the CIA/Mossad-linked Khashoggi at the very time that Khashoggi was involved in Iran-Contra, an operation involving both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. British journalist Nigel Rosser reported in January 2001 in the Evening Standard that Epstein had claimed that he was also working for the CIA during this same time period.

Since Epstein’s arrest, records of Rosser’s article have been scrubbed from British newspaper archives, including the Evening Standard ’s own. However, MintPress independently confirmed with Bob Fitrakis, whom Rosser had interviewed for the article in question, that the article did allege that Epstein used to claim he worked for the CIA. In addition, other reports from the time period cited excerpts of Rosser’s article, including the reference to Epstein’s past claims of involvement with the CIA.

Specifically, Rosser’s article had included the following passage: 

He [Epstein] has a license to carry a concealed weapon, once claimed to have worked for the CIA, although he now denies it – and owns properties all over America. Once he arrived at the London home of a British arms dealer bringing a gift – a New York police-issue pump-action riot gun. ‘God knows how he got it into the country,’ a friend said.”

Though Epstein denied past connections to the CIA at the time Rosser’s article was published, it is worth mentioning that Robert Maxwell — father of Ghislaine Maxwell and long-time Mossad operative — also vehemently denied his now well-documented links to Israeli intelligence until his death. Furthermore, as will be shown later in this article, Epstein and his only known billionaire “client,” Leslie Wexner, would later forge a business relationship with the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and play a major role in the airline’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1990s. During that period, two prominent Ohio officials believed that both Epstein and Wexner were working with the CIA, according to Ohio-based journalist Bob Fitrakis. 

Past claims and evidence of Epstein’s involvement with the CIA, coupled with his time as a “shadowy” financial fixer for double-asset Khashoggi, strongly suggest that, whatever Epstein was doing for Khashoggi during this time, it likely involved BCCI. According to “ The BCCI Affair ” report, Khashoggi “acted as the middleman for five Iranian arms deals for the United States, financing a number of them through BCCI” and “served as the ‘banker’ for arms shipments as the undercover scheme developed.” The report continued:

Khashoggi and [another Iran-Contra arms dealer Manucher] Ghorbanifer performed a central role for the U.S. government in connection with the Iran-Contra affair in operations that involved the direct participation of CIA personnel [and both Khashoggi and Ghorbanifer] banked at BCCI’s offices in Monte Carlo and, for both, BCCI’s services were essential as a means of providing short-term credit for sales from the U.S. through Israel to Iran.”

Adnan Khashoggi Jeffrey Epstein

Saudi arms deale Adnan Khashoggi arrives at Manhatten Federal Court, New York, April 4, 1990. Photo | AP

This connection is even more likely given the fact that Bear Stearns — Epstein’s previous employer right up until he became a financial fixer for Khashoggi and other powerful people — also worked directly with BCCI during this period. Indeed, Bear Stearns served as a broker to BCCI, a fact that remained hidden until a lengthy court battle in the U.K. concluded in 2011 and forced the government’s “Sandstorm Report” about BCCI’s activities to unredact the names of Bear Stearns and other institutions, individuals and countries that had done business with the CIA-linked bank.

Furthermore, there is the additional fact that BCCI trafficked underage girls for sex as a means of obtaining favors from and gaining leverage over powerful individuals, something in which Epstein would later become deeply involved. As was shown in Part II of this series, several individuals who were running either sexual blackmail operations involving minors or child trafficking operations were connected to CIA front companies like BCCI, other organizations connected to the Iran-Contra scandal, and several individuals close to the Reagan White House. 

The CIA director at the time, Bill Casey, was a close friend of Roy Cohn, who also ran the sexual blackmail operation involving underage boys out of Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, described in Part I of this series. According to Cohn’s long-time secretary Christine Seymour, Casey was one of Cohn’s most frequent callers.

Another fact that further suggests that Epstein had connections to BCCI is that Epstein was known to have been close to other arms dealers of the period and BCCI was frequently used specifically for covert arms deals. After the bank’s collapse in 1991, an article in Time magazine entitled “BCCI: The Dirtiest Bank of All” noted the following:

…[T]he CIA may have used B.C.C.I. as more than an undercover banker: U.S. agents collaborated with the black network in several operations, according to a B.C.C.I. black-network “officer” who is now a secret U.S. government witness. Sources have told investigators that B.C.C.I. worked closely with Israel’s spy agencies and other Western intelligence groups as well, especially in arms deals .” (emphasis added)

One of the arms dealers that Epstein apparently knew quite well was the British arms dealer Sir Douglas Leese. Leese was involved in brokering the first of a series of controversial British arms deals that involved Khashoggi , known as the Al Yamamah Deal and allegedly involving bribery of members of the Saudi royal family and top Saudi officials. In addition to Khashoggi, several of those officials and royal family members had deep ties to BCCI. 

Later iterations of that arms deal were allegedly brokered with the involvement of Prince Charles of the British royal family, and corruption investigations into Al Yamamah were later shut down by the efforts of Tony Blair as well as Prince Andrew. Leese is said to have spoken of Epstein’s “genius” and lack of morals when he introduced him to Steve Hoffenberg of Tower Financial, and soon after that introduction Hoffenberg hired Epstein. 

Two years after BCCI’s fraud-driven collapse, Tower Financial imploded in 1993 in what is still considered to be one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history. Hoffenberg later asserted in court that Epstein had been intimately involved in Tower’s shady financial practices and had called Epstein the “architect of the scam.” However, by the time Tower Financial had collapsed, Epstein was no longer working for the company. Despite Tower’s testimony and abundant evidence regarding Epstein’s role in the scheme, Epstein’s name was mysteriously dropped from the case. 

Given that Epstein allegedly received his “sweetheart deal” in 2008 as a result of having “belonged to intelligence,” Epstein’s activities in the 1980s and early 1990s suggest that his ability to avoid charges in relation to the Tower Financial Ponzi scheme may have been for similar reasons.

Though Hoffenberg claims that he met Epstein through Leese, Epstein himself claimed that he had met the convicted fraudster through John Mitchell, former attorney general under Richard Nixon. 

As was noted in Part II of this series, Mitchell was a “friend” of disgraced Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, according to Spence before his fall from grace. Spence, for much of the 1980s, ran a sexual blackmail operation in D.C. involving underage boys and had taken some of those “call boys” on midnight tours of the White House that he said had been arranged by then-National Security Adviser Donald Gregg. Spence, after his trafficking and exploitation of minors was exposed, died under mysterious circumstances. His death was quickly labeled a suicide, not unlike Jeffrey Epstein’s.

 

With Epstein and Wexner’s Help, “Spook Air” Finds a New Home

While the state of Arkansas became a hub for CIA activity during the Reagan years and the Iran-Contra scandal, another state appeared to take its place in the 1990s — Ohio. Just as Arkansas oligarch Jackson Stephens helped attract the CIA to his home state during Iran-Contra, it was also an Ohio oligarch and his close associate that helped attract the CIA to the Buckeye State. Those men were Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein, respectively.

In Part III of this series, MintPress detailed Wexner’s alleged ties to organized crime and his links to the still unsolved homicide of Columbus, Ohio lawyer Arthur Shapiro. Shapiro, who was representing Wexner’s company “The Limited” at the time of his death, was set to testify before a grand jury about tax evasion and his involvement with “questionable tax shelters.” Columbus police described the Shapiro murder as “a Mafia ‘hit’” and a suppressed police report implicated Wexner and his business associates as being involved in or benefiting from Shapiro’s death, and as having links to prominent New York-based crime syndicates.

However, Wexner and The Limited also appear to have had a relationship with the CIA. In 1995, Southern Air Transport (SAT) — a well-known front company for the CIA — relocated from Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio. First founded in the late 1940s, SAT from 1960 until 1973 was directly owned by the CIA, which sought to use the company as a cover for covert operations. After 1973, the company was placed in private hands, although all of its subsequent owners would have CIA ties, including James Bastian, a former lawyer for the CIA, who owned SAT at the time of its relocation to Ohio. 

SAT was intimately involved in the Iran-Contra affair, having been used to funnel weapons and drugs to and from the Nicaraguan Contras under the guise of delivering “humanitarian aid,” while also sending American weapons to Israel that were then sold to Iran in violation of the U.S. arms embargo. In 1986 alone, SAT transported from Texas to Israel 90 tons of TOW anti-tank missiles, which were then sold to Iran by Israel and Mossad-linked intermediaries like Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

Even though the airline’s CIA links were well known, Leslie Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to coax SAT to relocate its headquarters from Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio, a move that was realized in 1995. When Edmund James, president of James and Donohew Development Services, told the Columbus Dispatch in March 1995 that SAT was relocating to Columbus’ Rickenbacker airfield, he stated that “Southern Air’s new presence at Rickenbacker begins in April with two regularly scheduled 747 cargo flights a week from Hong Kong,” citing SAT President William Langton. “By fall, that could increase to four a week. Negotiations are underway for flights out of Rickenbacker to the Far East…Much of the Hong Kong-to-Rickenbacker cargo will be for The Limited,” Wexner’s clothing company. “This is a big story for central Ohio. It’s huge, actually,” James said at the time.

The day following the press conference, Brian Clancy, working as a cargo analyst with MergeGlobal Inc., told the Journal of Commerce that the reason for SAT’s relocation to Ohio was largely the result of the lucrative Hong Kong-to-Columbus route that SAT would run for Wexner’s company. Clancy specifically stated that the fact that “[The] Limited Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, is based in Columbus … undoubtedly contributed in large part to Southern Air’s decision.”

According to documents obtained by journalist Bob Fitrakis from the Rickenbacker Port Authority, Ohio’s government also tried to sweeten the deal to bring SAT to Columbus in order to please powerful Ohio businessmen like Wexner. Orchestrated by Governor George Voinovich’s then-Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud, the Rickenbacker Port Authority and the Ohio Department of Development created a package of several financial incentives, funded by Ohio taxpayers, to lure the airline to relocate to Ohio. The Journal of Commerce described the “generous package of incentives from the state of Ohio” as “including a 75 percent credit against its corporate tax liability for the next 10 years, a $5 million low-interest loan, and a $400,000 job-training grant.”In 1996, then-SAT spokesman David Sweet had told Fitrakis that the CIA-linked airline had only moved to Columbus because “the deal [put together by the development department] was too good to turn down.”

Though SAT had promised Ohio’s government that it would create 300 jobs in three years, it quickly laid off numerous workers and failed to construct the maintenance facility it had promised, even though it had already accepted $3.5 million in taxpayer funds for that and other projects. As the company’s financial problems mounted, Ohio’s government declined to recoup the millions in dollars it loaned the company, even after it was alleged that $32 million in the bank account of Mary Bastian, the wife of SAT’s owner and former CIA lawyer James Bastian, were actually company funds . On October 1, 1998, SAT filed for bankruptcy. It was the very same day that the CIA’s Inspector General had published a comprehensive report on the airline’s illicit involvement in drug trafficking. 

Furthermore, Fitrakis noted that in addition to Wexner the other main figures who were key in securing SAT’s relocation to Ohio were Alan D. Fiers Jr., a former chief of the CIA Central American Task Force, and retired Air Force Major General Richard Secord, head of air logistics for SAT’s covert action in Laos between 1966 and 1968, while the company was still known as Air America. Secord was also the air logistics coordinator in the illegal Contra resupply network for Oliver North during Iran-Contra. Fiers was one of the key individuals involved in Iran-Contra who was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush with the assistance of then-Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr — currently serving as attorney general in the Trump administration, and top of the chain of DOJ command in the investigation of Epstein’s death in prison — has refused to recuse himself from the investigation into Epstein’s network and his recent death.

Despite the involvement of these CIA-linked men, as well as the organized crime-linked Leslie Wexner, the then-president of SAT told the Columbus Dispatch that the airline was “no longer connected to the CIA.”

Notably, It was during this same time that Epstein exerted substantial control over Wexner’s finances; and, according to Fitrakis and his extensive reporting on Wexner from this period, it was Epstein who orchestrated logistics for Wexner’s business operations, including The Limited. As was revealed in the Arthur Shapiro murder file and in ties between SAT and The Limited, much of The Limited’s logistics involved figures and companies connected to organized crime and U.S. intelligence. It is also important to note that SAT was well-known for being a CIA front company prior to the efforts of Wexner et al. to bring the airline to Columbus, and that, a few years prior, Epstein himself had previously worked for intelligence-linked figures also involved in Iran-Contra, such as Adnan Khashoggi. 

In addition, during this time period, Epstein had already begun to live in the now infamous New York penthouse that had first been purchased by Wexner in 1989. Wexner had apparently installed CCTV and recording equipment in an odd bathroom in the home after his purchase, and never lived in the home, as was noted in Part III of this series. 

In an exclusive interview, Bob Fitrakis told MintPress that Epstein and Wexner’s involvement with SAT’s relocation to Ohio had caused suspicion among some prominent state and local officials that the two were working with U.S. intelligence. Fitrakis specifically stated that then-Ohio Inspector General David Strutz and then-Sheriff of Franklin County Earl Smith had personally told him that they believed that both Epstein and Wexner had ties to the CIA. These claims further corroborate what was first reported by Nigel Rosser in the Evening Standard that Epstein had claimed to have worked for the CIA in the past.

Fitrakis also told MintPress that Strutz had referred to SAT’s route between Hong Kong and Columbus on behalf of Wexner’s company The Limited as “the Meyer Lansky run,” as he believed that Wexner’s association with SAT was related to his ties to elements of organized crime that were connected to the Lansky-created National Crime Syndicate. In addition, Catherine Austin Fitts — the former investment banker and government official, who has extensively investigated the intersection of organized crime, black markets, Wall Street and the government in the U.S. economy — was told by an ex-CIA employee that Wexner was one of five key managers of organized crime cash flows in the United States.

As this series has noted in previous reports, Meyer Lansky was a pioneer of sexual blackmail operations and was deeply connected to both U.S. intelligence and Israel’s Mossad. Furthermore, many members of the so-called Mega Group, which Wexner co-founded, had direct ties to the Lansky crime syndicate.

 

Marc Rich’s Pardon and Israel’s “Leverage” over Clinton

Another shadowy figure with connections to the Mega Group, Mossad, U.S. intelligence and organized crime is the “fugitive financier” Marc Rich, whose pardon during the last days of the Clinton White House is both well-known and still mired in controversy years after the fact. 

Marc Rich was a commodities trader and hedge fund manager best known for founding the commodity trading and mining giant Glencore and for doing business with numerous dictatorships, often in violation of sanctions. He worked particularly closely with Israel and, according to Haaretz

In the years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the ensuing global Arab oil embargo, a period when nobody wanted to sell oil to Israel, for almost 20 years Rich was the main source of the country’s oil and energy needs.” 

It was that trading on Israel’s behalf that would ultimately lead to Rich being charged in 1983 for violating the U.S. oil embargo on Iran by selling Iranian oil to Israel. Rich was also charged with tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering and several other crimes.

Haaretz also noted that Rich’s businesses were “a source of funding for secret financial arrangements” and that “his worldwide offices, according to several reliable sources, frequently served Mossad agents, with his consent.” Rich had more direct ties to the Mossad as well. For instance, his foundation — the Rich Foundation — was run by the former Mossad agent Avner Azulay. Rich was also friendly with prominent Israel politicians, including former Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Ehud Barak, and was a frequent provider of “services” for Israeli intelligence, services he freely volunteered.

Marc Rich Jeffrey Epstein

Marc Rich, right, is pictured with Israel’s Shimon Peres in a photo from Mark Daneil Ammann’s “The King of Oil.”

According to Rich’s biographer, Daniel Ammann, Rich also fed information to U.S. intelligence but declined to give specifics. “He did not want to tell with whom he cooperated within the U.S. authorities or which branch of the U.S. government he supplied with intelligence,” Ammann said in an interview with the Daily Beast .  

One clue as to the nature of Rich’s relationship to U.S. intelligence is his apparent ties to BCCI. “The BCCI Affair” report mentions Rich as a person to investigate in relation to the bank and states :

BCCI lending to Rich in the 1980s amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Moreover, Rich’s commodities firms were used by BCCI in connection with BCCI’s involv[ement] in U.S. guarantee programs through the Department of Agriculture. The nature and extent of Rich’s relationship with BCCI requires further investigation.”

Rich was also deeply tied to the Mega Group, as he was one of the main donors to the Birthright Israel charity along with Mega Group co-founder Charles Bronfman and Mega Group member Michael Steinhardt. Steinhardt was particularly close to Rich, first meeting the commodities trader in the 1970s and then managing $3 million for Rich, Rich’s then-wife Denise, and Rich’s father-in-law from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s through his hedge fund. In the late 1990s, Steinhardt would enlist other Mega Group members, such as Edgar Bronfman, in the effort to settle the criminal charges against Rich, which eventually came to pass with Clinton’s controversial pardon in 2001. Steinhardt claimed to have come up with the idea of a presidential pardon for Rich in late 2000.

Rich’s pardon was controversial for several reasons, and many mainstream outlets asserted that it “reeked of payoff.” As the New York Post noted in 2016, in the run-up to the presidential pardon the financier’s ex-wife Denise had donated $450,000 to the fledgling Clinton Library and “over $1 million to Democratic campaigns in the Clinton era.” In addition, Rich had hired high-powered lawyers with links to powerful individuals in both the Democratic and Republican parties as well as the Clinton White House, including Jack Quinn, who has previously served as general counsel to the Clinton administration and as former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.

However, per Clinton’s own words and other supporting evidence, the main reason behind the Rich pardon was the heavy lobbying from Israeli intelligence, Israeli politicians and members of the Mega Group like Steinhardt, with the donations from Denise Rich and Quinn’s access to the president likely sweetening the deal.

Among the most ardent lobbyists for Rich’s pardon were then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, then-Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, then-former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and former Director of the Mossad Shabtai Shavit. According to Haaretz , Barak was so adamant that Clinton pardon Marc Rich that he was heard shouting at the president on at least one occasion. Former adviser to Barak, Eldad Yaniv, claimed that Barak had shouted that the pardon was “important … Not only from the financial aspect, but also because he helped the Mossad in more than one instance.”

The Israel lobbying effort had considerable help from Mega Group member Michael Steinhardt as well as Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was at the time heavily funded by Mega Group members, including Ronald Lauder and Edgar Bronfman.

There has been speculation for years that Clinton’s decision to pardon Rich may have been the result of “leverage” or blackmail that Israel had acquired on the then-president’s activities. As was noted in Part III of this report, the Mossad-linked “Mega” spy scandal broke in 1997, whereby Israeli intelligence had been targeting Clinton’s effort to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine and had sought to go to “Mega,” likely a reference to the Mega Group, to obtain a sensitive document.

In addition, Israel is known to have acquired phone conversations between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky before their affair was made public. Author Daniel Halper — relying on on-the-record interviews with former officials and hundreds of pages of documents compiled in the event that Lewinsky took legal action against Clinton — determined that Benjamin Netanyahu told Clinton that he had obtained recordings of the sexually-tinged phone conversations during the Wye Plantation talks between Israel and Palestine in 1998. Netanyahu attempted to use this information to get Clinton to pardon convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. Clinton considered pardoning Pollard but decided against it after CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign if the pardon was given.

Investigative journalist and author Gordon Thomas had made similar claims years prior and asserted that the Mossad had obtained some 30 hours of phone-sex conversations between Lewinsky and Clinton and used them as leverage. In addition, a report in Insight magazine in May 2000 claimed that Israeli intelligence had “penetrated four White House telephone lines and was able to relay real-time conversations on those lines from a remote site outside the White House directly to Israel for listening and recording.”

Those phone taps apparently went well beyond the White House, as revealed by a December 2001 investigative report by Carl Cameron for FOX News . According to Cameron’s report

[Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs] helped Bell Atlantic install new telephone lines in the White House in 1997…[and] a senior-level employee of Amdocs had a separate T1 data phone line installed from his base outside of St. Louis that was connected directly to Israel… 

[I]nvestigators are looking into whether the owner of the T1 line had a ‘real time’ capacity to intercept phone calls from both the White House and other governmen

As of 9/17/19 6:09am. Last new 9/13/19 12:36pm.

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