Category Archives: Spooks

Cold War 2.0: The tensions continue to rise


As the Obama administration draws to a close, global tensions largely dormant since the end of the Cold War near three decades ago are smoldering again, and with renewed intensity.

It.s an ominous turn, given that both apparent presidential candidates are among the most bellicose since the Cold War ended.

We begin today’s account of the latest development with RT:

Russia will take adequate measures to counter NATO’s increasingly “aggressive rhetoric,” President Vladimir Putin told MPs at the closing session of the State Duma. He called to create an international security system open to all countries.

It’s necessary to create a collective security system void of “bloc-like thinking” and open to all countries, Putin said on Wednesday in Russia’s parliament.

“Russia is ready to discuss this extremely important issue,” he said, adding that such proposals have been so far left unanswered by Western countries.

“But again, as it was at the beginning of WWII, we don’t see any positive response,” he continued. “On the contrary, NATO ups its aggressive rhetoric and aggressive actions near our borders.”

“In this environment, we must pay special attention to strengthening our country’s defense capabilities,” he concluded.

Russia plans to public positions of America’s secret spay satellites

From RT again, another provocative move:

Russia’s own data on near-Earth objects – including military satellites not covered by the open catalog of the North-American warning system NORAD – could soon be made publicly available as a comprehensive database, Russian media report.

Russia is planning to set up a free database on thousands of near-Earth objects, including those not publicly listed in open catalogs of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

NORAD doesn’t only track Santa at Christmas – its database also provides details on thousands of satellites launched, destroyed or still functioning. While the catalog does not disclose data on America’s own military or dual-use satellites (or those of allies – Japan, France, Germany and Israel among them), as Izvestia says, it does feature Russia’s defense satellites.

At a Vienna meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in mid-June, Russia proposed to create a similar UN-run database “collecting, systemizing, sharing and analyzing information on objects and events in outer space.” Such an international database would be available to any country that has capabilities in the areas of human spaceflight, launches or satellites.

And the U.S. sends spy planes to the China Seas

Another move certain to up the ante in the hot zone where provocations by the U.S., China, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam could easily tturn into armed conflict.

From the Diplomat:

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the United States Navy dispatched four U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft and about 120 military personnel to Clark Air Base, an air force base located on Luzon Island in the Philippines, according to a U.S. Seventh Fleet press release.

The four aircraft and 120 personnel arrived on June 15 for training with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) FA-50 aircraft pilots and to support U.S. and Philippine naval operations in the South China Sea, as the statement makes clear with a veiled reference to so-called freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the disputed waters.

“In addition to bilateral training missions, Growler aircraft will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law,” the press release reads.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day III: Quick call DHS. . .oh, shit


From the London Daily Mail:

Department of Homeland Security analyst ‘brought a gun, knife, pepper spray and handcuffs into work in plot to attack senior federal officials’

  • Jonathan Wienke was selected for random security screening on June 9 as he made his way into DHS headquarters in Washington DC
  • Officials discovered knife, handcuffs and pepper spray after scanning bag
  • Despite this he was still allowed inside and revolver was only discovered after a follow-up search at his desk an hour and a half later
  • Investigators believe he was plotting to attack senior federal officials
  • Wienke has been placed on leave while the investigation is carried out

Orlando’s aftermath: Three different responses


UPDATED: At the end. . .

First, from Reuters, a call to loosen the reins of the surveillance state is rebuffed:

A Republican-backed proposal in the Senate to expand the FBI’s secretive surveillance powers after the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub last week fell two votes short on Wednesday of the 60 needed to advance.

The measure was a Republican response to the massacre after a push for gun-control measures sponsored by both major U.S. parties failed earlier this week.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell switched his vote to ‘no’ at the end of the unusually long hour vote to allow him the opportunity to bring it up for consideration again.

The legislation would broaden the type of telephone and internet records the Federal Bureau of Investigation could request from companies such as the Google unit of Alphabet Inc and Verizon Communications Inc without a warrant. Opponents said it threatened civil liberties and did little to improve national security.

And from the New York Times, a move toward voluntary disclosure:

The worst mass shooting in United States history by a single perpetrator, which left 49 people dead and 53 injured, has sent the nation reeling and ignited heated conversations about firearm access, terrorism and homophobia. It has also had the incidental effect of pushing some gay people in this increasingly Latino community out of the closet.

Some had their sexuality revealed by accident: Gertrude Merced learned that her 25-year-old son, Enrique, was gay only after she heard the news of his death. Others, though, have chosen to expose their inner lives, stirred by the outpouring of support for Orlando’s gay community or wrought with sorrow and unable to keep their secrets in anymore.

>snip<

Most of the people packed into the club in the early morning on June 12 were too young to remember the early days of the AIDS crisis, when disease and tragedy exposed gay men like never before, prompting some of them on their death beds to reveal their sexuality to family and friends. But some older members of Orlando’s gay community see this post-Pulse catharsis as an echo of that time, with a notable exception.

“This time around, we’re so much further along in our own self-acceptance,” said Tom Dyer, 60, who has been chronicling Central Florida’s gay community since he founded Watermark, a local magazine for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, in 1994. Broader cultural attitudes, he added, have changed, too.

UPDATE: Just in from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

A sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives by Democratic members stretched into Wednesday night and appeared likely to continue throughout Thursday as the protesters turned to Periscope and Facebook Live to broadcast demands for a vote on legislation to restrict gun purchases by suspected terrorists.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he would not bow to the demand for a vote, and there were suggestions he would attempt to clear the House floor during the night. But Democrats said they were prepared to be arrested and many said they would spend the night in the House chamber to make sure the sit-in was not ended.

“In residency, when I was trying to be a doctor, we would stay up sometimes from 24 to 36 hours and I’ve certainly slept at nurses stations,” said Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat from Sacramento, California, who went home to grab his glasses and a toothbrush to prepare to overnight. “And I think that is the least of our problems . . . because how comfortable is that mom that lost her child in Orlando?”

It was dramatic political theater 10 days after a gunman who’d twice been investigated for links to terrorism attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, leaving 49 people dead and 53 wounded, and just one day after the Senate failed to move forward legislation intended to block suspected terrorists from purchasing weapons.

Panoptic corporate imperialism, Googled and Liked


From Dutch public television’s VPRO Backlight comes a remarkable documentary posing a fascinating question: Is the absence of digital connectivity becoming the newest luxury good, a costly product for consumption by the world’s elite?

Consider the case of Silicon Valley, where elites send their children to low-tech Montessori and Waldorf schools where they are disconnected from the web and the incessant call to the iPhone is precluded.

Consider even the case of Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire thanks to the incessant pull of the digital that has fueled the rice of his Facebook empire.

From BBC News:

A photograph of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shows tape has been used to cover his MacBook Pro’s webcam and mic.

Facebook has not responded to requests for comment about the picture, shared to celebrate Instagram reaching its 500 million monthly user milestone.

FBI director James Comey has previously said he also covers his laptop’s webcam to prevent hackers spying on him.

And digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said it regularly sold its webcam “stickers”.

Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden allege US and UK spy agencies intercepted webcam images from millions of Yahoo users around the world between 2008 and 2010.

And a section of the image in question with the tape clearly visible as a square covering the round camera aperture:

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And it’s not just digital cognoscenti like Zuckerberg who display obvious concerns about the intrusion of the digital into daily life.

One of those interviewed by VPRO is Birgitta Jónsdóttir [previously], the founder of Iceland’s Pirate Party, now leading in the polls, and the improbable yet distinctly possible pick as the country’s prime minister.

An early adapter, Jónsdóttir played a role in one of Wikileak’s most explosive releases, video of the American helicopter machine-gunning of two Reuters journalists in Iraq in 2010. The video, likely leaked by Chelsea Manning, embarrassed the U.S. government and made Jónsdóttir the target of efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies and federal prosecutors.

Our digital connectivity, she notes, is all about turning us into commodities by exploiting our deepest secrets and relationships as tools for our own exploitation.

And like Zuckberg, Jónsdóttir keeps her laptop lens covered. And she warns that a’ those “smart” connected devices in your home, especially those responding to voice commands, make every aspect of private lived vulnerable to incessant snooping, catching every cry of ecstasy and despair, and with no legislation anywhere restricting corporate use of your innermost desires to seduce your wealth away.

Evgeny Morozov, a scholar and prolific writer who focuses in the social and political implications of the digital world, notes that the drive for global digital connectivity is driven by a fusion of the imperial interests of American corporations and the Washington establishment, with the implicit demand that those corporations are free from legal liability for their actions.

Especially chilling is a brief excerpt from a speech in India by Mark Zuckerberg in furtherance of his ambition to unite that nation in a digital Webb entirely controlled by his company, and effort he never accomplished until popular opposition forced a pullback.

Especially fascinating is way folks of our own ancestry are adapting to the wireless world. Our last name is Pennsylvania Dutch, folks of the Amish and Mennonite persuasion. The documentary reveals that even the Old Order Amish, the folks who still live in gaslit houses and travel by horse and buggy, now have cell phones and computers [though the phones have no internet capability and online computer access is tightly restricted, and the built-to-order hardware comes with no video capability.

There’s much more. . .

From VPRO Backlight:

Offline is the new luxury [VPRO backlight]

Program notes:

To be online all the time and everywhere. It sounds great, but it has its drawbacks. As digital networks are closing in, there are fewer places to be really on your own. Being offline is becoming a luxury. Where can you be offline?

We are connected to the internet even in our bedrooms. It’s the ambition of companies like Google and Facebook to connect the entire world, so that we can be online all the time and everywhere. This month, Google will send balloons up into the skies over Sri Lanka to provide the island state with free Wi-Fi. On the ground, more and more devices communicate through the so-called Internet-of-Things. We are going to be ‘glass citizens’ in a transparent house, connected for life to a wireless intravenous drip and traced anywhere via our smartphones. What does it mean, this shift to 100 percent connectibility of the entire planet?

A graphic illustration of ‘smart power’ in action


Smart power is the essence of the Hilliary Clinton foreign policy, the execution of coups and pother acts of deep politics through the application of coercive force through the use of indigenous opposition forces or through the application of economic extortion.

If you want to see smart power in action, you needn’t cast your gaze on Libya and Syria, where Hillary’s ploys as secretary of state have erupted in violence that’s now crossed the Atlantic.

No, just look closer to home, where the U.S. has been playing the smart power game for a century, most recently under the auspices of institutions like the Central Intelligence Agency, the Agency for International Development, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

teleSUR English offers some case histories:

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Seymour Hersh: When Osama died, Obama lied


America’s foremost investigative journalist sits down with a Pakistani writer to talk about the extrajudicial murder of Osama bin Laden, a killing Hersh rightly describes as a war crime.

Their half-hour talk [a second follows next week] covers the reality of the bin Laden murder, the subervience of American journalists to the Obama White House, and much more.

From teleSUR English:

Global Empire – The World According to Seymour Hersh

Program notes:

Tariq Ali talks to investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, about the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 and describes what the Americans and Pakistanis knew about his whereabouts.

Edward Bernays, propaganda, and conspiracy


Few left a deeper and more sinister mark on the history of the 20th Century than Edward Bernays [previously], the man who played a critical role in the molding of public opinion, devising strategies that would be employed by corporations, political parties, governments, and intelligence agencies to mold and shape public opinion.

In this latest episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin’s series for teleSUR English, New York University Professor of Media, Culture and Communication Mark Crispin Miller talks with Martin about Bernays and the legacy he left.

Miller’s perceptions about the harnessing of the mainstream media into a tool for shaping public sentiment and behavior contrary to the interests of the many for the profit of the few, often with lethal impact, goes a long way toward explaining many of tragedies of the world around us.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Propaganda and the Engineering of Consent

Program notes:

With thousands of advertisements seen by Americans everyday, and a corporate media that reinforces the needs of Empire, propaganda in the U.S. is more pervasive and effective than ever before.

The manipulation of public opinion through suggestion can be traced back to the father of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, who discovered that preying on the subconscious mind was the best way to sell products people don’t need, and wars people don’t want.

To get a deeper understanding of how propaganda functions in today’s society, Abby Martin interviews Dr. Mark Crispin Miller, professor of Media Studies at New York University.