Category Archives: USA

Trump is right about election rigging… and for all the wrong reasons!

This is what Donald Trump has said in a Twitter stream today:

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Investigative journalist Greg Palast is a specialist in election fraud who actually reported for the BBC on the US elections during the Bush years. He has also written for the Guardian and Rolling Stone magazine. This is what Palast told Between The Lines’ presenter Scott Harris during an interview back in April this year:

According to an MIT-Caltech study, which is the gold standard for reviewing absentee ballots, they conservatively calculated 22 percent of mail-in ballots are never counted. Twenty-two percent — well over one out of five. Now, if it were random, it obviously wouldn’t affect the election. But it’s overwhelmingly young voters, voters of color. That means we’ll have 25 million votes lost in November. Twenty-five million ballots will be lost. You’re gonna have millions and millions and millions of people who will never get their ballot, or there’ll be sent the card “Do you want an absentee ballot?” They’ll never get that card. If you’re a student, you moved from one dorm room to the next. If you’re Hispanic, you’ll get a card in English, that looks like junk mail and you throw it away and you’re gonna lose your vote.

It’s overwhelmingly young people, voters of color, and low-income people‚ in other words, Democrats who will be losing their votes by the millions with mail-in ballots. And it’s especially true in the swing states where the GOP has control of the system, how people vote, etc. We just saw this in the extreme in Wisconsin where the GOP legislature refused to delay the election to June 9 as requested by the (Democratic) governor and requested by the governor’s order. And the U.S. Supreme Court has basically said, “Yeah, if you don’t send in your ballot or show up to vote – and how do you do that? Your vote doesn’t count.” But that’s a dry run for November. So if we go to all-in for mail-in balloting, unless we do something to fix this system, it’s as good as over.

Click here to listen to the broadcast or read a full transcript of the interview on Greg Palast’s official website.

And here is Palast last week offering an updated review of the ‘seminal MIT study’, Losing Votes by Mail:

According to the MIT study, most of the millions of absentee ballot lost are because one in nine voters never receive their ballot or it is received too late. Again, the “late” ballots are overwhelmingly slow-mailed to voters of color.

I spoke to an African-American voter who requested ballots for her family 45 days before the Georgia primary—and her husband’s ballot arrived on June 10. The Georgia Primary was June 9. Unsophisticated voter who screwed up? Hardly, this is Andrea Young, voting rights attorney and Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia.

If they can shaft voting rights attorneys out of their vote, others don’t stand a chance.

One of the main reasons voters don’t get their ballots is that, in the past two years, 16.7 million voters have been purged, erased from the voter rolls and most don’t know it. It could be you. I can tell you it was me: I looked up Greg Palast on my Secretary of State’s website (you should all do that) and it said, “No such voter.”

And that’s how Trump Stole 2020—and 2016. The big swing state of Ohio, from 2012 to 2016, swung from a big Obama victory …to Trump. WTF?

One secret of the Ohio’s flip to red is that the Republican Secretary of State in the month before the 2016 presidential election, simply refused to send absentee ballot application cards to 1,035,795 voters, those on the absurdly, inaccurately named “inactive” or “mover” lists. Voters lost their rights—without notice. The purge list was 2-to-1 Democrat.

With 16.7 million voters erased from the registration rolls in the past two years, millions will say, Where the hell is my ballot? Sorry: they’ll be S.O.L. (Google that.)

The Palast Investigations team went through several purge lists and we found that one in seven African-Americans and one in eight LatinX and Asian-American voters in these states were on the hit lists.

You can call it a “flawed” system, but it’s a fraud system, American Apartheid.

Click here to read the full article on Greg Palast’s official website.

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Additional:

On August 15th, Greg Palast was invited on RT’s Keiser Report. He talked to Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert about how vote suppression schemes are pushed by both parties, especially Republicans who have knocked millions of people off the voter rolls in the past few years – black American males being the most likely to be challenged for ID at the voting booth, while many new residency requirements deliberately target students. They also discussed related issues covered in his new book, How Trump Stole 2020, including meme warfare, hanging chads, banana republics’ and failed voting apps, and finally look at ways to ‘steal the election back’:

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Update: The SECRET Purpose of Trump’s Threat to Delay the Vote

In response to Trump’s tweets, Greg Palast and Zach D. Roberts wrote the following:

In America, elections aren’t stolen like they’re stolen in some right-wing fever dream of a movie. There’s no military junta marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, no back alley assassinations like in an episode of House of Cards, no Russians needed.

They’re stolen in the back rooms of power by men in Brooks Brother suits, they’re stolen using Excel spreadsheets, they’re stolen by votes simply not being counted. […]

Now three months away from the next Presidential election, Donald Trump is sending out missives to his base:  He’s whipping up his army of Boogaloo bozos in Hawaiian shirts into a frenzy over fraudulent mail-in votes.  No, we won’t get a million bogus ballots from Bolivia, but the facts don’t matter.

So what’s the point?  The point is not to intimidate voters; no one’s scared of these Trumpito pinheads.  Rather, the point is to place “poll watchers” who will challenge every single mail-in vote.  This is what they did in Michigan (See Michigan Michigass) to prevent the counting of 75,355 ballots in Detroit—and that gave Trump a “victory margin” of 10,000 to take Michigan and the White House.

Michigan 2016 will be USA 2020 unless we take back our ballots.

Click here to read the full article also published on July 30th

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Further update: The ‘Friday night massacre’ of US postal service

On August 10th Democracy Now! ran a report asking whether Trump is sabotaging the US postal service ahead of the election to derail mail-in voting:

Democratic lawmakers in Washington are accusing the Trump administration of sabotaging the United States Postal Service ahead of November’s election, when a record number of votes are expected to be cast by mail. On Friday, the nation’s new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy shook up the leadership of the agency in a move that critics say will give DeJoy more power. Twenty-three Postal Service executives were reassigned or fired in the restructuring.

Prior to becoming postmaster general, DeJoy was a top Republican donor. He had donated more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund and had been in charge of fundraising for the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Since taking office, DeJoy has instituted a number of cost-cutting measures that have slowed down the delivery of the mail. There’s now a days-long backlog of mail across the United States. This comes as President Trump continues to attack mail-in voting, claiming the post office can’t handle an increase in ballots. Democratic Congressmember Gerry Connolly of Virginia accused DeJoy of engaging in, quote, “deliberate sabotage to disrupt mail service on the eve of the election.” Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon criticized restructuring of the agency.

Rep. Peter Defazio: Today we had the Friday night massacre. He fired all the senior service postal executives, the people who have run the day-to-day operations of the post office. This is nothing less than Donald Trump and his political cronies trying to steal the election by blocking or delaying vote-by-mail. Trump has sued states to try and block vote-by-mail. That won’t work. But he’s going to try and stop the mail from being delivered. This is outrageous.

Amy Goodman spoke with Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union, who told her:

First, let me just say this: Anything, any policy that slows down the mail runs counter to everything a postal worker stands for, and we’re completely opposed to these policies that are delaying mail. And we’ve let this new postmaster general know that, and we’ve done it with vehemence. […]

Now, the Friday night or the Friday massacre, I’m more focused on the policies than who’s running what and who’s assigned to what. And I think that’s where we have to look. The most significant thing, Amy, on Friday, in my opinion, was the new postmaster general was absolutely silent on the most pressing issue facing the public U.S. Postal Service, and that is Congress coming through with stimulus financial relief due to the impact of the pandemic on the Postal Service. So, the House of Representatives has passed $25 billion of COVID-related relief to get us through this emergency. Normally there’s no taxpayer dollars. This is one exception. It’s now in the hands of the Senate and this administration. It’s an ask of the Postal Board of Governors, a unanimous ask. In March, Congress and this administration took care of the private side to the tune of over $500 billion. It’s about time that Congress took care of the public side, including the United States Postal Service. And there was absolute silence on that key question facing the people this country right now in terms of what’s going to happen to their public postal services.

Asked whether he thought President Trump was “trying to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service in the lead-up to the election”, Mark Dimondstein replied:

Well, I think we can let President Donald Trump speak for himself on this question. On June 28th, Amy, the Office of Management Budget of the White House put out, in writing, a proposal to privatize — i.e. break up — the Postal Service and sell it to private corporations, where they can then make private profit. And, of course, whether people get postal services at all will then depend on who they are, where they live, and how much it would cost, if they can even get services at all, because somebody would have to then be able to make or want to make a quick buck. So, it’s in writing. It is their plan.

So we’re very concerned that any policies that undermine and degrade service to the people of this country have a goal of undermining the public support for the Postal Service. You can’t privatize a public Postal Service that people trust, people love. Ninety-one percent of the people of the country, in a recent Pew Research poll, rated the post office favorably, at 91%. It’s the most popular brand, the number one brand, during this COVID pandemic. That’s an indication of how much people appreciate the role of postal workers, how much people trust it. So, the only way you can get to privatization is if you undermine people’s confidence and support in the institution. And anything that slows down the mail does that.

Click here to read the full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

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 The contents of Trump’s Twitter stream can also be read below:

With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???

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Mail-In Voting is already proving to be a catastrophic disaster. Even testing areas are way off. The Dems talk of foreign influence in voting, but they know that Mail-In Voting is an easy way for foreign countries to enter the race. Even beyond that, there’s no accurate count!

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New York Mail-In voting is in a disastrous state of condition. Votes from many weeks ago are missing – a total mess. They have no idea what is going on. Rigged Election. I told you so. Same thing would happen, but on massive scale, with USA. Fake News refuses to report!

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Filed under election fraud, Greg Palast, Max Keiser, USA

how the Afghan ‘Bountygate’ hoax deflects from the dirty truth

On June 26th, The New York Times ran a sensational story claiming that as its headline announces in bold “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says”.

This first NYT report (one of many) begins:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Continuing:

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The first thing to note here is that the allegation itself has historical precedence:

Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and finance the mujahideen (jihadists) in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989

Quoted above is the opening passage to the current Wikipedia entry on Operation Cyclone: a clandestine Cold War initiative led by Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, which cost more than $20 billion in U.S. funds. What the US did in the eighties is therefore precisely what Moscow is accused of doing by these ‘sources’ and the NYT today.

The next thing to note is the absence of evidence to back this purported ‘intelligence’ and exceedingly vague claim that bounties were paid not to the Taliban but to “Taliban-linked militants”. The NYT does however shed interesting light on the origins of the claim:

The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals. 1

“Interrogations” has become a familiar euphemism in our post-9/11 age, and I shall return to consider its meaning in this context shortly.

In the following week, the NYT embroidered its “suspicions of Russian bounties” (as one headline begins) with a series of follow-up pieces. To lend weight to otherwise unsubstantiated claims, evidence was now presented of sizeable transfers of money purportedly traceable to Russia:

American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account, evidence that supported their conclusion that Russia covertly offered bounties for killing U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, according to three officials familiar with the intelligence. […]

The intercepts bolstered the findings gleaned from the interrogations, helping reduce an earlier disagreement among intelligence analysts and agencies over the reliability of the detainees. The disclosures further undercut White House officials’ claim that the intelligence was too uncertain to brief President Trump. In fact, the information was provided to him in his daily written brief in late February, two officials have said. 2

This follow-up piece that appeared on June 30th proceeds from a byline with no less than five credited authors! (Safety in numbers?) In total, nine separate correspondents were seconded to work on this quickly expanding series of NYT ‘Bountygate’ articles; the account of events constantly revised as the dramatic “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops” claim was gradually walked back over the course of a few days.

As investigative journalist Gareth Porter wrote in a detailed rebuttal of the ‘Bountygate’ story:

[S]ubsequent reporting revealed that the “US intelligence reports” about a Russian plot to distribute bounties through Afghan middlemen were not generated by US intelligence at all.

Regarding the specific allegation of money transfers to “Taliban-linked militants”, Porter continues:

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

The Times also disclosed that the information provided by “captured militants and criminals” under “interrogation” had been the main source of suspicion of a Russian bounty scheme in Afghanistan. But those “militants and criminals” turned out to be thirteen relatives and business associates of the businessman whose house was raided.

While on the subject of “interrogation”, Porter adds:

Furthermore, contrary to the initial report by the Times, those raids had actually been carried out exclusively by the Afghan intelligence service known as the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The Times disclosed this on July 1. Indeed, the interrogation of those detained in the raids was carried out by the NDS, which explains why the Times reporting referred repeatedly to “interrogations” without ever explaining who actually did the questioning.

Given the notorious record of the NDS, it must be assumed that its interrogators used torture or at least the threat of it to obtain accounts from the detainees that would support the Afghan government’s narrative. Both the Toronto Globe and Mail and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have documented as recently as 2019 the frequent use of torture by the NDS to obtain information from detainees. 3

Porter’s analysis is assiduous and I very much encourage readers to follow the link to his full article entitled “How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies” by The Grayzone.

On Saturday 11th, ‘Red Lines’ host Anya Parampil spoke with Gareth Porter about his latest report. Porter explains why the Afghan regime was so eager to concoct a story in fears that Trump was ready to pull out US troops to boost his own poll ratings:

But leaving aside these bogus ‘Bountygate’ claims cooked up to embarrass Putin and Trump (already joined at the hip thanks to the ‘Russiagate’ hysteria) and thereby apply leverage to “keep US troops entrenched in Afghanistan” as Porter puts it, there is actually far more to this sordid tale. In fact substantiated allegations do exist that the Taliban has been paid off in order to keep the war in Afghanistan going: evidence that forms the basis for a lawsuit. Those presently in the dock are not based in Moscow however, but representatives of businesses including US companies with their own vested interests in prolonging the war:

Nearly 400 people who were either wounded while serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan or are family members of service members who died in the conflict sued a group of companies on Friday they say helped fund attacks against Americans by making protection payments to the Taliban.

“Defendants supported the Taliban for a simple reason: Defendants were all large Western companies with lucrative businesses in post-9/11 Afghanistan, and they all paid the Taliban to refrain from attacking their business interests,” the 288-page complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday states. “Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an al-Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans.”

From a report published by Courthouse News Service published in late December, which continues:

The companies had significant interests to protect. One of the named defendants, the South African telecom firm MTN, was the largest cell-service provider in the country, while the other companies either had government development contracts or security deals.

“Defendants decided that buying off the terrorists was the most efficient way to operate their businesses while managing their own security risks – even though doing so jeopardized other American lives,” the complaint states. […]

The companies had significant interests to protect. One of the named defendants, the South African telecom firm MTN, was the largest cell-service provider in the country, while the other companies either had government development contracts or security deals.

“Defendants decided that buying off the terrorists was the most efficient way to operate their businesses while managing their own security risks – even though doing so jeopardized other American lives,” the complaint states. 4

Click here to read the full report entitled “US Contractors Accused of Funding Taliban Attacks Against American Troops”.

And here to read a report by NPR.

Hat tip to Scott Creighton of Nomadic Everyman.

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Update:

While the military is investigating the allegations, Mark Miley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says there’s no proof that Russian payments led to any US deaths. The National Security Agency says it found no communications intelligence supporting the bounty claim.

Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., head of the US Central Command, says he’s not convinced that American troops died as a result of Russian bounties.

“I just didn’t find that there was a causative link there,” he tells The Washington Post.

From an article entitled “Russia Bounty Story Falls Flat” written by Reese Erlich, published in Antiwar.com on July 18th.

The piece goes on:

Matthew Hoh, who worked for the State Department in Afghanistan and is now a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy, tells me that the reports of Russian bounties likely originated with the Afghanistan intelligence agency.

“The mention of Russia was a key word,” says Hoh. CIA officials fast-tracked the Afghan reports. They argued that Russia’s interference, and Trump’s failure to respond, only emboldens the Russians. […]

Hoh says the alleged bounties make no sense politically or militarily. Last year, he says, “The Taliban didn’t need any incentives to kill Americans.” And this year, it has stopped all attacks on US forces as part of the February agreement.

Adding:

“There’s an entire infrastructure influencing policy,” says Hoh, who had an inside seat during his years with the government.

The Deep State is not monolithic, he cautions. “You won’t find a backroom with guys smoking cigars. But there is a notion of US primacy and a bent towards military intervention.”

And that’s what the current Russia-Taliban scandal is all about: An unreliable Afghan report is blown into a national controversy in hopes of forcing the White House to cancel the Afghan troop withdrawal. Demonizing Russia (along with China and Iran) also justifies revamping the US nuclear arsenal and building advanced fighter jets that can’t fly.

“It’s Russia hysteria,” says Hoh.

Click here to read Reese Erlich’s full article at Antiwar.com.

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1 From an article entitled “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says” written by Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt & Michael Schwirtz, published in The new York Times on June 26th 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/politics/russia-afghanistan-bounties.html

2 From an article entitled “Suspicions of Russian Bounties Were Bolstered by Data on Financial Transfers” written by Charlie Savage, Mujib Mashal, Rukmini Callimachi, Eric Schmitt & Adam Goldman, published in The New York Times on June 30, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/30/us/politics/russian-bounties-afghanistan-intelligence.html

3 From an article entitled “How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies” written by Gareth Porter, published in The Grayzone on July 7, 2020. https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/07/pentagon-afghan-bountygate-us-intelligence-agencies/

4 From an article entitled “US Contractors Accused of Funding Taliban Attacks Against American Troops” written by Tim Ryan, published in Courthouse News Service on December 27, 2019. https://www.courthousenews.com/us-contractors-accused-of-funding-taliban-attacks-against-american-troops/

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Filed under Afghanistan, al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, analysis & opinion, Russia, USA

open letter signed by 40+ rights groups calls for UK government to free Julian Assange

Dozens of press freedom, human rights, and privacy rights organizations across five continents have co-signed an open letter to the U.K. Government calling for the immediate release of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The publisher, who turns 49 years old today in HMP Belmarsh, is facing extradition to the United States where he has been indicted under the Espionage Act for WikiLeaks’ 2010-11 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diaries, and State Department cables. If convicted, Mr Assange would face up to 175 years in prison, “tantamount to a death sentence.”

Click here to read the full press release published today by Don’t Extradite Assange, the official website supporting his case.

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The letter is reprinted in full below:

Dear Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP [Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor],

On 8 June 2020, responding to a question in the House of Lords about the United Kingdom’s stance regarding the protection of journalists and press freedoms, Minister of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said, “Media freedom is vital to open societies. Journalists must be able to investigate and report without undue interference”.

We, the undersigned, agree with this statement and call on the UK government to uphold its commitment to press freedom in its own country. At the time of Lord Ahmad’s remarks, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had been imprisoned on remand in the high-security HMP Belmarsh for more than a year as he faces extradition to the United States on charges of publishing. We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange from prison immediately and to block his extradition to the US.

The US government has indicted Mr Assange on 18 counts for obtaining, possessing, conspiring to publish and for publishing classified information. The indictment contains 17 count sunder the Espionage Act of 1917 and one charge of conspiring (with a source) to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which uses Espionage Act language. This is the first ever use of such charges for the publication of truthful information in the public interest, and it represents a gravely dangerous attempt to criminalise journalist-source communications and the publication by journalists of classified information, regardless of the newsworthiness of the information and incomplete disregard of the public’s right to know.

On 24 June 2020, the US Department of Justice issued a second superseding indictment against Mr Assange, adding no new charges but expanding on the charge for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. This new indictment employs a selective and misleading narrative in an attempt to portray Mr Assange’s actions as nefarious and conspiratorial rather than as contributions to public interest reporting.

The charges against Mr Assange carry a potential maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. Sending Mr Assange to the US, where a conviction is a near certainty, is tantamount to a death sentence.

This is an unprecedented escalation of an already disturbing assault on journalism in the US, where President Donald Trump has referred to the news media as the “enemy of the people”. Whereas previous presidents have prosecuted whistleblowers and other journalistic sources under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, the Trump Administration has taken the further step of going after the publisher.

Mr Assange himself has been persecuted for publishing for nearly a decade. In 2012, with fears of a US prosecution that later proved prescient, Mr Assange sought and was granted asylum from the government of Ecuador, and he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Because the UK declined to guarantee Mr Assange wouldn’t be extradited to the US, the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Mr Assange’s detention was indeed arbitrary and called on the UK to “immediately [allow] Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London”.

President Obama’s administration prosecuted US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning for disclosing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks on the US’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables and files on inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison. But the administration, which had empanelled a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks as early as 2010, explicitly decided not to prosecute Mr Assange due to what it termed the “New York Times problem.” As the Washington Post explained in November 2013, “If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper”.

When President Trump came to power, then-Attorney General of the US Jeff Sessions announced that prosecuting Assange would be a “priority”, despite the fact that no new evidence or information had come to light in the case. In April 2017, in a startling speech against WikiLeaks’ constitutional right to publish, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo declared WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and said, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges”.

On 11 April 2019, Ecuador illegally terminated Mr Assange’s diplomatic asylum in violation of the Geneva Refugee Convention and invited the British police into their embassy, where he was immediately arrested at the request of the US. Mr Assange served a staggering 50 weeks in prison for a bail violation, but when that sentence ended in September 2019, he was not released. Mr Assange continues to be detained at HMP Belmarsh, now solely at the behest of the US.

Even before the lockdown initiated by the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Assange has been held in conditions approaching solitary confinement, confined to his cell more than 22 hours a day. Now under containment measures, Mr Assange is even more isolated, and he hasn’t seen his own children in several months. Furthermore, Mr Assange has been allowed extremely limited access to his lawyers and documents, severely hampering his ability to participate in his own legal defence. Following a visit to HMP Belmarsh accompanied by medical doctors in May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer determined that Mr Assange had endured psychological torture.

Mr Assange’s extradition hearing, which commenced for one week in February 2020 and is scheduled to continue for three more weeks, is set to resume in September. But the coronavirus, which has reportedly already killed at least one fellow inmate at HMP Belmarsh and which continues to spread through prisons at an alarming rate, puts the health and well-being of Mr Assange, who suffers from a chronic lung condition that makes him especially vulnerable to Covid-19, at serious risk.

The continued persecution of Mr Assange is contributing to a deterioration of press freedom in the UK and is serving to tarnish the UK’s international image. Reporters Without Borders cited the disproportionate sentencing of Mr Assange to 50 weeks in prison for breaking bail, the Home Office’s decision to greenlight the US extradition request, and Mr Assange’s continued detention as factors in the UK’s decline in ranking to 35th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange without further delay and block his extradition to the US – a measure that could save Mr Assange’s life and preserve the press freedom that the UK has committed to championing globally.

Signed:

Nathan Fuller, Executive Director, Courage Foundation

Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Adil Soz,  International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary – International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

Archie Law, Chair Sydney Peace Foundation

Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International

Christine McKenzie, President, PEN Melbourne

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN

Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President, PEN Norway

Lasantha De Silva, Freed Media Movement

Marcus Strom, President, MEAA Media, Australia

Mark Isaacs, President of PEN International Sydney

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Mousa Rimawi, Director, MADA- the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms

Naomi Colvin, UK/Ireland Programme Director, Blueprint for Free Speech

Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice President, German PEN

Rev Tim Costello AO, Director of Ethical Voice

Robert Wood, Chair, PEN Perth

Ruth Smeeth, Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19

Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch

William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative, Association of European Journalists Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa)

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bytes for All (B4A)

Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)

The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP-Liberia)

The Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ)

Free Media Movement Sri Lanka

Freedom Forum Nepal

IFoX / Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey

International Association of Democratic Lawyers

International Press Centre (IPC)

The International Press Institute (IPI)

Media Foundation for West Africa

Mediacentar Sarajevo

National Lawyers Guild International Committee

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Open Letter Calling To Free WikiLeaks Publisher Julian Assange

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Additional:

Yesterday, The Grayzone’s ‘Red Lines’ host Anya Parampil spoke with Kevin Gosztola, an editor with Shadowproof Media and co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure Podcast, about the latest indictment handed down against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The new indictment does not levy any additional charges against Assange, so what purpose does it serve?

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On July 14th, Craig Murray posted an article entitled “Damage to the Soul” in which he explains at length how the second indictment against Assange artfully opens the way for a prosecution on charges entirely unrelated to those cited for his extradition. As Murray says:

“To have extradition decided on the merits of one indictment when the accused actually faces another is an outrage. To change the indictment long after the hearing is underway and defence evidence has been seen is an outrage. The lack of media outrage is an outrage.”

I have reproduced Murray’s piece in full below:

The imprisonment of Julian Assange has been a catalogue of gross injustice heaped upon gross injustice, while a complicit media and indoctrinated population looks the other way. In a truly extraordinary twist, Assange is now being extradited on the basis of an indictment served in the UK, which is substantially different to the actual indictment he now faces in Virginia if extradited.

The Assange hearing was adjourned after its first full week, and its resumption has since been delayed by coronavirus. In that first full week, both the prosecution and the defence outlined their legal arguments over the indictment. As I reported in detail to an audience of millions, Assange’s legal team fairly well demolished the key arguments of the prosecution during that hearing.

This extract from my report of the Defence case is of particular relevance to what has since happened:

For the defence, Mark Summers QC stated that the USA charges were entirely dependent on three factual accusations of Assange behviour:

1) Assange helped Manning to decode a hash key to access classified material.
Summers stated this was a provably false allegation from the evidence of the Manning court-martial.

2) Assange solicited the material from Manning
Summers stated this was provably wrong from information available to the public

3) Assange knowingly put lives at risk
Summers stated this was provably wrong both from publicly available information and from specific involvement of the US government.

In summary, Summers stated the US government knew that the allegations being made were false as to fact, and they were demonstrably made in bad faith. This was therefore an abuse of process which should lead to dismissal of the extradition request. He described the above three counts as “rubbish, rubbish and rubbish”.

Summers then walked through the facts of the case. He said the charges from the USA divide the materials leaked by Manning to Wikileaks into three categories:

  1. a) Diplomatic Cables
    b) Guantanamo detainee assessment briefs
    c) Iraq War rules of engagement
    d) Afghan and Iraqi war logs

Summers then methodically went through a), b), c) and d) relating each in turn to alleged behaviours 1), 2) and 3), making twelve counts of explanation and exposition in all. This comprehensive account took some four hours and I shall not attempt to capture it here. I will rather give highlights, but will relate occasionally to the alleged behaviour number and/or the alleged materials letter. I hope you follow that – it took me some time to do so!

On 1) Summers at great length demonstrated conclusively that Manning had access to each material a) b) c) d) provided to Wikileaks without needing any code from Assange, and had that access before ever contacting Assange. Nor had Manning needed a code to conceal her identity as the prosecution alleged – the database for intelligence analysts Manning could access – as could thousands of others – did not require a username or password to access it from a work military computer. Summers quoted testimony of several officers from Manning’s court-martial to confirm this. Nor would breaking the systems admin code on the system give Manning access to any additional classified databases. Summers quoted evidence from the Manning court-martial, where this had been accepted, that the reason Manning wanted to get in to systems admin was to allow soldiers to put their video-games and movies on their government laptops, which in fact happened frequently.

Magistrate Baraitser twice made major interruptions. She observed that if Chelsea Manning did not know she could not be traced as the user who downloaded the databases, she might have sought Assange’s assistance to crack a code to conceal her identity from ignorance she did not need to do that, and to assist would still be an offence by Assange.

Summers pointed out that Manning knew that she did not need a username and password, because she actually accessed all the materials without one. Baraitser replied that this did not constitute proof she knew she could not be traced. Summers said in logic it made no sense to argue that she was seeking a code to conceal her user ID and password, where there was no user ID and password. Baraitser replied again he could not prove that. At this point Summers became somewhat testy and short with Baraitser, and took her through the court martial evidence again. Of which more…

Baraitser also made the point that even if Assange were helping Manning to crack an admin code, even if it did not enable Manning to access any more databases, that still was unauthorised use and would constitute the crime of aiding and abetting computer misuse, even if for an innocent purpose.

Now while there is no evidence that judge Baraitser is giving any serious consideration to the defence case, what this has done is show the prosecutors the holes in their argument which would cause them serious problems should they get Julian to trial in the United States. In particular, they are wary of the strong freedom of speech protections in the US constitution and so are desperate to portray Julian as a hacker, and not a journalist. But, as you can see above, their case for this is not looking strong.

So the prosecution needed a different case. They have therefore entirely changed the indictment against Julian in Virginia, and brought in a superseding indictment.

As you can see, this is about switching to charges firmly grounded in “hacking”, rather than in publishing leaks about appalling American war crimes. The new indictment is based on the evidence of a “supergrass”, Sigurdur Thordarson, who was acting a paid informant to the FBI during his contact with Wikileaks.

Thordarson is fond of money and is a serial criminal. He was convicted on 22 December 2014 by Reykjanes District Court in Iceland of stealing over US $40,000 and over 13,000 euro from Wikileaks “Sunshine Press” accounts by forging documents in the name of Julian Assange, and given a two year jail sentence. Thordarson is also a convicted sex offender, and was convicted after being turned in to the police by Julian Assange, who found the evidence – including of offences involving a minor – on Thordarson’s computer.

There appears scope to doubt the motives and credentials of the FBI’s supergrass.

The FBI have had Thordarson’s “Evidence” against Assange since long before the closing date for submissions in the extradition hearing, which was June 19th 2019. That they now feel the need to deploy this rather desperate stuff is a good sign of how they feel the extradition hearing has gone so far, as an indicator of the prospects of a successful prosecution in the USA.

This leaves the UK extradition in a state of absolute farce. I was involved in discussion with Wikileaks about what would happen when the supervising indictment was introduced at the procedural hearing last month. It ought not to have been accepted – it is over a year since the closing date, and a week of opening arguments on the old indictment have already been heard. The new indictment is plainly designed to redress flaws in the old one exposed at the hearing.

The superseding indictment also is designed to counter defence witness affidavits which have been disclosed to the prosecution, including expert witness testimony which refutes the indictment on Assange’s alleged hacking assistance to Manning – until now the sole ground of the “hacking” accusation. This switch, we averred, was an outrageous proposition. Was the whole hearing to start again on the basis of the new indictment?

Then, to our amazement, the prosecution did not put forward the new indictment at the procedural hearing at all. To avoid these problems, it appears they are content to allow the extradition hearing to go ahead on the old indictment, when that is not in fact the indictment which awaits Assange in the United States. This is utterly outrageous. The prosecution will argue that the actual espionage charges themselves have not changed. But it is the indictment which forms the basis of the extradition hearing and the different indictment which would form the basis of any US prosecution.

To have extradition decided on the merits of one indictment when the accused actually faces another is an outrage. To change the indictment long after the hearing is underway and defence evidence has been seen is an outrage. The lack of media outrage is an outrage.

None of which will come as any shock to those of us who have been paying attention. We have to continue to build public consciousness of the fact that the annihilation of a journalist for exposing war crimes, based on a catalogue of state lies and dodgy procedure, is not an act that the state can undertake without damage to the very soul of the nation.

Click here to read the same article on Craig Murray’s official website.

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The United States government expanded their indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to criminalize the assistance WikiLeaks provided to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden when staff helped him leave Hong Kong.

Sarah Harrison, who was a section editor for WikiLeaks, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former spokesperson, and Jacob Appelbaum, a digital activist who represented WikiLeaks at conferences, are targeted as “co-conspirators” in the indictment [PDF], though neither have been charged with offenses.

No charges were added, however, it significantly expands the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge and accuses Assange of conspiring with “hackers” affiliated with “Anonymous,” “LulzSec,” “AntiSec,” and “Gnosis.”

From an article entitled “US Government Expands Assange Indictment to Criminalize Assistance Provided to Edward Snowden, written by Kevin Gosztola, published in Shadowproof on June 25, 2020. https://shadowproof.com/2020/06/25/assange-indictment-wikileaks-staff-criminalized-help-snowden/

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Craig Murray, internet freedom, USA

Whitney Webb’s Dark Winter’s tale of smallpox, Amerithrax and Covid-19

Is the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 a naturally occurring variant or was it deliberately engineered? The question is straightforward and finally there can only be one answer. However, governments in the West and the media seem determined to have it both ways. On the one hand they have repeatedly denounced reports that Covid-19 may be a bioweapon as “fake news”, discrediting sources as “conspiracy theorists”, while on the other hand, they are slowly planting the idea that the virus may indeed have escaped from a top level biosafety (BSL-4) lab in Wuhan.

As far back as April 7th, Sky News Australia was already muddying the waters with a news story entitled “Evidence mounts COVID-19 came from a lab in Wuhan”. The evidence it presents is scant to say the least and the supposed “revelation” that “bat was never a food source in Wuhan” was not a revelation at all, but an established fact. Host of the show, Andrew Bolt, leaps from here, however, to the conclusion that “‘a nearby laboratory just 300 metres from the market’ was more likely responsible for the outbreak.” While “another nearby lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, bragged about discovering and identifying ‘a large number of new bat and rodent viruses’”

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… But it’s not only Sky News Australia that can change their tune and legitimise the bioweapon theory of Covid-19, although only ever to point an accusing finger at China. Here is a report from yesterday’s BBC news:

This is disturbing. When two accounts of a single event are mutually contradictory, the alternating dissemination of both involves the audience in an act of doublethink. As Orwell, who coined the term, understood perfectly well: doublethink is a corrosive process of indoctrination that attacks and undermines one’s own memories and sense of reality. In short, it is a powerful method for mind control.

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Background: foreknowledge and the war of words

In a report from April, investigative journalist Pepe Escobar asks, “what U.S. intel really knew then about what would later be identified as Sars-Cov-2”?

He continues:

The gold standard remains the ABC News report according to which intel collected in November 2019 by the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), a subsidiary of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was already warning about a new virulent contagion getting out of hand in Wuhan, based on “detailed analysis of intercepted communications and satellite imagery”.

An unnamed source told ABC, “analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event”, adding the intel was “briefed multiple times” to the DIA, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even the White House.

The Pentagon then issued a retraction of sorts which you can read in Escobar’s article and as a footnote below 1. However, the original story is substantiated in another way, as Escobar explains:

[V]alidating the ABC News report, Israel steps in. Israeli intel confirms U.S. intel did in fact warn them in November about a potentially catastrophic pandemic in Wuhan (once again: how could they possibly know that on the second week of November, so early in the game?) And NATO allies were warned – in November – as well. 2

Click here to read Pepe Escobar’s full article entitled “What Did U.S. Intel Really Know About the ‘Chinese’ Virus?”

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Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative that, from the beginning of the coronovirus attack, the leadership knew it was under a hybrid war attack. Xi’s terminology is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be launched.

Moreover, he described the virus as a demon or devil. Xi is a Confucianist. Unlike some other ancient Chinese thinkers, Confucius was loath to discuss supernatural forces and judgment in the afterlife. However, in a Chinese cultural context, devil means “white devils” or “foreign devils”: guailo in Mandarin, gweilo in Cantonese. This was Xi delivering a powerful statement in code.

When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon signalling that the gloves were finally off. 3

Click here to read more from an earlier piece by Pepe Escobar entitled “China locked in hybrid war with US”

In the same article Escobar goes on the discuss how Chinese media are now openly asking questions about a remarkable chain of coincidences involving the World Military Games attended by 300 US military personnel that took place in late October in Wuhan on the eve of the coronavirus outbreak. This includes “the shutting down in August last year of the ‘unsafe’ military bioweapon lab at Fort Detrick” and the prefigured modelling of a worldwide pandemic that took place the very day of the opening of the Wuhan military games during Event 201 held in New York on October 18th (more below).

On March 26th, ‘Moderate Rebels’, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton spoke with independent geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar about the new US cold war with China; potential origins of the Covid-19 virus; anti-China corporate media narratives; putting all this in the context of Beijing’s strategy to build a new silk road:

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Engineering Contagion

The leaders of two controversial pandemic simulations that took place just months before the Coronavirus crisis – Event 201 and Crimson Contagion – share a common history, the 2001 biowarfare simulation Dark Winter. Dark Winter not only predicted the 2001 anthrax attacks, but some of its participants had clear foreknowledge of those attacks.

Writes independent journalist Whitney Webb in the lead paragraph of the first of her latest series of investigative reports entitled “Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech-Industrial Complex”.

Webb continues:

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, something disturbing unfolded at the U.S.’ top biological warfare research facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Specimens of highly contagious and deadly pathogens – anthrax and ebola among them – had disappeared from the lab, at a time when lab workers and rival scientists had been accused of targeted sexual and ethnic harassment and several disgruntled researchers had left as a result.

In addition to missing samples of anthrax, ebola, hanta virus and a variant of AIDS, two of the missing specimens had been labelled “unknown” – “an Army euphemism for classified research whose subject was secret,” according to reports. The vast majority of the specimens lost were never found and an Army spokesperson would later claim that it was “likely some were simply thrown out with the trash.”

An internal Army inquiry in 1992 would reveal that one employee, Lt. Col. Philip Zack, had been caught on camera secretly entering the lab to conduct “unauthorized research, apparently involving anthrax,” the Hartford Courant would later report. Despite this, Zack would continue to do infectious disease research for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and would collaborate with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) throughout the 1990s.

The Courant had also noted that: “A numerical counter on a piece of lab equipment had been rolled back to hide work done by the mystery researcher [later revealed to be Zack], who left the misspelled label ‘antrax’ in the machine’s electronic memory.” The Courant’s report further detailed the extremely lax security controls and chaotic disorganization that then characterized the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) lab in Fort Detrick.

This same lab would, a decade later, be officially labeled as the source of the anthrax spores responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks, attacks which are also officially said to have been the work of a “deranged” USAMRIID researcher, despite initially having been blamed on Saddam Hussein and Iraq by top government officials and mainstream media. Those attacks killed 5 Americans and sickened 17.

Yet, as the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks unfolded, accusations from major U.S. newspapers soon emerged that the FBI was deliberately sabotaging the probe to protect the Anthrax attacker and that the CIA and U.S. military intelligence had refused to cooperate with the investigation. The FBI did not officially close their investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, nicknamed “Amerithrax,” until 2010 and aspects of that investigation still remain classified.

To learn more about how “the FBI was deliberately sabotaging the probe to protect the Anthrax attacker” you must read Whitney Webb’s articles in full, and I very strongly encourage readers to follow the link to her website Unlimited Hangout. The evidence of a cover up is absolutely compelling and Webb documents all of that evidence meticulously.

My aim here is to provide a summary that helps to usefully condense Webb’s assiduous research in order to get to the heart of what she describes as the “common history” that runs through the three aforementioned simulations: Operation Dark Winter (June 2001); the very recent ‘Event 201’ (mid-Oct 2019) “a high-level pandemic exercise” led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that simulated the worldwide spread of a novel coronavirus; and the lesser known multi-part series of pandemic simulations, called ‘Crimson Contagion’, which ran between January to August 2019 and tested the capacity of the US federal government and 12 states – including New York state – to respond to a severe influenza pandemic originating in China.

Returning to Whitney Webb’s outstanding series of articles (and continuing with Part I):

Upon further investigation, key leaders of both Event 201 and Crimson Contagion, not only have deep and longstanding ties to U.S. Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Defense, they were all previously involved in that same June 2001 exercise, Dark Winter. Some of these same individuals would also play a role in the FBI’s “sabotaged” investigation into the subsequent Anthrax attacks and are now handling major aspects of the U.S. government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. One of those individuals, Robert Kadlec, was recently put in charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) entire Covid-19 response efforts, despite the fact that he was recently and directly responsible for actions that needlessly infected Americans with Covid-19.

I shall return to the career of Robert Kadlec and other notable participants in the Dark Winter exercise in fuller detail in the indicated sections below.

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Operation Dark Winter

Webb launches her own investigation on the basis of events that unfolded shortly after the 9/11 attacks with the targeted release of anthrax spores to Senators Tom Daschle, Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy:

all of whom were – at the time – preventing the US Patriot Act from quickly passing through the Senate and who were resisting administration attempts to ram the legislation through with little to no debate.

Webb also reminds us:

Several of the letters included the date “9-11-01” and the phrases “Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is great” in neatly-printed block letters.

She continues:

Soon after, a suspicious letter was found in the office of then-Congressman and current Vice President Mike Pence. Media Roots noted the following about Pence’s subsequent press conference in a 2018 podcast that examined the timeline of the 2001 anthrax attacks:

…Mike Pence, who once hosted an AM talk show describing himself as ‘Rush Limbaugh on decaf,’ conducts a press conference outside the Capitol proclaiming revenge and biblical style justice to whoever conducted the anthrax attacks. His family–with news cameras in tow–gets tested for anthrax at the hospital after it is allegedly found in his office.

No news outlets questioned his grandstanding or odd performance of going to the hospital with his family, and unlike Senators Daschle and Leahy in their press appearances, Mike Pence alluded to the anthrax letters being connected to the larger ‘war on terror.’”

As public panic swelled, more letters continued to be found, not just in the United States but around the world, with anthrax and/or hoax letters being found in Japan, Kenya, Israel, China and Australia, among others. Simultaneously, efforts to link the anthrax attacks to Saddam Hussein and Iraq began to emerge and quickly grew in intensity and number.

The media push to link the attacks to Iraq began first with The Guardian and then was followed by U.S. media outlets like The Wall Street Journal. Those early reports cited unnamed “American investigators” and defense officials and largely centered on the false claim that alleged 9/11 mastermind Mohammad Atta had met with an Iraqi diplomat in Prague in late 2000 as well as similarly false allegations that members of Al Qaeda had recently obtained vials of anthrax in the Czech Republic.

Webb begins her piece, however, outlining the details to a high-level bio-attack simulation known as Operation Dark Winter that took place in June 2001 and foreshadowed the anthrax letters, placing Dark Winter in the context of contemporaneous geopolitical concerns with Pentagon crosshairs already hovering over Iraq. Three months later and in the aftermath of 9/11 and the subsequent ‘Amerithrax’ attacks, many in the cast of the Dark Winter exercise were performing similar parts in real life.

The Dark Winter exercise began with a briefing on the geopolitical context of the exercise, which included intelligence suggesting that China had intentionally introduced Foot and Mouth disease in Taiwan for economic and political advantage; that Al-Qaeda was seeking to purchase biological pathogens once weaponized by the Soviet Union; and that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had recruited former biowarfare specialists from the Soviet Union and was importing materials to create biological weapons. It further notes that a majority of Americans had opposed a planned deployment of U.S. soldiers to the Middle East, which was also opposed by Iraq, China and Russia. The script also asserts that the soldiers were being deployed to counter and potentially engage the Iraqi military. Later, as the exercise unfolds, many of those Americans once skeptical about this troop deployment soon begin calling for “revenge.”

Amid this backdrop, news suddenly breaks that smallpox, a disease long eradicated in the U.S. and globally, appears to have broken out in the state of Oklahoma. The participants in Dark Winter, representing the National Security Council, quickly deduce that smallpox has been deliberately introduced and that this is the result of a “bioterrorist attack on the United States.” The assumption is made that the attack is “related to decisions we may make to deploy troops to the Mid-East.”

Not unlike what is unfolding currently with the Covid-19 crisis, in Dark Winter, there is no means of rapid diagnosis for smallpox, no treatments available and no surge capacity in the healthcare system. The outbreak quickly spreads to numerous other U.S. states and throughout the world. Hospitals in the U.S. soon face “desperate situations” as “tens of thousands of ill or anxious persons seek care.” This is compounded by “grossly inadequate supplies” and “insufficient isolation rooms,” among other complications.

Since this exercise occurred in June 2001, the heavy hinting that Saddam Hussein-led Iraq and Al Qaeda are the main suspects is notable. Indeed, at one point in one of the fictional news reports used in the exercise, the reporter states that “Iraq might have provided the technology behind the attacks to terrorist groups based in Afghanistan.” Such claims that Iraq’s government was linked to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan would re-emerge months later in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and would be heavily promoted by several Dark Winter participants such as former CIA Director James Woolsey, who would later swear under oath that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. It would, of course, later emerge that Iraq’s connections to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks were nonexistent as well as the fact that Iraq did not possess biological weapons or other “weapons of mass destruction.”

A summary of Operation Dark Winter based around information gathered from current Wikipedia entries including an overview and partial list of participants can be found in Appendix A.

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Anthony Fauci

As a lead member as well as the de facto spokesman of Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr Anthony Fauci has recently become a household name in America. However Fauci first came into the public spotlight during the AIDS crisis as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a post he has held since 1984.

It was also under Fauci’s leadership and in response to the post-9/11 ‘Amerithrax’ attacks, that NIAID “markedly expanded, intensified and accelerated its ongoing research programs in biodefense”. A new initiative that Fauci personally outlined during his address to delegates at the 12th annual Joseph B. Brennan Lecture at Georgetown University in October 2002:

“Events of 2001 have had an impact not only on the nation but on the biomedical field which is now concerned with emerging diseases and defense… Eighteen cases and five deaths associated with anthrax has led to a total transformation in what the biomedical community would have to deal with. The anthrax scare has resulted in a situation unprecedented… and would be a new challenge for American medicine.”

In echoes of the Dark Winter scenario, Fauci also “discussed the possible threat of a resurgence of the smallpox disease” indicating “that smallpox is a possible weapon that could be used against the U. S. in the event of bioterrorism, which means that the vaccine may be needed again.” More controversially, he also “asked how the government would decide to make it mandatory if not enough people decided to get the vaccine voluntarily.” 4

Shortly afterward this address in November, the Canadian Medical Association Journal responded to these plans with a piece entitled “Bioterrorism becoming too dominant on public health agenda?”

The bioterrorism threat has led the US to commit $1.5 billion in new funding for research in this area in 2003. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described the spending as “quite unprecedented,” calling it the “largest single increase of any discipline in any institute in the history of the [National Institutes of Health].” His institute must now decide how to spend US$1.75 billion next year on vaccines and treatments for problems such as smallpox.

The same piece continues:

Several people questioned the size of such budgets, arguing that the medical community is being unduly influenced by fears of terrorism. The remote chance of a bioterrorist attack means that there is little profit motive for private companies to invest in this kind of research. Fauci agreed that this poses a difficult challenge.

The discussion about how to convince companies to invest has already been marred by controversy. The US Department of Health and Human Services was recently criticized for holding closed-door meetings with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Emergency Preparedness Task Force. Sidney Wolfe of US Public Citizen, a legislative watchdog group, said that having pharmaceutical executives at the table was an inherent conflict of interest and that these executives have “powerful economic self-interests in shaping government policy on this topic.” 5

A few months on and Fauci was bolstering the same calls with a piece published in the esteemed journal Nature detailing his proposals for putting “Biodefence on the research agenda”. The levels of funding were already ballooning:

The US government is investing an unprecedented amount of money — $5.9 billion planned for fiscal year 2003 — to counter the threat of bioterrorism. Of that sum, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the lead government agency in biomedical research, will receive nearly $1.75 billion, almost eight times the fiscal year 2002 budget for biodefence research, and the largest single increase in resources for any initiative in the history of the NIH. With this largesse come enormous responsibilities. 6

Of course, words can sometimes be used to disguise the truth, and never more so than in the case of “defence”: the weaponisation of language is part and parcel of its armoury. For “biodefence research” then it is advisable to read instead “bioweapons research”. In short, Fauci was hereby announcing a vast transfer of public money away from healthcare and into the already overflowing coffers of the arms industry. And this was just the start:

The American legal authority who in 1989 drafted the law Congress enacted to comply with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention says the U.S. today [October 11, 2015] is in flagrant violation of that Convention.

So begins an article based on an interview with Dr Francis Boyle, a human rights lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois who drafted the US domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. (A fact that is still listed although tucked away beneath the generic heading “Background and legal work” in the middle of his current Wikipedia entry.)

The same piece continues:

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have spent somewhere in the area of $100 billion” on offensive biological warfare, charges Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Boyle said an estimated 13,000 “death scientists” in 400 laboratories in the U.S. and abroad, are employed making new strains of offensive killer germs that will be resistant to vaccines.

For example, Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka’s group at the University of Wisconsin has found a way to increase the toxicity of the flu virus by 200 times! Boyle says Kawaoka is “the same death scientist who resurrected the genocidal Spanish Flu virus for the Pentagon for offensive biowarfare purposes.”

As for fighting flu, the National Institutes of Health in 2006, a typical year, got only $120 million from Congress to fight flu, which kills an estimated 36,000 Americans annually. By contrast, Congress gave NIH $1.76 billion for “biodefense,” even though the anthrax outbreak in 2001 killed just five persons.

“These distorted budgetary allocations,” (spending 15 times as much for germ warfare as for fighting flu) “demonstrate that the priority here is not the promotion of the public health of American citizens but rather to further develop the U.S. offensive biowarfare industry that will someday ‘blowback’ upon the American people with a catastrophic pandemic,” Boyle said. 7

This story becomes more extraordinary, once we learn that some of this public money was “just last year” transferred via NIAID, the organization led by Dr. Fauci, to “fund[ed] scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and other institutions for work on gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.

The same Newsweek piece I have quoted above continues:

In 2019, with the backing of NIAID, the National Institutes of Health committed $3.7 million over six years for research that included some gain-of-function work. The program followed another $3.7 million, 5-year project for collecting and studying bat coronaviruses, which ended in 2019, bringing the total to $7.4 million.

Many scientists have criticized gain of function research, which involves manipulating viruses in the lab to explore their potential for infecting humans, because it creates a risk of starting a pandemic from accidental release.

The article then details the two phases of the NIH research project, and continues:

The project was run by EcoHealth Alliance, a non-profit research group, under the direction of President Peter Daszak, an expert on disease ecology. NIH canceled the project just this past Friday, April 24th, Politico reported. Daszak did not immediately respond to Newsweek requests for comment.

The project proposal states: “We will use S protein sequence data, infectious clone technology, in vitro and in vivo infection experiments and analysis of receptor binding to test the hypothesis that % divergence thresholds in S protein sequences predict spillover potential.”

In layman’s terms, “spillover potential” refers to the ability of a virus to jump from animals to humans, which requires that the virus be able to attach to receptors in the cells of humans. SARS-CoV-2, for instance, is adept at binding to the ACE2 receptor in human lungs and other organs.

According to Richard Ebright, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers University, the project description refers to experiments that would enhance the ability of bat coronavirus to infect human cells and laboratory animals using techniques of genetic engineering. In the wake of the pandemic, that is a noteworthy detail.

Adding:

A decade ago, during a controversy over gain-of-function research on bird-flu viruses, Dr. Fauci played an important role in promoting the work. He argued that the research was worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to make preparations, such as investigating possible anti-viral medications, that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred.

The work in question was a type of gain-of-function research that involved taking wild viruses and passing them through live animals until they mutate into a form that could pose a pandemic threat. Scientists used it to take a virus that was poorly transmitted among humans and make it into one that was highly transmissible—a hallmark of a pandemic virus. This work was done by infecting a series of ferrets, allowing the virus to mutate until a ferret that hadn’t been deliberately infected contracted the disease.

The work entailed risks that worried even seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted. The problem, they said, is that it increased the likelihood that a pandemic would occur through a laboratory accident. 8

Click here to read the full article entitled “Dr. Fauci Backed Controversial Wuhan Lab with U.S. Dollars for Risky Coronavirus Research”

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“Anthrax War” (2009) is investigative documentary by filmmaker Roberto Coen and Executive Producer Eric Nadler that examines the 2001 Anthrax Attacks and offers a frightening glimpse into today’s secret and dangerous world of germ weapons. Broadcast internationally, it was nominated for the 2009 Prix Europa for Outstanding Current Affairs Broadcast. DEAD SILENCE is the accompanying book that fills out the story of the global investigation that the documentary could only outline:

Click here to read more background on the official website. *

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Robert Kadlec

“If several kilograms of an agent like anthrax were disseminated in New York City today, conservative estimates put the number [of] deaths occurring in the first few days at 400,000. Thousands of others would be at risk of dying within several days if proper antibiotics and vaccination were not started immediately. Millions of others would be fearful of being exposed and seek or demand medical care as well. Beyond the immediate health implications of such an act, the potential panic and civil unrest would create an equally large response.”

— Robert Kadlec as quoted in a 1998 article from the Vancouver Sun.

The name of Robert Kadlec fails is notable by its absence from the current Wikipedia entry on Operation Dark Winter since as Whitney Webb reveals:

The name for the exercise derives from a statement made by Robert Kadlec, who participated in the script created for the exercise, when he states that the lack of smallpox vaccines for the U.S. populace means that “it could be a very dark winter for America.” Kadlec, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration and a former lobbyist for military intelligence/intelligence contractors, is now leading HHS’ Covid-19 response and led the Trump administration’s 2019 “Crimson Contagion” exercises, which simulated a crippling pandemic influenza outbreak in the U.S. that had first originated in China.

We also learn how Kadlec “who became an adviser on biological warfare to the Rumsfeld-led Pentagon in the days after 9/11” states in his official biography that he “contributed to the FBI investigation of the anthrax letter attacks”, although, as Webb writes:

[I]t’s unclear exactly what those contributions were, beyond having met at least once with scientists at Fort Detrick in November 2001. Whatever his contributions were, Kadlec has long been an emphatic supporter of the official narrative regarding Bruce Ivins, who he has referred to as a “deranged scientist” and the sole culprit behind the attacks. Kadlec has also used the official narrative about Ivins to assert that bioweapons have been “democratized,” which he argues means that weaponized pathogens can be wielded by essentially anyone with “a few thousand dollars” and enough time on their hands.

More recently, Robert Kadlec has been put in charge of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) entire Covid-19 response efforts, and he is not alone:

Notably, Kadlec isn’t the only key figure in the current U.S. government response to Covid-19 to have ties to the botched FBI investigation as current HHS Secretary Alex Azar was also involved in the FBI investigation. In addition, Azar stated at a White House press briefing in 2018 that he had been “personally involved in much of managing the response [to the anthrax attacks]” as then-General counsel to HHS.

Yet, given that the FBI investigation into the anthrax attacks and the government response to them were so disastrous and heavily criticized by independent and mainstream media alike, it is surprising that Azar and Kadlec would so proudly tout their involvement in that fiasco, especially considering that the scientific analyses used in that investigation were fatally flawed and, by all indications, led to the death of an innocent man.

[Bruce Ivins “apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.” 9]

In the final instalment of her investigative trilogy “Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech-Industrial Complex “, Webb returns to “head of the hydra”, Robert Kadlec.

She writes:

Thanks to a long and deliberate process to introduce biodefense policy, driven by Robert Kadlec and his sponsors, $7 billion dollars-worth of federally-owned vaccines, antidotes and medicines – held in strategically arranged repositories across the country in case of a health emergency – are now in the hands of one single individual. Those repositories, which compose the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), are the exclusive domain of HHS’ ASPR, a post created under Kadlec’s watchful eye and tailored over the years to meet his very specific requirements.

From this perch, Robert Kadlec has final say on where the stockpile’s contents are sourced, as well as how, when and where they are deployed. He is the sole source procurer of medical material and pharmaceuticals, making him the best friend of Big Pharma and other healthcare industry giants who have been in his ear every step of the way.

Kadlec assures us, however, that the fact that he now holds the very office he worked so long to create is merely a coincidence. “My participation in the ASPR project began at that time when I was working for the chairman of the Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness…The bill was made law and the ASPR was created. It just was a coincidence that, 12 or 14 years later, I was asked to become the ASPR,” Kadlec stated in 2018.

It was all a random twist of fate, Kadlec asserts, that saw him occupy ASPR at this crucial moment in U.S. history. Indeed, with the country now in the middle of a WHO-declared coronavirus pandemic, Kadlec now has full control over the far-reaching “emergency” powers of that very office, bestowed upon him by the very law that he had written.

Webb also retraces the rise of Kadlec who “describes himself as having been an “accidental tourist” regarding his introduction to biological warfare”, which “began when he was assigned to be a special assistant for Chemical and Biological Warfare to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), advising then-head of Special Operations Command Maj. Gen. Wayne Downing, on the eve of the first Gulf War”:

Kadlec would later state that he had witnessed firsthand how the military, immediately prior to the Gulf War, had “lacked the necessary protective equipment, detectors, and medical countermeasures including vaccines and antibiotics against the immediate threats posed by Iraq,” allegedly prompting him to want to better U.S. biodefense efforts.

While holding this post at JSOC, Kadlec was privy to the advice of William C. Patrick III, a veteran of the U.S.’ bioweapons program who had developed the U.S.’ method for weaponizing anthrax and held no less than five classified patents related to the toxin’s use in warfare. Patrick, who had left government service in 1986 to become a consultant, advised the Pentagon — then headed by Dick Cheney — that the risk of a biological weapons attack by Iraq, particularly anthrax, was high. Patrick’s warning prompted the U.S. military to vaccinate tens of thousands of its troops using the controversial anthrax vaccine “anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA).” Kadlec would personally inject AVA into around 800 members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Note that: anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) is still the only FDA-licensed human anthrax vaccine licensed for use in the United States. Today it is produced under the trade name BioThrax by the Emergent BioDefense Corporation (formerly known as BioPort Corporation) in Lansing, Michigan. I return to BioThrax and BioPort below.

The award-winning documentary ‘Direct Order (2003) is embedded below. Directed by Scott Miller and narrated by Michael Douglas, it tells the story of American military personnel who were ordered sometimes against their will to take the anthrax vaccine and who subsequently developed Gulf War Syndrome:

Webb continues:

Kadlec would later note in Congressional testimony that no definitive proof of an alleged Iraqi biological weapons program was found during the war or afterwards, but nevertheless claimed elsewhere that “the Iraqis later admitted they had procured large quantities of a biological agents-anthrax and botulism toxin,” suggesting that Patrick’s warnings had had some basis in reality.

However, Kadlec failed to point out that these anthrax and botulism samples had been sold, with the U.S. government’s full approval, to Iraq’s Ministry of Education by a U.S. private non-profit called the American Type Culture Collection. Donald Rumsfeld, who was then an envoy for the Reagan administration and running a pharmaceutical company later sold to Monsanto, would also be involved in the shipment of these samples to Iraq.

Following the war, American microbiologist Joshua Lederberg was tasked by the Pentagon to head the investigation into “Gulf War Syndrome,” a phenomenon that studies later linked to the adverse effects of the anthrax vaccine. Lederberg’s task force argued that evidence regarding an association between the symptomology and the anthrax vaccine was insufficient. However, he would later come under fire after it was reported that he sat on the board of the American Type Culture Collection, the very company that had shipped anthrax to Iraq’s government between 1985 and 1989 with the U.S. government’s blessing. Lederberg later admitted that the investigation he led had not spent enough “time and effort digging out the details”. The taskforce’s findings were later harshly criticized by the Government Accountability Office.

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Judith Miller

Over the past several years, the United States has embarked on a program of secret research on biological weapons that, some officials say, tests the limits of the global treaty banning such weapons.

So begins an article co-authored by New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, who, appropriately enough, had performed the part of a reporter working for the NYT in the simulation Dark Winter. The article entitled “U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits” appeared in early September about a week prior to the 9/11 attacks and little more than two months since her role in the June exercise.

A few paragraphs down, she continues:

Earlier this year, administration officials said, the Pentagon drew up plans to engineer genetically a potentially more potent variant of the bacterium that causes anthrax, a deadly disease ideal for germ warfare.

The experiment has been devised to assess whether the vaccine now being given to millions of American soldiers is effective against such a superbug, which was first created by Russian scientists. A Bush administration official said the National Security Council is expected to give the final go-ahead later this month. 10

Webb picks up the story and writes:

The New York Times noted specifically that the genetically-modified anthrax experiments being performed by Battelle’s West Jefferson facility were a “significant reason” behind the Bush administration’s decision to reject the draft agreement and the U.S. government had argued at the time that “unlimited visits to pharmaceutical or defense installations by foreign inspectors could be used to gather strategic or commercial intelligence.” Of course, one of those “pharmaceutical or defense installations” was ultimately the source of the anthrax used in the [post-9/11 ‘Amerithrax’] attacks.

In a tribute (her word) to William C Patrick III, Miller describes her first meeting with “the government’s ‘go-to guy’ on biological weapons”, fondly reminiscing:

Then this seemingly cheerful father of two led us downstairs to his basement office, as he had legions of other students of the black bio-arts, to give us a PowerPoint tutorial on how germ weapons were made, stored, and distributed. He patiently answered our questions about how bacteria, viruses, and other deadly pathogens could be used as weapons of mass destruction. Near the end of our session, he pulled a garden sprayer out of a green duffel bag and vigorously pumped it several times, producing a large cloud of fine particles that hung in the air like fog. If this were anthrax, he told us, we would all soon be dead. Offering me a memento of our class, he put a vial of the simulated anthrax in my purse and scribbled his home number on the stationery of his one-man consulting firm, Biothreats Assessment. It was topped with an image of the Grim Reaper. A skull and crossbones were engraved on the business card he handed me. Call any time, he said merrily.

The year was 1997 and Miller’s momentary shock at being sprayed like a greenfly was really nothing; certainly when compared to the horror she must have felt just a handful of years later upon seeing an unknown white powder spilling from an envelope addressed to her.

Her own account continues:

And call we did. On countless occasions, Bill Patrick was an invaluable source of biological history, analysis, folklore, and wisdom. When I received a letter filled with powder during the anthrax letter attack after 9/11, Bill was on the phone to calm me down, assuring me that the powder that had tumbled out of the envelope onto my clothes and my desk, given my description of it, was most likely a hoax, not some of the real anthrax which wound up killing five and infecting 17. And when the FBI began to suspect him as a potential culprit in its hapless “Amerithrax” investigation of the anthrax attacks—a travesty that the Bureau eventually undid by naming another Fort Detrick veteran, Bruce Ivins, as the likely perpetrator—I tried comforting him as he had me. 11

Judith Miller would go on to ruin her reputation by promoting false intelligence claims about Iraq’s WMD programme both before and after the 2003 invasion. In her own self-defence, she afterwards confessed the unspeakable truth of so much so-called journalism:

“My job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal.” 12

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Senator Sam Nunn and Margaret Hamburg

Created by media mogul Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn in January 2001, NTI [Nuclear Threat Initiative] aimed not only to “reduce the threat” posed by nuclear weapons, but also chemical and biological weapons.

In announcing NTI’s formation on CNN, the network Turner had founded, Nunn stated that while “nuclear weapons pose the gigantic danger, but biological and chemical weapons are the most likely to be used. And there are thousands of scientists in the former Soviet Union that know how to make these weapons, including chemical, biological and nuclear, but don’t know how to feed their families.” Nunn continued, stating that NTI hoped “to begin to help, some hope for gainful employment for people that we don’t want to end up making chemical and biological and nuclear weapons in other parts of the world.” NTI’s mission in this regard likely came as welcome news to Joshua Lederberg, who had long advocated that the U.S. offer employment to bioweapons researchers from the former Soviet Union to prevent their employ by “rogue regimes.”

Alongside Nunn and Turner on NTI’s board was William Perry, a former Secretary of Defense; former Senator Dick Lugar, for whom the alleged U.S. bioweapons lab in Georgia is named; and Margaret Hamburg, who was NTI’s Vice President overseeing its work on biological weapons. Margaret Hamburg’s father, David Hamburg, a long-time president of the Carnegie Corporation, was also an advisor and “distinguished fellow” at NTI. David Hamburg was a longtime close advisor, associate, and friend of Joshua Lederberg.

Both Sam Nunn and Margaret Hamburg of NTI, as well as top officials from ANSER [aka Analytic Services, Inc.], would come together in June 2001 to participate in an exercise simulating a bioweapons attack called “Dark Winter.” Nunn would play the role of president in the exercise and Hamburg played the head of HHS in the fictional scenario. Jerome Hauer, then-managing director of the intelligence-linked outfit Kroll Inc. and a Vice President at the military-intelligence contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), played the head of FEMA.

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Jerome Hauer

In Part I of her series which is subtitled “All Roads Lead to Dark Winter”; Webb introduces us to Jerome Hauer, another one of the key participants of the Operation Dark Winter.

Webb tells us “[Hauer] had previously served for nearly 8 years at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC), which oversees the USAMRIID lab at Fort Detrick.” The same USAMRIID lab in Fort Detrick where the anthrax used in the Amerithrax attacks was allegedly produced and stolen from.

In Part I, we also learn that:

[Jerome] Hauer, on September 11, 2001, was the managing director of Kroll Inc., a private intelligence and security company informally known as the “CIA of Wall Street,” a company that French intelligence had accused of acting as a front for the actual CIA. Kroll Inc., at the time of the attacks was responsible for security at the World Trade Center complex, yet Hauer was conveniently not present at his World Trade Center office on the day of the attacks, instead appearing on cable news.

And there is a great deal more to Hauer’s “curious past”, as Webb reveals in Part II of the series entitled “A Killer Enterprise: How One of Big Pharma’s Most Corrupt Companies Plans to Corner the Covid-19 Cure Market”. Picking up where she left off, she writes:

As BioPort secured its control over the only licensed anthrax vaccine producer in the country in 1998, New York’s emergency crisis manager and bioterrorism expert, Jerome Hauer, was busy working and making doomsday contingency plans from his “bunker” on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7.

Put on the job by then-NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1996, Hauer had previously managed worldwide emergency response for technology giant IBM. He also was an adviser to the Justice Department, had briefed President Clinton on bioterror threats and was known to “consult regularly with Scotland Yard and the Israeli military.” It was reportedly Hauer’s idea to locate the city’s emergency management office at Building 7, even though placing it there was considered controversial at the time due to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, bombings that were later revealed to have disturbing links to the FBI.

In 1999, the New York Times would describe Hauer’s job as “sitting around all day thinking up horrifying ways for things to be destroyed and people to die.” It would also note that Hauer described his expertise regarding specific emergency situations as follows: “helicopter crash, subway fire, water main break, ice storm, heat wave, blackout, building collapse, building collapse, building collapse.” His obsession with building collapses even led him to house “trophies” of the building collapses he had overseen and responded to. How odd then that Hauer’s multi-million dollar “bunker” itself would later fall victim to building collapse, falling into its own footprint in 7 seconds on September 11, 2001.

The back-story to the rescue of biopharmaceutical company BioPort which had depended upon the timely occurrence of the 2001 anthrax attacks is detailed at great length in the article. For the purposes of this synopsis the part that you need to understand is that although Hauer was also a national security adviser to then-head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tommy Thompson, he soon became “one of their biggest proponents of expanding BioPort’s contracts”:

As the anthrax attacks unfolded, Hauer advised Secretary Thompson to establish a new office at HHS, the Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP), whose first acting director was Dr. D.A. Henderson, a former official with the World Health Organization and the original founder of the Johns Hopkins Working Group on Civilian Biodefense, which had sponsored Dark Winter and included Jerome Hauer as well as Dark Winter co-authors Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby. In early 2002, Hauer himself would replace Henderson as head of the newly created OPHP.

In May 2002, Hauer — while leading OPHP —  co-authored a report with members of the Johns Hopkins Working Group, including O’Toole and Inglesby. In that paper, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Hauer, O’Toole, Inglesby and their co-authors argued that greater production and purchase of anthrax vaccine was necessary in light of the 2001 anthrax attacks and that government funding was also needed to research a new anthrax vaccine. They also asserted that the vaccine did not cause any significant adverse effects.

Notably, just months prior, O’Toole and Inglesby had come under scrutiny in their attempts to link the anthrax attacks to Al Qaeda, several months after that possibility had been ruled out completely by federal investigators and other independent scientists.

The paper authored by the Johns Hopkins Working Group would also come under scrutiny, particularly their recommendation that the government acquire more BioThrax. This was largely because the evidence from the attacks showed that antibiotics were much more effective and less expensive in responding to anthrax attacks, with subsequent studies claiming that calls for stockpiling more BioThrax “defy medical evidence and expert recommendations” based on lessons learned during the anthrax attacks.

Moreover:

Hauer would, months later, be appointed to a newly created position at HHS, one which oversaw the new biodefense stockpile from which BioPort would be a major beneficiary.

BioPort would be then renamed and repackaged as Emergent Biosolutions in 2004. It would then hire even more well-connected lobbyists and add several big names from government and the private sector to its board. One of these “big names” was none other than Jerome Hauer, who was added to Emergent’s board soon after leaving HHS. Hauer still remains a company director and sits on three of its corporate governance committees.

Returning to the immediate events surrounding the 9/11 attack, we also discover that:

[O]n the day of 9/11, Hauer had told top Bush administration officials to start taking the antibiotic Cipro to prevent infection via anthrax and Hauer would subsequently make public hints via mass media that foreign terrorists were working with Saddam Hussein to unleash an anthrax attack on the American public. All of this took place well before the first anthrax attack victim, photojournalist Robert Stevens, would even show symptoms.

Hauer had prepared for a scenario just like the anthrax attacks as part of the Dark Winter biowarfare simulation, which occurred just months prior and at a time when Hauer was a member of the Johns Hopkins Working Group on Civilian BioDefense, part of what is now the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, then led by Dark Winter co-author Tara O’Toole.

Webb adds:

Also of note is the fact that, while working for Kroll Inc. Hauer was also working for the Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a defense and intelligence contractor. There he became a co-worker of Stephen Hatfill, who Hauer had actually met years prior. At SAIC, Hatfill worked on developing protocols for handling “anthrax hoax letters,” a phenomenon present in Dark Winter and later during the actual 2001 anthrax attacks. Hatfill would later be accused of having committed those very attacks, but was later cleared of suspicion, winning a hefty multi-million dollar settlement from the government. 13

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article.

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John Rendon (knows too much)

Very few who read this story will know who John Rendon is. Back during the time of Nixon and Watergate, Rendon was one of the people working for George McGovern in his quest for the White House. Later, after cutting his teeth doing PR and propaganda for Washington’s top dogs dethroning enemy despots like Manuel Noreiga, and other CIA targets. In the early 2000s, Rendon would be referred to as “The man who sold the war,” because of a story by investigative journalist James Bamford. His report revealed how the Rendon Group PR firm fed journalists, like disgraced New York Times writer Judith Miller, stories to sell Bush’s “War on Terror” to the public. It was Rendon who was involved with the contrivance where a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah told the world about the babies in incubators Saadam Hussein’s soldiers left to die. America went to war and killed hundreds of thousands, because of such lies.

Today, John Rendon proves how “involved” he is in current affairs. Invisible in the news cycle, Rendon’s activities can only be observed (ironically) by his Twitter feed, and through his Empower Peace platform and organizations like the Women2Women international leadership program. Not unlike billionaire George Soros, who uses the Open Society Foundation to “teach” doctrine and action to the world’s next leaders, Rendon operates at the grassroots level as well as the operations level. Brainwashing is the easy term for what Rendon Group is up to.

The extract above is drawn from a short piece entitled “Manufactured Perception and the COVID-19 Pandora’s Box” published by New Eastern Outlook on June 10th.

Political analyst Phil Butler continues:

Rendon’s talent, if you will, comes from an understanding of how digital/social media works. In the old days of public relations, clients expected PR firms to change the worldview via a series of press releases or televised interviews with American officials. Rendon and operators like him, understand that effective propaganda requires the gradual cultivation and propagation of an alternative worldview, which is the way the CIA practiced during the Cold War.

As intelligent (or lucky), and intuitive as John Rendon is, like most people he slips up in the slipstream of social media. His Twitter feed may not be revealing to the causal “Tweep” but set against a comparative timeline, Rendon just knows too much too soon. The tweet below is part 1 of 5 he shared January 31st, weeks before most people even understood what COVID-19 was.

“What should be known about contagions, is first, the psychological size of the contagion will be at least 5x greater than the contagion itself, thus timely, truthful and transparent reporting is essential-which is a challenge for Boys in #Beijing

The second tweet in the series foretold of collapsing medical infrastructure and the need for the military to step in. Third, Rendon uses his crystal ball to predict travel stoppage, infrastructure, and supply chain breakdown. Next, he predicts economic recovery will be 2x to 3x longer than when the contagion danger has passed. Finally, the PR spook nails exactly what has happened in the international response to the pandemic.

In my view, John Rendon is either a direct descendant of the soothsayer “Carnac the Magnificent” made famous by the late Johnny Carson, or he’s some knowledge of pre-planning and contingencies for this pandemic. The news cycle the average American sees contained no such in-depth analysis in the timeframe January 1st through 31st. Put another way, the New York Times was in reaction mode in January, and there was no mention of wide-reaching economic impacts like Rendon prophesied. 14

Phil Butler doesn’t reprint the contents of tweets #2–#5 in detail but they are still available and so I have included them in Appendix B.

Click here to read Phil Butler’s full article.

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Final thoughts

“Using DNA genetic engineering, U.S. death scientists are concocting new strains of lethal microbes for which there are no cures. Bacteria, for example, can be made resistant to vaccines, made more virulent, easier to spread, and harder to eradicate. Right now U.S. death scientists are scouring the biosphere around the world to locate any bioagent in nature that they can exploit and pervert into offensive biowarfare purposes.”

— Dr Francis Boyle. 15

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Whitney Webb’s latest investigative trilogy does a great deal to unravel the incestuous ties between US federal agencies, bioweapons establishments such as Fort Detrick, and sectors of the pharmaceutical industry. However, by shining a spotlight directly on the network of authors and participants involved in Operation Dark Winter that foreshadowed the Amerithrax attacks, she also achieves more than this. Webb shows us that careers were advanced and how many of the same actors have profited financially too. Did any of them have insider knowledge of what was about to be unleashed from Fort Detrick? She believes the circumstantial evidence overwhelming, although without a fully independent inquiry, it will always be impossible to divorce conspiracy from coincidence.

Today the world is locked down following the outbreak of a very different type of disease. Unlike Amerithrax, we do not as yet know the origins of Covid-19. The official view is that this new variant of coronavirus is of zoonotic origin: that is, an earlier form was spread from animals; specifically, from horseshoe bats to some as yet unknown intermediary creature, mutating in the process and finally becoming transmissible from human to human. Precisely when and where this happened is uncertain, although the earliest recorded cases in China indicate that patients were first infected in mid to late November.

The Trump administration has since told the world that it believes the virus “escaped a P4 Wuhan virology research center”, and asserts that “China hid its knowledge of a potential escape by using its time before notifying the world of the outbreak to vacuum up medical safety gear from Brazil, and elsewhere.” 16

Having made these accusations, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, afterwards reiterated the claim that the US had evidence, if not certainty, that the virus had emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology:

“Every one of those statements is entirely consistent,” he said. “We are all trying to figure out the right answer. We are all trying to get the clarity.” 17

Not that Pompeo is isolated in his belief that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan lab. As Forbes magazine reported in the wake of US government insinuations:

The new SARS mystery is entering its ACT III, and in this act, the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom all lash out at China for its lackluster biosafety features at one of its most secure virology labs. 18

Francis Boyle has made similar claims (see below), although here we must be careful to acknowledge the distinction that Boyle, unlike Pompeo, is in no way attempting to scapegoat the Chinese. For one thing, Boyle understands that the research carried out at the Wuhan lab was very much a joint venture involving the Americans (you can see him discussing this in a video embedded below).

Alarmingly, at the same time, all debate over the possibility that this virus was indeed manufactured in a Wuhan lab – a hypothesis that in fact cannot be ruled out on the basis of current knowledge and one that has been entertained by researchers and experts in the field of biowarfare other than Boyle (see Appendices C and D below) – is immediately discredited on the grounds that it is just another “conspiracy theory”, albeit one that not only the Trump administration, but their Australian and UK counterparts are all engaged in perpetuating. To accept both views absolutely demands doublethink.

However, there is a third possibility too. If the “Wuhan Flu” as Trump likes to call it, was produced in a lab then it might just as easily have been manufactured in America as in China. As Pepe Escobar discusses at the beginning of this piece, whether we like it or not, this would seem to be the prevailing view in China from the street all the way up to the Politburo. Covid-19 therefore represents an act of war, and all the false accusations combined with the ramping up of sanctions are secondary attacks.

If we admit this as a possible scenario then we must wonder why America would unleash an attack that was bound to blowback with devastating consequences for our own economies. As we are seeing, of course, a crisis of this magnitude provides a tremendous opportunity not only for a power grab but for looting – behind the scenes of smashed shop windows and kids running off with a pair of new trainers and a flat-screen TV, there has already been a transfer of trillions of dollars from the public purse into corporate coffers that is scarcely reported on. The same happened during the last financial crash of 2008, and to a lesser extent in the wake of 9/11 and the Amerithrax attacks. Moreover, the financial system was so fragile that the second crash was imminent and unstoppable (read this earlier post).

Which brings us back to Whitney Webb’s research, and the remarkable timing of the recent ‘Event 201’ (mid-Oct 2019) “a high-level pandemic exercise” led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security that simulated the worldwide spread of a novel coronavirus; and the lesser known multi-part series of pandemic simulations, called ‘Crimson Contagion’, which ran between January to August 2019 and tested the capacity of the US federal government and 12 states – including New York state – to respond to a severe influenza pandemic originating in China. Coincidence or conspiracy?

Whitney Webb wisely avoids addressing the question head on. For one thing she lacks having sufficient expertise in the relevant fields of virology, genetics, or epidemiology; as I do. Likewise, I merely present the evidence for others to judge.

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Additional: on the origins of Covid-19

The following extract is drawn from an earlier post published on March 16th entitled “in search of the truth about this new coronavirus, Covid-19”.

The world has been given to believe that this novel form of coronavirus Covid-19 is an entirely accidental mutation. To begin with, at least in the West, we were also expected to swallow the unsubstantiated but widely publicised assertions that its occurrence was due to the bizarre eating habits of the Chinese and cross-contamination from a wet market. Unsettling images of ghastly bowls of bat soup were featured across the newsstands – pictures almost certainly not taken in China but never mind.

Beneath the frankly xenophobic headlines, there is another side to the story that has received considerably less attention: just how strikingly novel the new virus really is. This is from an article entitled “Why COVID-19 is more insidious than other coronaviruses” published by Salon magazine in late February:

While there are many known viruses in the same class of coronavirus as COVID-19, some of its peculiarities — including its infectivity — are perplexing researchers. Now, a recent research paper viewable on the Chinese research site Chinaxiv.org and previously reported on by the South China Morning Post notes that the new coronavirus has an “HIV-like mutation” that gives it novel properties.

“Because of this mutation, the packing mechanism of the 2019-nCoV may be changed to being more similar to those of MHV, HIV, Ebola virus (EBoV) and some avian influenza viruses,” the English abstract of the paper states.

The same article continues:

Though the paper is yet to be peer-reviewed, the scientists involved hail from Nankai University in Tianjin, one of the top universities in the world’s most populous nation.

The paper adds to the crucial body of research around COVID-19, which still includes more unknowns than knowns. Currently, scientists still do not know COVID-19’s origin, though suspect it is zoonotic, meaning it likely started in an animal before spreading to humans. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note on their website, COVID-19 is an “emerging disease,” and much of what we do know is “based on what is known about similar coronaviruses.” 19

Keeping this in mind, I recommend listening to a short interview with esteemed human rights lawyer and Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Francis Boyle.

Boyle is adamant that Covid-19 is a leaked bioweapons agent and given his standing, one might imagine that informed opinion of this kind with the submission of supporting evidence deserves a more public platform. Instead, as he says, no mainstream journalists have come forward to speak with him. I do not, of course, leap to the conclusion that his account is the correct one; only find it curious that most journalists, who for their part invariably have little to no expertise in this field, are so eager to either ignore him altogether or undermine his authority in hit-pieces that consistently dismiss Boyle merely as “a lawyer”.

Furthermore, there is an additional piece of evidence that appears to be in favour of Boyle’s claims. It appeared in an article published by the highly respected scientific journal Nature back in November 2015. Entitled “Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research”, the piece begins:

An experiment that created a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus — one related to the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) — has triggered renewed debate over whether engineering lab variants of viruses with possible pandemic potential is worth the risks. 20

For the record, the bats in question were Chinese horseshoe bats.

I shall not reproduce a larger extract because there is an ominous ‘rights & permissions’ caution, and so for the purposes of fair use I will also reprint in full the editors’ cautionary note prefacing the article:

Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this story is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.

Click here to read the full Nature article.

And here and here to read articles published in 2013 about attempts by scientists based in The Netherlands to weaponise bird flu.

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There are a great many articles dedicated to the claim that SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) could not have been manufactured in a lab. I recently followed a link to one published by Science News magazine and it is a very interesting and informative piece, however, in spite of its emphatic title “No, the coronavirus wasn’t made in a lab. A genetic analysis show it’s from nature”, we find that this headline claim is in fact qualified throughout the piece, and a rather inconclusive refutation in the final summary reads:

Similarity of SARS-CoV-2 to bat and pangolin viruses is some of the best evidence that the virus is natural, [Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland] says. “This was just another animal spillover into humans,” she says. “It’s really the most simple explanation for what we see.” Researchers still aren’t sure exactly which animal was the source.

Moreover, another contributing expert, Kristian Andersen, an infectious disease researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, highlights peculiarities with the virus that are hard to explain:

A couple of unexpected features of the virus caught the researchers’ eyes, Andersen says. In particular, the gene encoding the coronavirus’s spike protein has 12 extra RNA building blocks, or nucleotides, stuck in it.

This spike protein protrudes from the virus’ surface and allows the virus to latch onto and enter human cells. That insertion of RNA building blocks adds four amino acids to the spike protein, and creates a site in the protein for an enzyme called furin to cut. Furin is made in human cells, and cleaves proteins only at spots where a particular combination of amino acids is found, like the one created by the insertion. SARS and other SARS-like viruses don’t have those cutting sites.

The article continues:

Finding the furin cutting site was a surprise: “That was an aha moment and an uh-oh moment,” [Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University in New Orleans] says. When bird influenza viruses acquire the ability to be cut by furin, the viruses often become more easily transmissible. The insertion also created places where sugar molecules could be fastened to the spike protein, creating a shield to protect the virus from the immune system.

The COVID-19 virus’ spike protein also binds more tightly to a protein on human cells called ACE2 than SARS does (SN: 3/10/20). Tighter binding may allow SARS-CoV-2 to more easily infect cells. Together, those features may account for why COVID-19 is so contagious (SN: 3/13/20).

“It’s very peculiar, these two features,” Andersen says. “How do we explain how this came about?  I’ve got to be honest. I was skeptical [that it was natural]. This could have happened in tissue culture” in a lab, where viruses may acquire mutations as they replicate many times in lab dishes. In nature, viruses carrying some of those mutations might be weeded out by natural selection but might persist in lab dishes where even feeble viruses don’t have to fight hard for survival.

In fact this article is solely based upon a supporting paper published by Kristian Andersen et al in the journal Nature Medicine and entitled “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2”. The abstract to this paper makes the emphatic claim that:

“Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

But, once again, its conclusion is somewhat more equivocal:

The genomic features described here may explain in part the infectiousness and transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 in humans. Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here. However, since we observed all notable SARS-CoV-2 features, including the optimized RBD and polybasic cleavage site, in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.

[bold emphasis added]

What puzzles me about the Science News article (and countless articles on this subject) is its laboured use of the distorting and highly charged pejorative “conspiracy theory” that is inserted merely to distract attention from the validity of all claims (including those made by experts) that the virus may indeed have man-made origins. After all, we know that there are dozens if not hundreds of labs dotted across the world where scientists are busily working on the perfection of germs in today’s bioweapons complex. A network of what Francis Boyle aptly calls “death factories” is not a theory but a conspiracy fact. Indeed, the New Science article even openly admits:

Accidental releases of viruses, including SARS, have happened from other labs in the past. So “this is not something you can just dismiss out of hand,” Andersen says. “That would be foolish.” 21

This singular admission of possibility hidden away in the midst of otherwise outright dismissal is again indicative of a process of doublethink (already discussed at the top of the post); a disturbing feature of so much of today’s journalism.

*

The Cambridge phylogenetic study

Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, originated from bats. It has been found to share 96 per cent identical genes with a coronavirus isolated by Chinese scientists from bat droppings in the southwestern province of Yunnan in 2013.

But there were hundreds of mutations between Sars-CoV-2 and the one in Yunnan, and a coronavirus usually acquires one mutation per month. Some scientists have therefore suspected the virus may have been spreading quietly in host animals and humans for years to gradually evolve to a highly adaptive form that could infect humans.

The first outbreak could be a recent event involving the last few mutations that completed the leap from harmless strain to deadly pathogen, according to the Cambridge team.

This is according to a team led by geneticist Peter Forster who presented new findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS]:

The team analysed the strains using a phylogenetic network – a mathematical algorithm that can map the global movement of organisms through the mutation of their genes.

They were still trying to pinpoint the location of patient zero, and were hoping for help from scientists in China, but some early signs were prompting them to look into areas to the south of Wuhan, where coronavirus infections were first reported in December.

Peter Forster and the team at Cambridge identified three distinct strains of COVID-19 and traced the origins of the epidemic. They found that the strain in Wuhan (designated B) mutated from an earlier version A:

Arguably, the most intriguing finding is briefly discussed in the concluding paragraphs of the SCMP article:

The Cambridge study also raised some new questions. The first strain isolated and reported by Chinese scientists was actually younger than the original type that caused the outbreak. Why the US had more strains genetically closer to a bat virus than Wuhan has prompted heated debates in the research community.

One explanation, according to Forster, was that the original strain may have first emerged in China but was more adaptive to the American population and environment. 22

Click here to read more from this very recent article entitled “Coronavirus outbreak may have started in September, say British scientists” published by South China Morning Post.

The same article includes this embedded Youtube video to support some of the claims as well as to add additional information:

The important caveat in the scientific paper “The Proximal Origin of SARS-Cov-2” is again quoted in the upload although in a significantly altered form.

Where the current version reads (see above): “Although the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here.”

The old version read: “Although genomic evidence does not support the idea that SARS-CoV-2 is a laboratory construct, it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin.” [at 2:15 mins]

*

China’s Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui has also weighed into the debate, pointing to additional evidence based on genetic sequencing drawn from “a global database covering 12 countries on four continents” that reveals an ancestry for the virus dating back two more generations:

“The research revealed that the earliest ‘ancestor’ of the virus is mv1, which evolved into haplotypes H13 and H38, and they, in turn, led to emergence of the second-generation haplotype — H3, which evolved into H1.”

For clarity, the ambassador used family ties to trace the virus’s development. Thus, the mv1 haplotype is “the grand-grandfather,” while H13 and H38 are “the grandma and grandpa,” H3 — is “the father” and H1 is “the child.”

“The virus that was discovered at Wuhan’s seafood market was of the H1 variety,” he continued. “Only the H3 haplotype was discovered in Wuhan earlier, but it had nothing to do with the seafood market.”

The previous gene sequences, H13 and H38, were never discovered in Wuhan.

“This suggests that the H1 specimen was brought to the seafood market by some infected person, which sparked the epidemic. The gene sequence cannot lie,” Zhang Hanhui asserted. 23

Click here to read the full report from Russian news agency TASS entitled “Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof”

*

Appendix A: Operation Dark Winter

The following extracts are all taken from Wikipedia entries at the time of publishing with original footnotes retained:

Operation Dark Winter was the code name for a senior-level bio-terrorist attack simulation conducted from June 22–23, 2001.[1][2][3] It was designed to carry out a mock version of a covert and widespread smallpox attack on the United States. Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (CCBS) / Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services were the principal designers, authors, and controllers of the Dark Winter project.

Dark Winter was focused on evaluating the inadequacies of a national emergency response during the use of a biological weapon against the American populace. The exercise was solely intended to establish preventive measures and response strategies by increasing governmental and public awareness of the magnitude and potential of such a threat posed by biological weapons.

Dark Winter’s simulated scenario involved an initial localized smallpox attack on Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with additional smallpox attack cases in Georgia and Pennsylvania. The simulation was then designed to spiral out of control. This would create a contingency in which the National Security Council struggles to determine both the origin of the attack as well as deal with containing the spreading virus. By not being able to keep pace with the disease’s rate of spread, a new catastrophic contingency emerges in which massive civilian casualties would overwhelm America’s emergency response capabilities.

The disastrous contingencies that would result in the massive loss of civilian life were used to exploit the weaknesses of the U.S. health care infrastructure and its inability to handle such a threat. The contingencies were also meant to address the widespread panic that would emerge and which would result in mass social breakdown and mob violence. Exploits would also include the many difficulties that the media would face when providing American citizens with the necessary information regarding safety procedures.

*

Some of the key participants (complete list available on Wikipedia):

Samuel Augustus Nunn Jr.

Former Senator from Georgia (1972 – 1997), Sam Nunn is a member of the Democratic Party. Nunn played the part of the President in the Dark Winter exercise.

After leaving Congress, Nunn co-founded the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a charitable organization working to prevent catastrophic attacks with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, for which he was the co-chairman. His political experience and credentials on national defence reportedly earned him consideration as a potential running mate for presidential candidates John Kerry (2004) and Barack Obama (2008) after they became their party’s nominees.

James Woolsey, Jr

Former head of the CIA (1993–95) James Woolsey played the part of Director of Central Intelligence. In real life, Woolsey appeared on CNN on the morning after the September 11th attack to falsely lay the blame with Iraq and Saddam Hussein:

“I very much hope the Bush administration, unlike Clinton administration, will not set aside this possibility and assume that everything is just a terrorist group, even a terrorist group as major as bin Laden’s. It really needs to look carefully at the possibility there may be state sponsorship here, and I think the most likely, certainly not the only possibility is Iraq.” 24

Frank Wisner

Frank Wisner headed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), a clandestine intelligence unit, from 1948 to 1950. In 1950, the OPC was placed under the CIA and renamed the Directorate of Plans. Wisner became Deputy Director of Plans (DDP) in 1951 when Dulles was named Director of Central Intelligence. Wisner remained as DDP until September 1958, playing an important role in the early history of the CIA.

Jerome M. Hauer

Jerome Hauer is the chief executive officer of a consulting firm, The Hauer Group LLC. He was formerly the director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management under mayor Rudy Giuliani from 1996 to 2000. Additionally, he was previously an employee of Kroll Inc. which studied biological terrorism attacks.

Judith Miller

Judith Miller (born January 2, 1948) is an American journalist and commentator known for her coverage of Iraq’s WMD programme both before and after the 2003 invasion, which was later discovered to have been based on inaccurate information from the intelligence community. She co-wrote a book Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, which became a top New York Times best seller shortly after she became a victim of a hoax anthrax letter at the time of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Margaret Ann Hamburg

Margaret Hamburg is an American physician and public health administrator, who is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In March 2009, she had been nominated by President Obama to become Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, was unanimously confirmed in May 2009, and served as the 21st Commissioner until April 2015.

Hamburg currently sits on a number of Boards, including for the GAVI Alliance, Commonwealth Fund, She is also a member of the Harvard University Global Advisory Council and the Global Health Scientific Advisory Committee for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She formerly served on the Boards of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rockefeller University.

She is married to Peter Fitzhugh Brown, a computer scientist and artificial intelligence expert. Brown is the chief executive officer of Renaissance Technologies. Renaissance Technologies was the top donor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the third largest donor to Hillary Clinton, giving $15.5 million and $16.5 million respectively.

*

A few of the findings (fuller summary available on Wikipedia):

  • There is no surge capability in the U.S. healthcare and public health systems,[5] or in the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries.[4]

The exercise was designed to simulate a sudden and unexpected biowarfare event for which the United States healthcare system was unprepared. In the absence of sufficient preparation, Dark Winter revealed that the lack of sufficient vaccine or drugs to prevent the spread of disease severely limited management options.[5] Due to the institutionally limited “surge capacity” of the American healthcare system, hospitals quickly became overwhelmed and rendered effectively inoperable by the sudden and continued influx of new cases, exacerbated by patients with common illnesses who feared they might have smallpox,[5] and people who were otherwise healthy, but concerned about their possible exposure.[5]

  • Dealing with the media will be a major immediate challenge for all levels of government.[4]

Dark Winter revealed that information management and communication (e.g., dealing with the press effectively, communication with citizens, maintaining the information flows necessary for command and control at all institutional levels) will be a critical element in crisis/consequence management. For example, participants worried that it would not be possible to forcibly impose vaccination or travel restrictions on large groups of the population without their general cooperation.[5]

  • Should a contagious bioweapon pathogen be used, containing the spread of disease will present significant ethical, political, cultural, operational, and legal challenges.[4]

In Dark Winter, some members advised the imposition of geographic quarantines around affected areas, but the implications of these measures (e.g., interruption of the normal flow of medicines, food and energy supplies, and other critical needs) were not clearly understood at first.[5] In the end, it is not clear whether such draconian measures would have led to a more effective interruption of disease spread.[5] What’s more allocation of scarce resources necessitated some degree of rationing,[5] creating conflict and significant debate between participants representing competing interests.

*

Appendix B: John Rendon’s tweets on January 31st

“What should be known about contagions, is first, the psychological size of the contagion will be at least 5x greater than the contagion itself, thus timely, truthful and transparent reporting is essential – which is a challenge for Boys in #Beijing

“Second, to the extent there is a functioning health care system in the country, it will collapse and military medical units will have to be activated, either from the country’s existing force structure or from the military of aligned partners;”

“Third, people stop traveling to and from the country of contagion, thus impacting the availability of food and other supplies and material necessary for economic sustainment;”

“Fourth, and equally significant the economic recovery may be between 2X and 3X longer than the existence of the very contagion.”

“COUNTRIES: begin procedures now, even if you don’t have signs, construct a mass contagion plan, modeled after a mass casualty event; conduct exercises immediately; then share what you learn with your neighbors whether one likes them or not.”

*

Appendix C: Research paper by Indian scientists on coronavirus fuels bioweapon theories

The following article reprinted below was published by Indian new magazine The Week on February 1st. Note that a strapline to the article reads: “The research paper by IIT Delhi, DU scientists was uploaded on January 31 on bioRxiv”

Zero Hedge, a popular US news blog focussing on the capital markets, was suspended by Twitter on Friday shortly after it tweeted a post about an article on the novel coronavirus outbreak in China. The post alleged that the coronavirus was obtained by China and was being modified into a ‘bioweapon’.

Interestingly, the post also cited a research paper on the coronavirus by a group of Indian scientists from the school of biological sciences at IIT Delhi and Acharya Narendra Dev College of University of Delhi.

Earlier, Zero Hedge had uploaded contact details of a Chinese scientist, who it effectively held as being responsible for being behind the coronavirus outbreak. The revelation of personal details violates Twitter’s policies.

The research paper was uploaded on January 31 on bioRxiv, an open source initiative containing resources on biological research. The research paper claims the spike protein in novel coronavirus contained four “insertions” that “are not present in other coronaviruses”. The research paper notes, “amino acid residues in all the 4 inserts have identity or similarity to those in the HIV1 gp120 or HIV-1 Gag”. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The scientists argue that similarity in amino acid identity was “not a random fortuitous finding”, hinting that it could have been engineered. However, the paper does not delve deeper into the possibility of virus being engineered deliberately.

However, the study by the Indian scientists has attracted some scepticism already. Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist who has been associated with Harvard and Johns Hopkins, said the research work had not been peer reviewed in order for it to be verified or refuted.

Earlier this week, an Indian news portal, GreatGameIndia, claimed the origin of the coronavirus can be traced to Canada and two Chinese biological warfare program agents who smuggled it into China.

Click here to read the same article as it appears in The Week magazine

*

Appendix D: Alternative hypothesis for the manufacture of a bioweapon like Covi-19

The following article is republished from the official website of Meryl Nass who identified Zimbabwe’s 1978 anthrax epidemic as an episode of biological warfare (1992) amongst other achievements. You can find her full CV here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P-qoaVgEfmWiQDx8PbWrwBL0dbXD2DwUjf9l4o5uHJs/edit?usp=sharing

Why are some of the US’ top scientists making a specious argument about the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2?

  1.  I know about biological warfare/biodefense.  I am the first person in the world (according to publicly available literature) to have analyzed an epidemic and demonstrated that the epidemic was due to biological warfare. (1992 study of the 1978-81 Rhodesian anthrax outbreak).

https://www.ippnw.org/pdf/mgs/psr-2-4-nass.pdf

  1.  Prior to genetic engineering techniques being developed (1973) and widely used (since late 1970s), more ‘primitive’ means of causing mutations, with the intention of developing biological weapons, were employed.  Such methods were used by the Japanese beginning in the 1930s, by the US beginning in the 1940s, and by a number of other countries. They resulted in biological weapons that were tested, well-described, and in some cases, used. Such methods were also used subsequent to the 1970s.
  2.  These methods can result in biowarfare agents that lack the identifiable signature of a microbial agent constructed in a lab from known RNA or DNA sequences.  In fact, it would be desirable to produce such agents, since it would be difficult to prove they were deliberately constructed in a lab. Here are just a few possibilities for how one might create new, virulent mutants:
  3. a)  exposing microorganisms to chemical or radiological agents that cause high mutation rates and selecting for desired characteristics
  4. b)  passaging virus through a number of lab animals or tissue cultures
  5. c)  mixing viruses together and seeking recombinants with a new mix of virulence factors
  6.  Top scientists circled their wagons to protest against “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” in a statement published in the Lancet March 7. (It was published earlier online.) Their reported aim was to “stand with” public health professionals and scientists in China. Many who signed the statement have worked in biodefense. Signers include Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, and James Hughes, former director of CDC’s National Center for Infectious Diseases and former assistant Surgeon General.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30418-9/fulltext

Five additional scientists soon provided the “scientific evidence” to back up the natural origin claim. These 5 scientists have been affiliated with signers of the statement above, they too have worked in biodefense, and their article was published in Nature Medicine (in the print version) on March 17, 2020.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9

These scientists  set up a straw man to knock down:  they claimed that had the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 is the official name of the virus) been created in a lab: “if genetic manipulation had been performed,” then a known coronavirus backbone would have been used.  But because no known backbone forms part of SARS-CoV-2, “the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus.”

As USA Today summarized this:

“If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” the report said. “But the scientists found that the SARS-CoV-2 backbone differed substantially from those of already known coronaviruses and mostly resembled related viruses found in bats and pangolins.”

Their work was then discussed by Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH.

https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/03/26/genomic-research-points-to-natural-origin-of-covid-19/

Dr. Collins says,

“Some folks are even making outrageous claims that the new coronavirus causing the pandemic was engineered in a lab and deliberately released to make people sick. A new study debunks such claims by providing scientific evidence that this novel coronavirus arose naturally…

this study leaves little room to refute a natural origin for COVID-19…

Finally, next time you come across something about COVID-19 online that disturbs or puzzles you, I suggest going to FEMA’s new Coronavirus Rumor Control web site…”

I know that the groups of scientists who wrote these pieces in the Lancet and Nature Medicine, as well as NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, know that you don’t need genetic engineering methods to create a bioweapon.  Like me, they are old, they recall a world before genetic engineering, they know the history of biowarfare, and they know the score.  Why then are they participating in this charade?

*

The following information including contact details are available on Meryl Nass’ website:

Most-cited papers include one investigating Zimbabwe’s major anthrax epidemic and a review of anthrax vaccine’s usefulness in biological warfare. A November, 2001 Congressional testimony in response to the anthrax letters may also be of interest. She can be contacted at merylnass@gmail.com or 207 412-0004.

*

1

No wonder the Pentagon was forced to issue the proverbial denial – in Pentagonese, via one Col. R. Shane Day, the director of the DIA’s NCMI: “In the interest of transparency during this current public health crisis, we can confirm that media reporting about the existence/release of a National Center for Medical Intelligence Coronavirus-related product/assessment in November of 2019 is not correct. No such NCMI product exists.”

Well, if such “product” existed, Pentagon head and former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper would be very much in the loop. He was duly questioned about it by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Question: “Did the Pentagon receive an intelligence assessment on COVID in China last November from the National Center for Medical Intelligence of DIA?”

Esper: “Oh, I can’t recall, George,” (…) “But, we have many people who watch this closely.”

Question: “This assessment was done in November, and it was briefed to the NSC in early December to assess the impact on military readiness, which, of course, would make it important to you, and the possible spread in the United States. So, you would have known if there was a brief to the National Security Council in December, wouldn’t you?”

Esper: “Yes (…) “I’m not aware of that.”

So “no such product exists” then? Is it a fake? Is it a Deep State/CIA concoction to trap Trump? Or are the usual suspects lying, trademark CIA style?

2 From an article entitled “What did U.S. Intel Really Know About the ‘Chinese’ Virus?” written by Pepe Escobar, published in Strategic Culture Foundation on April 21, 2020. https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/04/21/what-did-us-intel-really-know-about-chinese-virus/

3 From an article entitled “China locked in hybrid war with US” written by Pepe Escobar, published in the Asia Times on March 17, 2020. https://asiatimes.com/2020/03/china-locked-in-hybrid-war-with-us/

4 From a report entitled “Fauci Addresses Bioterrorism Threats” written by Tom Wigg attributed to  The Hoya (Georgetown University newspaper), republished on UCLA Dept of Epidemiology on October 18, 2002. http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/fauciaddbioterrorism.html

5 From an article entitled “Bioterrorism becoming too dominant on public health agenda?” written by Alan Cassels, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on November 26, 2002. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC134156/

6 From an article entitled “Biodefence on the research agenda” written by Anthony S. Fauci, published in Nature on February 15, 2003. https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01480

7 From an article entitled “U.S. Biowarfare Programs Have 13,000 Death Scientists Hard At Work” written by Sherwood Ross, published by Scoop on February 26, 2020. https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2002/S00184/us-biowarfare-programs-have-13000-death-scientists-hard-at-work.htm

8 From an article entitled entitled “Dr. Fauci Backed Controversial Wuhan Lab with U.S. Dollars for Risky Coronavirus Research” written by Fred Guterl, published in Newsweek magazine on April 28, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/dr-fauci-backed-controversial-wuhan-lab-millions-us-dollars-risky-coronavirus-research-1500741

* Warning:

The film explores the horrific legacy of human experimentation, spanning decades and continents, in which germ weapons have been tested on unwitting members of armed forces and civilians alike.

Also probed are the mysterious deaths in recent years of several leading scientists working in this field. Bruce Ivins, David Kelly, Vladimir Pasechnik, Larry Ford and Frank Olson each died in violent or suspicious circumstances and have been linked to one of germ warfare’s darkest secrets, state programs developing new strains of anthrax.

The film reveals:

  1. Troubling questions about the FBI’s “solving” of the 2001 Anthrax Attacks. Many scientific experts are questioning the evidence presented that pins the blame on U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins who committed suicide.
  2. The FBI is withholding key information from the public about the attacks on national security grounds.
  3. New details about the suspicious deaths of five leading bio-weapons scientists, all working with anthrax.
  4. Links between secret programs in the U.S., U.K, the former Soviet Union and apartheid South Africa.
  5. Evidence that Doctor Death, who headed South Africa’s apartheid-era secret germ war program that developed agents for assassination and worked on a vaccine to sterilize blacks without their knowledge, received assistance from the U.S. and U.K. germ war establishments.
  6. The anthrax attacks have ushered a massive buildup of ‘bio-defense’ efforts worth more than $50 billion in U.S. Government contracts alone, much of which is flowing to politically connected bio-tech corporations.
  7. Hundreds of private labs and thousands of scientists are now handling the most dangerous pathogens with little effective oversight.
  8. The U.S. Government has put in place contingency plans to conduct biological warfare and that we may have entered a new dangerous biological arms race.

The filmmaker tracks down those directly involved: germ war experts, scientists, spies and assassins – to uncover one of the most frightening and untold stories of our time

9

A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had been told about the impending prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported for Friday editions. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. The Times, quoting an unidentified colleague, said the scientist had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine.

From an Associated Press report entitled “ANTHRAX SCIENTIST a SUICIDE! FBI Was Moving On Fort Detrick Md., Researcher” written by Lara Jakes Jordan & David Dishneau, published on August 1, 2008. https://web.archive.org/web/20090913055147/http://www.omgili.com/newsgroups/sci/chem/7d281128-fa90-43e6-8af9-11e6916f0f5df63g2000hsfgooglegroupscom.html%26q%3DJake%2Bin%2BProgress

On the morning of July 27, 2008, Ivins was found unconscious at his home. He was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital and died on July 29 from what was then called an overdose of Tylenol with codeine,[5][52] an apparent suicide. No autopsy was ordered following his death because, according to an officer in the local police department, the state medical examiner ‘determined that an autopsy wouldn’t be necessary’ based on laboratory test results of blood taken from the body.[53] A summary of the police report of his death, released in 2009, lists the cause of death as liver and kidney failure, citing his purchase of two bottles of Tylenol PM (containing diphenhydramine), contradicting earlier reports of Tylenol with codeine.[54]

From the current Wikipedia entry with all links preserved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Edwards_Ivins#Death

The Michigan Biologic Products Institute (MBPI) had been founded in 1926 by the State to serve the vaccination needs of its largely rural population, many of whom worked on farms and required inoculation against naturally occurring anthrax spores and rabies. By the 1980s, the Institute stood alone as the only anthrax vaccine manufacturer in the U.S. after 1970s-era regulations had driven most private vaccine manufacturers out of business. MBPI’s anthrax vaccine was known as Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) or BioThrax. […]

In September 1998, BioPort acquired the MBPI facility through a $25 million package of loans, cash and promises to pay Michigan state more for the company in the future, promises that were later broken.

From an article entitled “A Killer Enterprise: How One of Big Pharma’s Most Corrupt Companies Plans to Corner the Covid-19 Cure Market” written by Whitney Webb, published in Unlimited Hangout on April 9, 2020. https://unlimitedhangout.com/2020/04/09/a-killer-enterprise-how-one-of-big-pharmas-most-corrupt-companies-plans-to-corner-the-covid-19-cure-market/

10 From an article entitled “U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits” written by Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg & William J. Broad, published in The New York Times on September 4, 2001. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/04/world/us-germ-warfare-research-pushes-treaty-limits.html

11 From an article entitled “Mr Bio-Defence, William C. Patrick III: A Tribute” written by Judith Miller published in City Journal on October 5, 2010. https://www.city-journal.org/html/mr-bio-defense-10766.html

12 When the Press Fails. University of Chicago Press. 2008. p. 37.

13 From an article entitled “A Killer Enterprise: How One of Big Pharma’s Most Corrupt Companies Plans to Corner the COVID-19 Cure Market” written by Whitney Webb published in Unlimited Hangout on April 9, 2020. https://unlimitedhangout.com/2020/04/09/a-killer-enterprise-how-one-of-big-pharmas-most-corrupt-companies-plans-to-corner-the-covid-19-cure-market/

14 From an article entitled entitled “Manufactured Perception and the COVID-19 Pandora’s Box” written by Phil Butler, published by New Eastern Outlook on June 10, 2020. https://journal-neo.org/2020/06/10/manufactured-perception-and-the-covid-19-pandora-s-box/

15 From an article entitled “U.S. Biowarfare Programs Have 13,000 Death Scientists Hard At Work” written by Sherwood Ross, published by Scoop on February 26, 2020. https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2002/S00184/us-biowarfare-programs-have-13000-death-scientists-hard-at-work.htm

16 From a report entitled “Pompeo blames China for hundreds of thousands of virus deaths, denies inconsistency” written by Humeyra Pamek & David Brunnstrom, published by Reuters on May 6, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-pompeo/pompeo-blames-china-for-hundreds-of-thousands-of-virus-deaths-denies-inconsistency-idUSKBN22I27K

17 Ibid.

18 From an article entitled “‘Cover Up’ In Wuhan Mount As Pompeo Blames Cina For Pandemic” written by Kenneth Rapoza, published in Forbes magazine on May 4, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2020/05/04/cover-up-in-wuhan-mounts-as-pompeo-blames-china-for-pandemic/

19 From an article entitled “Why COVID-19 is more insidious than other coronaviruses” written by Nicole Karlis, published by Salon magazine on February 28, 2020. https://www.salon.com/2020/02/27/why-covid-19-is-more-insidious-than-other-coronaviruses/

20 From an article entitled “Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research” written by Declan Butler, published in Nature on November 12, 2015. https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debate-over-risky-research-1.18787

21 From an article entitled “No, coronavirus wasn’t made in a lab. A genetic analysis shows it’s from nature” written by Tina Hesman Saey, published in Science News magazine on March 26, 2020. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-not-human-made-lab-genetic-analysis-nature

22 From an article entitled “Coronavirus outbreak may have started in September, say British Scientists” written by Stephen Chen, published in the South China Morning Post on April 17, 2020. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3080380/coronavirus-outbreak-may-have-started-september-say-british

23 From an article entitled “Ambassador says coronavirus imported to China, points to genetic sequence as proof” published by TASS on April 17, 2020. https://tass.com/world/1146127

24 http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0109/12/ltm.13.html

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, did you see?, September 11th, USA, Zimbabwe

Palestinian lives matter: the killing of Eyad el-Hallaq

Eyad el-Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian, was chased and shot dead by Israeli police officers in occupied East Jerusalem on Saturday May 30th.

At protests taking place in Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and in other Palestinian towns, demonstrators hold placards to draw attention to parallels between Hallaq’s death and the brutal killing of George Floyd that happened a few days earlier:

The man [Eyad Hallaq] was unarmed, and had fled the officers in fear, unable to communicate properly because of his disability. He died just a few metres away from his special-needs school, in East Jerusalem. The officer who killed him said he thought Hallaq was a terrorist because he was wearing gloves.

Click here to read the full report entitled “Eyad Hallaq’s Life Mattered” published by English-language Middle East newspaper The National.

*

Shahd Abusalama is a Palestinian refugee and a postgraduate student at Sheffield Hallam. She recently shared a letter sent to her constituency MP, Louise Haigh, with the Sheffield Labour Friends of Palestine (SLFP)  and with her permission I am publishing it below.

Along with Shahd and SLFP, I encourage others to write to their MPs on this very serious matter.

Dear MP Louise,

I hope you’re keeping well.

My name is Shahd Abusalama, a Palestinian refugee and PhD student at Sheffield Hallam, living in your constituency. I supported your re-election campaign to keep you as our MP. I am aware of your longstanding activism for justice for Palestine and all people facing racism, inequality and discriminations, and I respect you for that.

I follow you on twitter, and I noticed many tweets for #BlackLivesMatter. Happy to see you speaking up against the systematic racism facing black people in the UK and the US, but if we’re addressing violence happening internationally, then addressing such racist systematic violence against the Palestinians is a must too.

You’re probably well-aware that systematic racism and dehumanisation is a disease shared between all states with a history of colonialism and slavery. These states empower each other through military, economic and diplomatic collaborations. And here comes apartheid Israel, which has dehumanised, dispossessed, imprisoned, killed and maimed us Palestinians for 72 years, since it’s foundation on the ethnic cleansing of our homeland. As a result of this event, I was born a refugee in Palestine’s largest refugee camp, Jabalia, northern Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison.

I would like to bring your attention to the case of Eyad Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian, killed by Israeli occupation soldiers on his way to Elwyn school for disabled people near Al-Asbat Gate in occupied Jerusalem’s old city on the morning of 30 May 2020. His disability makes him like a 7 year old child, and he has hearing and speech difficulties. Israeli soldiers claimed he was holding a ‘suspicious object,’ they thought it was a gun- he held a cellphone. When they ordered Eyad to stop, he started running out of fear. The penalty was death sentence. They shot 10 times! 10 bullets. Before the shooting, Halak’s teacher told Israel’s Channel 13 news that she had tried to warn Israeli police, shouting “He’s disabled! He’s disabled!” before they proceeded to gun him down. They still killed him, in cold blood as his mother said in a painful video. Still, after the shooting, they declared a state of emergency in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem, looking for a gun of their fantasy and found none. During that time, medics were barred from entering the area as poor Eyad was bleeding to death.

Such dehumanising treatment of Palestinians, as “disposable natives” is continuing since pre-state Israel, under British colonialism, and this is only the latest example. We are well aware that Zionism is Racism, as adopted by a UN resolution in 1975, and despite desperate attempts by Israel and its allies to conceal this and suppress reports exposing Israeli apartheid practices (see attached), this is visible and clear to anyone with open eyes.

The technique that brought about the lynching of George Floyd is widely used against Palestinians, including children! For years, there have been grassroots efforts calling for an end to this deadly military exchange between Israel, the US and the UK.  See the Morning Star recent article on the issue in light of the US, making it strikingly clear the connection between Israeli military and US police brutality, including the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police who are trained in Israel.

I assume your knowledge about the Palestinian call for BDS until freedom, justice and equality is served in historic Palestine. I’ve also seen your support in the past for imposing arms embargo on Israel.

We are currently witnessing a historical moment of protests flaring up from Palestine to the US, calling for equality and justice. And the protesters are seeing the connections between Israeli practices against the Palestinian people, and those of US police against blacks and protesters.

We should seize this moment and speak louder about ending this deadly military exchange, in solidarity with the Palestinians and all people at the receiving end of their oppression.

Will you amplify this call both online and at the house of commons?

I look forward to hear from you!

Shahd

Additional:

In her reply to me, Shahd says that Louise Haigh MP:

Answered with a generic email to all people who wrote to her expressing their concern about George Floyd murder, and nothing was mentioned in that letter answering to my request regarding Iyad Hallaq or military exchange. So she definitely needs more voices to join to take me seriously.

*

Update:

Shahd wrote to me a second time and included links to share – one of which is the Tweet embedded above. This is her message in full:

Thanks for the link, I tweeted it.

On Saturday’s protest in Sheffield for Black Lives Matter, a guy with a camera called Mark Banaman approached me and made this video:

Please if you’re on facebook, feel free to share Apartheid Off Campus’ video:

https://www.facebook.com/apartheidoffcampus/posts/126314959082249

If you’re on twitter, a Gaza-based youth group called 16th October shared it: https://twitter.com/16thOctoberGr/status/1269644975475736576

And if you’re on instagram, SHU PalSoc shared the video: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CBKxq-wFtcE/?igshid=xnjae96ykofj

In Solidarity!

Shahd

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Filed under campaigns & events, Israel, Palestine, police state, USA

corona marginalia: techno-tyranny

“How do we really use new technology in the economy of tomorrow? And that’s the lesson that we’re all learning right: work from home; telemedicine; tele-education. It’s all about technology, and a better use of technology, and really incorporating the lessons into that. And probably the best mind in this country, if not on the globe to do this, is I believe a true visionary, especially in the field of technology, and that’s Eric Schmidt.”

This is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s effusive welcome to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt when he joined him for the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday May 6th. Cuomo continues:

“[Schmidt] saw a future that no-one else envisioned and then developed a way to get there. And we’ve asked him to come work with us to bring that kind of visionary aspect to government and society. Let’s look at what we just went through. Let’s anticipate a future through that lens. And tell us how we can incorporate these lessons. And Mr Schmidt who has tremendous demands on his talent and his time has agreed to help us and head an effort to do this.”

Eric Schmidt, no less lavish in his praise for Cuomo, says:

“Thank you Governor. You have been doing an incredible job for our state and frankly for the nation, and I’m really pleased to help. The first priorities of what we’re trying to do are focused on telehealth, remote learning and broadband. We can take this terrible disaster and accelerate all of those ways that will make things much, much better.”

The author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein begins her latest article entitled “Screen New Deal” with reflections on this video meeting and Cuomo’s announcement that Schmidt “will be heading up a blue-ribbon commission to reimagine New York state’s post-Covid reality, with an emphasis on permanently integrating technology into every aspect of civic life”:

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

She continues:

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Adding:

Thanks to Cuomo and his various billionaire partnerships (including one with Michael Bloomberg for testing and tracing), New York state is being positioned as the gleaming showroom for this grim future — but the ambitions reach far beyond the borders of any one state or country.

And at the dead center of it all is Eric Schmidt.

Klein notes: “Lest there be any doubt that the former Google chair’s goals were purely benevolent, his video background featured a framed pair of golden angel wings.”

Click here to read Naomi Klein’s full article published on May 8th by The Intercept.

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Eric Schmidt and the NSCAI

“[D]ata is the new oil. And China is just awash with data. And they don’t have the same restraints that we do around collecting it and using it, because of the privacy difference between our countries. This notion that they have the largest labeled data set in the world is going to be a huge strength for them.”

— Chris Darby, President and CEO of In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the CIA and member of NSCAI. *

The second part of Klein’s article moves on to discuss the Sidewalk Labs division of Google’s parent company Alphabet and specifically their “smart cities” Toronto project. This is a topic I have addressed in my last post published as it happened on the eve of the project being shut down following what Klein describes as “two years of ceaseless controversy relating to the enormous amounts of personal data that Alphabet would collect, a lack of privacy protections, and questionable benefits for the city as a whole.”

But central to her article is an investigation into Schmidt’s other roles both as Chair of the Defense Innovation Board, which advises the Department of Defense on increased use of artificial intelligence in the military, and as Chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) which advises Congress on “advances in artificial intelligence, related machine learning developments, and associated technologies.”

Specifically, Klein draws attention to slides from a presentation made by Schmidt’s NSCAI back in May 2019, that have since been released following a Freedom of Information request made by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

In fact a week prior to Klein’s excellent piece, independent journalist Whitney Webb had already brought attention to the same document release; the presentation in question is titled “Chinese Tech Landscape Overview”.

Webb writes:

This document suggests that the U.S. follow China’s lead and even surpass them in many aspects related to AI-driven technologies, particularly their use of mass surveillance. This perspective clearly clashes with the public rhetoric of prominent U.S. government officials and politicians on China, who have labeled the Chinese government’s technology investments and export of its surveillance systems and other technologies as a major “threat” to Americans’ “way of life.”

In addition, many of the steps for the implementation of such a program in the U.S., as laid out in this newly available document, are currently being promoted and implemented as part of the government’s response to the current coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. This likely due to the fact that many members of this same body have considerable overlap with the taskforces and advisors currently guiding the government’s plans to “re-open the economy” and efforts to use technology to respond to the current crisis.

Webb then highlights Eric Schmidt’s “similar concerns about ‘losing’ technological advantage to China”:

[Schmidt] argued in February in the New York Times that Silicon Valley could soon lose “the technology wars” to China if the U.S. government doesn’t take action. Thus, the three main groups represented within the NSCAI – the intelligence community, the Pentagon and Silicon Valley – all view China’s advancements in AI as a major national security threat (and in Silicon Valley’s case, threat to their bottom lines and market shares) that must be tackled quickly.

Naomi Klein likewise draws attention to the NYT op-ed headlined “I used to Run Google. Silicon Valley Could Lose to China”, in which Schmidt had called for “unprecedented partnerships between government and industry” and is, in Klein’s words “once again, sounding the yellow peril alarm”. She then quotes the salient passages:

A.I. will open new frontiers in everything from biotechnology to banking, and it is also a Defense Department priority. … If current trends continue, China’s overall investments in research and development are expected to surpass those of the United States within 10 years, around the same time its economy is projected to become larger than ours.

Unless these trends change, in the 2030s we will be competing with a country that has a bigger economy, more research and development investments, better research, wider deployment of new technologies and stronger computing infrastructure. … Ultimately, the Chinese are competing to become the world’s leading innovators, and the United States is not playing to win.

On this pretext of regaining competitive advantage over China, the NSCAI presentation goes on to cite the kinds of “structural factors” that need to be altered.

Here is Whitney Webb again:

Chief among the troublesome “structural factors” highlighted in this presentation are so-called “legacy systems” that are common in the U.S. but much less so in China. The NSCAI document states that examples of “legacy systems” include a financial system that still utilizes cash and card payments, individual car ownership and even receiving medical attention from a human doctor. It states that, while these “legacy systems” in the US are “good enough,” too many “good enough” systems “hinder the adoption of new things,” specifically AI-driven systems. […]

The document also defines another aspect of government support as the “clearing of regulatory barriers.” This term is used in the document specifically with respect to U.S. privacy laws, despite the fact that the U.S. national security state has long violated these laws with near complete impunity. However, the document seems to suggest that privacy laws in the U.S. should be altered so that what the U.S. government has done “in secret” with private citizen data can be done more openly and more extensively. The NSCAI document also discusses the removal of “regulatory barriers” in order to speed up the adoption of self-driving cars, even though autonomous driving technology has resulted in several deadly and horrific car accidents and presents other safety concerns.

Who are NSCAI? Webb provides us with a list of members and their interests:

Other members of the NSCAI are as follows:

  • Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, with close ties to Trump’s top donor Sheldon Adelson
  • Steve Chien, supervisor of the Artificial Intelligence Group at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab
  • Mignon Clyburn, Open Society Foundation fellow and former FCC commissioner
  • Chris Darby, CEO of In-Q-Tel (CIA’s venture capital arm)
  • Ken Ford, CEO of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
  • Jose-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University and former National Science Board member
  • Eric Horvitz, director of Microsoft Research Labs
  • Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services (CIA contractor)
  • Gilman Louie, partner at Alsop Louie Partners and former CEO of In-Q-Tel
  • William Mark, director of SRI International and former Lockheed Martin director
  • Jason Matheny, director of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, former Assistant director of National Intelligence and former director of IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Project Agency)
  • Katharina McFarland, consultant at Cypress International and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition
  • Andrew Moore, head of Google Cloud AI

As can be seen in the list above, there is a considerable amount of overlap between the NSCAI and the companies currently advising the White House on “re-opening” the economy (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Lockheed Martin, Oracle) and one NSCAI member, Oracle’s Safra Katz, is on the White House’s “economic revival” taskforce. Also, there is also overlap between the NSCAI and the companies that are intimately involved in the implementation of the “contact tracing” “coronavirus surveillance system,” a mass surveillance system promoted by the Jared Kushner-led, private-sector coronavirus task force. That surveillance system is set to be constructed by companies with deep ties to Google and the U.S. national security state, and both Google and Apple, who create the operating systems for the vast majority of smartphones used in the U.S., have said they will now build that surveillance system directly into their smartphone operating systems.

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article entitled “Techno-tyranny: How the US National Security State is using Coronavirus to Fulfill an Orwellian Vision” published on May 4th at her official website Unlimited Hangout.

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Tele-everything!

In her article for The Intercept, Naomi Klein supplies an update and a glimpse of the headway already made by the tech giants in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Responding to a subsequent op-ed by Eric Schmidt [passages in Italics], Klein writes:

Less than two weeks into New York state’s lockdown, Schmidt wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that both set the new tone and made clear that Silicon Valley had every intention of leveraging the crisis for a permanent transformation.

Like other Americans, technologists are trying to do their part to support the front-line pandemic response. …

But every American should be asking where we want the nation to be when the Covid-19 pandemic is over. How could the emerging technologies being deployed in the current crisis propel us into a better future? … Companies like Amazon know how to supply and distribute efficiently. They will need to provide services and advice to government officials who lack the computing systems and expertise.

We should also accelerate the trend toward remote learning, which is being tested today as never before. Online, there is no requirement of proximity, which allows students to get instruction from the best teachers, no matter what school district they reside in. …

The need for fast, large-scale experimentation will also accelerate the biotech revolution. … Finally, the country is long overdue for a real digital infrastructure…. If we are to build a future economy and education system based on tele-everything, we need a fully connected population and ultrafast infrastructure. The government must make a massive investment—perhaps as part of a stimulus package—to convert the nation’s digital infrastructure to cloud-based platforms and link them with a 5G network.

Indeed Schmidt has been relentless in pursuing this vision. Two weeks after that op-ed appeared, he described the ad-hoc homeschooling programing that teachers and families across the country had been forced to cobble together during this public health emergency as “a massive experiment in remote learning.” The goal of this experiment, he said, was “trying to find out: How do kids learn remotely? And with that data we should be able to build better remote and distance learning tools which, when combined with the teacher … will help kids learn better.” During this same video call, hosted by the Economic Club of New York, Schmidt also called for more telehealth, more 5G, more digital commerce, and the rest of the preexisting wish list. All in the name of fighting the virus.

His most telling comment, however, was this: “The benefit of these corporations, which we love to malign, in terms of the ability to communicate, the ability to deal with health, the ability to get information, is profound. Think about what your life would be like in America without Amazon.” He added that people should “be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we’re using now, and have really helped us out.”

Click here to read Naomi Klein’s full article published on May 8th by The Intercept.

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* From an article entitled “In-Q-Tel President Chris Darby on the intelligence community’s innovation challenges” written by Olivia Gazis, published in CBS News on April 24, 2019. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/intelligence-matters-in-q-tel-president-chris-darby-on-the-intelligence-communitys-innovation-challenges/

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the fix is in, or how the DNC robbed Bernie Sanders all over again

Court grants DNC the right to rig primaries

In June 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for violating the DNC Charter by rigging the Democratic presidential primaries for Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders. Even former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid admitted in July 2016, “I knew—everybody knew—that this was not a fair deal.” He added that Debbie Wasserman Schultz should have resigned much sooner than she did. The lawsuit was filed to push the DNC to admit their wrongdoing and provide Bernie Sanders supporters, who supported him financially with millions of dollars in campaign contributions, with restitution for being cheated.

On August 25, 2017, Federal Judge William Zloch, dismissed the lawsuit after several months of litigation during which DNC attorneys argued that the DNC would be well within their rights to select their own candidate. “In evaluating Plaintiffs’ claims at this stage, the Court assumes their allegations are true—that the DNC and Wasserman Schultz held a palpable bias in favor Clinton and sought to propel her ahead of her Democratic opponent,” the court order dismissing the lawsuit stated. This assumption of a plaintiff’s allegation is the general legal standard in the motion to dismiss stage of any lawsuit. The allegations contained in the complaint must be taken as true unless they are merely conclusory allegations or are invalid on their face.

From an article published by The Observer in August 2017 entitled “Court Concedes DNC Had the Right to Rig Primaries Against Sanders”.

The same piece concludes:

Jared Beck, one of the leading attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit told The Observer, “The standard governing the motion to dismiss requires the Court to accept all well-pled allegations as true for purposes of deciding the motion. Thus, the Court recited the allegations of the Complaint that it was required to accept as true, and in so doing, acknowledged that the allegations were well pled. Indeed, if you look at the Complaint, you will see that all of these allegations accepted by the Court specifically rely on cite materials that are readily available in the public record, and they support the inference that the DNC and the DWS rigged the primaries.” 1

Click here to read Michael Sainato’s full article.

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Anyone but Bernie

Joe Biden is very evidently not fit for office and everyone knows it. I do not write this because of the nepotism that secured his son Hunter an appointment to the board of Ukrainian natural gas giant Burisma Holdings Ltd. Nepotism and cronyism is just par for the course in US politics. Remember for instance, that George H W Bush provided son and future POTUS with a sufficient financial leg-up to establish an entire oil company, the aptly named Arbusto Energy. After it went belly up and was swallowed up by Harken Energy, Bush Jr was transferred to the board making a tidy sum in the process – it helps to be well-connected. The present incumbent of the White House is arguably more shameless still, appointing daughter Ivana his senior advisor alongside Ivana’s husband and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who had been previously brought in to develop and run Trump’s digital media strategy.

Nor does Biden’s creepy behaviour around women, very young woman in particular, diminish his ‘electability’, if again we judge from recent history. Bill Clinton’s proclivities are hardly less scandalous while in the previous campaign The Donald was eventually forced to make a confession of his own “locker room” antics. As close acquaintances of convicted child trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, both Clinton and Trump obviously share a great deal with own disreputable HRH Prince Andrew. Judging on the basis of popularity – the main measure of ‘electability’ – the US electorate evidently cares very little in this regard.

But today Biden, a seasoned political campaigner, has an altogether different and insurmountable impediment, since no amount of disarming political slickness can disguise it. Not long ago, Biden, as unprincipled and seedy as he always has been, nevertheless maintained a rather sharp intellect, whereas in recent months he increasingly cuts the figure of a sad, confused and incoherent old man who is repeatedly caught off guard and otherwise seen humiliating himself in virtually every public appearance he makes. Time has swiftly caught up with Joe Biden and everyone knows it.

Sky News host Rita Panahi says “no matter how hard the Democrats and their allies in the media try, Biden’s cognitive issues can no longer be ignored”.

How then did he win out in the Democratic race to be nominated for presidential candidate? Put differently, how on earth did Bernie Sanders, who has lost none of his intellectual acuity, to say nothing of his boundless energy and enthusiasm, manage to lose badly enough in the earlier contests of the Democratic Primaries to be forced to step aside now?

The short answer is that Sanders was robbed – and every conceivable tactic to undermine his campaign has been deployed as we shall see – just as the candidacy was also stolen from him during the 2016 campaign (as DNC lawyers freely conceded in their bid to defeat the class action lawsuit).

The message from the DNC and the liberal media (which also backed Biden and deliberately marginalised Sanders) is loud and clear. Letting Trump be returned to office in the upcoming November contest is an outcome they have practically guaranteed with Biden’s nomination. So they have thrown the towel in, preferring to have Trump re-elected than run any risk of America choosing President Sanders.

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Rigging in plain sight

In an article published in Counterpunch on April 9th, the founder of the website VotePact.org, Sam Husseini points to multiple manoeuvres by both the DNC and fellow Democrat candidates, especially the so-called progressives, used to stymie Sanders’ campaign. Husseini says the “Bloody Monday” move — when Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar both endorsed Biden just after his South Carolina win and just before ‘Super Tuesday’ — was only the tip of the iceberg, and to support this he offers a list of further examples to consider:

* Kamala Harris and Cory Booker pulled out of the race before South Carolina, paving the way for Biden’s win there. Jim Clyburn of course endorsed Biden just before South Carolina. Tragically, Jesse Jackson only endorsed Sanders after.

* Warren split the progressive ranks throughout and ultimately refused to endorse Sanders.

* Even the choices of the candidates was useful to stopping Sanders. Pete Buttigieg was from Indiana and the net effect of his campaign was to deny Sanders a clear win in not-so-far-away Iowa. Amy Klobuchar was from Minnesota and so the net effect of her campaign was to throw that state to Biden so that Biden won something substantial outside of the south on Super Tuesday, making his rise appear national and therefore plausibly inevitable.

* Ostensibly antiwar candidate Tulsi Gabbard throughout refused to meaningfully criticize the war addicted Biden — even when she had a clear shot to do so during the debates on his Iraq war lies. Meanwhile, Sanders just kept saying Biden voted for the Iraq war while Sanders didn’t. Sanders never meaningfully made the case that Biden played key role in making the Iraq invasion happen and never really tore into his lies.

* Mike Gravel — who might have really tore into Biden — was excluded from the debate stage throughout.

* Julián Castro was marginalized shortly after he attacked Biden.

* Bloomberg coming in had the net effect of Warren going after him — for things she could well have gone after Biden about but didn’t. His demise effectively gave the base a sense of weird relief that Biden is the nominee: “Well, at least we didn’t get stuck with Billionaire Bloomberg”.

You couldn’t have planned it better for Biden if you tried. And lots of forces — from the DNC to the establishment media did try in thousands of ways. 2

Click here to read Sam Husseini’s full piece.

*

Iowa, four years ago

“Based on this work, Election Justice USA has established an upper estimate of 184 pledged delegates lost by Senator Bernie Sanders as a consequence of specific irregularities and instances of fraud. Adding these delegates to Senator Sanders’ pledged delegate total and subtracting the same number from Hillary Clinton’s total would more than erase the 359 pledged delegate gap between the two candidates. EJUSA established the upper estimate through exit polling data, statistical analysis by precinct size, and attention to the details of Democratic proportional awarding of national delegates. Even small changes in vote shares in critical states like Massachusetts and New York could have substantially changed the media narrative surrounding the primaries in ways that would likely have had far reaching consequences for Senator Sanders’ campaign.”

This is the conclusion of a 96-page report entitled “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries” published by Election Justice USA. (Note that I reprinted part of the report as an addendum to this earlier post.)

Here’s what the same report said about irregularities in the Iowa Caucus:

The Des Moines Register Editorial Board was so disgusted with the irregularities that they witnessed with their own eyes, and the Democratic establishment’s refusal to respond to them transparently, that it penned an editorial entitled: “Something Smells in the Democratic Party.” It notes that the whole process produced a “whiff of impropriety” and said that the Party response “reeks of autocracy.”

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A funny thing happened (again) on the way to the caucus

Iowa is a place that few people outside America could quickly locate on the map. A hop and a skip to the west of the Great Lakes, squeezed in neatly above and between the confluence of the great Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Iowa briefly came to the world’s attention earlier this year, when its population of a little over 3 million turned out to vote in the first of this season’s Democratic Party primaries.

Results are usually totted up overnight, but not on this occasion. Following delay after delay, and correction after correction, the numbers slowly trickled in, before it was eventually announced that outsider candidate Pete Buttigieg had narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in terms of delegates (also the final tally still confirmed that Sanders won the popular vote). Curiously, although Sanders had entered the contest as clear favourite, it was Buttigieg alone of all the candidates who proclaimed victory in the midst of the Iowa meltdown:

Before discussing the ensuing fiasco of the Iowa Democratic 2020 caucuses, and “the app” behind the chaos, it is perhaps helpful to give a quick overview of how the archaic system of voting known as caucuses actually works. Dotted to cover each precinct across the state, people gather at designated venues including libraries, churches, schools and sometimes just private houses, not to cast paper ballots, but to physically divide into “preference groups” for the candidate they came to support. Once an initial count has been done, a complicated procedure then goes as follows:

Caucus participants have up to 30 minutes to join a preference group. After the caucus chairman determines which groups are viable, participants have another 30 minutes to realign, or join a different caucus group.

Throughout this process, members of a preference group may attempt to persuade other caucus-goers, especially members of non-viable groups, to join their preference group. Non-viable groups may merge to gain enough members to meet the viability threshold. Or members of non-viable groups may choose to join the uncommitted preference group. Or they can choose not to join any group.

When the preference groups are set, the caucus chairman will determine the number of county convention delegates each preference group is entitled to elect. When those numbers are totaled at the state level, the “winner” of the Democratic caucus is the one with the most delegates. 3

At this year’s caucuses, the Iowa DNC took the understandable decision to introduce an app to simplify the counting process, but instead “an unspecified ‘coding issue’ with the software [that] led to it producing only partial and unreliable results”. Officially this is the end of the story, however, the same Associated Press report quoted above then delves deeper:

[The makers of the app] Shadow Inc. was launched by ACRONYM, a nonprofit corporation founded in 2017 by Tara McGowan, a political strategist who runs companies aimed at promoting Democratic candidates and priorities. McGowan sought to distance herself from Shadow’s IowaReporterApp on Monday night, characterizing the app developer as an “independent” company. In a separate statement, an ACRONYM spokesman said the nonprofit organization is an investor in several companies, including Shadow, but was “eagerly awaiting more information from the Iowa Democratic Party with respect to what happened.”

But business and tax records show ACRONYM and Shadow are registered at the same Washington, D.C., street address, which belongs to a WeWork co-working location. Shadow CEO Gerard Niemira previously served as the chief operating officer and chief technology officer at ACRONYM, according to an online resume.

And if as it wasn’t bad enough that Tara McGowan, the founder of the company behind the app, the wife of Michael Halle, a senior strategist for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, and that Buttigieg’s campaign also paid Shadow Inc. $42,500 for software, it also transpires that:

[O]n Sunday [the eve of the Iowa caucus], McGowan tweeted pictures from a birthday celebration that included her husband and Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. 4

Click here to read the full article published by Associated Press on February 4th.

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California purging, then and now

This is what the EJUSA reported from the California Democratic Primary with regard to evidence of voter suppression back in 2016, in which tremendous efforts we made to disqualify “no-party-preference” voters (NPP) – a subject I shall return to shortly:

Voter suppression by California elections officials targeting no-party-preference (NPP) voters: 1) Refusal to include NPP presidential voting options on regular ballots; 2) Refusal to mail presidential ballots to NPP vote-by-mail voters unless explicitly requested; 3) Refusal to provide mandatory notices to vote-by-mail NPP voters of their right to a Presidential Preference ballot; 4) Refusal to inform NPP voters at the polls of their right to a Presidential Preference ballot; 5) Refusal to provide adequate ballots and/or voter indexes, despite the State Law requirement of 75% voter roll coverage; 6) Refusal to clarify to voters that American Independent is a political party and does not signify “independent” (NPP) status. We filed a lawsuit in an attempt to address these issues, but relief was not granted.

Testimonies and statistics detailing voter suppression in California:

1) Testimony from CA voters who were given provisional ballots by pollworkers despite their names being on the Democratic voter rolls.

2) Testimony from CA Democratic voters who received the wrong ballot type in the mail.

3) Testimony/video evidence from CA Democratic voters who were given provisional ballots instead of being directed to a recently-changed polling location.

4) Testimony from poll inspectors about a shortage of ballots: in some cases, fewer than 39% of registered voters would have been covered by the number of ballots provided for Los Angeles

County precincts, despite a CA State Law requirement that 75% coverage be guaranteed. We also have testimony from voters who were forced to use provisional ballots due to ballot shortages.

5) Poll workers did not count or keep a roster of provisional ballots in CA, hence no chain of custody is possible.

With regards to registration tampering, which “involves changes made to party affiliation or registration status without a voter’s knowledge or consent”:

We have also received testimony and affidavits from over 700 California voters who experienced voting and registration problems. Of these respondents, 84 were switched to another party without their knowledge or consent. In some cases, these changes were back-dated such that they were listed as made before the voter initially registered.

Of illegal voter purging:

We have received testimony and affidavit material from more than 700 CA voters who experienced problems voting, 78 of which had been purged or were not on the poll books of their polling place. These accounts are corroborated by hard evidence in the form of document scans.

And lastly, of fraudulent or erroneous voter machine tallies:

A well-controlled California early voter exit poll (Capitol Weekly/Open CA) consisting of 21,000 data points matched early returns for down-ballot races, but was off by ~16% for Sanders v. Clinton, with the discrepancy in Clinton’s favor. According to the L.A. County elections chief, Dean Logan, early/mail-in votes are reported first, strongly suggesting a miscount of mail-in ballots.

Do please note that the same report from 2016 cites evidence of serious irregularities in at least 16 other states including Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and New York.

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Bringing us back up to the present investigative journalist Greg Palast, an expert in the field having covered voter suppression and other forms of election rigging for the past two decades for the Guardian, Rolling Stone magazine and the BBC’s Newsnight, has again published many reports from this season’s Democratic Primaries.

The following is an extract from just one of those reports in which he explains how “California’s arcane and complex voting system is [my note: again] stealing hundreds of thousands of votes from Bernie Sanders”:

Sanders, as expected, won the plurality of California’s votes, but he could well be shorted out of hundreds of thousands of votes and scores of delegates.

How did this happen? While Californians, including independent voters, vote overwhelmingly for Democrats in general elections, and 5.3 million Golden State voters register “NPP”, no party preference.

These 5 million independents legally have the right to vote in the Democratic primary, but the Democratic party created an inscrutable obstacle course for them to do so, one that amounts to another type of voter suppression.

The problem begins with a postcard.

Last autumn, all 5 million NPP voters were mailed a postcard allowing them to request a ballot with the Democratic party presidential choices. However, as many states have learned, postcards with voter information largely look like junk mail and get thrown out.

If the independents don’t respond to the postcards, they get a ballot without presidential choices. But they have one more chance to vote for a candidate in the primaries: at the ballot box.

At the polling station, though, things remain confusing. According to rules set by the national Democratic party, the independent voters have to bring in their NPP ballot to the polling station and request to exchange it for a “crossover Democratic” ballot that lists the candidates.

However, if the voter fails to ask for the “crossover” ballot by its specific name, the poll worker is barred from suggesting it and they won’t receive it. 5

Click here to read Greg Palast’s full report entitled “Bernie kost 553,000 Votes to California Dem Party Rules”.

Such “disenfranchisement by postcard” which exploits loopholes in the rule for “no-party-preference” is just one of many ploys that have once again enabled voter suppression both in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic Primaries.

However, beyond the overwhelming evidence of major voter suppression, there are once again widespread and significant statistical discrepancies that are recognised indicators of direct election fraud – in this regard it is important to point out that correlations between exit polls and official vote counts provide one of the crucial and standard checks carried out by election observers across the world to ensure legitimacy (read the part below about recent historical precedents).

To find evidence of statistically significant exit poll versus official vote count mismatches in the latest Primaries (as were also discovered in 2016) I recommend an excellent website called TDMS|Research, where a comprehensive series of reports makes direct mathematical comparisons for many of the state primary results. Reproduced below is an extract of analysis for just the 2020 California primary – for ease of reference a table of results for all candidates is also provided with attached notes explaining the meaning of data for each of the columns:

Election results from the computerized vote counts of the 2020 California Democratic Party presidential primary differed significantly from the results projected by the exit poll conducted by Edison Research and published by CNN at poll’s closing. According to the exit poll Sanders won big in CA (by 15%). The unobservable computer counts cut his lead by half (to 7.3%). […]

The combined discrepancies between the exit poll and the vote count for candidates Sanders and Biden currently totals 7.7%; more than double the 3.1% margin of error for the exit poll difference between the two. Warren’s and Biden’s discrepancies totals 5.6%, double the 2.5% margin of error. All margin of errors calculated at 95% confidence interval (CI).  See table note 5.  Values greater than the margin of error are considered statistically significant. The discrepancies in favor of Biden in California as in many of the other states to date, substantially exceed the margin of error at 99% (CI).

The discrepancies between the exit poll and the vote count for candidates Sanders and Bloomberg totals 6.7%; more than double the 2.6% margin of error for the exit poll difference between the two. Warren’s and Bloomberg’s discrepancies totals 4.6%, about double the 2.1% margin of error. To date, California computers totaled 250,600 less votes for Sanders and Warren than projected by the exit polls and 236,700 more votes for Biden and Bloomberg.

The discrepancies between the exit polls’ projections of each candidate’s vote share and the vote shares derived from unobservable computer counts have a considerable impact on the apportionment of delegates to each candidate. The apportionment of delegates is, after all, the main reason for these state primaries. 6

[1] Exit poll (EP) downloaded from CNN’s website by TDMS on election night, March 3, 2020 at 11:00 PM ET. Candidates’ exit poll percentage/proportion derived from the gender category. Number of EP respondents: 2,350. As this first published exit poll was subsequently adjusted towards conformity with the final computerized vote count, the currently published exit poll differs from the exit poll used here and available through the link below.

[2] Candidates’ percentage/proportion of the total computer-generated vote counts derived from reported counts (94% reporting) updated on March 6, 2020 and published by The New York Times. Total number of voters: 3,290,429

[3] The difference between the exit poll proportion and reported vote proportion for each candidate (subtracting values in column two from the values in column three). A positive value indicates the candidate did better and received a greater share of the total reported count than projected by the exit poll. For example, candidate Biden, reported percentage/proportion of the total vote increased by 4.5% compared to his exit poll share.

[4] This column shows the percentage increase or decrease from the candidate’s exit poll projection (difference in column four divided by exit poll proportion in column two).  Shown only for candidates with 4% or more share in the exit poll.

[5] This column presents a distinct Margin of Error (MOE) of the exit poll (EP) for the differences between candidate Biden and each of the other candidate’s EP results. The exit poll MOE, for example, between Biden and Sanders is 4.0% and the MOE between Biden and Warren is 3.9%.  For simplicity MOE not shown for candidates with less than 4% share in the EP.  MOE calculated at 95% CI according to multinomial formula in:  Franklin, C. The ‘Margin of Error’ for Differences in Polls. University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. October 2002, revised February 2007. Available at:  https://abcnews.go.com/images/PollingUnit/MOEFranklin.pdf 

[6] The disparities between the exit poll and the reported computer-generated vote counts comparing Biden and each of the other candidates (subtracting each candidate’s difference between exit poll and computer count from Biden’s difference of 4.5%.). Disparities for candidates Sanders and Warren are double their respective MOE. For example, candidate Biden’s unverified computerized vote count exceeded his EP projected vote proportion by 4.5% while Sander’s computerized count understated his EP projected vote proportion by 3.7% for at total discrepancy of 8.2%. This 8.2% disparity, greatly exceeding the statistical 4.0% margin of error based on their exit poll proportions, is significant as it cannot be attributed to the MOE.

Click here to read the full article published by TDMS|Research on March 9th.

Analysis of many other state primaries is also available at TDMS|Research including for Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, Vermont, Texas, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

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Election fixes past: as American as ‘hanging chads’

Exit polls are the standard by which the US State Department measures the honesty of foreign elections. Exit polling is, historically, deadly accurate. The bane of pre-election polling is that pollsters must adjust for the likelihood of a person voting. Exit polls solve the problem.

But three times in US history, pollsters have had to publicly flagellate themselves for their “errors.”  In 2000, exit polls gave Al Gore the win in Florida; in 2004, exit polls gave Kerry the win in Ohio, and now, in swing states, exit polls gave the presidency to Hillary Clinton.

From an article by Greg Palast published two days after Trump’s victory on November 11th 2016 that was entitled “The Election was Stolen – Here’s How…” He continued:

So how could these multi-million-dollar Ph.d-directed statisticians with decades of experience get exit polls so wrong?

Answer:  they didn’t.  The polls in Florida in 2000 were accurate.  That’s because exit pollsters can only ask, “How did you vote?”  What they don’t ask, and can’t, is, “Was your vote counted.”

In 2000, in Florida, GOP Secretary of State Katherine Harris officially rejected 181,173 ballots, as “spoiled” because their chads were hung and other nonsense excuses.  Those ballots overwhelmingly were marked for Al Gore.  The exit polls included those 181,173 people who thought they had voted – but their vote didn’t count.  In other words, the exit polls accurately reflected whom the voters chose, not what Katherine Harris chose.

In 2004, a similar number of votes were invalidated (including an enormous pile of “provisional” ballots) by Ohio’s GOP Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.  Again, the polls reflected that Kerry was the choice of 51% of the voters.  But the exit polls were “wrong” because they didn’t reflect the ballots invalidated by Blackwell.

Gore Vidal was prominent amongst those who spoke out about the serious discrepancies uncovered during the 2004 election in Ohio:

Notably, two weeks after the 2004 US election, the US State Department refused to recognize the Ukraine election results because the official polls contradicted the exit polls.

And here we go again. 2016: Hillary wins among those queried as they exit the polling station—yet Trump is declared winner in GOP-controlled swings states. And, once again, the expert pollsters are forced to apologize—when they should be screaming, “Fraud!  Here’s the evidence the vote was fixed!” 7

Click here to read Palast’s full article.

Palast afterwards released a documentary The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and this companion piece.

Click here to read an earlier post which includes Palast’s BBC Newsnight reports on the US election in 2000 and 2004.

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Nothing to see here…

The evidence presented by Greg Palast and a few independent journalists back in 2016 was solid and warranted serious investigation and widespread news coverage, but instead the liberal media were hugely distracted as they force-fed their audience a fantastical nothing-burger known as ‘Russiagate’. As Palast wrote in a separate report for Democracy Now!:

Officially, Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes. But a record 75,335 votes were never counted. Most of these votes that went missing were in Detroit and Flint, Michigan, majority-black cities.

How could this happen? Did the Russians do it? Nyet. You don’t need Russians to help the Michigan GOP. How exactly do you disappear 75,000 votes? They call them spoiled votes. How do you spoil votes? Not by leaving them out of the fridge. Most are lost because of the bubbles. Thousands of bubbles couldn’t be read by the optical scanning machines.

This is a single example of the plethora of irregularities that eventually led Green candidate Jill Stein to call for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – states where Donald Trump narrowly beat Hillary Clinton. But, as Palast explained on Democracy Now!, the recounts in turn were just another travesty:

Instead of allowing that eyeball count of the votes that are supposedly blank, they said, “Oh, we’ll just run them back through the machines.” It’s like betting on an instant replay. It’s the same game. They just put them through the bad machines again. This is not just a bad way to count the ballots; it’s a way to not count African-American ballots.

As Palast’s investigation also revealed, Black voters already most affected by faults in the machines were being further disenfranchised by methods of voter suppression including, most notably, a system called Crosscheck:

After reading my report on the Kobach/Koch/Trump operation, which has removed tens of thousands of minority voters from the rolls in the swing states that surprisingly shifted to Trump, former federal judge (and now Congressman) Alcee Hastings told me Crosscheck is a criminal violation of federal law. Hastings has called for criminal indictments and written an official Congressional member letter to ask for investigation. 8

As Palast said on Democracy Now!:

Well, you know, people are looking for Russians, but what we had is a real Jim Crow election. Trump, for example, in Michigan, won by less than 11,000 votes. It looks like we had about 55,000 voters, mostly minorities, removed by this racist system called Crosscheck. In addition, you had a stoppage—even before the courts ordered the complete stop of the vote in Michigan, you had the Republican state officials completely sabotage the recount. […]

There were 87 machines in Detroit that were—that didn’t function. They were supposed to count about a thousand ballots each. You’re talking about a massive blockade of the black vote in Detroit and Flint, enough votes, undoubtedly, to overturn that election.

And you saw a mirror of this in Wisconsin, where, for example, there were many, many votes, thousands of votes, lost in the Milwaukee area, another African-American-heavy area.

But the question is: Where are these ballots not counted? They are not counted in African-American areas, in Dearborn, where there’s a heavy Arab-American community, in Latino communities. So, while we’re discussing hacking the machines, a lot of this was old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics, you know, from way back. And by the way, a lot of this is the result of the destruction and the gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which this is the first election post the Voting Rights Act. So, we saw—and Jill Stein said it correct—she expected to see a lot of hacking. What she found was, as she said, a Jim Crow election.

It is unsurprising, of course, that the Republicans and Trump actively opposed the recounts. The behaviour of Obama and the liberal media, not to mention Clinton herself, is harder to understand. For rather than backing Jill Stein’s efforts – the only action that could have successfully challenged the final election result – they instead chose to distract the public by demonising Russia with their nonsensical CIA concoction about hacking.

Click here to read a full transcript and to watch the report and follow-up interview on the Democracy Now! website.

On December 13th, Greg Palast was interviewed by Thom Hartmann on RT’s The Big Picture about evidence he has uncovered of vote rigging and the role of Kris Kobach, “Crosscheck” and the Koch Brothers in alleged voter suppression:

Palast said: This is a criminal conspiracy – that’s what Hastings said – by Republican operatives for Trump, particularly Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, and his cronies, the Secretaries of State in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Arizona too.

I spoke to Jill Stein about this the other night. She says, “Okay, if there is, like you say, evidence that the Russians picked our president for us, we want to know it – show the evidence, let’s stop getting distracted by it.” She’s worried that people are going to forget that in fact what happened here is what she calls ‘a Jim Crow election’. And that’s what happened, we had a Jim Crow election.

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1 From an article entitled entitled “Court Concedes DNC Had the Right to Rig Primaries Against Sanders”, written by Michael Sainato, published in the Observer on August 26, 2017. (Updated on August 29, 2017.) https://observer.com/2017/08/court-admits-dnc-and-debbie-wasserman-schulz-rigged-primaries-against-sanders/ 

2 From an article entitled “Sanders Suspends: What Happened? What Now?” written by Sam Husseini, published in Counterpunch on April 9, 2020. https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/09/sanders-suspends-what-happened-what-now/

3 From an article entitled “What happens at a caucus?” written by James Q Lynch, published in The Gazette on November 19, 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20071222142101/http://www.iowacaucus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20071119%2FIOWACAUCUS%2F71119004

4 From an article entitled “Maker of glitch Iowa caucus app has Democratic Party ties” written by Michael Biesecker and Brian Slodysko, published in Associated Press on February 4, 2020. https://apnews.com/5232ce5601996c1de440806ad30fa4fb

5 From an article entitled “Bernie kost 553,000 Votes to California Dem Party Rules” written by Greg Palast, published on March 9, 2020. https://www.gregpalast.com/bernie-lost-553000-votes-to-california-dem-party-rules/ 

6 From an article written by Theodore de Macedo Soares, published in TDMS|Research on March 9, 2020. https://tdmsresearch.com/2020/03/09/california-2020-democratic-party-primary/

7 From an article entitled “The Election Was Stolen – Here’s How…” written by Greg Palast, published on November 11, 2016. https://www.gregpalast.com/election-stolen-heres/

8 From an article entitled “Crosscheck Is Not Just Crooked, It’s Criminal” written by Greg Palast, published on December 5, 2016. http://www.gregpalast.com/crosscheck-not-just-crooked-criminal/

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Filed under analysis & opinion, election fraud, Greg Palast, USA

Mike Pompeo’s ‘democratic plan’ for Venezuela and Juan Guaidó’s alleged involvement in terrorist regime change operations

After bizarrely placing Nicolás Maduro top of a wanted list on charges of drug trafficking, the Trump administration then unveiled a so-called ‘democratic transition plan’ that calls for the ouster of the Venezuelan President in exchange for a five-person “Council of State”.

Irrespective of the hardships already suffered by the people of Venezuela under the current sanctions programme, and heedless to a worsening situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the US is threatening “increased” sanctions if Venezuela does not comply.

Yesterday, Aaron Maté from The Grayzone spoke to Latin America policy analyst and campaigner with Codepink, Leonardo Flores, about the latest US effort to starve Venezuelans into submission in order to force a regime change.

Towards the end of the interview, Leonardo Flores describes the extraordinary revelations of Cliver Alcalá, who is one of those indicted by the US Department of Justice on accusations of narco-trafficking. Shortly after the DOJ press conference ended, Alcalá actually confessed on Twitter that he was involved in plots including terrorist attacks to overthrow Maduro.

Additionally, he said weapons confiscated by Colombian police were paid for with money provided by Juan Guaidó. However, Alcalá was not only implicating Washington’s choice for Venezuelan President, Juan Guaidó, scandalously seen photographed with members of the infamous Los Rastrojos drug cartel, but also an unspecified number of US advisors, who he claims met with him on no less than seven different occasions. Alcalá has now been turned over to US authorities.

The transcript of the interview below is mine [interview begins at 1:50 mins].

Aaron Maté: What is your reaction to this so-called ‘democratic transition plan’ from Pompeo?

Leonardo Flores: My reaction really is bewilderment. Because a few days ago, as you just said, the Department of Justice unveiled indictments against Maduro and 13 other former and current government officials and members of the military; immediately ramping up the pressure. And then this transition proposal seems to be kind of a step back.

First of all it’s a total non-starter. It’s not going to go anywhere. It wasn’t negotiated with anyone in Venezuela on the side of the government. It’s a plan that supposedly came from Juan Guaidó in part, but really it’s been designed in the State Department itself.

AM: The thinking here in the White House, what do you think it is? They’ve been trying now for more than a year to overthrow Maduro. They’ve tried to spark some military uprisings. It hasn’t worked. Now they’ve shifted to this bounty last week on Maduro’s head. Wat do you think is the strategy going on inside Washington? What are they hoping to achieve with these narco charges against Maduro, and now this new so-called plan?

LF: Well, in a sense they’re just trying to throw everything at the wall to just see what sticks. But, particularly with this plan, I think it’s to alleviate the pressure that’s coming on them due to the sanctions.

We’ve seen everyone from the UN to the EU to other multilateral organisations and NGOs call for a lifting of the sanctions. We’re seeing a letter being sent around the Senate that has at least 11 people who’ve signed on led by Senator Chris Murphy calling for humanitarian relief for Venezuela and Iran: lifting the sanctions during this pandemic. And so I think that’s maybe getting to the Trump administration and this is their way of sending some kind of olive branch to these more moderate factions in Washington. But, you know, it’s not a serious proposal.

Side note: “It hurts our nation’s security and our moral standing in the world when our sanctions policy results in innocent people dying. I am particularly concerned about the impact of sanctions on the COVID-19 response in Iran and Venezuela”

— Sen. Chris Murphy

AM: What I think has been overlooked in the discussion of all this is that in trying to install Guaidó, the Trump administration has portrayed this picture where it has been basically Maduro versus Guaidó, and there’s no-one in between. But meanwhile, there have been negotiations between Maduro and elements of the Venezuelan opposition, just not the one that includes Guaidó’s faction. Can you talk about this and how it’s been ignored.

LF: Sure. So, the last time Guaidó participated in negotiations seriously – his faction I mean – was in August 2019. And those talks were undermined when the Trump administration imposed what the Wall Street Journal called an economic embargo; they really ramped up the sanctions on August 5th.

After that, about a month later, Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan government began negotiating with more moderate sectors of the political opposition – sectors of that really want to engage in democracy and engage in politics and aren’t looking for regime change. And coincidentally, those months of 2019, I’m talking about September, October and November; they were the most stable months in a really crazy year for Venezuela, that started off with this attempted coup by the Trump administration and Juan Guaidó.

Now, those negotiations are still ongoing. There’s ongoing dialogue. They resulted with – in early January – with a new election for the President of the National Assembly. This new President of the National Assembly was from the same party as Juan Guaidó. I think he was expelled from that party – but I’d have to check up on that to be honest. And what we’re seeing is that Juan Guaidó got kind of pushed out and these extremist opposition sectors got pushed out a bit from these attempted negotiations. So this is their way back in, so to speak.

AM: So, if you could address someone who might look at this plan now from Pompeo and – the way Pompeo’s framing it is that, you know, the US has no preference for who leads Venezuela aside from Maduro. We want him gone. In fact, Pompeo said as much today. Let me play you a clip…

Mike Pompeo: We’ve made clear all along that Nicolás Maduro will never again govern Venezuela, and that hasn’t changed.

AM: That’s Mike Pompeo. Well first of all, let me just ask you to respond to Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State of the United States, declaring that the leader of another country will never govern there again.

LF: I mean it’s completely ridiculous. Maduro has been governing since 2013 and he has been governing throughout this whole time when the State Department has been trying to portray Venezuelan government as nonexistent and they’re trying to force Juan Guaidó as the so-called “interim president”.

But what’s really curious to me is that there’s contradictions within the White House. So that’s a very interesting Pompeo quote, but earlier today, Elliot Abrams, who’s the Special Representative for Venezuela for the Trump administration; he told Reuters that “while Maduro would have to step aside” – and this is a direct quote [the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile ] – “the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile and he even suggested that he ‘could theoretically’ run in the election.

So Abrams is saying ‘hey maybe Maduro can run’, Pompeo’s saying ‘Maduro is never again going to be able to govern’. There’s clear disconnect. It’s kind of indicative of what we’ve seen in the White House since Trump to office, with lack of communication between different sectors of the executive branch.

AM: Let’s say that Abrams, what he suggests, is the proposal that the US is putting forward, then somebody might look at that and say, hey you know listen the US shouldn’t be involved in Venezuela, but it is, and the fact is that right now they’re putting forward this plan where they’re offering to relieve these crippling, murderous sanctions if Venezuela just agrees to this new transition and hold new elections. Why not just abide by that to help ease the suffering of Venezuela?

LF: Well, Venezuela has a constitution. I mean that’s the biggest thing we have to talk about. It is a sovereign country that has a constitution, and is guided by that constitution. And so the Trump administration used that constitution, and made these kind of quasi-legal arguments, to say that Juan Guaidó was actually the real President because Maduro was ‘not officially in power’. And now they’re turning around and saying well you know what, forget that constitution and let’s talk about this whole ‘democratic framework transition’ that has no constitutional basis in Venezuela at all.

But what I think we really need to emphasis is that if the Venezuelan government decided to hold new elections – new presidential elections – after coming to an agreement with the opposition, they’re well within their rights. But this plan is being imposed from abroad, it lacks any sort of popular support within Venezuela, and in that regard it’s a non-starter.

AM: Just to stress this point, I do think holding new elections – that has been under discussion in Maduro’s negotiations with the opposition, right?

LF: Yeah, that’s correct. I mean first of all there have to be new elections – I mean parliamentary elections because those are due this year. And after those parliamentary elections there is the possibility that you might have new presidential elections in Venezuela.

But there’s no way that those presidential elections can be carried out while Venezuela is under sanctions from the US and the EU; particularly by the US sanctions. This is reminiscent of Nicaragua in the ’90s when the Nicaraguan people had an election and the US government said that if the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front] then wins, then the sanctions will continue, but if the opposition wins then the sanctions will be lifted.

AM: Let me play for you a clip on that front. This is John Stockwell, he is a former CIA officer, and he was describing this tactic the US uses of basically making countries like Nicaragua submit to US demands or starve.

John Stockwell [speaking on December 27th 1989]: The point is to put pressure on the targeted government by ripping apart the social and economic fabric of the country. Now that’s words, you know, social and economic fabric: that means making the people suffer as much as you can until the country plunges into chaos, until at some point you can step in and impose your choice of governments on that country.

AM: So that’s a former CIA officer describing the US approach to countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela. Leo, what’s your sense of where the Venezuelan people are at? They’ve been suffering for a long time now under these sanctions. There was just a poll that was shared by the opposition economist Francisco Rodríguez pointing out that two-thirds of Venezuelans say that US sanctions are causing huge misery inside their country.

What is your sense of where the electorate is at inside Venezuela? The people: are they at the point where they’re willing to give up [and] to submit to US demands, whatever they are, in return for some relief from this blockade?

LF: No, I wouldn’t say they are. I mean we have to be clear though, Venezuela is a very polarised country. So we have this sector that votes for the opposition – that a good percentage of it would likely welcome Pompeo’s plan. But then you have the Chavistas, which represent at least 40% of the electorate, and of all eligible voters, and they would absolutely reject this plan.

It’s absolutely true though that sanctions have completely destroyed the economic fabric of Venezuela. But one of the reasons that Venezuela has been able to overcome the pressure from the United States is due to the social fabric, and due to the organising at the community level, and due to the organising that the government enables from above.

AM: Okay, so you mentioned the Venezuelan electorate. Let me ask you quickly about this, because a huge talking point that the US administration uses and its parroted across the political establishment – even Democrats who oppose the sanctions parrot this talking point –which is that Maduro is not a legitimately elected leader, and they point to alleged fraud in the 2019 Venezuelan elections.

I know it’s complicated but can you give us the simplest case for why this talking point is false.

LF: Right. So, there’s actually no evidence that there was fraud, and really the argument that there was fraud only comes from the United States.

What happened in the 2018 elections is that sectors of the opposition just decided to boycott the election. And they boycotted at the direction, or under the instructions of the State Department.

In early 2018 there was dialogue between the government and the opposition. The two sides were very close to signing an agreement – they actually had an agreement written down. They were negotiating in the Dominican Republic, they went back to Venezuela for one week to consult with various parties involved; during that interim week, then-Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, threatened an oil embargo, and he also suggested that if the military were to overthrow Maduro, that this move would be welcomed by the United States.

Also during that week, the State Department said that they would not recognise any elections in 2018: that Maduro had to go first before there were elections. That’s what leads to these kind of claims of fraud because of this opposition boycott. But really there was no fraud: the parties that did participate, participated fully; there were international observers; there was a vote that was audited; and Maduro won in a landslide election.

AM: Maduro received over six millions votes, and, if I have the history correct, the main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, who ran, he was even threatened with US sanctions if he kept participating in the elections.

LF: That’s right. And not only was Henri Falcón threatened with sanctions, but so was Allup who was leader of Acción Democrática – Democratic Action Party – this is one of the bigger opposition parties. It’s slightly more moderate than Juan Guaidó’s party. But he said, I think it was in March of 2019, excuse me 2018, he pondered ‘why would I run, if the US isn’t going to recognise my victory?’

And so the US made it clear that even if an opposition leader had won, that they were not going to recognise it because it wasn’t going to be the opposition leader that they wanted.

AM: So let me ask you about these narco-trafficking charges that have been unveiled against Maduro and other top officials. The allegation – and maybe you can explain it for us – because it’s pretty bewildering: is that Maduro and the other top Venezuelan officials have been engaged in a criminal conspiracy to flood the US with drugs, going back many years.

LF: Yeah, that’s correct. And so the DOJ talks about a plan to plot to flood the US with cocaine since 1999. Maduro wasn’t even in power in 1999. In 1999, he was a member of the National Constituent Assembly and he was helping to draft Venezuela’s constitution.

So one of the interpretations of these accusations in Venezuela is that these aren’t accusations against individuals, it’s really an accusation against the entire Bolivarian revolution. And going a little bit deeper, this plot claim by the DOJ is patently ridiculous, I mean, the US government’s own statistics show that over 90% of the cocaine in the United States is either from Colombia, or has travelled through Colombia. Those same statistics show that less than 7% of the cocaine that the United States has transited through Venezuela at some point.

Venezuela doesn’t produce coca – the coca leaf – it doesn’t produce cocaine, whereas Colombia is the biggest producer of both coca and cocaine in the entire world. It’s clear that these accusations – these charges – are completely politically motivated and they’re not based on any sort of reality.

If they were, then really the conspiracy to flood the United States with cocaine – you have to look at the President of Colombia and the prior President Álvaro Uribe and really the kind of entire Colombian social structure, which enables narco-paramilitaries to control their society and to support cocaine.

AM: And you’ve written about, for The Grayzone, a piece that explains that one consequence of this indictment, is that it’s triggered a confession – a very serious confession – by one of the people charged of a violent US-based plot against Maduro. Can you explain what happened there?

LF: Right. So one of the people indicted, his name is Cliver Alcalá, he was a former member of the military. He used to be very close to Chavismo. He flipped to the opposition in 2016 and since 2017, give or take, he’s been involved in various plots and coup attempts [including] attempted terror plots in Venezuela. He’s been linked to them.

And so immediately after the DOJ press conference last week that indicted Mr Alcalá, he posted some videos on Twitter and other social media confessing to a terror plot in Venezuela from about a week and a half ago —

So a bit of back story: the Colombian police seized 26 high-powered rifles and several other weapons of war and military equipment. Alcalá claimed that the weapons were his – that they were bought using money from Juan Guaidó. That he and Juan Guaidó had entered into a contract for the weapons. That the weapons were going to be used to help overthrow the Venezuelan government by causing a terror plot and by targeted assassination of Chavista leaders.

Alcalá now has been turned over to US authorities. It’s unclear what’s going to happen with him, but what is clear is that he implicated not just Juan Guaidó in this terror plot, but US advisors – he claims that he met with US advisors on at least seven different occasions.

AM: And just to put a final point on this, he says that Guaidó paid him money for this plot. And so those weapons that were seized in Colombia were paid for by Guaidó, and then presumably the US which backs up Guaidó, and is actually using money initially intended for Central American aid to pay for Guaidó and his fellow coup-plotters.

LF: Yeah, that’s right. The money wasn’t necessarily going to Alcalá directly, it was going to the weapons that Alcalá purchased. And Juan Guaidó’s only source of financing is the US government, which basically is us US taxpayers.

AM: So finally, as part of its coup effort in Venezuela, the US has been putting heavy pressure on anybody engaged in business with Venezuela, and that’s included sanctioning Russia’s state oil company, Rosnef.

Rosnef was recently forced to basically divest its holdings in Venezuela and then transfer it to another Russian government – in fact, the wholly Russian government owned company. Will this be enough to keep Venezuela afloat, or do you think that the power of the US is just too strong here?

LF: I think it would be enough under slightly different circumstances, but the fact is that oil is plummeting right now and so it’s unclear what’s happening with Venezuelan government’s finances.

I don’t think the Venezuelan government is going to fall due to financing. I think in that sense, you know, China and Russia have a lot invested in Venezuela, and Venezuela has other means of securing financing, whether it’s through gold or rare earth minerals. But it does make the situation much more difficult and it has led to gasoline shortages recently in Venezuela.

AM: And finally, in terms of what can be done here in the US, you mentioned that there’s now increased talk from Congress – increased pushback from Congress – asking them not to suspend the sanctions entirely, but to simply pause them during the coronavirus pandemic, which I suppose is better than nothing.

But as we are dealing now with economic troubles of our own here at home, what do you think can be done right now to push back on the Trump administration’s coup effort, and to try to stop the regime change plot on Venezuela – and to drop the sanctions?

LF: Well, I think for starters the issue of Venezuela has become incredibly toxic in mainstream politics. So if you take any sort of position that is deemed friendly to the Venezuelan government, even if it’s actually not necessarily friendly to the government, like say humanitarian relief and [lifting] sanctions, you’re immediately going to be seen with mistrust by a certain element of the political establishment.

And so I think that really what’s most important is that to highlight what the Trump administration has been doing to sabotage dialogue in Venezuela. If it were not for Trump, I think we would already have a political agreement in Venezuela and the country would be much more stable. But he’s in thrall to his financers in Florida, the Cuban-American lobby in Florida and rich Venezuelans in Florida; it all boils down to Florida unfortunately.

I think really that the best hope that the Venezuelan government has is to hold out until after the November elections. Even if Trump is re-elected I think it opens up a possibility of negotiations between the Trump administration and the Maduro government.

AM: Yeah, on that front it doesn’t inspire confidence that Joe Biden has fully embraced Trump’s coup attempt, and has recognised Juan Guaidó as the President, but certainly, no matter what happens, November will be a key date in all this and other issues of course.

Leo Flores, Latin American policy expert and campaigner with Codepink, thanks very much.

LF: Thank you Aaron.

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Covid-19 vs. freedom and democracy: let us not sacrifice one to defeat the other

A primer: ‘The clairvoyant ruling class’

“The ruling class exists, it’s not a conspiracy theory. They operate as a class, too. They share the same values, the same sensibility and in Europe and North America they are white. They act in accordance with their interests, which are very largely identical. The failure to understand this is the single greatest problem and defect in left discourse today.”

— John Steppling, Author, Playwright

“This report is crucial reading for anyone interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world could evolve.”

— Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation

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Scenario planning for corporate strategy was pioneered by Royal Dutch Shell in the 1970s. [Further reading on scenario planning: The Art of the Long View] The following excerpts are highlights from the May 2010 “Scenarios for the Future of Technology & International Development” report produced by The Rockefeller Foundation & Global Business Network.

Please note: The excerpts below are from the “Lock Step” scenario, but excerpts from all four scenarios are available in the original article published by Wrong Kind of Green.

“In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.” […]

“The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic recovery. [p 18]

“China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure.  During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.” […]

“At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability. Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth.” [p 19]

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Clairvoyant Ruling Class” published by Wrong Kind of Green.

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Fighting the invisible enemy today

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Benjamin Franklin 1

In the fight against Covid-19, the government of South Korea has arguably shown a way for other democracies to follow. First and foremost it established a comprehensive system of testing to confirm positive cases. This was backed up by contact tracing, targeted isolation and quarantine. Imposing sensible restrictions on travel also helped to slow and limit the spread of the outbreak. By acting promptly and enacting the precise measures called for by the scientists at the World Health Organisation, the Koreans managed to swiftly and effectively control the spread of Covid-19 infection and thereby averted a developing crisis.

One criticism of the South Korean approach surrounds its intrusive use of mobile phone technology to track movement and contacts. Though understandable perhaps (given cultural differences), such an infringement of privacy was non-essential, and there is really no need or justification whatsoever for western democracies to follow a similar course. That GCHQ in Britain and the NSA in America are already able to access and record private digital information including personal communications, metadata and location is actually an open secret. Of course, the opportunity now presents itself for such covert practices to be rolled out very publicly and given full legal sanction; moves that ought to be opposed. In other regards, however, the Korean model is surely exemplary.

The graph below is a snapshot of an interactive chart that you can access here.

Snapshot taken on March 28th

In stark contrast to Korean efficiency that halted the spread of infection, government responses across the western world have been comparatively slow to act, muddled, and in some respects negligent. The unfolding situation in Italy tragically illustrates a clear lack of preparedness on the part of the authorities there, where in spite of several weeks advantage over the Koreans, an initially lax approach allowed community-spread of the infection. It was not until a full-blown public health crisis emerged that increasingly draconian and sometimes overnight emergency measures were put in place.

On this Sky News report from March 11th, which was recorded prior to the full lockdown, many Italians were already asking why so little, so late:

Virtually all other European countries have failed to learn the lessons from Italy.

A fortnight later on March 27th, Sky News reported from Spain, where once again action to prevent and slow the spread of the virus came too late:

In France and Britain, where the clampdown has been more gradual and less severe up to now, the implementation of restrictions has been similarly confused and inexplicably overdue. Who knows how many more people became infected in the days and weeks leading up to the eventual (and inevitable) closure of sporting events, entertainment venues, gyms and pubs, let alone during the time lost as schools, offices and building sites continued to operate; the government’s preference for business as usual.

On the other hand, the overreach shown by North Derbyshire police who decided to fly their drones over The Peak District last week in order to shame anyone out walking the dog or just taking a quiet stroll was not just unwarranted, but entirely counterproductive. In a time of national crisis, you have to ask why our news media chose to broadcast this footage and reinforce such a stark police state message:

The situation facing America is set to be worse, with its lack of social safety nets and a system of healthcare provision that makes it a privilege millions simply cannot afford. Compounding these problems, the response so far has been more complacent and shambolic than our own governments in Europe; Trump theatrical as ever, recently telling everyone that it’ll all be over by Easter. Meanwhile, after weeks of non-intervention and exponential rates of infection (a terrible spike in numbers in New York especially) with other states like Florida taking no actions at all to check the spread of disease, one indication of the growing desperation is the panic-buying not just of toilet rolls, but of firearms.

On March 26th, ‘Democracy Now!’ interviewed New York City emergency room doctor Craig Spencer, a survivor of Ebola, which he contracted while fighting its outbreak in Africa. He says: “I think, in a week, we will be Italy. At least here in New York City, we’re already seeing that” [at 15:30 mins]:

Behind the scenes, on the other hand, dramatic moves are now being taken to tackle the pandemic, including ones that will sideline constitutional rights altogether. Indeed, there are clear parallels with actions taken during immediate aftermath of 9/11, its shadow lengthened by the coincidentally mysterious anthrax attacks, which enabled then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to fast-track the Patriot Acts. Likewise, today’s Justice Department is in the process of launching a raft of new legislation that further undermines civil liberties and chips away at fundamental human rights:

Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions. […]

In one of the documents, the department proposed that Congress grant the attorney general power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

The proposal would also grant those top judges broad authority to pause court proceedings during emergencies. It would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings,” according to draft legislative language the department shared with Congress. […]

The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.

“Not only would it be a violation of that, but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest,’” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.” 2

Click here to read the full article published by Politico.

In an article published by Mint Press News a few days later, Whitney Webb picked up where Politico left off, highlighting plans for ‘Continuity of Government’ (COG) and the use of a controversial database known simply as ‘Main Core’ that lists American dissidents and “potential troublemakers”:

Though Main Core was reportedly in use after September 11 to target “unfriendly” individuals for increased domestic surveillance, concern that COG plans in the age of coronavirus could take a more drastic turn and involve the detention of Americans included in that database now seems more plausible than ever. On Saturday, Politico reported that the Department of Justice has demanded new “emergency powers” during the current pandemic and these powers include being able to indefinitely detain Americans without trial. Politico also noted that the DOJ’s controversial new requests “span several stages of the legal process, from initial arrest to how cases are processed and investigated.” Per the DOJ’s requests, indefinite detention would emerge through a new ability whereby the Attorney General or a judge could pause court proceedings whenever courts are “fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

What Politico did not include in its report is that current Attorney General William Barr has spent the past several months fine-tuning and implementing a “pre-crime” program. Officially known as the “National Disruption and Early Engagement Program” (DEEP), it aims to “identify, assess and engage” potentially violent individuals “before they strike.” Barr first announced this program last October in an official memorandum and therein stated that the program was to be implemented sometime over the course of 2020 and would involve “an efficient, effective and programmatic strategy to disrupt individuals who are mobilizing towards violence, by all lawful means.”

Whitney Webb continues:

In his memorandum, Barr further notes that the program’s “early engagement tactics” were “born of the posture we adopted with respect to terrorist threats” following the September 11 attacks, essentially stating that this pre-crime program will utilize methods from the “War on Terror” domestically and on a massive scale.

Adding:

Furthermore, with the FBI having recently flagged “conspiracy theorists” (and by extension those who distrust or question government narratives of both past and present) as a “domestic terror threat,” the DOJ could even make the case that failure to blindly trust government narratives presents a threat to the public order. Given that the Main Core database in its current form contains bulk surveillance gathered from social media, phone conversations/messaging apps and even financial information (i.e. purchasing history, etc.) on Americans deemed unfriendly “often for the slightest and most trivial reason,” this unprecedented power grab by the DOJ has an authoritarian and Orwellian potential to target legitimate dissent like never before. 3

Click here to read Whitney Webb’s full article entitled “Coronavirus: What Newsweek Failed to Mention About ‘Continuity of Government’”.

Moreover, under the pretext of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Washington recently extended FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), and specifically the three Patriot Act provisions:

With the nation’s attention fixed on the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to extend FBI surveillance powers that were set to expire on March 15.

The bill, formally titled the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act, cleared the House by a vote of 278 to 136, with 152 Democrats and 126 Republicans voting yes. View the full roll call here.

The legislation, strongly opposed by civil liberties groups and privacy advocates, is the product of bipartisan negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.).

Attorney General William Barr voiced his support for the measure in a statement on Wednesday.

If passed by the Senate, advocacy group Free Press warned, legislation would “reauthorize abusive government surveillance powers.”

“The bill would reauthorize Section 215 powers Congress established under the USA Patriot Act in 2001,” Free Press noted. “Section 215 is the provision national security agencies cited in the past to support their unwarranted collection of phone records of hundreds of millions of people in the United States.” 4

Click here to read the full report published by Common Dreams.

There has been a terrible recent history when it comes to the emergency management of disasters in America. These legislative preparations and the tightening of lockdowns to tackle coronavirus recall not only the power grab after 9/11 but also, and just as alarmingly, the institution of de facto martial law when New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina forced New Orleans poet Shelton Alexander to evacuate his home, he took his truck and video camera to the Superdome. He escaped the chaotic shelter a few days later with a truckload of people and video documentation of history:

It is rather too easy to take our rights and democratically enshrined freedoms for granted, when in fact these are constantly under attack. And during times of crisis, when an opportunistic executive is able to avoid scrutiny, when lawmakers can retreat into the shadows to begin reshaping long-held constitutional rights, democracy is especially vulnerable. In abandoning its democracy principles, all in the name of protecting its citizens from this new invisible enemy, America seems to be trailing the way as it did after 9/11 (Israel too – see the video below), and the rest of the world would do well to pay attention.

On March 25th, Greg Wilpert, host of ‘The Real News Network’, spoke with Antony Loewenstein, author of ‘Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe’, about how the Israeli government’s state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic is being used to shut down political debate and the right to protest:

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Update: New coronavirus law ‘bestows unlimited powers’ on Orbán government

On the same day I posted this article [March 30th] Amnesty International issued the following press release:

Following a decision by the Hungarian parliament to pass a new law that will allow the Government to rule by decree – without a clear end date or periodic reviews – under an extended state of emergency, David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary Director, said:

“This bill creates an indefinite and uncontrolled state of emergency, and gives Viktor Orbán and his Government carte blanche to restrict human rights.

“This is not the way to address the very real crisis that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need strong safeguards to ensure that any measures to restrict human rights adopted under the state of emergency are strictly necessary and proportional in order to protect public health. This new law bestows unlimited powers to the government to rule by decree beyond the pandemic.

“During his years as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán has overseen a rollback of human rights in Hungary, stoking up hostility towards marginalised groups and attempting to muzzle Hungary’s critical voices. Allowing his government to rule by decree is likely to speed up this rollback.”

Rule by decree

The new law will allow Hungary’s Government to rule by decree without a sunset clause or any other provision that would guarantee parliament can exercise proper oversight. It also creates two new crimes which would mean that anyone who publicises false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public, or that “alarm or agitate” the public, could be punished by up to five years in prison. Anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.

Amnesty is warning that these measures are inconsistent with international human rights law and standards. Plans for the new law were criticised last week by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the International Press Institute, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Click here to read the same press release on the Amnesty International website.

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1 Quote originally used by Benjamin Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its “Reply to the Governor” (November 11, 1755).

2 From an article entitled “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic” written by Betsy Woodruff Swan, published in Politico on March 21, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023

3 From an article entitled “Coronavirus: What Newsweek Failed to Mention About ‘Continuity of Government’” written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on March 23, 2020. https://www.mintpressnews.com/coronavirus-what-newsweek-failed-mention-continuity-government/265954/ 

4 From an article entitled “152 House Democrats Join GOP to Reuathorize ‘Abusive Government Surveillence Powers’” written by Jake Johnson, published by Common Dreams on March 12, 2020. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/12/152-house-democrats-join-gop-reauthorize-abusive-government-surveillance-powers

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lobby your MP: lift sanctions on Iran immediately!

The COVID-19 virus has had an unprecedented effect on the entire world and Iran is no exception. Iran is being ravaged by the virus and now has more cases than any other country in the world with the exception of China and Italy.

Millions in Iran are likely to die, not just because of the virus but because US imposed sanctions are preventing countless innocent people from accessing vital medical care.

Write to your MP to force the British government to put public pressure on Trump’s administration to end inhumane sanctions at this desperate time.

Click here to find a template letter to send to your MP.

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Update:

The United States sent Iran a blunt message this week: the spread of the coronavirus will not save it from U.S. sanctions that are choking off its oil revenues and isolating its economy.

Iran is the Middle Eastern nation worst hit by coronavirus, with its death toll climbing to 1,284 and one person dying from it every 10 minutes and 50 becoming infected every hour, the health ministry said.

The United States, which argues that its “maximum pressure” campaign to curb Iran’s nuclear, missile and regional activities does not stop the flow of humanitarian goods, imposed new sanctions this week.

The Trump administration blacklisted five companies based in the United Arab Emirates, three in mainland China, three in Hong Kong and one in South Africa for trade in Iran’s petrochemicals.

“Washington’s increased pressure against Iran is a crime against humanity,” an Iranian official told Reuters. “All the world should help each other to overcome this disease.”

Click here to read the full Reuters report

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Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif accused the US of taking its policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran to a “new level of inhumanity” by imposing new sanctions on Iran as it struggles to cope with a huge surge of Covid-19 cases.

Zarif tweeted on Friday that The Trump administration was “gleefully” taking pride in “killing Iranian citizens” on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, celebrated on March 20 this year. He said US policy betrayed an “utter contempt for human life.”

His rebuke comes shortly after the US blacklisted five companies based in the United Arab Emirates for trading in Iranian petrochemicals. Three companies in China, three in Hong Kong and one in South Africa were also added to the list this week, as Washington attempts to choke off Tehran’s oil revenues.

Click here to read the full report on RT.

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