PNN 8/21/16 Global Voices
Voices from the Sierra Club Sugar Summit
0. Standing Rock Sioux 2500 block pipeline
The Camp of the Sacred Stones has swelled from a few dozen to more than 2,500, according to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe officials. They are calling for further review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the end of July without a full environmental assessment. Source: Indian Country Today
Last week, a few dozen Native Americans showed up to protest the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline that would cross right through their sacred land. As word spread, however, the few dozen turned into more than 2,500 native Americans. Because of the large turnout, a brief victory ensued for the people after the developers of the four-state oil pipeline agreed to halt construction until after a federal hearing in the coming week.
In spite of both the company building the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, and the federal government applying pressure, the Native Americans from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have remained resilient.
On Tuesday, the government placed a restraining order on the protesters prohibiting them “from interfering with its (Energy Transfer Partners’) right to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline (the “Pipeline”) in accordance with all local, state, and federal approvals it has obtained.”
However, the protestors remained steadfast — and peaceful.
“As we have said from the beginning, demonstrations regarding the Dakota Access pipeline must be peaceful,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II said in a statementto reporters on August 17. “There is no place for threats, violence or criminal activity. That is simply not our way. So, the Tribe will do all it can to see that participants comply with the law and maintain the peace. That was our position before the injunction, and that is our position now.”
“The pipeline presents a threat to our lands, our sacred sites and our waters, and the people who will be affected must be heard,” Archambault told reporters. “Peaceful demonstration can be very powerful and effective. But the power of peaceful demonstration is only diminished by those who would turn to violence or illegality. We cannot let that happen. The Tribe is committed to doing all it can to make sure that the demonstrations are conducted in the right way.”
In spite of the threat to the sacred land and the unscrupulous action of the state in taking that land on behalf of big oil, government officials maintain their justification.
“Dakota Access has obtained the necessary easements and rights of way to construct the Pipeline in North Dakota and the necessary federal, state, and local permits for the Oahe Crossing,” the court said. “In accordance with the permits and approvals obtained for the Pipeline project, Dakota Access has commenced construction activities in North Dakota.”
On Saturday, the group appealed to the United Nations in a last stitch effort to prevent their land from being taken from them and given to Energy Transfer Partners.
“We specifically request that the United States Government impose an immediate moratorium on all pipeline construction until the Treaty Rights and Human Rights of the Standing Rock Tribe can be ensured and their free, prior and informed consent is obtained,” Chairman Archambault and the Treaty Council said in their appeal to top U.N. human rights officials.
1. US Army Chaplain Resigns in Protest Over Drones, 'Policy of Unaccountable Killing'
"I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection. "
An Army chaplain has resigned in protest over the United States "policy of unaccountable killing" through drone warfare and the nation's continued investment into nuclear weapons, which "threaten the existence of humankind and the earth."
In his letter sent April 12, 2016 to President Barack Obama, Rev. John Antal, a Unitarian Universalist Church minister in Rock Tavern, New York, wrote, "The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any tie, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials."
Antal served as a chaplain from September 2012 to February 2013 at the Kandahar Airbase in southern Afghanistan.
"While deployed," he wrote in Feb. 2015 a the Times Herald-Record, "I concluded our drone strikes disproportionately kill innocent people."
Less than a month after I deployed to Afghanistan, on Oct. 24, 2012, a grandmother who lived over the hill from our base camp was out gathering okra in a field when she was killed by a U.S. drone strike.
Or was she?
Official sources claimed they killed "militants" that day; I didn't see her, or anyone else, die. All I saw were the drones, taking off, landing, and circling around. I did not even hear the explosion.
Months later I watched the testimony of 13-year-old Zubair Rehman, describing how he saw his grandmother blown to bits by two hellfire missiles on the day in question, asking his American audience: "Why?"
They didn't have an answer.
From the perspective of both religious wisdom and military values, drone warfare, as conducted by the United States today, is a betrayal of what is right. My faith affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all people, everywhere. I believe Americans who share that affirmation have a responsibility to advocate for a U.S. foreign policy that reflects our regard for human dignity. Military leadership also has a responsibility to advocate for a method of war-fighting consistent with military values like respect, integrity, and personal courage. Too often, I worry, our program of drone warfare falls short of these ideals.
"I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy, and global power projection," his letter of resignation states.
Military.com, which spoke to Antal on Wednesday, reports that he "remains a chaplain with the 354th Transportation Battalion at Fort Totten, New York" while his resignation is being processed.
Stopping drone strikes and providing transparency for ones that already took place is essential, Antal wrote last year.
"We owe this to Zubair, and the thousands like him. We owe this to our service members who yearn to fight justly. We owe this to the many veterans like myself living in moral pain."
His full letter of resignation is below:
MEMORANDUM FOR Commander-in-Chief, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500
THRU U.S. Army Resources Command, ATTN; AHRC-OPL-P, 1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Ft. Knox, KY 40122
SUBJECT: Resignation in Protest
Dear Mr. President:
I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army.
I resign because I refuse to support U.S. armed drone policy. The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any tie, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.
I resign because I refuse to support U.S. nuclear weapon policy. The Executive Branch continues to invest billions of dollars into nuclear weapons, which threaten the existence of humankind and the earth. I refuse to support this policy of terror ad mutually assured destruction.
I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection. The Executive branch continues to claim extra- constitutional authority and impunity from international law. I refuse to support this policy of imperial overstretch.
I resign because I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain.
I cannot reconcile these policies with wither my sworn duty to protect and defend America and our constitutional democracy or my covenantal commitment to the core principles of my religion faith. These principles include: justice, equity and compassion in human relations, a free and responsible search for truth; and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Christopher John Antal
772-301-2736 - Emine Dilek
2. Fukushima clean-up chief still hunting for 600 tonnes of melted radioactive fuel
The operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has revealed that 600 tonnes of reactor fuel melted during the disaster, and that the exact location of the highly radioactive blobs remains a mystery.
In an exclusive interview with Foreign Correspondent, the Tokyo Electric Power Company's chief of decommissioning at Fukushima, Naohiro Masuda, said the company hoped to pinpoint the position of the fuel and begin removing it from 2021.
But he admitted the technology needed to remove the fuel has to be invented.
"Once we can find out the condition of the melted fuel and identify its location, I believe we can develop the necessary tools to retrieve it," Mr Masuda said.
"So it's important to find it as soon as possible."
Clean-up to take decades, cost tens of billions of dollars
Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant suffered catastrophic meltdowns in the hours and days after a giant tsunami swamped the facility on 11 March, 2011.
Thousands of workers are braving elevated radiation levels to stabilise and decommission the plant.
TEPCO says the process will take 30 to 40 years and tens of billions of dollars.
"In Reactor 1, all of the fuel has melted down from inside the pressure vessel," Mr Masuda said.
"In reactors 2 and 3, about 30 per cent to 50 per cent remains in the pressure vessel and the rest has melted down. But unfortunately, we don't know exactly where [the fuel] is."
The head of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the time of the meltdowns at Fukushima doubts the fuel can be retrieved, saying such an operation has never been done before.
"Nobody really knows where the fuel is at this point and this fuel is still very radioactive and will be for a long time," said Gregory Jaczko in an interview with Foreign Correspondent in Washington.
"It may be possible that we're never able to remove the fuel. You may just have to wind up leaving it there and somehow entomb it as it is."
Radiation killing search robots inside reactor
For the first time, TEPCO has revealed just how much of the mostly uranium fuel melted down after the tsunami swamped the plant.
"It's estimated that approximately 200 tonnes of debris lies within each unit," said TEPCO's Naohiro Masuda.
"So in total, about 600 tonnes of melted debris fuel and a mixture of concrete and other metals are likely to be there."
TEPCO has attempted to use custom-built robots to access high-dose radiation parts of the reactor buildings where humans cannot go.
"All the robots have been disabled, the instrumentation, the camera … have been disabled because of the high radiation fields," former NRC boss Gregory Jaczko said.
Appointed to head the US nuclear watchdog by President Barack Obama in 2009, Dr Jaczko resigned a year after the Fukushima disaster.
A particle physicist, he now questions the safety of nuclear power.
"You have to now accept that in all nuclear power plants, wherever they are in the world … that you can have this kind of a very catastrophic accident and you can release a significant amount of radiation and have a decade long clean-up effort on your hands," he said.
10 million bags of contaminated soil in gigantic waste dumps
Another supporter turned opponent of nuclear power is Naoto Kan, who was the Japanese prime minister at the time of the Fukushima meltdowns.
He says those who argue that nuclear power is a safe, cheap source of energy are misguided.
"So far, the government is paying $70 billion to support TEPCO," Mr Kan said.
"But that is not enough. It will probably cost more than $240 billion. I think 40 years [to decommission the plant] is an optimistic view."
More than 100,000 Japanese are still unable to return home because their communities lie in elevated radiation zones.
Some people have returned to their towns and villages since the completion of decontamination work, which often involves the removal of up to 15 centimetres of topsoil from fields and from around homes.
More than 10 million large bags of contaminated soil and waste have so far been collected. The bags are now stored in thousands of sites around Fukushima, with some of the piles several storeys high.
"In order for people to come back, we need to show that the Fukushima plant is in a stable condition," Naohiro Masuda said.
"We need to make that the situation … we're working on something [for] which there is no textbook."
3. Highly radioactive ‘glass’ rained on Tokyo — Fukushima nuclear fuel with 500 Trillion Bq/kg found —
“Significant consequences for human health” — Scientists: This changes understanding of disaster… Extreme importance… Our ideas of health implications should change… Do not discuss on social media
Public Release from Goldschmidt Conference, Jun 26, 2016 (emphasis added): New research shows that most of the radioactive fallout which landed on downtown Tokyo a few days after the Fukushima accident was concentrated and deposited in non-soluble glass microparticles, as a type of ‘glassy soot’. This meant that most of the radioactive material was not dissolved in rain and running water… The particles also concentrated the radioactive caesium (Cs), meaning that in some cases dose effects of the fallout are still unclear… Japanese geochemists… analysed samples collected from within an area up to 230 km from the FDNPP… [I]t had been anticipated that most of the radioactive fallout would have been flushed from the environment by rainwater. However… most of the radioactive caesium in fact fell to the ground enclosed in glassy microparticles… [T]hese particles… formed during the molten core-concrete interaction inside the primary containment vessel in the Fukushima reactor units 1 and/or 3. Because of the high Cs content in the microparticles, the radioactivity per unit mass was as high as ~4.4×10^11 Bq/g [440,000,000,000,000 Bq/kg]… Analysis from several air filters collected in Tokyo on 15 March 2011 showed that 89% of the total radioactivity was present as a result of these caesium-rich microparticles, rather than the soluble Cs, as had originally been supposed.
4. Radioactive cesium fallout on Tokyo from Fukushima concentrated in glass microparticles
The flooding of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) after the disastrous earthquake on March 11 2011 caused the release of significant amounts of radioactive material, including caesium (Cs) isotopes 134Cs (half-life, 2 years) and 137Cs (half-life, 30 years).
Japanese geochemists, headed by Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya (Kyushu University, Japan), analysed samples collected from within an area up to 230 km from the FDNPP. As caesium is water-soluble, it had been anticipated that most of the radioactive fallout would have been flushed from the environment by rainwater. However, analysis with state-of-the-art electron microscopy in conjunction with autoradiography techniques showed that most of the radioactive caesium in fact fell to the ground enclosed in glassy microparticles, formed at the time of the reactor meltdown.
The analysis shows that these particles mainly consist of Fe-Zn-oxides nanoparticles, which, along with the caesium were embedded in Si oxide glass that formed during the molten core-concrete interaction inside the primary containment vessel in the Fukushima reactor units 1 and/or 3. Because of the high Cs content in the microparticles, the radioactivity per unit mass was as high as ~4.4x1011 Bq/g, which is between 107 and 108 times higher than the background Cs radioactivity per unit mass of the typical soils in Fukushima.
Closer microparticle structural and geochemical analysis also revealed what happened during the accident at FDNPP. Radioactive Cs was released and formed airborne Cs nanoparticles. Nuclear fuel, at temperatures of above 2200 K (about as hot as a blowtorch), melted the reactor pressure vessel resulting in failure of the vessel. The airborne Cs nanoparticles were condensed along with the Fe-Zn nanoparticles and the gas from the molten concrete, to form the SiO2 glass nanoparticles, which were then dispersed.
Analysis from several air filters collected in Tokyo on 15 March 2011 showed that 89% of the total radioactivity was present as a result of these caesium-rich microparticles, rather than the soluble Cs, as had originally been supposed.
According to Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya;
"This work changes some of our assumptions about the Fukushima fallout. It looks like the clean-up procedure, which consisted of washing and removal of top soils, was the correct thing to do. However, the concentration of radioactive caesium in microparticles means that, at an extremely localised and focused level, the radioactive fallout may have been more (or less) concentrated than anticipated. This may mean that our ideas of the health implications should be modified".
Commenting, Prof. Bernd Grambow, Director of SUBATECH laboratory, Nantes, France and leader of the research group on interfacial reaction field chemistry of the ASRC/JAEA, Tokai, Japan, said:
"The leading edge observations by nano-science facilities presented here are extremely important. They may change our understanding of the mechanism of long range atmospheric mass transfer of radioactive caesium from the reactor accident at Fukushima to Tokyo, but they may also change the way we assess inhalation doses from the caesium microparticles inhaled by humans. Indeed, biological half- lives of insoluble caesium particles might be much larger than that of soluble caesium".
5. Sailor Dying from Fukushima Exposure
Spike in number of US sailors dying after Fukushima radiation exposure — Now over 400 veterans suffering serious illnesses — Former Japan Prime Minister breaks down crying, “This can’t be ignored any longer… The number of sick people is increasing and their symptoms are worsening”
Kyodo, May 19, 2016: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has thrown his support behind a group of former U.S. sailors suing the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant… Speaking at a news conference Tuesday in Carlsbad, California, with some of the plaintiffs, Koizumi said, “Those who gave their all to assist Japan are now suffering from serious illness… I learned that the number of sick people is still increasing, and their symptoms are worsening,” he told the news conference… According to lawyers for the group, seven of its members have died so far, including some from leukemia [Three deaths had been reported as of last July].
Asahi Shimbun, May 19, 2016: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi broke down in tears as he made an emotional plea of support for U.S. Navy sailors beset by health problems… More than 400 veterans who were part of a mission called Operation Tomodachi… filed a mass lawsuit in California against [TEPCO]. They are seeking compensation and an explanation for their health problems… Koizumi said: “U.S. military personnel who did their utmost in providing relief are now suffering from serious illnesses. We cannot ignore the situation.” Apparently overcome with emotion, Koizumi started crying… Theodore Holcomb [was] diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He died in 2014 at age 35. The Department of Veterans Affairs later cut off a study into the causal relationship between his exposure to radiation and his illness… Ron Wright, 26, worked on the deck [and] developed a swelling of the testicles and underwent surgery four times… A military doctor told him there was no relationship between his illness and exposure to radiation.
6. Florida's serious water issues.
Recently, DEP refused the Seminole Tribe's filing requesting the Environmental Regulatory Commission (ERC) to hold a new hearing with a FULL Board present, to decide water rules for Florida. In July, the ERC Board held a critical Hearing with two important seats vacant on their seven member Board: the seat for a "community board member" and the one for "a member of the environmental community" were empty, leaving only five members to decide water rules for all of Florida.
After around 80 people testified appealing to ERC members to vote NO to a bad DEP proposal to increase chemical levels in our waters, an ERC majority (three attorneys, one a former DEP employee) voted FOR big increases in toxic chemicals in our water. The two members who listened to the public and voted NO were: Dr. Joyner who oversee's IFAS at UF and a S. FL Biologist who didn't agree DEP's unusual "Monte Carlo probalistic" method for determining chemical levels in FL waters. No other state, or EPA, uses a method like Florida's to determine chemical levels.
The Seminole Tribe pointed out to DEP in their filing, their customs of living off the land, eating fish and game that would be more contaminated if ERC's bad ruling stands and is approved by EPA. However, the Tribe's request was turned down due to being turned in a few minutes late. However, the Tribe said that the DEP/ERC Hearing in July was held without proper notice. Now City of Miami, many local Boards and individuals all across Florida are demanding a rehearing by ERC with a full ERC Board present for a fair decision.
There is NO good reason to increase cancer-causing chemicals in FL waters --and every reason NOT to! Our lives, our health and the health of future generations depends upon the hoped-for restoration of Florida's endangered waters-- AND a safe, protected CLEAN water supply. And it depends upon DEP adhering, for once, to their own DEP Mission Statement which says DEP is to protect Florida's environment. Not further pollute it. Since I was a kid, we've gone from about 6 million pop. to around 20 million now --with less clean water than ever for drinking, agriculture and Florida's important tourism industry! What will our future hold? It is largely up to us to demand that "clean water" be a main priority of all we elect!
Never has it been more important to conserve the clean water we have left for our children-and the next generation! It is up to each of us to REMIND all of Florida's elected officials and those seeking office to take a tough stand to protect what's left, especially when toxic algae over-growths are wreaking havoc on our waterways-- and the threat of fracking hangs over our heads.
Some of those chemicals DEP proposed increasing, and ERC voted for, are fracking chemicals, like Benzene and others. That should inspire us all to write to DEP, ERC members and especially EPA, the body that will have the final word on Florida's water rules! Linda Young's latest newsletter gives the latest on this issue, as well as addresses to write to - which I will forward to you.
More than one in eight public water systems in Florida have pollution-related violations, many involving chemical or fecal contamination that can pose health risks, according to a new report by a nonprofit government watchdog group.
But water enforcement under Gov. Rick Scott has dried up to "almost undetectable levels," says Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
In its report, entitled “Don’t Drink the Water – Collapse of Florida’s Safe Drinking Water Enforcement Program,” PEER examined data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees drinking water.
"It's unmistakable, it's just like a roller coaster that never goes back up," Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney who analyzed the figures, said of DEP's enforcement efforts.
PEER's report found:
Almost 700 of 5,300 public water systems in Florida are out of compliance with safe drinking water rules;
Of the 1,842 violations in 2014, 295 were for excessive coliform, disinfection byproducts, organic and inorganic compounds, radionuclides and other contaminants. The remaining violations were monitoring and reporting violations;
DEP opened only five enforcement cases in 2015 and assessed fines in only two;
Both the number of enforcement cases and the amount of penalties assessed has plummeted since 2010. The number of assessments in potable water cases dropped from 141 in 2010 to only two;
The amount of fines assessed plunged from abut $250,000 in 2010 to $12,000 last year.
DEP officials defended their record of enforcement and monitoring of drinking water, saying the agency has adopted federal water drinking water regulations and other more protective state requirements to implement the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The number one priority for the department is to make sure our drinking water systems are being properly monitored and that any concerns are identified and corrected as quickly as possible," Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman with DEP said via email. "Where there is an exceedance of a drinking water standard, facilities are required to increase their monitoring frequency. The Department closely monitors the subsequent results to ensure the system returns to compliance, and also makes these results available to the public."
But Phillips worries about a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to delegate more of its responsibilities under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to DEP, based upon Florida's 2013 application for more authority.
“Frankly, EPA’s abdication of its state oversight responsibilities is a big factor facilitating the utter evaporation of eco-enforcement that we have seen in Florida under Governor Scott,” Phillips said in a media release, citing summaries of DEP's enforcement compiled annually by PEER. “Now would be the absolute worst time to suspend federal oversight of Florida’s very sick safe drinking water program.”
PEER cited toxic algal blooms, saltwater intrusion driven in part by sea-level rise and depletion of groundwater aquifers as rising threats to clean water.
7. FLORIDA TODAY
Algae is blooming in waterways all around the country
"The number of potable water assessments has declined steadily since 2010 to a point that it is all but nonexistant in Florida," PEER's report states. "This is the worst performance in the Department’s history dating back to 1988. None of the districts improved their performance in 2015. Only one, the South District, managed to equal the number of assessments that it had in 2014."
Earlier this year, Cocoa's supply — which serves about 80,000 connections in central Brevard County, including Kennedy Space Center, Port Canaveral and Patrick Air Force Base — had a violation after the water tested at an annual running average for certain disinfection byproducts of 83.6 parts per billion. Violations occur when the running average of quarterly tests tops 80 parts per billion. One part per billion is comparable to an ink drop into an Olympic-size swimming pool.
The city was not fined and the city took steps to bring the byproducts down to acceptable levels.
The byproducts form when disinfecting chemicals such as chlorine are added to kill the much more acute health threat from viruses, bacteria and other microbes. Disinfection byproducts form when residual chlorine reacts with rotting leaves, algae or other organic matter.
8. FLORIDA TODAY
Scott’s 2018 prospects are slimed by algae
Last year, DEP recorded 180 drinking water systems in Florida that exceeded the maximum limit of disinfection byproducts, according to a recent DEP report on 2015 drinking water violations. But few, if any systems get fined. Instead, the agency issues consent orders that spell out deadlines for water operators to fix the problem, or face penalties ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per day for not complying with the orders.
Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JWayEnviro
8. Muslims Are the Sacrificial Lambs of Our Surveillance Security Apparatus: We Should Pay Attention
Muslims suffer the most invasive, traumatic manifestations of the state’s intrusion. The hyped danger is used to justify further expansion of surveillance.
For those of us who think or write about surveillance, the events of May and June 2013 represented a crucial turning point in our sense of what was possible. Edward Snowden’s release of classified documents changed the way many Americans thought about their relationship to national security agencies. It shattered the beliefs of many news consumers that their online or virtual worlds were private, protected spheres.
White progressives, notably, expressed a sense of outrage that the government had been not only spying on them, but lying about it. Activists organized to learn about encryption and online hygiene; some even mobilized to push for stricter legislation on dragnet surveillance. Their indignant sense of violation, and their proposed means of self-protection, revealed the racialized gaze through which we talk or think about surveillance in a post-9/11 world, because when they spoke about mass surveillance, only certain bodies seemed to matter.
The surveillance of American Muslims should concern us all. It is they who have experienced some of the most invasive and traumatic manifestations of the state’s gaze, and it is their “dangerousness” that has justified the broader expansion of state surveillance. So, why were the experiences and perspectives of American Muslims so absent from the eyes and ears of post-Snowden America? Why aren’t we addressing ways to protect Muslims from state intrusion? And how does ignoring what they are subjected to affect our broader understanding of the aims of surveillance, and the nature of its power?
Last October, I broke a story about an undercover NYPD cop, “Mel,” who infiltrated and spied on a group of young, devout Muslim women who attended Brooklyn College. Mel first entered the students’ lives in the spring of 2011, by “converting” to Islam at an on-campus event, presumably as a means of gaining the students’ trust. Over the course of the next several years, the light-skinned agent with the lilting voice wormed her way into the young women’s lives—attending Islamic study groups and social outings. She even served as a bridesmaid in one woman’s wedding.
What is it like to know someone for years and then find out that she was a spy all along? For Shereen, one of the women who knew Mel from the start, the revelations induced a kind of trauma. “For three days I couldn’t eat, sleep,” she told me. “I covered all the cameras on my phone.”
What was unusual about the Brooklyn College case wasn’t that the student group had been infiltrated—it was that the women discovered it. Muslim-Americans have long known that the FBI and NYPD use informants and undercover operatives to monitor their communities. According to a 2011 estimate published by Mother Jones, there are 15,000 FBI informants planted around the United States, many of them tasked with spying on Muslim-Americans, in addition to an unknown number of formally employed FBI and NYPD operatives.
At times, the surveillance of Muslim-American communities has made intimate personal relationships all but impossible. “There are a few of us who trust each other, and that’s good that we have each other. Some don’t even have that,” Shereen told me. “But in the back of all our minds, there’s always that suspicion, that either you are [a spy], or you think I’m one.”
It is an experience of being watched that few of us can understand. “This is what real fear of surveillance looks like: not knowing whom to trust, choosing your words with care when talking politics in public, the unpredictability of state power,” Arun Kundnani wrote in a March 2014 Guardian op-ed.
“Snowden has rightly drawn our attention to the power of what intelligence agencies call ‘signals intelligence’—the surveillance of our digital communications—but equally important is ‘human intelligence’, the result of informants and undercover agents operating within communities,” Kundnani wrote.
As noted by both National Security Agency insiders like former agent and whistleblower William Binney, and more visible NSA critics like Glenn Greenwald, it was 9/11 that triggered the expansion of the American surveillance apparatus. Mass surveillance was justified by the alleged dangers posed by Muslims. The use of informants and undercover agents is just one example of what Muslims endure.
“I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded,” Snowden said in a July 2013 interview with the Guardian. He speaks of himself as a citizen who believes in his right to a private self and in a democracy that fundamentally exists to protect his interests.
This perspective obscures and erases what is at stake for poor people and people of color when it comes to being watched. “When surveillance is understood as a privacy issue, namely the privacy of middle- and upper-class white Americans, it invisibilizes its violent nature,” said Lara Kiswani, the Executive Director of the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, which has run community trainings in the Bay Area about the use of informants and undercover cops. “As Arabs and Muslims we understand the current targeting of our community as a way by which the state justifies policies, practices and institutions that further criminalize black and brown communities, bolstering the attacks on historically targeted communities in this country.”
While Snowden’s leaked “truths” were fixed objects—documents and slideshows— they were contextualized and presented by reporters and documentary filmmakers. If the national surveillance narrative has been “whitewashed,” did those storytellers play a part?
“The people who were telling the story were white, and they were focusing on how this happens to everybody, this impersonal surveillance that happens to everyone,” Naz Ahmad, a staff attorney with the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility Project (CLEAR) at the City University New York Law School, told me. “Even the term ‘mass surveillance’ glosses over and erases who has been targeted for years.”
Shereen never has been allowed the privilege to believe such illusions about the nature of state power. Surveillance not only determines how or when we are watched, but how the state creates and defines the object of our fear—the terrorist. Shereen understands how her government has defined her.
The Brooklyn College case was closed in early 2012, according to the NYPD. Then in 2013, the department reactivated Mel’s identity to investigative two women from Queens, Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui. In the spring of 2015, four years after Mel first appeared on Brooklyn College campus, Siddiqui and Velentzas were arrested on terrorism charges. The undercover detective appeared to have played an active role in the alleged plot.
Although the women from Brooklyn College did not know Siddiqui and Velentzas, they were deeply disturbed by their arrest. “[Mel’s] personality was very, very nice, very charming,” Shereen told me. “Had I not suspected [she was working undercover], it really scares me what kind of impact she would have had. What she could have done to me.”
Her fear was not unreasonable. In many terrorism arrests since 9/11, informants or undercover officers have preyed on vulnerable individuals, leading them to commit alleged “terror” plots that never would have occurred otherwise.
Still, media outlets continue to accept the government’s surveillance paradigm: because Muslims pose a threat, they should be watched. In fact, I was rejected by almost 10 different outlets before Gothamist agreed to run the Brooklyn College story. Several outlets told me explicitly that these women’s experiences with the NYPD did not warrant public attention.
One editor who I worked with briefly asked me to return to Shereen and my sources at Brooklyn College and ask them a question: If Mel’s presence at the college—her covert intrusion into their lives—had actually led to the arrest of “terrorists,” would they think the surveillance they had endured was justified? The fundamental assumption in the editor’s request was that the threat posed by the two arrested women was real.
While the use of informants or undercover agents is not the primary cause of every terrorism arrest since 9/11, this kind of surveillance has played a central role in “manufacturing” the very figure of the terrorist we so fear. In 2014, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute released a report documenting the abuses of counterterrorism stings.
“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the U.S.,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”
In the post-Snowden era, surveillance is largely written about as a tool of social control. But there is little recognition of how surveillance is now and has always been a means through which bodies are both racialized and subjugated by the state. As Seda Gürses, Arun Kundnani, and Joris van Hoboken write in an April 2016 Media, Culture & Society Journalarticle: “The production of racialized subjects through surveillance has a long history, running through government censuses, police record-keeping, and colonial discourses of ‘tribal’ and ‘ethnic’ definition.”
For Muslims, surveillance does not just mean being watched—it means being fashioned into the very terrorists that the rest of us fear. “Racialization is essential to the surveillance mechanisms that are in turn intrinsic to the modern social order,” Gürses and her co-authors explain. “If we live in a panoptic society, it is also a racial panopticon.”
Muslim-Americans are the sacrificial lambs of our security apparatus; they are the means by which the government justifies spying on the rest of us. Unless we take into account the experiences of American Muslims, we will never confront the myth that is essential to our government’s crackdown on civil liberties—that the threat of terrorism is as real as the government claims, and that surveillance (“done right”) is our primary means of protection.
Although the story about the women at Brooklyn College was read over 11,000 times on Gothamist, one story can’t shift the national conversation on surveillance. Yet I could see the pain and hopelessness on my sources’ faces: they had shared their story, and nothing changed.
The NYPD confirmed to the media and attorneys engaged in litigation that Mel was sent to spy on the Brooklyn College students, insisting it was a legal and warranted investigation. The president of Brooklyn College did not apologize to the students nor did she admonish the NYPD for intruding so flagrantly into her students’ lives. Even in a post-Snowden world, where the word ‘surveillance’ trips across everyone’s tongue, many white Americans have few concerns about what these women endured, or for the routine practices of state surveillance that have traumatized Muslim-American communities and left young men locked up for life.
I wonder how things might be different if Shereen’s name and narrative were known in households across the nation, if she were thought of as the niqabi-wearing whistleblower who followed Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. My sources risked a great deal in sharing their stories for the sake of the public good. When will we recognize them as heroines?
9. NPR Host Demands Assange Do Something Its Own Reporters Are Told Never to Do
IN A TEN-MINUTE interview aired Wednesday morning, NPR’s David Greene asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange five times to reveal the sources of the leaked information he has published on the internet.
A major tenet of American journalism is that reporters protect their sources. Wikileaks is certainly not a traditional news organization, but Greene’s persistent attempts to get Assange to violate confidentiality was alarming, especially considering that there has been no challenge to the authenticity of the material in question.
In the interview, conducted over Skype, Greene pressed Assange to verify the theory that the 20,000 leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee that Wikileaks published came from Russia.
“Did those hacks that Wikileaks released, did those emails come from Russia?” Greene asked.
“Well we don’t comment as to our sources,” Assange replied. He remains confined in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has lived since 2012, despite a U.N. panel’s ruling that he has been “arbitrarily detained.”
Greene brought it up again: “Every cyber expert who’s looked at this has said it’s Russia. Are you telling me that that information did not come to you from Russia?”
Greene was exaggerating: Cybersecurity consultant Matt Tait recently told Politifact that “the consensus that Russia hacked the DNC is at this point very strong, albeit not unanimous.”
Assange replied to Greene: “No cyber expert has said that our emails that we have published have come from Russia, what they have said is that they have looked at some of the hacking of the DNC over the last two years and said that the malware in that hacking appeared to be Russian.”
Greene asked again: “Do you know where these emails came from?”
Assange replied: “Yes, I know where they came from. They came from the DNC.”
NPR’s own ethics handbook urges journalists to respect and protect sources: “As an ethical matter, we would not want to reveal the identity of an anonymous source unless that person has consented to the disclosure. That’s why we take the granting of anonymity seriously.”
NPR’s coverage of James Risen, the New York Times reporter who was pressured by the government to reveal his sources, was more respectful of the obligation to keep promises. Even Terry Gross, the notoriously tough interviewer who hosts NPR member station WHYY’s Fresh Air, did not ask Risen to reveal his sources.
Mark Memmott, NPR supervising editor for standards and practices, told The Intercept in an email: “It’s our job to ask people — experts, politicians, CEOs and even other journalists — where they’re getting their information. We should always be checking the credibility of our sources, no matter who they are. Mr. Assange was free to answer or not.”
Later in the Assange interview, Greene asked again: “Do you know the source that provided them to you?”
Assange replied: “We don’t comment on sourcing, because it makes it easier for any investigation.”
Greene began to ask again: “You brought up this question of whether there’s an argument that you’re a threat to national security. There are cyber security experts who say that someone in Russia, perhaps the Russian government, was responsible for getting this information to you. If you indeed –”
But Assange interrupted: “No there aren’t,” he said. “They’re speaking about the hacks of the DNC, not our publications. There’s a difference.”
Greene again: “If the United States government thought that you might have knowledge that a foreign government hacked into a political institution in the United States” — here Assange sighed — “during a presidential election …” Assange cut in: “They haven’t asked.”
Greene also referred to Wikileaks’ “alleged sources in Russia” and “actual sources in Russia.”
Finally, Greene asked why Wikileaks is offering a $20,000 reward for information about the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot and killed on July 10 in Washington, D.C.
“Any allegation that someone has been murdered because they are a Wikileaks source, even if it only has a small probability of it being true, is very concerning to us,” Assange said. “We have a perfect record in protecting the identity of our sources and we want to establish quickly exactly what the circumstances were in Seth Rich’s killing.”
“Was he a source of yours?” Greene asked.
Assange replied: “We don’t disclose sources, even dead sources.”
10. “Human Rights” Propaganda Campaign Paves Way For Military Escalation In Syria
Photographs and video of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh have rapidly become ubiquitous in the media in the US and Western Europe after being distributed by a group aligned with the CIA-backed Islamist “rebels” in Syria.
The toddler is shown sitting somewhat dazed in the orange seat of a new and well-equipped ambulance, his face covered in dust and tinged with what appears to be dried blood from what was reportedly a cut to his scalp. Video shows him waiting unattended as a number of photographers and videographers record his image to be broadcast around the world. Clearly, those in charge sensed that the boy, with a mop of hair covering his brow and a cartoon t-shirt, provided a marketable image.
CNN proclaimed the child “the face of Syria’s civil war,” while the anchor-woman theatrically burst into tears recounting his story. The New York Timescalled him “a symbol of Aleppo’s suffering,” while USA Today published a short editor’s note reading, “This Syrian boy is Omran. Will you pay attention now?”
More direct in its approach was the British daily Telegraph, which headlined an article: “For the sake of Aleppo’s children, we must try again to impose a no-fly zone in Syria.”
Among the most obscene pieces was one penned, predictably, by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who conflated the plight of Syria’s children with the death of his family dog. He went on to invoke a statement by Secretary of State John Kerry that ISIS is engaged in genocide as a rationale for the US to launch cruise missile attacks on the Syrian government, which is fighting ISIS. The effort to obliterate rational thought in the name of human rights is stunning.
What we are witnessing is a carefully orchestrated war propaganda campaign, designed to appeal to the humanitarian sentiments of the population in order to corral it behind a new escalation of imperialist violence in the Middle East. Whether the incident with Omran was itself staged by the “rebels” and their CIA handlers, or Washington and the corporate media are cynically exploiting the real suffering of an innocent child, is an open question.
What is indisputable is that the feigned concern over this one child is being foisted upon the public with very definite and undeclared political and geo-strategic motives that have nothing to do with protecting the lives of innocent children. They have died by the hundreds of thousands over the last quarter century of US-led invasions, bombings and proxy wars throughout the region.
The image of Omran was chosen because it comes from the eastern sector of Aleppo, where roughly one-sixth of the northern Syrian city’s population lives under the domination of US-backed Islamist militias. The most important of these is the Fateh al-Sham Front, which, until last month, called itself the al-Nusra Front and was Al Qaeda’s designated affiliate in Syria.
Syrian children killed by the Al Qaeda militia’s “hell cannons,” fired indiscriminately into the government-controlled neighborhoods of western Aleppo, do not have the same effect on the tear ducts of newspaper editorialists and media talking heads. Nor, for that matter, do the images coming out of Yemen of children slaughtered by Saudi airstrikes carried out with US-supplied bombs and the Pentagon’s indispensable logistical support. The horrific video of US-backed “moderate” Syrian “rebels” sawing off the head of a ten-year-old Palestinian boy likewise provoked no significant outrage.
The driving forces underlying the renewed propaganda campaign are two-fold. In the first and most immediate instance, the “rebel” offensive—armed and funded by the US and its regional allies—to break the government siege of eastern Aleppo and intensify the war against the civilian population in the west of the city has stalled, and the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, is again making significant gains on the ground. Hence the renewed demands for an immediate ceasefire.
More far-reaching in its implications is the development of closer collaboration between Russia, Iran, China and Turkey in relation to the five-year-old war for regime-change in Syria. Iran has over the past week allowed Russia to use Iranian bases to attack Syrian targets, while Beijing has announced an increase in military aid to Damascus. Meanwhile, in the wake of last month’s abortive US-backed military coup, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sought a rapprochement with both Moscow and Tehran.
Washington views this potential alliance with increasing disquiet, seeing it as an impediment to its military drive to assert US hegemony over the Middle East and its vast energy reserves. It cannot accept such a challenge and will, inevitably, prepare a military response. It is to this end that the “humanitarian” propaganda campaign to “save the children” of Syria—and rescue Washington’s Al Qaeda-linked proxies in the bargain—has been mounted.
The methods employed in this campaign are well-worn to say the least. Twenty-five years ago, the first Gulf War against Iraq was prepared with a chilling tale, told to the US Congress, of invading Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwaiti hospitals and leaving babies to die. The supposed eyewitness to this atrocity, a woman identified as a nurse, was subsequently exposed as the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and a member of the emirate’s royal family. The entire story was a propaganda hoax.
In the years that followed, the US imposed punishing sanctions on Iraq that claimed the lives of half a million Iraqi children, about which then-US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright infamously declared, “The price was worth it.” Subsequent US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have killed hundreds of thousands more.
In reviewing these 25 years of violence and bloodshed, the newly published book A Quarter Century of War: The US Drive for Global Hegemony, 1990-2016 by David North states:
“The scope of military operations continuously widened. New wars were started while the old ones continued. The cynical invocation of human rights was used to wage war against Libya and overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The same hypocritical pretext was employed to organize a proxy war in Syria. The consequences of these crimes, in terms of human lives and suffering, are incalculable.
“The last quarter century of US-instigated wars must be studied as a chain of interconnected events. The strategic logic of the US drive for global hegemony extends beyond the neocolonial operations in the Middle East and Africa. The ongoing regional wars are component elements of the rapidly escalating confrontation of the United States with Russia and China.”
The flood of war propaganda presaging an imminent escalation of the US intervention in Syria threatens to hasten such a confrontation, and with it, the real danger of a global nuclear war.
11. Mosquitos & Pesticide & Zika
BRAZIL… LYNNWOOD…. Miami Beach…your town too
PAN (Pesticide Action Network) stands in solidarity with families that have been impacted by microcephaly and other serious health impacts of the Zika virus. Unfortunately, the primary response to the outbreaks to date has been widespread spraying with pesticides to control mosquito populations. Decades of vector management around the world show that this approach is not only often ineffective, it can also compound the risks to human health.
Zika is a mosquito-borne disease, spread by the daytime biting Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, and outbreaks are occurring throughout Latin and Central America — as well as parts of North America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,250 cases had been documented in the U.S. as of August 18, with the states of Florida, New York and California among the most affected. In addition, more than 7,850 cases have been reported in the U.S territory of Puerto Rico.
Urgent action to control the spread of this dangerous virus is clearly needed. Individuals can reduce their risk of exposure with the commonsense steps outlined below, and PAN International urges officials at all levels of government to pursue the safest, most effective approaches to controlling mosquito populations.
Integrated Vector Management works
Experiences from around the world in dealing with mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and chikunguya have shown the hazards of relying on pesticide spraying as the primary tool to combat vector-borne (e.g. mosquito) diseases.
Mosquitoes rapidly develop resistance to pesticides, leaving the chemicals wholely ineffective. Successive generations of pesticides — from extremely hazardous ones like DDT to the present day use of pyrethroids — have demonstrated this trend. The World Health Organization underscored the problem in their 2012 guidance on policy-making for Integrated Vector Management (IVM):
Resistance to insecticides is an increasing problem in vector control because of the reliance on chemical control and expanding operations . . . Furthermore, the chemical insecticides used can have adverse effects on health and the environment.”
Many of the pesticides used in an attempt to control mosquitoes can be harmful to human health, in both the short and long term. Naled, for example, one of the organophosphate (OP) insecticides being used in response to the Zika outbreaks, is linked to a range of short term impacts including convulsions, dizziness, vomiting and unconsciousness. Long term impacts of Naled exposure can be serious — particularly for children — as it is a hormone disruptor and a reproductive and developmental toxicant.
Many studies have also linked prenatal exposure to OP pesticides to neurological harms, including increased risk of autism and reduced IQ levels.
In case after case, vector control relying on a community-based, least toxic version of IVM (see table below) has proven to be much more effective in controlling mosquito populations and, therefore, the diseases they transmit. As PAN Senior Scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman notes:
Investing in least-toxic IVM is a win-win for communities. It's the best way to both control mosquitoes and avoid reliance on health-harming pesticides."
Commonsense steps for prevention
Individuals and communities can take effective steps to reduce mosquito populations in and around homes, and to reduce the possibility of getting bitten by mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control, the Hesperian Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council all provide tips for families and communities to prevent infection with the virus. A few key steps include:
Preventing mosquito breeding sites by regularly removing sources of stagnant water from bird baths, swimming pools, planters, etc.;
Preventing mosquito bites by wearing long sleeved clothing and applying repellents with safe biological and botanical ingredients including neem, lemon and eucalyptus;
Preventing mosquitoes from entering homes by repairing window screens and ensuring there are no unscreened openings through which mosquitoes can enter; and
Managing water bodies, like backyard or park ponds, that are potential larval habitats for mosquitoes through habitat modification, biological control (e.g., larva killing fish) or larviciding (preferably with biological larvicides).
With the concerted efforts of individuals, communities and vector control agencies, Zika and other vector borne diseases can be controlled safely and effectively — without harming human health or the environment.
See the table below to assess the relative risks of various mosquito control methods. For more in-depth information on IVM, please refer to PAN International's decision-making framework for malaria control.
12. THE NSA LEAK IS REAL, SNOWDEN DOCUMENTS CONFIRM
ON MONDAY, A HACKING group calling itself the “ShadowBrokers” announced an auction for what it claimed were “cyber weapons” made by the NSA. Based on never-before-published documents provided by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept can confirm that the arsenal contains authentic NSA software, part of a powerful constellation of tools used to covertly infect computers worldwide.
The provenance of the code has been a matter of heated debate this week among cybersecurity experts, and while it remains unclear how the software leaked, one thing is now beyond speculation: The malware is covered with the NSA’s virtual fingerprints and clearly originates from the agency.
The evidence that ties the ShadowBrokers dump to the NSA comes in an agency manual for implanting malware, classified top secret, provided by Snowden, and not previously available to the public. The draft manual instructs NSA operators to track their use of one malware program using a specific 16-character string, “ace02468bdf13579.” That exact same string appears throughout the ShadowBrokers leak in code associated with the same program, SECONDDATE.
SECONDDATE plays a specialized role inside a complex global system built by the U.S. government to infect and monitor what one document estimated to be millions of computers around the world. Its release by ShadowBrokers, alongside dozens of other malicious tools, marks the first time any full copies of the NSA’s offensive software have been available to the public, providing a glimpse at how an elaborate system outlined in the Snowden documents looks when deployed in the real world, as well as concrete evidence that NSA hackers don’t always have the last word when it comes to computer exploitation.
But malicious software of this sophistication doesn’t just pose a threat to foreign governments, Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green told The Intercept:
The danger of these exploits is that they can be used to target anyone who is using a vulnerable router. This is the equivalent of leaving lockpicking tools lying around a high school cafeteria. It’s worse, in fact, because many of these exploits are not available through any other means, so they’re just now coming to the attention of the firewall and router manufacturers that need to fix them, as well as the customers that are vulnerable.
So the risk is twofold: first, that the person or persons who stole this information might have used them against us. If this is indeed Russia, then one assumes that they probably have their own exploits, but there’s no need to give them any more. And now that the exploits have been released, we run the risk that ordinary criminals will use them against corporate targets.
The NSA did not respond to questions concerning ShadowBrokers, the Snowden documents, or its malware.
A Memorable SECONDDATE
The offensive tools released by ShadowBrokers are organized under a litany of code names such as POLARSNEEZE and ELIGIBLE BOMBSHELL, and their exact purpose is still being assessed. But we do know more about one of the weapons: SECONDDATE.
SECONDDATE is a tool designed to intercept web requests and redirect browsers on target computers to an NSA web server. That server, in turn, is designed to infect them with malware. SECONDDATE’s existence was first reported by The Intercept in 2014, as part of a look at a global computer exploitation effort code-named TURBINE. The malware server, known as FOXACID, has also been described in previously released Snowden documents.
Other documents released by The Intercept today not only tie SECONDDATE to the ShadowBrokers leak but also provide new detail on how it fits into the NSA’s broader surveillance and infection network. They also show how SECONDDATE has been used, including to spy on Pakistan and a computer system in Lebanon.
The top-secret manual that authenticates the SECONDDATE found in the wild as the same one used within the NSA is a 31-page document titled “FOXACID SOP for Operational Management” and marked as a draft. It dates to no earlier than 2010. A section within the manual describes administrative tools for tracking how victims are funneled into FOXACID, including a set of tags used to catalogue servers. When such a tag is created in relation to a SECONDDATE-related infection, the document says, a certain distinctive identifier must be used:
After viewing the code, Green told The Intercept the MSGID string’s occurrence in both an NSA training document and this week’s leak is “unlikely to be a coincidence.” Computer security researcher Matt Suiche, founder of UAE-based cybersecurity startup Comae Technologies, who has been particularly vocal in his analysis of the ShadowBrokers this week, told The Intercept “there is no way” the MSGID string’s appearance in both places is a coincidence.
Where SECONDDATE Fits In
This overview jibes with previously unpublished classified files provided by Snowden that illustrate how SECONDDATE is a component of BADDECISION, a broader NSA infiltration tool. SECONDDATE helps the NSA pull off a “man in the middle” attack against users on a wireless network, tricking them into thinking they’re talking to a safe website when in reality they’ve been sent a malicious payload from an NSA server.
According to one December 2010 PowerPoint presentation titled “Introduction to BADDECISION,” that tool is also designed to send users of a wireless network, sometimes referred to as an 802.11 network, to FOXACID malware servers. Or, as the presentation puts it, BADDECISION is an “802.11 CNE [computer network exploitation] tool that uses a true man-in-the-middle attack and a frame injection technique to redirect a target client to a FOXACID server.” As another top-secret slide puts it, the attack homes in on “the greatest vulnerability to your computer: your web browser.”
One slide points out that the attack works on users with an encrypted wireless connection to the internet.
That trick, it seems, often involves BADDECISION and SECONDDATE, with the latter described as a “component” for the former. A series of diagrams in the “Introduction to BADDECISION” presentation show how an NSA operator “uses SECONDDATE to inject a redirection payload at [a] Target Client,” invisibly hijacking a user’s web browser as the user attempts to visit a benign website (in the example given, it’s CNN.com). Executed correctly, the file explains, a “Target Client continues normal webpage browsing, completely unaware,” lands on a malware-filled NSA server, and becomes infected with as much of that malware as possible — or as the presentation puts it, the user will be left “WHACKED!” In the other top-secret presentations, it’s put plainly: “How do we redirect the target to the FOXACID server without being noticed”? Simple: “Use NIGHTSTAND or BADDECISION.”
The sheer number of interlocking tools available to crack a computer is dizzying. In the FOXACID manual, government hackers are told an NSA hacker ought to be familiar with using SECONDDATE along with similar man-in-the-middle wi-fi attacks code-named MAGIC SQUIRREL and MAGICBEAN. A top-secret presentation on FOXACID lists further ways to redirect targets to the malware server system.
13. U.S. Defense Contractors Tell Investors Russian Threat Is Great for Business
THE ESCALATING ANTI-RUSSIAN rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign comes in the midst of a major push by military contractors to position Moscow as a potent enemy that must be countered with a drastic increase in military spending by NATO countries.
Weapon makers have told investors that they are relying on tensions with Russia to fuel new business in the wake of Russian’s annexation of Crimea and modest increases in its military budget.
In particular, the arms industry — both directly and through its arsenal of hired-gun, think-tank experts and lobbyists – is actively pressuring NATO member nations to hike defense spending in line with the NATO goal for member states to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.
Retired Army Gen. Richard Cody, a vice president at L-3 Communications, the seventh largest U.S. defense contractor, explained to shareholders in December that the industry was faced with a historic opportunity. Following the end of the Cold War, Cody said, peace had “pretty much broken out all over the world,” with Russia in decline and NATO nations celebrating. “The Wall came down,” he said, and “all defense budgets went south.”
Now, Cody argued, Russia “is resurgent” around the world, putting pressure on U.S. allies. “Nations that belong to NATO are supposed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We know that uptick is coming and so we postured ourselves for it.”
Speaking to investors at a conference hosted by Credit Suisse in June, Stuart Bradie, the chief executive of KBR, a military contractor, discussed “opportunities in Europe,” highlighting the increase in defense spending by NATO countries in response to “what’s happening with Russia and the Ukraine.”
The National Defense Industrial Association, a lobby group for the industry, has called on Congress to make it easier for U.S. contractors to sell arms abroad to allies in response to the threat from Russia. Recent articles in National Defense, NDIA’s magazine, discuss the need for NATO allies to boost maritime military spending, spending on Arctic systems, and missile defense, to counter Russia.
Many experts are unconvinced that Russia poses a direct military threat. The Soviet Union’s military once stood at over 4 million soldiers, but today Russia has less than 1 million. NATO’s combined military budget vastly outranks Russia’s — with the U.S. alone outspending Russia on its military by $609 billion to less than $85 billion.
And yet, the Aerospace Industries Association, a lobby group for Lockheed Martin, Textron, Raytheon, and other defense contractors, argued in February that the Pentagon is not spending enough to counter “Russian aggression on NATO’s doorstep.”
Think tanks with major funding from defense contractors, including the Lexington Institute and the Atlantic Council, have similarly demanded higher defense spending to counter Russia.
Stephen Hadley, the former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush now serving on the board of Raytheon, a firm competing for major NATO military contracts, has argued forcefully for hiking defense budgets and providing lethal aid to Ukraine. Hadley said in a speech last summer that the U.S. must “raise the cost for what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” adding that “even President Putin is sensitive to body bags.”
The business press has noticed the development. The Washington Business Journal noted that “if anyone is benefiting from the unease between Russia and the rest of the world, it would have to be Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp,” noting that the firm won a major contract from Poland, which is revamping its military in response to Russia. Roman Schweizer, an analyst for the defense industry with Guggenheim Securities, predicted last year that U.S. arms sales would continue to rise, particularly because “eastern NATO countries will increase procurements in the wake of continued Russian activity in Ukraine.”
At the Defence Security Exposition International, an arms dealer conference held in London last fall, contractors were quick to use Russia and rising defense budgets to hawk their products. “The tank threat is … much, much more closer to you today because Putin is doing something” in eastern Ukraine, a shoulder-fired-rocket touting representative from Saab told Defense One.
“Companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing have pledged to increase the share of exports in their overall revenues, and they have been seeking major deals in East and Central Europe since the 1990s, when NATO expansion began,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Hartung noted that as some nations ramp up spending, U.S. firms will be “knocking at the door, looking to sell everything from fighter planes to missile defense systems.”
“Russian saber-rattling has additional benefits for weapons makers because it has become a standard part of the argument for higher Pentagon spending — even though the Pentagon already has more than enough money to address any actual threat to the United States,” he said.
14. RETIRED U.S. AIR FORCE Gen. Philip Breedlove,
until recently the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, plotted in private to overcome President Barack Obama’s reluctance to escalate military tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine in 2014, according to apparently hacked emails from Breedlove’s Gmail account that were posted on a new website called DC Leaks.
Obama defied political pressure from hawks in Congress and the military to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian government, fearing that doing so would increase the bloodshed and provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with the justification for deeper incursions into the country.
Breedlove, during briefings to Congress, notably contradicted the Obama administration regarding the situation in Ukraine, leading to news stories about conflict between the general and Obama.
But the leaked emails provide an even more dramatic picture of the intense back-channel lobbying for the Obama administration to begin a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.
In a series of messages in 2014, Breedlove sought meetings with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking for advice on how to pressure the Obama administration to take a more aggressive posture toward Russia.
“I may be wrong, … but I do not see this WH really ‘engaged’ by working with Europe/NATO. Frankly I think we are a ‘worry,’ … ie a threat to get the nation drug into a conflict,” Breedlove wrote in an email to Powell, who responded by accepting an invitation to meet and discuss the dilemma. “I seek your counsel on two fronts,” Breedlove continued, “how to frame this opportunity in a time where all eyes are on ISIL all the time, … and two, … how to work this personally with the POTUS.”
Breedlove attempted to influence the administration through several channels, emailing academics and retired military officials, including former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark, for assistance in building his case for supplying military assistance to Ukrainian forces battling Russian-backed separatists.
“I think POTUS sees us as a threat that must be minimized, … ie do not get me into a war????” Breedlove wrote in an email to Harlan Ullman, senior adviser to the Atlantic Council, describing his ongoing attempt to get Powell to help him influence Obama.
“Given Obama’s instruction to you not to start a war, this may be a tough sell,” Ullman replied a few months later, in another string of emails about Breedlove’s effort to “leverage, cajole, convince or coerce the U.S. to react” to Russia.
Breedlove did not respond to a request for comment. He stepped down from his NATO leadership position in May and retired from service on Friday, July 1. Breedlove was a four-star Air Force general and served as the 17th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe starting on May 10, 2013.
Phillip Karber, an academic who corresponded regularly with Breedlove — providing him with advice and intelligence on the Ukrainian crisis — verified the authenticity of several of the emails in the leaked cache. He also told The Intercept that Breedlove confirmed to him that the general’s Gmail account was hacked and that the incident had been reported to the government.
“The last conversation I had about it with General Breedlove, he said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been hacked several times,’” said Karber. He added that he noticed at least one of his personal emails appearing online from the leak before we had contacted him. “I turned this over to the U.S. government and asked them to investigate. No one has given me any answer.”
“I have no idea whose account was leaked or hacked,” said Powell, when reached for comment about the emails. Powell said he had no comment about the discussions regarding Obama’s response to the conflict in Ukraine.
In the European press, Breedlove has been portrayed as a hawkish figure known for leaning on allied nations to ditch diplomacy and to adopt a more confrontational role again Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. Breedlove, testifying before Congress earlier in February of this year, called Russia “a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies.”
Der Spiegel reported that Breedlove “stunned” German leaders with a surprise announcement in 2015 claiming that pro-Russian separatists had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine with “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of the most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery” sent to Donbass, a center of the conflict.
Breedlove’s numbers were “significantly higher” than the figures known to NATO intelligence agencies and seemed exaggerated to German officials. The announcement appeared to be a provocation designed to disrupt mediation efforts led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In previous instances, German officials believed Breedlove overestimated Russian forces along the border with Ukraine by as many as 20,000 troops and found that the general had falsely claimed that several Russian military assets near the Ukrainian border were part of a special build-up in preparation for a large-scale invasion of the country. In fact, much of the Russian military equipment identified by Breedlove, the Germans said, had been stored there well before the revolution in Ukraine.
The emails, however, depict a desperate search by Breedlove to build his case for escalating the conflict, contacting colleagues and friends for intelligence to illustrate the Russian threat. Karber, who visited Ukrainian politicians and officials in Kiev on several occasions, sent frequent messages to Breedlove — “per your request,” he noted — regarding information he had received about separatist military forces and Russian troop movements. In several updates, Breedlove received military data sourced from Twitter and social media.
Karber, the president of the Potomac Foundation, became the center of a related scandal last year when it was discovered that he had facilitated a meeting during which images of purported Russian forces in Ukraine were distributed to the office of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and were published by a neoconservative blog. The pictures turned out to be a deception; one supposed picture of Russian tanks in Ukraine was, in fact, an old photograph of Russian tanks in Ossetia during the war with Georgia.
Breedlove stayed in close contact with Karber and other officials who shared his views on the Ukrainian conflict.
“Phil, can’t we get a statement to counteract the Russians on use of force? what can I do to help? If the Ukrainians lose control of the narrative, the Russians will see it as an open door,” wrote retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who forwarded on his messages with Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. He also passed along concerns from the Bulgarian president that Bulgaria might be Russia’s next target.
In other messages, Clark relayed specific requests for the types of military aid desired by Ukrainian officials. In addition to radar systems and other forms of military equipment, Clark recommended that Breedlove “encourage Ukraine to hire some first rate pr firms and crisis communications firms in U.S. and Europe.” He added, “They need the right tools to engage in information warfare.”
Ukraine did hire several D.C. lobbying and communication firms to influence policymakers. In June 2015, the government signed a deal with APCO Worldwide, an influential firm with ties to senior Democratic and Republican officials.
In an email in February 2015, Karber told Breedlove that “Pakistan has, under the table, offered Ukraine 500 TOW-II launchers (man-portable version) and 8,000 TOW-II missiles,” adding that deliveries of the anti-tank weapons could begin by the end of the month. “However,” Karber wrote, “Pakistan will not make these deliveries without U.S. approval; moreover they will not even request that approval unless they have informal assurance that it would be approved.”
Karber told The Intercept that the Pakistani arms deal never materialized.
Breedlove was most recently in the news explaining that he now thinks we need to talk to the Russian government to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. “I think we need to begin to have meaningful dialogue,” he said last week, while reiterating his views on the need for a strong NATO to militarily match Russia. “Russia does understand power, and strength, and unity,” he said.
The emails were released by D.C. Leaks, a database run by self-described “hacktivists” who are collecting the communications of elite stakeholders such as political parties, major politicians, political campaigns, and the military. The website currently has documents revealing some internal communications of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, among others.