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The curious case of a Russian hacking

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Ever since Donald Trump won the elections, the Democrats who have been (or ‘were’) very magnanimous about the fact they would accept the election results whatever be the outcome, have been vigorously demanding an enquiry into the hacking by Russia into their Democratic National Committee (DNC) meetings which resulted in a variety of colorful information about the activities done by the Democrats behind closed doors. Videos released by Project Veritas also showed how the Democratic strategists planted agitators in Donald Trump rallies to incite violence. But that is a different story altogether. Let’s get back to the curious case…..

How did the Russians allegedly do it? They sent a variety of Phishing emails to various sources and hoped that people clicked on the same. For example John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary’s aide was sent this email. He forwarded it to an aide, who by mistake said that it was ok. As a result, the Russians had access to 60,000 of Podesta’s emails. Among those were mischievous emails, which showed Debbie Wasserman Schultz (ex-Chair of the DNC) and her aides trying to undermine the emerging candidature of Bernie Sanders. These were sent to Wikileaks who promptly published them in their website. Following this scandal, Debbie had to resign from her position as the DNC Chair. So who was she replaced by? Enter Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and a television commentator…

So after that, did the Democrats do an about turn and sort out their affairs? ‘Once bitten twice shy’ was probably a proverb that the Democrats either did not know or disliked. Donna Brazile was caught revealing questions that were going to be asked during the primaries debate to Clinton campaign officials. After getting caught, one would have expected Donna to be defensive and apologetic. But no, not Donna…. Maybe others…. But not Donna…. She gave out one of the coolest statements in recent times – “I am sorry to have been caught while cheating.” This, in essence, meant that the next time she does it, she will take all necessary precautions not to get caught ????

The charge that many Democrats and even some Republicans (mostly the anyone-but-Trump Republicans) are laying out is ‘How can a foreign country interfere in our elections?’ That statement can be slightly turned and reframed as ‘How can the U.S. interfere in any foreign elections?’ After all there are charges that the Obama government interfered in the Israeli elections of 2015 to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.S. State department paid US $ 350,000 to an Israeli group named ‘OneVoice’ to support the NGO’s efforts to back Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement negotiations. However, they allegedly used it to build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to Obama’s campaign – all of which set the stage for an anti-Netanyahu campaign.

In one finding, the subcommittee, which investigated the issue, even said that OneVoice told the U.S. State Department’s top diplomat in Jerusalem of its plans in an email. But the official Consul General Michael Ratney claims to have never seen them. The email was deleted permanently and hence there was no trail left for the subcommittee to verify the claims. OneVoice allegedly also deleted the State Department’s logo from the list of “partners” on its website. It is true that the subcommittee which investigated the charges found that there was no evidence that the NGO used funds to influence Israeli elections. But questions still remain – is it true that OneVoice deleted the U.S. State Departent’s logo from its website? If so, why would they do it?

Were there any motives for Obama to have worked against Netanyahu? Yes, there were. The Obama-Netanyahu rivalry started in early 2009 when they clashed over Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Later during the 2012 elections, Netanyahu gave out a perception, through his close friendship with Mitt Romney, which went back to their working for a Boston investment firm in the 1970s and also through his close friendship with Pro-Romney Superpac donor Sheldon Adelson, that he backed Romney. He also criticised Obama publicly over the Iran nuclear deal in September of 2012, a few months before the U.S. elections. All these did not help the cause.

Of course, that is not all. The U.S. has meddled in the Maidan protests in Ukraine too. The Maidan Protests started in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2013. Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s top diplomat to Europe under the Obama regime, admitted that around U.S. $ 5 billion was poured in for assisting Ukrainians in building “democratic skills and institutions.” What were the beautiful democratic skills and institutions developed in Ukraine that required a whooping U.S. $ 5 billion? Sadly, Victoria Nuland throws no light on that. Later, in February of 2014, a leaked audio tape appeared on the net which showed the two diplomats Victoria Nuland and Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should lead the Ukrainian government and who should not. Hence it is clear that the U.S. had a role in the Maidan protests. “I think Yats (Arseniy P Yatsenyuk) is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience” says Victoria in the tape. What a stylish way of saying that!!!!

Two examples should suffice though one can write about a few more like the allegations against the Democratic Senator Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy (youngest brother of John F Kennedy), who contacted the KGB leadership and asked for help in defeating the then U.S. President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. Let us assume that the present allegations against Russia are true. But what are the Russians alleged to have done? Have they bribed the voters and induced them to vote against Hillary Clinton? No, they have not. Of course, bribing the voters is a specialty unique only to India!!! So, have they manipulated the results by hacking the voter machines and tried to change the election outcome through bogus votes? No, they have not. What else have they done? They have hacked the DNC and revealed all the manipulations which went on behind closed doors in the Democratic Party. So what is the big fuss about…….

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author

Harish Venugopalan is a Research Assistant with the Observer Research Foundation. He has done his Masters in International Relations from the Dublin City University (DCU) in 2011-2012. His current research interest is ‘Conflict Management in Africa’.

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Dodging UN and US designations: Hafez Saeed maintains utility for Pakistan and China

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A recent upsurge in insurgent activity in Kashmir likely explains Pakistani and Chinese reluctance to crackdown on internationally designated militant Hafez Saeed and the network of groups that he heads.

So does the fact that Mr. Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, an outlawed, India-focused ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim group widely seen as one of South Asia’s deadliest, have assisted Pakistani intelligence and the military in countering militants like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban, that have turned against Pakistan itself.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has also been useful in opposing nationalist insurgents in Balochistan, a key node in China’s Belt and Road initiative. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $50 billion plus China investment in Pakistani infrastructure and energy, is the initiative’s single largest cost post with the Baloch port of Gwadar as its crown jewel.

The United States has put a $10 million bounty on the head of Mr. Saeed, who is believed to lead  Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alleged LeT front, and is suspected of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is “not only useful, but also reliable. (Its)…objectives may not perfectly align with the security establishment’s objectives, but they certainly overlap,” says international security scholar Stephen Tankel.

The links between Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani security establishment are reflected in the fact that the group has recruited in some of the same areas as the military and that some former military officers have joined the group.

The relationship is reinforced by a fear in parts of Pakistan’s security establishment that the group’s popularity, rooted partly in social services provided by its charity arm, would enable it to wage a violent campaign against the state if the military and intelligence were to cut it loose.

So far, Pakistan with tacit Chinese backing appear to see mileage in the group’s existence as a pinprick in India’s side even if creating the perception of greater distance to the security establishment has become a more urgent necessity because of international pressure.

One way of doing so, is the apparent backing of Pakistani intelligence and the military of Mr. Saeed’s efforts to enter the political mainstream by securing registration of a political party in advance of elections expected in July. Pakistan’s election commission has so far held back on the application.

Speaking to the Indian Express, Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for Pakistan’s intelligence service, Inter-Services Intelligence, said that “anything (Mr. Saeed) does, other than violence, is good. There is a process in Pakistan for anyone to participate in politics. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has its rules and laws. If he (Mr. Saeed) fulfils all those requirements that is for the ECP to decide.”

Indian officials are not so sure. In a world in which demarcations between various militant groups are blurred, Indian intelligence expects a spike in attack in Kashmir this summer as a result of Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives joining groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM).

Twenty-two security personnel and six civilians were either killed or injured in seven attacks in Kashmir in the first five weeks of this year. India said Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for an attack in March on soldiers and policemen in which three Army personnel, two policemen, and five militants were killed. Another 20 were killed in clashes in April between Lashkar-e-Taiba and security forces.

Lashkar-e-Taiba’s utility notwithstanding, Pakistan and China are discovering that engagement with militants is never clean cut. Decades of Pakistani support of often Saudi-backed ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim militants has woven militancy into the fabric of militancy into segments of the military, intelligence, bureaucracy and the public.

“A military–mullah–militant nexus has existed for several decades in Pakistan. During this time, the Pakistani military has used religious and political parties connected, directly or indirectly, to various militant outfits as political proxies,” Mr. Tankel said.

National security expert S. Paul Kapur and political scientist Sumit Ganguly noted that “the Pakistan-militant nexus is as old as the Pakistani state. From its founding in 1947 to the present day, Pakistan has used religiously motivated militant forces as strategic tools…  Supporting jihad has been one of the principal means by which the Pakistani state has sought to produce security for itself.”

Decades later, the strategy is backfiring. Concern of increased domestic violence if Pakistan were to cut its links to militants and crackdown on them irrespective of their utility is heightened by the fact many of the groups operate either with no regard for the concerns of the security establishment or with the unsanctioned support of individual military and intelligence officials.

That is believed to have been the case in a string of sectarian attacks in Balochistan by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), ultra-conservative, anti-Shiite Sunni Muslim militants, in which hundreds of Shiites have been killed. China has also been a target of militants in Balochistan.

The spike in sectarian attacks prompted a military crackdown earlier this month. “While such intelligence-based operations are vital, they deal with the symptoms rather than the disease,” cautioned Dawn newspaper.

Speaking in September last year in New York when he was still foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif acknowledged that Mr. Saeed and other Pakistani-backed militants have become liabilities. But even so, Mr. Asif appeared to be looking for wiggle room.

“I accept that they are liabilities but give us time to get rid of them because we don’t have the assets to match these liabilities,” Mr. Asif said.

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Why America’s Torture-Chief Now Runs the CIA

Eric Zuesse

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On May 17th, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10 to 5 to approve Gina Haspel as America’s new chief of the Cenral Intelligence Agency. Back in 2002, she had headed the CIA’s “black site” in Thailand where she ordered and oversaw the torturing of Abu Zubaydah, trying to force him to provide evidence that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, but Zubaydah had no such evidence and wasn’t even able credibly to concoct a story that President George W. Bush could use to ‘justify’ America’s invading Iraq in response to 9/11. Subsequently, Zubaydah has been held incommunicado in Guantanamo in order to prevent him from being able to be heard by the American public regarding what ‘our’ Government did to him (and possibly even in order to bring formal charges against the U.S. Government regarding its treatment of him), and (to the extent that he knows) why the U.S. Government did this. Even to the present day, the U.S. regime still has not brought any legal charges against Zubaydah, because it possesses no evidence that he was connected to the 9/11 attacks and hasn’t succeeded in fabricating such, but especially because it insists upon refusing to provide him a day in court in which the American public (and the world-at-large) might be able to hear the incriminating further evidence against itself, from him.

Haspel’s confirmation as Trump’s CIA Director is also confirmation that everything which candidate Trump had said on the campaign trail against America’s having invaded Iraq was lies from him, and that he is actually fully on board not only about that invasion, but about the continuing lies about it — and the cover-ups (which are, quite evidently, still ongoing).

If the U.S. regime is allowed to get away with this, then any pontifications from it about such things as “America is under attack” from Russia, and that there has been ”Russian election interference” involved in “this attack on the United States,” is preposterous, but is even worse than that: it is based on flagrant lies by, and on behalf of, a U.S. regime that tortures in order to obtain ‘evidence’ for its invasions, and that hides, for decades, the truth about this, from its own public.

A writer for the Brookings Institution and the Washington Post asserts that America’s Democratic Party’s “haste to brand President Trump a tool [of Russia]” is “unwittingly doing the Russians’ work for them: validating the notion that our democracy is a sham.” But perhaps the prominent publication, and think-tank promotion, of such writers as that, in the United States, is, itself, yet further evidence that “our democracy is a sham.” Only one scientific study has ever been published about whether America’s “democracy” is authentic or else a sham, and it found that this ‘democracy’ certainly is a sham, but the Washington Post and the Brookings Institution etc., don’t publish that information — they hide it, and you’ll see and hear about it only at ‘fake news’ sites such as this. (The real fake-news sites, in the English language, include all of the mainstream ‘news’media and almost all of the ‘alternative news’ ones — but not this site, which is one of the few that are in English and not fake ‘news’.)

The making-Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, was a bipartisan action by this regime, this fake ‘democracy’, by two fascist political Parties; and, yet, the American public see and hear, in this nation’s leading ’news’ media, such drivel — accusations that Russia is doing, what the U.S. has actually been doing, for decades.

However, this isn’t to say that Russia has actually been doing these things, but only that the U.S. has definitely been doing it — and is set to continue doing it in the future.

Measuring American ‘democracy’ by how uniformly the U.S. Government carries out its “Cold War” against Russia — a ‘Cold War’ that never really was about communism at all but only pretended to be — isn’t just fraudulent, but it is downright stupid, and it seems now to be the established norm, in the United States. A dictatorship can fool its public like that; and, if it doesn’t, it won’t continue to rule.

So, in America and its satellites, Gina Haspel is a ‘patriot’ who wins a top post of power, while Julian Assange is not only an ‘enemy of America’ but one whom the U.S. and its satellites have silenced and are slowly killing. On 14 December 2011, the Washiington Post bannered, “Poll: Americans say WikiLeaks harmed public interest; most want Assange arrested”, and reported that “68 percent say the WikiLeaks’ exposure of government documents about the State Department and U.S. diplomacy harms the public interest. Nearly as many — 59 percent — say the U.S. government should arrest Assange and charge him with a crime for releasing the diplomatic cables.” The American people have been fooled to favor the regime in this, just as they were fooled in 2003,during the lead-up to the regime’s invasion of Iraq.

The reason why America’s torture-chief now runs the CIA, is that this is the way a dictatorship has to act in order to stay in power. And they need a gullible public, in order to be able to continue scamming the public, from one invasion to the next. That’s the unvarnished, and empirically proven, nauseating, truth. Gina Haspel and her promoters hide it from the public, but they can’t reverse it; and they are, in fact, dependent upon its continuation.

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The secret dream of all propagandists

Dr. Andrea Galli

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Not even a month after Mark Zuckerberg’s grilling at the US House of Representatives, Facebook is announcing a partnership with NATO’s social media propaganda organization: The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab). The organization claims to be the guarantor in defending the public from fake news. In its arsenal of topics to be defended, there are, of course, the usual favorite arguments of NATO. Above all, there is a strong predilection to influence the public perception about governments opposing NATO’s great design and hegemonic ambitions: such as Russia, Iran, Syria, China, Palestine…

The press release of the organizations says: “Today DFRLab announced that we are partnering with Facebook to expand our #ElectionWatch program to identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world. The effort is part of a broader initiative to provide independent and credible research about the role of social media in elections, as well as democracy more generally”.

For the uninitiated, the DFRLab serves the American-led alliance’s chief advocacy group known as the Atlantic Council. Its methods are rather simple: it grants generous stipends and fantastic academic qualifications to various activists that align with NATO’s agenda. Just look at who funds the Atlantic Council: donors include military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all of whom directly profit from tensions with Russia, China, Syria… Meanwhile, in addition to NATO itself, there are also payments made by the US State Department, along with payments from the US Defense Department. Other major paymasters include the government of the United Arab Emirates, which is, of course, an absolute monarchy and other absolute monarchies in the region.

Facebook has partnered an organization funded by weapons manufacturers, the US military, and Middle-Eastern monarchies to safeguard the democratic process?  If Facebook truly wanted to “protect democracy and elections worldwide,” it would build a broad coalition of experts from a wide and disparate range of the countries it serves. Instead, it has outsourced the task to NATO’s propaganda wing.

This is a perfect situation for NATO and those who depend on it for their source of revenues and status. Because the NATO is now positioned to be the master of the Facebook servility in the information war on the social network battlefield. By marry a clearly biased actor to police “misinformation and foreign interference” and to “help educate citizens as well as civil society,” Mark Zuckerberg’s team has essentially made their company a tool of the US’s military agenda.

This is the dream of every propagandist: to infiltrate in an communication infrastructure present on every smartphone and home computer and used with addiction by the great majority of the population; to channel disinformations to the addicted public and to control “the truth”. The goal is always the same: to obtain popular support for financing the military apparatus and in the end, obtain popular support for a war. We wonder what this dream of propagandists has to do with the defense of democracy. It would come as no surprise that Facebook will be soon proclaimed a defender of freedom and human rights.

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