Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Intelligence Group Sez:"President Obama, Bring Down This Wall of Silence" on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17


Obama Should Release Ukraine Evidence 

by VIP via Consortium News

July 29, 2014

With the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine turning a local civil war into a U.S. confrontation with Russia, U.S. intelligence veterans urge President Obama to release what evidence he has about the tragedy and silence the hyperbole.

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters on July 23, 2014, in Ramallah, West Bank. (U.S. government photo)

Executive Summary

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane
U.S.–Russian intensions are building in a precarious way over Ukraine, and we are far from certain that your advisers fully appreciate the danger of escalation. The New York Times and other media outlets are treating sensitive issues in dispute as flat-fact, taking their cue from U.S. government sources.

Twelve days after the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, your administration still has issued no coordinated intelligence assessment summarizing what evidence exists to determine who was responsible – much less to convincingly support repeated claims that the plane was downed by a Russian-supplied missile in the hands of Ukrainian separatists.




Your administration has not provided any satellite imagery showing that the separatists had such weaponry, and there are several other “dogs that have not barked.” Washington’s credibility, and your own, will continue to erode, should you be unwilling – or unable – to present more tangible evidence behind administration claims. In what follows, we put this in the perspective of former intelligence professionals with a cumulative total of 260 years in various parts of U.S. intelligence:

We, the undersigned former intelligence officers want to share with you our concern about the evidence adduced so far to blame Russia for the July 17 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. We are retired from government service and none of us is on the payroll of CNN, Fox News, or any other outlet. We intend this memorandum to provide a fresh, different perspective.

As veteran intelligence analysts accustomed to waiting, except in emergency circumstances, for conclusive information before rushing to judgment, we believe that the charges against Russia should be rooted in solid, far more convincing evidence. And that goes in spades with respect to inflammatory incidents like the shoot-down of an airliner. We are also troubled by the amateurish manner in which fuzzy and flimsy evidence has been served up – some of it via “social media.”

As intelligence professionals we are embarrassed by the unprofessional use of partial intelligence information. As Americans, we find ourselves hoping that, if you indeed have more conclusive evidence, you will find a way to make it public without further delay. In charging Russia with being directly or indirectly responsible, Secretary of State John Kerry has been particularly definitive. Not so the evidence. His statements seem premature and bear earmarks of an attempt to “poison the jury pool.”

Painting Russia Black


We see an eerie resemblance to an earlier exercise in U.S. “public diplomacy” from which valuable lessons can be learned by those more interested in the truth than in exploiting tragic incidents for propaganda advantage. We refer to the behavior of the Reagan administration in the immediate aftermath of the shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 over Siberia on August 30, 1983. We sketch out below a short summary of that tragic affair, since we suspect you have not been adequately briefed on it. The parallels will be obvious to you.

An advantage of our long tenure as intelligence officers is that we remember what we have witnessed first hand; seldom do we forget key events in which we played an analyst or other role. To put it another way, most of us “know exactly where we were” when a Soviet fighter aircraft shot down Korean Airlines passenger flight 007 over Siberia on August 30, 1983, over 30 years ago. At the time, we were intelligence officers on “active duty.” You were 21; many of those around you today were still younger.

Thus, it seems possible that you may be learning how the KAL007 affair went down, so to speak, for the first time; that you may now become more aware of the serious implications for U.S.-Russian relations regarding how the downing of Flight 17 goes down; and that you will come to see merit in preventing ties with Moscow from falling into a state of complete disrepair. In our view, the strategic danger here dwarfs all other considerations.

Hours after the tragic shoot-down on August 30, 1983, the Reagan administration used its very accomplished propaganda machine to twist the available intelligence on Soviet culpability for the killing of all 269 people aboard KAL007. The airliner was shot down after it strayed hundreds of miles off course and penetrated Russia’s airspace over sensitive military facilities in Kamchatka and Sakhalin Island. The Soviet pilot tried to signal the plane to land, but the KAL pilots did not respond to the repeated warnings. Amid confusion about the plane’s identity – a U.S. spy plane had been in the vicinity hours earlier – Soviet ground control ordered the pilot to fire.

The Soviets soon realized they had made a horrendous mistake. U.S. intelligence also knew from sensitive intercepts that the tragedy had resulted from a blunder, not from a willful act of murder (much as on July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people, an act which President Ronald Reagan dismissively explained as an “understandable accident”).

To make the very blackest case against Moscow for shooting down the KAL airliner, the Reagan administration suppressed exculpatory evidence from U.S. electronic intercepts. Washington’s mantra became “Moscow’s deliberate downing of a civilian passenger plane.” Newsweek ran a cover emblazoned with the headline “Murder in the Sky.” (Apparently, not much has changed; Time’s cover this week features “Cold War II” and “Putin’s dangerous game.” The cover story by Simon Shuster, “In Russia, Crime Without Punishment,” would merit an A-plus in William Randolph Hearst’s course “Yellow Journalism 101.”)

When KAL007 was shot down, Alvin A. Snyder, director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, was enlisted in a concerted effort to “heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible,” as Snyder writes in his 1995 book, “Warriors of Disinformation.”

He and his colleagues also earned an A-plus for bringing the “mainstream media” along. For example, ABC’s Ted Koppel noted with patriotic pride, “This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.”

“Fixing” the Intelligence Around the Policy


“The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” wrote Snyder, adding that the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council on September 6, 1983.

Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had hidden — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were false.

The intercepts showed that the Soviet fighter pilot believed he was pursuing a U.S. spy aircraft and that he was having trouble in the dark identifying the plane. Per instructions from ground control, the pilot had circled the KAL airliner and tilted his wings to order the aircraft to land. The pilot said he fired warning shots, as well. This information “was not on the tape we were provided,” Snyder wrote.

It became abundantly clear to Snyder that, in smearing the Soviets, the Reagan administration had presented false accusations to the United Nations, as well as to the people of the United States and the world. In his book, Snyder acknowledged his own role in the deception, but drew a cynical conclusion. He wrote, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.”

The tortured attempts by your administration and stenographers in the media to blame Russia for the downing of Flight 17, together with John Kerry’s unenviable record for credibility, lead us to the reluctant conclusion that the syndrome Snyder describes may also be at work in your own administration; that is, that an ethos of “getting your own lie out first” has replaced “ye shall know the truth.” At a minimum, we believe Secretary Kerry displayed unseemly haste in his determination to be first out of the starting gate.

Both Sides Cannot Be Telling the Truth


We have always taken pride in not shooting from the hip, but rather in doing intelligence analysis that is evidence-based. The evidence released to date does not bear close scrutiny; it does not permit a judgment as to which side is lying about the shoot-down of Flight 17. Our entire professional experience would incline us to suspect the Russians – almost instinctively. Our more recent experience, particularly observing Secretary Kerry injudiciousness in latching onto one spurious report after another as “evidence,” has gone a long way toward balancing our earlier predispositions.

It seems that whenever Kerry does cite supposed “evidence” that can be checked – like the forged anti-Semitic fliers distributed in eastern Ukraine or the photos of alleged Russian special forces soldiers who allegedly slipped into Ukraine – the “proof” goes “poof” as Kerry once said in a different context. Still, these misrepresentations seem small peccadillos compared with bigger whoppers like the claim Kerry made on August 30, 2013, no fewer than 35 times, that “we know” the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical incidents near Damascus nine days before.

On September 3, 2013 – following your decision to call off the attack on Syria in order to await Congressional authorization – Kerry was still pushing for an attack in testimony before a thoroughly sympathetic Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. On the following day Kerry drew highly unusual personal criticism from President Putin, who said: “He is lying, and he knows he is lying. It is sad.”

Equally serious, during the first week of September 2013, as you and President Vladimir Putin were putting the final touches to the deal whereby Syrian chemical weapons would be given up for destruction, John Kerry said something that puzzles us to this day. On September 9, 2013, Kerry was in London, still promoting a U.S. attack on Syria for having crossed the “Red Line” you had set against Syria’s using chemical weapons.

At a formal press conference, Kerry abruptly dismissed the possibility that Bashar al-Assad would ever give up his chemical weapons, saying, “He isn’t about to do that; it can’t be done.” Just a few hours later, the Russians and Syrians announced Syria’s agreement to do precisely what Kerry had ruled out as impossible. You sent him back to Geneva to sign the agreement, and it was formally concluded on September 14.

Regarding the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down of July 17, we believe Kerry has typically rushed to judgment and that his incredible record for credibility poses a huge disadvantage in the diplomatic and propaganda maneuvering vis-a-vis Russia. We suggest you call a halt to this misbegotten “public diplomacy” offensive. If, however, you decide to press on anyway, we suggest you try to find a less tarnished statesman or woman.

A Choice Between Two


If the intelligence on the shoot-down is as weak as it appears judging from the fuzzy scraps that have been released, we strongly suggest you call off the propaganda war and await the findings of those charged with investigating the shoot-down. If, on the other hand, your administration has more concrete, probative intelligence, we strongly suggest that you consider approving it for release, even if there may be some risk of damage to “sources and methods.” Too often this consideration is used to prevent information from entering the public domain where, as in this case, it belongs.

There have been critical junctures in the past in which presidents have recognized the need to waive secrecy in order to show what one might call “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” or even to justify military action.

As senior CIA veteran Milton Bearden has put it, there are occasions when more damage is done to U.S. national security by “protecting” sources and methods than by revealing them. For instance, Bearden noted that Ronald Reagan exposed a sensitive intelligence source in showing a skeptical world the reason for the U.S. attack on Libya in retaliation for the April 5, 1986 bombing at the La Belle Disco in West Berlin. That bombing killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman, and injured over 200 people, including 79 U.S. servicemen.

Intercepted messages between Tripoli and agents in Europe made it clear that Libya was behind the attack. Here’s an excerpt: “At 1:30 in the morning one of the acts was carried out with success, without leaving a trace behind.”

Ten days after the bombing the U.S. retaliated, sending over 60 Air Force fighters to strike the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the city of Benghazi. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who survived, but his adopted 15-month-old daughter was killed in the bombing, along with at least 15 other civilians.

Three decades ago, there was more shame attached to the killing of children. As world abhorrence grew after the U.S. bombing strikes, the Reagan administration produced the intercepted, decoded message sent by the Libyan Peoples Bureau in East Berlin acknowledging the “success” of the attack on the disco, and adding the ironically inaccurate boast “without leaving a trace behind.”

The Reagan administration made the decision to give up a highly sensitive intelligence source, its ability to intercept and decipher Libyan communications. But once the rest of the world absorbed this evidence, international grumbling subsided and many considered the retaliation against Tripoli justified.

If You’ve Got the Goods…


If the U.S. has more convincing evidence than what has so far been adduced concerning responsibility for shooting down Flight 17, we believe it would be best to find a way to make that intelligence public – even at the risk of compromising “sources and methods.” Moreover, we suggest you instruct your subordinates not to cheapen U.S. credibility by releasing key information via social media like Twitter and Facebook.

The reputation of the messenger for credibility is also key in this area of “public diplomacy.” As is by now clear to you, in our view Secretary Kerry is more liability than asset in this regard. Similarly, with regard to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, his March 12, 2013 Congressional testimony under oath to what he later admitted were “clearly erroneous” things regarding NSA collection should disqualify him. Clapper should be kept at far remove from the Flight 17 affair.

What is needed, if you’ve got the goods, is an Interagency Intelligence Assessment – the genre used in the past to lay out the intelligence. We are hearing indirectly from some of our former colleagues that what Secretary Kerry is peddling does not square with the real intelligence. Such was the case late last August, when Kerry created a unique vehicle he called a “Government (not Intelligence) Assessment” blaming, with no verifiable evidence, Bashar al-Assad for the chemical attacks near Damascus, as honest intelligence analysts refused to go along and, instead, held their noses.

We believe you need to seek out honest intelligence analysts now and hear them out. Then, you may be persuaded to take steps to curb the risk that relations with Russia might escalate from “Cold War II” into an armed confrontation. In all candor, we see little reason to believe that Secretary Kerry and your other advisers appreciate the enormity of that danger.

In our most recent (May 4) memorandum to you, Mr. President, we cautioned that if the U.S. wished “to stop a bloody civil war between east and west Ukraine and avert Russian military intervention in eastern Ukraine, you may be able to do so before the violence hurtles completely out of control.” On July 18, you joined the top leaders of Germany, France, and Russia in calling for an immediate ceasefire. Most informed observers believe you have it in your power to get Ukrainian leaders to agree. The longer Kiev continues its offensive against separatists in eastern Ukraine, the more such U.S. statements appear hypocritical.

We reiterate our recommendations of May 4, that you remove the seeds of this confrontation by publicly disavowing any wish to incorporate Ukraine into NATO and that you make it clear that you are prepared to meet personally with Russian President Putin without delay to discuss ways to defuse the crisis and recognize the legitimate interests of the various parties. The suggestion of an early summit got extraordinary resonance in controlled and independent Russian media. Not so in “mainstream” media in the U.S. Nor did we hear back from you.

The courtesy of a reply is requested.

Prepared by VIPS Steering Group

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Larry Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, Division Counsel & Special Agent, FBI (ret.)

Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

Tunnelers: The Resistance Below Your Feet

Tunnels

by David Rovics - Songwriter's Notebook

Another day of wanton destruction. Over a hundred Palestinian civilians killed in the past 24 hours. Stories of revenge attacks are coming to light, of Israeli snipers killing civilians as they were searching for buried or dead family members.

Their commanders told the snipers that killing the civilians searching for their dead was a form of therapy, to help them recover from the loss of their IDF comrades.

The loss of their comrades. Over 1,100 Palestinians killed, overwhelmingly women, children and the elderly. Several dozen Israelis killed, almost all of them soldiers. Killed by people coming out of tunnels. Tunnels that the soldiers are bombing and blowing up.

Back in Eretz Israel a small antiwar protest is physically attacked by a much larger, violent mob of rightwing extremists. We can't call them fascists, they're Jews. Jews can't be fascists, can they? Even when they chant, “kill the Arabs” and “gas the Arabs,” as they're beating up leftists, pacifists and random Palestinian passersby? They're not actually gassing the Arabs. They're just talking about it. Well, aside from using deadly chemical weapons like white phosphorus on civilians hiding in UN compounds.

In my mind I keep coming back to the tunnels. Tunnels are such a powerful image, with so much history. The Vietnamese won the war against the US invaders partially through the widespread use of tunnels. Of course Kissinger would complain incessantly of Soviet aid to the Vietnamese guerrillas being the problem. That sounds much better than admitting that you're facing a very poorly-armed enemy that's beating you through sheer determination, ingenuity and courage, despite all your weapons of mass destruction.

The public line was the Vietminh was a small part of the population that needed to be dealt with. That if they could just destroy their infrastructure, the invaders would win. Secretly the American leadership knew this wasn't true. They knew their enemy was the people of Vietnam, and they prosecuted their war with this in mind, targeting broadly all of the civilians of that poor country, and their neighbors as well.

But destroy the infrastructure – they did that, too. And what was that infrastructure? Planes, helicopters, tanks? No. Rocket launchers? A few. Antiquated rifles? A few more.

Tunnels. Mostly tunnels. And courageous, desperate refugees. Refugees living in a walled-off ghetto, subject to an almost complete embargo, with no electricity, overflowing sewers, very little food, who are being incessantly bombed.

When facing a determined opponent, “infrastructure” or the “infrastructure of terror” has a very different meaning than how the term is usually understood.

The infrastructure, the Israelis now admit, is not the ineffective, home-made rockets. Not the paltry collection of guns. The infrastructure are the homes that people live in. Especially the ones around Gaza's inland perimeter, which the IDF is now annexing with tanks and bulldozers. The infrastructure is the homes, and the tunnels beneath them.

The thing about fighting a determined enemy in an urban setting is you can only make the best use of your superior firepower if there aren't any buildings in the way. People can hide behind buildings. So you have to destroy them all, which is what the Israelis are doing. Which is what the US did in Fallujah, and in Hue, and is what the Nazis did in Warsaw.

I'm no military expert or anything, but I am a history buff, and I believe the main difference between Fallujah, Hue and the Warsaw Ghetto is in Fallujah the resistance didn't build tunnels prior to the battle. In all those cases, though, the only way to win the battle was to completely demolish the cities, one building at a time.

In Warsaw, after the buildings were all burned to the ground and the ghetto was nothing but rubble, the resistance continued, albeit on a small scale due in part to a complete lack of food or firearms. The reason any resistance was able to continue was down to the tunnels.

Tunnels are a bit like buildings that way. You can hide behind a building, and if you're really lucky, you can ambush soldiers when they come around the corner. If you're really, really lucky as well as very skillful, you might get close enough for hand-to-hand combat. Which is necessary when the other side has all the firepower.

You can also hide in tunnels, before you come out and engage in your mission to attack the enemy before the enemy inevitably kills you in return. It's almost always a suicide mission. You show yourself, you die, but maybe you kill first, if you're ready to die, and very lucky and very skilled.

In Warsaw, the tunnels were how some of the ancestors of some of those IDF soldiers survived the Nazi Holocaust. The tunnels were how they managed to get some food into the ghetto from outside the ghetto walls. And even a few guns, and very home-made bombs. Beneath any well-stocked kitchen sink are the explosives necessary to have your own little “infrastructure of terror,” after all. Even in Warsaw, 1943. If you went outside the ghetto, where such chemicals could be purchased.

So, destroy the buildings, destroy the tunnels, and face the conundrum that as long as people are able to buy food, fertilizer, gasoline, and Draino, they'll be able to make explosives. As long as there are people there will be terrorists.

So “gas the Arabs” becomes the natural conclusion. It's the only way to have security. If you don't want to give them sovereignty, you have to kill them all. How close to “kill them all” are the Israelis willing to go?

Around the world people watched and sometimes protested as the Nazis destroyed the Warsaw Ghetto, as the US military destroyed Hue and later Fallujah, and so many other cities and towns across the world, directly or through their proxy dictatorship armies in Guatemala, El Salvador, Indonesia. And their proxy pseudo-democracy in Israel. We knew, and we know, what's happening. It's not that we don't know, or didn't know before.

People watched and protested, just as we do now. In Spain in 1937, tens of thousands of people from around the world went to fight alongside the besieged Spanish democracy, and died there alongside the Spaniards. But that's the exception, not the rule. And when that sort of thing happens today we don't say nice things about them. “Mujahideen” had a nice ring to it in the US media when the enemy in Afghanistan was the USSR. Now they're “foreign fighters” or “jihadis,” both of which are automatically supposed to inspire revulsion.

And sure, there was a handful of brave foreign fighters willing to die in the fight against the American military in Fallujah. There were a few non-Jews fighting alongside the ZOB in the Warsaw Ghetto. Were they foreign fighters? Anti-fascist jihadis? There were no foreign fighters in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh said he appreciated the offer, but he turned them down, on the grounds that housing them would be too expensive, and they'd stick out if they didn't look Vietnamese enough. This mattered, because the Vietnamese had only the element of surprise in their favor, just about nothing else.

For the most part, with some fairly minor exceptions, all the resistance fighters in Warsaw and Hue had to comfort them as they died was the support of their people. And the tunnels.

Fossil Fueling Ourselves: LNG's Energy Bridge to Nowhere


Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas: Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels

by Naomi Oreskes  - TomDispatch

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.

 The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels. We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel -- even a “greenfuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.


Tomgram: Naomi Oreskes, A "Green" Bridge to Hell



[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Here’s a mid-summer offer that, I hope, appeals. For a $75 contribution to TomDispatch, you can get a signed, personalized copy of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future, the ingenious little book Naomi Oreskes has co-authored with Erik Conway. It offers a look back at global warming and humanity from the point of view of a historian of 2393. Written by two historians of science who couldn’t be more knowledgeable, it’s both a must-read in terms of our present crisis and a genuinely fascinating sci-fi-style scenario about one possible future we could face. The offer will remain open for a week. It’s also your chance to keep TomDispatch rolling along! If you’re interested, check out our donation page for the details by clicking here.]

Call it the energy or global warming news of recent weeks. No, I’m not referring to the fact this was globally the hottest June on record ever (as May had been before it), or that NASA launched the first space vehicle “dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide.” Nor do I mean the new report released by a “bipartisan group,” including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and three former secretaries of the treasury, suggesting that, by 2100, $238 billion to $507 billion worth of American property will be “below sea level”; nor that Virginia’s coastline is already being eaten away by rising seas and storm-surge destruction in such a striking manner that state Democrats and Republicans are leaving global warming denialists in the lurch and forming a climate change task force to figure out what in the world to do.

No, I was referring to the news that the Obama administration has just reopened the eastern seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration. To the extent that this has been covered, the articles have generally focused on the economic positives -- for jobs and national wealth -- of finding new deposits of oil and gas in those waters, and the unhappiness of the environmental community over the effect of the sonic booms used in underwater seismic exploration on whales and other sea creatures. Not emphasized has been the way, from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, not to speak of the shale-gas fracking fields of this country, the Obama administration has had an all-of-the-above policy on fossil fuels. Our “global warming” president has consistently championed reforms (of a modest sort) to combat climate change. These, however, fit uncomfortably with his administration's anything-goes menu of oil and gas exploration and exploitation that is distinctly in the drill-baby-drill mode. Unlike that drill-baby-drill proponent Sarah Palin, however, the president knows what he’s doing and what the long-term effects of such policies are likely to be.

Part of the way he and his officials seem to have squared the circle is by championing their moves to throttle coal use and bring natural gas, touted as the “clean” fossil fuel, to market in a big way. As it happens, historian of science Naomi Oreskes, an expert on the subject, has news for the president and his advisors: when looked at in a clear-eyed way, natural gas isn’t going to turn out to be the fossil-fuel equivalent of a wonder drug that will cure the latest climate disease. Quite the opposite: its exploitation will actually increase the global use of fossil fuels and pump more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, while possibly suppressing the development of actual renewable alternatives. In a magisterial piece today, she explores every aspect of the crucial question of why natural gas is anything but a panacea for our climate change problems.

This couldn’t be more important. Science historians Oreskes and Erik Conway have already written a classic book, Merchants of Doubt, on how Big Energy and a tiny group of scientists associated with it sold us a false bill of goods on the nature and impact of its products (as the tobacco industry and essentially the same set of scientists had before it). Together, they have now produced a little gem of a book on climate change: The Collapse of Western Civilization: a View From the Future. Written, so the claim goes, in 2393 by a “senior scholar of the Second People’s Republic of China,” it traces the events that led to the Great Collapse of 2090. You haven’t heard of that grim event yet? Well, you will as soon as you pick up Oreskes’s and Conway’s “thought-provoking” and gripping work of “science-based fiction” on what our future may have in store for us -- if we don’t act to change our world. Tom

 

Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas: Why Fossil Fuels Can’t Solve the Problems Created by Fossil Fuels

by Naomi Oreskes 


That truth is basic chemistry: when you burn natural gas, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced is, other things being equal, much less than when you burn an equivalent amount of coal or oil. It can be as much as 50% less compared with coal, and 20% to 30% less compared with diesel fuel, gasoline, or home heating oil. When it comes to a greenhouse gas (GHG) heading for the atmosphere, that’s a substantial difference. It means that if you replace oil or coal with gas without otherwise increasing your energy usage, you can significantly reduce your short-term carbon footprint.

Replacing coal gives you other benefits as well, such as reducing the sulfate pollution that causes acid rain, particulate emissions that cause lung disease, and mercury that causes brain damage. And if less coal is mined, then occupational death and disease can be reduced in coal miners and the destruction caused by damaging forms of mining, including the removal, in some parts of the country, of entire mountains can be reduced or halted.

Those are significant benefits. In part for these reasons, the Obama administration has made natural gas development a centerpiece of its energy policy, and environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, have supported the increased use of gas. President Obama has gone as far as to endorse fracking -- the controversial method of extracting natural gas from low permeability shales -- on the grounds that the gas extracted can provide “a bridge” to a low carbon future and help fight climate change.

So if someone asks: "Is gas better than oil or coal?" the short answer seems to be yes. And when it comes to complicated issues that have science at their core, often the short answer is the (basically) correct one.

As a historian of science who studies global warming, I’ve often stressed that anthropogenic climate change is a matter of basic physics: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which means it traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. So if you put additional CO2 into that atmosphere, above and beyond what’s naturally there, you have to expect the planet to warm. Basic physics.

And guess what? We’ve added a substantial amount of CO2 to the atmosphere, and the planet has become hotter. We can fuss about the details of natural variability, cloud feedbacks, ocean heat and CO2 uptake, El Niño cycles and the like, but the answer that you get from college-level physics -- more CO2 means a hotter planet -- has turned out to be correct. The details may affect the timing and mode of climate warming, but they won’t stop it.

In the case of gas, however, the short answer may not be the correct one.

The often-touted decrease in greenhouse gas production applies when natural gas replaces other fuels -- particularly coal -- in electricity generation. That’s important. Electricity is about 40% of total U.S. energy use. Traditionally, coal has been the dominant fuel used to generate electricity in this country and most of the world. (And no one has any serious plan to live without electricity.) Any measurable GHG reduction in the electricity sector is significant and gains achieved in that sector quickly add up.

But a good deal of the benefit of gas in electricity generation comes from the fact that it is used in modern combined-cycle gas turbine plants. A combined-cycle plant is one in which waste heat is captured and redirected to drive a mechanical system that powers a generator that creates additional electricity. These plants can be nearly twice as efficient as conventional single-cycle plants. In addition, if combined with cogeneration (the trapping of the last bits of heat for local home heating or other purposes), they can reach efficiencies of nearly 90%. That means that nearly all the heat released by burning the fuel is captured and used -- an impressive accomplishment.

In theory, you could build a combined-cycle plant with coal (or other fuels), but it’s not often done. You can also increase coal efficiency by pulverizing it, and using a technique called “ultra super-critical black coal.” An expert report compiled by the Australian Council of Learned Societies in 2013 compared the efficiencies of a range of fuels, including conventional gas and shale gas, under a variety of conditions, and concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation using efficient forms of coal burning were not that much more than from gas.

What this means is that most of the benefit natural gas offers comes not from the gas itself, but from how it is burned, and this is mostly because gas plants tend to be new and use more efficient burning technologies. The lesson, not surprisingly: if you burn a fuel using twenty-first century technology, you get a better result than with late nineteenth or twentieth century technology. This is not to defend coal, but to provide an important reality check on the discussion now taking place in this country. There is a real benefit to burning gas in America, but it’s less than often claimed, and much of that benefit comes from using modern techniques and new equipment. (If the coal industry weren’t so busy denying the reality of climate change, they might publicize this fact.)

It’s Not Just Electricity


Replacing coal with gas in electricity generation is still probably a good idea -- at least in the near term -- but gas isn’t just used to generate electricity. It’s also used in transportation, to heat homes and make hot water, and in gas appliances like stoves, driers, and fireplaces. Here the situation is seriously worrisome.

It’s extremely difficult to estimate GHG emissions in these sectors because many of the variables are poorly measured. One important emission source is gas leakage from distribution and storage systems, which is hard to measure because it happens in so many different ways in so many different places. Such leaks are sometimes called “downstream emissions,” because they occur after the gas has been drilled.

Certainly, gas does leak, and the more we transport, distribute, and use it, the more opportunities there are for such leakage. Studies have tried to estimate the total emissions associated with gas using well-to-burner or “life-cycle” analysis. Different studies of this sort tend to yield quite different results with a high margin for error, but many conclude that when natural gas replaces petroleum in transportation or heating oil in homes, the greenhouse gas benefits are slim to none. (And since almost no one in America heats their home with coal any more, there are no ancillary benefits of decreased coal.) One study by researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University concluded that while the probability of reducing GHG emissions at least somewhat by replacing coal with gas in electricity generation was 100%, the substitution of natural gas as a transportation fuel actually carries a 10%-35% risk of increasing emissions.

In the Northeast, the northern Midwest, and the Great Plains, many builders are touting the “energy efficiency” of new homes supplied with gas heat and hot water systems, but it’s not clear that these homes are achieving substantial GHG reductions. In New England, where wood is plentiful, many people would do better to use high efficiency wood stoves (or burn other forms of biomass).

How Gas (CH4) Heats the Atmosphere Much More than CO2


Isn’t gas still better than oil for heating homes? Perhaps, but oil doesn’t leak into the atmosphere, which brings us to a crucial point: natural gas is methane (CH4), which is a greenhouse gas far more potent than CO2.

As a result, gas leaks are a cause for enormous concern, because any methane that reaches the atmosphere unburned contributes to global warming more than the same amount of CO2. How much more? This is a question that has caused considerable angst in the climate science community, because it depends on how you calculate it. Scientists have developed the concept of “Global Warming Potential” (GWP) to try to answer this question.

The argument is complicated because while CH4 warms the planet far more than CO2, it stays in the atmosphere for much less time. A typical molecule of CO2 remains in the atmosphere about 10 times longer than a molecule of CH4. In their Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that the GWP for methane is 34 times that of CO2 over the span of 100 years. However, when the time frame is changed to 20 years, the GWP increases to 86!

Most calculations of the impact of methane leakage use the 100-year time frame, which makes sense if you are worried about the cumulative impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the world as a whole, but not -- many scientists have started to argue -- if you are worried about currently unfolding impacts on the biosphere. After all, many species may go extinct well before we reach that 100-year mark. It also does not make sense if you are worried that we are quickly approaching irreversible tipping points in the climate system, including rapid ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

It gets worse. CH4 and CO2 are not the only components of air pollution that can alter the climate. Dust particles from pollution or volcanoes have the capacity to cool the climate. As it happens, burning coal produces a lot of dust, leading some scientists to conclude that replacing coal with natural gas may actually increase global warming. If they are right, then not only is natural gas not a bridge to a clean energy future, it’s a bridge to potential disaster.

Fracking


A great deal of recent public and media attention has been focused not on gas itself, but on the mechanism increasingly used to extract it. Hydraulic fracturing -- better known as fracking -- is a technique that uses high-pressure fluids to “fracture” and extract gas from low permeability rocks where it would otherwise be trapped. The technique itself has been around for a long time, but in the last decade, combined with innovations in drilling technology and the high cost of petroleum, it has become a profitable way to produce energy.

The somewhat surprising result of several recent studies (including one by an expert panel from the Council of Canadian Academies on which I served) is that, from a climate-change perspective, fracking probably isn’t much worse than conventional gas extraction. Life-cycle analyses of GHG emissions from the Marcellus and Bakken shales, for example, suggest that emissions are probably slightly but not significantly higher than from conventional gas drilling. A good proportion of these emissions come from well leakage.

It turns out to be surprisingly hard to seal a well tightly. This is widely acknowledged even by industry representatives and shale gas advocates. They call it the problem of “well integrity.” Wells may leak when they are being drilled, during production, and even when abandoned after production has ended. The reason is primarily because the cement used to seal the well may shrink, crack, or simply fail to fill in all the gaps.

Interestingly, there’s little evidence that fracked wells leak more than conventional wells. From a greenhouse gas perspective, the problem with fracking lies in the huge number of wells being drilled. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there were 342,000 gas wells in the United States in 2000; by 2010, there were over 510,000, and nearly all of this increase was driven by shale-gas development -- that is, by fracking. This represents a huge increase in the potential pathways for methane leakage directly into the atmosphere. (It also represents a huge increase in potential sources of groundwater contamination, but that’s a subject for another post.)

There have been enormous disagreements among scientists and industry representatives over methane leakage rates, but experts calculate that leakage must be kept below 3% for gas to represent an improvement over coal in electricity generation, and below 1% for gas to improve over diesel and gasoline in transportation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently estimates average leakage rates at 1.4%, but quite a few experts dispute that figure. One study published in 2013, based on atmospheric measurements over gas fields in Utah, found leakage rates as high as 6%-11%. The Environmental Defense Fund is currently sponsoring a large, collaborative project involving diverse industry, government, and academic scientists. One part of the study, measuring emissions over Colorado’s most active oil and gas drilling region, found methane emissions almost three times higher than the EPA’s 2012 numbers, corresponding to a well-leakage rate of 2.6%-5.6%.

Some of the differences in leakage estimates reflect differing measurement techniques, some may involve measurement error, and some probably reflect real differences in gas fields and industrial practices. But the range of estimates indicates that the scientific jury is still out. If, in the end, leakage rates prove to be higher than the EPA currently calculates, the promised benefits of gas begin to vaporize. If leakage in storage and distribution is higher than currently estimated -- as one ongoing study by my own colleagues at Harvard suggests -- then the alleged benefits may evaporate entirely.

And we're not done yet. There’s one more important pathway to consider when it comes to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere: flaring. In this practice, gas is burned off at the wellhead, sending carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s most commonly done in oil fields. There, natural gas is not a desirable product but a hazardous byproduct that companies flare to avoid gas explosions. (If you fly over the Persian Gulf at night and notice numerous points of light below, those are wellhead fires).

In our report for the Council of Canadian Academies, our panel relied on industry data that suggested flaring rates in gas fields were extremely low, typically less than 2% and "in all probability" less than 0.1%. This would make sense if gas producers were efficient, since they want to sell gas, not flare it. But recently the Wall Street Journal reported that state officials in North Dakota would be pressing for new regulations because flaring rates there are running around 30%. In the month of April alone, $50 million dollars of natural gas was burned off, completely wasted. The article was discussing shale oil wells, not shale gas ones, but it suggests that, when it comes to controlling flaring, there’s evidence the store is not being adequately minded. (At present, there are no federal regulations at all on flaring.) As long as gas is cheap, the economic incentives to avoid waste are obviously insufficient.

Why Gas is Unlikely To Be a Bridge to Renewables


In a perfect world, people would use gas to replace more polluting coal or oil. Unfortunately, the argument for gas rests on just that assumption: that the world works perfectly. You don’t need to be a scientist, however, to know just how flawed that assumption is. In fact, economists have long argued that a paradox of energy efficiency is this: if people save energy through efficiency and their energy bills start to fall, they may begin to use more energy in other ways. So while their bills stay the same, usage may actually rise. (It’s like going to a sale and instead of saving money, buying more things because of the lower price tags.) In this way, consumers can actually end up using more energy overall and so emissions continue to rise.

To ensure that natural gas use doesn’t follow such a path, you’ve got to do something. You could introduce a law, like AB32, the California emissions control law, or put in place the pending EPA carbon rule just introduced by the Obama administration that mandates emissions reductions. Or you could introduce a hefty carbon tax to create a strong financial incentive for people to choose non-carbon based fuels. But laws like AB32 are at present few and far between, the fossil fuel industry and its political and ideological allies are fighting the EPA carbon rule tooth and nail, and only a handful of political leaders are prepared to stand up in public and argue for a new tax.

Meanwhile, global fossil fuel production and consumption are rising. A recent article by the business editor of the British Telegraph describes a frenzy of fossil fuel production that may be leading to a new financial bubble. The huge increase in natural gas production is, in reality, helping to keep the price of such energy lower, discouraging efficiency and making it more difficult for renewables to compete. And this raises the most worrisome issue of all.

Embedded in all positive claims for gas is an essential assumption: that it replaces other more polluting fuels. But what if it also turns out to replace the panoply of alternative energies, including solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear? In Canada, where shale-gas development is well advanced, only a small fraction of electricity is generated from coal; most comes from hydropower or nuclear power. In the U.S., competition from cheap gas was recently cited by the owners of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear power plant as a factor in their decision to close down. And while the evidence may be somewhat anecdotal, various reports suggest that cheap gas has delayed or halted some renewable power projects. It stands to reason that if people believe natural gas is a “green” alternative, they will chose it over more expensive renewables.

Exports and Infrastructure: The Road to More Climate Change


We’ve all heard about the Keystone XL Pipeline through which Canada proposes to ship oil from the Alberta tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, and from there to the rest of the world. Few people, however, are aware that the U.S. has also become a net exporter of coal and is poised to become a gas exporter as well. Gas imports have fallen steadily since 2007, while exports have risen, and several U.S. gas companies are actively seeking federal and state approvals for the building of expanded gas export facilities.

Once coal leaves our borders, the argument for replacing it becomes moot because there’s no way for us to monitor how it’s used. If gas replaces coal in the U.S. and that coal is then exported and burned elsewhere, then there’s no greenhouse gas benefit at all. Meanwhile, the negative effects of coal have been passed on to others.

All of the available scientific evidence suggests that greenhouse gas emissions must peak relatively soon and then fall dramatically over the next 50 years, if not sooner, if we are to avoid the most damaging and disruptive aspects of climate change. Yet we are building, or contemplating building, pipelines and export facilities that will contribute to increased fossil fuel use around the globe, ensuring further increases in emissions during the crucial period when they need to be dramatically decreasing.

We are also building new power plants that will be with us for a long time. (A typical power plant is expected to operate for at least 50 years.) Once technologies are adopted and infrastructure built to support them, it becomes difficult and expensive to change course. Historians of technology call this “technological momentum.”

Certain forms of infrastructure also effectively preclude others. Once you have built a city, you can’t use the same land for agriculture. Historians call this the “infrastructure trap.” The aggressive development of natural gas, not to mention tar sands, and oil in the melting Arctic, threaten to trap us into a commitment to fossil fuels that may be impossible to escape before it is too late. Animals are lured into traps by the promise of food. Is the idea of short-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions luring us into the trap of long-term failure?

The institution of rules or incentives in the U.S. and around the globe to ensure that gas actually replaces coal and that efficiency and renewables become our primary focus for energy development is at this point extremely unlikely. Yet without them, increased natural gas development will simply increase the total amount of fossil fuel available in the world to burn, accelerating what is already beginning to look like a rush towards disaster.

Have U.S. Emissions Really Decreased?


Gas advocates say that while these worries might be legitimate, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions nonetheless fell between 2008 and 2012, partly because of the way gas is replacing coal in electricity generation. This claim needs to be closely examined. In fact, it seems as if the lion’s share of that decrease was simply the result of the near global economic meltdown of 2007-2008 and the Great Recession that followed. When economic activity falls, energy use falls, so emissions fall, too. Not surprisingly, preliminary data from 2013 suggest that emissions are on the rise again. Some of the rest of the 2008-2012 decline was due to tighter automobile fuel economy standards.

But how do we know what our emissions actually are? Most people would assume that we measure them, but they would be wrong. Emissions are instead calculated based on energy data -- how much coal, oil, and gas was bought and sold in the U.S. that year -- multiplied by assumed rates of greenhouse gas production by those fuels. Here’s the rub: the gas calculation depends on the assumed leakage rate. If we’ve been underestimating leakage, then we’ve underestimated the emissions. Though the converse is also true, few experts think that anyone is overestimating gas leakage rates. This is not to say that emissions didn’t fall in 2008-2012. They almost certainly did, again because of the recession. But the claim that there’s been a large decrease thanks to natural gas remains unproven.

So Why Are So Many People So Enthusiastic About Gas?


The reason for industry enthusiasm isn’t hard to discern: a lot of people are making a lot of money right now in shale gas. Chalk up the enthusiasm of the Canadian government, politicians in gas-rich states like Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania, and individuals who have made money leasing their properties for gas drilling to the same factor. In those gas-rich states, employment, too, has benefited (even as the familiar social problems characteristic of boom towns have also increased).

On natural gas, the Obama administration seems to be looking for a compromise that Democrats and Republicans can support, and that does not invoke the wrath of the powerful and aggressive oil and gas industry or voters in states like Pennsylvania. In the process, it’s surely tempting to demonize the coal industry, with its long history of abusive labor practices, its callous disregard for occupational health, and its catastrophic environmental record. Since few of us ever see coal in our daily lives, a future without coal seems not only imaginable but overdue.

But when it comes to natural gas, what about the enthusiasm of some environmentalists? What about groups like the Environmental Defense Fund that have a long track record on climate change and no history of love for the oil and gas industry? What about scientists?

In such cases, I think the positive response to the exploitation of natural gas lies in a combination of wishful thinking and intimidation.

The fossil fuel industry and their allies have spent the past 20 years attacking environmentalists and climate scientists as extremists, alarmists, and hysterics. Their publicists have portrayed them as hair-shirt wearing, socialist watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) who relish suffering, kill jobs, and want everyone to freeze in the dark. Extremists do exist in the environmental movement as everywhere else, but they represent a tiny faction of the community of people concerned about climate change, and they are virtually nonexistent in the scientific community. (Put it this way: if there is a hair-shirt wearing climate scientist, I have not met her.)

While the accusations may be false, that doesn’t mean they don’t affect our thinking. Too often, environmentalists find ourselves trying to prove that we are not what they say we are: not irredeemable anti-business job-killers. We bend over backwards to seek out acceptable compromises and work with business leaders, even to the point of finding a fossil fuel that we can love (or at least like).

And that leads to the wishful thinking. We want to find solutions, or at least meaningful steps in the right direction, that command widespread support. We want gas to be good. (I know I did.) Climate change is a gargantuan challenge, and it’s bloody hard to see how we are going to solve it and maintain our standard of living, much less extend that standard to billions more around the globe who want it and deserve it. If gas is good, or at least better than what we have now -- then that feels like a good thing. If gas moved us substantially in the right direction, then that would be a good thing.

After all, can’t the leakage problem be fixed? Our panel spent considerable time discussing this question. Industry representatives said, “Trust us, we’ve been drilling wells for 100 years.” But some of us wondered, “If they haven’t solved this problem in 100 years, why would they suddenly solve it now?” A strong system of monitoring and compliance enforcement could help create incentives for industry to find a solution, but the odds of that developing any time soon seem as remote as the odds of a binding international treaty.

Sometimes you can fight fire with fire, but the evidence suggests that this isn’t one of those times. Under current conditions, the increased availability and decreased price of natural gas are likely to lead to an increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Preliminary data from 2013 suggest that that is already occurring. And global emissions are, of course, continuing to increase as well.

Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing but expecting a different result. Psychologists define perseveration as repetitive behavior that interferes with learning. Whatever we call it, that seems to be what is happening. And whatever it is, it doesn’t make sense. Natural gas is not the bridge to clean energy; it’s the road to more climate change.

Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, and co-author, with Erik Conway, of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. She is also a co-author of Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction published by the Council of Canadian Academies in 2014. Her new book with Erik Conway is The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (Columbia University Press, 2014).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Naomi Oreskes

Another of America's Black Holes Revealed: What Britain Knew and Didn't Say About Diego Garcia

Britain's Latest Counterterrorism Disasters: The truth about renditions and detentions at the island of Diego Garcia has to be revealed

by Andy Worthington - Al Jazeera English

The last few weeks have been challenging for the British government and its counterterrorism policies - and for a good reason. Ever since the war on terror began, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the UK has happily embraced the lawless novelties conceived by the Bush administration - including extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

One aspect of Britain's complicity in extraordinary rendition involves the island of Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, a British Overseas Territory that has been leased to the US since the 1970s. In December 2002, it was first reported, in the Washington Post, that Diego Garcia was "one of a number of secret detention centers overseas" where the CIA was holding and interrogating prisoners of the "war on terror".

In October 2003, Time reported that "a regional intelligence official" had stated that Hambali, a "high-value detainee" seized in Thailand two months earlier, was being held and interrogated on Diego Garcia, and in the years that followed, other claims were made, both by journalists and by retired US general Barry McCaffrey, who, in May 2004 and December 2006, referred to prisoners being held on Diego Garcia.

Nevertheless, both Prime Minister Tony Blair and foreign secretary Jack Straw denied that Diego Garcia had been used as a prison, or even that rendition flights had passed through the territory. It was not until February 2008 that Straw's replacement, David Miliband, told parliament that the US authorities had just discovered that two flights, each carrying a single prisoner, had refuelled on Diego Garcia in 2002. "The detainees did not leave the plane," Miliband explained, "and the US Government has assured us that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia."

In August 2008, the Observer reported that Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon was told by US intelligence agents that Mustafa Setmarian, a Syrian based in Spain, had been "taken to Diego Garcia in late 2005 and held there for months", and in July 2009 Reprieve, the legal action charity, identified one man rendered through Diego Garcia as former Guantanamo prisoner, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni. Since then, there have been other claims, further undermining US and UK credibility - claims that, for example, Abdul Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi, two opponents of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, who were kidnapped with their families, and with UK assistance, had passed through Diego Garcia.

Allegations resurface


In April, the alleged "black site" on Diego Garcia surfaced once more, when, for Al Jazeera, Jason Leopold reported that two US officials who have read portions of the Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,600-page report into the Bush administration's torture programme, said that the CIA "detained some high-value suspects on Diego Garcia" in a "black site" established "with the 'full cooperation' of the British government". The report took four years to complete, but is still unpublished because of wrangling with the CIA.

As Leopold described it, the report's evidence about Diego Garcia "would confirm long-standing claims by human rights investigators and journalists, whose allegations - based on flight logs and unnamed government sources - have routinely been denied by the CIA" - and, of course, by the British government.





People and Power - Libya: Renditions


Following up on these claims, the Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, who established the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition in 2005, recently asked the foreign office for information about which government departments hold records of flights that passed through Diego Garcia from January 2002 to January 2009, he was told that the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) immigration authorities hold the records, but that those from 2002 were "incomplete due to water damage," as the Guardian described it.

This prompted Cori Crider of Reprieve to state, "The government might as well have said the dog ate their homework. This smacks of a cover-up."

This conclusion was strengthened when, just days later, a UK government official was photographed carrying copies of emails discussing flight records whose existence the government has persistently denied, and the latest twist came on July 16, when a Foreign Office official stated that, after "a fuller inspection", the BIOT authorities had discovered that "previously wet paper records" - the result of a leaking roof during "extremely heavy weather in June 2014" - had "dried out".

Deeply flawed processes


To add to the credibility issues raised by the latest Diego Garcia revelations, the UK government also needs questioning about its treatment of Babar Ahmad, a computer specialist, and Talha Ahsan, a poet who has Asperger's Syndrome.

Both men are British citizens, and they were extradited to the US in October 2012 as part of the deeply flawed UK-US extradition treaty of 2003. In 2011, the UK parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a critical report, stating that safeguards in UK to US cases were "inadequate", and, as the BBC explained, also said that "more evidence was needed to justify requests and judges should be able to refuse them if they were not in the 'interests of justice.'"








Will US personnel ever face torture charges?


Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan were held without charge or trial in the UK for eight years and six years respectively as they challenged their extradition. However, after the last legal challenge failed, they were extradited, spending over two years in a maximum security prison in Connecticut.

At their trial in December 2013, they both agreed to a plea deal, accepting that they provided material support to the Taliban and to mujahideen in Chechnya through websites in which they raised money and recruited fighters in return for sentences less than the 25 years and 15 years sought by the prosecution. Until they were extradited, neither man had set foot in the US, and the only basis for their extradition was that one of the servers for Ahmad's website was based in Connecticut.

Last week, in the federal court in New Haven, Judge Janet Hall gave Babar Ahmad a twelve-and-a-half year sentence, but gave him credit for the eight years he has already spent imprisoned in the UK, and his two years in the US. He is to be returned to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence, and with good behaviour will be released in 13 months. In Talha Ahsan's case, Judge Hall gave him a sentence of time served (eight years in total), and he should soon be back in the UK, a free man.

What the UK and US governments both need to do now is to make sure that no one else is pointlessly extradited like Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan. In July 2004 and December 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service declared that there was "insufficient evidence" to charge Ahmad with any criminal offence under UK law, as did Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, in September 2006, and yet neither the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, nor the current Tory-led coalition government, took any interest. Instead, Theresa May, the current home secretary, drew understandable accusations of racism when, having gloated about the successful extradition of Ahmad, Ahsan and three other men in the opening words of her speech at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2012, she then refused to extradite Gary McKinnon, a hacker who also has Asperger's Syndrome, the week after.

Given the previous behaviour of senior UK government officials, whether Labour or Conservative, it seems unlikely that the truth about Diego Garcia will be produced willingly, but it is to be hoped that the belated nod towards fairness in the sentences handed down by Judge Hall in Connecticut will have repercussions in the UK that cause the government to think very carefully about its counterterrorism policies.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist. He has been researching and writing about Guantanamo since 2006, and has worked with the United Nations, WikiLeaks, Reprieve and Cageprisoners. He is the co-founder of the Close Guantanamo campaign, and authored the book The Guantanamo Files.

Follow him on twitter: @guantanamoandy

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chaos "Я" US: An Emperor's Ragings

The Emperor’s Rage: Let Chaos Envelop the World!

by James Petras - Dissident Voice

Chaos reigns and spreads as enraged leaders in the US, Europe and their clients and allies pursue genocidal wars.

Mercenary wars in Syria; Israel’s terror bombing on Gaza; proxy wars in the Ukraine, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia.

Tens of millions of refugees flee scenes of total destruction. Nothing is sacred. There are no sanctuaries. Homes, schools, hospitals and entire families are targeted for destruction.

Chaos by Design


At the center of chaos, the wild-eyed President Obama strikes blindly, oblivious of the consequences, willing to risk a financial debacle or a nuclear war. He enforces sanctions against Iran; imposes sanctions on Russia; sets up missile bases five launch minutes from Moscow; sends killer drones against Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan; arms mercenaries in Syria; trains and equips Kurds in Iraq and pays for Israel’s savagery against Gaza.

Nothing works.

The Chaos President is blind to the fact that starving one’s adversaries does not secure submission: it unites them to resist. Regime change, imposing proxies by force and subterfuge, can destroy the social fabric of complex societies: Million of peasants and workers become uprooted refugees. Popular social movements are replaced by organized criminal gangs and bandit armies.

Central America, the product of decades of US direct and proxy military interventions, which prevented the most basic structural changes, has become a chaotic, unlivable inferno for millions. Tens of thousands of children flee from their ‘free market’- induced mass poverty and militarized state and gangster violence. Children refugees at the US border are arrested in mass, and imprisoned in makeshift detention camps, subject to psychological, physical and sexual abuse by officials and guards on the inside. On the outside, these pitiful children are exposed to the racist hatred of a frightened US public unaware of the dangers these children are escaping and the US government’s role in creating these hells.

The US-backed Kiev aviation authorities re-directed international passenger airlines to fly over war zones bristling with anti-aircraft missiles while Kiev’s jets bombed the rebellious cities and towns. One flight was shot down and nearly 300 civilians perished. Immediately an explosion of accusations from Kiev blaming Russian President Putin flooded Western media with no real facts to explain the tragedy/crime. War-crazy President Obama and the slavering prime ministers of the EU ejaculated ultimatums, threatening to convert Russia into a pariah state. ‘Sanctions, sanctions, everywhere, but first… France must complete its $1.5 billion sale to the Russian navy.’ And the City of London exempts the Russian oligarchs from the ‘sanctions’, embedded as they are in London’s money-laundering, parasitical FIRE (Fire, Insurance and Real Estate) economy. The Cold War has returned and has taken an ugly turn… with exceptions for business.

Confrontation among nuclear powers is imminent: And the maniacal Baltic States and Poland bray the loudest for war with Russia, oblivious to their positions on the front lines of incineration.

Each day Israel’s war machine chews up more bodies of Gaza’s children while spitting out more lies. Cheering Israeli Jews perch on their fortified hills to celebrate each missile strike on the apartments and schools in the densely populated Shejaiya neighborhood of besieged Gaza. A group of orthodox and secular entrepreneurs in Brooklyn have organized group tours to visit the Holy Sites by day and enjoy the Gaza pyrotechnics by night … night goggles to view the fleeing mothers and burning children are available at a small extra charge…

Again the US Senate votes unanimously in support of Israel’s latest campaign of mass murder – no crime is depraved enough to ruffle the scruples of America’s leaders. They hew close to a script from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations. Together they embrace a Beast from the Apocalypse gnawing on the flesh and bones of Palestine.

But, Sacre Bleu! France’s Zionists have prevailed on the ‘President-Socialiste’ Hollande. Paris bans all anti-Israel demonstrations despite the clear reports of genocide. Demonstrators supporting the Gazan resistance are gassed and assaulted by special riot police – ‘Socialist’ Hollande serves the demands of powerful Zionist organizations while trashing his country’s republican traditions and its sacred ‘Rights of Man’.

The young protestors of Paris fought back with barricades and paving stones in the finest traditions of the Paris Commune waving the flags of a free Palestine. Not a single ‘red banner’ was in sight: The French ‘left’ were under their beds or off on vacation.

There are ominous signs away from the killing fields. The stock market is rising while the economy stagnates. Wild speculators have returned in their splendor widening the gap between the fictitious and real economy before the ‘deluge’, the chaos of another inevitable crash.

In industrial America’s once great Detroit, clean water is shut-off to tens of thousands of poor citizens unable to pay for basic services. In the midst of summer, urban families are left to defecate in hallways, alleyways and empty lots. Without water the toilets are clogged, children are not washed. Roscoe, the master plumber, says the job is way beyond him.

According to our famed economists, the economy of Detroit is ‘recovering … profits are up, it’s only the people who are suffering’. Productivity has doubled, speculators are satisfied; pensions are slashed and wages are down; but the Detroit Tigers are in first place.

Public hospitals everywhere are being closed. In the Bronx and Brooklyn, emergency rooms are overwhelmed. Chaos! Interns work 36 hour shifts, and the sick and injured take their chances with a sleep-deprived medic. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, private clinics and ‘boutique’ practices for the elite proliferate.

Scandinavians have embraced the putschist power grab in Kiev. The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt bellows for a new Cold War with Russia. The Danish emissary and NATO leader, Anders Fogh-Rasmussen, salivates obscenely at the prospect of bombing and destroying Syria in a replay of NATO’s ‘victory’ over Libya.

The German leaders endorse the ongoing Israeli genocide against Gaza; they are comfortably protected from any moral conscience by their nostalgic blanket of ‘guilt’ over Nazi crimes 70 years ago.

Saudi-funded Jihadi terrorists in Iraq showed their “infinite mercy” by… merely driving thousands of Christians from ancient Mosul. Nearly 2,000 years of a continuous Christian presence was long enough! At least most escaped with their heads still attached.

Chaos Everywhere


Over one hundred thousand agents of the US National Security Agency are paid to spy on two million Muslim citizens and residents in the USA. But for all the tens of billions of dollars spent and tens of millions of conversations recorded, Islamic charities are prosecuted and philanthropic individuals are framed in ‘sting operations’.

Where the bombs fall no one knows, but people flee. Millions are fleeing the chaos.

But there is no place to go! The French invade half a dozen African countries but the refugees are denied refuge in France. Thousands die in the desert or drown crossing the Med. Those who do make it, are branded criminals or relegated to ghettos and camps.

Chaos reigns in Africa, the Middle East, Central America and Detroit. The entire US frontier with Mexico has become a militarized detention center, a multi-national prison camp. The border is unrecognizable to our generation.

Chaos reigns in the markets. Chaos masquerades as trade sanctions: Iran yesterday, Russia today and China tomorrow. Washington, Watch out! Your adversaries are finding common ground, trading, forging agreements, building defenses; their ties are growing stronger.

Chaos reigns in Israel. War-obsessed Israelis discover that the Chosen People of God can also bleed and die, lose limbs and eyes in the alleyways of Gaza where poorly armed boys and men stand their ground. When the cheers turn to jeers, will they re-elect Bibi, their current kosher butcher? The overseas brethren, the fundraisers, the lobbyists and the armchair verbal assassins will automatically embrace some new face, without questions, regrets or (god forbid!) self-criticism –if it’s ‘good for Israel and the Jews’ it’s got to be right!

Chaos reigns in New York. Judicial rulings favor the pirates and their vulture funds demanding one-thousand percent returns on old Argentine bonds. If Argentina rejects this financial blackmail and defaults, shock waves will ripple throughout global financial markets. Creditors will tremble in uncertainty: Fears will grow over a new financial crash. Will they squeeze out another trillion-dollar bailout?

But where’s the money? Printing presses are working day and night. There are only a few life boats . . . enough for the bankers and Wall Street, the other ninety-nine percent will have to swim or feed the sharks.

The corrupted financial press now advises warlords on which country to bomb and politicians on how to impose economic sanctions; they no longer provide sound economic information or advise investors on markets. Their editorial rants will incite an investor flight to buy king-sized mattresses for stuffing as the banks fail.

The US President is on the verge of a mental breakdown: He’s a liar of Munchausen proportions with a bad case of political paranoia, war hysteria and megalomania. He’s gone amok, braying, ‘I lead the world: its US leadership or chaos’. Increasingly the world has another message: ‘It’s the US and chaos.’

Wall Street is abandoning him. The Russians have double-crossed him. The Chinese merchants are now doing business everywhere we used to be and we ought to be. They’re playing with loaded dice. The stubborn Somalis refuse to submit to a Black President: they reject this ‘ML King with drones’ . . . The Germans suck on their thumbs in total stupor as Americans monitor and record their every conversation…for their own safety! “Our corporations are ingrates after all we have done for them”, the First Black President whines. “They flee from our taxes while we subsidize their operations!”

Final Solutions: The End of Chaos


The only solution is to move on: Chaos breeds chaos. The President strives to project his ‘Leadership’. He asks his close advisers very hard questions: “Why can’t we bomb Russia, just like Israel bombs Gaza? Why don’t we build an ‘Iron Dome’ over Europe and shoot down Russian nuclear missiles while we fire upon Moscow from our new bases in Ukraine? Which countries will our ‘Dome’ protect? I am sure that the people of East Europe and the Baltic States will gladly make the supreme sacrifice. After all, their leaders were at the very front frothing for a war with Russia. Their reward, a nuclear wasteland, will be a small price to ensure our success!”

The Zionist lobby will insist our ‘Iron Dome’ covers Israel. But the Saudis may try to bribe the Russians to spare the oil fields as Moscow targets the US missile bases near Mecca. Our radio-active allies in the Middle East will just have to relocate to a new Holy Land.

Do Obama and his advisers imagine reducing the Asian population by a billion or two? Do they plan several hundred Hiroshimas because the Chinese crossed the President’s ‘red lines’: China’s economy and trade grew too fast, expanded too far, it was too competitive, too competent, too successful at gaining market shares, and they ignored our warnings and our unparalleled military might.

Most of Asia will inhale nuclear dust, millions of Indians and Indonesians will perish as collateral damage. Their survivors will feast on ‘radiated fish’ in a glowing sea.

Beyond Chaos: The New American Way


Because our ‘Iron Dome’ will have failed us, we will have to re-emerge out of toxic ashes and crawl from our bunkers, dreaming of a New America free from wars and poverty. The Reign of Chaos will have ended. The ‘peace and order’ of the graveyard will reign supreme.

The emperors will be forgotten.

And we never will have found out who fired that missile at the doomed Malaysian airliner with its 300 passengers and crew. We will have lost count of the thousands of Palestinian parents and children slaughtered in Gaza by the Chosen People of Israel. We will not know how the sanctions against Russia panned out.

It won’t matter in the post-nuclear age, after the Chaos…


James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

Gun-to-the-Head Diplomacy: Obama's Nuclear Brinkmanship with Russia

Does Russia (And Humanity) Have A Future? Europe is complicit in its own demise

by Paul Craig Roberts

The Russian government has finally realized that it has no Western “partners,” and is complaining bitterly about the propagandistic lies and disinformation issued without any evidence whatsoever against the Russian government by Washington, its European vassals, and presstitute media.

Perhaps the Russian government thought that only Iraq, Libya, Syria, China, and Edward Snowden would be subjected to Washington’s lies and demonization.

It was obvious enough that Russia would be next.

The Russian government and Europe need to look beyond Washington’s propaganda, because the reality is much worse.

NATO commander General Breedlove and Senate bill 2277 clearly indicate that Washington is organizing itself and Europe for war against Russia (see my previously posted column).

Europe is reluctant to agree with Washington to put Ukraine in NATO. Europeans understand that if Washington or its stooges in Kiev cause a war with Russia Europe will be the first casualty. Washington finds its vassals’ noncompliance tiresome. Remember Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s “fuck the EU.”

And that is just what Washington is about to do.

The US Senate’s Russian Aggression Prevention Act, about which I reported in my previous column, does even more mischief than I reported. If the bill passes, which it likely will, Washington becomes empowered to bypass NATO and to grant the status of “allied nation” to Ukraine independently of NATO membership. By so doing, Washington can send troops to Ukraine and thereby commit NATO to a war with Russia.

Notice how quickly Washington escalated the orchestrated Ukrainian “crisis” without any evidence into “Russian aggression.” Overnight we have the NATO commander and US senators taking actions against “Russian aggression” of which no one has seen any evidence.

With Iraq, Libya, and Syria, Washington learned that Washington could act on the basis of baldfaced lies. No one, not Great Britain, not France, not Germany, not Italy, not the Netherlands, not Canada, not Australia, not Mexico, not New Zealand, not Israel, nor Japan, nor S. Korea, nor Taiwan, nor (substitute your selection) stepped forward to hold Washington accountable for its blatant lies and war crimes. The UN even accepted the package of blatant and obviously transparent lies that Colin Powell delivered to the UN. Everything Powell said had already been refuted by the UN’s own weapons inspectors. Yet the UN pussies gave the go-ahead for a devastating war.

The only conclusion is that all the whores were paid off. The whores can always count on Washington paying them off. For money the whores are selling out civilization to Washington’s war, which likely will be nuclear and terminate life on earth. The whores’ money will incinerate with them.

It is hardly surprising that Washington now targets Russia. The world has given Washington Carte Blanche to do as it pleases. We have now had three administrations of US war criminals welcomed and honored wherever the war criminals go. The other governments in the world continue to desire invitations to the White House as indications of their worth. To be received by war criminals has become the highest honor.

Even the president of China comes to Washington to receive acceptance by the Evil Empire.

The world did not notice Washington’s war crimes against Serbia and didn’t puke when Washington then put the Serbian president, who had tried to prevent his country from being torn apart by Washington, on trial as a war criminal.

The world has made no effort to hold Washington responsible for its destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria and Gaza. The world has not demanded that Washington stop murdering people in Pakistan and Yemen, countries with which Washington is not at war. The world looks the other way as Washington creates the US Africa Command. The world looks the other way as Washington sends deadly weapons to Israel with which to murder women and children in the Gaza Ghetto. Washington passes Senate and House Resolutions cheering on the Israeli murder of Palestinians.

Washington is accustomed to its free pass, granted by the world, to murder and to lie, and now is using it against Russia.

Russian President Putin’s bet that by responding to Washington’s aggression in Ukraine in an unprovocative and reasonable manner would demonstrate to Europe that Russia was not the source of the problem has not payed off. European countries are captive nations. They are incapable of thinking and acting for themselves. They bend to Washington’s will. Essentially, Europe is a nonentity that follows Washington’s orders.

If the Russian government hopes to prevent war with Washington, which is likely to be the final war for life on earth, the Russian government needs to act now and end the problem in Ukraine by accepting the separatist provinces’ request to be reunited with Russia. Once S.2277 passes, Russia cannot retrieve the situation without confronting militarily the US, because Ukraine will have been declared an American ally.

Putin’s bet was reasonable and responsible, but Europe has failed him. If Putin does not use Russian power to bring an end to the problem with which Washington has presented him in Ukraine while he still can, Washington’s next step will be to unleash its hundreds of NGOs inside Russia to denounce Putin as a traitor for abandoning the Russian populations in the former Russian provinces that Soviet leaders thoughtlessly attached to Ukraine.

The problem with being a leader is that you inherit festering problems left by previous leaders. Putin has the problems bequeathed by Yeltsin. Yeltsin was a disaster for Russia. Yeltsin was Washington’s puppet. It is not certain that Russia will survive Yeltsin’s mistakes.

If Washington has its way, Russia will survive only as an American puppet state.

In a previous column I described the article in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Washington foreign policy community, that makes a case that the US has such strategic advantage over Russia at this time that a “window of opportunity” exists for the US to remove Russia as a restraint on US hegemony with a preemptive nuclear attack.

It is almost certain that Obama is being told that President John F. Kennedy had this window of opportunity and did not use it, and that Obama must not let the opportunity pass a second time.

As Steven Starr explained in a guest column, there are no winners of nuclear war. Even if the US escapes retaliatory strikes, everyone will die regardless.

The view in Washington of the neoconservatives, who control the Obama regime, is that nuclear war is winnable. No expert opinion supports their assumption, but the neocons, not the experts, are in power.

The American people are out to lunch. They have no comprehension of their likely fate. Americans are an uninformed people distracted by their mounting personal and financial problems. If Europeans are aware, they have decided to live for the moment on Washington’s money.

What life is faced with is a drive for hegemony on the part of Washington and ignorant unconcern on the part of the rest of the world.

Americans, worked into a lather about Washington’s unfunded liabilities and the viability of their future Social Security pension, won’t be alive to collect it.


Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West and How America Was Lost.