Top Secret America

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby cptmarginal » Sun Jan 17, 2016 12:47 am

Just looking at the maps in David Vine's thoroughly documented Base Nation will give you the chills — and seduce you into reading the book.


I can't fully endorse the book (having not read it yet) but flipping through some of the chapters and skimming some parts has given me high expectations. The "In Bed with the Mob" chapter looks great...

I noticed that David Vine works for American University in Washington, DC. He also says in the author's note that one of his main sources of funding was the Stewart R. Mott Foundation. It just wouldn't be fair of me to gloss over that one detail without mentioning where I had heard the name before:

Spook Royalty

from Jim Hougan's "Spooks: The Haunting of America," p. 14

America has become a haunted place as its intelligence agents move from the federal campus to the more profitable private sector. Bringing burn-bags, bugs, scramblers, covers, conduits, and codes to an array of business activities ranging from labor negotiations to mergers and sales, the spooks are making a financial killing while transforming the way business is done, American style. Their clients are the premier cru of the financial establishment -- Hughes, Hunt, Rockefeller, Getty, Ford, Niarchos, Graham, Mellon. Institutional clients have also piled up: Exxon, IBM, ITT, Chase Manhattan, General Motors, American Express, Northrop, Bell Telephone, the Mariott Corporation -- indeed most of the Fortune 500 can be said to "swing." Even the McDonald's hamburger chain has become a player, putting Intertel on retainer: behind the billowing costume and playful visage of the Ronald McDonald clown is the expertise of some sixty spooks whose apprenticeship at the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency (NSA) allows them to command fifty dollars and hour per agent for their services.

Elsewhere, the Lockheed Martin entered upon an espionage bender, hiring Manchurian spies, Ivy League bagmen, and even a Japanese assasin to help sell their planes. Nor are the spooks' clients uniformly conservative in their politics. Employing the Wackenhut corporation, which boasts of its sophisticated "strike service," the liberal Katharine Graham found herself in very strange company. An enormous private intelligence agency and guard service, Wackenhut was founded by retiring FBI agents whose conservatism was immediately apparent. For years, Wackenhut relied on the dossiers of the Church League of America, a right-wing think tank whose "intelligence files" on the Left undoubtedly included volumes on Mrs. Graham herself. Neither is the Post's publisher the only liberal to realize the value of an investment in spooks. Stewart Mott, eccentric angel of the American left, was for years the secret partner of Mitchell WerBel, financing the paramilitarist's development of assassination devices in Georgia. Mott, strangely enough, is a director of the Fund for Peace and explains his involvement with silencers and submachine guns in "environmental" terms -- an explanation that will be elaborated in later pages.

What's happened is that private CIA's-for-hire, established after World War II, have metastasized across the landscape. Whether it's computers, hamburgers, newspapers, or jets, America's paladin spooks are increasingly likely to have a hand in it (and sometimes a strong arm as well). Occasionally their work benefits the public, though only incidentally. More often the public is the target and, even when no laws are broken, justice is often undone. Subverting federal agencies and the courts with the promise of future jobs and the exploitation of "contacts," industry's intelligence agents often labor in a moral vacuum: profit, rather than patriotism, is their assignment. And, not infrequently, laws are broken: smears, bag jobs, industrial espionage, tax frauds, and even assassination programs have been planned and carried out by the contract agents of the business world.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stewart_Rawlings_Mott

Sounds like a pretty interesting character. If his foundation is still around funding people like David Vine and the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, then it looks to me like they are doing a good job. (One project of Mott's Fund for Constitutional Government is the Peace and Security Funders Group, which has quite the eyebrow-raising members list.)

See also:

The Rise and Fall of the Human Terrain System

The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual - Or, Notes on Demilitarizing American Society
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby American Dream » Sun Mar 13, 2016 10:13 pm

Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism

By Radley Balko March 10


Image
In this June 6, 2013 file photo, a sign stands outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.

A while back, we noted a report showing that the “sneak-and-peek” provision of the Patriot Act that was alleged to be used only in national security and terrorism investigations has overwhelmingly been used in narcotics cases. Now the New York Times reports that National Security Agency data will be shared with other intelligence agencies like the FBI without first applying any screens for privacy. The ACLU of Massachusetts blog Privacy SOS explains why this is important:
What does this rule change mean for you? In short, domestic law enforcement officials now have access to huge troves of American communications, obtained without warrants, that they can use to put people in cages. FBI agents don’t need to have any “national security” related reason to plug your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s gargantuan data trove. They can simply poke around in your private information in the course of totally routine investigations. And if they find something that suggests, say, involvement in illegal drug activity, they can send that information to local or state police. That means information the NSA collects for purposes of so-called “national security” will be used by police to lock up ordinary Americans for routine crimes. And we don’t have to guess who’s going to suffer this unconstitutional indignity the most brutally. It’ll be Black, Brown, poor, immigrant, Muslim, and dissident Americans: the same people who are always targeted by law enforcement for extra “special” attention.

This basically formalizes what was already happening under the radar. We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. If you think parallel construction just sounds like a bureaucratically sterilized way of saying big stinking lie, well, you wouldn’t be alone. And it certainly isn’t the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information — see the Stingray debacle. This isn’t just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy. We’re now learning that the feds had these agreements with police agencies all over the country, affecting thousands of cases.

On the one hand, I guess it’s better that this new data-sharing policy is acknowledged in the open instead of carried out surreptitiously. On the other hand, there’s something even more ominous about the fact that they no longer feel as though they need to hide it.

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby KUAN » Sun Mar 13, 2016 10:26 pm

.

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.


We grant, yeah right. Does anyone here remember granting anything?
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby semper occultus » Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:04 pm

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INTRODUCTION
Chapter 1:
How William Colby Gave Me the Keys to the CIA Kingdom

Chapter 2:
One Thing Leads to Another: My Rare Access in Investigating the War on Drugs

PART I:
THE CIA’S PHOENIX PROGRAM IN VIETNAM:
A TEMPLATE FOR SYSTEMATIC DOMINATION

Chapter 3:
The Vietnam War’s Silver Lining: A Bureaucratic Model for Population Control Emerges

Chapter 4:
The Systematic Gathering of Intelligence

Chapter 5:
What We Really Learned From Vietnam: A War Crimes Model for Afghanistan and Elsewhere

Chapter 6:
The Afghan ‘Dirty War’ Escalates

Chapter 7:
Vietnam Replay on Afghan Defectors

Chapter 8:
Disrupting the Accommodation: CIA Killings Spell Victory in Afghanistan and Defeat in
America

Chapter 9:
The CIA in Ukraine

Chapter 10:
War Crimes as Policy

Chapter 11:
New Games, Same Aims: CIA Organizational Changes

PART II:
HOW THE CIA CO-OPTED AND MANAGES THE WAR ON DRUGS

Chapter 12:
Creating a Crime: How the CIA Commandeered the DEA

Chapter 13:
Beyond Dirty Wars: The CIA/DEA Connection and Modern Day Terror in Latin America

Chapter 14:
Project Drugrunner

PART III:
THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Chapter 15:
The Spook Who Became a Congressman:Why CIA Officers Cannot Be Allowed to Hold
Public Office

Chapter 16:
Major General Bruce Lawlor:From CIA Officer in Vietnam to Homeland Security Honcho

Chapter 17:
Homeland Security: The Phoenix Comes Home to Roost

PART IV:
MANUFACTURING COMPLICITY: SHAPING THE AMERICAN WORLDVIEW

Chapter 18:
Fragging Bob Kerrey: The CIA and the Need for a War Crimes Tribunal

Chapter 19:
Top Secret America Shadow Reward System

Chapter 20:
How Government Tries to Mess with Your Mind

Chapter 21:
Disguising Obama’s Dirty War

Chapter 22:
Parallels of Conquest, Past and Present

Chapter 23:
Propaganda as Terrorism

Chapter 24:
The War on Terror as the Greatest Covert Op Ever
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby stefano » Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:02 am

Woodward! I wonder how much he actually writes on these ones. Good story though. Excerpts.

Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste

By Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward December 5 at 6:47 PM

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.

Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology.
[...]
In a confidential August 2014 memo, McKinsey noted that while the Defense Department was “the world’s largest corporate enterprise,” it had never “rigorously measured” the “cost-effectiveness, speed, agility or quality” of its business operations.

Nor did the Pentagon have even a remotely accurate idea of what it was paying for those operations, which McKinsey divided into five categories: human resources; health-care management; supply chain and logistics; acquisition and procurement; and financial-flow management.

McKinsey hazarded a guess: anywhere between $75 billion and $100 billion a year, or between 15 and 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual expenses. “No one REALLY knows,” the memo added.
[...]
But the McKinsey consultants had also collected data that exposed how the military services themselves were spending princely sums to hire hordes of defense contractors.

For example, the Army employed 199,661 full-time contractors, according to a confidential McKinsey report obtained by The Post. That alone exceeded the combined civil workforce for the Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.

The average cost to the Army for each contractor that year: $189,188, including salary, benefits and other expenses.

The Navy was not much better. It had 197,093 contractors on its payroll. On average, each cost $170,865.

In comparison, the Air Force had 122,470 contractors. Each cost, on average, $186,142.
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby semper occultus » Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:53 pm

CIA Posts More Than 12 Million Pages of CREST Records Online

17 January 2017

https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/2017-press-releases-statements/cia-posts-more-than-12-million-pages-of-crest-records-online.html

LANGLEY, VA – The largest collection of declassified CIA records is now accessible online. The documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in Maryland. Approximately 930,000 documents, totaling more than 12 million pages, are now available in the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room on CIA's website.

Since 1999, the CIA has regularly released its historical declassified records to the standalone CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) system that was only accessible in person at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland. Moving these documents online highlights the CIA’s commitment to increasing the accessibility of declassified records to the public.

“Access to this historically significant collection is no longer limited by geography. The American public can access these documents from the comfort of their homes,” notes Joseph Lambert, the CIA Director of Information Management.

The CREST collection covers a myriad of topics, such as the early CIA history, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Berlin Tunnel project, the Korean War, and the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. The documents also extensively address developments on terrorism, as well as worldwide military and economic issues.

The documents include a wide variety of records, including collections of finished intelligence from the 1940s to the 1990s prepared by the Directorate of Analysis (or its predecessors, such as the Directorate of Intelligence), Directorate of Operations reports from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Directorate of Science and Technology research and development files, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency policy files and memoranda, National Intelligence Council estimates, National Intelligence Surveys, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) records, Directorate of Support administrative records, and imagery reports from the former National Photographic Interpretation Center (reviewed jointly with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)).

CREST records also include large specialized collections of foreign translations, scientific abstracts, ground photo descriptions, and special collections such as STAR GATE remote viewing program files, Henry Kissinger Library of Congress files, and other miscellaneous CIA records.

The declassification of 25-year-old records is mandated by Executive Order 13526, which requires agencies to review all such records categorized as permanent under the Federal Records Act for declassification. As a result, following CIA’s review, documents are regularly added to this collection.

The CIA’s Electronic Reading room offers a full-text search capability of CREST records, and the collection can be viewed at http://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/ ... am-archive.


http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/cia-documents-online/
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby Elvis » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:00 am

Crossposting from the "Probing Peter Thiel" thread. viewtopic.php?f=8&t=34078&start=15#p632248


More images plus audio at link:
https://theintercept.com/2017/02/22/how-peter-thiels-palantir-helped-the-nsa-spy-on-the-whole-world/

How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

Sam Biddle
February 22 2017, 3:06 a.m.

Donald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies.

Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.

“Palantir” is generally used interchangeably to refer to both Thiel and Karp’s company and the software that company creates. Its two main products are Palantir Gotham and Palantir Metropolis, more geeky winks from a company whose Tolkien namesake is a type of magical sphere used by the evil lord Sauron to surveil, trick, and threaten his enemies across Middle Earth. While Palantir Metropolis is pegged to quantitative analysis for Wall Street banks and hedge funds, Gotham (formerly Palantir Government) is designed for the needs of intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security customers. Gotham works by importing large reams of “structured” data (like spreadsheets) and “unstructured” data (like images) into one centralized database, where all of the information can be visualized and analyzed in one workspace. For example, a 2010 demo showed how Palantir Government could be used to chart the flow of weapons throughout the Middle East by importing disparate data sources like equipment lot numbers, manufacturer data, and the locations of Hezbollah training camps. Palantir’s chief appeal is that it’s not designed to do any single thing in particular, but is flexible and powerful enough to accommodate the requirements of any organization that needs to process large amounts of both personal and abstract data.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAJv0EvHt_I

Despite all the grandstanding about lucrative, shadowy government contracts, co-founder Karp does not shy away from taking a stand in the debate over government surveillance. In a Forbes profile in 2013, he played privacy lamb, saying, “I didn’t sign up for the government to know when I smoke a joint or have an affair. … We have to find places that we protect away from government so that we can all be the unique and interesting and, in my case, somewhat deviant people we’d like to be.” In that same article, Thiel lays out Palantir’s mission with privacy in mind: to “reduce terrorism while preserving civil liberties.” After the first wave of revelations spurred by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Palantir was quick to deny that it had any connection to the NSA spy program known as PRISM, which shared an unfortunate code name with one of its own software products. The current iteration of Palantir’s website includes an entire section dedicated to “Privacy & Civil Liberties,” proclaiming the company’s support of both:

Palantir Technologies is a mission-driven company, and a core component of that mission is protecting our fundamental rights to privacy and civil liberties. …

Some argue that society must “balance” freedom and safety, and that in order to better protect ourselves from those who would do us harm, we have to give up some of our liberties. We believe that this is a false choice in many areas. Particularly in the world of data analysis, liberty does not have to be sacrificed to enhance security. Palantir is constantly looking for ways to protect privacy and individual liberty through its technology while enabling the powerful analysis necessary to generate the actionable intelligence that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to fulfill their missions.


It’s hard to square this purported commitment to privacy with proof, garnered from documents provided by Edward Snowden, that Palantir has helped expand and accelerate the NSA’s global spy network, which is jointly administered with allied foreign agencies around the world. Notably, the partnership has included building software specifically to facilitate, augment, and accelerate the use of XKEYSCORE, one of the most expansive and potentially intrusive tools in the NSA’s arsenal. According to Snowden documents published by The Guardian in 2013, XKEYSCORE is by the NSA’s own admission its “widest reaching” program, capturing “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.” A subsequent report by The Intercept showed that XKEYSCORE’s “collected communications not only include emails, chats, and web-browsing traffic, but also pictures, documents, voice calls, webcam photos, web searches, advertising analytics traffic, social media traffic, botnet traffic, logged keystrokes, computer network exploitation targeting, intercepted username and password pairs, file uploads to online services, Skype sessions, and more.” For the NSA and its global partners, XKEYSCORE makes all of this as searchable as a hotel reservation site.

But how do you make so much data comprehensible for human spies? As the additional documents published with this article demonstrate, Palantir sold its services to make one of the most powerful surveillance systems ever devised even more powerful, bringing clarity and slick visuals to an ocean of surveillance data.

Palantir’s relationship with government spy agencies appears to date back to at least 2008, when representatives from the U.K.’s signals intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters, joined their American peers at VisWeek, an annual data visualization and computing conference organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Attendees from throughout government and academia gather to network with members of the private sector at the event, where they compete in teams to solve hypothetical data-based puzzles as part of the Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST) Challenge. As described in a document saved by GCHQ, Palantir fielded a team in 2008 and tackled one such scenario using its own software. It was a powerful marketing opportunity at a conference filled with potential buyers.

In the demo, Palantir engineers showed how their software could be used to identify Wikipedia users who belonged to a fictional radical religious sect and graph their social relationships. In Palantir’s pitch, its approach to the VAST Challenge involved using software to enable “many analysts working together [to] truly leverage their collective mind.” The fake scenario’s target, a cartoonishly sinister religious sect called “the Paraiso Movement,” was suspected of a terrorist bombing, but the unmentioned and obvious subtext of the experiment was the fact that such techniques could be applied to de-anonymize and track members of any political or ideological group. Among a litany of other conclusions, Palantir determined the group was prone to violence because its “Manifesto’s intellectual influences include ‘Pancho Villa, Che Guevara, Leon Trotsky, [and] Cuban revolutionary Jose Martí,’ a list of military commanders and revolutionaries with a history of violent actions.”

The delegation from GCHQ returned from VisWeek excited and impressed. In a classified report from those who attended, Palantir’s potential for aiding the spy agency was described in breathless terms. “Palantir are a relatively new Silicon Valley startup who are sponsored by the CIA,” the report began. “They claim to have significant involvement with the US intelligence community, although none yet at NSA.” GCHQ noted that Palantir “has been developed closely internally with intelligence community users (unspecified, but likely to be the CIA given the funding).” The report described Palantir’s demo as “so significant” that it warranted its own entry in GCHQ’s classified internal wiki, calling the software “extremely sophisticated and mature. … We were very impressed. You need to see it to believe it.”

The report conceded, however, that “it would take an enormous effort for an in-house developed GCHQ system to get to the same level of sophistication” as Palantir. The GCHQ briefers also expressed hesitation over the price tag, noting that “adoption would have [a] huge monetary … cost,” and over the implications of essentially outsourcing intelligence analysis software to the private sector, thus making the agency “utterly dependent on a commercial product.” Finally, the report added that “it is possible there may be concerns over security — the company have published a lot of information on their website about how their product is used in intelligence analysis, some of which we feel very uncomfortable about.”

Image
A page from Palantir’s “Executive Summary” document, provided to government clients.


However anxious British intelligence was about Palantir’s self-promotion, the worry must not have lasted very long. Within two years, documents show that at least three members of the “Five Eyes” spy alliance between the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada were employing Palantir to help gather and process data from around the world. Palantir excels at making connections between enormous, separate databases, pulling big buckets of information (call records, IP addresses, financial transactions, names, conversations, travel records) into one centralized heap and visualizing them coherently, thus solving one of the persistent problems of modern intelligence gathering: data overload.

A GCHQ wiki page titled “Visualisation,” outlining different ways “to provide insight into some set of data,” puts succinctly Palantir’s intelligence value:

Palantir is an information management platform for analysis developed by Palantir Technologies. It integrates structured and unstructured data, provides search and discovery capabilities, knowledge management, and collaborative features. The goal is to offer the infrastructure, or ‘full stack,’ that intelligence organizations require for analysis.


Bullet-pointed features of note included a “Graph View,” “Timelining capabilities,” and “Geo View.”

Image
A GCHQ diagram indicates how Palantir could be used as part of a computer network attack.


Under the Five Eyes arrangement, member countries collect and pool enormous streams of data and metadata collected through tools like XKEYSCORE, amounting to tens of billions of records. The alliance is constantly devising (or attempting) new, experimental methods of prying data out of closed and private sources, including by hacking into computers and networks in non-Five Eyes countries and infecting them with malware.

A 2011 PowerPoint presentation from GCHQ’s Network Defence Intelligence & Security Team (NDIST) — which, as The Intercept has previously reported, “worked to subvert anti-virus and other security software in order to track users and infiltrate networks” — mentioned Palantir as a tool for processing data gathered in the course of its malware-oriented work. Palantir’s software was described as an “analyst workspace [for] pulling together disparate information and displaying it in novel ways,” and was used closely in conjunction with other intelligence software tools, like the NSA’s notorious XKEYSCORE search system. The novel ways of using Palantir for spying seemed open-ended, even imaginative: A 2010 presentation on the joint NSA-GCHQ “Mastering the Internet” surveillance program mentioned the prospect of running Palantir software on “Android handsets” as part of a SIGINT-based “augmented reality” experience. It’s unclear what exactly this means or could even look like.

Above all, these documents depict Palantir’s software as a sort of consolidating agent, allowing Five Eyes analysts to make sense of tremendous amounts of data that might have been otherwise unintelligible or highly time-consuming to digest. In a 2011 presentation to the NSA, classified top secret, an NDIST operative noted the “good collection” of personal data among the Five Eyes alliance but lamented the “poor analytics,” and described the attempt to find new tools for SIGINT analysis, in which it “conducted a review of 14 different systems that might work.” The review considered services from Lockheed Martin and Detica (a subsidiary of BAE Systems) but decided on the up-and-comer from Palo Alto.

Palantir is described as having been funded not only by In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital branch, but furthermore created “through [an] iterative collaboration between Palantir computer scientists and analysts from various intelligence agencies over the course of nearly three years.” While it’s long been known that Palantir got on its feet with the intelligence community’s money, it has not been previously reported that the intelligence community actually helped build the software. The continuous praise seen in these documents shows that the collaboration paid off. Under the new “Palantir Model,” “data can come from anywhere” and can be “asked whatever the analyst wants.”


Image

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Along with Palantir’s ability to pull in “direct XKS Results,” the presentation boasted that the software was already connected to 10 other secret Five Eyes and GCHQ programs and was highly popular among analysts. It even offered testimonials (TWO FACE appears to be a code name for the implementation of Palantir):

[Palantir] is the best tool I have ever worked with. It’s intuitive, i.e. idiot-proof, and can do a lot you never even dreamt of doing.

This morning, using TWO FACE rather than XKS to review the activity of the last 3 days. It reduced the initial analysis time by at least 50%.


Enthusiasm runs throughout the PowerPoint: A slide titled “Unexpected Benefits” reads like a marketing brochure, exclaiming that Palantir “interacts with anything!” including Google Earth, and “You can even use it on a iphone or laptop.” The next slide, on “Potential Downsides,” is really more praise in disguise: Palantir “Looks expensive” but “isn’t as expensive as expected.” The answer to “What can’t it do?” is revealing: “However we ask, Palantir answer,” indicating that the collaboration between spies and startup didn’t end with Palantir’s CIA-funded origins, but that the company was willing to create new features for the intelligence community by request.

On GCHQ’s internal wiki page for TWO FACE, analysts were offered a “how to” guide for incorporating Palantir into their daily routine, covering introductory topics like “How do I … Get Data from XKS in Palantir,” “How do I … Run a bulk search,” and “How do I … Run bulk operations over my objects in Palantir.” For anyone in need of a hand, “training is currently offered as 1-2-1 desk based training with a Palantir trainer. This gives you the opportunity to quickly apply Palantir to your current work task.” Palantir often sends “forward deployed engineers,” or FDEs, to work alongside clients at their offices and provide assistance and engineering services, though the typical client does not have access to the world’s largest troves of personal information. For analysts interested in tinkering with Palantir, there was even a dedicated instant message chat room open to anyone for “informally” discussing the software.

The GCHQ wiki includes links to classified webpages describing Palantir’s use by the Australian Defence Signals Directorate (now called the Australian Signals Directorate) and to a Palantir entry on the NSA’s internal “Intellipedia,” though The Intercept does not have access to copies of the linked sites. However, embedded within Intellipedia HTML files available to The Intercept are references to a variety of NSA-Palantir programs, including “Palantir Classification Helper,” “[Target Knowledge Base] to Palantir PXML,” and “PalantirAuthService.” (Internal Palantir documents obtained by TechCrunch in 2013 provide additional confirmation of the NSA’s relationship with the company.)

One Palantir program used by GCHQ, a software plug-in named “Kite,” was preserved almost in its entirety among documents provided to The Intercept. An analysis of Kite’s source code shows just how much flexibility the company afforded Five Eyes spies. Developers and analysts could ingest data locally using either Palantir’s “Workspace” application or Kite. When they were satisfied the process was working properly, they could push it into a Palantir data repository where other Workspace users could also access it, almost akin to a Google Spreadsheets collaboration. When analysts were at their Palantir workstation, they could perform simple imports of static data, but when they wanted to perform more complicated tasks like import databases or set up recurring automatic imports, they turned to Kite.

Kite worked by importing intelligence data and converting it into an XML file that could be loaded into a Palantir data repository. Out of the box, Kite was able to handle a variety of types of data (including dates, images, geolocations, etc.), but GCHQ was free to extend it by writing custom fields for complicated types of data the agency might need to analyze. The import tools were designed to handle a variety of use cases, including static data sets, databases that were updated frequently, and data stores controlled by third parties to which GCHQ was able to gain access.

This collaborative environment also produced a piece of software called “XKEYSCORE Helper,” a tool programmed with Palantir (and thoroughly stamped with its logo) that allowed analysts to essentially import data from the NSA’s pipeline, investigate and visualize it through Palantir, and then presumably pass it to fellow analysts or Five Eyes intelligence partners. One of XKEYSCORE’s only apparent failings is that it’s so incredibly powerful, so effective at vacuuming personal metadata from the entire internet, that the volume of information it extracts can be overwhelming. Imagine trying to search your Gmail account, only the results are pulled from every Gmail inbox in the world.

Making XKEYSCORE more intelligible — and thus much more effective — appears to have been one of Palantir’s chief successes. The helper tool, documented in a GCHQ PDF guide, provided a means of transferring data captured by the NSA’s XKEYSCORE directly into Palantir, where presumably it would be far easier to analyze for, say, specific people and places. An analyst using XKEYSCORE could pull every IP address in Moscow and Tehran that visited a given website or made a Skype call at 14:15 Eastern Time, for example, and then import the resulting data set into Palantir in order to identify additional connections between the addresses or plot their positions using Google Earth.

Palantir was also used as part of a GCHQ project code-named LOVELY HORSE, which sought to improve the agency’s ability to collect so-called open source intelligence — data available on the public internet, like tweets, blog posts, and news articles. Given the “unstructured” nature of this kind of data, Palantir was cited as “an enrichment to existing [LOVELY HORSE] investigations … the content should then be viewable in a human readable format within Palantir.”

Palantir’s impressive data-mining abilities are well-documented, but so too is the potential for misuse. Palantir software is designed to make it easy to sift through piles of information that would be completely inscrutable to a human alone, but the human driving the computer is still responsible for making judgments, good or bad.

A 2011 document by GCHQ’s SIGINT Development Steering Group, a staff committee dedicated to implementing new spy methods, listed some of these worries. In a table listing “risks & challenges,” the SDSG expressed a “concern that [Palantir] gives the analyst greater potential for going down too many analytical paths which could distract from the intelligence requirement.” What it could mean for analysts to distract themselves by going down extraneous “paths” while browsing the world’s most advanced spy machine is left unsaid. But Palantir’s data-mining abilities were such that the SDSG wondered if its spies should be blocked from having full access right off the bat and suggested configuring Palantir software so that parts would “unlock … based on analysts skill level, hiding buttons and features until needed and capable of utilising.” If Palantir succeeded in fixing the intelligence problem of being overwhelmed with data, it may have created a problem of over-analysis — the company’s software offers such a multitude of ways to visualize and explore massive data sets that analysts could get lost in the funhouse of infographics, rather than simply being overwhelmed by the scale of their task.

If Palantir’s potential for misuse occurred to the company’s spy clients, surely it must have occurred to Palantir itself, especially given the company’s aforementioned “commitment” to privacy and civil liberties. Sure enough, in 2012 the company announced the formation of the Palantir Council of Advisors on Privacy and Civil Liberties, a committee of academics and consultants with expertise in those fields. Palantir claimed that convening the PCAP had “provided us with invaluable guidance as we try to responsibly navigate the often ill-defined legal, political, technological, and ethical frameworks that sometimes govern the various activities of our customers,” and continued to discuss the privacy and civil liberties “implications of product developments and to suggest potential ways to mitigate any negative effects.” Still, Palantir made clear that the “PCAP is advisory only — any decisions that we make after consulting with the PCAP are entirely our own.”

What would a privacy-minded conversation about privacy-breaching software look like? How had a privacy and civil liberties council navigated the fact that Palantir’s clientele had directly engaged in one of the greatest privacy and civil liberties breaches of all time? It’s hard to find an answer.

Palantir wrote that it structured the nondisclosure agreement signed by PCAP members so that they “will be free to discuss anything that they learn in working with us unless we clearly designate information as proprietary or otherwise confidential (something that we have rarely found necessary except on very limited occasions).” But despite this assurance of transparency, all but one of the PCAP’s former and current members either did not return a request for comment for this article or declined to comment citing the NDA.

The former PCAP member who did respond, Stanford privacy scholar Omer Tene, told The Intercept that he was unaware of “any specific relationship, agreement, or project that you’re referring to,” and said he was not permitted to answer whether Palantir’s work with the intelligence community was ever a source of tension with the PCAP. He declined to comment on either the NSA or GCHQ specifically. “In general,” Tene said, “the role of the PCAP was to hear about client engagement or new products and offerings that the company was about to launch, and to opine as to the way they should be set up or delivered in order to minimize privacy and civil liberties concerns.” But without any further detail, it’s unclear whether the PCAP was ever briefed on the company’s work for spy agencies, or whether such work was a matter of debate.

There’s little detail to be found on archived versions of Palantir’s privacy and civil liberties-focused blog, which appears to have been deleted sometime after the PCAP was formed. Palantir spokesperson Matt Long told The Intercept to contact the Palantir media team for questions regarding the vanished blog at the same email address used to reach Long in the first place. Palantir did not respond to additional repeated requests for comment and clarification.

A GCHQ spokesperson provided a boilerplate statement reiterating the agency’s “longstanding policy” against commenting on intelligence matters and asserted that all its activities are “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework.” The NSA did not provide a response.

Anyone worried that the most powerful spy agencies on Earth might use Palantir software to violate the privacy or civil rights of the vast number of people under constant surveillance may derive some cold comfort in a portion of the user agreement language Palantir provided for the Kite plug-in, which stipulates that the user will not violate “any applicable law” or the privacy or the rights “of any third party.” The world will just have to hope Palantir’s most powerful customers follow the rules.

Documents published with this article:

GCHQ VisWeek 2008 Conference Report
Palantir Executive Summary
NDIST Cyber Defence
Mastering the Internet
The Tale of Two Sources
TWO FACE on GCHQ Wiki
XKEYSCORE Helper Notes
SDSG Integrated Analytics Workshop

Listen to Jeremy Scahill’s interview with Sam Biddle on Episode 4 of Intercepted (begins at 32:05).



https://theintercept.com/2017/02/22/how ... ole-world/
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:13 am

The (truly) great Alfred McCoy runs it down, including referring to the Washington Post database and stories of now 8 years ago, but quickly contextualizing so that it's obvious we have had this fourth branch, deep state, parapolitical milieu, call it and model it however you will, the whole time since World War II. Don't like the Trump-bait headline, it's about so much more. Only curious thing is the bizarre turn to preemptive nostalgia for the U.S. empire at the end. We might discuss that afterward, why I do not think the aftermath will be any worse (well, notwithstanding the global extinction event). Never mind me, just read this man, he brings so much together so well (and much that is familiar to us, of course). A lot like Ruppert, if he'd been as sober and as rigorous as a scholar.

Alfred McCoy, same subject, 2011:
http://rigorousintuition.ca/board2/view ... =8&t=31951


https://theintercept.com/2017/07/22/don ... an-empire/

theintercept.com
Donald Trump and the Coming Fall of American Empire
Jeremy Scahilljeremy.scahill@​theintercept.com@jeremyscahill
51-65 minutes

Even as President Donald Trump faces ever-intensifying investigations into the alleged connections between his top aides and family members and powerful Russian figures, he serves as commander in chief over a U.S. military that is killing an astonishing and growing number of civilians. Under Trump, the U.S. is re-escalating its war in Afghanistan, expanding its operations in Iraq and Syria, conducting covert raids in Somalia and Yemen, and openly facilitating the Saudi’s genocidal military destruction of Yemen.

Meanwhile, China has quietly and rapidly expanded its influence without deploying its military on foreign soil.

A new book by the famed historian Alfred McCoy predicts that China is set to surpass the influence of the U.S. globally, both militarily and economically, by the year 2030. At that point, McCoy asserts the United States empire as we know it will be no more. He sees the Trump presidency as one of the clearest byproducts of the erosion of U.S. global dominance, but not its root cause. At the same time, he also believes Trump may accelerate the empire’s decline.

McCoy argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the beginning of the end. McCoy is not some chicken little. He is a serious academic. And he has guts.

During the Vietnam War, McCoy was ambushed by CIA-backed paramilitaries as he investigated the swelling heroin trade. The CIA tried to stop the publication of his now classic book, “The Politics of Heroin.” His phone was tapped, he was audited by the IRS, and he was investigated and spied on by the FBI. McCoy also wrote one of the earliest and most prescient books on the post-9/11 CIA torture program and he is one of the world’s foremost experts on U.S. covert action. His new book, which will be released in September, is called “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.”

“The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025 and, except for the finger pointing, could be over by 2030,” McCoy writes. Imagining the real-life impact on the U.S. economy, McCoy offers a dark prediction:

For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness. After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2030 the U.S. dollar eventually loses its special status as the world’s dominant reserve currency.

Suddenly, there are punitive price increases for American imports ranging from clothing to computers. And the costs for all overseas activity surges as well, making travel for both tourists and troops prohibitive. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, its forces begin to pull back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. Such a desperate move, however, comes too late.

Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying its bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace.

Alfred McCoy is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the now-classic book “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.” His new book, out in September, is “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.”

This week, I interviewed McCoy for the Intercepted podcast. We broadcast an excerpt of the interview on the podcast. Below is an edited and slightly condensed version of the full interview. In this wide-ranging interview, we discuss Trump and Russia, the history of CIA interference in elections around the world, the Iran-Contra scandal, the CIA and the crack-cocaine epidemic, U.S. proxy wars, narcotrafficking in Afghanistan, and much more.

Jeremy Scahill: One of the things that you’re best known for is a book that continues to this day to be relevant when studying covert U.S. operations around the world, as well as the international narcotics trafficking industry, and of course you tie both of those together. We’re going to get into all of that in a moment but I wanted to begin by asking you to assess this current moment that we’re in with Donald Trump. How do you see him in a historical context, and what does his presidency represent about the American empire?

Alfred McCoy: What I think right now is that, through some kind of malign design, Donald Trump has divined, has figured out what are the essential pillars of U.S. global power that have sustained Washington’s hegemony for the past 70 years and he seems to be setting out to demolish each one of those pillars one by one. He’s weakened the NATO alliance; he’s weakened our alliances with Asian allies along the Pacific littoral. He’s proposing to cut back on the scientific research which has given the United States — its military industrial complex — a cutting edge, a leading edge in critical new weapons systems since the early years of the Cold War. And he’s withdrawing the United States, almost willfully, from its international leadership, most spectacularly with the Paris Climate Accord but also very importantly with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And he seems to be setting out to systematically demolish U.S. global hegemony. Now, it’s important to realize that the United States is no longer the pre-eminent global power we were, let’s say at the end of Eisenhower’s presidency, back in 1960. Our share of the global economy has declined substantially. We’re about to be eclipsed by 2030, by China, and become the world’s number two economic power. China’s making some breakthroughs in military technology. The world system is spreading its wealth and there are a number of second tier powers, the rise of the European Union, et cetera. It’s a more complex world, so the United States can no longer dictate to the world, or at least much of the world, like we could back in the 1950s.

Having said that, the presidency is a weaker office internationally than it used to be. Nonetheless, there are presidents, and I say Barack Obama was one of them, George H.W. Bush was another, these presidents through skillful diplomacy, their knowledge of the international system, their geopolitical skills, they could maximize U.S. influence on the world stage. They could use U.S. military power strategically, deftly, they could lead international coalitions, they could set the international agenda. Trump is turning his back on all of that and I think he’s accelerating perhaps markedly, even precipitously, the U.S. decline.

JS: Since Trump became president, everyone is sort of wrapped up in the palace intrigue, and what did Trump know about Russia and when did he know it, and did he know about Don Jr.’s meeting with this lawyer who is being described as “Kremlin-connected?” And I think all of that is a very important story because it could bring down his presidency, but at the same time my sense is that the CIA and the darkest elements of the U.S. military are actually in a pretty flexible position right now because Trump is so hands-off and, because as you say he’s not an effective manager of empire. What are your thoughts on that?

AM: That’s correct. Much of the military establishment and its links with the intelligence community is in place. Let’s say that some of the new initiatives — cyberwarfare — well the Trump administration understands the importance of that and indeed he has advisors that do, so the continued evolution of that, the development, that will continue, space warfare is in a long-term trajectory. Weapons systems take as long as 10 years to go from design, prototype, testing, and either rejection or acceptance. So that transcends any administration, even a two-term administration. So there’s a long-term trajectory.

President Eisenhower, that famous phrase that he warned us about in his last address, the military industrial complex — he built a complex in which he integrated scientific research, basic research in the universities and private corporations, and then dozens of defense contractors who have more or less permanent contracts to maintain their research and production establishment — he integrated that with the U.S. military and that will survive any American president.

Unfortunately what Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that there’s a close relationship between basic research, like research in artificial intelligence, and your capacity to come up with the next new thing that will give the United States a leading edge in military technology. And that’s what he doesn’t understand, that’s the one way he’s damaging the whole complex. But otherwise, you’re right, it’s on a longer-term trajectory about 10, 10-year cycles of research, procurement, and deployment of new weapon systems and that transcends any single administration.

JS: We’ve seen this kind of convergence of the agendas of some neoconservatives who formed part of the core of the “Never Trump” movement of Republicans and then the liberal elites that host shows on MSNBC or are identified as “Democratic strategists.” And this line that we’ve seen repeated over and over is that, what they deride as people calling the “deep state” — in other words, the elements within the CIA in the military — that they’re actually secretly protecting the country from Trump. Given your scholarship on what people loosely call the deep state right now, what do you make of those claims that the CIA and certain elements within the Pentagon are actually the protectors of the Democratic republic?

AM: A complex argument. One: the rapid growth of that state documented by the Washington Post, in a series about eight years ago, 2010, what they called the fourth branch of the U.S. government. That under the terms of the global war on terror, a massive infusion of nearly a trillion dollars into the Homeland Security. And all of the 17 agencies in the so-called intelligence community plus the considerable expansion of the Joint Special Operations Command, which is the military’s permanent integration with that security apparatus, that secret security apparatus, all of this has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government.

And I think that, just as Congress has proved independent from the Trump administration to a certain extent, and we’ll see about the Supreme Court, those are the classic three branches of executive, legislature, and judiciary — now we have this fourth branch. And, what you’re proposing is we need to take this very seriously when we look at the array of power in Washington, D.C. And I agree, we need to. And like all of the other branches it will coordinate with the executive because the executive has a great deal of power, of funding, you can set priorities, but it has a 10-year cycle — ultimately a much longer-term cycle of preparation and responsibility.

A president is in office for eight or maybe four years. A military career, if successful, an intelligence career, is 30 years. So those professionals, and the agencies they represent, have a much longer-term viewpoint. You can see this, for example, in the periodic reports of the National Intelligence Council, that every four years when there’s a new administration coming in, they’re the one agency of the U.S. government that looks ahead 20 years. Not just four or eight or 10. But they actually look ahead 20 years and they try and see the shape of the world and then, set, through the intelligence community and through the national security establishment, priorities for coping with this fast changing world.

So at the apex of the intelligence community, there is this formal procedure for establishing a long range, or medium range, 20-year perspective. So, yes, they look longer, they have their own policies, they have their contracts, their programs that are in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so. And depending on your point of view and how it plays out, that’s either a strength of the American system in the short term, when you have an executive that some people don’t like, like Donald Trump, over the longer term it could be seen as a threat to democracy, creating a bureaucratic apparatus that’s autonomous, even independent from both the executive and the legislative branch. So, it’s an open question but a good question.
CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

JS: You’ve written this excellent book that will come out from Haymarket books in September called “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and the Decline of U.S. Global Power.” But I want to ask you about a much earlier book that you wrote, “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.” And that details your investigation — and it really was what introduced you to this world of covert CIA operations, client states, mercenaries, local proxies, and you also found yourself in conflict with very powerful individuals in the CIA and the national security state because of what you were researching. Talk about that book and the process that led to writing it and how it was eventually published.

AM: Sure. Now, almost 50 years ago, looking back it was an extraordinary experience. In the space of 18 months to two years, I acquired an amazing education. Up to that point I was a graduate student looking at the history of colonialism in Southeast Asia, writing articles that had lots of footnotes. I was a library rat.

And in 1970 and ’71, there were rumors that started coming back from Vietnam, particularly 1971, that heroin was spreading rapidly in the ranks of the U.S. forces fighting in South Vietnam. And in later research, done by the White House, [it was] determined that in 1971, 34 percent, one-third of all the American combat troops fighting in South Vietnam were heavy heroin users. There were, if that statistic is accurate, more addicts in the ranks of the U.S. Army in South Vietnam than there were in the United States.

And so what I did was I set out to investigate: Where was the opium coming from? Where was the heroin coming from? Who was trafficking it? How is it getting to the troops in their barracks and bunkers across the length and breadth of South Vietnam? Nobody was asking this question. Everyone was reporting on the high level of abuse, but nobody was figuring out where and who.

So I started interviewing. I went to Paris. I interviewed the head of the French equivalent of the CIA in Indochina, who was then head of a major French helicopter manufacturing company, and he explained to me how during the French Indochina war from 1946 to 1954, they were short of money for covert operations, so the hill tribes in Laos produced the opium, the aircraft picked it up, they turned it over to the netherworld, the gangsters that controlled Saigon and secured it for the French and that paid for their covert operations. And I said, “What about now?” And he said, “Well I don’t think the pattern’s changed. I think it’s still there. You should go and look.”

So I did. I went to Saigon. I got some top sources in the Vietnamese military. I went to Laos. I hiked into the mountains. I was ambushed by CIA mercenaries and what I discovered was that the CIA’s contract airline, Air America, was flying into the villages of the Hmong people in Northern Laos, whose main cash crop was opium and they were picking up the opium and flying it out of the hills and there were heroin labs — one of the heroin labs, the biggest heroin lab in the world, was run by the commander-in-chief of the Royal Laotian Army, a man whose military budget came entirely from the United States. And they were transforming, in those labs, the opium into heroin. It was being smuggled into South Vietnam by three cliques controlled by the president, the vice president, and the premier of South Vietnam, and their military allies and distributed to U.S. forces in South Vietnam.

And the CIA wasn’t directly involved, but they turned a blind eye to the role of their allies’ involvement in the traffic. And so this heroin epidemic swept the U.S. Army in Vietnam. The Defense Department invented mass urine analysis testing, so when those troops left they were tested and given treatment. And what I discovered was the complexities, the complicity, of the CIA in this traffic and that was a pattern that was repeated in Central America when the Contras became involved in the traffic. The CIA looked the other way as their aircraft and their allies were smuggling cocaine from Colombia through Central America to the United States. Same thing in the 1980s, during the secret war in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen turned to opium. The opium production in Afghanistan during that secret war increased from about 100 tons of opium per annum to 2000 tons, a massive increase. Afghanistan went from supplying zero percent of U.S. heroin supply — soared to 65 percent of the illicit heroin supply for the United States came out of Afghanistan. The CIA sent arms across the border through caravans to the Mujahideen fighters and those same caravans came out carrying opium. The CIA prevented the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, from investigating. Again, complicity in the traffic.

So a clear pattern. The other thing was when I began to do that investigation and write up the book, I faced enormous pressures. My phone was tapped by the FBI, the IRS investigated, I had an audit as a poverty-stricken graduate student. The Department of Education investigated my graduate fellowship. Friends of mine who had been serving in military intelligence were recruited to spy on me. In other words, what I found was the CIA penetrated every aspect of my life. The head of CIA covert operations, a very famous operative named Cord Meyer Jr., visited the offices of Harper and Row, my publisher, and tried to persuade the publisher to suppress the book, hold the contract, just don’t release the book, claiming that it was a threat to national security.

So what I discovered was not only CIA complicity, complex compromise relationships with covert allies far away in remote places like Southeast Asia, but also the incredible depth of the penetration of the CIA within U.S. society under the conditions of the Cold War. I found my phone, my fellowship, my friends, my publisher, every aspect of my life was manipulated by the CIA. It was a fascinating discovery.

JS: And you write in your forthcoming book, “In the Shadows of the American Century,” “I had crafted a historical method that would prove over the next 40 years of my career surprisingly useful in analyzing a diverse array of foreign policy controversies, CIA alliances with drug lords, the agency’s propagation of psychological torture, and our spreading state surveillance.” Part of the reason it seems that they were concerned about what you were investigating in Vietnam, Laos, and elsewhere was that you were tapping into something that was an emerging nexus that the CIA would rely on for decades to come.

AM: Indeed. All of those areas. The method I came up with was very simple. Start far back in the past, as far back as you can go, when the — let’s say the research on torture, although somewhat secret is not controversial because it hasn’t been applied. Go back to the U.S. colonial policy in the Philippines when we started surveillance circa 1898 to pacify the Philippines, and then track it forward step by step all the way to the present, keeping in mind the patterns, the structure of the operation. And then when you get to the present where it becomes secret, highly classified, and very controversial, you understand the structure, so you know where to look, what assumptions are likely to be sound, what hypotheses might work, how you can conduct your analysis and that can lead you to an insight.

For example, let’s take the case of torture, OK? I work on the Philippines as my main area in Southeast Asia that I study, and I was very interested in the overthrow of the Marcos regime. I did some research that contributed to that overthrow. In the aftermath of the overthrow of the Marcos regime, there was this coterie of military colonels that had plotted an abortive coup, that had sparked a so-called People Power Revolution that put a million Filipinos on the streets of Manila calling for Marcos’ downfall, forcing Washington to provide him with aircraft that flew him out to exile in Hawaii and brought democracy. So I was very interested in who these colonels were.

And what I found when I investigated them is that they weren’t line officers, say combat officers, they weren’t even intelligence officers. They were internal security officers who’ve been personally involved in torture. And what I begin to realize is that torture was a transactional experience, that these officers who’ve been trained by the CIA on how to interrogate and use torture, that, as they broke down their victims, they empowered themselves and inspired themselves to this coup to overthrow Marcos.

Well, that also introduced me to the idea that the CIA was training torturers around the globe. And I figured this out in the 1980s, before it was common knowledge. There was some research in the ’70s, people working on this, but we didn’t have the full picture. And what I began to figure out was also the nature of the methods that these colonels were using. Now, look, these are physical guys that were brutally, physically hazed at their military academy, as often happens in such organizations. And so instead of beating physically their victims, they use something counterintuitive. They didn’t touch their victims. They used psychological techniques. And so in 2004, when CBS television published those photographs from Abu Ghraib prison, and nobody knew what was going on. There was that famous photograph of the Iraqi detainee standing on a box with his arms outstretched with phony electrical wires attached to him, he’d been told that if he lowered his arms, he’d be shocked, and he had a bag on his head.

And I looked at that photo and I said, “Those are not bad apples. That is CIA doctrinal techniques. The bag is for sensory deprivation, the arms are for self-inflicted pain, those are the two fundamental techniques of CIA psychological torture.” I wrote a book, “A Question of Torture,” that made that argument. I participated in a documentary that won an Oscar, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” that interviewed me and also made that argument, and it would not be for another 10 years until 2014, when the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee spent $40 million and reviewed 6 million CIA documents and came to a rather similar conclusions. So the method’s useful.
U.S. Interference in Elections

JS: I want to ask you how we ended up with the national security state that we have today? What I mean is, the NSA with its vast powers, which of course you document in the book. The CIA employing tactics under what you’ve called “covert netherworld.” There is this sense, under someone like Barack Obama, that we’re not going to send massive troop deployments around the world, as much as we are going to depend on drones, discreet covert operations, escalated use of Special Operations Forces and CIA paramilitaries. But, talk about the post World War II growth of what now has come to be known as the national security state?

AM: Sure. I think the national security state is the instrument the United States used to build and exercise its global hegemony. Looking at the comparative history of empires in the modern age going back 500 years, the thing that distinguishes the U.S. empire from almost any other, is the reliance upon covert methods and it’s a result of a historical moment.

The U.S. empire coincided with the decolonization, the dissolution of half a dozen European empires that produced 100 new nations, more than half the independent nations on the planet today. And so U.S. hegemony was being exercised, not over colonies, whose sovereignty was compromised, in fact had been transferred to the imperial power, but over independent nation states, who had sovereignty. So you had an empire under conditions that denied empire. So how do you exercise hegemony in a non-hegemonic world? You have to do it covertly.

And in 1947, President Harry Truman, right after World War II, and Congress passed the National Security Act that laid down the bureaucratic apparatus for the U.S. national security state. That National Security Act created the Defense Department, the U.S. Air Force, the CIA, and the National Security Council — the key instruments of the U.S. exercise of global power. And then when the next administration came in, under President Dwight Eisenhower, what he did is he realized that there were nations that were becoming independent across the world and that he had to be intervening in these independent nations and so the only way he could do it was through plausible deniability, you had to intervene in a way that could not be seen. You had to do it covertly. And so Eisenhower turned to the CIA, created by Harry Truman, and he transformed it from an organization that originally tried to penetrate the Iron Curtain, to send agents and operatives inside the Iron Curtain. It was a complete disaster. The operatives were captured, they were used to uncover the networks of opposition inside the Soviet Union, it was absolutely counterproductive. Eisenhower turned the CIA away from that misbegotten mission of penetrating the Iron Curtain and instead assigned them the mission of penetrating and controlling the three-quarters of the globe that was on the U.S. side of the Iron Curtain, the free world.

And Eisenhower relied upon the CIA, and then the National Security Agency, to monitor signals. And we began to exercise our global hegemony, covertly, through the CIA and allied intelligence agencies. And that’s been a distinctive aspect of U.S. hegemony since the dawn of American global power in 1945. And that continues today, ever deepening, layer upon layer, through those processes you described. The drones, the surveillance, the cyberwarfare — all of that is covert.

JS: It’s interesting because there’s a lot of talk now about foreign interference in the U.S. election with — exclusively the attention is being focused on: did Russia interfere in our election? And if so, were they successful in promoting Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton? And in your book, you cite this compilation from Carnegie Mellon University that says between 1946 and 2000, rival superpowers the United States and the Soviet Union, then Russia, intervened in 117 elections or 11 percent of all the competitive national level contests held worldwide via campaign cash and media disinformation. And then you write, “Significantly, the United States was responsible for 81 of those attempts, 70 percent of the total.”

This is not new, the idea that nations interfere in in the elections of others. Walk us through some of the greatest hits of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in election interference, since the 1940s.

AM: Sure — first of all, that was one of the central instruments of the U.S. exercise of global power covertly. We were promoting democracy worldwide, we stood very strongly for democracy over authoritarianism. On the other hand, we were exercising U.S. hegemony, which meant that somehow for those open free democratic contests to produce a leader who was our guy. And indeed, one of the key aspects of U.S. global power, as exercised by Eisenhower through, covertly, was the change. Look, under the colonial empires, Britain, France, Belgium all the rest, they had district officers and they worked with chiefs, maharajahs, emirs, local officials in colonial districts around the globe. And they controlled who was going to be the new emir, who was going to be the new sultan, who was going to be the new maharajah.

And then, when all of those nations decolonized and became independent, the fulcrum for the exercise of power shifted from the colonial district to the presidential palace. And so the United States paid a lot of attention in controlling who were the leaders in those presidential palaces. If you look at the 240,000 WikiLeaks cables from around the world that were leaked in 2011, you’ll find that much of what they’re concerned about is, who is in those presidential palaces around the country? So the U.S. did it through coups and, during the period of the 1950s to the 1970s, about a quarter of the sovereign states in the world changed government by coups, and they also did it by electoral manipulation.

One of the most famous ones, the one that actually established the capacity of the CIA to do that, was the 1948 elections in Italy when it looked like the communist and socialist parties were slated for capturing a majority of the seats in parliament, and then forming a government. And you could have on our side of the Iron Curtain, in a very important world power, Italy, a legally elected, democratic elected communist government. And so the CIA spent, bargain basement, $1 million. Imagine: Buying Italy for a million dollars. Seems like a bargain.

They spent just a million dollars in very skillful, electoral manipulation, and they produced the electoral results of the Christian Democrats, a centrist government. And, throughout the Cold War, the U.S. deftly intervened in Italy at multiple levels overtly in bilateral aid and diplomacy, covertly, and electoral manipulation and something much deeper, Operation Gladio, where they had, if you will, an underground apparatus to seize power in Italy in the case of a communist takeover, by invasion. And the CIA would intervene, they pump money into the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, they played electoral politics in the Philippines. They intervened in Korea politics, in South Korean politics, all around the globe. Any time that there was a serious electoral contest in which the outcome was critical to us, geopolitical interests, the U.S. was intervening.

Now, the difference between that and what we’ve seen with the 2016 elections in the United States, if you’re the global hegemon, you are manipulating, influencing other people’s elections. If you’re a global power like the United States that stands for democracy, that’s the way we exercise that power. We did it sometimes crudely, sometimes deftly, but we didn’t invade countries, we didn’t bomb et cetera. We did it that way. And when we were manipulating other people’s elections, we’re the global power. And when we’re being manipulated, when other powers are penetrating our society and manipulating our elections, that’s a sign that we’re a declining power. And that’s very serious.

In order to maintain our position internationally, not only do we have to exercise our power skillfully, covertly through the operations we’ve been describing, surveillance and the rest, and overtly through diplomacy and international leadership, treaties and trade and all that, OK? But we also have to make sure that our electoral process is impenetrable, is secure, that other powers cannot manipulate us because they’re going to try.
Reagan, Iran-Contra, the CIA, and Crack Cocaine

JS: I often find myself, when I’m watching the news, or in some cases even reading very serious powerful newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post, as they cover Donald Trump and this issue of Russia, it seems as though we are totally detached from history. And in reading your book I was reminded of the rise of Mobutu to power in Kinshasa, and also you went into great depth about the CIA crack cocaine story that ultimately was broken wide open by Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News, and then attacked and major news organizations trying to discredit him. Walk us through the Contra War and the connection to the selling of embargoed weapons to Iran and the fact that you had eleven senior officials in Ronald Reagan’s administration actually convicted of selling Iran embargoed arms.

I mean we talk about scandals and then you look at Reagan, and it’s like 11 senior officials convicted of selling embargoed arms to finance the CIA’s death squad the Contras in Nicaragua?

AM: You know, in the Reagan administration the United States was at a low ebb in its global power. The Reagan administration launched the invasion of Grenada. It was the first time in nearly a decade that the U.S. has been able to exercise its global power anywhere beyond the United States successfully, its military power. And then in Central America, the Reagan administration felt very threatened by the collapse of the Somoza regime, one of the U.S. client regimes in Central America, and the Sandinista guerrilla movement capturing the capital Managua in 1979.

And that occurred at the same time as the Soviet Red Army basically occupied Kabul, the capture of the capital of Afghanistan, so the Reagan administration felt threatened, on a kind of far periphery of U.S. power in Afghanistan, and close at home, kind of a gateway to America — in Central America. So the Reagan administration reacted by mounting two major covert operations: one, to push the Red Army out of Afghanistan and two, to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. And both of these operations involved tolerating trafficking in opium in Afghanistan by the Mujahideen Muslim guerrilla fighters, and tolerating the trafficking in cocaine in Central America by our Contra allies.

And there were basically two forms of support for the Contras. The one was the arms-for-money deal to provide black money to sustain the Contra revolt for the decade that it dragged on. And the other thing was a kind of hands-off approach. There was a DEA operative, a Drug Enforcement Administration operative, in Honduras that was reporting on the Honduran military complicity in the transit traffic of cocaine moving from Colombia through Central America to the United States. He was removed from the country. And then the CIA, because of Congress cutting off the arms shipments periodically for the CIA, the so-called Boland amendment that imposed a kind of embargo upon U.S. support for the Contras, they needed to periodically warehouse their arms. And what they found was that the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras, particularly Roatan Island, was an ideal logistics point right off the coast — it was a major transshipment point for cocaine moving from Colombia across the Caribbean to the United States but it’s also an ideal place for the U.S. to warehouse and then ship its arms to the Contras on the border with Nicaragua and Honduras.

And so, the kingpin, the drug kingpin of the Bay Islands was a notorious international trafficker named Alan Hyde who had 35 ships on the high seas smuggling cocaine from Colombia into the United States. Every U.S. security agency involved, the Coast Guard, the CIA itself, the Drug Enforcement Administration, they all had reports about Alan Hyde being a Class A trafficker, arguably the biggest smuggler in the Caribbean. And to get access to his warehouses what the CIA did was they basically blocked any investigation of Alan Hyde from 1987 to 1992, during the peak of the crack-cocaine epidemic, and so the CIA got to ship their guns to his warehouses and then onward to the border post for the Contras. And Alan Hyde was given an immunity to investigation or prosecution for five years.

That’s — any criminal, that’s all they need, is an immunity to investigation. And this coincided with the flood of cocaine through Central America into the United States. This CIA inspector general in response to protests in South Central, Los Angeles, conducted an investigation also in response to Gary Webb’s inquiries and they released Report 1, they called “The California Connection.” They said that Gary Webb’s allegations that the CIA had protected the distributors, the deal of the Nicaraguan dealers who were brokering the sale of the import cocaine to the Crips and Bloods gangs in South Central, L.A., that that all that was false.

Then they issued, the inspector general in 1998, issued part two of that report, the executive summary said similarly: no case to answer, CIA relations with the Contras in Central America complex, but nothing about drugs. But if you actually read the report, all the way through, which is something historians tend to do, you get to paragraph 913 of that report and there are subsequently 40 of the most amazing revelations, 40 paragraphs of the most amazing revelations stating explicitly in cables and verbatim quotes from interviews with CIA operatives about their compromised relationship with the biggest drug smuggler in the Caribbean, Alan Hyde.

And if you go on the CIA website and you look for that 1998 Inspector General Report, you’ll find a little black line that says paragraphs 913-960 have been excised. Those are those paragraphs. But you can find them on the internet.

JS: One of the fascinating aspects of this — it’s a short part of your book, but I think it’s always important to point this out, the name Robert Gates pops up at the time that the CIA had this relationship with Hyde. Gates was the deputy director of the CIA, and of course now is one of the beloved figures in the bipartisan foreign policy consensus. He was defense secretary under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. And Gates, his hands are all over this thing as well.

AM: Yeah, there’s, how am I going to put it? That illustrates the disparity between the formal rhetoric of politics and the geopolitics of the exercise of global power. And the difficulties, the demands, the moral and political compromises required to run, well let’s call it an empire. A global empire. And, from a pure realpolitik imperial perspective, that Contra operation, by seeking an effective complementation between the flow of drugs north, very powerful illicit economic force, and the Contra guerrilla operations, accomplish their objective. You know? After 10 years of supporting the Contras, the Sandinistas lost power for a time in a democratic election. They were finally pushed out of office. The CIA accomplished its mission.

Now, if you compare that with where we are with drugs and covert operations and military operations in Afghanistan, it was very successful in the 1980s, as a result of the CIA’s alliance of the Mujahideen, provisioning of arms and tolerance for their trafficking and drugs, which provided the bulk of their finance. You know, in 1989, the Soviet Red Army left Kabul, they left Afghanistan, the CIA won. Well today, of course, that drug traffic has been taken over by the Taliban and it funds the bulk of the Taliban’s guerrilla operations, pays for a new crop of teenage boys to become fighters every spring, and we’ve lost control of that. So from a realpolitik perspective, we can see a weakening of U.S. controls over these covert operations that are another manifestation of our, of the decline of the U.S. hegemony.
Heroin and the Worsening War in Afghanistan

JS: I want to ask you about Afghanistan given all of the work you’ve done on the intersection of covert operations on behalf of an empire and transnational narcotics trafficking. I think a lot of people who have followed the history of Afghanistan and U.S. involvement there find it hard to believe that the United States is not aware that its actions are fueling the heroin trade and fueling the insurgency there by having a Taliban that relies on it, as you just laid out. Given your historical, analytical work on past crises, what should we be looking for to see whether or not there is a direct U.S. role in facilitating narcotics flow out of Afghanistan?

AM: Sure. Good question. Look, during the 1980s, when that operation was successful, the CIA knew and in fact a man named Charles Cogan who was the head of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, and when he retired he gave an interview to Australian television, and he said, “Look, there was fallout from that operation. OK, yes there was fallout in terms of drugs.” But he said, “Let’s remember the Soviets left Afghanistan.” So the CIA was, and if Charles Cogan was any sign and I think he is, and he was the head of the operation for a while, they very well knew that the mujahideen fighters, the Muslim guerrillas they were arming and equipping, were getting the bulk of their finance and were sustaining their mass base among the farmers of southern Afghanistan through trafficking in opium and heroin. And that provided — I mean it provided 65 percent, the bulk of U.S. heroin supply, the bulk of the world’s supply.

Now, when the United States pulled out of Afghanistan in 1992, we turned our backs on it and the Taliban backed by Pakistan took power, and under the Taliban by 2000, by 1999-2000, the opium harvest more than doubled to 4500 tons. But then the Taliban became concerned about their pariah status and they decided that if they abolished opium they would no longer be a pariah state, they could get international recognition, they could strengthen their hold on power. And so they actually, in 2000-2001, completely wiped out opium, and it went down from 4600 tons to 180 tons, I mean like an incredible — the most, one of the most successful opium eradication programs anywhere on the planet.

They also completely weakened their state, so that when the U.S. began bombing in October 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban quickly collapsed and then what happened was, of course, when the U.S. came back in, what we did was we worked through the CIA. And we put pallets of hundred dollar bills, we sent in $70 million in cash, we mobilized the old warlord coalition in the far north, the warlords there were heavily involved in opium traffic. We mobilize the Pashtun warlords who were all opium traffickers, and when they swept across Afghanistan and captured the countryside in the provincial capitals, they began supervising over the replanting of opium. And, very quickly, the opium harvest began blooming and by 2006 it was up to 8000 tons of opium — the highest in a century providing well over 90 percent of the world’s opium and heroin supply, and a majority of the gross domestic product of Afghanistan.

And, at the local level, the Taliban took control of the cultivation, the processing and the smuggling and they used the profits to rebuild their apparatus. They were completely wiped out in October 2001, they steadily rebuilt and have launched this succession of offensives that now control over half the countryside, so there’s a very clear relationship between the opium crop, which is now beyond our control, we ignored it up to 2004, as it was booming and spreading again. So it’s one of those interesting exercises or instances in which the U.S. loses control over this complementation between the illicit traffic and the surrogate warfare, that complementation that worked so well in Central America. When you’ve lost control of it in Afghanistan, and it’s one more index of our waning control over the world, an ever more complex world.
The Pillars of Empire Are Starting to Crumble

JS: One of the things that struck me as I read your book “In the Shadows of the American Century” was how often you predict, based on data, on historical example, that the United States as an empire is headed down a path of demise and you write about that with a nuance and you don’t pretend to know the exact scenario. One of the things you write in the book is, “Future historians are likely to identify George W. Bush’s rash invasion of Iraq, in 2003, as the start of America’s downfall. But instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this 21st-century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic contraction or cyberwarfare.”

Why do you seem so convinced that this is inevitable, and how do you foresee the scenarios, potential scenarios for the demise of what we now understand as the American empire?

AM: There are, I think, multiple factors that lead to an imperial decline. If you look at the key aspects of the U.S. global power, you can see a waning of strength in every one of those. One of the key things that I think very few people understand, after World War II, the United States became the first world power, the first empire in 1,000 years to control both ends of the vast Eurasian continent. Now Eurasia, that enormous landmass, is the epicenter of world power. It’s got the resources, the people, the civilizations that — you’ve got to control that to control the world. And the United States, through the NATO alliance in Western Europe and a string of alliances along the Pacific littoral with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia, controlled the axial ends of the Eurasian landmass.

And then we link that with layers of power, treaties multilateral defense treaties, starting with NATO in Europe, all the way to SETO and ANZUS with Australia, the Japan Mutual Security Treaty, the South Korea U.S. Mutual Security Treaty, the Philippine U.S. Mutual Security Treaty. And then we had fleets, we had the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, the Seventh Fleet at Subic Bay Philippines, later the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. We had hundreds of military bases. By the end of the Cold War we have about 800 overseas military bases.

Most of those were arrayed around the Eurasian landmass. In the last 10 years as drone technology has developed, we’ve laid the latest layer upon that, which are the drone bases. There are 60 U.S. drone bases that stretch from Sicily all the way to Andersen air base on Guam, and that, given the range of the most powerful drones, the Global Hawk, it gives us surveillance and then with Predator and Reaper, strike capacity, all the way along that rim, and that has been, if you will, the key pillars in the global architecture of U.S. power.

And those pillars are starting to crumble. The NATO alliance is weakening under Trump, with the rise of Russian pressure on that alliance, but more particularly, our capacity to control those critical allies along the Pacific littoral is beginning to weaken. Jeremy, your organization The Intercept had, last April, a very important document that leaked out, the transcript of that phone conversation between President Trump and President Duterte of the Philippines, that should have had front page coverage all across the world, and every serious American newspaper. It got good coverage, but not the coverage it deserved.

If you read that transcript closely, you can see the waning of U.S. power along the Pacific littoral. Donald Trump is calling up, he’s got a fellow demagogue in the person of Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, who has killed about 8000 people in his so-called drug war — people blown away, bodies dumped in the streets of Manila and Cebu and elsewhere in the country, and he’s calling up and congratulating him and trying to bond with him, you know, autocrat to autocrat. And then Trump shifts the conversation and says, “Well, we got this problem in Korea. Kim Jong-un is unreliable.” And Duterte says, “I’m going to call China, I’ll talk to Xi Jinping about that.” And Trump says, “We’ve got some very powerful submarines, which we’re going to have in the area.” And Duterte says, “Yeah, I’m going to call,” he says, “Yeah, I’m gonna call Xi Jinping about that. I’ll be talking to China.”

And it’s clear that Trump is trying to court the man, trying to impress him with U.S. strength, and every time Trump tries to do it, Duterte responds, “I will call China.” It’s a clear indication of China’s rising power along that Pacific littoral. Also, China has been conducting a very skillful geopolitical strategy, so-called “One belt, One road” or “Silk Road” strategy and what China has been doing since about 2007 is they’ve spent a trillion dollars and they’re going to spend another trillion dollars in laying down a massive infrastructure of rails and gas and oil pipelines that will integrate the entire Eurasian landmass. Look, Europe and Asia, which we think of as — we’re learning in geography in elementary school that they’re two separate continents — they’re not. They were only separated by the vast distances, the steps in the desert that seem to divide them. Well China’s laid down, through a trillion dollars investment, a series of pipelines that are bringing energy from Central Asia across thousands of miles into China, from Siberia into China.

They’ve also built seven bases in the South China Sea and they’re taking control over these — spent over $200 million in transforming a fishing village on the Arabian Sea named Gwadar, in Pakistan, into a major modern port. They’ve also got port facilities in Africa. And through these port facilities they’re cutting those circles of steel that the United States laid down to kind of link and hold those two axial ends of Eurasia. So we are slowly, because of China’s investment, its development, some of our mismanagement of our relationships and long-term trends, those axial ends of Eurasia they’re crumbling. Our power, our control over that critical continent is weakening, and China’s control is slowly inexorably increasing and that is going to be a major geopolitical shift. One that is going to weaken the United States and strengthen China.

JS: You write, “All available economic, educational, technological data indicate that when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends are likely to aggregate rapidly by 2020, and could reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025, and, except for the finger pointing could be over by 2030.” How do you see that happening and what does that mean for the United States in the world, but also for ordinary Americans?

AM: Sure. How do I see it happening? There are the geopolitical shifts that I just described. The other thing of the long-term trends, the issues of economic waning, U.S. economic strength. China is slowly, is steadily surpassing the United States as the number one economic power. That’s one long-term trend. And China will therefore have the resources to invest in military technology.

The second thing is, we speak of crumbling U.S. infrastructure, one thing that nobody talks about very seriously in a sustained way is the intellectual infrastructure of the country. The OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the rich countries club, conducts these tests every couple years, the PISA tests, and they test 15-year-olds. In the latest rounds of tests, Shanghai students have come number one in math, science, and literacy.

U.S. students have been somewhere, in math and science, somewhere between 20 and 30. And so you might say, “Who cares about a bunch of 15-year-olds with braces, backpacks, and attitudes?” Well, by 2030, those 15-year-olds are going to be in their 20s and 30s. They’re going to be the super smart scientists and engineers that are coming up with the cutting edge technology. Technology, for example, like photon communications. China is evidently going to lead in this, that means that China can communicate with its satellites and its entire cyber and space and military apparatus without fear of being compromised. We have not developed the same level of photon communications as China. We’re much more subject to being hijacked and manipulated.

So, those kinds of trends in raw military power. The sort of the erosion of U.S. educational standards within 10 or 15 years can have some very serious implications for our military technology. It means you just don’t have the scientists, the technology, the innovation that has been so central to U.S. global power for so many years. And so that waning, the geopolitical shifts, you know, those invisible movements of a power arrayed across the landscape. And then the technological and educational shifts coming together means that there are all kinds of ways for the U.S. to lose power. Either with a bang or a whimper. But by 2030, it’s pretty much over for our global dominion.

JS: And is that, is that in your opinion a bad thing?

AM: Well, yes it is, and I here, you know I speak, you could call me, you know a narrow American. But, OK, every empire — if you think we’ve had empires in the world for about 4,000 years. Some have been more benign and beneficent, others have been absolutely brutal. If you want to go to the most brutal empire, I think in human history, the Nazi empire in Europe. It was an empire. It plundered. Much of that mobilization of labor was just raw exploitation. It was the most brutal empire in human history and it collapsed. The Japanese empire in Asia, which was arguably the biggest empire in history, was a second runner-up for raw brutality, they collapsed. The British empire was relatively benign. Yes, it was a global power, there were many excesses, many incidents, one can go on, but when it was all over, they left the Westminster system of parliament, they left the global language, they left a global economy, they left a culture of sports, they created artifacts like the BBC.

So the U.S. empire has been, and we’ve had our excesses, Vietnam, we could go on. Afghanistan. There are many problems with the U.S. exercise of its power but we have stood for human rights, the world has had 70 years of relative peace and lots of medium size wars but nothing like World War I and World War II. There has been an increase in global development, the growth of a global economy, with many inequities, but nonetheless, transnationally, a new middle class is appearing around the globe. We’ve stood for labor rights and environmental protection. Our successor powers, China and Russia, are authoritarian regimes. Russia’s autocratic, China’s a former communist regime. They stand for none of these liberal principles.

So you’ll have the realpolitik exercise of power, all the downsides with none of the upsides, with none of the positive development. I mean we’ve stood for women’s rights, for gay rights, for human progress, for democracy. You know we’ve been flawed in efficacy, but we’ve stood for those principles and we have advanced them. So we have been, on the scale of empires, comparatively benign and beneficent. And I don’t think the succeeding powers are going to be that way.

Moreover, there are going to be implications for the United States. Most visibly, I think that when the dollar is no longer the world’s unchallenged, pre-eminent, global reserve currency, the grand imperial game will be over. Look, what we’ve been able to do for the last 20 years is we send the world our brightly colored, our nicely printed paper, T-notes, and they give us oil and automobiles and computers and technology. We get real goods and they get brightly colored paper. Because of the position of the dollar. When the dollar is no longer the global reserve currency, the cost of goods in the United States is going to skyrocket.

We will not be able to travel the world as we do now. We won’t be able to enjoy the standard of living we do now. There will be lots of tensions that are going to occur in the society from what will be a major rewriting of the American social contract. This will not be pleasant. And arguably, I think it’s possible if we look back, we could see Trump’s election and all the problems of the Trump administration as one manifestation of this imperial decline.

We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

TopSecret WallSt. Iraq & more
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:23 pm

We don't have a CIA and Hollywood consolidation thread? Well, to avoid thread proliferation, I think this one is worth an overdue kick.

This guy is a real piece of work.



www.washingtonpost.com

The CIA funded a culture war against communism. It should do so again.

(photo)
Lakeith Stanfield stars as Cassius Green in director Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You.” (Annapurna Pictures)

By Sonny Bunch
August 22 at 9:00 AM


Earlier this month, “Sorry to Bother You” director Boots Riley tweeted, “Art for arts [sic] sake is never for arts [sic] sake-it’s for the sake of the status quo. This is why the CIA funded Jackson Pollack [sic].” Set aside the vaguely totalitarian suggestion that art must, by its nature, exist either in support of or opposition to the political establishment. Today, I’d like to focus on the CIA’s involvement in the Cold War’s culture war and think back to a better time, when ideas were taken seriously and art was considered transformative — and keep in mind the ways in which the agency could help artists struggling to break through overseas today.

Those interested in the CIA’s covert cultural war should check out “Who Paid the Piper?” by Frances Stonor Saunders. Granted, it’s an unrelentingly negative portrayal of the efforts by Michael Josselson, Nicolas Nabokov and others to funnel money from the CIA into the hands of artists and intellectual journals that highlighted the Western world’s commitment to individual freedom. But if you can set aside the author’s biases, you’ll discover a fascinatingly byzantine effort to turn the world to the American way of thinking via pen and paint rather than munitions and murder.

The CIA at its founding was largely run by Ivy Leaguers, would-be highbrows and intellectuals. It makes sense that they’d have been attracted to the ideas of men like Melvin Lasky, the consummate Cold Warrior who pushed for the founding of a magazine designed to bridge the gap between the West and the rest. According to a postwar memo by Lasky submitted to the U.S. Army, journals like Der Monat would serve “as a demonstration that behind the official representatives of American democracy lies a great and progressive culture, with a richness of achievements in the arts, in literature, in philosophy, in all the aspects of culture which unite the free traditions of Europe and America.”

Magazines like Der Monat and English-American literary-political journal Encounter were not the only activities supported by nonprofit pass-throughs such as the Farfield Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom brought the Boston Symphony to Europe (at the cost of $166,359.84, according to Saunders) and sprang for publication and distribution of “at least a thousand books,” according to a 1977 report in the New York Times. The books included translations of T.S. Eliot’s poems, Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” according to Saunders.

And, yes, there was support for abstract art of the sort championed by Pollock. “On display will be masterpieces that could not have been created nor whose exhibition would be allowed by such totalitarian regimes as Nazi Germany or present-day Soviet Russia and her satellites,” bragged Museum of Modern Art advisory committee member James Johnson Sweeney about an exhibit there. While the Soviets were stuck producing realist works of art dedicated to illustrating the glories of the latest five-year plan, American artists were free to pursue whatever vision they chose — even if that vision was denounced by some conservative legislators as “anti-American.” Amusingly, there was no better demonstration of the West’s commitment to freedom than the fact that members of Congress could condemn abstract art as wicked and do nothing to stop its dissemination.

The CIA remains fond of abstract art; Carey Dunne highlighted the agency’s Melzac Collection at the George Bush Center for Intelligence two years ago for Hyperallergic. Canvases filled with lines and dots and swirls still hang on the agency’s walls, a testament to triumphs past.

But the moving picture remains the most visceral and, perhaps more important, accessible art form. As Saunders notes in her book, the United States has long worked to up the number of films accepted in foreign markets through trade deals. Others have taken a more guerrilla approach to spreading the cinematic gospel; consider efforts by the Human Rights Foundation to raise awareness of the Kim Jong Un-mocking film, “The Interview,” in North Korea via balloon.

Which brings me to back Riley and “Sorry to Bother You.” The director has in recent weeks complained of not being able to obtain foreign distribution for his entertaining new picture. This is understandable (indies often have such troubles) but unfortunate. The movie’s messages would resonate in China, the world’s second-largest market. After all, “Sorry to Bother You’s” WorryFree corporation — which houses and feeds workers in factories to increase productivity — seems a dead ringer for Foxconn, the “forbidden city” where Chinese workers manufacture Apple devices. The movie’s messages might appeal to people in a nation where poets and artists and activists are imprisoned for bucking the leadership’s diktats.

If the CIA were looking for a way to have some fun in the cultural space, they could do worse than distributing Riley’s opus: Commission a top-shelf translation for the subtitles, bang out some samizdat DVDs, and upload the film to as many file sharing and streaming services as possible. How better to demonstrate the unfettered freedom artists have in America to criticize the system? “Sorry to Bother You” might even spur Chinese citizens to take action against the Communist Party-backed businesses that dominate commerce in the state.

Naturally, any efforts by the CIA in such matters should remain quiet; one wouldn’t want to put the artists behind the film in the awkward position of knowingly benefiting from the CIA’s largesse. But a little subterfuge is a small price to pay in service of winning the culture wars.

Sonny Bunch
Sonny Bunch is the executive editor of, and film critic for, the Washington Free Beacon.


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Re: Top Secret America

Postby dada » Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:50 pm

"The CIA funded a culture war against communism. It should do so again."

haha! Art has changed, someone didn't give this guy the memo.

"Canvases filled with lines and dots and swirls still hang on the agency’s walls, a testament to triumphs past."

Yep. Triumphs past. Long past.

I feel like the author of the article is making his case from inside of a painting inside of a film. Hopeless, simply hopeless. Embarrassing to read.

This has all gotten so confusing. Hey, I have an idea. let's build a time machine, go back to a time when we understood what art was. So we can wins the war again! A winner is us!
Both his words and manner of speech seemed at first totally unfamiliar to me, and yet somehow they stirred memories - as an actor might be stirred by the forgotten lines of some role he had played far away and long ago.
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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:52 am

.

William Arkin, co-author with Dana Priest of the Top Secret America series and database in The Washington Post (probably the best and most important investigative work in the U.S. corporate media of the last 20 years), has resigned from NBC in protest over its laughable coverage of war and military matters, and made his complaints public in the following memo.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/02/media/wi ... index.html

January 4 is my last day at NBC News and I'd like to say goodbye to my friends, hopefully not for good. This isn't the first time I've left NBC, but this time the parting is more bittersweet, the world and the state of journalism in tandem crisis. My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of synch with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus.
I first started my association with NBC 30 years ago, feeding Cold War stories to Bob Windrem and Fred Francis at the Pentagon. I became an on-air analyst during the 1999 Kosovo War, continuing to work thereafter with Nightly News, delighting and oftentimes annoying in my peculiar position of being a mere civilian amongst THE GENERALS and former government officials. A scholar at heart, I also found myself an often lone voice that was anti-nuclear and even anti-military, anti-military for me meaning opinionated but also highly knowledgeable, somewhat akin to a movie critic, loving my subject but also not shy about making judgements regarding the flops and the losers.

When the attacks of 9/11 came, I was called back to NBC. I spent weeks on and off the air talking about al Qaeda and the various wars we were rushing into, arguing that airpower and drones would be the centerpiece not troops. In the new martial environment where only one war cry was sanctioned I was out of sync then as well. I retreated somewhat to writing a column for the Los Angeles Times, but even there I had to fight editors who couldn't believe that there would be a war in Iraq. And I spoke up about the absence of any sort of strategy for actually defeating terrorism, annoying the increasing gaggles of those who seemed to accept that a state of perpetual war was a necessity.

I thought then that there was great danger in the embrace of process and officialdom over values and public longing, and I wrote about the increasing power of the national security community. Long before Trump and "deep state" became an expression, I produced one ginormous investigation -- Top Secret America -- for the Washington Post and I wrote a nasty book -- American Coup -- about the creeping fascism of homeland security.

Looking back now they were both harbingers for what President Obama (and then Trump) faced in terms of largely failing to make enduring change.

Somewhere in all of that, and particularly as the social media wave began, it was clear that NBC (like the rest of the news media) could no longer keep up with the world. Added to that was the intellectual challenge of how to report our new kind of wars when there were no real fronts and no actual measures of success. To me there is also a larger problem: though they produce nothing that resembles actual safety and security, the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested. Despite being at "war," no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus' and Wes Clarks', or the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and McMaster, we've had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently have done little of consequence. And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as "analysts". We do so ignoring the empirical truth of what they have wrought: There is not one county in the Middle East that is safer today than it was 18 years ago. Indeed the world becomes ever more polarized and dangerous.

As perpetual war has become accepted as a given in our lives, I'm proud to say that I've never deviated in my argument at NBC (or at my newspaper gigs) that terrorists will never be defeated until we better understand why they are driven to fighting. And I have maintained my central view that airpower (in its broadest sense including space and cyber) is not just the future but the enabler and the tool of war today.

Seeking refuge in its political horse race roots, NBC (and others) meanwhile report the story of war as one of Rumsfeld vs. the Generals, as Wolfowitz vs. Shinseki, as the CIA vs. Cheney, as the bad torturers vs. the more refined, about numbers of troops and number of deaths, and even then Obama vs. the Congress, poor Obama who couldn't close Guantanamo or reduce nuclear weapons or stand up to Putin because it was just so difficult. We have contributed to turning the world national security into this sort of political story. I find it disheartening that we do not report the failures of the generals and national security leaders. I find it shocking that we essentially condone continued American bumbling in the Middle East and now Africa through our ho-hum reporting.
I'm a difficult guy, not prone to either protocol or procedure and I give NBC credit that it tolerated me through my various incarnations. I hope people will say in the early days that I made Brokaw and company smarter about nuclear weapons, about airpower, and even about al Qaeda. And I'm proud to say that I also was one of the few to report that there weren't any WMD in Iraq and remember fondly presenting that conclusion to an incredulous NBC editorial board. I argued endlessly with MSNBC about all things national security for years, doing the daily blah, blah, blah in Secaucus, but also poking at the conventional wisdom of everyone from Matthews to Hockenberry.

And yet I feel like I've failed to convey this larger truth about the hopelessness of our way of doing things, especially disheartened to watch NBC and much of the rest of the news media somehow become a defender of Washington and the system.

Windrem again convinced me to return to NBC to join the new investigative unit in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign. I thought that the mission was to break through the machine of perpetual war acceptance and conventional wisdom to challenge Hillary Clinton's hawkishness. It was also an interesting moment at NBC because everyone was looking over their shoulder at Vice and other upstarts creeping up on the mainstream. But then Trump got elected and Investigations got sucked into the tweeting vortex, increasingly lost in a directionless adrenaline rush, the national security and political version of leading the broadcast with every snow storm. And I would assert that in many ways NBC just began emulating the national security state itself -- busy and profitable. No wars won but the ball is kept in play.

I'd argue that under Trump, the national security establishment not only hasn't missed a beat but indeed has gained dangerous strength. Now it is ever more autonomous and practically impervious to criticism. I'd also argue, ever so gingerly, that NBC has become somewhat lost in its own verve, proxies of boring moderation and conventional wisdom, defender of the government against Trump, cheerleader for open and subtle threat mongering, in love with procedure and protocol over all else (including results). I accept that there's a lot to report here, but I'm more worried about how much we are missing. Hence my desire to take a step back and think why so little changes with regard to America's wars.

I know it is characteristic of our overexcited moment to blast away at former employers and mainstream institutions, but all I can say is that despite many frustrations, my time at NBC has been gratifying. Working with Cynthia McFadden has been the experience of a lifetime. I've learned a ton about television from her and Kevin Monahan, the secret insider tricks of the trade and the very big picture of what makes for original stories (and how powerful they can be). The young reporters at NBC are also universally excellent. Thanks to Noah Oppenheim for his support of my contrarian and disruptive presence. And to Janelle Rodriguez, who supported deep expertise. The Nightly crew has also been a constant fan of my too long stories and a great team. I continue to marvel as Phil Griffin carries out his diabolical plan for the cable network to take over the world.

I'm proud of the work I've done with my team and know that there's more to do. But for now it's time to take a break. I'm ever so happy to return to writing and thinking without the officiousness of editorial tyrants or corporate standards. And of course I yearn to go back to my first love, which is writing boring reports about secret programs, grateful that the American government so graciously obliges in its constant supply. And I particularly feel like the world is moving so quickly that even in just the little national security world I inhabit, I need more time to sit back and think. And to replenish.

In our day-to-day whirlwind and hostage status as prisoners of Donald Trump, I think -- like everyone else does -- that we miss so much. People who don't understand the medium, or the pressures, loudly opine that it's corporate control or even worse, that it's partisan. Sometimes I quip in response to friends on the outside (and to government sources) that if they mean by the word partisan that it is New Yorkers and Washingtonians against the rest of the country then they are right.

For me I realized how out of step I was when I looked at Trump's various bumbling intuitions: his desire to improve relations with Russia, to denuclearize North Korea, to get out of the Middle East, to question why we are fighting in Africa, even in his attacks on the intelligence community and the FBI. Of course he is an ignorant and incompetent impostor. And yet I'm alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue the contrary, to be in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war.

Really? We shouldn't get out Syria? We shouldn't go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula? Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War? And don't even get me started with the FBI: What? We now lionize this historically destructive institution?

Even without Trump, our biggest challenge as we move forward is that we have become exhausted parents of our infant (and infantile) social media children. And because of the "cycle," we at NBC (and all others in the field of journalism) suffer from a really bad case of not being able to ever take a breath. We are a long way from resolving the rules of the road in this age, whether it be with regard to our personal conduct or anything related to hard news. I also don't think that we are on a straight line towards digital nirvana, that is, that all of this information will democratize and improve society. I sense that there is already smartphone and social media fatigue creeping across the land, and my guess is that nothing we currently see -- nothing that is snappy or chatty -- will solve our horrific challenges of information overload or the role (and nature) of journalism. AndI am sure that once Trump leaves center stage, society will have a gigantic media hangover. Thus for NBC -- and for everyone else -- there is challenge and opportunity ahead. I'd particularly like to think and write more about that.

There's a saying about consultants, that organizations hire them to hear exactly what they want to hear. I'm proud to say that NBC didn't do that when it came to me. Similarly I can say that I'm proud that I'm not guilty of giving my employers what they wanted. Still, the things this and most organizations fear most -- variability, disturbance, difference -- those things that are also the primary drivers of creativity -- are not really the things that I see valued in the reporting ranks.

I'm happy to go back to writing and commentary. This winter, I'm proud to say that I've put the finishing touches on a 9/11 conspiracy novel that I've been toiling on for over a decade. It's a novel, but it meditates on the question of how to understand terrorists in a different way. And I'm undertaking two new book-writing projects, one fiction about a lone reporter and his magical source that hopes to delve into secrecy and the nature of television. And, If you read this far, I am writing a non-fiction book, an extended essay about national security and why we never seem to end our now perpetual state of war. There is lots of media critique out there, tons of analysis of leadership and the Presidency. But on the state of our national security? Not so much. Hopefully I will find myself thinking beyond the current fire and fury and actually suggest a viable alternative. Wish me luck.
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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Re: Top Secret America

Postby JackRiddler » Tue Jan 29, 2019 12:02 pm

Cross-posting because it fits here:

JackRiddler » Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:00 am wrote:.

Remember that Ukraine within the present international borders has also been chock full of Russian speakers and people who have identified ethnoculturally as Russian and lived in the same places going back many generations - and who, self-evidently, may have their own often equal histories of suffering under the various regimes and wars of the Czarist, Soviet and post-Soviet eras. The first Ukrainian citizen I met grew up with both cosmopolitan and conservative ideas in Kiev and classic Russian literature as his life's love. He was anti-Soviet but would have spat on the idea that the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, mass murderer of Jews and Poles, should be revived and honored as anyone's national hero, and get a holiday in his name.

I get why those who identify as Ukrainians today feel antagonism to Russians as such, or the nation-state of Russia, or influences perceived as Russian. I get why Ukrainians in the diaspora may feel that way and seek to influence related policies in faraway governments such as the ones in Washington, London, or Berlin. But I also get why many "Russians" may for their own chosen reasons hold similar feelings toward "Ukrainians." I get why Greeks may feel the same about Turks, or why Greek-Americans may want to affect American policy. I get why Serbians may feel it about Croatians and vice-versa, although 35 years ago such feeling was dormant and most of the younger especially of either latent category had the idea they were just citizens of Yugoslavia, speaking very close dialects of the same language that was either Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian. What happened next in the latter case is well known, and it had to do more with the immediate crises of late 1980s and 1990s and the divisive moves and rhetoric of opportunistic political leaders. It was not due solely to some cultural programming from the past that was somehow inherent in people from birth reasserting itself as some kind of natural function.

Nationalizing and valorizing such feelings to foster antagonisms not toward particular structures or parties but between peoples, with peoples understood as essential entities, erases regimes and political-economic-social systems and histories, past and present. It's the bad kind of identity politics. When it comes during present crises, it usually means reaction and aggression and regression, rather than creative action toward peaceful and just solutions.

In 2013 the EU-IMF side made an offer that would have left Ukraine just as or even more insolvent in its then already serious financial crisis. Russia objectively made a better offer for that moment, and also wielded the sanctions stick and had a rationale for that, right or wrong. So Yanukovich took the snap decision in favor of the Russian offer, abandoning a long negotiation with the EU. This doesn't make him any less corrupt, but corruption and oligarchy equally infest the parties that opposed him and took power after him. In the run-up to Euro-Maidan, the polling showed the people pretty evenly split on the question of which deal to take. (Adam Tooze has good coverage of this in his excellent new book Crashed.) Citizens of the Ukrainian nation-state, however they identify ethnically, might have voted out Yanukovich in 2014, without having a violent and politically extreme vanguard lead an immediate overthrow and spark a war of the western Ukrainians against the Russian-speaking citizens.

But as the facts of that case may be, I view this as a citizen of the United States rightly concerned with the actions of my own government. In almost no case on the planet do I support covert interventions, arms sales, or American invasions of any kind, almost ever, not because they might not seem justified against given bad actors, but because history shows they are never conducted for good and honest reasons and almost always make everything worse. As an American, I abhor the idea that American empire is the exceptional primary actor of world history that must take a side and choose the winner in every conflict on the planet.

Over several generations this idea and practice has sown chaos, exacerbated conflicts, started and perpetuated wars, prevented and distorted economic development, destroyed democracies, erected dictatorships, spread sufferings throughout the world, brought us very near to nuclear war on several occasions, distracted from and exacerbated the much more important ongoing planetary ecological catastrophe, and reinforced all of the worst features of US government and society.

It is why we are still manufacturing our own enemies, why we are in a crazy nuclear arms race entering its fourth or fifth technological generation, why we blow about a trillion a year (if you count the related budgets) primarily on aggression, destruction, waste and fraud, why we still think this budget that exceeds those of all potential antagonists combined is not enough, why militarism and historical ignorance are inculcated among the people and the children, why we have developed and deployed the most complete individual surveillance technology in the world's history (now being implemented even more drastically elsewhere), why many nation-states around he world are rationally motivated to prepare for war with us, and, finally, why the imperatives of the military industrial intel complex largely run the country in concordance with the high finance that reaps the lion's share of profit deriving from these actions.

It is one of the biggest reasons why we do not have a democracy, since it requires and bolsters the rule of secret agencies and associated free agents within the government, who also have their tentacles all over the corporate media and everywhere else. This in turn contributes to the ecology of dark money, secrecy and impunity within all sectors, public and private, local and global. It makes a lot of money for the wrong kind of people, who use it to fuck up the national politics further.

Nobody running for office announced while campaigning that they were going to conduct covert operations and set up proxy groups to advance some anti-Russian geostrategy, or to impose some version of better governance in Ukraine, or to get a better slice of the Ukrainian profits pie (such as it is). This was not debated. It was not put to a vote. Actions were funded largely out of a federal black budget of $50-80 billion a year rendered as a single line item, the details of which must be kept secret for national security purposes. It was done by the fiat of unelected parties in private and public capacities and in line with an ideology of US global hegemony, without an adversarial process to reach a policy ruling in the legal sense. And once it got hot, only then were we flooded with simplistic aggressive bullshit and propaganda about it, and told we had to go along with this and shut up about that lest we help the "Russians."

.
We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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