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The Playpen Story: Rule 41 and Global Hacking Warrants - Tue, 27/09/2016 - 03:06

The warrant the FBI used in the Playpen investigation—which resulted in the delivery of malware to over a thousand computers, located around the world—violated Rule 41, an important rule of federal criminal procedure. Although Rule 41 may seem obscure, it plays a vital role in limiting when federal law enforcement agencies can conduct lawful searches and seizures.

More in this series:

The Story of the FBI’s Unprecedented and Illegal Hacking Operation

Some Fourth Amendment Basics and Law Enforcement Hacking

Why the Warrant to Hack in the Playpen Case Was an Unconstitutional General Warrant

The Playpen Cases: Frequently Asked Questions

The warrant used in the Playpen investigation is an omen of warrants to come. That’s because DOJ is advocating for a change to Rule 41 that, if it takes effect, was designed to authorize exactly this kind of warrant.

Let's take a look at Rule 41, what happened in the Playpen case, and the changes DOJ is trying to make to the rule—changes that must be stopped.

What is Rule 41?

Rule 41 is a part of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure—a set of rules that govern criminal investigations and prosecutions in the federal court system. Rule 41 authorizes federal magistrate judges (a specific type of federal judge) to issue search warrants for federal law enforcement.

One important restriction in the rule deals with where the warrant application must be made. Right now (and subject to a few exceptions that aren’t relevant here), Rule 41 only authorizes magistrate judges to issue warrants to conduct searches in the judicial district where the magistrate is located. So, for example, if the FBI wants to search a house in San Francisco, it must apply for a search warrant in the Northern District of California—not the Western District of Texas.

This “territorial” restriction is an important one. It ensures that any search or seizure that is authorized has a sufficient nexus to the judicial district, and it helps guard against law enforcement “forum shopping”—where law enforcement is able to seek out sympathetic or unquestioning judges to obtain warrants, even if those warrants have little or no connection to the judicial district.

Why did the Playpen warrant violate Rule 41?

In the Playpen case, the FBI blew straight through that territorial limitation. The FBI went to a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia and asked her to sign off on a warrant that would allow them to deliver malware to search any computer that accessed Playpen—no matter where the computer was located.

And the FBI did just that, searching computers located in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin—just to name a few examples.

Under the terms of Rule 41, the magistrate could only authorize searches that occurred in the Eastern District of Virginia (save those irrelevant exceptions). But remember: because users were accessing the site through Tor, the FBI didn’t know where its searches would take place. That means a user might have accessed the site, and searches might have been carried out next door, the next city over, the next state over, or the next country over. There’s evidence, in fact, that the FBI did conduct international searches. These types of international searches are particularly problematic because many countries have laws prohibiting precisely this type of hacking. 

If the FBI didn’t know where its searches would occur, then why did the magistrate issue the warrant? The short answer: the FBI misled the judge. As you can see below, the warrant application clearly states that the searches will be carried out on "persons or property . . . located in the Eastern District of Virginia[.]"

That was not true, and the FBI knew it. Had the FBI filled out the warrant application honestly, making clear that it did not know where its searches would be carried out, there's a good chance the magistrate would not have issued the warrant in the first place. In fact, one court reviewing the issue said exactly that, finding that "had [the Magistrate judge] understood that the NIT technology would search computers in other districts. . . she probably would not have issued the NIT Warrant given the limitations of the Rule."

The FBI also did not bother to mention that the magistrate was authorizing activities that would likely violate the laws of other countries—a convenient omission, to say the least. Yet this is all information the federal judiciary needs when it is signing off on warrants, especially ones authorizing a surveillance technique as novel as the one used here.1

Fortunately, almost every federal court that we know of that has looked at the issue has recognized that the warrant ran afoul of Rule 41, although the courts have disagreed about whether the violation requires suppression of the evidence obtained through the search. In our view, this kind of misrepresentation from federal law enforcement shouldn't be tolerated by the courts. The only option is suppression.

So how does the proposed change to Rule 41 figure into this, and how will this affect Internet users more generally?

As we’ve written about before, DOJ is pushing a change to Rule 41. The new Rule 41 would, for the first time, authorize magistrates to issue search warrants, like the Playpen warrant, when “technological means” like Tor or VPNs are obscuring the location of a computer, or when a computer is swept up in a "botnet." In these circumstances, law enforcement could remotely access, search, seize, or copy data on computers, no matter where the computers were located and without providing notice to the users being searched. That means the FBI could go to almost any federal magistrate judge and get a warrant authorizing the FBI to hack into a computer (or, as was the case in the Playpen investigation, thousands of computers), no matter where in the world those computers are located.

Make no mistake: the changes to Rule 41 will result in many, many more warrants like the one used in the Playpen case. "Fine," you might say, "I'm not doing anything illegal online. The FBI won't have any interest in hacking into my computer." But, because the Rule 41 changes authorize hacking when a computer is part of a botnet, even innocent users caught up in a botnet could be unknowingly subjected to an FBI search.

Perhaps that's all fine and good, if there were strict limitations on the circumstances the FBI could use this authority, the information they could obtain from searches, and mandatory transparency about when and where these techniques are used (among other concerns). But right now, there is very little cabining law enforcement's authority. The FBI is making up the rules as it goes along. And, and as we've blogged about before, courts looking at the Playpen cases are struggling mightily in applying traditional legal rules, like the Fourth Amendment, to the government's new hacking techniques.

With the courts struggling to place appropriate limitations (and the FBI suffering from serious deficits in candor), right now is not the time to massively expand the government's authority to hack into private computers. Congress cannot expand the government's authority without establishing rules to govern (and limit) that authority. That’s why we need your help in speaking out against the changes to Rule 41.

  • 1. Admittedly, the FBI's affidavit in support of the warrant application provided the magistrate with more information about how the malware would operate. However, even that more detailed affidavit: (1) only mentioned one location, the Eastern District of Virginia, (2) never mentioned that the great majority of users of the site were possibly, if not probably, located outside the judge's jurisdiction, and (3) nowhere makes clear that the FBI does not know the actual location of the users. Instead, the affidavit and application appear designed to obscure, rather than acknowledge, the fact that the searches will occur outside EDVA.
Related Cases: The Playpen Cases: Mass Hacking by U.S. Law Enforcement
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Is Russia Finally Admitting Negotiating with America Is Futile? - Tue, 27/09/2016 - 02:51
Is Russia Finally Admitting Negotiating with America Is Futile?
by Stephen Lendman
Not quite, but any rhetorical shift in the right direction is welcome, Russia’s tone changing. Maybe policy measures will follow. More on this below.
Anyone knowledgeable about its sordid history knows America negotiates in bad faith, saying and agreeing to one thing, intending something entirely different - never compromising on its imperial priorities.
Interviewed over the weekend on Russian television, Sergey Lavrov called Sunday’s emergency Security Council session, convened by America, Britain and France, an attempt to distract attention from US warplanes massacring Syrian forces a week earlier.
During a Security Council ministerial meeting and International Syria Support Group (ISSG) sessions, “(t)he Syrian government and we were accused of all sins and all answers regarding the accusations” made, said Lavrov.
“We can only guess why it was necessary to convene the urgent meeting during the weekend. I think it is not difficult to guess. It is evident that the West led by the US does not cope with its obligations. (Sunday’s session was) “to distract the attention from the bombing near Deir ez-Zor. We will demand the most thorough investigation.”
Lavrov is clearly frustrated by years of futile dealings with his US counterparts, especially Hillary and John Kerry, duplicitous figures, accomplishing little. He’s been Russian Foreign Minister for over a decade, serving with distinction.
“…Kerry keeps saying that Jabhat Al-Nusra poses the same terrorist threat as the Islamic State (ISIS). But Nusra remains untouchable,” Lavrov stressed, failing to explain so does ISIS, Washington and its rogue allies supporting these terrorist groups and all others.
“That I cannot trust (America) 100% is for certain,” he said. Along with Britain, France and other rogue allies, it’s “mov(ing) the goalposts…(T) United States (isn’t) an impartial co-chair of the ISSG. It brings the grist to one mill.” Its imperial priorities alone matter.
Pro-Western UN Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura is no better, said Lavrov, saying “(w)e are being told if there is stable truce in the whole territory of Syria, if it lasts, and if all obstructions to the delivery of humanitarian aid are lifted, then the political process will begin.”
“The so-called Supreme Commission for Negotiations (Saudi Arabia’s High Negotiations Committee comprised of anti-Syrian terrorist groups) has inconspicuously torpedoed intra-Syrian talks since May.”
“Sadly, the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, caters to their interests” instead of doing his job responsibly for diplomatic conflict resolution.
Despite consistent failure to resolve years of conflict diplomatically, Lavrov said Russia remains committed to agreements reached. Washington breached them straightaway.
Separately, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called ceasefire “ineffective,” terrorists using it “for regrouping, replenishing their arsenals, for apparent preparation and carrying out their offensive.”
He blasted US and UK rhetoric on Syria as “unacceptable,” making conflict resolution less attainable than already, along with “caus(ing) great harm (to) bilateral relations.”
Interviewed on state owned and operated BBC, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson featured Big Lies like his predecessor, showing no change in British geopolitical policy - disgracefully calling Russia “guilty of protracting” war in Syria, “making it far more hideous,” practically accusing it of war crimes, ignoring his own country’s culpability, complicit with Washington, two rogue states committed to endless wars of aggression.
It’s unclear what diplomatic path Russia intends taking ahead. It seems clear it intends combating terrorist fire with greater fire - hopefully sustaining and escalating it for as long as it takes to eliminate this scourge.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Russian Straight Talk v. US Big Lies on Syria - Mon, 26/09/2016 - 22:53
Russian Straight Talk v. US Big Lies on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Washington, Britain and France convened a duplicitous emergency Sunday Security Council meeting on Syria, arrogantly using it to demagogue the conflict, Obama’s war, blaming Russia and Syria for his high crimes - complicit with rogue Western and regional partners.
They bear full responsibility for years of naked aggression against a sovereign independent nation threatening no one. US and other anti-Syria politicians consistently lie. 
Western media scoundrels act as imperial press agents, suppressing truth and full disclosure, managed news misinformation and Big Lies substituting. Everyone following their reports end up brainwashed, victims of state-sponsored propaganda, suppressing what they most need to know.
Vitaly Churkin is Russia’s UN representative, serving his nation with distinction - polar opposite his American counterpart, neocon Samantha Power, a deplorable she-devil, using Sunday’s SC session to blame Russia and Syria for US-led imperial high crimes. 
Examples of her despicable tirade follow below with a caveat. It’s painful reading, imperial arrogance at its worst, reality reinvented, a litany of beginning-to-end Big Lies consistent with how America operates.
Power: “Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals, and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive.”
Fact: What utter rubbish, reality turned upside down! America calls its imperial naked aggression against one country after another humanitarian intervention, vital self-defense by its victims waging war.
Pentagon and “coalition” warplanes bomb Syrian government targets and civilian sites, pretending they’re targeting ISIS, providing air cover for terrorists.
The Solidarity Movement calls George Soros-backed White Helmets al Qaeda “with a facelift,” a criminal gang used for propaganda purposes, not as first responders to save lives.
Powers accused Russia and Syria of striking areas where they operate, falsely saying they “bravely rush to the scene of bombings to” help survivors. They’re imperial agents, not humanitarian volunteers.
Power: “Eastern Aleppo remains under seige…(T)he only items making it (there) are (nonexistent) barrel bombs and incendiaries…dropped by Assad’s forces and Russian forces.”
Fact: All post-WW II US wars were and remain naked aggression, including use of chemical, biological, radiological and other banned terror weapons, largely affecting defenseless civilians Washington considers legitimate targets.
Throughout years of conflict, Syria felt the full brunt of US viciousness, complicit with its imperial partners and terrorist foot soldiers - responsible for the highest of high crimes against peace, transforming a peaceful nation into a slaughterhouse.
Power: “Russia, of course, has long had the power to stop this suffering. (America supports) halting the violence and returning to a cessation of hostilities…Russia has consistently said one thing and done its opposite.”
Fact: Power’s above remarks apply solely to Washington and its rogue allies - polar opposite years of forthright Russian conflict resolution efforts.
The remainder of Power’s tirade was as viciously duplicitous as her above comments. She’s paid to lie for empire. It’s too transparent to work.
Churkin countered her offensive with cold, hard facts, strictly verboten from the US side. Here’s some of what he said:
“Requests for ceasefire…have become a routine practice. We have always been making concessions, at least tried, and reached agreements with the Syrian government. In the long run, it all ended in militants’ regrouping, receiving reinforcement and staging new offensives.”
US-supported al-Nusra terrorists comprise the main anti-government force in Aleppo. They, ISIS and likeminded cutthroat killers can’t exist without foreign backing - from Western and regional countries.
Churkin: They’re “armed with tanks, APCs, field artillery, multiple rocket launchers…dozens and dozens of units, including heavy weaponry.” 
“Of course, they couldn’t have made this equipment themselves. All of this has been received by them and is still being shipped to them by generous Western backers,” - Washington the maestro of mass murder, responsible for planning, orchestrating and implementing the whole ugly business, raping and destroying the Syrian Arab Republic, my words, not Churkin’s. He’d agree.
“The ceasefire can only be salvaged now on a collective basis,” he stressed. “It's not us that have to prove something to somebody unilaterally.” 
“We have to see proof that there is a genuine desire to separate US-allied rebel groups (sic) from the Al-Nusra Front, then destroy the Al-Nusra Front and bring the opposition into a political process. Otherwise our suspicions that this was only meant to shield the Al-Nusra Front would only grow stronger.”
Fact: No so-called moderate rebels exist. All anti-government forces are terrorists. Russia understands, yet insists on what isn’t possible or ever going to happen. Why it hasn’t explained.
Churkin accused Washington of “trickery,” flagrantly breaching promises made, assuring endless war, not resolution.
“What we need is a serious process without fooling around,” he said. “Conditions should not be changed every other day because we have a deal. What must be done is to implement” terms agreed on with no deviations for any reasons at any time.
Russia knows what it’s up against dealing with America, a rogue state bent on global dominance, wanting all challengers eliminated - mainly Russia and China, targeted for regime change.
Neocon lunatics infesting Washington may have nuclear war in mind to do it - a major threat few Americans understand.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

NYT Blames Russia and Syria for US-Led Imperial Crimes - Mon, 26/09/2016 - 22:17
NYT Blames Russia and Syria for US-Led Imperial Crimes
by Stephen Lendman
On issues of war and peace, The New York Times is a press agent for US-led imperial high crimes of war, against humanity and genocide - consistently reinventing reality, turning truth on its head, willfully and maliciously lying to readers.
Syria is struggling for survival, up against US hegemonic ruthlessness, Russia providing invaluable help, both nations deserving universal support and praise.
Not according to The Times, continuing its steady drumbeat of deception and Big Lies, supporting US-led aggression, blasting Syrian self-defense aided by Russia, its reports reading like Pentagon handouts, its latest saying:
“Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours.”
“It is a strategy that both the Syrian government and its Russian allies have long embraced to subdue Syrian rebels, largely by crushing the civilian populations that support them.”
Fact: Syrian and Russian forces are combating US-supported terrorists, scrupulously defending, not targeting, civilian areas. Claims otherwise constitute willful deception and Big Lies.
America, its rogue allies, and terrorist foot soldiers massacre civilians unaccountably. Comments The Times made above have things upside down - the way it’s reported consistently throughout Obama’s war and all other US ones.
So-called Syrian rebels are US-supported terrorists - all anti-government forces as cold-blooded and ruthless as ISIS and al-Nusra. Nonexistent “moderates” is one of many Big Lies about the war - grand deception fooling no one paying attention. Too few do, letting America and its rogue allies get away with genocide, The Times cheerleading their high crimes, blaming victims instead.
Claiming “killing and destruction in Syria…stupefied much of the world over the past five years” ignores a US-led imperial strategy similar to all its wars of aggression, regime change their objective no matter the human cost.
In response to Russian and Syrian efforts to liberate parts of Aleppo controlled by terrorists, essential to achieve, The Times quoted US and UK Big Lies, despicably accusing Moscow of “barbarism (and) war crimes…”
It shamelessly accused them of bombing “schools, clinics and even playgrounds,” despite evidence showing imperial responsibility.
It failed to explain ceasefire was farcical from inception, prospects for conflict resolution virtually nil because Washington wants war, regime change, and Syria colonized as another US imperial trophy.
What’s most important to explain, The Times consistently suppresses - instead serving as a press agent for US-led imperial viciousness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Straight Talk from Syria's UN Envoy - Mon, 26/09/2016 - 22:00
Straight Talk From Syria’s UN Envoy
by Stephen Lendman
Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari is a longtime distinguished Syrian diplomat, a political science and history of Islamic civilization expert, fluent in Arabic, English, French and Farsi, author of five scholarly books - including on Syrian foreign affairs, as well as the UN and new world order.
He’s been active in Syrian foreign affairs since 1980, serving in numerous capacities, representing his nation with distinction - polar opposite a criminal cabal holding diplomatic and other positions in Washington, other Western capitals infested the same way.
US, UK and French UN envoys disgracefully boycotted his Sunday Security Council remarks on Obama’s war raping and destroying his country - walking out on him one of countless examples of imperial arrogance.
Below is some of what he said, supporting his nation’s sovereignty, featuring truth-telling, not imperial Big Lies and deception by US, UK and French envoys, suppressing what they don’t want revealed.
Al-Jaafari blasted them justifiably, saying Syria hasn’t and never will yield to imperial lawlessness. They seemed to be “rediscovering the wheel when they said that the Syrian government is seeking to reclaim Aleppo.”
“Imagine the scale of this monumental discovery made by the representatives of three permanent member states in the Security Council, as if Aleppo is a city in Djibouti or Afghanistan or in Brazil! I would like to reassure them that the Syrian government will reclaim Aleppo in its entirety.”
He explained US, UK and French obstructionism blocked efforts for Security Council resolutions condemning terrorism in Syria - instead calling cold-blooded killers moderates.
These countries convene emergency Security Council sessions whenever their terrorist foot soldiers are being defeated - notably with Syrian and Russian forces incrementally winning the battle for Aleppo, crucial to free from its terrorist infestation.
“We believe that some permanent member states’ calls for holding this session constitute a message from these states to Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups affiliated to it saying that the support and political cover provided to them are still standing and won’t stop, and that using terrorism as a weapon to pressure the Syrian government and its allies politically is still effective,” al-Jaafari stressed.
Syrians in Aleppo areas controlled by US-backed terrorists are hostages used as human shields, he added.
No evidence suggests Syrian use chemical or other banned weapons, despite duplicitous claims otherwise - by Western officials and Ban Ki-moon, longtime imperial tool.
Damascus is committed to diplomatic conflict resolution, unattainable because Washington and its rogue allies continue using terrorists as imperial foot soldiers.
“With premeditated intention to sabotage this agreement and bury it in its crib and disavow it, the military aircrafts of the so-called international coalition led by the United States bombarded a position for the Syrian Army which was fighting ISIS in Tharda Mountain area in Deir Ezzor,” al Jaafari explained.
Endless war rages for “lack of political will among sponsors of terrorism to stop the bloodbath…Would anyone dare today present to us here justification for the support” in supplying funding and weapons for terrorists massacring Syrian civilians?
Al-Jaafari urged intra-Syrian dialogue free from foreign interference, excluding terrorists vital to eliminate. 
Neocons infesting Washington want Assad forcibly ousted, US-controlled puppet leadership replacing him, diplomacy with Russia a duplicitous smoke screen, concealing their real aim.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

NYT Endorses War Criminal, Racketeer, Perjurer Hillary for President - Mon, 26/09/2016 - 02:46
NYT Endorses War Criminal, Racketeer, Perjurer Hillary for President
by Stephen Lendman
Consistently on the wrong side of history, Times editors again showed it’s exclusively a mouthpiece for wealth, power and privilege.
In January, it endorsed Hillary for Democrat party nomination, disgracefully calling her “one of the most deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern memory” - polar opposite cold, hard facts, ignoring her longstanding criminal rap sheet, making her unfit for any public office.
On September 24, its editors acted again as expected, endorsing Hillary for president, the most ruthlessly dangerous aspirant in US history - calling Trump “the worst nominee…by a major party” - to be discussed in a forthcoming editorial.
The Times lost credibility long ago. It’s hard imagining why anyone takes it seriously - featuring managed news misinformation and Big Lies on all issues mattering most, notably geopolitical ones, despicably bashing sovereign independent states and their leaders, supporting all US wars of aggression.
The self-styled newspaper of record is a press agent for US wars on humanity, Wall Street, corporate empowerment and police state harshness - neocon-run America a modern-day Third Reich with nukes and intercontinental ballistic missiles, not shy about using them.
Times editors shamelessly said their endorsement “is rooted in respect for (Hillary’s) intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service” since the 1990s.
Disgracefully they called her “a determined leader intent on creating opportunity for struggling Americans at a time of economic upheaval and on ensuring that the United States remains a force for good in an often brutal world.”
Fact: Her record shows contempt for ordinary Americans, especially its poor and most vulnerable. She and husband Bill pushed relentlessly for jobs-destroying NAFTA enactment and so-called welfare reform harming millions.
Earlier she called TPP “the gold standard” of trade bills. Opponents call it NAFTA on steroids, intending unimpeded corporate empowerment at the expense of the public welfare, fundamental freedoms and ecosanity.
She supported husband Bill’s Balkan wars, the rape of Yugoslavia, all US post-9/11 wars of aggression, neoliberal harshness benefitting Wall Street and other corporate predators, along with police state crackdowns on nonbelievers.
Time editors praised her nonexistent “record of service to children, women and families,” ignoring her fealty to monied interests at the expense of popular ones if enacted into law.
No presidential aspirant in US history posed a greater threat to world peace and humanity’s survival. None more greatly relished endless wars, mass slaughter and destruction.
None more deceitfully breached virtually every promise made. None more consistently lied about everything important. None was more terrifyingly treacherous - none more despicably on the wrong side of all issues mattering most.
No one stands out more as unfit to serve, a testimony to her Machiavellian pure evil. Everything Times editors praised her for is polar opposite hard truths.
Saying she believes America “must engage confidently in the world to protect its interests and be true to its values, which include helping other escape poverty and oppression” is polar opposite its ruthless agenda. 
Hillary has been one of its lead malefactors for the last generation, deserving Nuremberg-style judgment, accountability for the supreme crime against peace too grave to ignore.
Times editors saying her “commitment to solving problems in the real world qualifies” her for president ignores a ruthless she-devil, likely to wage preemptive nuclear war as president, threatening life on earth like never before.
Is this the type leader humanity deserves, her finger on the nuclear trigger if anointed president - eager to squeeze it at her discretion?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Russian Warships Destroyed Western/Israeli Operations Site in Aleppo Province - Mon, 26/09/2016 - 02:33

Russian Warships Destroyed Western/Israeli Operations Site in Aleppo Province
by Stephen Lendman
Obama’s naked aggression on Syria represents a seminal struggle of good refusing to surrender to pure evil, headquartered in Washington - a malevolent force unparalleled in human history, wanting dominion over planet earth achieved by brute force.
Score one for the good guys. Fars News cited Sputnik News’ Arabic service, saying “Russian warships fired three Caliber missiles at the foreign officers' coordination operations room in Dar Ezza region in the Western part of Aleppo near Sam'an mountain, killing 30 Israeli and western officers.”
Among them were US, British, Israeli, Turkish, Saudi, and Qatari operatives - aiding ISIS and likeminded groups wage terror-war on Syrian civilians and soldiers.
The operations room was hidden in a chain of mountains. Russian intelligence located it. Weeks earlier, Syrian forces destroyed a similar command and control center in Aleppo, “foil(ing) plots to attack the region’s supply roots,” an unnamed source explained.
Moscow needs escalated mobilization to smash all anti-government forces seeking Syria’s destruction, defeating them decisively, ceasing futile talks with Washington, betrayal following every time.
Preparing for a likely Hillary presidency succeeding Obama should be prioritized, militantly anti-Russia, anti-Putin. In her 2014 memoir, Hard Choices, she urged challenging Russia confrontationally, saying:
“We should hit the pause button on new efforts. Don’t appear too eager to work together…Make it clear that Russian intransigence wouldn’t stop us from pursuing our interests and policies (worldwide). Strength and resolve were the only language Putin would understand.”
During last October’s Democrat primary debate, she called it “important (to) make it very clear to Putin that it’s not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad. And we can’t do that if we don’t take more of a leadership position.”
When asked during a later debate if she’d down Russian and/or Syrian warplanes, she equivocated, saying she doubted “it would come to that.”
Like Obama administration hardliners, Kerry included, she favors imposing a no-fly zone on Syria, giving Washington and its rogue allies exclusive control of its airspace - a prescription for war with Russia.
Tough talk is more proof of her ruthlessness, clear indication of escalated wars with her in charge, including the frightening prospect of confronting Russia militarily, perhaps waging nuclear war.
What better reason to oppose her in November, why it’s crucially important to defeat her presidential ambitions. Humanity’s survival is threatened otherwise.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Liberating Syria Requires Winning the Battle for Aleppo - Sun, 25/09/2016 - 22:41
Liberating Syria Requires Winning the Battle for Aleppo
by Stephen Lendman
After farcical ceasefire in Syria collapsed, a charade because America never negotiates in good faith, systematically breaching virtually all deals arranged, Syria and Russia began heavy bombardment of Aleppo areas held by US-backed terrorists.
They remain ongoing to liberate the entire city, Syrian ground forces advancing, inflicting heavy losses on terrorist fighters, retaking the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp and surrounding areas.
On Saturday, Syrian military sources said large numbers of Fatah al-Sham terrorists surrendered, adding:
“The growing trend of surrender among the terrorists in the Eastern districts of Aleppo has caused Fatah al-Sham’s commanders to take preventive measures across the militant-held neighborhoods in the city.”
“Fatah al-Sham has deployed more monitoring checkpoints across the Eastern districts of Aleppo to confront those militants who try to surrender to the government forces and takes tough action against those who intend to lay down arms.”
Fars News said Washington deployed unknown numbers of special forces to “at least 7 bases in Northern Syria…Qamishli, Ain Issa, Kobane, Hasaka and Tal Abyadh regions.”
“No official report has been released yet about the exact number of the US forces and weapons transferred to the above mentioned bases, but field sources have reported observing armored vehicles, semi-heavy weapons, TOW missiles, thermal cameras, advanced wireless devices and night goggles in them.”
US direct and indirect operations in Syria flagrantly violate international, constitutional and US statute laws pertaining to war.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a despicable  statement through his spokesman, blaming Syria for defending its sovereignty against US-backed terrorists, saying:
He’s “appalled by the chilling military escalation. Since the announcement two days ago by the Syrian Army of an offensive to capture eastern Aleppo, there have been repeated reports of airstrikes involving the use of incendiary weapons and advanced munitions such as bunker buster bombs.”
Throughout his tenure, Ban never once condemned US aggression, complicit with its allies, responsible for massive loss of life, vast destruction, and the most serious refugee crisis since WW II. Instead he blames victims.
His arrogance and failure to uphold UN Charter principles makes him complicit in US-led high crimes - indifferent to unspeakable human suffering wrought by imperial wars.
On Sunday around midday New York time, at the behest of America, Britain and France, another worthless Security Council session will convene on Syria - accomplishing nothing like all previous times, other than giving imperial diplomats a chance to blame Syria for their crimes of war and against humanity.
On Saturday, John Kerry ignored US-backed terrorism against Syrian sovereignty and appalling high crimes against its people, duplicitously saying:
“I want to make this clear. What is happening in Aleppo today is unacceptable. It is beyond the pale.” 
“If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome to this war, then they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community, and work with the international community in order to be able to bring peace to people who are starving - literally starving, but also starving for the possibilities of a future without chlorine dropping on them out of the sky, barrel bombs, and indiscriminate bombing.” 
“And Russia needs to set an example, not a precedent – an unacceptable precedent, I might add, for the entire world. I know we will as a group have more to say about this later today, so I’ll leave it at that.”
Empires never admit culpability for their high crimes - instead shift blame on victims. The pattern repeats at home and abroad.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Syrian Foreign Minister Blasts US and Its Allies As Accomplices of Terrorism - Sun, 25/09/2016 - 22:30
Syrian Foreign Minister Blasts US and Its Allies As Accomplices of Terrorism
by Stephen Lendman
There’s no ambiguity about what’s going on in Syria - America repeating the post-WW II rapes of North Korea, Southeast Asia, Panama, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, complicit with Israel on Palestine, Ukraine, Yemen and elsewhere.
Washington and its rogue allies are systematically ravaging and destroying Syria, the Cradle of Civilizations, its origin dating from 9,000BC, using ISIS and imported death squads as imperial tools, trained by Western and regional operatives in the fine art of committing brutal atrocities.
Everything media scoundrels report about years of war is willful, malicious propaganda, literally turning truth on its head, suppressing a vicious US-led imperial project, one of history’s great crimes, millions of defenseless Syrian civilians and valiant soldiers victimized by its rage for global dominance - naked aggression against one nation after another its main despicable strategy.
On September 24, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem addressed the General Assembly’s 71st session. His remarks were honest and forthright about the scourge of terrorism - supported by America and its rogue allies.
“For more than five years, the Syrian people, no matter their affiliations, have paid dearly for the crimes of terrorists who have shed the blood of Syrians and undermined their security, stability, and livelihoods. Terrorism has spared no one, targeting even schools, universities, hospitals, places of worship and infrastructure,” he explained.
“Everyone knows full well that terrorism would not have spread through my country if it hadn’t been for the external support of well-known countries” - America, NATO, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Israel.
“We, in Syria, are combating terrorism on behalf of the whole of the world. Every time the Syrian Army kills another foreign terrorist, it spares the lives of many innocent people who could have died in a terrorist act carried out by the same terrorist upon returning to his country.” 
“Anyone who seeks to distort this fact must be held responsible for the spread of terrorism and the increasing numbers of victims. Our valiant Army deserves to be commended and supported. It must never be the target of schemes and lies.”
Al-Moallem mocked the false notion of so-called “moderate rebels,” stressing these groups operate as brutally as ISIS and al-Nusra, committing the same gruesome atrocities, defenseless civilians harmed most of all.
Damascus remains committed to defeating them, al-Moallem stressed. He thanked Russia, Iran and “the Lebanese national resistance” for providing invaluable help.
He condemned US warplanes for willfully massacring and injuring scores of Syrian soldiers near Deir Ezzur, facilitating an ISIS attack on the area. “The Syrian government holds the United States fully responsible for this aggression,” he said.
“(F)acts show that it was an intentional attack…not an error, even though the United States claims otherwise. This cowardly aggression clearly proved that the US and its allies are complicit with ISIS and other terrorist armed organizations.”
Al-Moallem condemned Turkey’s invasion and seizure of northern Syrian territory “under the (phony) pretext of countering terrorism” - calling it “flagrant aggression.”
He denounced Israel for its longstanding belligerence against his country, its involvement in Obama’s war, its occupation of Syria’s Golan, its actions menacing the entire region and beyond.
He concluded citing UN Charter principles, “respecting the sovereignty and independence of (all) member states and ensuring non-interference in their internal affairs.”
America and its rogue allies mock rule of law principles, show shocking contempt for human life and welfare, wage endless aggression for imperial dominance - a scourge threatening life on earth.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Brazil's Illegitimate President: Tainted by Corruption, Scorned at the UN, Praised by Joe Biden - Sun, 25/09/2016 - 22:11
Brazil’s Illegitimate President: Tainted by Corruption, Scorned at the UN, Praised by Joe Biden
Michel Temer heads Brazil’s illegitimately installed coup d’etat regime, a deplorable figure, widely reviled at home, scorned by six Latin and Central American nations at the UN’s 71st General Assembly session.
Delegations from Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela boycotted proceedings when it was his turn to speak, remarks delivered ignoring his illegitimacy to serve.
On September 24, the Wall Street Journal said Brazil’s Supreme Court authorized “prosecutors to open a probe into corruption allegations,” involving Temer and members of his regime, pertaining to illegally solicited campaign donations.
According to state oil company Petrobras subsidiary Transperto’s former head Sergio Machado, Temer sought illegal campaign contributions when running to become Sao Paulo’s mayor.
Funds were gotten through a bribery scheme related to Petrobras contracts. Already found guilty of campaign finance law violations, barring him from seeking public office for eight years after his coup d’etat term expires in late 2018, Temer faces possible charges if prosecutors find enough evidence to indict him after he leaves office.
Brazil’s government is corruption-infested. Seven ministers resigned over corruption-related issues, including efforts to block investigations.
Days earlier, authorities arrested former finance minister Guido Mantega over alleged kickbacks, related to when he was Petrobras chairman.
Ahead of his Friday General Assembly address, Temer told US business leaders in New York that (democratically elected) President Dilma Rouseff was ousted over her opposition to neoliberal harshness, now imposed with him in charge.
The plot to oust Rousseff began a year ago. Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) prepared a scheme called “A Bridge for the Future” - involving deep social program cuts, increasing the retirement age, and privatization of state enterprises.
Rousseff opposed it. Trumped up charges against her followed related to nonexistent budgeting improprieties, then illegal impeachment and ouster from office - another triumph for monied interests, social justice the big loser.
The Wall Street Journal said Temer, while head of state, won’t likely face accountability over corruption issues, involving himself and high-level members” of his regime - thanks to special legal protections afforded to sitting Brazilian presidents.”
Former PMDB House Speaker Eduardo Cunha was ousted from Congress weeks earlier - indicted on charges of money laundering and other corruption-related issues.
On September 22, a Joe Biden press release said “(t)he Vice President met today with President Michel Temer of Brazil to renew their friendship and discuss opportunities for deeper cooperation between the United States and Brazil.”? 
“The Vice President commended President Temer for his commitment to maintaining Brazil's regional and global leadership role during the recent period of political change in Brazil.” 
“The two leaders discussed prospects for Brazilian energy reform and economic modernization. They also pledged to work together to promote legal and orderly migration in the hemisphere and deepen cooperation in Central America and Haiti.” 
“The Vice President and President Temer agreed to remain in regular communication and work together to advance good governance, security and prosperity throughout the hemisphere.”
Washington wants all independent governments replaced by ones serving its interests. It’s virtually certain its dirty hands were involved in illegally ousting Rousseff, installing Temer as her coup d’etat replacement.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Former NBA Star Stoops to Bashing Trump for Hillary - Sun, 25/09/2016 - 01:59
Former NBA Star Stoops to Bashing Trump for Hillary
by Stephen Lendman
Was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s op-ed headlined “Trump Is So Scared That He Wants Us to Dismantle the Constitution” his own idea, or was he put up to it - published in the viciously anti-Trump neocon Washington Post?
He seems clueless about the deplorable state of America - bipartisan established tyranny, headed for full-blown, presidents Bush, Obama and whoever becomes next US president operating under a post-9/11 police state apparatus, notably Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act constitution-violating principles, along with flagrantly breaching international law on issues of human rights and what constitutes naked aggression.
He should have written an op-ed titled, “Rogue State America: Its Endless War on Humanity at Home and Abroad.” He would have been honest and forthright instead of stumping for Hillary - a recklessly dangerous presidential aspirant he should forthrightly denounce.
Whatever his many faults - who ever heard of a good guy billionaire - Trump never waged war on other countries. He’s not responsible for bipartisan neocon mass slaughter and destruction.
He hasn’t violated constitutional, international or US statute laws. As president, if elected, he’ll pursue dirty business as usual for sure, like the 1990s Clinton co-presidency, GW Bush and Obama, heading the neoliberal/neocon criminal cabal running America. 

As unacceptable as he's likely to be if elected in November, Hillary is infinitely worse, a lunatic fringe war goddess, assuring greater war on humanity than already.
Abdul-Jabbar disgraced himself bashing Fidel Castro, a legend in his own time, a widely respected international hero, the world’s preeminent anti-imperial, anti-war, anti-nuclear weapons, social justice champion, calling him a “bully,” comparing him to Hitler, displaying profound ignorance and shameless disregard for the truth.
At the same time, he ignored Hillary Clinton’s despicable record from the neoliberal 90s through her tenure of secretary of state, along with using the Clinton Foundation as a money-laundering, self-enrichment racket masquerading as a charitable NGO.
Both Clintons and Obama belong in prison for the highest of high crimes, unfit for any public office. Trump can only be judged by what’s known about his business record as it pertains to how he might govern - along with his distinctly politically incorrect rhetoric much of the time, toned down considerably in recent weeks, focusing on appearing presidential.
Abdul-Jabbar’s op-ed looks suspiciously like anti-Trump bashing written for him, using his name, capitalizing on his persona, letting himself be used instead of scrupulously getting his facts straight.
He ignored fantasy democracy, governance of, by and for its privileged few alone, duopoly power running things, independent candidates shut out, ordinary people ruthlessly exploited - real unemployment at Depression era levels, poverty and deepening tyranny the nation’s lead growth industries, while homelessness, hunger and overall deprivation affect millions, Blacks and Latinos harmed most.
He sounded buffoon-like, saying “we are in danger of retreating from building the America we’re all supposed to be proud of, one that protects all and offers equal opportunity to all.”
Is it the same America waging endless wars of aggression against nonbelligerent countries - responsible for millions of deaths post-9/11 alone? Is it the one seeking global conquest and world dominance?
Is it the nation enforcing police state harshness on anyone challenging its ruthlessness, filling its worldwide gulag with thousands of political prisoners?
Is it the United States of I Don’t Care serving wealth, power and privilege exclusively at the expense of most others? Is it the one responsible for engineering the greatest wealth transfer from ordinary America to corporate predators and its super-rich elites?
Physically, Abdul-Jabbar stands over 7-feet tall. His op-ed showed he’s an ideological pygmy - one-sidedly bashing Trump to help “trigger-happy” Hillary.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Syrian Conflict Unresolvable As Long As Washington Wants War - Sat, 24/09/2016 - 22:40
Syrian Conflict Unresolvable As Long As Washington Wants War
by Stephen Lendman
All the toing, froing and diplomatic mumbo jumbo in the world won’t end conflicts when one side rejects resolution.
America isn’t an honest broker, never was, never will be, especially with neocon lunatics influencing policy - heading toward controlling it if Hillary succeeds Obama, most likely as things now stand, threatening world peace and security like never before. 
Russia alone negotiates honorably and forthrightly, sincerely wanting resolution in Syria (and Ukraine). Yet its best efforts consistently fail. Why? Because Washington refuses solutions short of imposing its will unilaterally. 
Hegemons operate this way. Endless conflicts continue in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. No prospect for peace exists in any US war theater.
Syria’s UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari correctly said America “is not a genuine broker and they do not have the will to respect the terms of reference of their own agreement with the Russians. Washington was not even able to respect the terms of reference for seven days.”
“(E)nough is enough,” he stressed. “(T)he mask has fallen and we are fed up. We are not doing anything wrong. We are defending our country by all” legal means.
Jaafari blamed Washington, Riyadh, Turkey, Qatar and their  rogue allies for sending terrorists to kill Syrians.
It’s no easy task for any diplomat having to deal with Washington, a painful experience, knowing the futility of efforts exerted. Sergey Lavrov has the patience of Job to a fault.
He has the unfortunate responsibility of having to deal with America’s criminal class, represented by John Kerry, a deplorable character like virtually all others in Washington - not a peace champion in the administration or on Capitol Hill.
America is a warrior state. Its bloated defense (sic) budget, empire of bases and endless wars reveal its true character. No amount of negotiating can change cold, hard reality.
Wars serve Washington’s agenda. Peace and stability defeat it. Putin, Lavrov and other Russian officials understand. So why do they pursue the unattainable?
Why do they talk endlessly with no results or prospects for any while Syrians die - scores, maybe hundreds daily, mostly defenseless civilians in harm’s way?
On Friday, Sergey Lavrov addressed the UN General Assembly honorably and forthrightly - polar opposite Obama’s demagoguery earlier in the week.
Yet it’s baffling why Lavrov calls “separat(ing) the so-called moderate opposition from terrorists…fundamentally important” when he knows all anti-government forces are US-backed imported death squads, cutthroat killers, no “moderates” among them.
He’s right saying “refusal or inability” to achieve separation shows “some want to protect Jabhat al-Nusra (and other terrorists).”
It’s clear US “regime change plans still exist, which is the grossest violation of” Security Council Resolution 2254. Its provisions aim for conflict resolution, calling for “immediately ceas(ing) any attacks against civilians,” along with opposing sides (excluding SC designated terrorist groups) negotiating diplomatically to restore peace to a war-torn country.
Ceasefire and conflict resolution are unattainable as long as Washington and its rogue allies continue recruiting, arming, funding, training and directing terrorists with the aim of destroying Syrian sovereignty, replacing its legitimate government with pro-Western tyranny.
Lavrov calling it vital not to let Geneva negotiated ceasefire break down ignores what never existed - except on paper.
As long as rogue state America pursues its hegemonic agenda, endless good faith conflict resolution efforts by Russia or anyone else can’t work. Believing otherwise is foolhardy.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

State Department Stonewalling Release of Hillary's Emails - Sat, 24/09/2016 - 22:26
State Department Stonewalling Release of Hillary’s Emails
by Stephen Lendman
In response to US District Court Judge James Boasberg ordering the State Department to reveal the contents of around 1,050 pages of recovered Hillary emails, setting a time-schedule of 350 pages by October 7, another 350 by October 21 and the remainder by November 4, most potentially incriminating documents remain withheld with no indication of if or when they’ll be released.
The State Department said 5,600 of 15,100 FBI-recovered Hillary emails were government documents, including classified material, not personal communications as Hillary falsely claimed.
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton issued a statement, saying “(t)he public deserves to know what is in those emails, well before November 8, and the State Department should not continue dragging its feet on producing them.”  
“The State Department admitted in court today it pulled staff off of Clinton email Freedom of Information Act requests. The American people need to pressure State to stop sitting on these new Clinton emails for political reasons and release them as the law requires.”  
“It is outrageous the State Department has had these new Clinton emails since late July, but has only released 5 records” - an “absolutely corrupt process,” Fitton stressed, a clear example of unaccountable obstruction of justice.
Commenting on Hillary’s email scandal, the Wall Street Journal said delay in releasing “newly discovered (ones) past election day” could continue controversy over this issue “into her first term in office if she wins the White House in November.”
A previous article discussed Hillary’s BleachBit controversy, software she used to make emails she wanted kept from public view disappear, rendering them unrecoverable.
What’s in them may be far more revealing than what’s known. She’s morally, ethically, legally and emotionally unfit to serve, compounded by possible serious health issues not disclosed.
Elevating her to president and commander-in-chief of America’s military should terrify everyone - humanity’s fate up for grabs with her in power.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

The NYT Lying Machine in Action - Sat, 24/09/2016 - 22:15
The NYT Lying Machine in Action
by Stephen Lendman
If ignorance is bliss, it’s achievable by following deplorable Times reports - journalism (sic) at its worst, including some of the most despicable misreporting on Obama’s war against Syria, naked aggression it won’t explain.
The Syrian Arab Republic was invaded, America and its rogue allies using terrorists as imperial foot soldiers. Throughout years of conflict, Assad responsibly defended his people and nation - no easy task against hegemonic ruthlessness.
After observing Geneva ceasefire terms throughout a seven-day regime of silence, despite continued attacks on its forces and civilian population, Assad responded responsibly, Syria’s military attacking US-supported terrorists masquerading as moderates.
Times misreporting followed, blaming Syria for combating terrorists massacring its people, saying resumption of bombing “opposition-held areas” in eastern Aleppo “knocked out running water to an estimated two million people.”
How possible in one portion of Aleppo, the entire city with a small fraction of its pre-war 2.3 million population?
The Times quoted James Le Mesurier, disgracefully calling Aleppo bombing “Dresden-esque” - an entire city US and UK forces mercilessly fire-bombed during WW II, turning 100,000 or more German civilians and wounded soldiers into molten flesh, despite the city having no military importance. 
Mesurier co-heads the Soros supported White Helmet terrorist group, deceptively calling themselves volunteer rescue workers, “Mayday Rescue,” according to Times misreporting.
Ahead of resuming its battle for Aleppo, Syria’s military announced “the start of operations in eastern districts of the city and call(ed) on residents to stay away from the positions of terrorist groups.”
Once Syria’s largest city and commercial hub, much of it lies in ruins, a testimony to US imperial viciousness. 
Times reports never explain, perpetuating the fiction of civil war, along with claiming nonexistent “moderate rebels” - disgracefully blaming Syrian and Russian forces for US-supported terrorists’ high crimes.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Meaningless Middle East Quartet Criticism of Israeli Settlement Expansions - Sat, 24/09/2016 - 21:58
Meaningless Middle East Quartet Criticism of Israeli Settlement Expansions
by Stephen Lendman
The Quartet includes the UN, EU, US and Russia. Instead of acting responsibly long ago to halt continued theft of Palestinian land for Jews-only West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements, toothless criticism substituted earlier, repeated on Friday.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York, the Quartet issued a meaningless statement expressing “strong opposition to ongoing settlement activity, which is an obstacle to peace, and expressed its grave concern that the acceleration of settlement construction and expansion (is) steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.”
Since 1967, a half century ago, Israel began establishing settlements on stolen Palestinian territory, seizing its most valued areas. It controls 60% of West Bank land, along with illegally annexed East Jerusalem.
Settlements flagrantly contravene international law. Fourth Geneva’s Article 49 states “(t)he occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development. (They were) established in breach of international law” on sovereign Palestinian land. 
Israel wants maximum Jews and minimum Arabs, ideally eliminating them altogether. Its high crimes go unpunished, including premeditated wars at its discretion, state terror as official policy and slow-motion genocide. It rejects peaceful conflict resolution, despite lofty rhetoric claiming otherwise.
The world community yawns, expresses occasional criticism and does nothing. Israel categorically opposes Palestinian self-determination.
The Quartet saying continued settlement expansions erode the chance for a two-state solution ignores reality. Israel won’t ever allow it - except perhaps on isolated bantustans on worthless scrubland. 
Nations with the power to change things responsibly have sat on their hands doing nothing for the past half century - letting Israel get away with mass murder and numerous other high crimes.
Nothing in prospect holds hope for Palestinians achieving long denied justice and liberation.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

NSA’s Failure to Report Shadow Broker Vulnerabilities Underscores Need for Oversight - Sat, 24/09/2016 - 11:02

In August, an entity calling itself the “Shadow Brokers” took the security world by surprise by publishing what appears to be a portion of the NSA’s hacking toolset. Government investigators now believe that the Shadow Brokers stole the cache of powerful NSA network exploitation tools from a computer located outside of the NSA’s network where they had been left accidentally, according to Reuters. A new detail, published for the first time in yesterday’s Reuters report, is that the NSA learned about the accidental exposure at or near the time it happened. The exploits, which showed up on the Shadow Brokers’ site last month, target widely used networking products produced by Cisco and Fortinet and rely on significant, previously unknown vulnerabilities or “zero days” in these products. The government has not officially confirmed that the files originated with the NSA, but the Intercept used documents provided by Edward Snowden to demonstrate links between the NSA and the Equation Group, which produced the exploits.

The Reuters story provides a partial answer to the most important question about the Shadow Brokers leak: why did the NSA seemingly withhold its knowledge of the Cisco and Fortinet zero days, among others, from the vendors? According to unnamed government sources investigating the matter, an NSA employee or contractor mistakenly left the exploits on a remote computer about three years ago, and the NSA learned about that mistake soon after. Because the agency was aware that the exploits had been exposed and were therefore vulnerable to theft by outsiders, it “tuned its sensors to detect use of any of the tools by other parties, especially foreign adversaries with strong cyber espionage operations, such as China and Russia.” Apparently finding no such evidence, the NSA sat on the underlying vulnerabilities until the Shadow Brokers posted them publicly.

But the NSA’s overconfidence should disturb us, as security researcher Nicholas Weaver points out. The “sensors” mentioned by Reuters are likely a non-technical reference to monitoring of the Internet backbone by the NSA under such authorities as Section 702 and Executive Order 12333, which could act as a form of Network Intrusion Detection System (NIDS). (The Department of Homeland Security also operates an NIDS called Einstein specifically to monitor government networks.) But Weaver explains that at least some of the exploits, including those that affected Cisco and Fortinet products, appear not to lend themselves to detection by outside monitoring since they operate within a target’s internal network. In other words, the NSA’s confidence that its surveillance tools weren’t being used by other actors might have been seriously misplaced.

The NSA’s decision not to disclose the Cisco and Fortinet vulnerabilities becomes even more questionable in light of the fact that some of the specific products affected had been approved by the Department of Defense’s Unified Capabilities (UC) Approved Products List (APL), which identifies equipment that can be used in DoD networks:1

Under National Security Directive 42 [.pdf], NSA is tasked with securing “National Security Systems” against compromise or exploitation, a mission which was traditionally housed within the Information Assurance Directorate (IAD). The NSA is currently in the process of combining the “defensive” IAD with its “offensive” intelligence-gathering divisions, but high-level officials charged with information assurance have acknowledged the NSA’s defensive mission is more important than ever. Regardless of whether the mission of protecting National Security Systems is interpreted broadly or narrowly, the NSA’s failure to remedy defects in products used widely across the IT sector and apparently by the government, and even the DoD itself, is difficult to defend.

Above all, the Shadow Brokers story highlights the need for oversight of the government’s use of zero days. Right now, the decision whether to retain or disclose a vulnerability is theoretically governed by the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP), a once-secret policy that EFF obtained in redacted form via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. But because the VEP isn’t binding on the government, as far as we can tell, it’s toothless. While we don’t know the exact considerations employed by the government in reaching a decision to withhold a zero day, several of the high-level considerations described by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel in a blog post about the VEP seem highly relevant:

  • How much is the vulnerable system used in the core Internet infrastructure, in other critical infrastructure systems, in the U.S. economy, and/or in national security systems?
  • Does the vulnerability, if left unpatched, impose significant risk?
  • How much harm could an adversary nation or criminal group do with knowledge of this vulnerability?
  • How likely is it that we would know if someone else was exploiting it?

Even if NSA initially believed the specific vulnerabilities at issue in this case wouldn’t be discovered by others, its knowledge that the exploits had been left exposed should have changed that calculus. And if NSA knew specifically that the exploits had been stolen, it’s hard to think of a rationale where disclosure would still be outweighed by other considerations. Coincidentally, the NSA seems to have lost control of the Shadow Brokers exploits in 2013, during a fallow period for the VEP. Although the VEP was written in 2010, Michael Daniel told Wired that it was not “implemented to the full degree that it should have been” and was only “reinvigorated” in 2014.

We think lawmakers should be concerned with this story, and we encourage them to ask the NSA to explain exactly what happened. We think the government should be far more transparent about its vulnerabilities policy. A start would be releasing a current version of the VEP without redacting the decisionmaking process, the criteria considered, and the list of agencies that participate, as well as an accounting of how many vulnerabilities the government retains and for how long. After that, we urgently need to have a debate about the proper weighting of disclosure versus retention of vulnerabilities, and we should ensure that any policy that implements this decision is more than just a vague blog post or a document that lacks all “vigor.”

  • 1. We have chosen not to directly link to the APL here for technical reasons. The Department of Defense uses its own Certificate Authority (CA) for authenticating websites, which is not trusted in browsers. We provide the url here as a convenience, but recommend strongly against adding additional CAs to your browser:
Related Cases: EFF v. NSA, ODNI - Vulnerabilities FOIA
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