Friday, January 24, 2014

THE ROVING EYE Rouhani and the 1914 remix By Pepe Escobar

Rouhani and the 1914 remix
By Pepe Escobar

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is at the moment the hardest-working man in (geopolitical) show business. He has just stepped into the lion's den - or goldfish bowl; the World Economic Forum at Davos. And he charmed them all just with his "prudent moderation" strategy, which broadcasts what every Master of The Universe, real or fake, really wants to hear; Iran is open for business.

Rouhani stressed what even BRIC-inventor Jim O'Neill has acknowledged; Iran has the potential to become one of the world's Top Ten economies before 2040. His strategy to achieve it is extremely sound; a very balanced foreign policy subordinated to boosting economic development. It starts with a definitive deal with the P5+1 - the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany - until the end of 2014; the lifting of all sanctions; and then a steady flow of investment by the West.

Rouhani does not see any "insurmountable hurdles" towards a permanent, comprehensive nuclear deal - "unless other parties don't show enough serious will". Sanctions, he said, "merely exacerbate" instability, rather than create peace.

Rouhani could not be more measured in his push to "engage with the world community in a fair basis". He re-stressed that Iran's nuclear program is for civilian use only: "We have no ambition to create a nuclear weapon ... I strongly declare that nuclear weapons have no place in our security strategy. But Iranian people are not prepared to give up their peaceful technology. We will continue to develop peaceful nuclear use."

That's why, when asked about dual-use of nuclear technology, he said, "Forty countries have dual-use of nuclear technology. Iran will not accept being discriminated against."

Rouhani stressed how Iran is building stronger trade links with its neighbors - the long list includes Russia, Turkey and Pakistan - and wants nothing but to normalize business with the Europeans. So he duly courted Western business leaders. He talked to Western Big Oil in a "framework of mutual interests". And what a deal is potentially on the table: if you invest in our energy industry - and they are all salivating to do so - we will help your economic growth, and that's good for world peace.

He said the financial crisis proved nations can't lock themselves away. He even paid a compliment to the theme of the Davos talkfest this year: successful economies must also be ethical. Tell that to JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon.

According to Rouhani, "The last six years have taught us that no country can succeed alone ... No country can regard its dominance as permanent. And we are all linked through globalization. If we do not choose wise captains then the storm will claim us all." Tell that to the strident clique who won't spare any effort to bomb any possibility of an entente with Iran.

His position on Syria was, once again, sound. "Ruthless killers are flooding into Syria, and fight - even fight each other ... We should all work together to help Syria, and push these killers out of Syria. Then we must get the opposition around the table, and organize full and fair elections in Syria." Tell that to the House of Saud and Qatar's House of Thani.

The 1914 gang
Just because Rouhani declined to include Israel among all the countries Iran is building closer ties with - he talked about peace with "all countries ... that we have officially recognized" - the usual Israel lobby shills started throwing a fit. Tehran does not have to recognize a rabid Tel Aviv regime that has been, for years, routinely threatening to attack, with or without the US in the forefront. By the way, those sterling democrats at the House of Saud also do not formally recognize Israel. But they are "our" bastards.

This all necessarily had to merge with one of the key obsessions at Davos this year - the idea that it's 1914 all over again. Davos, for starters, is not exactly prescient; it took them years to finally admit that wealth inequality and unemployment are mortal threats to the global economy. CEOs with fat bonuses are not exactly egalitarians, only when it's bad for business.

As wealth inequality goes, this Oxfam report released on Monday tells is like it is: "The bottom half of the world's population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world."

Another report released on Monday by the International Labor Organization (ILO) shows that unemployment, on a global level, has touched no fewer than 202 million people in 2013; and there will be 215 million by 2018. Unemployment is growing in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and on a smaller scale the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Europe. Not to mention youth unemployment galloping ahead in Southern Europe - Greece, Spain, Italy - as well as Ireland.

And guess who the ILO deems responsible? The Masters of the Universe gathering in Davos; corporations preferred to keep their cash or buy their own stocks rather than invest in production capacity or to create jobs.

It was mostly up to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stoke the 1914 remix fire - with his China-demonization shtick that "military expansion" in Asia could run out of control. (SeeCowbells, or how Davos saves the world, Asia Times Online, January 23, 2014.)

But it's economist Nouriel Roubini who's been the 1914 remix point man. OK, just as a century ago, wealth inequality is high (now provoked by the shady dealings of the turbo-capitalism embraced by most Masters of the Universe). We're at a "gilded age of inequality" (Roubini). And there's obviously a widespread backlash against globalization - as in unlimited corporate profits out of the marketization of everything.

As for "rising geopolitical tensions", no one at Davos seems to have the balls to name where they come from; the decline of the American Empire with all is centrifugal and centripetal convulsions; the fear of many in the West and especially Japan in the East of an unstoppable, rising China; and the unholy alliance of Israel and the House of Saud to keep the wider Middle East mired in sectarian conflict. These are the real "geopolitical tensions" that could revamp 1914; not Iran, China or Russia's foreign policy strategies.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Live Q&A with Edward Snowden: Thursday 23rd January, 8pm GMT, 3pm EST

Live Q&A with Edward Snowden: Thursday 23rd January, 8pm GMT, 3pm EST

@mperkel #ASKSNOWDEN They say it’s a balance of privacy and safety. I think spying makes us less safe. do you agree?

Intelligence agencies do have a role to play, and the people at the working level at the NSA, CIA, or any other member of the IC are not out to get you. They’re good people trying to do the right thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were worried about the same things I was.
The people you need to watch out for are the unaccountable senior officials authorizing these unconstitutional programs, and unreliable mechanisms like the secret FISA court, a rubber-stamp authority that approves 99.97% of government requests (which denied only 11 requests out of 33,900 in 33 years They’re the ones that get us into trouble with the Constitution by letting us go too far.

And even the President now agrees our surveillance programs are going too far, gathering massive amounts of private records on ordinary Americans who have never been suspected of any crime. This violates our constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizure. Collecting phone and email records for every American is a waste of money, time and human resources that could be better spent pursuing those the government has reason to suspect are a serious threat.

I’m going to stop here. My deepest thanks to everyone who sent questions, and whether or not we agree on where the lines should be drawn, I encourage you to contact your members of congress and tell them how you feel about mass surveillance. This is a global problem, and the first step to tackling it is by working together to fix it at home.
If you’d like to more ideas on how to push back against unconstitutional surveillance, consider taking a look at the organizations working together to organize

@mrbass21 Recently several threats have been made on your life by the intelligence community. Are you afraid for your life? Thoughts? #AskSnowden

It’s concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.
That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they’re willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they’ll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us.
The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated. Doing the right thing means having no regrets.

@ferenstein what’s the worst and most realistic harm from bulk collection of data? Why do you think it outweighs national security? #AskSnowden

The worst and happening-right-now harm of bulk collection — which again, is a euphemism for mass surveillance — is two-fold.
The first is the chilling effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.
The second, less understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs, is that they effectively create “permanent records” of our daily activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This enables a capability called “retroactive investigation,” where once you come to the government’s attention, they’ve got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June 12th 2009, but the government does.

The power these records represent can’t be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to this sort of data gathering as resulting in “databases of ruin,” where harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed as recently as today by the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board.

Fundamentally, a society in which the pervasive monitoring of the sum of civil activity becomes routine is turning from the traditions of liberty toward what is an inherently illiberal infrastructure of preemptive investigation, a sort of quantified state where the least of actions are measured for propriety. I don’t seek to pass judgment in favor or against such a state in the short time I have here, only to declare that it is not the one we inherited, and should we as a society embrace it, it should be the result of public decision rather than closed conference.

@LukasReuter #AskSnowden How should the community of states react to the new information concerning surveillance? What actions have to be made?

We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying. Nobody should be hacking critical-to-life infrastructure like hospitals and power stations, and it’s fair to say that can be recognized in international law.

Additionally, we need to recognize that national laws are not going to solve the problem of indiscriminate surveillance. A prohibition in Burundi isn’t going to stop the spies in Greenland. We need a global forum, and global funding, committed to the development of security standards that enforce our right to privacy not through law, but through science and technology. The easiest way to ensure a country’s communications are secure is to secure them world-wide, and that means better standards, better crypto, and better research.

@wikileaks #AskSnowden The Ecuadorean Consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, lost his job after his helping you to safety was spun. Message for his family?

Fidel is an incredibly brave individual, and he did everything that was possible to ensure that the rights of someone he had never met would be protected. He could have turned away from a tough decision, but instead of letting my situation become someone else’s problem, he did what he thought was right. That kind of commitment to doing the right thing, even knowing it could get you in trouble, is something the world needs more of.

‏@jaketapper #AskSnowden Under what conditions would you agree to return to the U.S.?

Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself.

The hundred-year old law under which I’ve been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.

Maybe when Congress comes together to end the programs the PCLOB just announced was illegal, they’ll reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, and we’ll see a mechanism for all Americans, no matter who they work for, to get a fair trial.

@Valio_ch #asksnowden Do you think that the Watchdog Report by Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board will have any impact at all?

I don’t see how Congress could ignore it, as it makes it clear there is no reason at all to maintain the 215 program. Let me quote from the official report:
“Cessation of the program would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated with bulk collection without unduly hampering the government’s efforts, while ensuring that any governmental requests for telephone calling records are tailored to the needs of specific investigations.”

@RagBagUSA #AskSnowden what (in your opinion) is the appropriate extent of US national security apparatus? Surely some spying is needed?

Not all spying is bad. The biggest problem we face right now is the new technique of indiscriminate mass surveillance, where governments are seizing billions and billions and billions of innocents’ communication every single day. This is done not because it’s necessary — after all, these programs are unprecedented in US history, and were begun in response to a threat that kills fewer Americans every year than bathtub falls and police officers — but because new technologies make it easy and cheap.

I think a person should be able to dial a number, make a purchase, send an SMS, write an email, or visit a website without having to think about what it’s going to look like on their permanent record. Particularly when we now have courts, reports from the federal government, and even statements from Congress making it clear these programs haven’t made us any more safe, we need to push back.

This is a global problem, and America needs to take the lead in fixing it. If our government decides our Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures no longer applies simply because that’s a more efficient means of snooping, we’re setting a precedent that immunizes the government of every two-bit dictator to perform the same kind of indiscriminate, dragnet surveillance of entire populations that the NSA is doing.

It’s not good for our country, it’s not good for the world, and I wasn’t going to stand by and watch it happen, no matter how much it cost me. The NSA and the rest of the US Intelligence Community is exceptionally well positioned to meet our intelligence requirements through targeted surveillance — the same way we’ve always done it — without resorting to the mass surveillance of entire populations.

When we’re sophisticated enough to be able to break into any device in the world we want to (up to and including Angela Merkel’s phone, if reports are to be believed), there’s no excuse to be wasting our time collecting the call records of grandmothers in Missouri.

@MichaelHargrov1 #AskSnowden Was the privacy of your co-workers considered while you were stealing their log-in and password information?

With all due respect to Mark Hosenball, the Reuters report that put this out there was simply wrong. I never stole any passwords, nor did I trick an army of co-workers.

@auerfeld #AskSnowden do you think it’s a shame that #Obama gave his #NSA speech before his Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board reported?

The timing of his speech seems particularly interesting, given that it was accompanied by so many claims that “these programs have not been abused.”
Even if we accept the NSA’s incredibly narrow definition of abuse, which is “someone actually broke the rules so badly we had to investigate them for it,” we’ve seen more instances of identified, intentional abuse than we have seen instances where this unconstitutional mass phone surveillance stopped any kind of terrorist plot at all — even something less than an attack.

To back that up with the government’s own numbers, according to the NSA Inspector General, we’ve seen at least 12 specific, intentional cases of “abuse” by the NSA.

In contrast, the federal government’s independent PCLOB report on the NSA’s mass phone surveillance today (which stated the NSA has spied on at least 120,000,000 American phones under this program) said this:

“We are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

At the press conference, Judge Wald stated this program, which has been operated in secret for years, has no basis in law. The panel determined this kind of mass surveillance is illegal and should be ended.

When even the federal government says the NSA violated the constitution at least 120 million times under a single program, but failed to discover even a single “plot,” it’s time to end “bulk collection,” which is a euphemism for mass surveillance. There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate.

In light of another independent confirmation of this fact, I think Americans should look to the White House and Congress to close the book entirely on the 215 BR provision.

@VilleThompson What do you think about Obama’s whistleblowing protection act? #AskSnowden

One of the things that has not been widely reported by journalists is that whistleblower protection laws in the US do not protect contractors in the national security arena. There are so many holes in the laws, the protections they afford are so weak, and the processes for reporting they provide are so ineffective that they appear to be intended to discourage reporting of even the clearest wrongdoing. If I had revealed what I knew about these unconstitutional but classified programs to Congress, they could have charged me with a felony. One only need to look at the case of Thomas Drake to see how the government doesn’t have a good history of handling legitimate reports of wrongdoing within the system.

Despite this, and despite the fact that I could not legally go to the official channels that direct NSA employees have available to them, I still made tremendous efforts to report these programs to co-workers, supervisors, and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen. The reactions of those I told about the scale of the constitutional violations ranged from deeply concerned to appalled, but no one was willing to risk their jobs, families, and possibly even freedom to go to through what Drake did.

My case clearly demonstrates the need for comprehensive whistleblower protection act reform. If we had had a real process in place, and reports of wrongdoing could be taken to real, independent arbiters rather than captured officials, I might not have had to sacrifice so much to do what at this point even the President seems to agree needed to be done.

@midwire How quickly can the NSA, et. al. decrypt AES messages with strong keys #AskSnowden Does encrypting our emails even work?

As I’ve said before, properly implemented strong encryption works. What you have to worry about are the endpoints. If someone can steal you keys (or the pre-encryption plaintext), no amount of cryptography will protect you.
However, that doesn’t mean end-to-end crypto is a lost cause. By combining robust endpoint security with transport security, people can have much greater confidence in their day to day communications.

@savagejen Do you think it is possible for our democracy to recover from the damage NSA spying has done to our liberties? #AskSnowden

Yes. What makes our country strong is our system of values, not a snapshot of the structure of our agencies or the framework of our laws. We can correct the laws, restrain the overreach of agencies, and hold the senior officials responsible for abusive programs to account.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Intelligence chatter abuzz with plans for Saudi chemical weapons attack on Sochi Olympics

Intelligence chatter abuzz with plans for chemical weapons attack on Sochi Olympics

WMR is receiving dire warnings from multiple intelligence sources that all have a common theme: that Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan is following through on his threat to have Saudi-backed Salafists inside Russia launch a terrorist attack on the Winter Olympiad in Sochi because Russian President Vladimit Putin failed to withdraw his support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The Winter Games are scheduled to open on February 7.

Two men, identified only as "Suleiman" and "Abdulrakhman" and claiming to be with a Dagestani-based terrorist group called "Vilayat Dagestan" appeared on a 49-minute long video distributed on the Internet issuing a stark warning to Russia and all the athletes and visitors who will be arriving for the Olympics in Sochi. The two men, who Vilayat Dagestan claimed were the suicide bombers who launched two deadly attacks on public transportation targets in Volgograd last month, were said to be the suicide bombers who died in that attack. One of the two men in the video pushes a button attached to what is believed to be a mock explosive device.

Sitting in front of a black and white flag with Arabic writing often associated with Al Qaeda and Saudi-backed terrorist groups in Syria, the two men issue the following statement: "We have prepared a present for you -- for you -- [Putin] and all those tourists who will come over."

The two men add, "If you hold these Olympics, we will give you a present for the innocent Muslim blood being spilled all around the world: in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Syria . . ."
The "present," according to WMR's sources, is one or more chemical weapons bombs, possibly containing sarin nerve gas stolen by Al Qaeda affiliates from Libyan stockpiles after the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's government. Those stockpiles of sarin were transferred by Saudi intelligence to Syrian rebels who used them in an attack in Al Ghouta, outside of Damascus, last year and to Chechen and Dagestani terrorists who now plan to use them during one or more Winter Olympics venues in Sochi, including the opening ceremonies.

On July 31, 2013, Bandar told Putin at a meeting in Moscow that if Putin pulled support for Assad, Saudi Arabia would agree to rein in Islamist terrorists from attacking Sochi. Bandar reportedly said, "I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threatenc_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_01_Bander99.jpg

the security of the games are controlled by us.” Putin became enraged with Bandar, told him Russia has known for years of Saudi support for terrorist attacks around the world, including in Russia, and abruptly ended the meeting with the man whose links with the Bush political family are so close, he is known as "Bandar Bush."

The Libyan chemical weapons believed to have been smuggled into Russia are also said to have been handed over to Vilayat Dagestan by a Saudi-backed Iraqi Salafist terrorist group called Ansar al-Sunna. The self-declared leader of an Islamic state in the Caucasus region, Doku Umarov, threatened to attack the Sochi Olympics last July. However, last week, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, claimed that Russian security forces had killed Umarov, although no corpse of the terrorist leader was produced by Russian or Chechen authorities.

Because of the nature of the threat, Russia has reversed course and agreed to accept U.S. military assistance during the Olympic Games. The deal worked out between U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Russian armed forces chief General Valery Gerasimov will provide counter-improvised explosive device (IED) and associated radio frequency jamming technology to Russian security forces. Russia has also reportedly agreed to allow a U.S. Navy destroyer and amphibious vessel to patrol closer to Sochi waters in the Black Sea to assist in security and/or evacuation operations. The U.S. Navy says the ships will be available "for all manner of contingencies."

Russian authorities in Sochi are reportedly on the lookout for a 22-year old Dagestani widow named Ruzanna Ibragrimova. Her husband was a Salafist terrorist killed by Russian security forces last year. Russian authorities have been distributing "wanted" posters of Ibragimova throughout Sochi. It is believed that the woman, one of a number of  militant widows dubbed "black widows" by counter-terrorism officials in Russia and abroad, sneaked past several cordons of Russian security perimeters and may now be in Sochi hiding. WMR's sources believe the widow may be carrying one or more chemical weapon devices to be detonated during the Olympics. The realization that chemical weapons may have been smuggled into Sochi, courtesy of Saudi intelligence, is what caused Dempsey and Gerasimov to make hasty preparations for U.S. military assistance at their previously-scheduled meeting in Brussels.

On a down note, WMR has also learned that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have arranged for a supply of body bags to transport U.S. victims from Sochi to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware in the event of a terrorist chemical attack. In addition, the U.S. European Command also has plans to evacuate Americans and other visitors from Sochi in the event of a successful terrorist operation. C-17 transport aircraft will be on stand-by at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

The potential for a chemical weapons terror attack in Sochi has been known by worldwide intelligence agencies for quite some time. However, rather than warn of this threat, a number of world leaders cynically used their opposition to Russia's policy on homosexual advocacy to decide to boycott the opening ceremonies. Among those leaders who hid behind the lavender curtain rather than reveal the actual reason for their absence -- the threat posed by the Saudis to the Sochi games -- are U.S. President Barack Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, and European Justice and Fundamental Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and King Willem-Alexander, Norwegian King Harald and Prime Minister Erna Solberg, and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev are scheduled attend the ceremonies.

Some leaders are only planning on attending the closing ceremonies only. These include Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bulgarian PresidentRossen Plevneliev. Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski will attend the opening ceremonies.
The decision by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reject an invitation from Putin to attend the Sochi opening ceremonies is noteworthy. Putin and Netanyahu are on better speaking terms with one another than is the case with Putin and Obama. Although Putin and Netanyahu are worlds apart on issues like Syria and Iran, they mutually recognize the importance of business ties between Russian Jews living in Israel and their compatriots in Russia. Netanyahu's rejection of Putin's invitation may have arisen from advance knowledge of Saudi plans for an attack on the Winter Games. Israel and Saudi Arabia have forged close intelligence and military links owing to their common cause against Iran and Assad's government in Syria.

The national teams of two countries whose leaders are boycotting Sochi, the United States and Germany, received emails in Russian warning that their teams would be attacked in Sochi. Other teams receiving the emails were those of Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The emails were deemed a hoax by International Olympic Committee officials.

According to WMR's sources inside the DHS and FEMA, contingency plans for Sochi are now dealing with the worst possible scenario -- a terrorist chemical attack with massive casualties.