The Intercept

Palantir Provides the Engine for Donald Trump’s Deportation Machine

2 March 2017 - 1:18pm

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is deploying a new intelligence system called Investigative Case Management (ICM), created by Palantir Technologies, that will assist in President Donald Trump’s efforts to deport millions of immigrants from the United States.

In 2014, ICE awarded Palantir, the $20 billion data-mining firm founded by billionaire Trump advisor Peter Thiel, a $41 million contract to build and maintain ICM, according to government funding records. The system is scheduled to arrive at “final operating capacity” by September of this year. The documents identify Palantir’s ICM as “mission critical” to ICE, meaning that the agency will not be able to properly function without the program.

ICM funding documents analyzed by The Intercept make clear that the system is far from a passive administrator of ICE’s case flow. ICM allows ICE agents to access a vast “ecosystem” of data to facilitate immigration officials in both discovering targets and then creating and administering cases against them. The system provides its users access to intelligence platforms maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and an array of other federal and private law enforcement entities. It can provide ICE agents access to information on a subject’s schooling, family relationships, employment information, phone records, immigration history, foreign exchange program status, personal connections, biometric traits, criminal records, and home and work addresses.

“What we have here is a growing network of interconnected databases that together are drawing in more and more information,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If President Trump’s rhetoric on mass deportations is going to be turned into reality, then we’re going to see these tools turned in that direction, and these documents show that there are very powerful and intrusive tools that can be used toward that end.”

Although ICM appears to have been originally conceived for use by ICE’s office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the system appears to be widely available to agents within ICE. Officers of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Office (ERO) — the U.S. government’s primary deportation force — access the system to gather information for both criminal and civil cases against immigrants, according to a June 2016 disclosure by the Department of Homeland Security, although ERO will use a separate system to manage its civil cases. “HSI and ERO personnel use the information in ICM to document and inform their criminal investigative activities and to support the criminal prosecutions arising from those investigations,” states the DHS filing. “ERO also uses ICM data to inform its civil cases.”

ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor also uses ICM to represent the office in “exclusion, deportation, and removal proceedings,” among other matters, according to the DHS disclosure.

The DHS disclosure states that Homeland Security Investigations is ICM’s primary user. Although mainly tasked with investigating serious cross-border crimes like drug smuggling, human trafficking, and child pornography, HSI had also been behind some of the most controversial workplace immigration raids of the Obama administration, which immigrant advocates fear could expand massively under President Trump. HSI provided support to the Enforcement and Removal Office during last month’s high-profile enforcement surge, and just last week it was reported that HSI agents spearheaded a controversial sweep of several Asian restaurants in Mississippi that led to the agency apprehending more than 50 immigrants.

The ICM documents offer a detailed reminder of the Obama-era push to upgrade and expand the federal government’s tools to track and deport immigrants. Obama not only presided over an unprecedented number of deportations; his administration also oversaw the pronounced expansion of intelligence systems aimed at the country’s immigrants. Now the sprawling immigrant surveillance apparatus that Obama enhanced is squarely in the hands of Donald Trump to assist in carrying out his promise to rapidly deport millions of immigrants.

A slide from a 2014 Immigration and Customs Enforcement document outlining capabilities required by the agency’s proposed Investigative Case Management system.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The ICM documents also underscore the prominent role Palantir will likely play in assisting ICE in this mission.

Notably, two of the primary intelligence systems that ICM relies upon have also been also built or supported by Peter Thiel’s firm, according to the funding documents. One of these is ICE’s FALCON system, a database and analytical platform built by Palantir that HSI agents can use to track immigrants and crunch data on forms of cross-border criminal activity. According to the documents, ICM also provides its users access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s “Analytical Framework for Intelligence,” or AFI, a vast yet little-understood data system that Palantir played a largely secret-role in supporting. Some privacy advocates believe that AFI could be used to fuel Trump’s “extreme vetting” of those seeking to enter the country.

A slide from a 2014 ICE funding document outlining required data flows for the agency’s modernized Investigative Case Management system.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

“When Trump uses the term ‘extreme vetting’, AFI is the black-box system of profiling algorithms that he’s talking about,” Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project, a civil liberties initiative, told me last year. “This is what extreme vetting means.”

ICM also provides its users with access to an internal system called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which “includes biographic and immigration status data related to individuals who are temporarily admitted to the United States as students or exchange visitors,” according to the DHS. Agents using ICM can also query ACRIMe, an extensive database operated by ERO that compiles data on immigrants in the United States. In addition, the funding documents state that ICM provides agents — through AFI — access to data gathered under the controversial National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, the now-defunct Bush-era system requiring visa-holders from two-dozen predominately Muslim countries and North Korea to register with the federal government.

One funding document states that ICM provides agents with the ability to simultaneously search information on a given person across a diverse range of government databases, permitting, for an example, an address search to query “multiple documents throughout the system, such as the person subject record, financial data (interface), CBP crossing data (interface), and other HSI and CBP subject record types. The user shall be able to conduct a consolidated address search that will match on all addresses regardless of the record type.”

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Although ICE’s enforcement focuses overwhelmingly on immigrants, the ICM funding documents make clear the intelligence tool can also be aimed at U.S. citizens. “Citizenship can be established a variety of ways to include biographical and biometric system checks,” one document states. “U.S. Citizens are still subject to criminal prosecution and thus are a part of ICM.”

The scope of ICM’s use appears to have expanded during the system’s development. The hundreds of pages of funding documents from 2014 make no mention whatsoever of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Office (ERO). On the contrary, the 2014 records state that ICM was launched as primarily an HSI initiative and meant for use by HSI agents. Yet by June of last year, this appears to have changed: The recent DHS privacy disclosure repeatedly states that ERO uses ICM to support aspects of its mission.

This is not the only case in which it has remained unclear what kind of limits ICE has on the sorts of missions for which its intelligence systems can be used.

A spokesperson for Palantir declined to provide comment for this story. ICE did not respond to a list of questions, including whether FALCON — ICE’s advanced intelligence and analytics system for Homeland Security Investigations — is also made available to ERO agents.

In February, ICE responded to a Freedom of Information Act Request asking for internal rules or restrictions on FALCON’s use by stating that no such documents existed, although ICE’s response also indicated the agency may have conducted an incomplete search for the records. The 2014 funding records indicate that ERO’s use of ICM — which provides its users access to Palantir’s FALCON — might also grant the deportation force access to FALCON.

Data sharing between federal agencies is often not governed by concrete legal regulations, according to Anil Kalhan, a professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law.

“Legislation after 9/11 authorized and encouraged information sharing within the executive branch,” Kalhan told the Intercept in December. “There is general authorization, and the scope and limits and constraints upon that authorization have not really been spelled out.”

The ICM documents appear to contain information about FALCON that is not otherwise publicly available. One funding document states that FALCON — and thus ICM — can link to a controversial law enforcement database called Black Asphalt, which is maintained by a private firm called Desert Snow and provides information to help police engage in civil and criminal asset forfeiture. Iowa and Kansas have prohibited the use of Black Asphalt by law enforcement agencies because of concerns that it “might not be a legal law enforcement tool,” according to the Washington Post. The funding documents also state that FALCON includes access to services provided by Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in software used to breach cellphones.

With its full deployment arriving just in time for the Trump transition, ICM appears well positioned to respond to a new set of demands being placed on ICE by a president elected on promises of deporting immigrants en masse. The agency stipulated that Palantir must build a tool that can handle “no less than 10,000 users accessing the system at the same time” to search tens of millions of subject records.

A slide from a 2014 ICE funding document illustrating a day in the life of a Homeland Security Investigations special agent.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

On May 8, 2014, in a meeting with representatives of firms vying to win the ICM contract, ICE screened a slide presentation to show just how ICM’s many users will be able to utilize the ICM system. The slides lay out a hypothetical scenario in which an ICE agent uses ICM to both interrogate a suspect at the border and then to shepherd the suspect’s case through court proceedings.

The first slide tells of a man named Jim Doe who attempted to enter the country by car but was stopped by CBP at the border and was discovered to be carrying contraband. So CBP calls in a square-jawed ICE HSI investigator, who immediately opens ICM and queries its data. This produces records on Doe’s vehicle, business dealings, prior arrests, and records detailing his prior crossings of the border.

Armed with this intelligence, the HSI agent then interrogates Doe and learns that he had brought the contraband across the border at the behest of a man Doe knows only by the nickname “Caliber,” who also has detailed discoverable information in ICM, which is able to reveal his true name of Calvin Clark by making connections based on a tattoo of Clark’s that is included in the system’s data.

Once the ICE agent has completed his ICM-backed investigation, he then uses ICM to create a case file. A subsequent chart shows the apparent final stage of ICM’s cradle-to-grave services represented in a graphic of a person clutching to prison bars with a caption reading: “justice is served.”

But the following slide points out that a conviction is not in fact the final step in ICM’s intelligence life cycle.

“Even once the case is closed,” the document states of the ICM record, “it is available for other agents to discover and link to future investigations, continuing the investigative cycle.”

Documents published with this article:

Top photo: A security contractor frisks a female immigration detainee from Honduras ahead of a deportation flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on February 28, 2013 in Mesa, Arizona.

The post Palantir Provides the Engine for Donald Trump’s Deportation Machine appeared first on The Intercept.

Homeland Security Sees Anger At Trump as a Driver of “Domestic Terrorist Violence”

2 March 2017 - 12:46pm

In the view of the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence wing, anger over the election of Donald Trump, reflected in protests across the country, is a driving force in “domestic terrorist violence,” according to an unclassified report obtained by The Intercept.

The conclusions, laid out in a February 21 report prepared by the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC) and DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), come amid a series of controversial post-election efforts by Republican lawmakers to criminalize protest.

Focused on North Carolina, the six-page document “was written in response to a spike in violence and criminal acts — including an arson attack — targeting political party offices and staff that occurred prior to of and immediately following the election” and sets out to provide “an overall threat forecast for the first half of 2017 concerning like activities in the state.”

“In the lead up to and immediately following the 2016 election, North Carolina experienced incidents that included the targeting of political campaign offices and government organizations,” the report notes, which, “highlight their attractiveness as targets for domestic terrorists and various cyber actors seeking to advance political aims and/or influence government operations.”

Based largely on open source reporting and law enforcement assessments, the report focuses on a handful of incidents in late October in which GOP offices were targeted with “low level physical violence,” including with BB guns and, in the most serious incident, Molotov cocktails. Though property was damaged in the latter incident, nobody was injured. The report notes that the words “Nazi Republicans leave town or else,” were spray painted on a building adjacent to the burned GOP office — the report does not mention the “Black Lives Don’t Matter and Neither Does Your Votes” graffiti that appeared on a wall in Durham, North Carolina weeks later, however, nor the Democratic office in Carrboro, North Carolina that was tagged with the words “Death to Capitalism.”

One individual was arrested on federal terrorism charges during the period of heightened activity for allegedly leaving a bomb threat on a GOP answering machine in the county of Henderson.

The report also highlights three incidents of “malicious cyber activity targeting public sector — particularly government — entities in the last half of 2016” that “may have been politically-motivated.” In one incident, “a criminal hacker defaced a North Carolina law enforcement website by gaining access and posting pro-Turkey messaging.” In another, “a criminal hacker group” tried and failed to steal government records. In the third and final example cited in the report, a so-called distributed denial of service attack “significantly degraded” a city website’s “functionality and impacted connectivity.”

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Overall, the law enforcement and intelligence analysts in North Carolina expect that the vandalism allegedly motivated by Trump’s election “will likely decrease through the first half of 2017 as compared to the last half of 2016,” basing its conclusion on “the lack of threat reporting and the completion of the Presidential election and the near completion of political transitions in federal and state governments which may have served as a drivng [sic] catalyst for the violence.”

Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at NYU’s law school, said it was important to analyze the report and its conclusions for what it is: the work-product of one of the nation’s many law enforcement “fusion centers,” which he said tend to “measure their effectiveness by how many reports they publish.”

A former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated violent domestic organizations, German said the report failed on numerous fronts to achieve its intended purpose of providing information that could help law enforcement stop or solve crimes.

“It claims to provide ‘situational awareness’ but what information does it actually provide about the situation?” German explained in an email to The Intercept. “It doesn’t purport to quantify the number or type of attacks that made up the supposed ‘spike’ in election-related incidents, and it doesn’t qualitatively describe them either. It isn’t clear whether the examples summarized are the only cases, or the most serious cases, or just a handful of cases the analyst chose at random to summarize for this report.”

What’s more, German pointed out, “That election-related violence might go down after the election is over is tautological.”

A burned couch and warped campaign signs are left at the Orange County Republican Headquarters in Hillsborough, N.C. on Oct. 16 2016.

Photo: Jonathan Drew/AP

While the report predicts a decrease in the kinds of incidents seen in North Carolina last year, it also includes a section on the perspective DHS’s intelligence wing, which links national protests over Trump’s election to domestic terrorism.

“DHS assesses that anger over the results of the 2016 Presidential election continues to be a driver of domestic terrorist violence throughout the United States — as evidenced by rioting in Portland, Oregon, following the election and violence and destruction of property in Washington during the inauguration,” the report says.

The early November eruption in Portland, cited in the footnotes of the report, was officially described as a riot by local police, who used flash bang grenades and tear gas to respond to property damage, which law enforcement officials characterized as “extensive criminal and dangerous behavior.” The widely reported inauguration day protests in Washington D.C., which took place a day before the historic women’s march on the capitol, also featured property damage and a hard-edged police response, culminating to more than 200 arrests — including a number of working journalists — most of whom were hit with federal rioting charges.

Trump has lashed out against as those protesting against him — whether they destroy property or not — as illegitimate and/or paid agitators. Following the protests in Portland he tweeted, “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

The message has apparently resonated. Since Trump’s election, Republican lawmakers in at least in at least 18 states have introduced bills aimed at cracking down on protests. Decried by civil liberties advocates as the criminalization of dissent, the recent legislation has included efforts to provide legal protections to drivers who hit protesters with their cars and proposals to use racketeering laws in order to seize the property of any individual who attends a peaceful protest that turns violent.

In the case of North Carolina specifically, DHS agreed “that the campaign cycle likely was a driving influence of the rash of incidents” last year, but “cannot discount the possibility that some such individuals could be spurred to violence against a variety of political targets in the state in the coming year.” The report adds that there are “other factors or occurrences that could foment further criminal acts and violence against political entities in North Carolina.”

Examples of other factors noted in the assessment include, “Negative publicity surrounding perceived political scandal involving North Carolina political entities”; “Passage of new state or federal legislation that is unpopular with violent extremists — such as legislation concerning: abortion rights, LGBT rights, environmental concerns, gun control, or federal health insurance”; “Perceived success in violent activity during the 2017 Presidential inauguration that energized local and regional violent extremists”; and “negative publicity surrounding voter registration in North Carolina during the previous 2016 presidential election.”

The report’s forecast for 2017 does not address reported rises in Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-semitic violence, harassment and vandalism, which some experts have attributed to the president’s right-wing base feeling emboldened by his rhetoric and success. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, such incidents spiked after Trump’s election, and while they have decreased in recent weeks, the organization says they remain above pre-election levels. North Carolina in particular was among the 18 states hit in a string bomb threats targeting dozens of Jewish community centers and schools across the country this week. The FBI, meanwhile, has reported a rise in hate crimes in the state in recent years, and in 2015 the infamous murder of three young Muslims by a white neighbor in the city of Chapel Hill sparked an emotional nationwide debate on the subject.

The Intercept contacted DHS for clarification on the agency’s views regarding domestic terrorism and anger over Trump’s election but did not receive a response.

“The issue of what is counted as political violence and what isn’t, this is a longstanding problem,” German, the former FBI agent, said. “Law enforcement agencies have long tended to view vandalism, civil disobedience, or even just protest against government institutions as more serious than actual violence against marginalized populations. That’s why crimes against government property are ‘terrorism’ but crimes against minorities are ‘hate crimes’ at best and ignored at worst.”

“For example, the report calls private property destruction in DC and Portland after the election ‘domestic terrorism,’ which vastly overstates the charges levied in those incidents,” German said. “For a fusion center to amplify disorderly conduct, vandalism, or civil disobedience into terrorism is inappropriate, factually wrong, and potentially misleading to law enforcement.”

Top photo: Protesters demonstrate against President Donald Trump in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 20, 2017.

The post Homeland Security Sees Anger At Trump as a Driver of “Domestic Terrorist Violence” appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump May Choose “Alternative Intelligence” to Support His “Alternative Facts,” Former Agents Warn

2 March 2017 - 12:12pm

A former CIA analyst assigned to work on the Bush administration’s attempt to link Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda is warning that the Trump’s administration may be adopting the same model of “alternative intelligence” that led to the Iraq war. “They weighed false information. They also took raw reports and cherry-picked those from sources that we didn’t deem reliable, and gave those to the president,” said Nada Bakos, who worked at the CIA from 2000-2010, in an interview with Jeremy Scahill.

You can listen to the interview in the latest episode of the Intercepted podcast:


Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on iTunes, Google Play, StitcherSpotify, and other platforms.

 

Bakos said she is concerned that the Trump administration is operating with “the expectation that you toe the line according to what they want versus the reality, the situation on the ground.” That approach will “politicize the structure of the intelligence community. So you can politicize the information that comes out, possibly develop your own team that feeds the bottom line that you’re after,” she said. “That to me is one of the more concerning underlying factors in how [Trump is] treating the intelligence community. If it’s always serving his needs and serving his view of the world, he may as well not have one.”

After 9/11, as Vice President Dick Cheney orchestrated the drive to war, Bakos was part of a CIA team charged with producing evidence to support the assertions of the administration that Iraq had an alliance with al Qaeda. “That question did not come up organically through the intelligence we were collecting,” Bakos told Jeremy Scahill in the latest episode of Intercepted. “That question came up from the administration. We weren’t seeing indicators. We wouldn’t have formed a team otherwise to evaluate this information.”

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also established the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, which carried out an effort to extract information from across the intelligence community that supported the case for war. “Their findings were the opposite of basically what we were finding at the time,” she said. “So that in and of itself was the beginning of a backwards cart before the horse. We came to our conclusion. We delivered it to the White House, to Congress. The DOD did have a very different opinion on how they characterized relationships between Saddam and other terrorist organizations” This model of politicized intelligence— stove-piping bits of raw and unreliable reports, leads to bad information and tragic consequences.  “It led to war in this instance,” said Bakos.

In the same interview, Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent who worked on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, observed that Trump’s initial strategy has been an attempt to defang the intelligence community and “pump up the military and law enforcement community.”

I think the smarter people in the intelligence community are going to treat him like a dictator. And what do you do with a dictator? You play to his ego. So they will end up almost influencing the President like a foreign adversary, I think, that if they want to convince him of what they believe the truth or a balanced assessment for America is, they’re going to end up treating him like a Gaddafi or a Putin, or somebody that they want to appeal to. And they’re literally going to have to make their assessments with the information behind it come to terms with the president’s worldview, which is very frightening because it really sets up a lot of blind spots as well.

Watts also drew parallels with the build-up to the Iraq War and noted that the Trump administration has already begun to disregard Department of Homeland Security reports that contradict its policy agenda. “We’ve already seen this now with the DHS’s intel assessment around the [Muslim ban]. They produced a report that didn’t match up with this policy that they’re pushing. So now you see the administration say, well, I’m not going to listen to it. We’re still going to push it forward.”

“What I’m expecting them to do is start to put alternative teams out of the White House that are going to provide another competitive look at these questions, and if we see that, especially in the Department of Defense or run directly out of the National Security Council, I would have great concern,” said Watts. “That to me would signal: I don’t trust my intel agencies.”

Adding to the peril of politicized intelligence is the fundamental ignorance and inexperience of Trump’s inner circle, namely White House advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. “What is super scary about it to me is you’re looking at people who have got a thimble of knowledge about a lot of these groups that we’re tackling right now.” The White House is lumping Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, and ISIS together as allies right now, Watts said. “That is lunacy.” They’re creating a big enemy that they can go out and fight.

“The fact that Gorka can’t even understand that on a basic level,” Bakos added, “means that he is completely the wrong person to be looking at countering terrorism and understanding the Middle East.”

“My biggest fear,” said Watts, “is that there will be a major terrorist attack between now and that current takes over, because it will bring the country under the umbrella of the president to be tough and have to prove yourself, and the ideologues will run first because they’re more organized.”

“If I were al Qaeda or ISIS I would attack now. If I was a nation state, Russia, China, Iran, I would provoke us right now because you’d get that overreaction that they want.”

Jeremy Scahill’s interview with Nada Bakos and Clint Watts can be heard on Episode 6 of the Intercepted podcast: Donald in Wonderland.

The post Trump May Choose “Alternative Intelligence” to Support His “Alternative Facts,” Former Agents Warn appeared first on The Intercept.

Secretário de Defesa “moderado” de Trump levou os EUA à beira de uma guerra

2 March 2017 - 11:25am

Você sabia que o governo Trump quase iniciou uma guerra contra o Irã no começo de fevereiro?

Talvez a demissão do Gen. Michael Flynn da função de conselheiro de segurança nacional ou os ataques on-line do presidente Trump contra a Nordstrom [loja on-line que cancelou a venda da linha de roupas da filha de Trump, Ivanka] tenham distraído você. Ou quem sabe você não tenha tomado conhecimento porque o New York Times escondeu a notícia de uma forma estranha no meio de um longo artigo sobre o tumulto e o caos no Conselho de Segurança Nacional dos EUA. O secretário de Defesa James Mattis, segundo o jornal, queria que a Marinha dos EUA “interceptasse e embarcasse em um navio iraniano em busca de armas contrabandeadas possivelmente destinadas a combatentes Houthi no Iêmen. Mas o navio estava em águas internacionais no Mar Arábico, segundo dois oficiais. O sr. Mattis, por fim, decidiu deixar a operação de lado pelo menos por enquanto. Os oficiais da Casa Branca disseram que a suspensão se deu por conta do vazamento da notícia da operação iminente.

Entenderam? A única razão para a operação ter sido suspensa (pelo menos temporariamente) e o confronto militar entre os EUA e o Irã ter sido evitado foi o que o comandante-chefe de Mattis (presidente Trump) chamou de “vazamentos ilegais”.

Exagero meu? Pergunte aos iranianos. “Embarcar em um navio iraniano é um atalho” para um confronto, disse Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, ex-membro do Conselho de Segurança Nacional do Irã e aliado próximo do presidente iraniano Hassan Rouhani. Mesmo não sendo deflagrado um combate armado em águas internacionais, a República Islâmica, disse Mousavian, “retaliaria”, acrescentando que o Irã “conta com muitas opções de retaliação”.

Trita Parsi, chefe do Conselho Nacional Irano-Americano e autor do livro “Losing an Enemy — Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy” (Perdendo um Inimigo — Irã e o Triunfo da Diplomacia), concorda. Esses atos de “intensificação” do conflito por parte do governo Trump, diz o autor, “aumentam significativamente o risco de uma guerra”.

A foto publicada pela agência semioficial Fars News mostra um navio de guerra iraniano antes de deixar as águas do Irã. Estreito de Ormuz, 7 de abril de 2015.

Foto: Mahdi Marizad/Fars News Agency/AP

Em um governo repleto de defensores do uso da força militar contra o Irã, desde o diretor da CIA Mike Pompeo (“Estou ansioso para revogar esse acordo desastroso com o maior patrocinador de terrorismo no mundo”) até o secretário de Segurança Interna John Kelly (“O envolvimento do Irã na [América Latina] … é motivo de preocupação”), passando pelo ex-conselheiro de segurança nacional Flynn (“Estamos colocando o Irã de sobreaviso”), alguns poucos esperavam ingenuamente que Mattis fosse o adulto responsável da festa.

O secretário de Defesa tem sido elogiado tanto por políticos quanto por especialistas: “acadêmico-guerreiro” (New York Daily News) e “marinheiro mais respeitado de sua geração” (Marine Corps Times) com “potencial para atuar como moderador” (New York Times) do comandante-chefe por ser “o anti-Trump” (Politico) e, portanto, “uma boa notícia para a ordem mundial” (Wall Street Journal).

Então por que um general aposentado dos Fuzileiros Navais como Mattis estaria disposto a provocar um conflito com Teerã por causa de um simples navio? O fato é que Mattis também é obcecado pelo Irã. Já exagerou ao chamar a República Islâmica de “maior ameaça à estabilidade e paz no Oriente Médio” e — se rebaixando ao mundo das teorias conspiratórias no melhor estilo Trump — insinuou que Teerã colaborava com o Estado Islâmico. “O Irã não é inimigo do EI,” defendeu Mattis em 2016, destacando que “o único país que não foi atacado” pelo EI “no Oriente Médio foi o Irã. Não é por acaso, tenho certeza”.

Segundo o Washington Post, nos dias que antecederam as negociações sobre o programa nuclear do Irã, “israelenses podem ter questionado a disposição de Obama para o uso de força [militar] contra o Irã. (…) Mas eles acreditaram que Mattis estava falando sério”. O general, atuando como chefe do Comando Central dos EUA, chegou a propor ataques aéreos “na calada da noite” em território iraniano, em 2011, em retaliação ao apoio de Teerã às milícias anti-EUA no Iraque — proposição que foi rejeitada por oficiais da Casa Branca preocupados com o “risco de deflagração de mais uma guerra no Oriente Médio”.

Mousavian está surpreso com a agressividade do secretário de Defesa: “Ele é um dos generais mais experientes dos EUA e sabe que (…) as consequências de um conflito com o Irã seriam dez vezes maiores do que as que os EUA enfrentaram no Afeganistão e no Iraque juntos”.

Mattis, na verdade, está associado a alguns dos piores crimes de guerra da invasão do Iraque. Foi ele quem deu a ordem de ataque à vila Mukaradeeb em abril de 2004 — uma decisão aprovada em apenas 30 segundos, conforme admitiu algum tempo depois —, que matou 42 civis, incluindo 13 crianças, em um casamento no local. “Não tenho que me desculpar pelo comportamento de meus homens”, disse a repórteres.

Seis meses depois, em novembro de 2004, Mattis planejou o ataque dos fuzileiros à Fallujah que levou a cidade aos escombros, forçou 200 mil residentes a deixarem suas casas e resultou, segundo a Cruz Vermelha, em pelo menos 800 civis mortos.

A fumaça toma conta da área atacada pelos EUA na cidade iraquiana de Fallujah. 11 de novembro de 2004.

Foto: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

Não é à toa que Mattis é chamado de “cachorro louco”. Não é à toa que suas máximas combativas (ou ”Mátsimas“) incluam ter recomendado a fuzileiros sob seu comando no Iraque que “sejam educados, sejam profissionais, mas tenham um plano para matar todos as pessoas que encontrarem“, e ter confessado a um grupo de pessoas na Califórnia que “é divertido atirar em pessoas. (…) Eu gosto de uma briga“.

É esse o tipo de “comedimento” que esperamos de Mattis? Trump foi criticado acertadamente pelo ataque ao Iêmen em janeiro que provocou a morte de um fuzileiro americano e de pelo menos 15 mulheres e crianças iemenitas. No entanto, foram o secretário de Defesa e o diretor do Estado-Maior Conjunto que convenceram o presidente neófito de que o uso de SEALs em um ataque à al Qaeda na Península Arábica seria um “divisor de águas“. Foi o belicista Mattis quem, segundo a Reuters, disse a Trump que “duvidava que o governo Obama teria sido tão ousado”. Além disso, soubemos esta semana que Mattis está cotado para receber carta branca de Trump para realizar incursões militares, ataques com drones e resgates de reféns sem necessidade de aprovação prévia do presidente. O que poderia sair errado, não é mesmo?

De acordo com Parsi, Mattis “acredita que os EUA precisam estabelecer uma posição hegemônica consistente no Oriente Médio”, e, “se seu objetivo for a hegemonia no Oriente Médio, o Irã é seu inimigo número um, já que Teerã rejeitou a Pax Americana — ainda que os EUA e o Irã compartilhem diversos interesses comuns, como a oposição ao EI”.

Ainda assim, mesmo aqueles que costumam ser mais céticos acreditaram no mito da moderação de Mattis. “Na verdade, acho que ele é quem mais se aproxima de um ‘moderado’ neste governo”, afirmou Andrew Bacevich, historiador militar conservador da Universidade de Boston e antigo crítico da política de defesa dos EUA. Fazendo mau uso de uma citação de George W. Bush, essa é a tal “intolerância branda por meio de baixas expectativas”. O secretário de Defesa pode não ser intolerante nem excêntrico como tantos outros nomeados por Trump, mas pode acabar sendo muito mais letal em longo prazo.

Lembre-se: não foram Dick Cheney ou Donald Rumsfeld que receberam a tarefa de vender o infortúnio mesopotâmico do presidente Bush à ONU em fevereiro de 2003, foi o “moderado” secretário de Defesa Colin Powell (outro general da reserva). Quem você acha que seria mais convincente para vender ao público uma futura guerra contra o Irã em nome do governo Trump? O presidente que escapou do alistamento militar ou seu secretário de Defesa condecorado? O ex-chefe da Breitbart Steve Bannon ou Mattis, o “Monge Guerreiro“, que, não nos esqueçamos, recebeu o voto de confirmação de 45 dos 46 senadores democratas?

“A guerra está mais uma vez na agenda, seja de forma intencional ou por acidente”, adverte Parsi. Então, não dos enganemos. Mattis está longe de ser uma ovelha em pele de lobo: ele é um lobo em pele de lobo. O secretário de Defesa pode ter descrito as três maiores ameaças à segurança nacional dos EUA como “Irã, Irã e Irã“, mas se o governo Trump acabar por entrar em guerra contra o Irã por conta da imprudência do secretário, as três maiores ameaças à “paz e à estabilidade do Oriente Médio” poderão acabar por ser “Mattis, Mattis e Mattis”.

Foto principal: Secretário de Defesa James Mattis no Ministério da Defesa. Seul, 3 de janeiro de 2017.

The post Secretário de Defesa “moderado” de Trump levou os EUA à beira de uma guerra appeared first on The Intercept.

Mehdi Hasan estreia coluna sobre política internacional no The Intercept

2 March 2017 - 11:21am

O premiado comentarista e jornalista televisivo Mehdi Hasan chega ao The Intercept para contribuir com uma coluna semanal que também será traduzida frequentemente para o português. Toda quarta-feira, Hasan trará uma perspectiva global para assuntos que vão desde a presidência de Trump e o surgimento do nacionalismo étnico nos EUA até a ascensão da extrema direita na Europa, as consequências do Brexit, a política no Oriente Médio, o Islã e islamofobia, e muito mais. Em sua coluna de estreia, Hasan demonstra ceticismo quanto ao secretário de Defesa James Mattis, que surge como um dos raros favoritos dos progressistas no gabinete de deploráveis de Trump.

Mehdi Hasan

Hasan acumulou uma legião de seguidores por todo o mundo não apenas por seu jornalismo analítico perspicaz — que já foi publicado no The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, entre outros —, mas por suas entrevistas combativas e profundamente informativas com oficiais americanos, como o ex-chefe da CIA Michael Hayden e o ex-conselheiro de segurança nacional Gen. Michael Flynn; líderes internacionais, como Ehud Olmert e Hamid Karzai; e o whistleblower da NSA Edward Snowden.

O público brasileiro deve lembrar de Hasan por conta de suas entrevistas amplamente repercutidas com o ex-presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso, em julho de 2016, e com a ex-presidente Dilma Rousseff, em dezembro.

Hasan apresenta dois dos mais populares programas do canal Al Jazeera English, UpFront e Head to Head, e atuou como diretor de política do Huffington Post no Reino Unido. Também é autor de dois livros sobre política e economia, além de ter participado de programas na BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR e Sky News.

Estamos muito felizes com a chegada de Mehdi ao The Intercept em um momento em que a mídia americana — e internacional — precisa desesperadamente de seu impetuoso intelecto e de sua postura dinâmica e dissidente.

The post Mehdi Hasan estreia coluna sobre política internacional no The Intercept appeared first on The Intercept.

Crony Capitalism at Work? Trump Adviser Carl Icahn Strong-Arms Ethanol Lobby to Save His Company Millions

2 March 2017 - 8:53am

Critics are charging that billionaire investor Carl Icahn has used his position as Donald Trump’s deregulatory czar to strong-arm the ethanol lobby into agreeing to a change that will save one of Icahn’s companies $200 million a year.

If so, this would be the most obvious example yet of crony capitalism in the Trump era.

Trump named Icahn as deregulatory czar in December, saying he would be “a leader in helping American entrepreneurs shed job-killing regulations that stifle economic growth.” But because Icahn was a “special adviser” to the president with no formal White House position, the administration said he did not have to divest from any of his prodigious financial holdings. At the time, observers noted that Icahn would have a perfect opportunity to advise on deregulatory actions that would line his own pockets.

Tyson Slocum, director of the Energy Program at Public Citizen, said that is exactly what has come to pass. “There’s no question that Icahn is playing a very big role here,” he said. “People need to call it what it is, the administration manipulating the system.”

The backdrop for this drama is the government’s renewable fuel standard, which requires all gasoline sold in America to contain a minimum volume of renewable sources — generally corn-based ethanol.

One of the more arcane elements of the current rule is that oil refiners are responsible to make sure the rule is followed — not the gasoline wholesalers (or “blenders”).

Icahn is the majority owner of CVR Energy, a refiner which does not have the infrastructure to blend ethanol. As a result, CVR must buy renewable fuel credits to comply with their obligation.

In its most recent SEC filing, CVR stated it spent $205.9 million last year on renewable fuel credits. Shifting the point of obligation to blenders would relieve CVR of that expense. “That’s big money, even to a billionaire,” Slocum told The Intercept.

Not surprisingly, Icahn has long wanted the renewable-fuels industry to agree that the obligation should belong to the wholesalers, not the refiners.

And all of a sudden this week, the top renewable-fuels trade organization reversed its previous position and announced that it had reached an agreement with Icahn, on his terms.

The excitement began Monday night, when Politico Pro reported the Trump administration would soon issue an executive order moving that obligation to the wholesalers.

On Tuesday, a Trump spokesperson denied an executive order was imminent. But the same day, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), the ethanol industry’s top trade group, struck a deal with Icahn, agreeing to change the point of obligation in exchange for an increase to how much ethanol must be placed in gasoline. Under the deal, the 15 percent ethanol blend, or E15, would be mandatory year-round; currently that mandate is relaxed in the summertime.

This would also financially benefit Valero Energy, the oil giant that, like Icahn, owns refineries that cannot blend ethanol. Valero’s renewable division recently joined RFA, becoming its largest member. Icahn Enterprises and Valero did not respond to a request for comment.

Icahn, Valero, and RFA presented the deal to the Trump administration, complete with draft language for an executive order. Ethanol companies immediately savaged the agreement, saying it would throw the renewable fuels market into turmoil and potentially cost consumers more — all to give Icahn and Valero a payday.

Jeff Broin, CEO of Poet, the nation’s largest ethanol producer, said in a statement, “It’s a bailout. This was a back-room ‘deal’ made by people who want out of their obligations under the Clean Air Act.”

The Fuels America coalition, another industry player, went so far as to sever ties with RFA, saying they were “no longer aligned with America’s biofuel industry.” Emily Skor of Growth Energy, a biofuels advocate, was more blunt: “I assure you this is no deal for anyone but Carl Icahn.”

The controversy deepened when Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of RFA, told Bloomberg that he made the deal because “I was told in no uncertain terms that the point of obligation was going to be moved, and I said I wanted to see one of our top agenda items moved.” He added that he was “told the executive order was not negotiable.” This backed RFA into a corner, forcing it to join with Icahn to get something out of the deal.

Dinneen did not say who told him about the executive order, or what role Icahn may have played. Calls and emails to the Renewable Fuels Association seeking clarity were not returned.

On Tuesday, Public Citizen called on the Justice Department to “launch an immediate investigation into the role Mr. Icahn played during the transition and currently plays as a formal adviser to the president.”

There were already signs that Icahn had influenced Trump on this particular issue. Last September, the campaign posted an unusually technical policy platform supporting Icahn’s preferred point of obligation change. After it was discovered, the campaign took it down within hours. Icahn also was reportedly involved in vetting Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Pruitt would have the ultimate authority to make the new rules Icahn seeks.

“From Icahn’s point of view, you want to make it clear that the administration is going to move on this,” said Slocum. “The easiest way is to create buzz about the executive order.” Putting the industry’s biggest trade group on the side of something Icahn wants increases the odds of success. Securing agreement with RFA also stops it from taking legal action if the point of obligation is changed.

Both Republican senators from Iowa, the nation’s leading biofuel state, oppose the change Icahn wants. Sen. Joni Ernst called it something that would benefit “a select few.”

“When Trump gave him a title, he conveyed a formal role to Icahn for formulating policy,” said Slocum. “And Icahn is formulating policy to benefit his direct financial interests.”

Top photo: Carl Icahn in New York in 2010.

The post Crony Capitalism at Work? Trump Adviser Carl Icahn Strong-Arms Ethanol Lobby to Save His Company Millions appeared first on The Intercept.

Como criar uma conta anônima no Twitter para driblar autoridades

2 March 2017 - 6:00am

Uma das primeiras medidas tomadas pelo presidente Donald Trump quando assumiu a Casa Branca foi impedir temporariamente que diversas agências federais usem o Twitter.

Em resposta, supostos funcionários do governo criaram um onda de contas de Twitter alternativas que compartilham fatos verdadeiros (não confundir com “fatos alternativos”, também conhecidos como “mentiras”) sobre mudanças climáticas e ciência. Em geral, os administradores das contas optaram por se manterem anônimos, temendo represália — mas, dependendo de como eles criaram e usam as contas, eles não estão necessariamente anônimos para o Twitter ou para quem o Twitter compartilha seus dados.

A expressão anônima de ideias é protegida inequivocamente pela Primeira Emenda da Constituição americana e pela Suprema Corte dos EUA. Além disso, sua história começa com três dos fundadores dos EUA que escreveram a obra O Federalista, entre 1787  e 1788, sob o pseudônimo Publius.

Mas a capacidade técnica de se manter anônimo na internet, onde qualquer resquício de dados é meticulosamente monitorado, é um problema completamente diferente. O FBI, agência de inteligência doméstica dos EUA que abusa do poder de espionar  qualquer pessoa mesmo sem que haja suspeita — e que tem um histórico antigo e obscuro de violação de direitos de americanos — agora responde diretamente ao presidente Trump, um líder autoritário, obcecado por vingança, com absoluto desprezo pelo poder Judiciário e pelo Estado Democrático de Direito.

Nesse contexto, o quanto é fácil criar e manter uma conta de Twitter preservando seu anonimato, inclusive em relação ao próprio Twitter e às agências de segurança que podem solicitar seus registros? Tentei descobrir a resposta para essa pergunta e documentei a pesquisa. Há diferentes formas de se manter anônimo. Se você planeja seguir essas orientações, tenha certeza de que compreende sua finalidade, caso precise improvisar. Também não posso garantir que essa técnica protegerá seu anonimato — as coisas podem dar errado por diversos motivos, muitos deles no âmbito social, em vez do técnico. Mas espero que você tenha pelo menos alguma chance de manter sua identidade em segredo.

Para esse exercício, optei por um tópico político extremamente controverso: fatos. Acredito que o que sabemos sobre a realidade é baseado em evidências que podem ser analisadas de forma objetiva. Por isso, criei uma conta de Twitter completamente anônima (até a publicação desse artigo, é claro) chamada @FactsNotAlt. Veja aqui como isso foi feito:

Modelo de ameaça

Antes de começar, precisamos definir um modelo de ameaça, isto é: o que precisamos proteger; de quem precisamos proteger; quais são suas capacidades; e que medidas evitariam ou atenuariam essas ameaças.

Basicamente, é impossível se manter completamente seguro o tempo todo, portanto, precisamos priorizar nossos limitados recursos para proteger o que for de maior importância. A informação mais importante a ser protegida nesse caso é sua identidade real.

As agências de segurança e o próprio FBI podem abrir uma investigação para descobrir sua identidade. Isso pode ser usado contra você — resultando em sua demissão, acusação criminal ou algo ainda mais grave. Essa conta de Twitter também pode incomodar exércitos de trolls que podem ameaçá-lo, atacá-lo com discurso de ódio e tentar descobrir sua identidade por conta própria.

Se o FBI abrir uma investigação para descobrir sua identidade, uma das primeiras medidas que tomará será pedir seus dados para o próprio Twitter — e para todas as outras redes sociais que você usa. Portanto, medidas de proteção importantes devem ser tomadas, como se certificar de que as informações vinculadas à sua conta — números de telefone, endereços de e-mail e endereços de IP — não levem até você.

Isso serve para todas as contas que você criar. Por exemplo, se você fornecer um número de telefone ao criar sua conta do Twitter, a operadora associada ao número não deve ter informações que possam levar até você.

Outra preocupação: o FBI também pode operar de forma disfarçada na internet e tentar estabelecer uma amizade para que você revele suas informações ou para enganá-lo por meio de um link falso e, assim, hackear sua conta. Eles também podem usar informantes infiltrados na sua comunidade de seguidores no Twitter. Trolls organizados podem fazer uso das mesmas táticas.

Como ocultar seu endereço de IP com o navegador Tor

O endereço de IP é um conjunto de números que identifica um computador ou uma rede de computadores na internet. A menos que você tome medidas extraordinárias, todos os sites que você visita têm acesso ao seu endereço de IP. Se você estiver conectado ao Twitter usando o Wi-Fi de sua casa ou escritório, ou usando o plano de dados de seu celular, o Twitter sabe sua localização. Se eles passarem esses endereços de IP para o FBI, você perderá seu anonimato.

É aí que o Tor entra em cena. Ele é uma rede descentralizada de servidores que ajuda a contornar a censura na internet, a evitar a vigilância on-line e a acessar sites de forma anônima. Caso você entre em sua conta usando o navegador Tor, o Twitter não saberá seu endereço de IP real — em vez disso, verá apenas o endereço de IP de um dos servidores aleatórios do Tor que são administrados por voluntários. E mesmo que um desses servidores seja maligno, não será possível determinar quem você é ou o que você está fazendo.

Esse é o maior benefício que o Tor oferece em comparação com as Redes Privadas Virtuais (VPN – Virtual Private Network), serviços que tentam ajudar usuários a ocultarem seus endereços de IP. O FBI pode solicitar o seu endereço de IP real a um serviço de VPN (caso a VPN armazene registros dos endereços de IP de seus usuários e coopere com esse tipo de pedido). Isso não é possível com o Tor.

Para começar a usar o Tor, faça o download do Tor Browser. Trata-se de um navegador de web, como o Chrome ou o Firefox, mas todo o seu tráfego será roteado através da rede Tor, ocultando seu endereço de IP real.

O Tor é a forma mais fácil de começar, mas o navegador não é perfeito. Por exemplo, um hacker que conheça uma vulnerabilidade no navegador Tor pode descobrir seu endereço de IP verdadeiro induzindo você a visitar um site que ele controla e explorando essa vulnerabilidade — o FBI já fez isso no passado. Por isso, é importante sempre atualizar o navegador Tor imediatamente após ser solicitado.

Você também pode se proteger das falhas de segurança do Tor usando um sistema operacional desenvolvido para proteger seu anonimato, como o Tails ou o Qubes com Whonix, (já escrevi sobre o segundo aqui). Será mais trabalhoso, mas deve valer a pena. Eu, particularmente, uso o Qubes com Whonix.

Como obter um endereço de e-mail anônimo

Antes de criar praticamente qualquer tipo de conta on-line, você precisa de um endereço de e-mail. Enquanto os serviços de e-mail mais populares, como Gmail ou Yahoo Mail, permitem que qualquer um abra uma conta gratuita, não é fácil fazê-lo de forma anônima. A maioria deles exige que sua identidade seja verificada por meio de um número de telefone. Na verdade, isso pode ser feito de forma anônima (mais informações abaixo), mas prefiro usar um provedor de e-mail que ofereça e-mails para usuários anônimos.

Um desses provedores é o SIGAINT, serviço que funciona apenas na darknet e força todos os usuários a entrarem apenas usando o Tor para ler ou enviar emails. Esse provedor de e-mails é administrado de forma anônima e contém anúncios para sites da darknet (por vezes, extremamente suspeitos). No entanto, você obtém um endereço de e-mail funcional e anônimo.

(O serviço SIGAINT parece estar fora do ar no momento. Mas, enquanto isso, você pode experimentar o Riseup, citado abaixo, ou comprar um telefone descartável e usar o ProtonMail, Gmail ou outro serviço de e-mail.)

Se preferir não usar o SIGAINT, outra opção interessante é o Riseup, um coletivo tecnológico que oferece e-mail, lista de e-mails, VPN e outros serviços semelhantes para ativistas de todo o mundo. As contas são gratuitas e não é preciso fornecer nenhuma informação pessoal, mas é preciso ser convidado por dois amigos que já usem o serviço para poder criar uma conta.

Outra opção é o ProtonMail – provedor de e-mails com foco em privacidade baseado na Suíça que exige um mínimo de informações pessoais e funciona bem com o Tor. Porém, para evitar abusos, o provedor pede que usuários do Tor forneçam um número de telefone (que promete não armazenar) para que recebam uma mensagem de texto durante a criação da conta. Portanto, se optar pelo ProtonMail (ou qualquer outro provedor de e-mail que exija um número de telefone para criar contas com o Tor), siga as instruções abaixo para criar um número de telefone anônimo.

Eu escolhi o SIGAINT. Usando o navegador Tor, visitei o endereço onion do SIGAINT, sigaintevyh2rzvw.onion, encontrado no site do provedor. Trata-se de um tipo especial de endereço da web que funciona apenas com o navegador Tor, e não funciona na internet normal. Lá, preenchi um formulário para criar uma conta nova.

Pronto. Está criado meu novo endereço de e-mail anônimo: factsaretrue@sigaint.org.

Como obter um número de telefone anônimo

Ao tentar criar uma conta no Twitter, logo encontrei um problema: mesmo que eu forneça um endereço de e-mail, o Twitter não me permite criar uma conta nova sem que meu número de telefone seja verificado. (Você pode ter sorte e receber a opção de pular a verificação de telefone — vale a pena tentar — mas caso esteja usando o Tor, é pouco provável que isso aconteça.)

Isso constitui um problema, já que não posso usar meu número de telefone verdadeiro se quiser permanecer anônimo. Ou seja, para prosseguir, precisei descobrir uma forma de obter um número de telefone que não esteja associado à minha identidade real. Esse é um problema recorrente ao tentar permanecer anônimo na internet, então fique à vontade para usar essas instruções sempre que precisar de um número de telefone para abrir uma conta.

Há outras formas de fazer isso, mas optei por um método conceitualmente simples: comprar um telefone descartável, usá-lo para verificar minha nova conta no Twitter e descartá-lo. Visitei lojas de conveniência e farmácias no centro de São Francisco até encontrar o que estava buscando em um 7-Eleven.

Comprei o aparelho TracFone (um telefone convencional LG 328BG, e não um smartphone) mais barato que pude encontrar em dinheiro vivo, além de 60 minutos de chamadas por US$ 62,38, incluindo impostos. É possível encontrar aparelhos mais baratos do que isso se procurar com calma.

Se você quer se manter anônimo ao comprar um telefone descartável, considere as seguintes recomendações:

  • Use dinheiro vivo para comprar seu aparelho descartável e seus minutos pré-pagos. Não use cartões de crédito.
  • Ao comprar o serviço pré-pago de chamadas, seu cartão de serviço será ativado no caixa. Isso informa à operadora de telefone (TracFone, no meu caso) exatamente em que loja o telefone foi comprado, e quando. Leve isso em consideração e tente comprá-lo em uma loja longe de sua casa – quando estiver viajando, por exemplo.
  • Seu rosto provavelmente será filmado pelas câmeras de segurança da loja. A maioria das lojas grava imagens novas por cima de imagens antigas regularmente. Se possível, aguarde uma ou duas semanas antes de começar a usar a conta para que as imagens já tenham sido apagadas quando tentarem descobrir sua identidade real.
  • Esses telefones e serviços podem ser encontrados em lojas de conveniência. Se for preciso consultar a internet por lojas próximas que vendam telefones descartáveis, use o navegador Tor.
  • Assim que ligar seu telefone descartável, ele se conectará às torres de transmissão e a operadora de telefone tomará conhecimento de sua localização. Por isso, não ative ou ligue seu telefone em casa ou no escritório. Vá para um lugar público, como um café, antes de ativar seu novo telefone. Mantenha-o desligado quando não estiver sendo usado.
  • Não use seu telefone descartável para nenhum fim que não esteja relacionado a este projeto específico. Isso se chama compartimentação; mesmo que alguém descubra todo o histórico desse número de telefone, não será possível descobrir nada de novo.
  • Todo aparelho de telefone celular tem um número identificador exclusivo. Portanto, se por qualquer motivo precisar de outro número de telefone no futuro e não quiser que seja associado ao primeiro, será preciso comprar outro aparelho.

Após adquirir o serviço, é preciso ativar o telefone. Esse processo varia dependendo da operadora. A TracFone exige que você ative seu aparelho ligando para um número de telefone a partir de outro aparelho — obviamente, uma péssima opção para quem está tentando se manter anônimo — ou ativando o aparelho no site da operadora. Eu ativei meu telefone descartável usando o navegador Tor.

Depois de ativar seu telefone, use o menu do aparelho para descobrir seu novo número de telefone. No meu LG 328BG, pressionei Menu, selecionei Configurações e, em seguida, Informações do telefone para obtê-lo.

Como criar uma conta no Twitter de forma anônima

Finalmente, munido de um endereço de e-mail e número de telefone que não estão associados à minha identidade verdadeira, já posso criar uma conta no Twitter.

Antes de criar sua conta, leve seu laptop e telefone para um local público que não seja sua casa ou escritório, como um café. Chegando no local, ligue seu telefone descartável. Lembre-se de que esse local agora está associado ao seu telefone descartável, portanto, talvez seja uma boa ideia realizar essa etapa quando estiver visitando outra cidade.

Usando o navegador Tor, visitei https://twitter.com/signup e criei uma conta nova. O formulário de conta nova solicitou meu nome completo (“Facts Are True”), meu endereço de e-mail (factsaretrue@sigaint.org) e uma senha.

Após clicar em “Inscreva-se”, meu número de telefone foi imediatamente solicitado. Inseri meu número de telefone anônimo e cliquei em “Telefonar para mim”. Um robô do Twitter ligou para meu telefone descartável e ditou seis números que usei na página seguinte do navegador Tor. Tudo funcionou perfeitamente.

Depois de concluir a etapa de verificação do meu número, desliguei o telefone descartável. Quando tiver certeza de que não precisa mais de seu telefone, é recomendável descartá-lo.

Ao fim do processo de inscrição, o Twitter pede um nome de usuário. Após muitas tentativas, encontrei um que me agradou: @FactsNotAlt. Depois de passar pela tela de boas-vindas, finalmente estava conectado à minha nova conta anônima.

Fui em frente e confirmei que controlo o endereço de e-mail factsaretrue@sigaint.org.

E pronto. Configurei minha conta nova e comecei a postar informações verdadeiras.

Como manter sua conta de Twitter a longo prazo

Se estiver acompanhando as etapas, você já deve ter uma conta do Twitter completamente anônima. Parabéns! Mas o trabalho apenas começou. Agora, vem a parte complicada: manter essa conta por meses, ou anos, sem cometer nenhum deslize que possa comprometer sua identidade. Eu não vou precisar seguir essas recomendações com a conta @FactsNotAlt porque acabei de revelar minha identidade. Mas, se você deseja manter anonimamente uma conta popular de Twitter, veja a seguir algumas informações a serem consideradas.

Seja cuidadoso na interação com outras pessoas:

  • Revele apenas informações imprescindíveis. Não revele para ninguém que não precise saber do seu envolvimento com a administração desta conta. Não conte vantagem por aí. Esta é, de longe, a melhor forma de estragar tudo e revelar sua identidade real: fazendo fofoca.
  • Seja cuidadoso com as informações privilegiadas que pretende publicar. Se fizer parte de um pequeno grupo de pessoas com acesso a informações específicas e publicar tweets sobre elas, você pode se tornar suspeito.
  • Se sua conta se tornar popular, é possível que você entre em contato com diversos estranhos na internet. Seja cauteloso com o que diz, mesmo que esteja usando mensagens privadas. Esses estranhos podem estar tentando conquistar sua confiança na esperança de que você cometa um deslize e revele informações sobre sua identidade.
  • Tenha muito cuidado ao clicar em links enviados para você — é possível que estejam tentando descobrir seu endereço de IP ou hackear o navegador Tor. Evite clicar nesses links, mas se for preciso clicar em um deles, certifique-se de ter instalada a última versão do navegador Tor e coloque sua barra de segurança no nível Alto.
  • Esteja atento à redação de seus tweets. Seu estilo de escrita pode ser analisado para revelar sua identidade, portanto tente escrever com um estilo diferente, se possível. Por exemplo, não seria inteligente da parte de Donald Trump escrever algo como “o @theintercept continua a publicar NOTÍCIAS FALSAS. Triste!” em sua conta anônima, pois suspeitariam que o presidente dos EUA pode estar por trás dessa conta.

Compartimentação:

  • Nunca entre na conta usando seu computador do trabalho — muitas empresas espionam os computadores de seus funcionários. Use seu computador pessoal para isso. Evite também a rede de internet de seu local de trabalho — muitas empresas registram exatamente quais computadores se conectam à sua rede e o que fazem on-line. O Tor oculta suas atividades, mas a empresa ainda pode identificar o uso do Tor em sua rede.
  • Sempre use o navegador Tor quando usar a conta do Twitter. Não acesse a conta com seu telefone. Não acesse a conta com nenhum outro navegador. E não acesse sua conta anônima do Twitter quando estiver conectado com sua conta pessoal.
  • Não use sua conta anônima para seguir sua conta pessoal ou contas de amigos. Não dê retweets ou curta nenhum dos tweets dessas contas. Basicamente, não deixe que seu grupo social seja revelado.

Muitas contas de Twitter bem-sucedidas têm uma equipe inteira por trás delas, em vez de apenas uma pessoa. Se você for parte de uma equipe como essa ou estiver pensando em compartilhar o acesso à sua conta com outras pessoas:

  • Convide apenas pessoas que conheça e em quem confie.
  • Crie um conjunto de regras operacionais — como as listadas acima — e certifique-se de que todos os envolvidos as entendem e concordam com elas.
  • Crie um canal de comunicação seguro para a equipe e apenas discuta assuntos relativos à conta anônima por meio desse canal ou pessoalmente. Diversas tecnologias podem ser usadas, com vantagens e desvantagens, mas uma das melhores opções é o aplicativo de mensagens criptografadas Signal. Crie um grupo no Signal (com um nome inócuo) e ajuste a configuração do desaparecimento de mensagens para um prazo curto, como cinco minutos.
  • Em vez de publicar tweets assim que tiver uma ideia, edite os tweets de seus colegas e vice-versa. Isso aumentará a qualidade de seus tweets e poderá ajudar a despistar a análise de estilo de redação, já que o estilo final será heterogêneo.

Por fim, tenha em mente que, depois de tudo isso, o Twitter pode fechar sua conta por motivos próprios. E, se sua conta for hackeada e o endereço de e-mail associado a ela for alterado, não será possível recuperá-la.

Boa sorte!

The post Como criar uma conta anônima no Twitter para driblar autoridades appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Wants You to Think All the Immigrants He’ll Deport Are Criminals. They’re Not.

1 March 2017 - 5:12pm

President Trump on Tuesday night blamed undocumented immigrants for violent, criminal behavior — also accusing them of hurting the economy, stealing jobs from struggling families, costing the government billions of dollars, and generally creating “an environment of lawless chaos.”

The man who began his presidential campaign talking about “rapists” coming over the border cast his crusade to deport and block undocumented immigrants as a moral choice between protecting Americans or leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and death. “What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?” he asked.

Trump’s special guests at his joint address to Congress included relatives of Americans who had been killed by undocumented immigrants. “We will never stop fighting for justice. Your loved ones will never be forgotten, we will always honor their memory,” Trump promised them.

He also touted the creation several weeks ago of a special office in the Department of Homeland Security called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE. This office will be tasked with recording crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and supporting those victimized by them. Its funding will come in part from canceling all DHS “outreach or advocacy services” for undocumented immigrants.

Trump claims his immigration crackdown is a way to keep Americans safe — that he isn’t interested in tearing apart families, just in stopping violent criminals. VOICE will give the Trump administration a stream of propaganda intended to reshape the image of undocumented immigrants in the minds of the American public, from one where these migrants are simply seeking a better future for their families to one where they are hardened criminals, ready to prey on innocent Americans.

That’s a big lie. The reality is that undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes in America than anyone else. And there are plenty of migrants who are not violent criminals who are being targeted by immigration enforcement. As a result, innocent people are fearful.

“There’s so much fear in immigrant communities across the country right now,” said Joanne Lin, who works on immigration issues at the American Civil Liberties Union. “I’m getting calls from teachers, principals, educators, clergy, and these fears are not exaggerated. They’re very real fears. And people have heard about the stories of homeless men emerging from a shelter and being arrested. About a domestic violence survivor going to court for her own protection and being nabbed by immigration agents. These are the worst kinds of cases and they have ripple effects across the country.”

And even if Trump meant what he was saying about only deporting criminals — Tuesday night, for instance, he said that “As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised” — that’s simply not a credible plan.

Most recently, President Obama made a real effort to focus immigration enforcement on criminals — and yet even then, many of the people deported did not have criminal backgrounds at all.

ICE itself keeps public data on who it removed from the country during the Obama years. Even as it got better at focusing on convicted criminals, a very substantial number were noncriminals. In Fiscal Year 2015, 139,368 convicted criminals were removed by ICE; the same year, 96,045 noncriminals were removed:

That’s just the ICE deportations, which are focused on the interior of the country. Elliot Young, a history professor at Lewis & Clark College who studies immigration, tallied the numbers using government data that includes deportations by the Border Patrol and other agencies that do removals closer to the border. He concluded that 56 percent of immigrants who were removed from the country between 2009 and 2015 were noncriminals. He made the following chart to illustrate this:

Dr. Elliot Young "The Hard Truths About Obama’s Deportation Priorities" access here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hard-truths-about-obamas-deportation-priorities_us_58b3c9e7e4b0658fc20f979e

“Obama was more believable than Trump and it wasn’t true when he said it,” Young said of both presidents’ supposed focus on criminals. Even if the government is truly trying to target criminals, “the reality on the ground is that they are picking up lots of people who either don’t have any criminal convictions or they have low level misdemeanors or have crossed the border more than once and have been deported which then becomes a criminal offense.”

And the Trump administration has already expanded its focus beyond criminals. In the executive order he signed on January 25, Trump laid out “enforcement priorities” for removals by the Department of Homeland Security that include immigrants who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” or who have “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.” These immigrants have the exact same priority as those who have been charged for criminal offenses.

The ACLU’s Joanne Lin explained that the executive order basically makes all undocumented immigrants a “priority” for removal. “So, like, jaywalking, have you ever driven without your wallet because you left your wallet at home? That begs the question whether any of us could actually meet that standard, in all candor,” she said.

“Because it doesn’t say that you’ve been arrested, you’ve been charged, you’ve been booked, it just says you ‘committed,'” she said. “It’s very wide berth. It’s written that way because under this administration they want every undocumented immigrant to be a potential priority.”

Top photo: Guatemalan deportee Eric Perez kisses his daughter Kimberly after he arrived on an ICE deportation flight on Feb. 9, 2017, to Guatemala City, Guatemala. The charter jet, carrying 135 deportees, arrived from Texas.

The post Trump Wants You to Think All the Immigrants He’ll Deport Are Criminals. They’re Not. appeared first on The Intercept.

New Bill Would Force NYPD to Disclose Its Surveillance Tech Playbook

1 March 2017 - 4:13pm

Legislation introduced today by New York City council members Dan Garodnick and Vanessa Gibson would finally compel the NYPD — one of the most technology-laden police forces in the country — to make public its rulebook for deploying its controversial surveillance arsenal.

The bill, named the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) act, would require the NYPD to detail how, when, and with what authority it uses technologies like Stingray devices, which can monitor and interfere with the cellular communications of an entire crowd at once. Specifically, the department would have to publicize the “…rules, processes and guidelines issued by the department regulating access to or use of such surveillance technology as well as any prohibitions or restrictions on use, including whether the department obtains a court authorization for each use of a surveillance technology, and what specific type of court authorization is sought.”

The NYPD would also have to say how it protects the gathered surveillance data itself (for example, x-ray imagery, or individuals captured in a facial recognition scan), and whether or not this data is shared with other governmental organizations. A period of public comment would follow these disclosures.

In a press release, the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has itself been instrumental in fighting to reveal the mere fact that the NYPD possesses devices like the Stingray, hailed the bill:

“Public awareness of how the NYPD conducts intrusive surveillance, especially the impacts on vulnerable New Yorkers, is critical to democracy. For too long the NYPD has been using technology that spies on cell phones, sees through buildings and follows your car under a shroud of secrecy, and the bill is a significant step out of the dark ages.”

It’s unclear whether the bill would apply to products that have both powerful surveillance and non-surveillance functionality, a la Palantir, but the legislation’s definition of “surveillance technology” is sufficiently broad:

The term “surveillance technology” means equipment, software, or system capable of, or used or designed for, collecting, retaining, processing, or sharing audio, video, location, thermal, biometric, or similar information, that is operated by or at the direction of the department.

Though the bill might to little to curb the use of such technologies, it would at least give those on the sidewalk a better idea of how and when they’re being watched, if not why.

The NYPD did not immediately return a request for comment.

The post New Bill Would Force NYPD to Disclose Its Surveillance Tech Playbook appeared first on The Intercept.

In Confirmation Lovefest, Senators Tell Future Spy Chief He May Be Too Nice for the Trump Administration

1 March 2017 - 3:42pm

Former Sen. Dan Coats’s wife Marsha and professional sports came up more frequently than CIA black sites and NSA surveillance powers during the Director of National Intelligence nominee’s confirmation hearing with the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday.

Coats served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence alongside many of the men and women tasked with assessing his readiness to lead the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies. The Indiana Republican announced his retirement in November 2015, before being asked by President Trump to take on the director of national intelligence job in January. His former colleagues kept things lighthearted during the unclassified session. Coats kicked off his testimony by comparing the DNI’s role to that of a head football coach.

“There is a coach for offense, defense, special teams, one for quarterback and on and on it goes. But every team has a head coach. … I see the role of director of national intelligence as analogous for the head hole for the intelligence community, … integrating and leveraging all of the expertise in our community,” he said during his opening statement, when he also took the opportunity to celebrate the Chicago Cubs’s World Series win. He also gave a shout out to his wife and his 10 grandchildren.

Coats promised to work to streamline the development process for satellites at the National Reconnaissance Office, attend meetings of the National Security Council, cooperate with Congress’s investigation into alleged Russian hacking during the election, and tell the president the truth whether he wants to hear it or not — to try to be ornery and straight shooting like notorious New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when confronting the world’s threats.

But several senators who called Coats a friend — nearly all of whom asked about his “lovely wife,” as former Sen. Saxby Chambliss referred to her — expressed reservations about Coats’s kindhearted nature, his “Mr. Rogers” personality, and the potential that the White House would steamroll him during internal meetings and discussions.

Those concerns likely aren’t unfounded. The director of national intelligence was left off a list of permanent members of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, and reporting from The Intercept as early as November has suggested an appetite in the Trump administration to do away with the position altogether.

“You’re one of the most likable, affable, easygoing people I’ve ever met,” Angus King, the independent senator from Maine, said during the hearing. For the person in charge of the nation’s intelligence community, who is going to be “reporting to a president who may not want to hear what you have to say,” King said he wanted “someone crusty and mean and tough.”

Sen. James Lankford, apparently not reassured, demanded Coats “be tough when [the job] requires you to be tough.”

While Coats attempted to assuage his former colleagues’ concerns, saying he understood that responsibility — that now is “no time to be the nice guy” — he faltered and failed to commit to definitive positions when asked tougher questions.

Throughout the hearing, when put under pressure — about the National Security Council or specifics about intelligence programs — Coats stumbled over his words, at one point calling his expected position “the DI”, flubbing “transparency” with “tranparity.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who has been an outspoken critic of the intelligence community, came out swinging with specific questions and demands of Coats. While Coats had no trouble to responding to Wyden’s questions about Russia, he refused to commit to publishing the number of Americans swept up in the NSA’s foreign intelligence dragnet, or release public updates on why that estimate hadn’t been completed yet.

“We need that number, we have sought it for years and years,” Wyden pleaded.

“I’m going to do everything I can,” Coats responded. “I’ve been told it’s an extremely complex process,” he continued — a process he doesn’t yet understand. “I need to first find out why we can’t get it.”

In the past, the ODNI has argued searching its database for the number of Americans’ communications incidentally grabbed up would be technically impossible, and if not, it would doubly invade the privacy of the owners.

But Coats’s response is actually a retreat from public positions the U.S. intelligence community has recently made about its work to release that estimate. The intelligence community has held meetings with outside advisors, including civil liberties groups, for many months — and committed to releasing a number by early 2017.

Coats also seemed to question laws against torture, including a 2015 Senate amendment to the defense budget, which in turn bolstered a 2009 executive order from President Obama. As a senator, Coats voted against that amendment, and while he told the committee his job would be to fully comply with the law, he also left open the possibility for extreme measures in a “ticking time bomb” scenario. In a situation “where you know something terrible is going to happen to the American people in a short amount of time” and “you don’t have time to go through the process that the Army Field Manual requires” Coats said, “I do think it’s at least worth a discussion relative to the situation that might occur.”

Ultimately, a decision to amend the Army Field Manual would fall to Gen. James Mattis, the secretary of defense, who has consistently said he doesn’t think torture works. When Sen. Mark Warner, the Demoratic vice chair of the committee, pressed Coats to promise he wouldn’t lead a charge to change the law on torture, he said he “respected” Mattis’ and Sen. John McCain’s views on the subject. “I intend to be available to work with them and talk with them,” he continued.

Additionally, senators were confused as to whether or not Coats would secure a permanent place on the National Security Council — rather than a promise and a pat on the back from the president that he would be informally included. Coats said his team requested that the executive order outlining the structure of the NSC be amended — but that he had not heard back from the White House on a date or time that might happen.

The post In Confirmation Lovefest, Senators Tell Future Spy Chief He May Be Too Nice for the Trump Administration appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s “Moderate” Defense Secretary Has Already Brought Us to the Brink of War

1 March 2017 - 2:33pm

Did you know that the Trump administration almost went to war with Iran at the start of February?

Perhaps you were distracted by Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser or by President Trump’s online jihad against Nordstrom. Or maybe you missed the story because the New York Times bizarrely buried it in the midst of a long piece on the turmoil and chaos inside the National Security Council. Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to the paper, had wanted the U.S. Navy to “intercept and board an Iranian ship to look for contraband weapons possibly headed to Houthi fighters in Yemen. … But the ship was in international waters in the Arabian Sea, according to two officials. Mr. Mattis ultimately decided to set the operation aside, at least for now. White House officials said that was because news of the impending operation leaked.”

Get that? It was only thanks to what Mattis’s commander in chief has called “illegal leaks” that the operation was (at least temporarily) set aside and military action between the United States and Iran was averted.

Am I exaggerating? Ask the Iranians. “Boarding an Iranian ship is a shortcut” to confrontation, says Seyyed Hossein Mousavian, former member of Iran’s National Security Council and a close ally of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Even if a firefight in international waters were avoided, the Islamic Republic, Mousavian tells me, “would retaliate” and has “many other options for retaliation.”

Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council and author of the forthcoming book “Losing an Enemy — Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy,” agrees. Such acts of “escalation” by the Trump administration, he tells me, “significantly increases the risk of war.”

A photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency shows an Iranian warship before it leaves Iran’s waters at the Strait of Hormuz on April 7, 2015.

Photo: Mahdi Marizad/Fars News Agency/AP

In an administration overflowing with Iran hawks, from CIA Director Mike Pompeo (“I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism”) to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (“Iran’s involvement in [Latin America] … is a matter for concern”) to former National Security Adviser Flynn (“We are officially putting Iran on notice”), some may have naively expected Mattis to be the responsible adult in the room.

The defense secretary has been lauded by politicians and pundits alike: the “scholar-warrior” (New York Daily News) and “most revered Marine in a generation” (Marine Corps Times) with “the potential to act as a restraint” (New York Times) on an impulsive commander in chief as he is “the anti-Trump” (Politico) and therefore “good news for global order” (Wall Street Journal).

So why would a retired Marine Corps general such as Mattis be willing to provoke a conflict with Tehran over a single ship? The fact is that Mattis, too, is obsessed with Iran. He has hyperbolically called the Islamic Republic “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East” and — in a Trump-esque descent into the world of conspiracy theories — suggested Tehran is working with ISIS. “Iran is not an enemy of ISIS,” Mattis declaimed in 2016, because “the one country in the Middle East that has not been attacked” by ISIS “is Iran. That is more than happenstance, I’m sure.”

According to the Washington Post, in the run-up to the talks over Iran’s nuclear program, “Israelis may have questioned Obama’s willingness to use force against Iran. … But they believed Mattis was serious.” The general, in his capacity as head of U.S. Central Command, even proposed launching “dead of night” airstrikes on Iranian soil in 2011, in retaliation for Tehran’s support for anti-American militias in Iraq — a proposal rejected by White House officials who were worried that it “risked starting yet another war in the Middle East.”

Mousavian is puzzled by the defense secretary’s hawkishness: “He is one of the most experienced U.S. generals and he knows … the consequences of confrontation with Iran would be tenfold what the U.S. experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.”

Mattis has, in fact, been tied to some of the worst war crimes of the Iraq invasion. It was he who gave the order to attack the village of Mukaradeeb in April 2004 — a decision he would later admit took him only 30 seconds to approve — which killed 42 civilians, including 13 children, who were attending a wedding there. “I don’t have to apologize for the conduct of my men,” he told reporters.

Six months later, in November 2004, it was Mattis who planned the Marine assault on Fallujah that reduced that city to rubble, forced 200,000 residents from their homes, and resulted, according to the Red Cross, in at least 800 civilian deaths.

Smoke billows from U.S.-targeted areas in the Iraqi city of Fallujah on Nov. 11, 2004.

Photo: Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a reason Mattis is nicknamed “Mad Dog.” There’s a reason his militant maxims — or “Mattisisms” — include telling Marines under his command in Iraq to “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet,” and telling an audience in California: “It’s fun to shoot some people. … I like brawling.”

Is this the kind of “restraint” that we can expect from Mattis? Trump was rightly lambasted over his January raid in Yemen that led to the deaths of a U.S. Navy SEAL and at least 15 Yemeni women and children, but it was the defense secretary, joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who persuaded the neophyte president that the SEALs’ attack on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would be a “game changer.” It was the gung-ho Mattis who, according to Reuters, told Trump that he “doubted that the Obama administration would have been bold enough to try it.” And this week, we learned, it is Mattis to whom Trump wants to give free rein to launch raids, drone strikes, and hostage rescues without prior presidential approval. What could possibly go wrong?

According to Parsi, Mattis “believes the U.S. needs to have a strong hegemonic position in the Middle East,” and “if your aim is hegemony in the Middle East, Iran will be your No. 1 foe due to Tehran’s rejection of Pax Americana — even though the U.S. and Iran share a lot of common interests, such as opposition to ISIS.”

Yet even normally skeptical voices have bought into the myth of Mattis’s moderation. “I actually do think he is the closest thing we have to a ‘moderate’ in this administration,” Andrew Bacevich, a conservative military historian at Boston University and long-standing critic of U.S. defense policy, tells me. This, to misapply a line from George W. Bush, is “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” The defense secretary may not be a bigot or a crank like so many other top Trump appointees, but he could prove to be far more lethal in the long run.

Remember: It was not Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld but “moderate” Secretary of State Colin Powell — another retired general — who was tasked with selling President Bush’s Mesopotamian misadventure to the United Nations in February 2003. Who do you imagine would make a more convincing public case, on behalf of the Trump administration, for a future shooting war with Iran? The draft-dodging president or his decorated defense secretary? Ex-Breitbart boss Steve Bannon or “Warrior Monk” Mattis, who, lest we forget, 45 out of 46 Senate Democrats voted to confirm?

“War is once again on the agenda, whether by design or by accident,” warns Parsi. So don’t be fooled. Mattis is far from a sheep in hawk’s clothing; he is a hawk in hawk’s clothing. The defense secretary may once have described the three biggest threats to U.S. national security as “Iran, Iran, Iran,” but if the Trump administration ends up going to war with Iran as a result of the defense secretary’s recklessness, the three biggest threats to “stability and peace in the Middle East” may turn out to be “Mattis, Mattis, Mattis.”

Top photo: Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Defense Ministry in Seoul on Feb. 3, 2017.

The post Trump’s “Moderate” Defense Secretary Has Already Brought Us to the Brink of War appeared first on The Intercept.

Mehdi Hasan’s Global Politics Column for The Intercept Launches Today

1 March 2017 - 2:32pm

Award-winning commentator and television journalist Mehdi Hasan is joining The Intercept to write a weekly column. Each Wednesday, Hasan will bring a global perspective to subjects ranging from the Trump presidency and surging ethno-nationalism in the United States to the rise of the far right in Europe, the fallout from Brexit, Middle East politics, Islam and Islamophobia, and more. For his debut column, Hasan takes a skeptical look at Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has emerged as a rare favorite of liberals in Trump’s cabinet of deplorables.

Mehdi Hasan

Hasan has attracted a worldwide following not only for his sharp analytical journalism — which has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among other outlets — but for his confrontational and deeply informed on-air interviews with U.S. officials like former CIA chief Michael Hayden and former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn; foreign leaders such as Ehud Olmert and Hamid Karzai; and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Hasan hosts two of Al Jazeera English’s most popular shows, UpFront and Head to Head.

Hasan is the former political director of the Huffington Post U.K. He is also the author of two books on politics and economics, and has appeared as a commentator on the BBCCNNMSNBC, NPR, and Sky News.

We’re thrilled to welcome Mehdi to The Intercept at a moment when the U.S. media landscape — and the world — sorely needs his fierce intellect and his vibrant, dissenting voice.

The post Mehdi Hasan’s Global Politics Column for The Intercept Launches Today appeared first on The Intercept.

Exclusive Premiere: Hip-Hop Artist Narcy Confronts Steve Bannon and Muslim Bannin’ in Auto-Tune

1 March 2017 - 11:49am

The Iraqi-Canadian hip-hop artist Yassin Alsalman, aka Narcy, first made a name for himself in 2003 when the U.S. invaded his family’s home country of Iraq. He was the frontman of The Euphrates, and quickly became a prominent voice for the young Arab diaspora in North America just as the “war on terror” — the torture at Abu Ghraib and CIA black sites, the shipping of prisoners to Guantanamo Bay — was kicking into high gear. His subsequent solo albums and collaborations have conveyed the realities of civilians on the ground in U.S. war zones, highlighting victims of drone strikes and challenging the dominant narratives emanating from Washington justifying its global war. Alsalman is also a university lecturer and an author. His lyrics merge news, history, and political analysis with the evolving sounds and concepts coming out of the hip-hop community in the U.S. and beyond.

“We, as a generation of hyphenated Arabs, have had a particular experience of being governed,” Narcy said. “When looking back to our motherlands, we never had true leaders — just pawns and dictators. Same can be said about North America. That’s why I believe we have to put out art that matters, we are the only ones speaking for ourselves. We aren’t afraid anymore.”
Last year, Narcy collaborated with Yasiin Bey on a highly acclaimed track for the indigenous hip-hop group A Tribe Called Red’s album and its powerful accompanying music video. Earlier this month, Narcy released a music video, “FREE,” addressing the refugee crisis in the Middle East by showing the humanity and living conditions of refugees. The aim of the track is to raise money for refugee families. Narcy’s latest album is 2015’s “World War Free Now.”

Cover art for Narcy’s “Fake News.”

Art work: Rami Afifi

Today, in an exclusive for Intercepted, Narcy is releasing his new song, “Fake News.” In a departure from Narcy’s traditional style, the song is performed in auto-tune. “I felt this urge to get a lot of stuff off my chest based on what was going around and all the rhetoric that was going on about: immigrants, refugees, Muslims, brown people in general, black people — and I figured the best way to tell it was in auto-tune,” Narcy told Intercepted. “You have to find ways to be direct about what people should be paying attention to without force-feeding them anything. So, I wanted to write something that was sorta catchy but also, in a way, tongue-in-cheek about the way politics is being presented as a TV show. That everything is almost on hyper-drive, everything is on steroids right now, like it’s all just a show. And we’re not thinking about the long-term impact of this thing — of the new rise of xenophobia all over the world.”

Even if you are not a hip-hop fan, you should listen to the track just to hear Narcy name check Donald Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon in auto-tune. “It’s like Muslim bannin’, its just Bannon is in the name,” he said. Narcy recalled being in the studio recording the track and ended up free styling in the booth: “‘Muslim they bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’, so who do you look at? Holler at Steven K Bannon.’ You know that’s who wrote [the executive order on immigration], so it’s just it’s the truth I’m just saying what the reality is.”

Narcy’s interview and his new song, “Fake News,” can be heard at 59:34 of the latest episode of the Intercepted podcast:


Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on iTunes, Google Play, StitcherSpotify, and other platforms.

 

“Fake News”
Produced by Iraq-a-fella Records producer Sandhill

 

My baba called me said he really worried
Of what I might say, I told him I’m not in a hurry.
Hung the phone up, got on Twitter, saw the shooting,
Wasn’t ready for it …
Last 20 years feeling really blurry.
All day:
Information overload
Refugees on them boats.
Can’t you see them social codes
How can we be rich in culture, when everybody go for broke?
If money makes the world turn, someone please burn the doe!!!
I don’t trust my phone or television
What is this hell I’m living?
It rings a bell I’m biven …
Devo-tion for my culture,
No hope in politicians,
Quebec is cold baby, can’t feel my soul lately …
I love it, I love it, I’m loving it still.
Pay your taxes numbers don’t lie,
But the government will.
The way you make me feel it turns me off like Michael Jackson.
No black or white,
No Sunni or Shi’ite,
We gon’ be aight.

 

Chorus:
Bombs over Baghdad
I’m an outcast, bombs over Baghdad
Everyday, real bombs over Baghdad.
North American life ain’t that bad.

 

If you Muslim,
They bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’, they bannin’,
Holla at Stephen K. Bannon, remember that name, K. Bannon, K. Bannon
How come the last president out in St. Vincent Copa Cabannin,
Whole brown world image on that cobra commander
All I hear is Aladdin Aladdin Aladdin bin Laden Aladdin
Rub the lamp, stir the pot, and the world is lost,
Then the magic will happen.
The enemy is here — that’s what they all say.
I take it with a grain of salt bae.
Man, everything done changez.
I’m disappointed in Kanye (then call me bro)
Too Canadian or nah, eh?
Floride in my lattes
Soy almond yoga grande
Like Ariana, I’m sorry mama, been on Instagram the whole day
Fake news, so vague, always, short taste, phase 2 (phase 2)
Alt-right might punch a Nazi,
But that’s a court case, well, alriiiiggghhttt
We’re getting trapped anyway …

“Fake News” is available on Narcy’s SoundCloud page. His album “World War Free Now” is on all platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

The post Exclusive Premiere: Hip-Hop Artist Narcy Confronts Steve Bannon and Muslim Bannin’ in Auto-Tune appeared first on The Intercept.

The Only Concrete Takeaway From Trump’s Speech: Medicaid Is Doomed

1 March 2017 - 11:34am

Most of Donald Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday night can safely be ignored. Almost all the government policy he advocated is either strenuously opposed by House and Senate Republicans (driving down the cost of drugs, paid family leave, promoting clean air and water), is not going to happen whether or not they oppose it (“American footprints on distant worlds”), or was so vague that Trump might as well have said, “I support good things.”

However, Trump did call for something specific that Republicans desperately want and that is completely feasible: brutal cuts to Medicaid.

Of course, Trump didn’t put it like that. Instead, he said, “We should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”

That sounds nice, but is standard Republican code for attacks on Medicaid. In fact, it’s lifted almost word for word from Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan for Medicaid, which states that “we believe states and individuals should have better tools, resources, and flexibility to find solutions that fit their unique needs.” Moreover, both during the campaign and afterward Trump has endorsed the standard GOP plans for Medicaid.

What this would mean in practice is two-fold.

First, the federal government would significantly reduce spending on Medicaid. Medicaid is run by individuals states, but currently the federal government pays a fixed share of each state’s costs — which rise during recessions or due to any number of unforeseeable events. Republicans have long wanted to change the funding mechanism to one in which the federal government pays only a fixed amount per Medicaid beneficiary (called a per capita cap) or a fixed amount per state (called a block grant), with states responsible for paying anything past that.

This would result in larger and larger cuts over time. Most GOP plans would permanently fix federal spending on Medicaid based on a future year, and then only increase the fixed amount annually at the rate of inflation, even though medical costs consistently rise faster than inflation.

But even more importantly, Medicaid is not just healthcare for the poor. It also pays the bills for over 60 percent of nursing home residents, and 40 percent of all national long-term care costs. And the number of Americans who need nursing home care is going to rise significantly over the next several decades as the baby boom ages into their eighties and nineties. Cutting Medicaid over this period is a recipe for people literally dying in the streets (or for luckier ones, on the foldout couch in their kid’s living room).

Second, if Trump gets his way, states will receive waivers to change Medicaid in various ways that would be both cruel and require nightmarish bureaucracies to enforce. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to drug test Medicaid recipients. In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin hopes to make beneficiaries without dependents work and pay premiums. Worst of all, states such as Arizona are attempting to enact lifetime five-year limits on Medicaid coverage, which could be a death sentence for people with diseases like cancer.

Trump has spent his life making preposterous claims about what he can do for you, making promises he could never keep, But this is one case where he may well keep his word. As he said in his speech, “Above all, we will keep our promises to the American people.” When it comes to Medicaid the American people should take him seriously.

Top photo: President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington on Feb. 28, 2017.

The post The Only Concrete Takeaway From Trump’s Speech: Medicaid Is Doomed appeared first on The Intercept.

Intercepted Podcast: Donald in Wonderland

1 March 2017 - 11:05am

Subscribe to the Intercepted podcast on iTunes, Google Play, StitcherSpotify, and other platforms.

 

This week on Intercepted, an ex-CIA analyst and a former FBI counterterrorism agent say they fear that a terror attack against the U.S. could result in a coup for the radical ideologues in the Trump White House. As Trump continues to promote his alternative facts, Nada Bakos and Clint Watts explain how Trump’s administration could use Dick Cheney’s model of “alternative intelligence” to justify dangerous military actions. Immigrant communities across the U.S. are facing a dramatic uptick in raids as part of Trump’s pledge to deport millions while Attorney General Jeff Sessions cancels the Obama-era order to end the use of private prisons. Shane Bauer of Mother Jones worked as a private prison guard and breaks down the connections between the raids and soaring private prison profits. Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux discusses his investigations into the Department of Homeland Security and the White House plans for mass deportations. Trump’s insane adviser, Sebastian Gorka, hangs out with Alice in Wonderland. And an Intercepted exclusive: the world premiere of the new song “Fake News” by the acclaimed Iraqi-Canadian hip-hop artist, Narcy. We bet you never thought you’d hear Steve Bannon’s name rapped in auto-tune.

Transcript coming soon.

Top photo: U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017.

The post Intercepted Podcast: Donald in Wonderland appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s Use of Navy SEAL’s Wife Highlights All the Key Ingredients of U.S. War Propaganda

1 March 2017 - 8:47am

During his Tuesday night address to the U.S. Congress, President Trump paid tribute to Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in the January commando raid in Yemen that Trump ordered. As he did so, television cameras focused for almost four full minutes on Owens’ grieving wife, Carryn, as she wept and applauded while sitting next to and being periodically touched by Trump’s glamorous daughter, Ivanka. The entire chamber stood together in sustained applause, with Trump interjecting scripted, lyrical expressions of support and gratitude for her husband’s sacrifice.

It was, as intended, an obviously powerful TV moment. Independent of the political intent behind it, any well-functioning human being would feel great empathy watching a grieving spouse mourning and struggling to emotionally cope with the recent, sudden death of her partner. The majestic setting of the U.S. Congress, solemnly presided over by the U.S. President, vested the moment with political gravity.

Media commentators predictably gushed that this was the moment Trump became “presidential.” Meanwhile, the U.S. media’s most reliable partisan warriors, horrified that the moment might benefit Trump, instantly accused him of exploiting these emotions, and exploiting Carryn Owens herself, for his own political benefit.

While there is certainly truth in their claim that Trump’s use of the suffering of soldiers is politically opportunistic, even exploitative, this tactic was hardly one Trump pioneered. In fact, it is completely standard for U.S. presidents. Though Trump’s attackers did not mention it, Obama often included tales of solider sacrifice, death and suffering in his political speeches – including when he devoted four highly emotional minutes in his 2014 State of the Union address to narrating the story of, and paying emotional tribute to, Sgt. Cory Remsburg, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan:

George W. Bush also hauled soldiers wounded in his wars before cameras during his speeches, such as his 2007 State of the Union address where he paid tribute to Sgt. Tommy Rieman, wounded in Iraq.

There are reasons presidents routinely use the suffering and deaths of U.S soldiers and their families as political props. The way in which these emotions are exploited powerfully highlight important aspects of war propaganda generally, and specifically how the endless, 15-year-old War on Terror is sustained.

 

The raid in Yemen that cost Sgt. Owens his life also killed 30 other people, including “many civilians,” at least nine of whom were children. None of them was mentioned by Trump in last night’s speech, let alone honored with applause and the presence of grieving relatives. That’s because they were Yemenis, not Americans; therefore, their deaths, and lives, must be ignored (the only exception was some fleeting media mention of the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar Awlaki, but only because she was a U.S. citizen and because of the irony that Obama killed her 16-year-old American brother with a drone strike).

This is standard fare in U.S. war propaganda: we fixate on the Americans who are killed, learning their names and life stories and the plight of their spouses and parents, but steadfastly ignore the innocent people the U.S. government kills, whose numbers are always far greater. There is thus a sprawling, moving monument in the center of Washington, D.C. commemorating the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam, but not the (at least2 million Vietnamese civilians killed by that war.

Politicians and commentators condemning the Iraq War always mention the 4,000 U.S. soldiers who die but rarely mention the hundreds of thousands (at least) innocent Iraqis killed: they don’t exist, are unmentionable. After a terror attack aimed at Americans, we are deluged with media profiles and photographs of the victims, learning their life aspirations and wallowing in the grief of their families, but we almost never hear anything about any of the innocent victims killed by the U.S.

Sgt. Ryan Owens is a household name, and his wife, Carryn, is the subject of national admiration and sympathy. But the overwhelming majority of Americans do not know, and will never learn, the name of even a single foreign victim out of the many hundreds of thousands that their country has killed over the last 15 years. This imbalance plays a massive role in how Americans understand themselves, the countries their government invades and bombs, and the Endless War that is being waged.

None of this is to say that the tribute to Sgt. Owens and the sympathy for his wife are undeserved. Quite the contrary: when a country, decade after decade, keeps sending a small, largely disadvantaged portion of its citizenry to bear all the costs and risks of the wars it starts – while the nation’s elite and its families are largely immune – the least the immunized elites can do is pay symbolic tribute when they are killed.

Nor is it to say that this obsessive, exclusive focus on our own side’s victims while ignoring the victims we create is unique to the U.S. Again, the contrary is true. This dynamic is endemic to nationalism, which in turn is grounded in tribalistic human instincts: paying more attention to the deaths of those in our tribe than those we cause other tribes to suffer.

As I’ve described before, I was in Canada the week that it was targeted with two attacks – including one on the Parliament in Ottawa – and the Canadian media was suffuse for the entire week with images and stories about the two dead Canadian soldiers and their families. Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke at the funeral of Stg. Nathan Cirillo, who became a household name for dying in the Parliament attack, even though most Canadians don’t know the names of and can’t tell a single story about even one of the numerous innocent victims killed by their own government over the last 15 years. This is by no means a uniquely American phenomenon.

 

But unique or not, this is an incredibly consequential tool of war propaganda. By dramatizing the deaths of Americans while disappearing its victims, this technique ensures that Americans perpetually regard themselves as victims of horrific, savage, tragic violence but never the perpetrators of it. That, in turn, is what keeps Americans supporting endless war: these savages keep killing us, so we have no choice but to fight them. 

More importantly, this process completely dehumanizes the people the U.S. Government bombs, attacks and kills. Because they’re never heard from, because we never learn their names, because we never experience their family’s suffering, all of their human attributes are stripped from them and their deaths are thus meaningless because they’re barely human.

This dehumanization – the suppression of any humanity on the part of the U.S.’s foreign war victims – is the absolute key to sustaining popular support for war. Nobody knew that better than Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. Commander of the Vietnam War, which is why he insisted that “Orientals” do not experience death and suffering the way that westerners do

A population will only tolerate the ongoing, continual killing of large numbers of civilians if they believe that the innocent victims do not experience human suffering or, more importantly, if that suffering is hidden from them.

Just imagine how different Americans’ views of the War on Terror might be if they were subjected to heavy grieving rituals from the family members of innocent victims of U.S. bombing similar to the one they witnessed last night from Carryn Owens. There’s a reason the iconic photo of a South Vietnamese police official summarily executing a Vietcong suspect during the 1968 Tet Offensive resonated: violence and suffering are much more easily tolerated when its visceral reality need not be confronted.

The ritualistic tribute to dead or wounded U.S. soldiers has other purposes as well: it attempts – not using rational formulas but rather emotional impulses – to transfer the nobility of the slain soldier onto the war itself; after all, how unjust could a war be when such brave and admirable American soldiers are fighting in it?

And it is also intended that the soldier’s nobility will be transferred to his Commander-in-Chief who is so solemnly honoring him. As demonstrated by the skyrocketing post-9/11 approval ratings for George Bush and the endless political usage Obama obtained for killing Osama bin Laden, nothing makes us rally around a President like uplifting war sentiment.

Van Jones received intense criticism from Democrats for how positively he reacted on CNN to Trump’s tribute to Ryan and Carryn Owens, but Jones was just speaking honestly and with his emotions, as he often does: war makes people instinctively venerate the authority and leadership of the President who is presiding over it. That’s why – as John Jay warned in Federalist 4 – presidents will like wars due to all the personal benefits they generate:

Van Jones on Trump honoring a Navy SEAL's widow: "He became President of the United States in that moment, period" https://t.co/Q4BhK1OpbR pic.twitter.com/52pLrT1CgR

— CNN (@CNN) March 1, 2017

The reaction to last night’s Owens moment was fascinating because the widespread media contempt for Trump clashed with their instinctive veneration of all matters relating to U.S. war; in most cases, the latter triumphed. But more interesting than that is what this ritual reveals about how Americans are taught to think about war and the reasons it is so easy for the political class – no matter the outcome of elections or what polling data tells us or how many people senselessly die – to continue and escalate endless wars. These propaganda rituals are well-tested and very potent.

The post Trump’s Use of Navy SEAL’s Wife Highlights All the Key Ingredients of U.S. War Propaganda appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Can’t Accept That His Allies Are Targeting Jews — So He Blames His Opponents

28 February 2017 - 7:22pm

A wave of attacks on Jewish cemeteries and bomb threats against Jewish community centers might not be anti-Semitic acts but “the reverse,” Donald Trump hinted darkly on Tuesday, according to Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

Trump’s apparent embrace of a conspiracy theory popular on white supremacist websites — that the president’s political opponents might have staged the incidents to frame him or his supporters — came during a White House meeting with state attorneys general. At the meeting, Shapiro asked Trump about the spike in anti-Semitic acts during his presidency, including the vandalism of more than 100 tombstones at the Mount Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Shaprio found Trump’s response “a bit curious.”

Shapiro told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Trump said anti-Semitic attacks are “reprehensible” but sometimes “the reverse can be true.” According to Shapiro, Trump added, “Someone’s doing it to make others look bad.”

Shapiro, a Democrat, said that he and other officials from both parties “were a little bit surprised” to hear Trump suggest the incidents might be hoaxes.

As Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief, reports, the Anti-Defamation League has attributed the uptick in threats and attacks to white supremacists encouraged by Trump’s nativist political movement. Wilner also suggested that Trump’s attempt to posit an alternative explanation for the incidents looked like an effort to deflect blame away from from himself or his supporters.

By treating rising antisemitism as a political threat, Trump is acknowledging perpetrators are likely his supporters https://t.co/80fjMXZ8bI

— Michael Wilner (@mawilner) February 28, 2017

While it is unclear where Trump got the idea that the threats against Jews might be staged, the false-flag theory has been proposed by white supremacists, including David Duke, the former Klan leader whose support Trump was slow to disavow during his campaign.

President Trump, do you think it might be the Jews themselves making these calls to get sympathy to push their ethnic agenda? @POTUS https://t.co/AgeeTKzzLG

— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) February 21, 2017

About Trump's theory that the JCC threats are a false flag operation: 20 hours ago, the same theory appeared on a white supremacist site. pic.twitter.com/P4qi9L7w1G

— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) February 28, 2017

Some observers, including Allison Kaplan Sommer of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, took Trump’s use of the word “reverse” as a suggestion that the attacks on Jewish institutions might have been staged by Jews.

Trump reportedly suggests wave of anti-Semitic incidents could be false flags perpetrated by Jews https://t.co/6e3AaNRiyZ

— Allison K. Sommer (@AllisonKSommer) February 28, 2017

Trump either implying Jews coordinating a false flag operation or that Jews are an evil cabal persecuting non-Jews it is literally unclear https://t.co/FVpWviNkaL

— MAX IM A KOOPA (@meakoopa) February 28, 2017

Believing that Trump respects & is concerned for Jews because he has Jewish grandkids is like believing he respects women b/c he has a wife.

— (((Alex))) (@Wonko_the_sane_) February 28, 2017

His reported comments were quickly condemned by the Anti-Defamation League and Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader.

ADL: "We are astonished by what the President reportedly said. It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks." pic.twitter.com/NzLBSxI1Tj

— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) February 28, 2017

Sen. Schumer responds: "That is an absurd and obscene statement." https://t.co/VMHIxfUizX

— Tarini Parti (@tparti) February 28, 2017

Earlier on Tuesday, as my colleague Zaid Jilani reported, one of Trump’s advisers, Anthony Scaramucci, suggested that Democrats might be behind the incidents.

When Trump was asked about his plans to address rising anti-Semitism at a news conference earlier this month, he berated the Orthodox Jewish reporter who raised the issue for asking “a very insulting question,” and described himself as “the least anti-Semitic person.”

At the same event, Trump claimed that some signs with anti-Semitic tropes or slogans held up at his rallies were created by his opponents, posing as supporters.

“Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they’re put up by the other side,” Trump said. “They’ll do signs and drawing that are inappropriate.

“It won’t be my people,” Trump told a reporter. “It will be people on the other side to anger people like you.”

However, his presidential campaign was threaded with anti-Semitic incidents. In the most notorious one during the election campaign, a Trump supporter went into an anti-Semitic tirade during a rally in Phoenix — screaming “Jew!S!A!” as the crowd chanted “U!S!A!”

Man screams "Jew-S-A!" at reporters during @realDonaldTrump rally in Phoenix, AZ. pic.twitter.com/im8vNAhpb9

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 30, 2016

The post Trump Can’t Accept That His Allies Are Targeting Jews — So He Blames His Opponents appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump’s Economic Policy Team Is Stacked With Lobbyists and Conflicts of Interest

28 February 2017 - 5:30pm

Donald Trump’s personnel selections have made a complete mockery of his promise to “drain the swamp.” A newly-released list of White House staffers on his National Economic Council — which is helmed by former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn — is a case in point. Among them are lobbyists for the industries they are now supposed to advise the president on regulating. Here’s how various realms of economic-related policy will be overseen by lobbyists:

Net Neutrality Policy

In his first week as president, Trump elevated conservative Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai to the role of chair. Pai is a longstanding opponent of net neutrality, the principle that says that Internet Service Providers must give all content equal treatment — denying them the ability to, for example, speed up traffic to certain websites for a fee.

The administration continued this march against net neutrality on Monday, as Grace Koh was named as special assistant to the president for technology, telecom, and cybersecurity policy. Koh comes to the White House most recently from the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, where she served as deputy counsel. But prior to that, she was employed as policy counsel at the lobbying office for Cox Enterprises, the Atlanta-based cable and Internet-providing company.

Cox is a leading opponent of rules that protect the rights of internet consumers. When the Obama-era FCC voted to protect net neutrality in 2015, the company slammed the move as “unnecessary government overreach.”

Even after Koh became a congressional staffer, internet providers continued to appreciate her work: The industry group Women in Cable Telecommunications awarded her its Touchstones of Leadership Public Policy Award in 2015.

Retirement Policy

Another of Trump’s first moves as president was to sign an executive order to delay the implementation of the Obama administration’s “fiduciary rule,” and to allow his administration to examine and possibly alter it.

The fiduciary rule is designed to require retirement advisers to act in the interests of their clients — rather than their own interests. It’s estimated that conflicted advice costs Americans $17 billion a year.

In order to help advise him on how to deal with retirement security policy, Trump hired Shahira Knight, whose previous role was vice president in the public affairs and policy group at Fidelity Investments — in other words, a lobbyist for a major investment advice firm.

Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully tried to overturn the fiduciary rule last year, blocked by a veto from President Obama. During their policy push, they brought in a number of finance industry lobbyists to brief their staff — including Knight.

Environmental Policy

President Trump tapped an ally of fossil fuel companies to lead his Environmental Protection Agency. For his economic team, Trump is bringing in staffers who used to lobby for the energy industry.

George David Banks was named as the special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. He was a registered lobbyist for the Maryland-based natural gas and electric company Constellation, Ohio-based diversified energy company FirstEnergy, and the Nuclear Energy Institute, which promotes nuclear power.

More recently, he was the executive vice president at the American Council for Capital Formation, a trade association that has been financially backed by the Kochs among others. As a part of his role there, he lobbied Congress against putting a tax on carbon pollution.

The White House also appointed Michael Catanzaro as the special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy. Catanzaro was a lobbyist for the CGCN Group, where he lobbied for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, among others.

Top photo: Storm clouds fill the sky over the U.S. Capitol Building, June 13, 2013, in Washington.

The post Donald Trump’s Economic Policy Team Is Stacked With Lobbyists and Conflicts of Interest appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump Surrogate Suggests Democrats Could Be Behind Bomb Threats Against Jews

28 February 2017 - 1:08pm

Jewish community centers across the United States are operating in a climate of fear after a fifth wave of bomb threats aimed at Jews on Monday that targeted at least 13 community centers and eight schools in a dozen states.

A top Trump surrogate — hedge funder Anthony Scaramucci, who fundraised for the Trump campaign, joined his transition team, and was in the running for a senior role in the White House — took to Twitter on Tuesday to imply that these threats could be coming from Democrats, rather than from a radical far-right wing that has been emboldened by Trump’s rhetoric and staff choices.

It's not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are. Don't forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies https://t.co/uTBFGhI0Kh

— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) February 28, 2017

No, I'm saying until we know for sure it's highly irresponsible to jump to conclusions https://t.co/wynFuUCKyT

— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) February 28, 2017

In his first tweet, he referred to a report about Democratic Party-aligned activists who staged raucous protests at Trump events — a far cry from calling in bomb threats against a religious minority.

Scaramucci’s tweets are only the latest sign that the Trump administration, those close to the president, and the wider Republican Party are fundamentally unwilling to either acknowledge or challenge the wave of far-right hate crimes in the United States that has in recent months targeted a wide set of religious and racial minority groups.

Part of their strategy has been to deny any links between Trump’s rhetoric, far-right ideology, and the recent hate crimes.

Trump ally and former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum appeared on CNN last week to imply, without evidence, that the wave of antisemitic hate crimes is largely coming from Muslim-Americans. Following a neo-Nazi march in Montana, Republican lawmakers there are advancing legislation to crack down on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that seeks to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses — an implication that the Arab American-led movement is responsible for anti-Semitism.

The Trump administration reacted callously last week following a hate crime in Kansas that gained global attention, where a man shot and killed a man of Indian origin and wounded two others, believing them to be Iranian.

When asked whether there was any link between the shooter’s beliefs and Trump’s harsh rhetoric against Muslims, the White House declined to even consider the possibility. “Any loss of life is tragic,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer replied, “but I’m not going to get into, like, that kind of — to suggest that there’s any correlation [to Trump’s rhetoric] I think is a bit absurd.”

Spicer was also asked last week if Trump condemns Islamophobia in general, and he offered no comment, instead making an awkward and telling pivot to the administration’s agenda against “radical Islam.”

“If you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country or people harm, he’s going to fight it aggressively,” he replied — to a question about Islamaphobia. “So there’s a big difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe, so that there is no loss of life.”

Top photo: Scaramucci at Trump Tower on Jan. 4, 2017, in New York City.

The post Trump Surrogate Suggests Democrats Could Be Behind Bomb Threats Against Jews appeared first on The Intercept.

Congress May Lack Technical Expertise to Properly Investigate Russian Hacking

28 February 2017 - 10:38am

Congressional intelligence committee leaders have pledged to examine Russia’s involvement in hacks against Democrats during the 2016 presidential election. As the ranking member of the Senate’s intelligence panel, Rep. Adam Schiff put it, “we want to make sure that the intelligence community got it right…We want to look at the raw intelligence, and make sure their conclusions were substantiated.”

But a detailed investigation into hacking demands technical skills that staff for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees appear to be lacking.

Research into public committee staff lists, LinkedIn, and conversations with several sources who have interacted with the committees shows a serious dearth of technical expertise among the staffers cleared to access classified materials that would be involved in the investigation. Essentially, committee staff are underwater when it comes to poking into the nitty gritty of cyber warfare — a longstanding problem made more relevant as attacks on U.S. government and politicians escalate.

Committees and their members customarily rely on staff to do the heavy lifting to prepare background research, evaluate evidence and information, and advise on policy and legal issues. Depending on the committee, staffers are typically well versed in the law, international affairs, Washington policy debates, and more. But a technical matter like the election hacks benefits from knowledge of coding, information security, and attribution.

The bulk of staff on the intelligence committees — more than two dozen on each — are lawyers, policy wonks, and budget experts.  Many staffers worked in the legislative affairs offices of other senators and members of Congress, government budget offices, the Department of Justice, the military, private law firms, defense contractors, or Washington think tanks. While they’ve served for many years in their respective areas, those areas are rarely technical.

While some programs were created in recent years to remedy the desperate need for computer scientists and hackers on the Hill—like TechCongress, a tech policy fellowship in D.C.—the intelligence committees don’t normally accept fellows or detailees due to the sensitivity of the policy issues they discuss.

“Anecdotally, of the 15,000 staff in Congress, I’m aware of six that have technology-related educational backgrounds,” Travis Moore, the founder and director of TechCongress told The Intercept in response to a question about the staffing on the intelligence committees. “This is a problem. All policy is increasingly ‘tech’ policy.”

Spokespeople for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees declined comment on the expertise of their staff. The Senate Intelligence Committee does have new leadership in Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who made his fortune investing in the cellular telecom industry and took a prominent role in the debate over encryption technology last Congress and who may emphasize technical issues in the coming debates over Russia.

But at the end of the day, there’s not much money to throw around, and adding a technical staffer might mean replacing another qualified legal or policy expert. “Congressional budgets have been slashed 35% and even officers that would like to hire for this expertise don’t have the resources to do so,” Moore said.

What technical knowledge the committees have historically added to their staffs is typically rooted in the legal sphere or the policy space rather than in the nuts and bolts of tech.

“Evidence of hacking, computer forensics, and attribution are highly technical fields,” Steven Bellovin, a computer science researcher and professor at Columbia University with experience advising the government on technology, wrote in an email.

“If you don’t have independent experts in those fields, you cannot independently evaluate the evidence — all you can do is look at their reports and see if all of the analysts agree,” Bellovin added.

There are staffers with some tech-related experience, like Bob Minehart of the House Intelligence Committee, who spent several decades in the intelligence community, including at the NSA doing “technical” work, according to Yahoo News. But even Minehart “may not have the right background for attribution” Bellovin said. Minehart, who has served in Congress for 12 years, works on the “Technical and Tactical” Subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee, which polices the NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Geospatial Intelligence agency on issues including offensive and defense cyber capabilities. Then there’s Brett Freedman, a counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, who spent time in the NSA and worked on the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communication technologies to advise President Barack Obama on how to maintain intelligence collection capabilities while protecting privacy and civil liberties. While often working on cyber policy issues, Freedman’s role appears strictly legal rather than technical. Neither Minehart or Freedman responded to a request for comment.

Other staffers were intelligence analysts for the government, served on the National Security Council, worked in the Pentagon, or were in the private sector working on defense at companies like Booz Allen Hamilton or BAE Systems.

Chris Soghoian, formerly the chief technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union and now a TechCongress fellow, has worked with several Members on technical issues including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee—but never on the Russia investigation, confirmed by Hill staffers who have worked with him. Soghoian was not available for comment.

A major part of the investigation into Russian groups’ malicious cyber activities is actually linking their habits and traits, their trail of breadcrumbs, to the DNC hack itself. It’s challenging to solve whodunits in the cyber realm, because it’s possible to hide your tracks, and you can strike from halfway across the world without warning.

It is “continuity of knowledge” of past attacks and understanding of the “style of the attack and the tools and the software used” that helps companies make confident assessments about who’s behind what, Bellovin notes.

There’s a “typical tendency of governments to appoint lawyers to senior roles in leading all their cyber efforts,” according to Tony Cole, the Chief Technical Officer of Global Government at cybersecurity firm FireEye. “The legal expertise is needed to ensure all applicable laws are followed, especially since this is a relatively gray area in the area around international law…[but] more operational cyber expertise at the most senior levels in government is needed badly,” he wrote in an email to The Intercept.

Security experts criticized the government’s rather pitiful report on the DNC hacks in December titled “Grizzly Steppe,” which listed malicious IP addresses as evidence of the attacks’ attribution to Russia—but noted that private sector reports painted a more revealing picture of the historical behavior of those groups than the report itself. Crowdstrike has been tracking purported Russian hacking groups—“Fancy Bear” and “The Dukes”—for years, since at least 2007.

“There have been personnel detailed to the committees in the past to try to provide greater technical expertise. But it’s always been woefully inadequate to the task,” Amy Zegart, the co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, wrote in an email. Zegart penned a 2011 essay for the Hoover Institution titled “The Roots of Weak Congressional Intelligence Oversight” discussing the need for detailed knowledge and experience in the intelligence community to properly patrol its conduct.

Zegart helped launch a boot camp for Congressional staffers to beef up on cyber issues at Stanford University in 2014, which they’ll be hosting again this summer— a program with a long waitlist. But it’s not been sufficient, yet. “The fundamental challenge is you can’t oversee something effectively if you don’t understand it,” she concluded.

The post Congress May Lack Technical Expertise to Properly Investigate Russian Hacking appeared first on The Intercept.

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