Saturday, December 31, 2016

Eight Facts on the “Russian Hacks”

Above Image: The Kremlin, the Russian government’s power center

There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts.

So what are the allegations and facts as we know them?

The FBI and DHS released a brief joint report Thursday describing “Russian Malicious Cyber Activity.” It doesn’t include forensic proof of Russian government involvement in hacking efforts, but the administration is rushing a detailed, classified report to be delivered, at President Obama’s request, prior to President Trump taking office January 20.

The joint report can be summarized this way:

  • The U.S. believes two hacking groups tied to the Russian government are involved.
  • The U.S. has nicknamed the hacking groups “APT28” or “Fancy Bear,” and “APT29” or “Cozy Bear.” APT stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat.”
  • The U.S. believes the GRU, Russia’s military service, is behind APT28.
  • The U.S. believes the FSB, Russia’s counterintelligence agency headquartered in the building of the former KGB, is behind APT29.
  • The U.S. believes the groups accessed “a political party” by sending emails that tricked users into clicking links that planted malware or directed them to Russian servers.
  • The U.S. believes APT29 entered into “the party’s systems” in summer 2015, and APT28 in spring 2016.
  • The U.S. believes APT28 provided the stolen emails to WikiLeaks, which WikiLeaks denies.

Most of the 13-page joint report provides advice on how to secure computer networks.

Read the “Russian Malicious Cyber Activity” report

Eight Facts on the Hacks

1. The claim that the “election was hacked” is a bit of a misnomer. There’s no standing allegation by U.S. officials that the Russians (or anyone else) “hacked” into our elections system or altered vote counts. Instead, U.S. officials allege hackers connected to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, under his direction, stole internal emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary campaign chairman John Podesta and provided them to WikiLeaks. (However, the U.S. joint report issued Thursday doesn’t mention the DNC, Podesta or WikiLeaks by name.)

Podesta Emails on WikiLeaks
DNC Emails on WikiLeaks

2. U.S. officials have not alleged that anyone falsified the emails provided to WikiLeaks.

3. U.S. intel officials have named the Russian hacking campaign “Grizzly Steppe.”

4. It seems a difficult task to prove the hacks somehow “affected the election” or “helped Donald Trump win.” For example:

  • One would have to show that tens of thousands of Trump voters were planning to vote for Clinton but changed their mind based solely on the WikiLeaks emails.
  • One would have to believe the emails somehow managed to only affect the electoral vote but not the popular vote (which Clinton won).
  • One would have to believe the emails somehow selectively swayed voters in key swing states, but not voters in states where Clinton won.

5. WikiLeaks disputes the U.S. assessment blaming Russia for the DNC leaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says: “Our source is not the Russian government… We have U.S. intelligence saying that say they know how we got our stuff and when we got it, and us saying we didn’t get it from a state.” Former British ambassador Craig Murray backs up Assange’s version: “I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.”

6. The private cyber firm Crowd Strike had already determined last June that Russian agencies were behind the DNC cyberattacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow

7. There have been many serious cyberattacks reported against U.S. government institutions, but no comparable news coverage or announced U.S. retaliatory measures. For example:

  • In 2015, Russian hackers attacked the State Department email system in what was called the “worst ever” cyberattack against a federal agency.
  • Also in 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reported 5.6 million Americans’ fingerprints were stolen in a malicious cyberattack.
  • The GAO reports that between 2006 and 2015, the number of cyberattacks climbed 1,300 percent — from 5,500 to over 77,000 a year at 24 federal agencies.
  • Last March, China government hackers continued a malicious pattern of cyber attacks on U.S. government and private networks, according to U.S. Cyber Command chief Mike Rogers. China has been linked by U.S. intelligence agencies to wide-ranging cyber attacks aimed at stealing information and mapping critical computer networks for future attacks in a crisis or conflict.

    Despite the Chinese hacking activity, the Obama administration has taken no action against China for years of large-scale cyber attacks that officials say have cost the nation billions of dollars in stolen intellectual property and compromised networks.

Additionally, there have been no publicly-known retaliatory actions taken by the U.S. for hostile, non-cyber foreign threats such as Chinese fighter jets buzzing U.S. warships and spy planes, and Iran detaining 10 U.S. sailors. (However, the U.S. punished the sailors.)

8. The New York Times recently quoted anonymous U.S. officials who said they concluded Russians hacked the Republican National Committee (RNC), but did not release the information to WikiLeaks, proving that the intent was to help Trump. However, the RNC states that its network systems were not successfully hacked. The Times also anonymously quoted a senior government official who said attempts to penetrate the RNC were not successful.

Preorder The Smear, the sequel to my NYT bestseller Stonewalled.


Watch my weekly Sunday TV program Full Measure.

Full Measure is broadcast Sundays to 43 million US households on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo and CW stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Replays at anytime.

Full Measure is broadcast Sundays to 43 million US households on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo and CW stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Replays at anytime.


Washington Post Caught Spreading More Fake News About "Russian Hackers"


Readers of the Washington Post received some alarming news yesterday when the paper published a story alleging that those pesky "Russian hackers" were up to their no good tricks again and had managed to "penetrate the U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont."  The full headline read as follows:


The opening paragraph of WaPo's story directly linked the "hack" of the Vermont utility to the same "Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe" that the Obama administration has blamed for the DNC and John Podesta email hacks.  Vermont's Governor, Peter Shumlin, told WaPo that "Americans should be both alarmed and outraged" by these actions perpetrated by "one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin," before seemingly calling for further retaliatory actions from the Obama administration.

Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.

Moreover, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy took the rhetoric to a whole new level by asserting a diabolical Russian plot to shut down the U.S. electrical grid in the middle of winter...a move that would most certainly kill off half the state's population in an instant.

VT Gov

Of course, it didn't take long for the New York Times and ABC to latch on to the story since it fits their "2016 election hacking" narrative so perfectly.

Our Russian "friend" Putin attacked the U.S. power grid.

— Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) December 31, 2016

NEW: "One of the world's leading thugs, [Putin] has been attempting to hack our electric grid," says VT Gov. Shumlin

— ABC News (@ABC) December 31, 2016


Alas, there was just one minor problem, namely that the entire article was completely fabricated.  Apparently the esteemed "journalists" of the Washington Post didn't even bother to contact the Burlington Electric Department to confirm their bogus story...and why should fit the "Russian hacking" narrative so perfectly therefore it must be true, right?

Well, apparently not.  The quick spread of WaPo's "fake news" story forced the Burlington Electric Department to issue a clarifying statement assuring worried residents that, indeed, their electricity grid had not been hacked, but rather a single "laptop not connected" to the grid had been found to have a malware virus.

Vermont Utility

Which forced the embarrassed Washington Post to quickly tone down their provocative headline...


...and supplement their original article with the following "Editor's Note" admitting the entire premise of their original story was nothing more than "fake news."

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.

Which drew quick reactions from twitter...

1) Not an infiltration of the power grid.
2) "Russian" malware can be purchased online by anyone.
3) See 1 & 2.

— Dell Cameron (@dellcam) December 31, 2016

Pretty amazing how badly the Post appears to have mangled this one. You didn't call the Vermont utility regulator before publishing?

— Eric Geller (@ericgeller) December 31, 2016


...and Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who blasted WaPo for their "irresponsible and sensationalist tabloid behavior."

THIS MATTERS not only because one of the nation’s major newspaper once again published a wildly misleading, fear-mongering story about Russia. It matters even more because it reflects the deeply irrational and ever-spiraling fever that is being cultivated in U.S. political discourse and culture about the threat posed by Moscow.


The Post has many excellent reporters and smart editors. They have produced many great stories this year. But this kind of blatantly irresponsible and sensationalist tabloid behavior – which tracks what they did when promoting that grotesque PropOrNot blacklist of U.S. news outlets accused of being Kremlin tools – is a by-product of the Anything Goes mentality that now shapes mainstream discussion of Russia, Putin and the Grave Threat to All Things Decent in America that they pose.

Ironically, a few weeks ago we noted that The Washington Post was all too happy to promote an anonymous website that described Zerohedge as "'dark gray' propaganda, systematically deceiving its civilian audiences for foreign political gain" (see "Washington Post Names Drudge, Zero Hedge, & Ron Paul As Anti-Clinton 'Sophisticated Russian Propaganda Tools'"), all while presenting exactly zero evidence to support their preposterous claim.  Perhaps it's time for WaPo to dedicate a bit more of its time to self-reflection.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Something About This Russia Story Stinks

How much Defense spending on 'fake news'?


Kudos to Tyler Durden of for his little exposé on the surreptitious, “bipartisan” sneakiness of slipping something called the “Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016” into a $611 billion Defense appropriation bill signed into law by Barack Obama just before the Christmas holiday.

We can thank two Republicans, Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, for spearheading what could well be, as Durden calls it, a “de facto Ministry of Truth” inside the U.S. State Department. The guise is a centralized effort to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation” they say threatens the world’s “security and stability.”

In other words, it’s an effort to take on “fake news,” as defined by the U.S. government.

I bet the Founding Fathers never saw that one coming.

How’s it going to work?

Here’s how Portman and Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy explained it after this act became law.

The Countering Information Warfare Act is described as the establishment of “an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work. This will better leverage existing expertise and empower our allies overseas to defend themselves from foreign manipulation. It will also help foster a free and vibrant press and civil society overseas, which is critical to ensuring our allies have access to truthful information and inoculating people against foreign propaganda campaigns.”

Yes, that’s the way I always envisioned creating a “free and vibrant press” – with grants and direction from the U.S. government.

“With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines,” Portman and Murphy’s statement continued. “We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”

Won’t Hillary Clinton be pleased! Imagine what she could have done with these resources during her term at State.

But it gets richer: “The use of propaganda to undermine democracy has hit a new low. But now we are finally in a position to confront this threat head on and get out the truth. By building up independent, objective journalism in places like eastern Europe, we can start to fight back by exposing these fake narratives and empowering local communities to protect themselves,” said Murphy. “I’m proud that our bill was signed into law, and I look forward to working with Senator Portman to make sure these tools and new resources are effectively used to get out the truth.”

By the way, who are the big enemies in this propaganda war?

Russia and China – not Saudi Arabia, not Iran, not the Palestinian Authority, not the United Nations.

Here are the two main priorities of this new, undisclosed amount of funding:

“The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering the foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.

“Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.”

Feeling safer now?

Happy New Year!

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Excessive Facebook lurking can make you miserable, study says



If browsing the holiday photos posted by your acquaintances on Facebook is making you feel less than merry, you’re not alone.

A study out of the University of Copenhagen has confirmed what a lot of people have long suspected: social media can make people miserable.

In particular, they found that the regular use of social networking sites like Facebook can have a negative impact on people’s satisfaction with their life and harm their emotional well-being. The study involved more than 1,000 participants, most of whom were women, and was published in Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking.

The researchers randomly placed study participants in one of two groups: one that would continue to use Facebook normally and another that stopped using the site for a week. Everyone was asked to evaluate themselves in terms of mood, level of worry, satisfaction with their social life, and ability to concentrate, among other factors, both before and after the study.

Emotional improvements noted by those on social media break

The group that took the social media break ended up noting an improvement in life satisfaction and a dramatic improvement in their emotional life. The well-being improvements were highest for those who were heavy users as well as passive users.

The “deterioration of mood” that Facebook users experience is often caused by “unrealistic social comparisons” brought on by spending too much time looking at the social media accounts of others. It’s especially prevalent among those who lurk on these sites without interacting with others. Those who actively engage with other people using social media tend to have a more positive experience.

However, it is probably a much wiser approach to give up social media altogether. If this thought is hard to fathom, why not try it for a week? There are a lot of other good reasons you might want to avoid Facebook.

Plenty of reasons to give up Facebook

A study from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that people who report using between 7 and 11 social media platforms were three times as likely to develop anxiety and depression than people who use two platforms or fewer, even after adjusting for the amount of time spent using social media in total and other factors like gender and age.

Even if you consider yourself mentally strong, you are not immune to being manipulated by the site. Facebook recently admitted that its news curators controlled which stories were highlighted in the site’s Trending Topics section and said that curators’ personal biases and political views could have influenced their choices. In addition, they did not deny the fact that their news curators avoided linking out to news sites such as Breitbart. They also admitted that their employees could blacklist stories for 24 hours. Former news curators for the site have reported there was a strong effort to push liberal news sites.

The site has also recently launched an initiative to bury what it calls “fake news” in the wake of criticism that the social media platform was responsible for spreading political misinformation during the election. They have formed a fact-checking network composed of controversial outlets such as Politifact, ABC and Snopes, who will determine if stories are fake and then bury them in the news feed accordingly. Snopes is an unprofessional website known for its liberal bias, and most of the rest of the fact-checkers are similarly problematic.

No one should rely on Facebook for their news, but even those who use it for more social purposes should seriously reconsider. With Facebook reporting that it has more than 1.59 billion active users around the world, there is the potential for great harm if people do not take a moment to think carefully about how their use of the site could impact their emotional well-being.



Putin Stunner: "We Will Not Expel Anyone; We Refuse To Sink To Obama's Level"


Vladimir the merciful?

Following this morning's reports that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would recommend to Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate in kind and expel 35 American diplomats, saying that “we cannot leave such acts unanswered. Reciprocity is part of diplomatic law"  with Putin spokesman Peskov warning that "there is no doubt that Russia's adequate and mirror response will make Washington officials feel very uncomfortable as well" it was ultimately up to Putin to make a decision.

Which he did moments ago, when in a stunning reversal the Russian leader said, in an email statement sent by the Kremlin, that contrary to expectations, Russia won’t expel American diplomats in retaliation to US moves, in a brutal demonstration of just how irrelevant Obama's 11th hour decision is for US-Russian relations.

In the statement Putin also said that Russia won’t cause problems to U.S. diplomats or deport anyone, adding that Russia has the right to respond in tit-for-tat manner, but it will not engage in irresponsible diplomacy.

The punchline, however, was saved for what may be Russia's final slam of the debacle that is Obama's administration saying that "It’s a pity that the current U.S. administration is finishing their work in such a manner."

Putin ended the statement by congratulating U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and the American people on the New Year.

From the full statement posted on the Kremlin website:

“We reserve the right to retaliate, but we will not sink to the level of this irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy. We will take further moves on restoring Russian-American relations based on the policies that the administration of President-elect Donald Trump adopts,”

And with that one statement, Obama lost the diplomatic war with Russia. 


Aluminum in vaccines linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions


British researchers claim they have confirmed that aluminum plays a strong role in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are now the leading causes of death around the world, superseding heart disease. More than 5 million persons in the U.S., where it is the sixth leading cause of death, have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association; in the U.K., 850,000 people are living with the brain disorder.

By mid century, the number of Alzheimer’s suffers could range from 14 to 16 million.

Aluminum is said to be the most widely used metal on the planet and is found in cookware, aspirin, antacids, baking soda, and flour, as well as vaccines. And let’s not forget the old reliable aluminum foil.

Natural News previously reported that in a 15-year study of French elderly men and women, regular consumption of tap water was associated with aluminum toxicity and increased prevalence of dementia.

Many childhood vaccines also contain aluminum, as Natural News has separately detailed. Aluminum is included in vaccines as an “adjuvant,” a component that boosts the body’s short-term immune response in order to produce antibodies to the vaccine agent faster. This very function may be part of what makes aluminum in vaccines risky. Aluminum also is a neurotoxin that has reportedly been linked to various types of brain damage in both kids and adults.

A 2013 study in the journal Immunologic Research apparently confirmed that aluminum toxicity has a negative impact on the body’s nervous system “across the age span.” In adults, over-exposure to aluminum in the system can lead to age-related neurological conditions that resemble Alzheimer’s disease. Similar outcomes were observed in laboratory animals, the researchers noted.

In the new study, Professor Christopher Exley of Keele University, one of the authors, explains that a study published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology makes the link between human exposure to aluminum (or aluminium as the metal is known in Britain) and Alzheimer’s disease “ever more compelling” and overwhelming than originally thought.

While aluminum is not the only factor in dementia, he noted, it is an important one, and he called upon those who reject the aluminum-Alzheimer’s link to reevaluate their position based on the new evidence.

Writing in The Hippocratic Post blog, Exley outlined what he and his colleagues discovered when they examined brain matter from 12 deceased Alzheimer’s sufferers.

“In my view, the findings are unequivocal in their confirmation of a role for aluminium in some if not all Alzheimer’s disease…We now show that some of the highest levels of aluminium ever measured in human brain tissue are found in individuals who have died with a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease…This new research may suggest that these genetic predispositions to early onset Alzheimer’s disease are linked in some way to the accumulation of aluminum (through ‘normal’ everyday human exposure) in brain tissue.”

Summing up what Exley and his co-authors determined, the study explains that “Aluminium is neurotoxic and and the concentrations of aluminium found in these familial [Alzheimer’s disease] brains are unlikely to be benign and indeed are highly likely to have contributed to both the onset and the aggressive nature of any ongoing AD in these individuals. These data lend support to the recent conclusion that brain aluminium will contribute towards all forms of [Alzheimer’s disease] under certain conditions.”

As far as preventive measures are concerned, Prof. Exley’s blog concludes with a call to action that “We should take all possible precautions to reduce the accumulation of aluminium in our brain tissue through our everyday activities and we should start to do this as early in our lives as possible.






Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oliver Stone Slams The Establishment's "The Russians Are Coming" Narrative


Authored by Oliver Stone (via Facebook),


As 2016 draws to a close, we find ourselves a deeply unsettled nation. We’re unable to draw the lines of our national interest. Is it jobs and economy, is it national security, or is it now in our interest to ensure global security -- in other words, act as the world’s policemen?

As the “failing” (to quote Trump) New York Times degenerates into a Washington Post organization with its stagnant Cold War vision of a 1950s world where the Russians are to blame for most everything -- Hillary’s loss, most of the aggression and disorder in the world, the desire to destabilize Europe, etc. -- the Times has added the issue of ‘fake news’ to reassert its problematic role as the dominant voice for the Washington establishment. Certainly this is true in the case of Russia’s ‘hacking’ the 2016 election and putting into office its Manchurian Candidate in Donald Trump. Apparently the CIA (via various unnamed intelligence officials), and the FBI, NSA, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (who notoriously lied to Congress in the Snowden affair), President Obama, the DNC, Hillary Clinton, and Congress agree that Russia, and Mr. Putin predominantly, is responsible.

Certainly the psychotic, war-loving Senator John McCain is right up there alongside these patriots, calling President Putin a “thug, bully and a murderer and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.” He actually said this -- the man whose sound judgment chose Sarah Palin as his VP nominee in ’08. And the Times followed by printing the story in its full glory on page one, clearly agreeing with McCain’s point of view. I don’t remember Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, or Reagan, in the darkest days of the 1950s/80s, ever singling out a Russian President like this. The invective was aimed at the Soviet regime, but never were Khrushchev or Brezhnev the target of this bile. I guess this is a new form of American diplomacy. If a black youth in our inner cities were killed or a Pakistani wedding party were murdered by our drones, would President Obama be singled out as a murderer, bully, thug? Such personalization is a sign of sickness in our thinking and way beneath what should be our standards.

Note the enclosed link from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (which includes the ex-NSA reformer Bill Binney, a mathematical genius who inspired the Nic Cage character in “Snowden,” and who talks here about what hacking really means, as opposed to a ‘leak’). The Times and other mainstream media have surprisingly evaded any contrary evidence, such as that presented by Craig Murray, ex-ambassador and Wikileaks spokesman who says he was given the information in a Washington park by a Democratic ‘insider’ who was disgusted by the behavior of the DNC; Murray then gave it to Wikileaks. This was a ‘leak,’ not a ‘hack,’ and always seemed to me the likely source for this scandal (as I think the Sony leak was as well, falsely blamed on North Korea, but that’s another matter). And if this were to be properly investigated, it might very well lead to the discovery that this was Hillary Clinton’s ‘Nixon moment.’ Clearly the DNC offices were up to no good. Ironically, Clinton first made her name as one of the investigators into Watergate. See Mark Ames’s article, “Site Behind McCarthyite Blacklist,” tracking this foul play to Washington Post journalist Craig Timberg.

I remember well in the 1950s when the Russians were supposed to be in our schools, Congress, State Department -- and according to many Eisenhower/Nixon supporters -- about to take over our country without serious opposition (and they call me paranoid!). It was this same media who insisted on our need to go to Vietnam to defend our freedoms against the communists 6,000 miles away. And after the Red Scare finally went away for good in 1991, let us remind ourselves that It never ended. It became Hussein of Iraq with his weapons of mass destruction, and talk of the ‘mushroom cloud.’ It became a Demon, as real as any Salem Witch Trial. It was Gaddafi of Libya, and then it was Assad of Syria. In other words, as in an Orwellian prophesy, it never ended, and I can guarantee you it never will -- unless we the people who can still think for ourselves in this existential matter, can say “Enough” to this demon act. “Enough,’ “go away” -- laugh in their faces.

Of course, the NYT/WaPo nexus rarely will publish any of our serious dissents and thus we must take refuge in alternate media, such as ‘Consortiumnews,’ ‘The Intercept,’ ‘Naked Capitalism,’ ‘Counterpunch,’ ‘Zero Hedge,’ ‘,’ ‘Truthdig,’ ‘Common Dreams.’ Yet I think we were all quite shocked (but not surprised) when recently we saw 200 websites listed as tools of the Kremlin (WaPo’s November 24, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election”).

My God, the ghost of Izzy Stone is back from the 1950s! For that matter, so is Tom Clancy from the ’80s. False thrillers will now be written about the Russians hacking the American elections. Money and TV serials will be made. I’ve never read such hysterical junk (call it what it is -- “fake news”) in the New York Times, in which the editorials have become outrageous diatribes, many of them presumably written by Serge Schmemann, one of those ideologues who still finds Russians under his bed at night (called ‘White Russians’ in the old days who, like right-wing Cubans in Miami, can never live down past grievances). Schmemann is obviously riding high at the NYT edit board. We can make fun of this, but it’s an irresponsible and dangerous editorializing, which has invaded the MSM’s reporting. Their thinking has clearly influenced the Pentagon and many of our Generals’ statements. When one group-think controls our national conversation, it’s so sad, a pathetic loss of judgment, and it becomes ultra dangerous. In this spirit, I’m linking several crucial essays of new vintage, pointing out the disgrace the MSM has become.

As much as we may disagree with Donald Trump (and I do) he’s right now target number one of the MSM propaganda -- until, that is, he changes to the anti-Kremlin track over, God knows, some kind of petty dispute cooked up by CIA, and in his hot-headed way starts fighting with the Russians. It wouldn’t be long then until he declares a state of war against Russia. I have no doubt then that our over-financed military ($10 to every 1 Russian dollar) will mean NOTHING against a country that right now believes the US, with the largest buildup of NATO on its borders since Hitler’s World War II, is crazed enough to prepare for a preemptive strike. In his analysis, “The Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable,” Robert Parry points out that this conflict ironically started in the 1980s with the Neoconservatives defining Iran as the number one terrorist sponsor in the world. How this leads to our present mess is a brilliant analysis that is unknown to the American public.

I urge you to read the following articles and stay calm in your thinking. But bring it to bear in some way.

Robert Parry, “Making Russia ‘The Enemy’,” Consortiumnews

Joe Lauria, “Russia-Hack Story Another Media Failure,” Consortiumnews

Justin Raimondo, “Stop the CIA Coup,”

Robert Parry, “The Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable,” Consortiumnews

Ray McGovern, “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims,” Consortiumnews

Mark Ames, “Site behind Washington Post’s McCarthyite Blacklist,” Naked Capitalism

Robert Parry, “A Sour Holiday Season for Neocons,” Consortiumnews

As a believer in what Thich Nhat Hanh says, every single one of us, even through our prayers, can add to the betterment of this world. I never thought I’d find myself at this point in time praying for the level-headedness of a Donald Trump. You might remember “The Iliad.” As Homer would have it, the gods would huddle up during each day’s battles and decide on the outcome. Who would die and who would live. Are the gods still listening?


Project Censored’s “Most Censored News Stories”


Nobody tells “Project Censored” what to report — and it’s out with its Most Censored News Stories of 2015-2016.

Some top picks include:

NYPD Editing Wikipedia on Police Brutality: “[C]omputers operating at One Police Plaza, the headquarters of the New York Police Department (NYPD), had been used ‘to alter Wikipedia pages containing details of alleged police brutality.'” (Previously, on my program Full Measure, I reported on the Dark Side of Wikipedia and how the online encyclopedia has been co-opted by special interests, political interests and agenda editors.)



Sex Trafficking of Underage Girls in the U.S.: Though not well-reported, “sex trafficking in the US is pervasive. According to the US Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second-fastest-growing criminal enterprise after drug trafficking, with minors constituting roughly half the victims in the US. In 2015, over 4,100 of the 5,544 trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline involved sex trafficking.”

Sex trafficking is also a major component of the underground economy in many American cities.

Over Three-Quarters of Freedom of Information Act Requests Not Fully Answered: FOIA currently qualifies as a near failure in terms of allowing the public access to the information it owns. “President Obama promised greater governmental transparency…In practice, the Obama administration has set a record for failures to find and produce government documents in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. As Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum reported for the Associated Press’s Big Story…wrote, “People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record.” The 77 percent figure represents a 12 percent increase, compared with the first full year after President Obama’s election.

US “Vaccine Court” Has Paid over Three Billion Dollars to Vaccine-Injured Families: Amid the government and pharmaceutical industry propaganda that seeks to halt any discussion of vaccine risks, few people know that it’s taxpayers who pick up the tab for drug company vaccine injuries under a little known arrangement drug companies made with Congress in a special vaccine court. “Since 1988, the US government has paid $3.2 billion to 4,150 individuals and families for injuries and deaths attributed to shots for flu, diphtheria, whooping cough, and other conditions. Though vaccines ‘remain one of the greatest success stories in public health,’ Tracy Seipel reported, ‘for some Americans, rare side effects of inoculations have led to hardship, serious injury, and even death’.” (My vaccine-related stories and CDC government resources can be found here.)

Censored 2017: Fortieth Anniversary Edition


Read more at Project Censored

Preorder my new book The Smear, a sequel to my NYT bestseller Stonewalled.



Don’t Abolish The Electoral College, Abolish The Popular Vote


It was the perfect ending to the strangest election in modern American history. Donald Trump was officially elected as the next president of these United States on December 19, winning by a wide margin in the Electoral College despite having lost the national popular vote six weeks earlier.

Trump's unexpected victory and loss in the popular vote unleashed a torrent of hot takes from Democrats and liberals calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Their frustration is somewhat understandable, even if their motivations are purely political—after all, Democratic candidates have now won the popular vote in four of the five presidential contests held this century, but have lost three times in the Electoral College.

The basic argument goes something like this: the Electoral College is a relic of an age when democracy was still developing—an age when senators weren't even elected by popular vote—and that Article II, Clause II of the U.S. Constitution should be dumped into the rubbish bin of history. "Yes, Mr. Trump won under the rules, but the rules should change so that a presidential election reflects the will of Americans and promotes a more participatory democracy," opined the New York Times editorial board.

In response, there's been nearly as many Republicans and conservatives leaping to defend a system that has worked in their favor. The Electoral College was designed to prevent coastal elites from large states from getting to pick the president, they argue, and it is thus working perfectly well.

The Founding Fathers who designed the Electoral College were certainly skeptical of direct democracy and the mob-like factions that it could create. "The people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn," warned James Madison in Federalist #63. I think they were right to be concerned. That's not to say that they would look at the current state of affairs and conclude that everything is working exactly as it should.

Because, let's be honest here, it's not. This election—for reasons that go far beyond the Electoral College—brought out the worst of America. That's at least in part because of the illusion of electoral agency. People cried over Clinton's loss because they believed she should win, yes, but also because they believed they had helped her win—millions of people in California, New York, and other deep blue states wrongly believed their support would affect the outcome of the presidential race. It didn't, and learning that fact is painful.

In response, many of those same people want more agency in the process—more "participatory democracy," as the Times put it. That's why there are calls for the popular vote to be the only thing that matters.

More democracy isn't the cure for these problems. From Plato to John Stuart Mill to Bryan Caplan, there's no shortage of political thinkers who have exposed the deep cracks in the idea. In a new book, "Against Democracy," Georgetown University political philosopher Jason Brennan adds to the list. Voters are irrational, ignorant, and incompetent, he argues, and placing limits on democracy makes just as much sense as letting attorneys sort through a pool of jurors to dismiss those who are disqualified. Brennan envisions a system where only coolly rational and educated individuals, those least likely to be affected by the emotional and partisan elements of politics, vote—though he's not clear on whether others would be excluded or whether he wishes they would just stay home.

I'm not sure it is possible to implement Brennan's epistocracy in the United States in any broad way, but the existence of the Electoral College gives us an opportunity to see what less democracy in presidential races might look like. It's hardly a bad thing.

With the prospect of Campaign 2020 kicking off before the headaches of Campaign 2016 have faded, allow me to suggest a better way forward. Keep the Electoral College, with some minor tweaks, and abolish the popular vote.

Yes, get rid of the popular vote. For all the money, time, and attention paid to the presidential race, the actual votes cast on Election Day are basically meaningless. In non-swing states, votes are literally meaningless. Even in states where a small number of votes could change the outcome of the election, your vote and mine are still so insignificant as to be practically worthless, as Reason editor in chief Katherine Mangu-Ward explained in detail in 2012.

The only reason to hold popular votes for president, as the system functions now, is to select the "electors" from each state who will participate in the Electoral College.

Here's a better way. Hold a national lottery to determine the 538 electors (drawing an appropriate number from the voter rolls of each state) and then let those people choose the president.

"Undemocratic!" you might be tempted to cry out.

Well, yes, but not really much less democratic than the system we currently use and, arguably, more democratic than the original design of the Electoral College, in which Electors were not bound in any way to the results of the popular vote in their states. The Founders envisioned a system in which well-read elites would be responsible for choosing the president, in theory as a check against the masses. With a lottery-based system, we'd be returning to that original idea, but with a populist twist.

The benefits of such a model, I'd argue, far outweigh the miniscule loss of casting a meaningless vote for president.

Consider: Almost everyone would get to ignore the election, if they want, because they don't have to pretend to care about it as a form of signaling. The Electors would be the only ones whose votes matters—the lottery to pick them would have to be held a few months before Election Day, I suppose—and everyone else could get on with their lives (or try to influence the Electors, if they are so inclined).

For starters, there would be unmeasurable benefits in the form of freeing people of the mental and emotional anguish created by presidential campaigns like the one we just experienced.

This model would seriously alter presidential campaigning as we know it, but mostly in a positive direction. There would be no need for broad appeals to races or classes, no more vapid identity politics, no more absurdly expensive (and months-long) campaigns, no more endless dissection of polls and un-skewing of cross-tabs.

In return for getting rid of all that cable news talking head fodder, we'd get something better. Each candidate would know exactly who they had to convince to win—a single mother from Toledo, a retiree from Albuquerque, a CEO from Seattle, and so on—and the 538 Electors would have tremendous power to force a discussion on the issues they cared about. It would be a months-long town hall debate—a real one, not one made for television—with the Electors standing in for all Americans.

There are other benefits too. With the presidential race truly out of the average voter's hands, those who want to be engaged in politics could (and would) focus on other races. More scrutiny of congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative races would be welcome and would be possible only if we restore the presidential circus to its proper place.

Weighed against the questionable, miniscule, and illusory benefits of the presidential popular vote, the better choice seems clear. Let the Electoral College, with some tweaks, rule.


The Walls Have Ears: Warrant Granted for Amazon Echo Home Data, Setting Precedent

Amazon echoWhat life in 1984 is like.


BREAKING: Without Providing Proof, US Retaliates Against Russia for ‘Election Hacking’ — Russia Responds

sanctionsWith no proof, the US has given 35 Russian diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, closed two Russian compounds, and issued a myriad of sanctions.


Top-Secret Snowden Document Reveals What the NSA Knew About Previous Russian Hacking


To date, the only public evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacks of the DNC and key Democratic figures has been circumstantial and far short of conclusive, courtesy of private research firms with a financial stake in such claims. Multiple federal agencies now claim certainty about the Kremlin connection, but they have yet to make public the basis for their beliefs.

Now, a never-before-published top-secret document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden suggests the NSA has a way of collecting evidence of Russian hacks, because the agency tracked a similar hack before in the case of a prominent Russian journalist, who was also a U.S. citizen.

People hold pictures of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya during a rally in central Moscow, 07 October 2007. Hundreds of Russian opposition activists rallied in central Moscow under a heavy security presence to mark the anniversary of the killing of investigative journalist Politkovskaya. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY KOSTYUKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

People hold pictures of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya during a rally in central Moscow on Oct. 7, 2007.

Photo: Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images

In 2006, longtime Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in her apartment, the victim of an apparent contract killing. Although five individuals, including the gunman, were convicted for the crime, whoever ordered the murder remains unknown. Information about Politkovskaya’s journalism career, murder, and the investigation of that crime was compiled by the NSA in the form of an internal wiki entry. Most of the wiki’s information is biographical, public, and unclassified, save for a brief passage marked top secret:

Russian Federal Intelligence Services (probably FSB) are known to have targeted the webmail account of the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. On 5 December 2005, RFIS initiated an attack against the account annapolitkovskaia@US Provider1, deploying malicious software which is not available in the public domain. It is not known whether this attack is in any way associated with the death of the journalist.

Although the NSA document does not specify the account, Anna Politkovskaya was known to use the email address

In response to a query from The Intercept about the hacking of Politkovskaya’s account, Yahoo replied in a statement: “We can only disclose information about a specific user account pursuant to our terms of service, privacy policy and law enforcement guidelines.”

The year after her email was hacked, Politkovskaya was murdered, a crime that was widely suspected, though never proven, to be a Kremlin reprisal for her reporting on Chechnya and criticism of Vladimir Putin.

This hack sounds more or less like a very rough sketch of what private firms like CrowdStrike allege the FSB perpetrated against the DNC this year, and presumably what entities like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have, behind closed doors, told President Obama took place.

What’s particularly interesting here is the provenance of NSA’s claims: The section is classified TS/SI, meaning Top Secret Signals Intelligence, the interception of signals (broadly construed) as they pass from one point to another, including anything from tapped phone calls to monitored internet traffic. That is to say, the NSA knew Russia hacked Politkovskaya because the NSA was spying. Thanks to the Snowden revelations, we know there are many powerful, overlapping government spy programs that could allow the NSA to observe communications as they unfold.

Unfortunately, in the case of this wiki there’s no indication of exactly what sort of SIGINT was collected with regard to Politkovskaya, or how it incriminated Russian intelligence — all we have is the allusion to the evidence, not the evidence. The NSA declined to comment.

But that this evidence existed at all is important, and more so today than ever. Simply, the public evidence that the Russian government hacked the Democrats isn’t convincing. Too much of what’s been passed off to the public as proof of Kremlin involvement is based on vague clues and educated guesses of what took place. Signals intelligence could bridge the empirical gap.

Adm. Mike Rogers, the current NSA chief, has already publicly claimed that Russia was behind the attack. “This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect,” Rogers said in November, without specifically mentioning Russia.

NSA whistleblowers have so far given the best idea of what the NSA’s signals intelligence on Russia, today or in 2005, could look like. Earlier this year, Snowden tweeted that if the Russian government was indeed behind the hacking of the Democrats, the NSA most likely has the goods, noting that XKEYSCORE, a sort of global SIGINT search engine, “makes following exfiltrated data easy. I did this personally against Chinese ops.” Snowden went so far as to say that nailing down this sort of SIGINT hacker attribution “is the only case in which mass surveillance has actually proven effective.”

The ex-U.S. intelligence personnel who comprise the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, including fellow high-profile NSA whistleblower William Binney, echoed Snowden’s assessment earlier this month:

The bottom line is that the NSA would know where and how any “hacked” emails from the DNC, HRC or any other servers were routed through the network. This process can sometimes require a closer look into the routing to sort out intermediate clients, but in the end sender and recipient can be traced across the network.

Signal interception can take many different forms, and again, there’s no way to know exactly what the NSA had intercepted surrounding Anna Politkovskaya. But we know intelligence is being gathered on a fine enough level to pin the breach of a single inbox on the Russian government. If the NSA could use signals intelligence to track a specific hack of an American email account in 2005, it’s not too much to assume that, 10 years later, the agency possesses the same or better capability. And signals intelligence is the type of evidence that the American people are owed from the federal government today, as we contemplate a possible confrontation with Russia for interfering in our most important of democratic processes.

The post Top-Secret Snowden Document Reveals What the NSA Knew About Previous Russian Hacking appeared first on The Intercept.


Millions Of Bees Dead After South Carolina Sprays For Zika Mosquitoes



South Carolina honey bees have begun to die in massive numbers. Death of the areas bees has come suddenly to Dorchester County, S.C. Stressed insects tried to flee their nests, only to surrender in little clumps at the hive entrances. Dead worker bees littering the farms suggested that 'colony collapse disorder' was not the culprit.


California's Absurd and Insidious 'Bill of Rights for Children' Invites Pernicious Meddling


Anti-vaccine activists are sounding the alarm about a California bill that should trouble you even if you have nothing against immunization. The bill, S.B. 18, would codify the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in California, a philosophically confused hodgepodge of false assertions and blatantly unrealistic aspirations that could be disastrous as a guide to policy.

The bill was introduced this month by Richard Pan, the pediatrician and state senator who sponsored the 2015 law that eliminated "personal belief" exemptions from state immunization requirements for children enrolled in school or day care. Critics of the new bill, who seem to consist largely of alternative medicine advocates, portray it as a threat to parental authority, gun rights, homeschooling, and health freedom. Snopes rejects those claims, noting that the critics have a grudge against Pan and that the bill does not give state officials any new authority to interfere with child rearing. Although Snopes is right on both points, Pan's seemingly anodyne bill does reflect some creepy and insidious moral premises.

As far as I can tell, Pan's seven-point list of rights—which among other things declares that "all children and youth" have a right to "appropriate, quality health care," to "social and emotional well-being," to "appropriate, quality education and life skills leading to self-sufficiency in adulthood," and to "opportunities to attain optimal cognitive, physical, and social development"—would have no immediate practical effect. It builds on a 2009 concurrent resolution that likewise did not create any new programs, authorize any new spending, or give state or local officials any new powers.

Instead of doing something, S.B. 18 would declare the legislature's intent to do something: develop and fund "research-based policy solutions that will ensure the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth of California, in its totality, is applied evenly, equitably, and appropriately to all children and youth across the state." Toward that end, the bill declares a legislative intent to "enact appropriate legislation" by January 1, 2022. Legislators would decide what's appropriate, which could involve all manner of mischief and boondoggles but also could amount to nothing at all.

All of the "rights" declared by Pan's bill are vague, and several of them involve claims on other people's resources. In Pan's view, the decision to reproduce gives people a license to raid the wallets of total strangers who had no say in that decision. Furthermore, there are no clear limits to that license, since it's anybody's guess what "appropriate, quality health care" or "appropriate, quality education" might entail, what it takes to achieve "social and emotional well-being," or how the government can guarantee "optimal cognitive, physical, and social development."

The most contentious "rights" in Pan's list are the ones that imply second-guessing of parental decisions and interference with family relationships. S.B. 18 says children have a right to "live in a safe and healthy environment," to have "parents, guardians, or caregivers who act in their best interest," and to "form healthy attachments with adults responsible for their care and well-being." Since it's not clear what happens when a parent's idea of a healthy environment, healthy attachments, or a child's best interest conflicts with a legislator's or a bureaucrat's, you can start to see why the bill's opponents call it "an attempt by power-hungry California legislators to further degrade the rights of parents," argue that it "will eventually make the State the top-dog controlling force over all children in California," warn that "it's extremely problematic to allow a very small group of people to decide what constitutes 'best' for...millions of families," or worry that Pan's dubious, undefined rights "could easily be manipulated to make a case for confiscating your child."

While these dangers are theoretical at this point and might remain so even if Pan's bill passes, the state does (and should) impose limits on parental authority, as illustrated by laws against child abuse or the debate over mandatory vaccination. A legislature that takes this vacuous list of rights seriously would be more inclined to err on the side of intervention, with potentially pernicious implications for parental prerogatives and children's welfare. Does homeschooling qualify as "appropriate, quality education"? Is a household that contains firearms a "safe and healthy environment"? Is a strict religious upbringing consistent with "optimal cognitive, physical, and social development"? Are parents who let their child eat junk food, walk to the playground by himself, or participate in risky sports acting in his "best interest"? People's opinions on such subjects vary widely. Pan's bill invites legislators to enforce their opinions under the pretense of protecting children's rights.

Pan seems oblivious to these concerns. His spokeswoman told Snopes critics of S.B. 18 "don't want to understand the bill and instead choose to make up lies about the legislation and the senator." In opposing the bill, she said, "they oppose an effort to empower parents and ensure children and families get the support they need to succeed." Common Sense Kids Action, which backs S.B. 18, likewise sees only good intentions. Beverly Kumar, a spokeswoman for the group, says Pan's bill would begin "the process of laying out a vision of the kinds of comprehensive and research-based supports every one of our state's children should have a right to access." Who could object to that?

Kumar is one of those activists who says "our children" when she is referring to other people's children, betraying a busybody mindset that slides easily from coercively funded "supports" to bans and mandates enforced at the point of a gun. Pan's bill perfectly embodies that mindset, which only wants to help and can't imagine how that attitude could cause any harm.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

History Shows How Rare and Valuable Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Are


The Founding Fathers protected freedom of speech and freedom of the press as the most important liberties.

They are protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  And as discussed below, the Founders recognized that the ability to speak freely was the foundation for all other freedoms.

Thousands of years of history shows how rare and valuable such freedoms really are …


Socrates was killed in 399 BC for “failing to acknowledge the gods that the [government] acknowledges”.

Using the Printing Press

Before the invention of the movable type printing press by Gutenberg, the church controlled the production of books.

Gutenberg’s invention allowed cheap production of books. This challenged the monopoly on books by the church, and thus allowed different viewpoints to be heard.

For example, when Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" on a church door in Germany criticizing the corrupt Catholic practice of selling "indulgences" - paying the church in return for a reduction of your time in purgatory - the printing press spread his writings throughout all of Germany in 2 weeks, and throughout "all of Christendom" within a month.   This launched the Protestant Reformation, and challenged the power of the Catholic church.

So Pope Alexander VI issued an edict against unlicensed printing in  15o1.

And in 1535, Francis I of France prohibited – under penalty of death – the printing of any books.

William Tyndale

William Tyndale was killed in 1536 for translating the Bible into English so that everyone could read it for themselves, and no longer had to rely on the clergy to tell them what it said.

Unlicensed Printing

In 1585, the Star Chamber assumed the right to confine printing to London, Oxford and Cambridge, to limit the number of printers and presses, to prohibit all publications issued without proper license, and to enter houses to search for unlicensed presses and publications. The search for unlicensed presses or publications was entrusted to an officer called the ” messenger of the press.”

In 1557, Henry II made the collecting of prohibited books punishable by death or imprisonment.  An in 1559, he made it punishable by death to print without royal authority.


In 1616 and 1633, Galileo was tried for saying that the Earth revolves around the Sun, instead of agreeing with the church’s “mainstream” view that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

Heretics and Critics

Many people have been killed over the centuries for saying anything that the church authorities of the day disliked.

And the British monarchy punished anyone caught with materials criticizing the monarchy, which they labeled as “libelous” or “scandalous”, even if what was written was true.

(Indeed, the ransacking of houses by authorities searching for “heretical” and “libelous” material was so common that it was the main reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting unreasonable “search and seizure”).

Benjamin Franklin

In 1773, Ben Franklin was fired as colonial Postmaster General for informing the American Colonists about what the British were really doing.


Strongmen of all stripes have cracked down anyone who insults the strongman or criticizes his policies.

Book Burnings

In 1933, the Nazis carried out numerous book burnings of authors such as Einstein, Freud, Kafka, Hellen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Proust, Upon Sinclair and H.G. Wells because their writing book “acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home and the driving forces of our people…”

There have been many other book burnings throughout history.


Mussolini had around 2,000 people killed because they challenged the dictator.

Stalin and the Soviet Union

Stalin murdered or through into insane asylums countless people who criticized the Soviet government or Communism.

Other Communist Regimes

China’s Mao and other Communist leaders killed people who failed to sign the Great Leaders’ praise.


In 1972, CIA director Richard Helms relabeled dissenters as “terrorists”.


The extremely popular tv personality Phil Donahue’s show – the most popular on MSNBC – was canceled for questioning the wisdom of the Iraq war.

Indeed, many reporters have been fired, harassed, spied upon and even accused of terrorism for reporting stories critical of government actions or policies.

Protect What Makes Us American

Those in power are always tempted to censor and punish critical speech and reporting.  George W. Bush said “You’re either with us or your against us”, and cracked down on criticism and protest.

Some powerful Democrats now want to suppress right-wing speech.

But freedom of speech and of the press – no matter how much we may disagree with and even hate what someone else says – is the bedrock of America.

If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
– George Washington

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
– Ben Franklin

“Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo

“The framers of the constitution knew human nature as well as we do. They too had lived in dangerous days; they too knew the suffocating influence of orthodoxy and standardized thought. They weighed the compulsions for restrained speech and thought against the abuses of liberty. They chose liberty.”
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglass

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis


Superstar reporter warns 'fake news' panic is censorship trap



WASHINGTON – If you want to spot a forged painting, ask an art expert.

And if you want to find out what is “fake news,” ask perhaps the top investigative reporter in journalism.

Sharyl Attkisson spotted the fake news trend long before it became a recent catchphrase.

And she doesn’t portray it, as do many in the mainstream media, as some right-wing conspiracy. In fact, Attkisson told WND she often sees the mainstream media as prime culprits when they push suspect stories.

So, what is really behind the mainstream media’s war on fake news?

Sharyl Attkisson

Sharyl Attkisson

“I think the anti-fake news movement itself is a campaign for a narrative-driven propaganda campaign that started about September,” reflected Attkisson.

And what’s the purpose of the anti-fake news movement?

“I think there’s an agenda to censor the news as opposed to actually trying to eliminate fake news,” she said.

Attkisson won five Emmy Awards and received an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting during her stint as the top correspondent for CBS News from 1993 to 2014. Before joining CBS, Attkisson was an anchor and correspondent for CNN from 1990 to 1993.

She is now the anchor of her own Sunday morning national TV news program, “Full Measure,” which focuses on investigative and accountability reporting. The show had it highest ratings ever, last week.

Years ago, Attkisson noticed the emergence of what is now called fake news, only she called such stories by their traditional name: a smear. The reporter began researching the topic in earnest, and the result is her new book, coming out on May 22, titled, “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote,” due to be published on May 22, 2017.


WND has quoted Attkisson, widely hailed as an unbiased, scrupulous and dogged investigator, on numerous issues. Her observations on fake news were delivered with the force and precision of an expert karate chop, as befitting her rank of fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

And she was both surgical and blunt in describing the genesis of a fake news story that was widely used against Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“The white nationalist narrative was invented on a certain day and time by certain interests,” asserted Attkisson. “You didn’t hear that narrative initially, very much. There are various narratives you can measure that happened throughout the campaign, and in the book I discuss during what time periods they arose.”

“Roughly,” she continued, “at first it was that Trump was a clown, a carnival act, they were trying to sort of make him out to be silly and not serious. Then, as soon as he became serious, or realized that didn’t work on him, he became dark and dangerous. It completely went from ‘He’s a clown-like figure’ to ‘He’s a dangerous figure.'”

The super-sleuth reporter then described, in detail, how this was a prototypical case of how a left-wing advocacy group could turn its agenda and narrative into “facts” in the mainstream news.

“The white nationalist stuff came up through a pro-Hillary Clinton group run by David Brock (founder of the liberal group Media Matters) called Blue Nation Review. And they wrote like six articles in five days that were all about alt-right, white nationalists, racists, stuff like that.”

Following the interview, Attkisson sent WND the titles of those Blue Nation Review pieces, which, she said, “I think show they were pushing out a specific narrative. Prior to this time, there was very little if it. They were on different themes.”

She described how, on Aug. 15, “The collective David Brock propaganda groups begin a theme and meme of Trump and his supporters as ‘white nationalists.'”

“And,” she relayed, “Brock’s Blue Nation Review pummeled Trump in six days with smear articles titled”:

“I think that (those articles) directed the media coverage,” Attkisson observed. “That sends the message out. Everybody went out with their messaging on the liberal side. The media pick that up because that’s who they listen to; that’s the source that they consult.”

“And suddenly,” she remarked, “that became a running narrative because someone made it so, not because anything particular happened. It was more that someone decided that would be the agenda, and that had some effectiveness.”

Attkisson said her new book details “how shady political operatives control what you see, what you think and how you vote.”

She explained, “I’ve just been intrigued in the last few years about the manipulation I see going on, on the news and online, including social media, whether it’s fake Twitter accounts, fake Facebook accounts, propaganda efforts that are started this way and then picked up by what you might consider secondary news outlets, and then are picked up by the mainstream news.”

Media Matters founder David Brock

Media Matters founder David Brock

The ace reporter said it’s “fascinating to watch that process formalize and to dig into its origins,” especially because, “I was subject to some of that when I was at CBS News, the efforts to try to stop certain stories I was reporting that were controversial, because they want to make the subject matter go away.

“I discovered there was a lot of funding and organization behind some of these efforts. In digging into it, I thought other people would find it fascinating, too. I think people have a sense they are being manipulated in what they see and read many times, but they don’t exactly know the extent to which it is happening. That’s what the book will talk about.”

Attkisson said both major political parties are behind efforts to manipulate the news.

“Both Democrats and Republicans want to do this and utilize similar tools to try to influence or manipulate public opinion and advance their narrative.”

But the effort to control the news isn’t limited to political groups.

“There are also corporate organizations, public relations firms, there is a whole cottage industry that’s built up around it in Washington, D.C. Think tanks, nonprofits, PR firms.”

She said they are “bent upon what I call smears, or manipulations. It may be a small fraction of their budgets, but I think it amounts probably to billions of dollars. It’s an export force now. We have smear artists that consult for elections in other countries, and corporate interests in other countries, and so on. It’s just become a huge business.”

Attkisson sees more in the media’s war on so-called fake news than a simple pursuit of the truth.

washington post

“I think the anti-fake news movement itself is a campaign for a narrative-driven propaganda campaign that started about Sept. 13, 2016. If you do a little research, you won’t find use of that phrase, not really widely used anywhere prior to that, but it was a narrative that was developed for a specific purpose, I believe, based upon my research.”

She detailed how it is the phrase that is new, not the phenomenon.

“It’s not that fake news doesn’t exist or hasn’t always existed, and, of course, it depends on how you define it. I don’t think anyone corners the market on being able to have the definitive definition. It’s just a phrase we’re using.

“But I think it can mean mainstream news that forwards agendas that are not true; mainstream news that forwards agendas that are true but are highly incendiary, over-exaggerated in terms of their importance for agenda-driven reasons; it can be fake news entirely from anonymous sources online, whether they be blogs or social media or whatnot.”

Attkisson said she thinks there’s a whole range of things that can be fake news, as well as some news that’s called fake, but is not.

“Unfortunately, it’s being applied right now to mean, ‘News I don’t like.’ By whichever side you’re discussing it with. And the danger of the anti-fake news movement is the people who are forwarding the movement, I think, want to be the self-appointed censors who decide what is fake and what is not.

Trump and reporters

“And that’s where it gets dangerous, because it’s hard for third parties to determine the truth of any case. And when you put that in somebody else’s hands, you are basically giving them the opportunity to cut out news and narrative they don’t like, rather than news that’s truly false or fake.”

Does she think there’s an agenda to censor the news, as opposed to actually trying to eliminate fake news and just disseminate the truth?

“Right. I’m not saying that’s everybody’s motivation, but I certainly think that’s the primary motivation behind it by some of the forces who are involved in it.”

Would she say the mainstream media are victims or propagators of fake news themselves?

“I think they are at times both. I think the media have invented and promulgated fake stories or false narratives, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident through not knowing better or being lazy,” Attkisson mused.

“But, I also think, and I wrote about this in my first book [“Stonewalled“] and there will be more discussion in the next one, there’s been some blending between journalists and the forces that want to shape them, corporate and political forces, and that they’ve become kind of one in the same, because they’re invited into our newsrooms, the very people who want to shape opinion and advance narratives in the news.”


“Now we are that. We have become that, to some extent. I do think it’s all blended together, and that’s why we have the problem.”

Would she say the assertion that Russia influenced the election falls under the category of fake news, in some of these respects?

“The sense in which the Russia narrative falls under the fake news category is the idea that it was heavily promulgated at a certain point in time by political interests in a way that I think exaggerated the evidence and the intelligence that existed,” Attkisson explained.

She said she doesn’t know all the facts in the Russia case, but the way the narrative was forwarded rang a bell when she first heard of it, months ago.

“I’ve come to where I think I can fairly well recognize when a campaign is starting, and I recognized the start of that campaign and wondered what was behind it at the time.

“I like to make conclusions based on information from firsthand and trusted sources. And people I trust don’t think there’s strong evidence that we would be able to know right now that Russia somehow influenced our elections. And, to connect any operations directly to Putin is something people I trust say we probably wouldn’t be able to know now.”

That wasn’t the only aspect of the Russian hacking story that seemed fishy to her.

“Some of the press are giving the mis-impression that, if you ask people on the street, they think Russia literally hacked into our elections. That’s the phrase that’s being used, that they somehow changed our votes, or got into our voting machines.

“And, in fact, nobody suspects that. That’s not even on the table. No official suspects that. But that’s the impression, or mis-impression, being forwarded and advanced. So I think that’s sort of fake news.”

WND asked if fake news can be the result of laziness or sloppiness as well as agenda-driven politics. What does she think about the role of journalists?

“All of those things can be true. Let’s take the fuss over President-elect Trump’s phone call from Taiwan. And there was immediately, on most of the news, what I would say was condemnation, scorn, ridicule and so on.

“Now, I’m not an expert on of these topics, China and Taiwan, and so I don’t immediately know what conclusions to draw, but a bunch of journalists immediately drew a conclusion. And what I like to say is, most journalists are like me, they’re not experts in a subject matter area like China and Taiwan on a moment’s notice. So how are they forming a conclusion that they are so strongly able to say President-elect Trump was wrong and made a huge mistake?”

White House press room

White House press room

Attkisson said those journalists consult sources they know or trust, just as she does.

“I think the difference is, if someone told me something, I’d measure who I’m hearing it from. I’d ask other people. I don’t form a personal conclusion about it because I don’t know enough yet.”

She said it seems like a lot of journalists were clearly told something about the Taiwan call from somebody, and, because most of them didn’t have original information on the subject matter, they then forwarded it their audience without seeking a different opinion or opposing viewpoint, or figuring out why Trump might’ve had good reason to take the call from Taiwan. Or why some people might have thought it made sense to do so.

“And I don’t know,” Attkisson reflected, “if that’s laziness or if they just agree with what they hear and are very anxious to report something negative, because, in general, the mainstream media made it clear they are against President-elect Trump as a candidate.”

She added, “I think people are taking what’s handed to them, in many cases now, whether it’s corporate press releases or government press releases, and just reporting it and accepting it as fact, if it’s a fact they want to hear.

“I was always told in journalism school that if someone hands you a press release, whether it’s from the government or a corporation, it’s almost never news. It may be a starting point for something to look into, but in itself it’s not a story. That’s what they want you to think. And it’s your job to figure out the truth, and not to be used just report something that someone’s trying to slip on your plate.”

trump as clown

WND mentioned its own newsroom noticed completely false news stories cropping up months ago, stories seemingly written to appeal to conservatives, and designed to look like they were coming from credible sources. But, it turned the stories were coming from a liberal who was hoping conservatives would spread the fake stories …

“And it would discredit the right. Yes,” Attkisson finished WND’s thought.

“That’s something I was just telling my mom the other day. When anything (like that) happens, you have to think one weird conspiratorial step beyond it, and I am not talking about just Democrats or Republicans. But when you see stuff on the news, you just can’t take these narratives at face value. People put them out there.”

She described how she had friends posting stories on Facebook about towns supposedly teeming with Confederate flags and pro-Trump signs, “and people screaming they hate black people and things like that.”

“And that smacks, to me, knowing what I know, of an effort by some liberals, possibly, to make it look like this is what conservatives do, because I did not believe there was a widespread movement of conservatives who were necessarily doing that.”

Attkisson mentioned how there have been several arrests of people who vandalized buildings “with racist, anti-black graffiti, for example, and it turned out to be a black man who did it. And there was a Muslim woman who said she been attacked by pro-Trump supporters and was arrested when it came to light that it didn’t happen.

“So I do think there are movements that set up these counterintelligence operations, and people have to look deeper and not take everything at face value.”

WND said, aside from fake news sites that just make up stuff out of whole cloth, it sounded like Attkisson was saying the mainstream media also have been guilty of what can be called fake news, because they share an agenda with those from whom they get information. Is that fair to say?

“Yeah. Not just because they share an agenda but because what they’re reporting is not in the proper context to accurately reflect the truth of the facts, or is itself completely fake. Yeah, that happens too,” she flatly declared.

“I’ve also heard conservatives say is it fake news when the Detroit Free Press says Clinton won Michigan, and Clinton didn’t win Michigan.

“Is it fake news when every news organization, practically, and every pundit says Trump has no electoral path to victory, which was completely false. It was an opinion that was formed pretty much as a fact by some people. It was harped upon over and over again, almost as if to drum that into the consciousness of people who might otherwise think he had a chance. So things like that, I would put in the category of fake news.

President-elect Donald Trump giving his victory speech (Twitter)

President-elect Donald Trump giving his victory speech (Twitter)

“Now some people try to define it,” she continued, “by saying, ‘No no no, fake news is not a mistake; it’s not when you don’t mean to say something fake; it’s when you’re meaning to say something fake. Well, they are defining that for their own purposes and reasons. But I think there’s all kinds of ways you could define it. If you want to use their propaganda phrase, I think there are many ways you could define it.”

What about plans to install gatekeepers to determine what news is fake and what is not?

“The problem with someone trying to stop fake news, someone like Facebook or Google, is these folks have deep ties to political people.”

Attkisson referred to Google officials meeting 427 times with White House officials, as of last May. Google executives attended 363 meetings with administration officials, including President Obama, his chief of staff and senior policy officials such as senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason Furman and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling. Google’s top lobbyist met with Obama four times and visited the White House 128 times since 2009, more than any top 50 lobbying firm.

More disconcerting, many of those meetings occurred while the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, was investigating anti-trust allegations against Google.

Emails showed how the White House’s Internet adviser, R. David Edelman, contacted Google lobbyist Johanna Shelton before the FTC’s decision in January 2013. He requested Google’s talking points and wrote to her, “Obviously, lots of interest here at the WH.”


The Wall Street Journal revealed, “FTC staff investigators had recommended a lawsuit against Google for abuse of its monopoly power and anticompetitive practices.” But the FTC instead settled the case.

Additionally, Bloomberg reported, “The meetings came on the heels of President Obama’s successful re-election campaign in which Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt had played an important role. The White House also met repeatedly with top FTC officials during that period.”

Attkisson observed, “These people who consult with political operatives or corporate interests, they are going to be the ones to censor our news? And tell us what truth is? And even when that truth is more a matter of opinion or not even fully known?”

“I’m really nervous about someone saying we’ll decide the truth,” the seasoned reporter flatly stated.

“You know, they used to say cigarettes couldn’t cause lung cancer. So, theoretically, a story or study that said otherwise wouldn’t show up on your Google search today, because that had been determined at the time not to be true.”

“Why would you put fake news on Google?” she deadpanned rhetorically. “So there are things we would never know about if you put these people who claim to know more than everybody else out there [in charge of determining the truth].”

Attkisson also referred to the Facebook scandal in which its news curators admitted the social network had been removing conservative news from the list of trending stories and pushing liberal stories.

“These are the people you want to filter your news for you?”


She continued, “In my personal opinion, corporations have a right to do that, to do their private business and let Facebook develop their own policies. But, I think they should say to you, ‘Do you want us to censor and filter your news for you? Do you want us to decide what is fake?”

“And if you check the box and say yes, then I think they should do that for you. If somebody was put that in someone else’s hands and they trust them and that’s what they want to see, they should have that. But I think you should be able to opt out of that. If you don’t want your news curated.”

But that’s not how she works.

“Me? I look for stuff that other people try to keep me from seeing. I seek that stuff online. Because that’s where I find some stories. And, occasionally, I do find truth in these places where they don’t want you to look. Or where they are trying to marginalize stories and make them controversial.”

“One last little thing,” Attkisson added.

“Part of the directive on how to find out if something is fake news, is a narrative is that if it’s not in the Washington Post or New York Times, or Snopes says it’s a myth, you know not to believe it.

“Well, all those sources, in my view, can be suspect. And Snopes especially has been incorrect, factually incorrect, on a number of topics. So the very places some people have directed us to, to get the truth, are the very places where I think I wouldn’t necessarily look for it.

“And I think that’s a danger.”