ISIS Online: A Pretext for Cyber COINTELPRO?

March 3, 2015 at 12:15 PM

 

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In its ever expanding war against Syria, now under the broader pretext of “fighting ISIS,” the US Government has employed a variety of tactics. From arming terrorists whom it dishonestly labels “moderates,” to encouraging Turkey and Jordan to host jihadi training centers, to theCIA working with the Muslim Brotherhood to funnel weapons and fighters into Syria, the US and its allies have demonstrated the multi-faceted approach they’re taking to fighting ISIS, extremism, and the Syrian Government.

The war, once believed to be relegated solely to Syria and Iraq, has now been broadened to a regional, and indeed, a global war with no geographical boundaries or time limits. And now, the Obama administration has announced that its war will also be waged in cyberspace. As the NY Times reported:

At the heart of the plan is expanding a tiny State Department agency, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, to harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies. The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State.

While the use of social media and other online platforms is nothing new, the coordinated nature of the program demonstrates the broader capacity the US State Department and intelligence agencies are going to employ in penetrating cyberspace to, in theory, counter ISIS and other extremists groups’ propaganda. But is this all they’ll be doing? There is good reason to doubt the seemingly innocuous sounding mission of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC).

Countermessaging or Counterintelligence?

It is clear that the US Government is actively going to expand its social media and cyberspace presence vis-à-vis online extremism. According to the expressly stated goal, the CSCC is intended to:

…coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism… CSCC is comprised of three interactive components. The integrated analysis component leverages the Intelligence Community and other substantive experts to ensure CSCC communicators benefit from the best information and analysis available. The plans and operations component draws on this input to devise effective ways to counter the terrorist narrative. The Digital Outreach Team actively and openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali.

Although the description makes the program seem harmless enough, a close reading should raise very serious questions about just what exactly the CSCC will be involved in. The so called “integrated analysis” and “plans and operations” components provide an ambiguously worded description of collaboration with US intelligence agencies – CIA, DIA, DHS, and NSA undoubtedly among them. These agencies, aside from gathering intelligence and performing surveillance in every corner of the globe, are also involved in everything from espionage to “black ops” and “dirty ops” and other shadowy activities.

In effect, the CSCC will act in concert with these agencies both in the realm of information and activity. Does anyone seriously doubt, especially in light of the Snowden revelations about the all-encompassing nature of US surveillance and counterintelligence capabilities, that ultimately part of the CSCC’s responsibilities will be to act as a de facto arm of US intelligence in the cyberspace realm, with specific attention to global hotspots such as Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Libya etc.?

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Talking Boko Haram on Black Agenda Radio

February 26, 2015 at 9:19 AM

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Eric Draitser appears on Black Agenda Radio with Glen Ford to discuss Boko Haram and the regional war developing because of it.  Draitser examines some of the domestic and regional politics taking shape around the issue, as well as the motivations of the interested parties.  He touches on some of the lesser known history of the organization and how it has been transformed in recent years.  Draitser and Ford also discuss the larger imperial and neocolonial context within which this complex issue must be understood.

Minsk II: Derailed Before the Ink Was Dry

February 24, 2015 at 10:09 AM

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When the Minsk II agreement was officially announced on February 12, 2015, there was, for the first time in many months, a real belief that a cessation of hostilities was at the very least possible, if only conceptually. It seemed that the parties to the conflict finally had a framework within which they could move toward a peaceful settlement to end the dreadful war that has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent civilians in Donetsk, Lugansk, and surrounding areas. But perhaps this was simply wishful thinking.

While the “Normandy 4” (France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine) were negotiating the terms of the agreement, developments on the ground in Donetsk and Lugansk told quite a different story. Ukrainian forces continued their criminal shelling of civilians in Donetsk, while the anti-Kiev rebels continued sporadic fighting around Debaltsevo. Of course a war is always messy, and one cannot expect fighting to halt, or even necessarily decrease, while political leaders sit around the table.

But the continuation of military hostilities was not the only issue. Rather, actions taken by Kiev’s military and fascist paramilitaries, in addition to their patrons in Washington, demonstrated that, rather than peace, the US-Kiev faction was interested in escalation.

But how is this possible considering the string of defeats the Ukrainian military suffered at the hand of the rebels? Simple. Under the cover of media darkness cast by the shadow of the Minsk talks, the US and Kiev quietly connived to escalate the war and, simultaneously, violate multiple key provisions of the agreement. In effect, Minsk II was null and void the moment the clock struck midnight on Sunday February 15, 2015, the appointed time at which the agreement allegedly took effect.

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CrossTalk – Forever War

February 23, 2015 at 10:35 AM

Boundless powers and endless wars: This is the likely outcome if Barack Obama is granted the kind of military authorization he wants from Congress. This time around the target and enemy is the Islamic State. Is it fair to say that America and the IS live off of each other?

CrossTalking with Eric Draitser, Stephen Schlesinger, and Jim Antle III.

There Goes The Guardian, Lying About Ukraine…Again!

February 20, 2015 at 4:13 PM

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The western media is busily trying to prop up their failed narrative of “Russian aggression” in Ukraine in a desperate attempt to legitimize their consciously deceitful reporting. To do so, they are now relying not on experts or western intelligence reports, but a discredited blogger and his corporate media chums.

On February 17, 2015, The Guardian ran a story with the headline“Russia shelled Ukrainians from within its own territory, says study.”The title alone is enough to convince many casual observers that yes, the mainstream media reporting on the civil war in Ukraine has been correct all along. You see, it’s all because of Russian aggression, or so the meme would go. But closer analysis of this story, and the key players involved, should cause any reasonably intelligent and logical person to seriously doubt the veracity of nearly every aspect of the story.

Let’s begin first with the headline and subhead which, as anyone in media knows, is often all that will be read by many readers. The headline leads with a conclusion: Russia shelled Ukraine from within Russian territory. Simple. Clear. Why bother reading further? Well, in reality, the article both overtly and tacitly admits that the so called “study” (more on that later) has not reached that clear conclusion, not even close. Here are some key phrases sprinkled throughout the piece that should give pause to any serious-minded political observer or analyst.

Despite the declaration in the headline, a close reader encounters phrases such as “near conclusive proof,” “estimated trajectories,” “likely firing positions,” and other ambiguous phrases that are more suggestive than they are declarative. In other words, these are mere rhetorical flourishes designed to lead casual, uninformed readers to make conclusions that are simply not backed up by the evidence.

The so called study relied heavily on “crater patterns from satellite photos of three battlefields,” and it is from these crater patterns, and the equally dubious “tyre tracks” that the authors of the study drew their conclusions. However, even the independent military forensics expert contacted by The Guardian “warned that the accuracy of crater analysis in determining direction of fire on the basis of satellite photography was scientifically unproven.”

Indeed, conveniently buried at the end of the long article is the key quote from Stephen Johnson, a weapons expert at the Cranfield Forensic Institute, part of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom who said quite clearly that crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy.” Mr. Johnson added that “This does not mean there is no value to the method, but that any results must be considered with caution and require corroboration.”

Wait a second. I thought that our dear expert authors of the study had “near conclusive proof” according to the lead paragraphs of the story. When you actually read what the real expert, as opposed to the non-experts who conducted the “study,” has to say, it immediately casts a long shadow of doubt on the entire narrative being propagated by the article. Is The Guardian here guilty of clear manipulation of the story for political purposes? It would seem at best unprofessional and dishonest reporting, at worst it’s outright lying in the service of the agenda of those at the top of the western political establishment.

 

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