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Sunday, January 8, 2017

The war against alternative information

Rick Sterling - Consortium News - Sun, 01 Jan 2017 22:44 UTC


The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the "Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act" that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any "propaganda" that challenges Official Washington's version of reality. 

The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center "to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests." The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to "coordinate with allied nations."
© UN
The legislation was initiated in March 2016, as the demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia was already underway and was enacted amid the allegations of "Russian hacking" around the U.S. presidential election and the mainstream media's furor over supposedly "fake news." Defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton voiced strong support for the bill: "It's imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy, and innocent lives."

The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian "propaganda" on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth - or Global Engagement Center - to protect the American people from "foreign propaganda and disinformation."

As part of the effort to detect and defeat these unwanted narratives, the law authorizes the Center to: "Facilitate the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among Federal departments and agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices." (This section is an apparent reference to proposals that Google, Facebook and other technology companies find ways to block or brand certain Internet sites as purveyors of "Russian propaganda" or "fake news.")

Justifying this new bureaucracy, the bill's sponsors argued that the existing agencies for "strategic communications" and "public diplomacy" were not enough, that the information threat required "a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power."

The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world's biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation - or what you might call evidence-free claims, such as the recent accusations of Russia hacking into Democratic emails to "influence" the U.S. election.

Despite these accusations — leaked by the Obama administration and embraced as true by the mainstream U.S. news media — there is little or no public evidence to support the charges. There is also a contradictory analysis by veteran U.S. intelligence professionals as well as statements by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and an associate, former British Ambassador Craig Murray, that the Russians were not the source of the leaks. Yet, the mainstream U.S. media has virtually ignored this counter-evidence, appearing eager to collaborate with the new "Global Engagement Center" even before it is officially formed.

Of course, there is a long history of U.S. disinformation and propaganda. Former CIA agents Philip Agee and John Stockwell documented how it was done decades ago, secretly planting "black propaganda" and covertly funding media outlets to influence events around the world, with much of the fake news blowing back into the American media.

In more recent decades, the U.S. government has adopted an Internet-era version of that formula with an emphasis on having the State Department or the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy supply, train and pay "activists" and "citizen journalists" to create and distribute propaganda and false stories via "social media" and via contacts with the mainstream media. The U.S. government's strategy also seeks to undermine and discredit journalists who challenge this orthodoxy. The new legislation escalates this information war by tossing another $160 million into the pot.

Propaganda and Disinformation on Syria

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.
Syria is a good case study in the modern application of information warfare. In her memoir Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote that the U.S. provided "support for (Syrian) civilian opposition groups, including satellite-linked computers, telephones, cameras, and training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists."

Indeed, a huge amount of money has gone to "activists" and "civil society" groups in Syria and other countries that have been targeted for "regime change." A lot of the money also goes to parent organizations that are based in the United States and Europe, so these efforts do not only support on-the-ground efforts to undermine the targeted countries, but perhaps even more importantly, the money influences and manipulates public opinion in the West.

In North America, representatives from the Syrian "Local Coordination Committees" (LCC) were frequent guests on popular media programs such as "DemocracyNow." The message was clear: there is a "revolution" in Syria against a "brutal regime" personified in Bashar al-Assad. It was not mentioned that the "Local Coordination Committees" have been primarily funded by the West, specifically the Office for Syrian Opposition Support, which was founded by the U.S. State Department and the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

More recently, news and analysis about Syria has been conveyed through the filter of the White Helmets, also known as Syrian Civil Defense. In the Western news media, the White Helmets are described as neutral, non-partisan, civilian volunteers courageously carrying out rescue work in the war zone. In fact, the group is none of the above. It was initiated by the U.S. and U.K. using a British military contractor and Brooklyn-based marketing company.

While they may have performed some genuine rescue operations, the White Helmets are primarily a media organization with a political goal: to promote NATO intervention in Syria. (The manipulation of public opinion using the White Helmets and promoted by the New York Times and Avaaz petition for a "No Fly Zone" in Syria is documented here.)

The White Helmets hoax continues to be widely believed and receives uncritical promotion though it has increasingly been exposed at alternative media outlets as the creation of a "shady PR firm." During critical times in the conflict in Aleppo, White Helmet individuals have been used as the source for important news stories despite a track record of deception.

Recent Propaganda: Blatant Lies?
As the armed groups in east Aleppo recently lost ground and then collapsed, Western governments and allied media went into a frenzy of accusations against Syria and Russia based on reports from sources connected with the armed opposition. CNN host Wolf Blitzer described Aleppo as "falling" in a "slaughter of these women and children" while CNN host Jake Tapper referred to "genocide by another name."

The Daily Beast published the claims of the Aleppo Siege Media Center under the title "Doomsday is held in Aleppo" and amid accusations that the Syrian army was executing civilians, burning them alive and "20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped." These sensational claims were widely broadcast without verification. However, this "news" on CNN and throughout Western media came from highly biased sources and many of the claims - lacking anything approaching independent corroboration - could be accurately described as propaganda and disinformation.

Ironically, some of the supposedly "Russian propaganda" sites, such as RT, have provided first-hand on-the-ground reporting from the war zones with verifiable information that contradicts the Western narrative and thus has received almost no attention in the U.S. news media. For instance, some of these non-Western outlets have shown videos of popular celebrations over the "liberation of Aleppo."

There has been further corroboration of these realities from peace activists, such as Jan Oberg of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research who published a photo essay of his eyewitness observations in Aleppo including the happiness of civilians from east Aleppo reaching the government-controlled areas of west Aleppo, finally freed from areas that had been controlled by Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and its jihadist allies in Ahrar al-Sham.

Dr. Nabil Antaki, a medical doctor from Aleppo, described the liberation of Aleppo in an interview titled "Aleppo is Celebrating, Free from Terrorists, the Western Media Misinformed." The first Christmas celebrations in Aleppo in four years are shown here, replete with marching band members in Santa Claus outfits. Journalist Vanessa Beeley has published testimonies of civilians from east Aleppo. The happiness of civilians at their liberation is clear.

Whether or not you wish to accept these depictions of the reality in Aleppo, at a minimum, they reflect another side of the story that you have been denied while being persistently force-fed the version favored by the U.S. State Department. The goal of the new Global Engagement Center to counter "foreign propaganda" is to ensure that you never get to hear this alternative narrative to the Western propaganda line.

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative.
Even much earlier, contrary to the Western mythology of rebel "liberated zones," there was strong evidence that the armed groups were never popular in Aleppo. American journalist James Foley described the situation in 2012 like this:

"Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups. The rebels in Aleppo are predominantly from the countryside, further alienating them from the urban crowd that once lived here peacefully, in relative economic comfort and with little interference from the authoritarian government of President Bashar al-Assad."

On Nov. 22, 2012, Foley was kidnapped in northwestern Syria and held by Islamic State terrorists before his beheading in August 2014.

The Overall Narrative on Syria

Analysis of the Syrian conflict boils down to two competing narratives. One narrative is that the conflict is a fight for freedom and democracy against a brutal regime, a storyline promoted in the West and the Gulf states, which have been fueling the conflict from the start. This narrative is also favored by some self-styled "anti-imperialists" who want a "Syrian revolution."

The other narrative is that the conflict is essentially a war of aggression against a sovereign state, with the aggressors including NATO countries, Gulf monarchies, Israel and Jordan. Domination of the Western media by these powerful interests is so thorough that one almost never gets access to this second narrative, which is essentially banned from not only the mainstream but also much of the liberal and progressive media.

For example, listeners and viewers of the generally progressive TV and radio program "DemocracyNow" have rarely if ever heard the second narrative described in any detail. Instead, the program frequently broadcasts the statements of Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and others associated with the U.S. position. Rarely do you hear the viewpoint of the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, the Syrian Foreign Minister or analysts inside Syria and around the world who have written about and follow events there closely.

"DemocracyNow" also has done repeated interviews with proponents of the "Syrian revolution" while ignoring analysts who call the conflict a war of aggression sponsored by the West and the Gulf monarchies. This blackout of the second narrative continues despite the fact that many prominent international figures see it as such. For example, the former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua and former President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D'Escoto, has said, "What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State."

In many areas of politics, "DemocracyNow" is excellent and challenges mainstream media. However in this area, coverage of the Syrian conflict, the broadcast is biased, one-sided and echoes the news and analysis of mainstream Western corporate media, showing the extent of control over foreign policy news that already exists in the United States and Europe.

Suppressing and Censoring Challenges

The “White Helmets” symbol, expropriating the name of “Syria Civil Defense.”
Despite the widespread censorship of alternative analyses on Syria and other foreign hotspots that already exists in the West, the U.S. government's new "Global Engagement Center" will seek to ensure that the censorship is even more complete with its goal to "counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation." We can expect even more aggressive and better-financed assaults on the few voices daring to challenge the West's "group thinks" - smear campaigns that are already quite extensive.

In an article titled "Controlling the Narrative on Syria", Louis Allday describes the criticisms and attacks on journalists Rania Khalek and Max Blumenthal for straying from the "approved" Western narrative on Syria. Some of the bullying and abuse has come from precisely those people, such as Robin Yassin-Kassab, who have been frequent guests in liberal Western media.

Reporters who have returned from Syria with accounts that challenge the propaganda themes that have permeated the Western media also have come under attack. For instance, Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett recently returned to North America after being in Syria and Aleppo, conveying a very different image and critical of the West's biased media coverage. Bartlett appeared at a United Nations press conference and then did numerous interviews across the country during a speaking tour. During the course of her talks and presentation, Bartlett criticized the White Helmets and questioned whether it was true that Al Quds Hospital in opposition-held East Aleppo was attacked and destroyed as claimed.

Bartlett's recounting of this information made her a target of Snopes, which has been a mostly useful website exposing urban legends and false rumors but has come under criticism itself for some internal challenges and has been inconsistent in its investigations. In one report entitled "White Helmet Hearsay," Snopes' writer Bethania Palmer says claims the White Helmets are "linked to terrorists" is "unproven," but she overlooks numerous videos, photos, and other reports showing White Helmet members celebrating a Nusra/Al Qaeda battle victory, picking up the bodies of civilians executed by a Nusra executioner, and having a member who alternatively appears as a rebel/terrorist fighter with a weapon and later wearing a White Helmet uniform. The "fact check" barely scrapes the surface of public evidence.

The same writer did another shallow "investigation" titled "victim blaming" regarding Bartlett's critique of White Helmet videos and what happened at the Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo. Bartlett suggests that some White Helmet videos may be fabricated and may feature the same child at different times, i.e., photographs that appear to show the same girl being rescued by White Helmet workers at different places and times. While it is uncertain whether this is the same girl, the similarity is clear. 

The Snopes writer goes on to criticize Bartlett for her comments about the reported bombing of Al Quds Hospital in east Aleppo in April 2016. A statement at the website of Doctors Without Borders says the building was "destroyed and reduced to rubble," but this was clearly false since photos show the building with unclear damage. Five months later, the September 2016 report by Doctors Without Borders says the top two floors of the building were destroyed and the ground floor Emergency Room damaged yet they re-opened in two weeks.

The many inconsistencies and contradictions in the statements of Doctors Without Borders resulted in an open letter to them. In their last report, Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF) acknowledges that "MSF staff did not directly witness the attack and has not visited Al Quds Hospital since 2014."

Bartlett referenced satellite images taken before and after the reported attack on the hospital. The images do not show severe damage and it is unclear whether or not there is any damage to the roof, the basis for Bartlett's statement. In the past week, independent journalists have visited the scene of Al Quds Hospital and report that that the top floors of the building are still there and damage is unclear.

The Snopes' investigation criticizing Bartlett was superficial and ignored the broader issues of accuracy and integrity in the Western media's depiction of the Syrian conflict. Instead the article appeared to be an effort to discredit the eyewitness observations and analysis of a journalist who dared challenge the mainstream narrative.

U.S. propaganda and disinformation on Syria has been extremely effective in misleading much of the American population. Thus, most Americans are unaware how many billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on yet another "regime change" project. The propaganda campaign - having learned from the successful demonizations of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and other targeted leaders - has been so masterful regarding Syria that many liberal and progressive news outlets were pulled in. It has been left to RT and some Internet outlets to challenge the U.S. government and the mainstream media.

But the U.S. government's near total control of the message doesn't appear to be enough. Apparently even a few voices of dissent are a few voices too many.

The enactment of HR5181, "Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation," suggests that the ruling powers seek to escalate suppression of news and analyses that run counter to the official narrative. Backed by a new infusion of $160 million, the plan is to further squelch skeptical voices with operation for "countering" and "refuting" what the U.S. government deems to be propaganda and disinformation.

As part of the $160 million package, funds can be used to hire or reward "civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions."

Among the tasks that these private entities can be hired to perform is to identify and investigate both print and online sources of news that are deemed to be distributing "disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners."

In other words, we are about to see an escalation of the information war.

Rick Sterling is an independent investigative journalist. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com
https://www.sott.net/article/338745-The-war-against-alternative-information?utm_content=buffera6197&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Leaked Documents Reveal Expansive Soros Funding to Manipulate Federal Elections


Leaked funding documents reveal an effort by George Soros and his foundations to manipulate election laws and process rules ahead of the federal election far more expansively than has been previously reported.

The billionaire and convicted felon moved hundreds of millions of dollars into often-secret efforts to change election laws, fuel litigation to attack election integrity measures, push public narratives about voter fraud, and to integrate the political ground game of the left with efforts to scare racial minority groups about voting rights threats.

These Soros-funded efforts moved through dozens of 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) charities and involved the active compliance with civil rights groups, government officials, and purportedly non-partisan groups like the League of Women Voters.

The leaked documents also reveal deliberate and successful efforts to manipulate media coverage of election issues in mainstream media outlets like the The New York Times.

The racially targeted voter registration drives were executed at the same time Soros dollars were funding other public relations efforts to polarize racial minority groups by scaring them about the loss of voting rights and the dangers of police officers.

The Soros documents reveal hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into the effort to transform the legal and media environment touching on elections. One document notes that poverty-alleviation programs are being de-emphasized for this new effort. It states: "George Soros has authorized U.S. Programs to propose a budget of $320 million over two years, with the understanding that the annual budget for U.S. Programs will be $150 million beginning in 2013. 

"Conservatives and Republicans have no opposing effort or source of funds that represents even a small fraction in opposition to level of the Soros-led manipulation contained in the leaked documents.
The documents reveal that the Soros campaign fueled litigation attacking election integrity measures, such as citizenship verification and voter ID. It funded long-term efforts to fundamentally transform election administration -- including the creation of databases that were marketed to state governments for use in voter verification. It propped up left-leaning media to attack reports of voter fraud, and conducted racially and ideologically targeted voter registration drives.

The racially targeted voter registration drives were executed at the same time Soros dollars were funding other public relations efforts to polarize racial minority groups by scaring them about the loss of voting rights and the dangers of police officers.

The Soros documents reveal hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into the effort to transform the legal and media environment touching on elections. One document notes that poverty-alleviation programs are being de-emphasized for this new effort. It states: "George Soros has authorized U.S. Programs to propose a budget of $320 million over two years, with the understanding that the annual budget for U.S. Programs will be $150 million beginning in 2013."
The purpose of the expansion is clear:
The increase in Democracy and Power Fund budget will expand funding of non-partisan voter engagement to catalyze participation from African-American, Latino, immigrant, and youth communities in particular, and to ensure a fair and just redistricting process. The increase in the Transparency and Integrity Fund will expand support for election reform, judicial independence and journalism.
Below are some highlights of this expansive Soros-funded campaign to alter the legal environment and rules of American elections.
Litigation
  • Soros funded multiple attacks on state voter identification laws in places such as Wisconsin, North Carolina and Virginia. While not successful at the trial court in North Carolina and Virginia, the Soros litigation won a victory in the appeals courts resulting in North Carolina election integrity laws being suspended for the presidential election.  Worse, the litigation resulted in opinions by federal appeals courts which could potentially turn the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into a one-way political ratchet that helps Democrats, as long as Democrats can enforce racially polarized voting patterns.
  • Soros documents show funding for the League of Women Voters and their effort "to catalyze greater participation from Black and Latino youth in advocacy both before and after elections." The LWV is currently in federal court trying to stop efforts by Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama to verify that only citizens are registering to vote. The same organization intervened in a lawsuit by the Public Interest Legal Foundation to clean voter rolls in a Virginia jurisdiction with more registered voters than eligible citizens.
  • Soros documents show funding of $250,000 for the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP before the group then sued to stop the use of voter ID in North Carolina.  Other groups in North Carolina that were on the funding documents include: "Action Institute NC - $75,000 over one year . . . North Carolina Latino Coalition - $75,000  . . .  New World Foundation - $300,000 over one year . . . North Carolina Fair Share Education Fund - $75,000 . . . School for Creative Activism - $75,000."
  • Soros documents show that it funded efforts to attack the efforts of Tea Party organizations such as True the Vote to promote election integrity and triggered Department of Justice action. One funding document states that the Campaign Legal Center, [former John McCain lawyer] Trevor Potter, and the Brennan Center worked on "voter registration reform" and efforts to attack Tea Party groups. "CLC is focusing most of its efforts on the threat posed by these private ‘challenger’ groups and, to that end, has been gathering information on the activities of such groups, including Houston-based True the Vote. Working in partnership with Transparency Fund grantee Project Vote, CLC has pieced together a narrative that strongly suggests a widespread effort by True the Vote to suppress minority voting. CLC made Open Records Requests to officials in Houston to obtain all communications between True the Vote and Houston election offices, obtained and analyzed these documents and presented their findings to the United States Department of Justice last month. Following this meeting, the Justice Department sent federal officials to Houston to monitor the May primary elections. One other aspect of CLC’s work in this area is its Executive Director, J. Gerald Hebert’s role as chief counsel to a group of intervenors in State of Texas v. Holder."
  • The funding documents name groups which received in excess of $500,000 each year from Soros. They include: "Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center for American Progress, Advancement Project, Center for Community Change, Brennan Center." Three of the largest recipients are engaged in litigation and strategic communications denying voter fraud and seeking to transform the rules of elections.
  • Soros money is moving away from pressing for "campaign finance reform" and speech regulations, and instead into election process areas.  The funding documents state "We do recommend shifts in a significant area of previous strategy. Historically, OSI played a leading role in promoting campaign finance reform models at the national and state levels. In recent years, changed conditions caused us to re-examine our approach, and our analysis led us to begin discontinuing our support to campaign finance reform groups."
  • Soros money fought voter ID, everywhere.  The leaked documents state: "The 2012 elections proved that momentum is with the voting rights and civil rights community rather than their detractors. Not only was this field successful at blocking restrictive laws from being implemented in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and South Carolina, but a strong coalition in Minnesota came from behind to achieve the first victory against photo ID on the ballot."
  • Soros money was directed at the Advancement Project and Brennan Center to influence media coverage on election integrity issues and provide voter fraud denial propaganda.  Leaked funding documents state: "In a specific grant update, the U.S. Programs board-funded communications and messaging project was successfully led by the Brennan Center and the Advancement Project, and played an important role in the spike in media attention on voting rights this year. The groups developed affirmative voting rights messages and shared them widely in and beyond the field. The messages were used verbatim hundreds of times in sources ranging from The New York Times to the Philadelphia Inquirer, quickly and fully working their way into the media, national and local, and across social networking sites."  Verbatim.
  • Soros funding documents reveal that the Brennan Center and Advancement Project, two organizations regularly opposing election integrity measures in court, were among the largest Soros funding recipients for the entire Soros program.
  • ERIC, the program seeded by PEW to allow states to verify voter identity which many states now use, was started with Soros money and an "anonymous" donor.
Election Administration
  • Soros money partnered with the Rockefeller Family Fund to push for changes to voter registration policies at the national level and gave money to Pew Center On The States to push for voter list maintenance practices favorable to Soros at the state level.  After these grants were made, Oregon and California moved toward mandatory voter registration, where everyone who is on a government database is automatically put on the list of eligible  voters.  Legislation was also introduced in Congress to nationalize voter registration even though the Constitution gives power to the states to run their own elections.
  • Soros money funded a variety of organizations to "broaden the voices calling for reform" including the Brennan Center for Justice which subsequently issued a report on mandatory voter registration.
  • Soros money is funding some of the loudest voices who deny that voter fraud is a serious problem.   These voices have produced poorly researched studies that are routinely cited by mainstream media to argue that voter fraud is a myth.  Among the groups are the Brennan Center for Justice and the Advancement Project, two organizations that have opposed election integrity laws and have sought to stop the efforts of states to ensure that only citizens are voting.  Soros grants also went to "New America Media," which describes itself as "a nationwide association of 3,000 ethnic media organizations representing the development of a more inclusive journalism."  This mix of funding for media efforts with non-profit organizations that oppose election integrity was branded as "Broad and Equitable Access to the Ballot" in Soros funding documents.
brennan-center-soros-money
  • Soros money fueled efforts by Pew to press for election administration reforms.  Those efforts produced a system called ERIC which many states have adopted to verify voter eligibility.  As a condition of participation in ERIC, states must pay significant fees as well as do a mailing to all unregistered voters in that state encouraging them to register to vote.  The Soros funding documents state: "Because work at the state level is important in laying the groundwork for more sweeping reforms (in this and other areas within the Fund), we will also recommend funding The Pew Charitable Trusts "Make Voting Work" program (formerly a joint Pew-JEHT initiative), which supports innovative models at the state level and plans to expand into the arena of automatic registration in the coming year. This program works with state elections officials to standardize – and where necessary professionalize – election administration. Pew plans to focus its efforts on 4 states. Other state-level election systems funding will include continued support for advocacy around enforcement of various provisions of the Voting Rights Act, particularly related to voter registration. We are also likely to partner with other Election Administration Fund allies in promoting Election Day Registration and other efforts that build towards comprehensive structural reforms."
  • The leaked documents also reveal how Soros-funded organizations hector state and local election officials into adopting policies favorable to the left through hard work and behind-the-scenes pressure: "Advocates in Georgia have been sitting in on board of elections meetings to spot discriminatory voting practices, while those in Los Angeles have started working with the County Registrar-Recorder’s office to plan best practices workshops for the annual national election officials’ association convening this August."  Local voter rolls are infested with millions of ineligible voters, in part because local and state election officials refuse to do what is necessary to clean them.
  • Soros-funded groups even swoop in after ligation to push narratives to voters about the results of Soros-funded litigation. One leaked document shows $158,000 was spent on this activity in Texas alone: "Texas Election Protection ($158,000): The Opportunities Fund grant supported last-minute voting rights work in the state of Texas to ensure that: (1) registered voters were aware of new voter identification requirements; and (2) advocates were able to collect data showing the continued discriminatory impact of voter ID laws. As a result of this grant, the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline received a record number of calls—up 45% from 2010."  This is a movement that spares no expense.
Racially Motivated Voter Registration and Media Manipulation on Election Issues
Soros money specifically targeted voter mobilization efforts of racial minority groups that exhibit racially polarized voting patterns and can be counted on to support Democrats.  For example, the "Democracy and Power Fund" was established to "inspire the participation of people of color, immigrants, young people, and low income people  . . . . The fund invests in multi-issue advocacy, organizing and voter participation organizations that work at the federal, state and local level to expand access to democracy and build power for lasting social justice and systemic change."  This distinct effort from all of the other Soros activities involved over $15,000,000 in just the three-year period from 2010-2012 (dollars named below in millions).
SPONSORED
2010-2012 Democracy and Power Fund budget.2010-2012 Democracy and Power Fund budget (in millions of dollars)
Other documents reveal extensive funding streams to tilt process rules involving elections.  According to the review of leaked documents:
  • The "Democracy and Power Fund" funded efforts to "increase participation in the 2010 U.S. Census, a key effort to ensure that OSI communities of interest – immigrants, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, low-income people, and people of color – will not be undercounted.  The count is not merely about demographics, for it determines how billions in federal programs get distributed, how congressional, state, and local political representation is divvied up, and how economic development occurs – or not – in communities."
  • Soros money is fueling the narrative in the mainstream media about election process issues.  The leaked funding documents describe how the propaganda about the "myth of voter fraud" is generated by two Soros-funded organizations, moved to blogger and racially-centric media outlets, and eventually to mainstream media.  The leaked documents, for example, state: "Brennan and Advancement disseminated the messaging materials widely through convenings and webinars to voting rights organizations, labor unions, and issue advocacy groups. The project’s messaging worked its way into national and local media. A complementary $200,000 grant to New America Media, a multi-media content producer and aggregator for ethnic media, extended this work to thousands of local ethnic media outlets. The public opinion and communications efforts influenced registration and get out the vote efforts, ballot initiative outcomes, and this fall’s string of court victories for voting rights."
  • Soros money funds this "Media Consortium" according to leaked funding documents.  Documents show that in one two-year period, another $200,000 in Soros money moved to the "Media Consortium" itself.  The effort is described as "a network of leading progressive independent journalism organizations focused on making connections, building a media infrastructure, and amplifying the voices of progressive journalists in the United States. Over the past year, the Media Consortium has done much to build community and greater strength among progressive media outlets, and is creating a cooperative infrastructure that supports a sustainable future for journalists."  Progressive media outlets have taken the lead in denying that voter fraud exists and in opposing election integrity measures.  Mainstream journalists frequently parrot progressive writers when covering voter fraud, thus rendering the Media Consortium Soros dollars well spent.
  • Prior to the 2012 election, Soros organizations also planned to move millions to a swarm of downstream groups to fund organizing and political activities.  These include obscure names such as $300,000 for "Black Youth Vote," $75,000 for "Blueprint North Carolina," and $300,000 to the "Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network" to name just three of many others.
leaked-3Leaked Soros funding document.
  • Soros money is also behind the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund.  $300,000 in Soros money went to "mobilizing the Latino community to engage in civic life, and promoting policies that advance Latino civic engagement."
  • $500,000 went to the National Council of La Raza and Democracia USA to conduct "nonpartisan voter registration and voter education in latino communities."
  • $200,000 went to the Center for Civic Policy to engage "ordinary people in the policy debates that affect their daily lives through increasing voter turnout; educating and mobilizing the public on issues; and training new leaders for civic life."   The Center for Civic Policy is a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
  • Soros money is being spent on the local level to fundamentally transform the political environment in multiple states.   The leaked documents state: "In coordination with the OSI Global Fellows Program, we recently participated in a panel on “Organizing in the Obama Era” that featured representatives from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, New Organizing Institute, and the Obama campaign.  D&P staff are researching a set of six states where social justice capacity is lacking and the opportunities for and threats to an open society are great; states currently under consideration include Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia.  D&P is working with peer funders – from Atlantic Philanthropies, Carnegie, Ford, and New World Foundations, among others – to increase national funding for building state capacity to influence issue work at the state and federal levels."
  • Soros money is fueling the effort to reassert federal control over state elections by passing amendments to the Voting Rights Act.   Funding documents state "In the wake of the Shelby decision, we have continued working with the Ford Foundation to convene both grantee organizations and funders to strategize and leverage resources in order to protect voting rights. The following three-pronged strategic approach, which was conceived by the field in conjunction with Open Society and Ford, and which includes c3 and c4 components, has emerged as the substantive focus of post-Shelby voting rights work."
  • The leaked funding documents also show who is generating the narrative to restore federal power: "We note that although we have yet to define the broader strategic communications response, our investment in the Advancement Project and the Brennan Center last year for strategic communications work to improve the public discourse on voting rights is continuing to pay dividends. Both groups are members of the Litigation Working Group and the Leadership Conference kitchen-cabinet for the Restore the Voting Rights Act Campaign. The Advancement Project is also working with state-based organizations in several states on monitoring, investigating, and challenging proposed voting changes. "  

Inquiry Points Toward a Pentagon Plot to Subvert Obama’s Syria Policy


by Gareth Porter, January 07, 2017
The circumstances surrounding the attack, however, suggested it may have been deliberate, its purpose being to sabotage President Obama’s policy of coordinating with Russia against Islamic State and Nusra Front forces in Syria as part of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement.
Normally the US military can cover up illegal operations and mistakes with a pro forma military investigation that publicly clears those responsible. But the air attack on Syrian troops also involved three foreign allies in the anti-Islamic State campaign named Operation Inherent Resolve: the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. So, the Pentagon had to agree to bring a general from one of those allies into the investigation as a co-author of the report. Consequently, the summary of the investigation released by CENTCOM on Nov. 29 reveals far more than the Pentagon and CENTCOM brass would have desired.
Thanks to that heavily redacted report, we now have detailed evidence that the commander of CENTCOM’s Air Force component attacked the Syrian army deliberately.
The Motives Behind a Pentagon Scheme
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and the military establishment had a compelling motive in the attack of Sept. 17 – namely, interest in maintaining the narrative of a “new Cold War” with Russia, which is crucial to supporting and expanding the budgets of their institutions. When negotiations on a comprehensive cease-fire agreement with Russia, including provisions for U.S.-Russian cooperation on air operations against Islamic State and Nusra Front, appeared to gain traction last spring, the Pentagon began making leaks to the news media about its opposition to the Obama policy. Those receiving the leaks included neoconservative hawk Josh Rogin, who had just become a columnist at The Washington Post.
After Secretary of State John Kerry struck an agreement Sept. 9 that contained a provision to set up a “Joint Integration Center” (JIC) for U.S.-Russian cooperation in targeting, the Pentagon sought to reverse it. Carter grilled Kerry for hours in an effort to force him to retreat from that provision, according to The New York Times.
Lobbying against the JIC continued the following week after Obama approved the full agreement. When the commander of the Central Command’s Air Force component, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigan, was asked about the JIC at a press briefing Sept. 13, he seemed to suggest that opponents of the provision were still hoping to avoid cooperating with the Russians on targeting. He told reporters that his readiness to join such a joint operation was “going to depend on what the plan ends up being.”
But the Pentagon also had another motive for hitting Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor. On June 16, Russian planes attacked a remote outpost of a CIA-supported armed group, called the New Syrian Army, in Deir Ezzor province near the confluence of Iraq, Syria and Jordan. The Pentagon demanded an explanation for the attack but never got it.
For senior leaders of the Pentagon and others in the military, a strike against Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor would not only offer the prospect of avoiding the threat of cooperating with Russia militarily, it would also be payback for what many believed was a Russian poke in the US eye.
The Evidence in the Investigation Report
On Sept. 16, Gen. Harrigan, who also headed the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, set in motion the planning for the attack on the two Syrian army positions. The process began, according to the investigation report, on Sept. 16, when Harrigan’s command identified two fighting positions near the Deir Ezzor airport as belonging to Islamic State, based on drone images showing that the personnel there were not wearing uniform military garb and, supposedly, displayed no flags.
But, as a former intelligence analyst told me, that was not a legitimate basis for a positive identification of the sites as Islamic State-controlled because Syrian army troops in the field frequently wear a wide range of uniforms and civilian clothing.
The report contains the incriminating revelation that the authorities at CAOC had plenty of intelligence warning that its identification was flat wrong. Before the strike, the regional station of the Distributed Common Ground System, which is the Air Force’s primary intelligence organ for interpreting data from aerial surveillance, contested the original identification of the units, sending its own assessment that they could not possibly be Islamic State. Another pre-strike intelligence report, moreover, pointed to what appeared to be a flag at one of the two sites. And a map of the area that was available to intelligence analysts at CAOC clearly showed that the sites were occupied by the Syrian army. Harrigan and his command apparently claimed, implausibly, that they were unaware of any of this information.
Further evidence that Harrigan meant to strike Syrian army targets was the haste with which the strike was carried out, the day after the initial intelligence assessment was made. The investigation summary acknowledges that the decision to go ahead with a strike so soon after the target had been initially assessed was a violation of Air Force regulations.
It had started out as a “deliberate target development” process – one that did not require an immediate decision and could therefore allow for a more careful analysis of intelligence. That was because the targets were clearly fixed ground positions, so there was no need for an immediate strike. Nevertheless, the decision was made to change it to a “dynamic targeting process,” normally reserved for situations in which the target is moving, to justify an immediate strike on Sept. 17.
No one in Harrigan’s command, including the commander himself, would acknowledge having made that decision. That would have been a tacit admission that the attack was far more than an innocent mistake.
The Deir Ezzor strike appears to have been timed to provoke a breakdown of the cease-fire before the JIC could be formed, which was originally to be after seven days of effective truce – meaning Sept. 19. Obama added a requirement for the completion of humanitarian shipments from the Turkish border, but the opponents of the JIC could not count on the Syrian government continuing to hold up the truck convoys. That meant that Harrigan would need to move urgently to carry out the strike.
Perhaps the single most damaging piece of evidence that the strike was knowingly targeting Syrian army bases is the fact that Harrigan’s command sent the Russians very specific misleading information on the targets of the operation. It informed its Russian contact under the deconfliction agreement that the two targets were nine kilometers south of Deir Ezzor airfield, but in fact they were only three and six kilometers away, respectively, according to the summary. Accurate information about the locations would have set off alarm bells among the Russians, because they would have known immediately that Syrian army bases were being targeted, as the US co-author of the investigation report, Gen. Richard Coe, acknowledged to reporters.
“Who is in charge in Washington?”
Gen. Harrigan’s strike worked like a charm in terms of the interests of those behind it. The hope of provoking a Syrian-Russian decision to end the cease-fire and thus the plan for the JIC was apparently based on the assumption that it would be perceived by both Russians and Syrians as evidence that Obama was not in control of US policy and therefore could not be trusted as a partner in managing the conflict. That assumption proved correct. When Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, spoke to reporters at a press briefing outside a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting on the US attack on Syrian troops, he asked rhetorically, “Who is in charge in Washington? The White House or the Pentagon?”
Seemingly no longer convinced that Obama was in control of his own military in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled the plug on his US strategy. Two days after the attacks, Syria announced, with obvious Russian support, that the cease-fire was no longer in effect.
The political-diplomatic consequences for Syrians and for the United States, however, were severe. The Russian and Syrian air forces began a campaign of heavy airstrikes in Aleppo that became the single focus of media attention on Syria. In mid-December, Secretary of State Kerry recalled in an interview with The Boston Globe that he had had an agreement with the Russians that would have given the United States “a veto over their flights. …” He lamented that “you’d have a different situation there now if we’d been able to do that.”
But it didn’t happen, Kerry noted, because “we had people in our government who were bitterly opposed to doing that.” What he didn’t say was that those people had the power and the audacity to frustrate the will of the president of the United States.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. His new book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He can be contacted at porter.gareth50@gmail.com.
Reprinted from TruthDig with the author’s permission.

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