WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon has failed what is being called its first-ever comprehensive audit, a senior official said on Thursday, finding U.S. Defense Department accounting discrepancies that could take years to resolve.
Results of the inspection – conducted by some 1,200 auditors and examining financial accounting on a wide range of spending including on weapons systems, military personnel and property – were expected to be completed later in the day.
“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters, adding that the findings showed the need for greater discipline in financial matters within the Pentagon.
n November 15, Ernst & Young and other private firms that were hired to audit the Pentagon announced that they could not complete the job. Congress had ordered an independent audit of the Department of Defense, the government’s largest single cost center—the Pentagon receives two of every three federal tax dollars collected—after the Pentagon failed for decades to audit itself. The firms concluded, however, that the DoD’s financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan tried to put the best face on things, telling reporters, “We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it.” Shanahan suggested that the DoD should get credit for attempting an audit, saying, “It was an audit on a $2.7 trillion organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial.” The truth, though, is that the DoD was dragged kicking and screaming to this audit by bipartisan frustration in Congress, and the result, had this been a major corporation, likely would have been a crashed stock.
As Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a frequent critic of the DoD’s financial practices, said on the Senate floor in September 2017, the Pentagon’s long-standing failure to conduct a proper audit reflects “twenty-six years of hard-core foot-dragging” on the part of the DoD, where “internal resistance to auditing the books runs deep.” In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act, which required all departments and agencies of the federal government to develop auditable accounting systems and submit to annual audits. Since then, every department and agency has come into compliance—except the Pentagon.
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'”
“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while…”
“The sneaky thing about Amazon’s increased dominance in so many key aspects of our lives is that much of the perniciousness is hidden. No one’s going to tell you about all the retailers who have gotten pressured or destroyed via its tactics while you’re happily clicking “add to cart” and smiling about 2-day free shipping. In this sense, it can be best compared to the evils of factory farming. Most people just simply have no idea about the immense damage going on behind the scenes as they indulge in incredible convenience and what looks like a good deal.
Many Americans have started to recognize the dangers of Facebook and Google over the past year, partly as a result of the companies’ increasingly sloppy use of censorship, yet the public remains in complete denial when it comes to Amazon and Jeff Bezos. I suspect this will change in the years ahead, and I hope my articles on the topic will serve as useful resources for those who care. The sooner we admit what’s going on the better.”
The video is a full recording of Google’s first all-hands meeting following the 2016 election (these weekly meetings are known inside the company as “TGIF” or “Thank God It’s Friday” meetings). Sent to Breitbart News by an anonymous source, it features co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, VPs Kent Walker and Eileen Naughton, CFO Ruth Porat, and CEO Sundar Pichai. It can be watched in full above. It can and should be watched in full above in order to get the full context of the meeting and the statements made.
It was reported earlier this week that Google tried to boost turnout among the Latino population to help Hillary Clinton, only to be dismayed as the usually solid Democratic voting bloc switched to the GOP in record numbers. This video shows a similar level of dismay among Google’s most high-profile figures.
These individuals, who preside over a company with unrivaled influence over the flow of information, can be seen disparaging the motivations of Trump voters and plotting ways to use their vast resources to thwart the Trump agenda.
Co-founder Sergey Brin can be heard comparing Trump supporters to fascists and extremists. Brin argues that like other extremists, Trump voters were motivated by “boredom,” which he says in the past led to fascism and communism.
The Google co-founder then asks his company to consider what it can do to ensure a “better quality of governance and decision-making.”
SAN FRANCISCO — Google, hoping to head off a rebellion by employees upset that the technology they were working on could be used for lethal purposes, will not renew a contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence work when a current deal expires next year.
Diane Greene, who is the head of the Google Cloud business that won a contract with the Pentagon’s Project Maven, said during a weekly meeting with employees on Friday that the company was backing away from its A.I. work with the military, according to a person familiar with the discussion but not permitted to speak publicly about it.
Google’s work with the Defense Department on the Maven program, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes, roiled the internet giant’s work force. Many of the company’s top A.I. researchers, in particular, worried that the contract was the first step toward using the nascent technology in advanced weapons.
But it is not unusual for Silicon Valley’s big companies to have deep military ties. And the internal dissent over Maven stands in contrast to Google’s biggest competitors for selling cloud-computing services — Amazon.com and Microsoft — which have aggressively pursued Pentagon contracts without pushback from their employees.
AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not
RYAN NAKASHIMA Aug. 13, 2018
Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.
An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.
Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request.
For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.
“The Search Engine Is The Most Powerful Source Of Mind Control Ever Invented…”
Asher Schechter via ProMarket.org,
Google CEO Sundar Pichai caused a worldwide sensation earlier this week when he unveiled Duplex, an AI-driven digital assistant able to mimic human speech patterns (complete with vocal tics) to such a convincing degree that it managed to have real conversations with ordinary people without them realizing they were actually talking to a robot.
While Google presented Duplex as an exciting technological breakthrough, others saw something else: a system able to deceive people into believing they were talking to a human being, an ethical red flag (and a surefire way to get to robocall hell). Following the backlash, Google announced on Thursday that the new service will be designed “with disclosure built-in.” Nevertheless, the episode created the impression that ethical concerns were an “after-the-fact consideration” for Google, despite the fierce public scrutiny it and other tech giants faced over the past two months. “Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing,” tweeted Zeynep Tufekci, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a prominent critic of tech firms.
The controversial demonstration was not the only sign that the global outrage has yet to inspire the profound rethinking critics hoped it would bring to Silicon Valley firms. In Pichai’s speech at Google’s annual I/O developer conference, the ethical concerns regarding the company’s data mining, business model, and political influence were briefly addressed with a general, laconic statement: “The path ahead needs to be navigated carefully and deliberately and we feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.”
A year ago we featured a detailed report by authors Tom Secker and Matthew Alford exposing just how vast the Pentagon and CIA programs for partnering with Hollywood actually are, based on some 4,000 new pages of formerly classified archived documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The report noted at the time that “These documents for the first time demonstrate that the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.”
Reviewing the ever expanding list, the average movie watcher might be in for a shock at what films are actually included — there are the more predictable ones like Black Hawk Down, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lone Survivor; but also entirely unexpected ones that apparently needed the military-industrial complex’s propaganda touch like Earnest Saves Christmas, Karate Kid 2, The Silence of the Lambs, Twister, the Iron Man movies, and more recently Pitch Perfect 3.
When a Hollywood writer or producer approaches the Pentagon and asks for access to military assets to help make their film, they have to submit their script to the entertainment liaison offices for vetting. Ultimately, the man with the final say is Phil Strub, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) chief Hollywood liaison, who has been at the helm of this formerly semi-secret department going all the way back to 1989.
If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD doesn’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts, called Production Assistance Agreements, which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.
ABOVEAND BEYOND 7 I
ABOVE THE CLOUDS
ACE OF ACES
ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC
AIR FORCE ONE
AIR FORCE ONE
ALL HANDS ON DECK
ALL THE YOUNG MEN
AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES
AMERICAN PRESIDENT, THE
AN NAPOLIS SALUTE
AT WAR WITH THE ARMY
AWAY ALL BOATS
BACK TO BATAAN
BAILOUT AT 43,000 FEET
BATMAN AND ROBIN
BATTLE AT BLOODY BEACH
BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH
BATTLE LOS ANGELES
BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA
BEAST OF BUDAPEST
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
BELL FOR ADANO. A
BENEATH THE FLESH
BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL
BIG JIM MCLEAN
BIG LIFT, THE
BIG PARADE, THE
BIRTH OF A NATION
BLACK HAVIK DOWN
BRIDGE OF SPIES
BRIDGE TO THE SUN
BRIDGE TOO FAR
BRIDGES AT TOKO RI, THE
BYE BYE BIRDIE
CAINE MUTINY, THE
CALL ME MISTER
CAPT. NEWMAN, M.D.
CAPTAIN AMERICA THE WINTER SOLDIER
CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
COLONEL JAMES ROWE STORY
COURT MARTIAL OF BILLY MITCHELL
CRY FOR HAPPY
D-DAY. THE SIXTH OF JUNE
DAY AFTER TOMORROW
DAY OF THE DEAD
DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. THE
DECISION BEFORE DAWN
DEVIL DOGS OF THE AIR
DON’T CRY. IT’S ONLY THUNDER
DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP
DON’T GO NEAR THE WATER
EASY COME, EASY GO
EMPIRE OF THE SUN
ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS
EVERYBODY LOVES WHALES
FACE OF WAR
FEW GOOD MEN. A
FINAL COUNTDOWN, THE
FIRST TO FIGHT
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
FLEET’S IN, THE
FLIGHT FROM ASHIYA
FLIGHT OF THE INTRU DER
FLIGHT TO NOWHERE
FLY AWAY HOME
FOLLOW THE FLEET
FORCE OF ARMYS
FRANCIS GOES TO WEST POINT
FRANCIS IN THE NAW
FRANCIS JOINS THE WACS
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
GATHERING OF EAGLES
GIRL HE LEFT BEHIND. THE
GIRLS OF PLEASURE ISLAND
GLENN MILLER STORY. THE
GLORY BRIGADE. THE
GO FOR BROKE
GOD IS MY CO-PILOT
GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK
GRAY LADY DOWN
GREAT ESCAPE. THE
GREAT IMPOSTOR. THE
GREAT RAID, THE
GREEN BERETS. THE
GREEN DRAGON, THE
HALLS OF MONTEZUMA
HANOI-RELEASE JOHN NASMYTH
HAUNTING OF SARAH HARDY, THE
HEARTS IN ATLANTIS
HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON
HELL IS FOR HEROES
HELL TO ETERNITY
HELLCATS OF THE NAW
HERO OF SUBMARINE D-2
HOLD ‘EM NAW
HOLD BACK THE NIGHT
HOMER AND EDDIE
HOW | SAVED THE PRESIDENT
HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. THE
I AIM AT THE STARS
I WANTED WINGS
ICE STATION ZEBRA
IN HARM’S WAY
IN LOVE AND WAR
IN THE ARMY NOW
IN THE LINE OF FIRE
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE
INVADERS FROM MARS
IRON MAN 1
IRON MAN II
JOHN PAUL JONES
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG
JUDGMENT IN BERLIN
JURASSIC PARK III
KARATE KID II
KINGS GO FORTH
LARGER THAN LIFE
LAST PLANE OUT, THE
LICENSE TO KILL
LONG GRAY LINE, THE
LONGEST DAY, THE
MAC AND ME
MAJOR MOVIE STAR
MAJOR MOVIE STAR
MARINES, LET’S GO
MCCONNELL STORY. THE
MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY
MEN WITHOUT WOMEN
MILITARY AIR SCOUT
MYSTIC NIGHTS & PIRATE FIGHTS
NAKED AND THE DEAD
NAW BLUE AND GOLD
NEXT KARATE KID. THE
NO MAN ISAN ISLAND
ONE MINUTE TO ZERO
PANCHO U.S. MARINE
PATENT LEATHER KID
PEREZ FAMILY, THE
PERFECT STORM, THE
PORK CHOP HILL
PRIDE OF THE MARINES
PRISONER OF WAR
RACE TO SPACE
RAISE THE TITANIC
RED BALL EXPRESS
RIDE WITH THE DEVIL
RIGHT STUFF. THE
ROCKETS RED GLARE
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
RUN SILENT. RUN DEEP
SANDS OF IWO JIMA
SATELLITE KILLER. THE
SHOW OF FORCE
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. THE
SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE
SOLDIER’S STORY, A
STAR SPANGLED BANNER
STAR TREK IV
STAR TREK: RESURRECTION
STORY OF G.l. JOE
STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND
SUM OF ALL FEARS
TAKE THE HIGH GROUND
TEARS OF THE SUN
THE LAST ACTION HERO
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE
THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO
TIME TO KILL, A
TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI
TOMORROW NEVER DIES
TORAI TORAI TORAI
TRANSFER OF COURAGE
TRANSFORMERS DARK OF THE MOON
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
TRUEST SPORT. THE
TUSKEGEE AIRMEN. THE
TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH
ULTIMATE SOLUTION OF GRACE QUIGLEY. THE
WAITING FOR THE LIGHT
WALK IN THE SUN
WE WERE SOLDIERS
WHAT PRICE GLORY
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT
WING AND A PRAYER
WINGS OF EAGLES
YOUNG LIONS. THE
We live in a state of perpetual war, and we never feel it. While you get your gelato at the hip place where they put those cute little mint leaves on the side, someone is being bombed in your name. While you argue with the 17-year-old at the movie theater who gave you a small popcorn when you paid for a large, someone is being obliterated in your name. While we sleep and eat and make love and shield our eyes on a sunny day, someone’s home, family, life and body are being blown into a thousand pieces in our names.
Once every 12 minutes.
The United States military drops an explosive with a strength you can hardly comprehend once every 12 minutes. And that’s odd, because we’re technically at war with—let me think—zero countries. So that should mean zero bombs are being dropped, right?
Hell no! You’ve made the common mistake of confusing our world with some sort of rational, cogent world in which our military-industrial complex is under control, the music industry is based on merit and talent, Legos have gently rounded edges (so when you step on them barefoot, it doesn’t feel like an armor-piercing bullet just shot straight up your sphincter), and humans are dealing with climate change like adults rather than burying our heads in the sand while trying to convince ourselves that the sand around our heads isn’t getting really, really hot.
You’re thinking of a rational world. We do not live there.
Instead, we live in a world where the Pentagon is completely and utterly out of control. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the $21 trillion (that’s not a typo) that has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon. But I didn’t get into the number of bombs that ridiculous amount of money buys us. President George W. Bush’s military dropped 70,000 bombs on five countries. But of that outrageous number, only 57 of those bombs really upset the international community.
Because there were 57 strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen—countries the U.S. was neither at war with nor had ongoing conflicts with. And the world was kind of horrified. There was a lot of talk that went something like, “Wait a second. We’re bombing in countries outside of war zones? Is it possible that’s a slippery slope ending in us just bombing all the goddamn time? (Awkward pause.) … Nah. Whichever president follows Bush will be a normal adult person (with a functional brain stem of some sort) and will therefore stop this madness.”
We were so cute and naive back then, like a kitten when it’s first waking up in the morning.
It’s not just the fact that bombing outside of a war zone is a horrific violation of international law and global norms. It’s also the morally reprehensible targeting of people for pre-crime, which is what we’re doing and what the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report” warned us about. (Humans are very bad at taking the advice of sci-fi dystopias. If we’d listened to “1984,” we wouldn’t have allowed the existence of the National Security Agency. If we listened to “The Terminator,” we wouldn’t have allowed the existence of drone warfare. And if we’d listened to “The Matrix,” we wouldn’t have allowed the vast majority of humans to get lost in a virtual reality of spectacle and vapid nonsense while the oceans die in a swamp of plastic waste. … But you know, who’s counting?)
There was basically a media blackout while Obama was president. You could count on one hand the number of mainstream media reports on the Pentagon’s daily bombing campaigns under Obama. And even when the media did mention it, the underlying sentiment was, “Yeah, but look at how suave Obama is while he’s OK’ing endless destruction. He’s like the Steve McQueen of aerial death.”
And let’s take a moment to wipe away the idea that our “advanced weaponry” hits only the bad guys. As David DeGraw put it, “According to the C.I.A.’s own documents, the people on the ‘kill list,’ who were targeted for ‘death-by-drone,’ accounted for only 2% of the deaths caused by the drone strikes.”
Two percent. Really, Pentagon? You got a two on the test? You get five points just for spelling your name right.
But those 70,000 bombs dropped by Bush—it was child’s play. DeGraw again: “[Obama] dropped 100,000 bombs in seven countries. He out-bombed Bush by 30,000 bombs and 2 countries.”
You have to admit that’s impressively horrific. That puts Obama in a very elite group of Nobel Peace Prize winners who have killed that many innocent civilians. The reunions are mainly just him and Henry Kissinger wearing little hand-drawn name tags and munching on deviled eggs.
However, we now know that Donald Trump’s administration puts all previous presidents to shame. The Pentagon’s numbers show that during George W. Bush’s eight years he averaged 24 bombs dropped per day, which is 8,750 per year. Over the course of Obama’s time in office, his military dropped 34 bombs per day, 12,500 per year. And in Trump’s first year in office, he averaged 121 bombs dropped per day, for an annual total of 44,096.
Trump’s military dropped 44,000 bombs in his first year in office.
He has basically taken the gloves off the Pentagon, taken the leash off an already rabid dog. …
“I take full responsibility for having some of the discussion forums opened and reproducing their previously published USA Today articles on them,” Chidiac said of USA Today reporters Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker in a statement released to the newspaper. “I recognize and deeply regret that my actions have caused concerns for Leonie and the U.S. military. This was never my intention. As an immediate corrective action, I am in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie.”
Vanden Brook and Locker wrote a highly critical story about Pentagon information operations in general, and Leonie Industries in particular, last February. As he was reporting the story, Vanden Brook realized that someone had registered TomVandenBrook.com, established a Twitter account in his name, and begun editing his Wikipedia page to highlight an erroneous report he filed about survivors of the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia in 2006—an error that virtually every other news outlet covering the incident made at the same time, since it was sourced to false information provided by the governor. Locker got similar treatment.
Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter five-year-old civil war.
The fighting has intensified over the last two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other while maneuvering through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.
In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.
How the Pentagon paid a British PR firm $500 million for top secret Iraq propaganda.
The Pentagon gave a controversial UK PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda programme during the Iraq war, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.
Bell Pottinger’s output included short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee.
The agency’s staff worked alongside high-ranking US military officers in their Baghdad Camp Victory headquarters as the insurgency raged outside.
Bell Pottinger’s former chairman Lord Tim Bell confirmed to the Sunday Times, which worked with the Bureau on this story, that his firm had worked on a “covert” military operation “covered by various secrecy agreements.”
Bell Pottinger reported to the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Council on its work in Iraq, he said.
Bell, one of Britain’s most successful public relations executives, is credited with honing Margaret Thatcher’s steely image and helping the Conservative party win three elections. The agency he co-founded has had a roster of clients including repressive regimes and Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.
In the first media interview any Bell Pottinger employee has given about the work for the US military in Iraq, video editor Martin Wells – who no longer works for the company – told the Bureau his time in Camp Victory was “shocking, eye-opening, life-changing.”
The firm’s output was signed off by former General David Petraeus – then commander of the coalition forces in Iraq – and on occasion by the White House, Wells said.
Bell Pottinger produced reams of material for the Pentagon, some of it going far beyond standard communications work.
The Bureau traced the firm’s Iraq work through US army contracting censuses, federal procurement transaction records and reports by the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General, as well as Bell Pottinger’s corporate filings and specialist publications on military propaganda. We interviewed half a dozen former officials and contractors involved in information operations in Iraq.
There were three types of media operations commonly used in Iraq at the time, said a military contractor familiar with Bell Pottinger’s work there.
“White is attributed, it says who produced it on the label,” the contractor said. “Grey is unattributed and black is falsely attributed. These types of black ops, used for tracking who is watching a certain thing, were a pretty standard part of the industry toolkit.”
Bell Pottinger changed ownership after a management buyout in 2012 and its current structure has no connections with the unit that operated in Iraq, which closed in 2011. It is understood the key people who worked in that unit deny any involvement with tracking software as described by Wells.
Bell Pottinger’s work in Iraq was a huge media operation which cost over a hundred million dollars a year on average. A document unearthed by the Bureau shows the company was employing almost 300 British and Iraqi staff at one point.
The London-based PR agency was brought into Iraq soon after the US invasion. In March 2004 it was tasked by the country’s temporary administration with the “promotion of democratic elections” – a “high-profile activity” which it trumpeted in its annual report.
The firm soon switched to less high-profile activities, however. The Bureau has identified transactions worth $540 million between the Pentagon and Bell Pottinger for information operations and psychological operations on a series of contracts issued from May 2007 to December 2011. A similar contract at around the same annual rate – $120 million – was in force in 2006, we have been told.
The bulk of the money was for costs such as production and distribution, Lord Bell told the Sunday Times, but the firm would have made around £15 million a year in fees.
From London to Baghdad
Martin Wells, the ex-employee, told the Bureau he had no idea what he was getting into when he was interviewed for the Bell Pottinger job in May 2006.
He had been working as a freelance video editor and got a call from his agency suggesting he go to London for an interview for a potential new gig. “You’ll be doing new stuff that’ll be coming out of the Middle East,” he was told.
“I thought ‘That sounds interesting’,” Wells recalled. “So I go along and go into this building, get escorted up to the sixth floor in a lift, come out and there’s guards up there. I thought what on earth is going on here? And it turns out it was a Navy post, basically. So from what I could work out it was a media intelligence gathering unit.”
After a brief chat Wells asked when he would find out about the job, and was surprised by the response.
“You’ve already got it,” he was told. “We’ve already done our background checks into you.”
He would be flying out on Monday, Wells learned. It was Friday afternoon. He asked where he would be going and got a surprising answer: Baghdad.
“So I literally had 48 hours to gather everything I needed to live in a desert,” Wells said.
Days later, Wells’s plane executed a corkscrew landing to avoid insurgent fire at Baghdad airport. He assumed he would be taken to somewhere in the Green Zone, from which coalition officials were administering Iraq. Instead he found himself in Camp Victory, a military base.
It turned out that the British PR firm which had hired him was working at the heart of a US military intelligence operation.
A highly classified area
A tide of violence was engulfing the Iraqi capital as Wells began his contract. The same month he arrived there were five suicide bomb attacks in the city, including a suicide car bomb attack near Camp Victory which killed 14 people and wounded six others.
Describing his first impressions, Wells said he was struck by a working environment very unlike what he was used to. “It was a very secure building,” he recalled, with “signs outside saying ‘Do not come in, it’s a classified area, if you’re not cleared, you can’t come in.’”
Inside were two or three rooms with lots of desks in, said Wells, with one section for Bell Pottinger staff and the other for the US military.
“I made the mistake of walking into one of the [US military] areas, and having a very stern American military guy basically drag me out saying you are not allowed in here under any circumstances, this is highly classified, get out – whilst his hand was on his gun, which was a nice introduction,” said Wells.
It soon became apparent he would be doing much more than just editing news footage….
(ANTIMEDIAOp-Ed) A new study conducted by members of the U.S. military establishment has concluded that the U.S.-led international global order established after World War II is “fraying” and may even be “collapsing” as the U.S. continues to lose its position of “primacy” in world affairs.
“In brief, the status quo that was hatched and nurtured by U.S. strategists after World War II and has for decades been the principal ‘beat’ for DoD is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing,” the report states.
The report, published in June by the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, evaluated the Department of Defense’s (DOD) approach to risk assessment at all levels of Pentagon policy planning. The study was supported and sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate; the Joint Staff, J5 (Strategy and Policy Branch); the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development; and the Army Study Program Management Office.
As explained by Nathan Freier, the project director and principal author of the report, the U.S. and its defense establishment “are stumbling through a period of hypercompetition.” From Freier’s point of view, the current era is marred with furious battles for positional advantage at a number of levels, whether national, transnational, or extra-national. Freier explains that America’s failure to cope is the result of “hubris,” which is reminiscent of Imperial Hubris, a book by Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Imperial Hubris also warned the U.S. about the very controversial and hubristic reasons it was losing the war on terror (hubris means “exaggerated pride or self-confidence,” according to Merriam-Webster).
Technically, the report does not officially represent the Pentagon, though it does represent the “collective wisdom” of those consulted – including a number of Pentagon officials and prominent think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the RAND Corporation, and the Institute for the Study of War.
Nevertheless, the report involved consultation with key agencies across the DoD and the Armed Forces and encouraged the U.S. government to invest more heavily in surveillance, better propaganda through “strategic manipulation” of public opinion, and a “wider and more flexible” U.S. military. The report states:
“While as a rule, U.S. leaders of both political parties have consistently committed to the maintenance of U.S. military superiority over all potential state rivals, the post-primacy reality demands a wider and more flexible military force that can generate advantage and options across the broadest possible range of military demands. To U.S. political leadership, maintenance of military advantage preserves maximum freedom of action… Finally, it allows U.S. decision-makers the opportunity to dictate or hold significant sway over outcomes in international disputes in the shadow of significant U.S. military capability and the implied promise of unacceptable consequences in the event that capability is unleashed.”
The year-long study concluded that the DoD should discard its outdated risk conventions and change how it describes, identifies, assesses, and communicates strategic-level and risk-based choices. As investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed observed, these are the very strategies that have led to the U.S.’ declining power in the first place. Further enacting these failed strategies will only exacerbate the problem and demonstrates America’s refusal to go down without a fight.
The blame lies with resistant states
According to Freier and his team, the dangers currently challenging the U.S. don’t just come from countries like Russia and China (and even North Korea and Iran), but also from the increasing risk of “Arab Spring”-style events that could potentially erupt all over the world. One might wonder, then, why the U.S. decided to support a number of these events, even to the great benefit of known jihadist movements that already existed within them.
Ahmed also astutely points out that the report doesn’t actually substantiate its claims that countries like Russia are a genuine threat to America’s national security, aside from the fact that these countries seek to pursue their own core interests – as most countries should be free to do (within reason).
According to the report, Iran and North Korea are “… neither the products of, nor are they satisfied with, the contemporary order… At a minimum, they intend to destroy the reach of the U.S.-led order into what they perceive to be their legitimate sphere of influence. They are also resolved to replace that order locally with a new rule set dictated by them.”
It is notable that the report does not list Iran and North Korea as nuclear threats — as traditional neoconservative propaganda often asserts — but simply as perceived threats to the American-led world order.
The report also found that the international framework has been restructured in ways that are “inhospitable” and often “hostile” to U.S. leadership. For example, “proliferation, diversification, and atomization of effective counter-U.S. resistance,” as well as “resurgent but transformed great power competition” are seen to be at the heart of this new international restructuring. According to the report, the U.S. is not prepared for these circumstances, and the report seeks to provide the U.S. with guidance to deal with these emerging scenarios.
In all seriousness, hostility to the U.S. military did not develop in a vacuum – it is quite clearly the sheer arrogance of America’s leadership and its incessant meddling in foreign affairs that have created a number of adversaries who are no longer willing to bow to American interests….
The defeat of Islamic State in Syria is reliant on a questionable supply-line, funnelling unprecedented quantities of weapons and ammunition from Eastern Europe to some 30,000 anti-ISIS rebel fighters.
Armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades fresh from state-owned production lines and stockpiles of the Balkans, Central Europe and increasingly the former Soviet Union, these US-backed troops are spearheading the battle to reclaim Raqqa, the capital of the so-called caliphate, and liberate other areas of Syria held by ISIS.
But the flow of weapons to these Pentagon-backed militia depends on misleading official paperwork, an investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, has uncovered.
Reporters have pinpointed more than $700 million of spending on weapons and ammunition likely destined for Syrian rebels since September 2015, when the Pentagon’s anti-ISIS train and equip program shifted strategy.
The Department of Defense has budgeted $584 million specifically for this Syrian operation for the financial years 2017 and 2018, and has earmarked another $900 million of spending on Soviet-style munitions between now and 2022.
The total, $2.2 billion, likely understates the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels in the coming years.
The weapons and ammunition that the Pentagon is supplying to Syria are dispatched through a sprawling logistical network, including an army of arms dealers, shipping companies, cargo airlines, German military bases and Balkan airports and ports.
The purchases are routed through two channels. One is run by the US military’s Special Operations Command, SOCOM, and the other is operated by Picatinny Arsenal, a little-known New Jersey weapons depot.
Trump has pledged to “wipe out” ISIS and has allocated increased funding for the Pentagon campaign, which now has many former anti-regime groups on its pay-roll.
With vast quantities of weapons continuing to pour into Syria, concerns abound about a wider conflict emerging once the common enemy of ISIS is defeated.
Asked about the unprecedented purchase of Soviet-style arms for Syrian rebels, the Pentagon said that it had carefully vetted the recipients and was releasing equipment incrementally.
Train and equip: A Major Shift in Strategy
As ISIS swept across Syria in 2014, the Pentagon hastily launched a $500 million train and equip program that December to build up a new force of Syrian rebels, armed with modern US weapons, in an attempt to counter the threat.
But nine months later, the program had collapsed, with only a handful of recruits having made it onto the battlefield.
Amid a flurry of negative headlines, the Pentagon needed a new plan: Starting in September 2015, and largely unnoticed by the media, it quietly shifted focus to arming Syrian rebels already on the ground with the Eastern Bloc arms and ammunition they were already using, according to a previously unreported Pentagon document from February 2016.
Read the documents behind the investigation here at:
This Soviet-type equipment, both newly produced and sourced from stockpiles, is available from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet countries, as well as China and Russia. The latter two large suppliers are out of bounds, as their military equipment falls under US sanctions.
The first Pentagon delivery, which included 50 tonnes of ammunition, arrived in October 2015, just a month after the shift in policy. The munitions were airdropped to Arab units within the then recently formed Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF, a Kurdish-led coalition currently spearheading the fight to reclaim Raqqa, and the Pentagon’s main ally in Syria.
The shipment was far from a one-time event and the SDF was not the only group to receive support – a changing coalition of rebel fighters in Syria’s south east is also being armed by the Pentagon.
Special Operations Command, SOCOM, has not previously acknowledged its role in the Syria train and equip program, but in a written statement to BIRN and OCCRP, the Pentagon confirmed that it had been charged with procuring weapons and ammunition for Syrian rebels.
From the swift in strategy to May 2017, it has purchased weapons and ammunition worth $240 million from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Poland and Romania, according to an analysis of thousands of procurement records by BIRN and OCCRP. Prior to the start of the programme, its spending on Eastern Bloc weaponry had been negligible.
While SOCOM is known to covertly supply US partners in other conflicts, documentary evidence, expert analysis, and the testimony of a contractor involved in the supply-line confirmed that Syria is the main destination for these purchases.
Between December 2015 and September 2016, SOCOM also chartered four cargo ships from Romanian and Bulgarian Black Sea ports, laden with 6,300 tonnes of the purchased munitions to be delivered to military bases in Turkey and Jordan, the main logistics bases for supplying Syrian rebels, according to procurement documents, packing lists and ship tracking data…