Killer, Kleptocrat, Genius, Spy: The Many Myths of Vladimir Putin

Keith Gessen writes for The Guardian:

Vladimir Putin, you may have noticed, is everywhere. He has soldiers in Ukraine and Syria, troublemakers in the Baltics and Finland, and a hand in elections from the Czech Republic to France to the United States. And he is in the media. Not a day goes by without a big new article on “Putin’s Revenge”, “The Secret Source of Putin’s Evil”, or “10 Reasons Why Vladimir Putin Is a Terrible Human Being”.

Putin’s recent ubiquity has brought great prominence to the practice of Putinology. This enterprise – the production of commentary and analysis about Putin and his motivations, based on necessarily partial, incomplete and sometimes entirely false information – has existed as a distinct intellectual industry for over a decade. It kicked into high gear after the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, but in the past few months, as allegations of Russian meddling in the election of President Donald Trump have come to dominate the news, Putinology has outdone itself. At no time in history have more people with less knowledge, and greater outrage, opined on the subject of Russia’s president. You might say that the reports of Trump’s golden showers in a Moscow hotel room have consecrated a golden age – for Putinology.

And what does Putinology tell us? It turns out that it has produced seven distinct hypotheses about Putin. None of them is entirely wrong, but then none of them is entirely right (apart from No 7). Taken together, they tell us as much about ourselves as about Putin. They paint a portrait of an intellectual class – our own – on the brink of a nervous breakdown. But let’s take them in order.

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The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Few foreign villains have been vested with omnipotence and ubiquity like Vladimir Putin has been — at least ever since Democrats discovered (what they mistakenly believed was) his political utility as a bogeyman. There are very few negative developments in the world that do not end up at some point being pinned to the Russian leader, and very few critics of the Democratic Party who are not, at some point, cast as Putin loyalists or Kremlin spies.

Putin — like al Qaeda terrorists and Soviet Communists before him — is everywhere. Russia is lurking behind all evils, most importantly — of course — Hillary Clinton’s defeat. And whoever questions any of that is revealing themselves to be a traitor, likely on Putin’s payroll.

As The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel put it on Tuesday in the Washington Post: “In the targeting of Trump, too many liberals have joined in fanning a neo-McCarthyite furor, working to discredit those who seek to deescalate U.S.-Russian tensions, and dismissing anyone expressing doubts about the charges of hacking or collusion as a Putin apologist. … What we don’t need is a replay of Cold War hysteria that cuts off debate, slanders skeptics and undermines any effort to explore areas of agreement with Russia in our own national interest.” That precisely echoes what Stone observed 62 years ago: Claims of Russian infiltration and ubiquity are “the thesis no American dare any longer challenge without himself becoming suspect” (Stone was not just cast as a Kremlin loyalist during his life but smeared as a Stalinist agent after he died).

I’ve written extensively about all this throughout the last year, as Russia Fever reached (what I hope is) its apex — or, more accurately, its nadir. I won’t repeat that all here.

But I do want to draw attention to an outstanding article in today’s Guardian by the Russian-born American journalist Keith Gessen, in which he clinically examines — and demolishes — all of the hysterical, ignorant, fearmongering, manipulative claims now predominant in U.S. discourse about Russia, Putin, and the Kremlin.

 

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Top General: U.S. Mulling ‘Long-Term Commitment’ in Iraq

Ryan Browne reports for CNN:

Image result for Top General: U.S. Mulling 'Long-Term Commitment' in IraqThe US military is contemplating a long-term presence in Iraq to stabilize the country after the anticipated defeat ISIS, America’s top military officer said Thursday.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford said that both the US and NATO have begun discussions with Iraq about the possibility.
“We have, as has NATO, begun a dialogue about a long term commitment to grow the capacity, maintain the capacity of Iraqi Security Forces, but no decisions have been made yet,” Dunford told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington, his first time fielding questions since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
“Iraq has begun to speak, and you’ve heard Prime Minister (Haider) Abadi speak, about the international community continuing to support defense capacity building,” he added.

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As Kelly and Tillerson Visit Mexico, Their Reassurances Differ From Trump’s Stance

Azam Ahmed, Gardiner Harris and Ron Nixon report for The New York Times:

[…] Mr. Trump is certainly not the only American president to clamp down on illegal immigration. His predecessor, Barack Obama, deported record numbers of immigrants, including gang members. But Mr. Trump’s actions and disparaging remarks about Mexico have helped push relations between the two countries to their lowest point in decades.

His steady stream of provocative policies and statements has enraged the Mexican public and left their leaders to consider their own leverage in the event of a meltdown in ties between the two countries, whether on trade, migration or security.

On Thursday, the contradictions between the president and his top staff raised a pressing question: Which version of Washington will come to bear on Mexico in the coming months? Will it be the aggressive approach of the president or the more reassuring stance of Mr. Kelly, who will be assigned to oversee some of the proposals likely to antagonize Mexico the most?

“Let me be very, very clear,” Mr. Kelly said, assuring Mexicans that the rules for deporting people from the United States had not fundamentally changed — another possible contradiction of his boss. “There will be no, repeat no, mass deportations.”

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Turning 25: Things Fall Apart by The Roots

Marcus J. Moore wrote in a review for Pitchfork in August 2016:

Things Fall Apart artworkIn 1999, the Roots were in limbo. The Philadelphia hip-hop band had released three critically acclaimed albums but were still considered something of a novelty act, featuring a big guy with a big Afro on drums (?uestlove), a sharp but unshowy MC (Black Thought), two beatboxers (Rahzel and Scratch), and a stellar live show—all anomalies in the gilded age of Puff Daddy and the million-dollar sample clearance. The Roots had by this time amassed a faithful cult following, but none of it translated to mainstream success. They were selling more records and slowly moving beyond their dedicated base of jazz and traditional rap purists, but their career wasn’t headed anywhere in particular.

Reflecting these tensions, the Roots opened their fourth studio album, Things Fall Apart, with dialogue from a scene from Spike Lee’s 1990 film, Mo’ Better Blues, in which characters Bleek Gilliam and Shadow Henderson—played by Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes, respectively—debate the state of jazz music. Gilliam doesn’t want to sacrifice his creative vision to pander to crowds, and he thinks black people should come to his shows simply because he’s making black art. “That’s bullshit,” Henderson quips. “The people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like.” The clip seemed to acknowledge the Roots’ reputation: They were too smart for their own good, too self-aware, and they were getting in their own way. It was as if, from the very beginning, the band sought to be misunderstood, to find somewhere to hide from the mainstream.

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What We’ll Tolerate, and What We Won’t

Nathan J. Robinson writes for Current Affairs:

What We’ll Tolerate, And What We Won’tIt wasn’t that he told a woman there was something wrong with her for wearing a hijab in America. It wasn’t that he encouraged people to “Purge the Illegals” and gave out ICE’s hotline number at a presentation. It wasn’t that he mocked a transgender college student in front of a crowd, saying he’d still almost bang her because she looked like a man. Instead, it was his discussion of the complexities of his sexual experiences with adults as a gay teenager that caused Milo Yiannopoulos to lose his $250,000 book deal with Simon and Schuster.

The swift recent reversal of Yiannopoulos’s fortunes is in many ways illuminating. The [now former] Breitbart editor had spent the last year building a public profile by going around American college campuses giving “lectures” with titles like “Why Do Lesbians Fake So Many Hate Crimes?” and “Why Ugly People Hate Me.” At these events, he would tell people why “feminism is cancer,” refer to various people as “cunts” and “retards,” and make jokes about how Muslims were probably terrorists. When appalled students tried to have the talks canceled, he would insist that the PC left was simply afraid to deal with arguments, facts, and statistics. (The more obvious explanation is that the PC left doesn’t think a person whose idea of elevated political discourse is “100% of fat people are fucking gross”—and who gigglingly posts pictures of the overweight people at his gym—is sincere about wanting to improve political dialogue on campus.)

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The Meaning of Milo

Ross Douthat writes for The New York Times:

[…] From Dubya’s evangelical conservatism to Milo’s Rimbaudian new right, from “marriage is between a man and a woman” to “well, we draw the line at ephebophilia” is a rather dizzying trajectory. But if you understand what’s happened to cultural conservatism over the last decade, the strange career of Yiannopoulos makes a striking sort of sense.

First, post-1960s social conservatism — the bigger-than-the-religious-right tent that once included a lot of moderately religious fellow travelers — has collapsed back to its zealous core. On practically every issue save abortion, liberals won the culture war decisively, and religious conservatives awoke to find themselves strangers in their own country, dismissed as bigots from liberalism’s pulpits and stuck on the wrong side of 40-60 or 30-70 public-opinion splits.

But social liberalism’s sweeping victory produced new forms of backlash — less traditionalist and more populist, less religious and more rowdy, not sacred but profane. These forms of resistance take aim at liberalism’s own forms of social-justice sanctimony, which have smothered academic life and permeated notionally apolitical arenas from late-night comedy to sportswriting. The resisters don’t exactly have a program. Instead, they’ve got a posture — a “whaddya got?” rebellion against any rules that the new liberal order sets.

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On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right

Laurie Penny writes for Pacific Standard:

Have you heard the one about the boy who cried Fake News?

This is a story about truth and consequences. It’s a story about who gets to be young and dumb, and who gets held accountable. It’s also a story about how the new right exploits young men — how it preys not on their bodies, but on their emotions, on their hurts and hopes and anger and anxiety, their desperate need to be part of a big ugly boys’ own adventure.

It’s a story about how so many of us have suffered the consequences of that exploitation. And it’s a story about how consequences finally came for Milo Yiannopoulos too — the worst kind of consequences for a professional troll. Consequences that nobody finds funny. Consequences that cannot be mined for fame and profit.

As I write, Yiannopoulos, the fame-hungry right-wing provocateur and self-styled “most dangerous supervillain on the Internet,” is fighting off accusations of having once endorsed pedophilia. Former friends and supporters who long tolerated his outrage-mongering as childish fun are now dropping him like a red-hot turd.

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The Rise and Fall of Milo Yiannopoulos: How a Shallow Actor Played the Bad Guy for Money

Dorian Lynskey writes for The Guardian:

Related imageSo there is, after all, a line that you cannot cross and still be hailed by conservatives as a champion of free speech. That line isn’t Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia or harassment. Milo Yiannopoulos, the journalist that Out magazine dubbed an “internet supervillain”, built his brand on those activities. Until Monday, he was flying high: a hefty book deal with Simon & Schuster, an invitation to speak at the American Conservative Union’s CPac conference and a recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. But then a recording emerged of Yiannopoulos cheerfully defending relationships between older men and younger boys, and finally it turned out that free speech had limits. The book deal and CPac offer swiftly evaporated. The next day, he resigned his post as an editor at Breitbart, the far-right website where he was recruited by Donald Trump’s consigliere Steve Bannon, and where several staffers reportedly threatened to quit unless he was fired.

In the incriminating clip, Yiannopoulos prefaces his remarks with a coy, “This is a controversial point of view, I accept”, this being his default shtick. Maher absurdly described him as “a young, gay, alive Christopher Hitchens” – a contrarian fly in the ointment, rattling smug liberal certainties – but Hitchens had wit, intellect and principle, while Yiannopoulos has only chutzpah and ruthless opportunism. Understanding Yiannopoulos requires a version of Occam’s Razor: the most obvious answer is the correct one. What does he actually believe in? Nothing except his own brand and the monetisable notoriety that fuels it. That’s Milo’s Razor. Understanding how he got this far is more unnerving.

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How Peter Thiel and Alex Karp’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Thiel and KarpDonald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies. 

Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.

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CIA Cables Detail Its New Deputy Director’s Role in Torture

Raymond Bonner reports for ProPublica:

Image result for CIA Cables Detail Its New Deputy Director’s Role in Torture[…] When questions began to swirl about the Bush administration’s use of the “black sites,” and program of “enhanced interrogation,” the chief of base began pushing to have the tapes destroyed. She accomplished her mission years later when she rose to a senior position at CIA headquarters and drafted an order to destroy the evidence, which was still locked in a CIA safe at the American embassy in Thailand. Her boss, the head of the agency’s counterterrorism center, signed the order to feed the 92 tapes into a giant shredder.

By then, it was clear that CIA analysts were wrong when they had identified Abu Zubaydah as the number three or four in al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden. The waterboarding failed to elicit valuable intelligence not because he was holding back, but because he was not a member of al-Qaida, and had no knowledge of any plots against the United States.

The chief of base’s role in this tale of pointless brutality and evidence destruction was a footnote to history — until earlier this month, when President Trump named her deputy director of the CIA.

The choice of Gina Haspel for the second-highest position in the agency has been praised by colleagues but sharply criticized by two senators who have seen the still-classified records of her time in Thailand.

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In Sharp Contrast with Flynn, Trump Appoints Establishment Figure McMaster to NSC

Kim Brown speaks to Stephen Miles of the Win Without War Coalition who says H.R. McMaster’s appointment is a real break with the recklessness of Michael Flynn, but the truth is that Trump is running a National Security Council politicized far beyond what it was under Bush. (The Real News)

Trump’s Deportations are Possible Because Obama and Congress Failed to Protect Immigrants

Amy Goodman speaks to former Department of Homeland Security attorney Margo Schlanger and attorney Cesar Vargas, co-director of DREAM Action Coalition, about how the White House is moving to greatly expand the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and to increase the number of immigration and Border Patrol agents by 15,000. President Obama’s deportation practices set the stage for today’s new crackdown. During his time in office, Obama deported a record 2.7 million people. In 2014, the head of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguía, called Obama the nation’s “deporter-in-chief”. (Democracy Now!)

Did Jeff Sessions Foreshadow New Immigration Crackdown in a DHS Memo Before Becoming Attorney General?

Juan Gonzalez speaks to McClatchy reporter Franco Ordoñez and Tim Warden-Hertz of the North West Immigrants Rights Project about how the harsh new draft orders that were signed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were largely endorsed by then-Senator Jeff Sessions months before he took office as attorney general. (Democracy Now!)

‘A Deportation Force on Steroids’: Millions of Immigrants Could Face Removal Under New Trump Rules

Amy Goodman speaks to University of Michigan Law School professor Margo Schlanger, who served as the head of civil rights and civil liberties at the Department of Homeland Security, and Cesar Vargas, co-director of DREAM Action Coalition and New York state’s first openly undocumented attorney. The White House is moving to greatly expand the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and to increase the number of immigration and Border Patrol agents by 15,000. Under rules issued on Tuesday, almost any undocumented person in the country could be detained and deported, even if they have never committed a crime. A traffic violation or mere suspicion of committing a crime could now be grounds for deportation. Any immigrant who cannot prove they have been in the United States for over two years could be deported without a hearing. Any migrant, regardless of their nationality, who crosses the southern border will be deported to Mexico while they await deportation hearings. The memos also call for the prosecution of parents who seek to reunite their family by using smugglers to bring their children into the country. (Democracy Now!)

Donald J. Trump and the Deep State

Peter Dale Scott, author of The American Deep State, writes in the first of his two part pieces for WhoWhatWhy:

Deep StateOn February 3, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported President Trump’s plans to pave the way for a broad rollback of the recent financial reforms of Wall Street.Although no surprise, the news was in ironic contrast to the rhetoric of his campaign, when he spent months denouncing both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for their links to Goldman Sachs, even when his campaign’s Financial Chairman was a former Goldman Sachs banker, Steve Mnuchin (now Trump’s Treasury Secretary).

Trump was hardly the first candidate to run against the banking establishment while surreptitiously taking money from big bankers. So did Hitler in 1933; so did Obama in 2008. (In Obama’s final campaign speech of 2008, he attacked “the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street.” But it was revealed later that Wall Street bankers and financial insiders, chiefly from Goldman Sachs, had raised $42.2 million for Obama’s 2008 campaign, more than for any previous candidate in history.)

However, Trump’s connections to big money, both new (often self-made) and old (mostly institutional) were not only more blatant than usual; some were also possibly more sinister. Trump’s campaign was probably the first ever to be (as we shall see) scrutinized by the FBI for “financial connections with Russian financial figures,” and even with a Russian bank whose Washington influence was attacked years ago, after it was allegedly investigated in Russia for possible mafia connections.

Trump’s appointment of the third former Goldman executive to lead Treasury in the last four administrations, after Robert Rubin (under Clinton) and Hank Paulson (under Bush), has reinforced recent speculation about Trump’s relationship to what is increasingly referred to as the deep state. That is the topic of this essay.

But we must first see what is really meant by ‘the deep state”.

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The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight

In 2014 Bill Moyers was joined by Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, to talk about what he calls Washington’s ‘Deep State’, in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Moyers. Lofgren also authored an essay titled: Anatomy of the Deep State(Moyers & Company)

How the Trump Regime Was Manufactured by a War Inside the Deep State

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

[…] One approach to framing the Trump movement comes from Jordan Greenhall, who sees it as a conservative (“Red Religion”) Insurgency against the liberal (“Blue Church”) Globalist establishment (the “Deep State”). Greenhall suggests, essentially, that Trump is leading a nationalist coup against corporate neoliberal globalization using new tactics of “collective intelligence” by which to outsmart and outspeed his liberal establishment opponents.

But at best this is an extremely partial picture.

In reality, Trump has ushered in something far more dangerous:

The Trump regime is not operating outside the Deep State, but mobilizing elements within it to dominate and strengthen it for a new mission.

The Trump regime is not acting to overturn the establishment, but to consolidate it against a perceived crisis of a wider transnational Deep System.

The Trump regime is not a conservative insurgency against the liberal establishment, but an act of ideologically constructing the current crisis as a conservative-liberal battleground, led by a particularly radicalized white nationalist faction of a global elite.

The act is a direct product of a global systemic crisis, but is a short-sighted and ill-conceived reaction, pre-occupied with surface symptoms of that crisis. Unfortunately, those hoping to resist the Trump reaction also fail to understand the system dynamics of the crisis.

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H.R. McMaster: Five Fast Facts

Daniel S. Levine writes for Heavy:

general mcmaster, general mcmaster trump, general hr mcmaster trump national security adviser, mcmaster national security adviser pickLieutenant General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster has been chosen to replace Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser for President Donald Trump. The 54-year-old McMaster, who earned the nickname “The Iconoclast General,” is a career Army officer who is still serving. He served in the Persian Gulf War and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today, McMaster is the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and Deputy Commanding General, Futures at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Senator John McCain praised Trump’s decision to pick McMaster for the job, calling him an “outstanding choice” and a man of “genuine intellect, character, and ability” who “knows how to succeed.”

“President, thank you very much. I would just like to say what a privilege it is to be able to continue serving our nation,” McMaster said when Trump introduced him. “I’m grateful to you for that opportunity, and I look forward to joining the national security team and doing everything that I can to advance and protect the interests of the American people. Thank you very much.”

McMaster has been married to Kathleen Trotter since 1985. They have three daughters, Katharine, Colleen and Caragh.

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Washington’s Coup Fever Heats Up

David Talbot writes for The San Francisco Chronicle:

President Donald Trump calls on members of the press during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Photo: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press[…] Democracy is an exquisitely fragile enterprise, “a delicate eggshell in the rough-and-tumble of history,” as I wrote in my book, “The Devil’s Chessboard.” Rule by the people must always contend with rule by elites who are much more organized, financed, ruthless and armed.

What’s odd about these increasingly odd times is that many engaged citizens, including progressives, are eagerly hoping for the overthrow of our elected government, if we can rid ourselves of the dangerously unhinged Trump. But a coup would mean the coup de grace for American democracy. Yes, the mad king would be gone. In the process, however, we’d be empowering the most militaristic, secretive and sinister elements of our society.

I agree that saving America means bringing down Trump. But it’s a revived democracy that must be his downfall — a newly invigorated media, judicial system and citizenry — not the dark maneuvers of spies and generals.

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Suspect in North Korea killing ‘thought she was taking part in TV prank’

Oliver Holmes reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Suspect in North Korea killingAn Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief has said, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.

Meanwhile, Malaysian police said on Saturday they had arrested a North Korean man in connection with the murder.

The man was identified as Ri Jong Chol, born in 1970. He was arrested on Friday night in Selangor state, the police said in a statement. He is the fourth suspect to be arrested.

Indonesia’s national police chief, Tito Karnavian, told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that the Indonesian woman, 25-year-old Siti Aisyah, was paid to be involved in pranks .

He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.

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Is Michael Flynn the First Casualty of a ‘Deep State’ Coup?

Danielle Ryan writes for Salon:

Is Michael Flynn the first casualty of a "deep state" coup? It's not unthinkable[…] It is increasingly plausible that there are powerful forces inside the intelligence community attempting to engineer U.S. foreign policy in a way that would fully reignite the Cold War and thwart any attempt to cooperate with nuclear-armed Russia at even the most basic level.

The Kremlin’s response to Flynn’s departure was fairly muted. Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called it an internal U.S. matter and refrained from commenting further. Other officials were more colorful in their language. The general view in Moscow is that anti-Russia hysteria is simply so bad in the U.S. that the intelligence agencies will do anything in their power to prevent Washington from becoming friendlier with the Kremlin. Leonid Slutsky, chair of the foreign relations committee in the Russian State Duma, said the “target” in all this was U.S.-Russia relations. He later commented that recent statements from the White House on the status of Crimea were like a “cold shower” that cooled expectations of a better relationship.

If the “anti-Trump plot” theory sounds more than a bit dubious coming from Moscow, take a listen to former Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich, who represented the Bernie Sanders left before Sanders did. He makes a reasonable case that Flynn’s departure was essentially the first shot fired in a “deep state” coup against Trump.

“What’s at the core of this is an effort by some in the intelligence community to upend any positive relationship between the U.S. and Russia,” Kucinich said on the Fox Business Network. “There are people trying to separate the U.S. and Russia so this military-industrial-intel axis can cash in.”

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Are Deep-State Leakers Defending Democracy or Corroding It?

David A. Graham writes for The Atlantic:

[…] The idea of a “Deep State” constraining Trump was not new. Back in February, when the idea of a President Trump still seemed wildly implausible, Megan McArdle wrote that he wouldn’t be able to do that much damage even if he won, thanks to bureaucrats who could slow-walk or even block his priorities. “This is the reality: Most of what you want to do to Washington won’t get done—and neither will much of what you want to get done outside of it, if you insist on taking Washington on,” she wrote. After the inauguration, some liberals took new heart in that idea.

But the Deep State motif has really gained in popularity over the last few days, as the pace of leaks undermining Trump has accelerated. “The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works,” Marc Ambinder writes at Foreign Policy. “It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.”

It’s not just the leaks. At Slate, Phillip Carter argued that pushback from career officials had helped prevent Trump from instituting a plan to reinstate torture, labeling this the work of a deep state.

Not everyone buys the analogy.

“I wouldn’t call what is going on in the United States a Deep State,” said Omer Taspinar, a professor at the National War College and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution who is an expert on both national security and Turkey.

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Trump Is Showing How the Deep State Really Works

Marc Ambinder writes for Foreign Policy:

Trump Is Showing How the Deep State Really Works The who, what, where, and why of the Trump administration’s first major scandal — Michael Flynn’s ignominious resignation on Monday as national security advisor — have all been thoroughly discussed. Relatively neglected, and deserving of far more attention, has been the how.

The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works. It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.

We know now that the FBI and the NSA, under their Executive Order 12333 authority and using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as statutory cover, were actively monitoring the phone calls and reading text messages sent to and from the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

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Glenn Greenwald: Empowering the ‘Deep State’ to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy

Amy Goodman speaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, about the deep state and the Trump administration. Greenwald recently wrote a piece titled: The Deep State Goes to War With President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer(Democracy Now!)

Corporate Globalism, Brownshirts and the War on the Left

Abby and Robbie Martin talk about the new measures being taken by POTUS Trump, debunk the idea that Hitler was a socialist and why he turned against his brownshirt army, explain why globalism is really just capitalism misunderstood and offer insight on the “free speech” argument defending neo-nazis. (Media Roots)

Flynn’s Resignation Won’t Stop Trump Admin From Targeting Iran

Jaisal Noor speaks to Ben Norton, reporter for Alternet’s Grayzone Project, who discusses the fallout from the resignation of Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. (The Real News)

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul on Michael Flynn’s Resignation

The first video features former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich during his appearance on FOX Business Network’s Mornings with Maria. The second video features former Republican Congressman Ron Paul in conversation with Daniel McAdams. Both men, who often came together when serving in the U.S. Congress, give their views on Michael Flynn’s resignation and the who is most likely to benefit from the scandal. (Fox Business/Liberty Report)

After Michael Flynn’s Resignation, Surveillance Defenders Suddenly Care About Wiretap Abuse

Alex Emmons reports for The Intercept:

Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a leading defender of government surveillance programs, reacted with outrage when he found out the FBI had listened in on conversations between the Russian ambassador and a top Trump official.

“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” the California Republican told the Washington Post. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

Telephone conversations between Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak led to Flynn’s resignation.

The fact that communications from the Russian delegation in Washington are closely monitored should surprise no one. The FBI routinely uses the NSA’s eavesdropping techniques to monitor the delegation — for obvious intelligence and counterintelligence reasons — and as a former top intelligence official in the Obama administration, Flynn must have known that his conversation would be intercepted.

Yet after the news of Flynn’s resignation, several traditional surveillance defenders rushed to the defense of his privacy rights as an “American citizen.”

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The Leakers Who Exposed General Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious — and Wholly Justified — Felonies

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] This episode underscores a critical point: The mere fact that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust or even deserving of punishment. Oftentimes, the most just acts are precisely the ones that the law prohibits.

That’s particularly true of whistleblowers — i.e., those who reveal information the law makes it a crime to reveal, when doing so is the only way to demonstrate to the public that powerful officials are acting wrongfully or deceitfully. In those cases, we should cheer those who do it even though they are undertaking exactly those actions that the criminal law prohibits.

This Flynn episode underscores another critical point: The motives of leakers are irrelevant. It’s very possible — indeed, likely — that the leakers here were not acting with benevolent motives. Nobody with a straight face can claim that lying to the public is regarded in official Washington as some sort of mortal sin; if anything, the contrary is true: It’s seen as a job requirement.

Moreover, Gen. Flynn has many enemies throughout the intelligence and defense community. The same is true, of course, of Donald Trump; recall that just a few weeks ago, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer warned Trump that he was being “really dumb” to criticize the intelligence community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

It’s very possible — I’d say likely — that the motive here was vindictive rather than noble. Whatever else is true, this is a case where the intelligence community, through strategic (and illegal) leaks, destroyed one of its primary adversaries in the Trump White House.

But no matter. What matters is not the motive of the leaker but the effects of the leak. Any leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing — as this one did — should be praised, not scorned and punished.

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