Security reports reveal how Assange turned an embassy into a command post for election meddling

CNN reports:

New documents obtained exclusively by CNN reveal that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange received in-person deliveries, potentially of hacked materials related to the 2016 US election, during a series of suspicious meetings at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The documents build on the possibility, raised by special counsel Robert Mueller in his report on Russian meddling, that couriers brought hacked files to Assange at the embassy.

The surveillance reports also describe how Assange turned the embassy into a command center and orchestrated a series of damaging disclosures that rocked the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States.

Despite being confined to the embassy while seeking safe passage to Ecuador, Assange met with Russians and world-class hackers at critical moments, frequently for hours at a time. He also acquired powerful new computing and network hardware to facilitate data transfers just weeks before WikiLeaks received hacked materials from Russian operatives.

These stunning details come from hundreds of surveillance reports compiled for the Ecuadorian government by UC Global, a private Spanish security company, and obtained by CNN. They chronicle Assange’s movements and provide an unprecedented window into his life at the embassy. They also add a new dimension to the Mueller report, which cataloged how WikiLeaks helped the Russians undermine the US election. [Continue reading…]

The poison in Britain’s Labour Party

 

In a letter to The Observer, Howard Jacobson, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Sir Simon Schama, Neil Blair, Tracy-Ann Oberman, and Rabbi Julia Neuberger, write:

Over the past four years, we have watched the unchecked spread of vicious antisemitism – anti-Jewish racism – in the Labour party with bewilderment and disgust – all the more so since we respected Labour’s long previous history of fighting racism, and its many brave and decent members.

Now, after the BBC’s Panorama programme, we can see for ourselves what is and isn’t false. The extent of Labour’s antisemitism, the degree to which it has been protected, sanctioned and propagated by the leadership faction, can brook no further denial. It is clear this is not just about Jeremy Corbyn but the pernicious world view of a faction that has – temporarily, we hope – taken control of Labour.

But yet again the Labour leadership remains determined to go on piously protesting its innocence, rejecting the message and blaming the messenger.

We are where we were before. Whistleblowers would be heroes to any other Labour party; to this Labour party they are traitors.

In our view, those whistleblowers and Labour members who could no longer stomach what was happening in a party they loved, and were in some cases driven to the point of nervous breakdown by it, have shown a rare moral courage and decency that belongs in a great tradition, and gives us hope. In the meantime, trust between Corbyn’s Labour and most Jews in Britain appears to be fractured beyond repair. The very fact that Labour is, like the BNP before it, being statutorily investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for racism is not a matter of housekeeping, but a taint of international, historic shame.

There are procedures that could take the heat out of this – a fully independent complaints body, for example, over which Corbyn and his inner circle exert no covert influence. Not with the aim of shuffling off blame, but in order, finally, that the party will honestly own up to what can no longer be filed away in a folder. After Panorama, damage limitation should not be the first priority for Labour. Draining the antisemitism that lies like a pool of poison in the party’s soul is. Now, nothing else will do.

A few years ago, there was some legitimacy to the claim that some supporters of Israel were cynically engaged in hasbara when they conflated criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

In 2009, the Israeli filmmaker, Yoav Shamir, released his documentary, Defamation, in which he exposed the efforts of organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S., to amplify concerns over antisemitism where evidence of its actual extent was commonly being overstated.

Ten years later, if Shamir was to revisit the same issue, he would be forced to tell a very different story.

What changed?

There are multiple strands to the growth of anti-Jewish hatred, but the one that afflicts the Labour Party can surely be traced above all to the popularization of the so-called pro-Palestinian movement.

I say “so-called” because what was long a political movement supporting the self-determination of a population living under military occupation, has in recent years metastasized by becoming, at least for some of its non-Palestinian supporters, less pro-Palestinian and more anti-Israeli.

In 2011, President Obama’s ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, was harshly criticized for stating the obvious: that Israel’s military actions targeting Palestinians were fueling the rise of antisemitism.

Gutman said that “throughout the Muslim communities that I visit, and indeed throughout Europe, there is significant anger and resentment and, yes, perhaps sometimes hatred and indeed sometimes an all too growing intimidation and violence directed at Jews generally as a result of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories and other Arab neighbors in the Middle East…every new settlement announced in Israel, every rocket shot over a border or suicide bomber on a bus, and every retaliatory military strike exacerbates the problem and provides a setback here in Europe for those fighting hatred and bigotry here in Europe.”

Hostility towards Israel rose dramatically during the 2008-09 war on Gaza and was further reinforced by a widely condemned economic siege that continues to this day.

But along the way, it became clear that for many people concerned with this issue, their sense of injustice and outrage increasingly expressed itself more through antipathy directed at the perpetrators of this injustice rather than as solidarity with its victims.

When Palestinians in Yarmouk outside Damascus suffered just as egregiously as those in Gaza, the pro-Palestinian movement largely remained silent.

The equivocations commonplace among supporters of Israel who are reluctant to criticize the actions of its government, were echoed by antiwar and anti-imperialist activists who were reluctant to condemn the actions of Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies — lest such criticism might imply support for a long-predicted Western intervention in the war in Syria.

Where there was no shortage of self-ascribed moral clarity in viewing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the conflict between a brutal dictatorship and its opponents was supposedly far too complex for Middle East watchers to reliably decipher.

As Elizabeth Tsurkov wrote last year:

For the past two weeks, horrifying images of Palestinians being murdered have surfaced on social media. Jets have dropped bombs, sending flames and black smoke into the air, followed by helicopters dropping improvised and unguided barrel bombs. On the ground, in the besieged Palestinian camp, buildings collapsed burying civilians alive underneath them.

Those who have attempted to flee the camp have been arrested. No food or medicine has been allowed into the camp since July 2013. About 200 residents have starved to death or died due to lack of medicine. The airstrikes and shelling have not stopped for two weeks, preventing rescuers from retrieving the rotting corpses.

And yet, despite these horrors, no significant protests took place anywhere in the West or Arab world. The traditional champions of the Palestinian cause — those same people who have protested Israeli attacks on Gaza — have remained silent as the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus in Syria was shelled by Russian and Syrian air forces, while militias loyal to the Assad regime enforced a brutal siege.

The silence surrounding the brutalization of an entire Palestinian population exposes something few have spoken about: that pro-Palestinian sentiment is often just anti-Israel or anti-American sentiment dressed up in disguise. And when it comes to Syria’s starving, dying Palestinian population, the pro-Palestine left is nowhere to be seen.

There is a larger theme here with echoes across the political spectrum. It involves the exploitation of the easiest route for galvanizing political unity: that is, rather than trying to articulate and advance political goals, it’s much easier to identify and vilify a common enemy. Everyone can instantly stand together when they agree about who they stand against.

It’s a ploy that works just as well for protest leaders or presidents, populists or dictators.

Politics based on opposition, whatever its radical trappings, has a tendency of reinforcing the status quo. It’s all about taking a self-righteous stance, rather than moving forward and taking the risk of stumbling as you go.

But the politics of the common enemy all too easily creates common ground with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, and Vladimir Putin.

For Jeremy Corbyn and his close advisers, their habitual political reflex is to regard every challenge as an enemy assault.

What they are finding too hard if not impossible, is to acknowledge their own role in enabling the growth of a malignancy that is now destroying their own party.

Why Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson fear Ilhan Omar

Dina Nayeri writes:

On Wednesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her ingratitude. “After everything America has done for Omar and for her family,” Carlson told his viewers, “she hates this country more than ever.” He called it “ominous” that Omar should have such disdain for his country’s values. “Our country rescued Ilhan Omar from the single worst place on earth,” said Carlson. “We didn’t do it to get rich—in fact it cost us money. We did it because we are kind people. How did Ilhan Omar respond to the remarkable gift we gave her? She scolded us and called us names.”

There is so much miseducation and bad faith in that tiny word we. Carlson had nothing to do with Omar’s rescue from Somalia. He is just a privileged man who won the lottery of birth. If it were up to him, she would never have been allowed in. But even if he had been the very asylum officer who swung the door open for Omar’s family, the we implies that a place in America was his to give, that he is somehow entitled to (but she has been gifted) the freedoms and education and powerful voices they both enjoy.

I don’t watch Carlson’s show. I found out about this incident because I have a Google alert for “ungrateful refugee,” a term his followers began to throw around shortly after his comments aired. That phrase also happens to be the name of my new book and a major intellectual and philosophical preoccupation since I escaped Iran in 1988 and arrived in the U.S. via an Italian refugee camp 16 months later (at 10 years old, the same age Omar was when she arrived).

The term “ungrateful refugee” is designed specifically to remind us that immigrants will never be as American as the native-born, no matter how much time passes, how much good they do for their new country, and what citizenship they obtain. It is a calculated attempt to reinforce nativist power dynamics between the children of the rooted and the children of the displaced, to remind the latter that they will forever owe their lives to someone else. And yet, it is uttered most often by those who have never had or will ever have anything to do with anyone’s rescue—these are, in fact, the very people who wish to shut the door and throw away the key. [Continue reading…]

In attack on freshman congresswomen, Trump’s untethered racism on full display

The New York Times reports:

President Trump on Sunday weighed in on the friction between a group of four freshman Democratic congresswomen and Speaker Nancy Pelosi: He suggested that the congresswomen — none of whom are white — should “go back and help fix” the countries they came from. His message was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who called it a racist trope.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.


He added: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”

Broadly, Mr. Trump’s attack was meant for members of the so-called squad, a group engaged in an existential and generational war of words with Ms. Pelosi: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.

“These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Only one of the women, Ms. Omar, who is from Somalia, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Ms. Pressley, who is black, was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. And Ms. Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants. [Continue reading…]

Trump is a racist. If you still support him, so are you

Goldie Taylor writes:

The president is a racist, in his words and his actions.

Before you go clutching your pearls and extolling the virtues of “civility,” let me say this: Put a sock in it.

This is not a new revelation, nor is it something that we can continue to ignore as though it were coming from a drunk uncle at the family barbecue. Bigotry is dangerous and, in the hands of our nation’s commander in chief, it can mean an inability to recognize individual humanity and a failure to act with moral authority in times of crisis. Every person talking about his clothes as he cheerfully bares his ass is part of the problem. [Continue reading…]

The activist left already knows who they want to replace Trump

Elaine Godfrey writes:

It’s still early. There will be 16 more months of speech making and glad-handing and glitzy ballroom fundraisers before Election Day. Not committing to a presidential candidate just yet would make sense. But here at Netroots Nation, the premier annual convention for progressive activists, many attendees already seem fairly certain about their choice: They want Elizabeth Warren, the progressive senator from Massachusetts, to be their next president. And if they have to pick a second choice? It’s Senator Kamala Harris of California.

It’s not necessarily intuitive that the same person would support both women: Warren is a folksy public-school teacher turned anti-corruption advocate, while the blazer-wearing Harris is more of an establishment type, with a long career climbing the ranks of power in California. Warren has pledged not to hold high-dollar fundraising events in favor of grassroots-style meet and greets, while Hollywood heavyweights have been some of Harris’s biggest campaign boosters.

But in interviews with two dozen progressive activists at Netroots, most people told me that, while they prefer Warren, they’d choose Harris if things were to go south for the Massachusetts lawmaker. They view both senators as passionate and capable. Some even suggested that the two women should run on the same ticket. “They bring different things to the table, but one thing is clear when you talk to each of them: their competency,” Rod Sullivan, a 53-year-old attendee from Iowa City told me. They would operate differently as presidents, he added. But each of them “could do this.” [Continue reading…]

Epstein scandal explodes in Israel as ties to former prime minister Ehud Barak comes under scrutiny

The Miami Herald reports:

Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest is reverberating in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party are calling for a criminal probe into former prime minister Ehud Barak’s personal and business ties with the accused sex trafficker, Israeli media is reporting.

Barak, 77, served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. This month he formed a new party to run for prime minister against Netanyahu, who called for new elections in September. Once political allies, Barak and Netanyahu have been sparring on social media, with Netanyahu producing a video raising Barak’s relationship to the multimillionaire New York financier, and Ohio billionaire Les Wexner, who has given money to Barak, the Times of Israel reported.

Barak was a close friend and business partner with Epstein for years. Now some of those business partnerships are being scrutinized amid questions about Barak’s own source of wealth. The Times reported Saturday that Barak is exploring whether to sever business ties with Epstein, 66, who was charged last week with sex trafficking underage girls. [Continue reading…]

Trump is poised to send future asylum seekers to Guatemala

The New Yorker reports:

Early next week, according to a D.H.S. official, the Trump Administration is expected to announce a major immigration deal, known as a safe-third-country agreement, with Guatemala. For weeks, there have been reports that negotiations were under way between the two countries, but, until now, none of the details were official. According to a draft of the agreement obtained by The New Yorker, asylum seekers from any country who either show up at U.S. ports of entry or are apprehended while crossing between ports of entry could be sent to seek asylum in Guatemala instead. During the past year, tens of thousands of migrants, the vast majority of them from Central America, have arrived at the U.S. border seeking asylum each month. By law, the U.S. must give them a chance to bring their claims before authorities, even though there’s currently a backlog in the immigration courts of roughly a million cases. The Trump Administration has tried a number of measures to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country—from “metering” at ports of entry to forcing people to wait in Mexico—but, in every case, international obligations held that the U.S. would eventually have to hear their asylum claims. Under this new arrangement, most of these migrants will no longer have a chance to make an asylum claim in the U.S. at all. “We’re talking about something much bigger than what the term ‘safe third country’ implies,” someone with knowledge of the deal told me. “We’re talking about a kind of transfer agreement where the U.S. can send any asylum seekers, not just Central Americans, to Guatemala.”

From the start of the Trump Presidency, Administration officials have been fixated on a safe-third-country policy with Mexico—a similar accord already exists with Canada—since it would allow the U.S. government to shift the burden of handling asylum claims farther south. The principle was that migrants wouldn’t have to apply for asylum in the U.S. because they could do so elsewhere along the way. But immigrants-rights advocates and policy experts pointed out that Mexico’s legal system could not credibly take on that responsibility. “If you’re going to pursue a safe-third-country agreement, you have to be able to say ‘safe’ with a straight face,” Doris Meissner, a former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told me. Until very recently, the prospect of such an agreement—not just with Mexico but with any other country in Central America—seemed far-fetched. Yet last month, under the threat of steep tariffs on Mexican goods, Trump strong-armed the Mexican government into considering it. Even so, according to a former Mexican official, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador is stalling. “They are trying to fight this,” the former official said. What’s so striking about the agreement with Guatemala, however, is that it goes even further than the terms the U.S. sought in its dealings with Mexico. “This is a whole new level,” the person with knowledge of the agreement told me. “In my read, it looks like even those who have never set foot in Guatemala can potentially be sent there.”

The biggest, and most unsettling, question raised by the agreement is how Guatemala could possibly cope with such enormous demands. More people are leaving Guatemala now than any other country in the northern triangle of Central America. Rampant poverty, entrenched political corruption, urban crime, and the effects of climate change have made large swaths of the country virtually uninhabitable. [Continue reading…]

White evangelicals, ignoring the Bible, are least likely to say U.S. should accept refugees

Stephen Johnson writes:

It might seem like non-religious people would be most likely to say the U.S. doesn’t have a responsibility to accept refugees. After all, nonbelievers don’t follow a unified doctrine that explicitly tells followers to offer love, shelter and compassion to foreigners — you know, like Christians do. For example, the Bible states:

Leviticus 19:34 — “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreign in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Matthew 25:35 — “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Jeremiah 22:3 — “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”

Exodus 22:21 — “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

It’s not difficult to decipher the main moral message here: Be kind to foreigners. But that directive seems to be lost or ignored by a particular group of modern American Christians: white evangelicals. [Continue reading…]

White Christians are no longer the majority in America, but they’re still driving election results

Robert P. Jones writes:

While white Christians composed only 43 percent of the population in 2016, they constituted an estimated 55 percent of voters. And although white evangelical Protestants composed only 17 percent of the public in 2016, they were 26 percent of voters. In other words, in the electorate, white Christians overall were 12 percentage points overrepresented, and white evangelical Protestants were nine percentage points overrepresented.

When white Christians stepped into the voting booth in 2016, their electoral power was comparable to their share of the population back in 2008. The Republican time machine took white evangelicals on an even longer journey. They jumped back to the middle of the George W. Bush era, the last time they made up nearly a quarter of the population.

What fuels the Republicans’ political strength, in other words, is not current white Christian population levels, but the fact that white Christians historically turn out to vote at higher rates than nonwhite and non-Christian Americans. [Continue reading…]