Posts Tagged ‘CIA’


The French conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories

From left to right: Spicee co-founders Jean Bernard Schmidt and Antoine Robin, editor-in-chief Matthieu Firmin and documentary-maker Thomas Huchon. Photograph: Spicee

Thomas Huchon and Antoine Robin’s bogus film about Aids and the CIA is being
shown in French schools in an effort to educate students about disinformation

by Paul Hill

The CIA invented the virus that causes Aids in the 1960s to wage war against Castro’s Cuba, according to a French documentary that started to spread online six months ago.

The 42-minute online film alleged that the United States was now lifting its 50-year embargo in a cynical move to give the American pharmaceutical industry access to a vaccine developed by Cuban scientists.

But none of it was true.

Even Lionel Perrottin, the mysterious figure behind the footage, was a fabrication.

The bogus film was the brainchild of documentary-maker Thomas Huchon and Antoine Robin, co-founder of the Paris-based video journalism site Spicee.

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Troubled by the emergence of conspiracy theories in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, their “Conspi-Hunter” project was intended to show how quickly and easily disinformation can spread.

Huchon posed as his alter-ego Perrottin on social media, building a following of more than 500 people before publishing the bogus documentary.

The film clocked up 10,000 views on YouTube and thousands of shares across Facebook and Twitter in three weeks before the truth was revealed on Spicee.

The bogus film was also featured by a number of French blogs – and can still be found on one site which has more than one million unique visitors per month.

The story of the Conspi-Hunter investigation appeared on November 12: the day before the terror attacks in Paris.

Even if bizarre plots against Cuba attributed to the CIA have been the subject of genuine research among both historians and journalists, the “Conspi-Hunter” project has since become a media talking point and is being taken into French high schools to encourage students to think critically about what they are reading online.

“Today, if you are 15 or 16 years old, you’re going to ask questions – but the problem is never the question, it’s who gives the answer,” Huchon said. “Today – and for the last 10 years – the people who answer questions like ‘Was Charlie Hebdo a conspiracy?’ are conspiracy theory believers. That’s the problem. As journalists we produce content that can answer these questions. But how can you fight people who do not respect any kind of journalistic rules?”
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Huchon added: “We’ve lost the fight for the algorithm. For 10 years, the conspiracy theorists have been writing on the web and they are over-represented. It’s because they are more eager to share their views than others, they publish more, they go up in the algorithm. It’s a fight for quality of information. And the fight right now, well, we’re losing it for good and bad reasons.”

The Conspi-Hunter project was featured during France’s “national study day on responding to conspiracy theories” on 9 February.

Led by education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the study day saw 300 academics, educationalists and teachers debate how best to counter disinformation online.

It came amid growing concern in France about dealing with radicalisation in schools in the wake of the terror attacks.

Debate in the UK centres on the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015 which put a duty on schools to help prevent students being “drawn into terrorism”.

The Department for Education said its Educate against Hate website was intended to help both teachers and parents encourage “young people to challenge conspiracy theories and build a stronger understanding of the risk of extremism”.

“We want young people to be able to take advantage of the vast potential that the internet and social media offers to their lives and education,” a Department for Education spokesperson said.

“But we also want to make sure they are aware of the risks and dangers. That’s why we are strengthening statutory guidance, so that schools are required to ensure that they teach their pupils about safeguarding, including online safety, and have appropriate filters and monitoring systems in place.”

Successful conspiracy theories had four ingredients: a villain, a victim, an underlying theory and a twist or revelation

Google told MPs earlier this year that it would pilot a programme to show anti-radicalisation material to users searching for extremist material.

Huchon said successful conspiracy theories had four essential ingredients: a plausible villain, a victim, an underlying theory and a twist or revelation.

“We decided at the beginning not to choose an ethnic or religious conspiracy, or anti-Islam or anti-Semitism – all of these subjects are nitro-glycerine,” he added.

“We didn’t want the project to escape from us. Perhaps the biggest point was to stay the master of the experiment. If a crazy story about Aids and Cuba could be spread on the internet, imagine what could happen with a crazy story about anti-Semitism or anti-Islam? We wanted a topic that would keep us a little apart from the major trends. We wanted to be able to explain how something totally fake would be repeated and never fact-checked by anyone. We looked at the ‘complot-sphere’ and decided the best way to understand it was to infiltrate it.”
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In shaping the Conspi-Hunter project, Huchon and the Spicee team drew on advice from Rudy Reichstadt, founder of France’s Conspiracy Watch, anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, sociologist Gérard Bronner, and high school teacher Sophie Mazet, author of the Manual of Intellectual Self-Defence.

Today, Huchon and Spicee’s battle against conspiracy theorists is set to continue.

They plan to follow Conspi-Hunter by mapping “real-time revisionism” and plot how conspiracy theories emerge from breaking news stories.

“We don’t have the choice, we have to answer the questions in front of us – even if we think the questions are ridiculous,” he said.

“We have to answer with intelligence and to the highest standard possible – we need fact-checking and we need to be thinking critically all the time.”

Via The Guardian


headlineImage_adapt_1460_high_Anti-Semitism_Islamophobia_Europe_a_1425930231689

In Europe, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia go hand in hand
Both scourges are projections of the illiberal mind
 
Paul Hockenos

Paris — The spate of anti-Semitic violence in Europe might appear to justify Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for European Jews to move to Israel where, he claims, Jews can be safe.

“Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country,” Netanyahu said on Feb. 15, “but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters, ‘Israel is your home.’ We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe.”

Europe’s Jewry should nevertheless reject Netanyahu’s call. It’s a populist ploy ahead of Israel’s March 17 election. Jewish citizens in Europe should instead be active participants in the societies in which they live, continuing to promote democracy, civil liberties and tolerance of diversity as they have done energetically in the past, to Europe’s enormous benefit.

Nowhere, even in long-established democracies such as France, can the liberal order be taken for granted. Every generation has to fight anew to maintain (or even, in a best case scenario, improve on) the quality of democracy as its circumstances change. Anti-Semitism is one challenge to this struggle, Islamophobia another. The two illiberal ideologies and their implications for open societies are more closely linked than they appear.

Anti-Semitism in Europe

Anti-Semitism is on the rise across Europe, propelled by familiar and new antagonists. The Jan. 9 shooting of four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris followed a string of lethal assaults on Jews across the continent in 2014. Last month an attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, left one man dead and two police officers wounded. The incident forced Jewish schools in Belgium and France to close temporarily. Last year the Jewish Museum in Brussels was bombed. At least eight synagogues were attacked in Europe in July 2014. In Germany, Jewish men wearing the skullcap, or kippa, were harassed, cursed and beaten up on the street.

A 2012 European Union survey of 6,000 Jews in eight European nations, which together account for 90 percent of Europe’s Jewish population, found that 66 percent believed anti-Semitism was on the rise in Europe; 76 percent said anti-Jewish sentiment increased in their country since 2007. In a survey a year later, almost half of the respondents said they were concerned about being verbally insulted or attacked in public. Seventy years after Auschwitz’s liberation, which is being commemorated across Europe, Jewish graves have been desecrated, and Jewish citizens are uncomfortable in certain neighborhoods, particularly those with high proportions of Muslims.

Anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon in postwar Europe. But its usual standard bearers were Europe’s far-right groups. Far-right and populist groups still propagate hatred toward Jews, although in its more muted form than in recent decades. (There’s an anti-Semitic stripe in the far left as well, closely linked with anti-Americanism and sympathy for the Palestinian quest for statehood.) Parties such as the National Front in France, Austria’s Freedom Party and Belgium’s Vlaams Bok have long traded in anti-Semitism. Opinion polls show residual anti-Semitism in most European populations, which is largely understood as a reaction to globalization, modernity and urban values. In Central and Eastern Europe, where there was no postwar reconciliation, anti-Semitism burns hotter as part and parcel of old-school volkish nationalism.

Muslim leaders have to fight anti-Jewish mindsets as actively as Europe’s Jews must help dispel the falsehoods fueling the anti-Islam discourse.

But the far-right anti-Semites now have a more opportune target: Islam. The same tools and tropes that were once used to create fear of and resentment toward Jews have been turned against Muslims. They claim that Muslims are swamping their countries and diluting their national cultures — claims once made against Jews. Whereas Jews were claimed to partake in blood rituals, Islam is cast as an inherently violent religion and all Muslims as threats to European security and identity.

Germany’s PEGIDA movement, which took to the streets in Dresden and elsewhere in Germany in late 2014 and early 2015, offers a perfect example. While PEGIDA’s foremost target was the Muslim community, its closeness to neo-Nazi groups and anti-Israel currents was manifest. One man with an Israeli flag was chased from a PEGIDA demonstration, and marchers carried posters reading “Just say no to Israel” and “Let Germany finally be Germany,” the latter a resentful reference to Germany’s war guilt and coming to grips with the Holocaust. Just as contemporary anti-Semitism is often strongest in places with no Jews, PEGIDA support was the highest in Dresden, a city with a population less than 0.5 percent Muslim. In other words, as with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is highly irrational.

Muslim anti-Semitism

The chief perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence and terrorist attacks, however, are not the far right ideologues but radicalized elements in Europe’s Muslim community. It goes without saying that not all Muslims are anti-Semitic. (Collective guilt is almost always wrong-headed.) But polls show that anti-Semitism is strikingly high among European Muslims, particularly younger Muslim men and women.

A recent French survey found that 74 percent of French Muslims said they believe Jews have too much influence over the nation’s economy. (The figure among non-Muslim French was 25 percent.) Seventy percent of French Muslims said that Jews control the country’s media. A 2013 study by the EU found that Jews in Europe felt most threatened by Muslims in their societies. Günther Jikeli in his new book, “European Muslim Antisemitism,” corroborates these findings and argues that anti-Semitism is pervasive in the beliefs of young European Muslims.

The reasons for the new anti-Semitism are part socioeconomic, part political. So far, the young Muslims involved in the recent attacks against Jews have almost always been the kind of poor, disenfranchised young men whose circumstances breed resentment and anger. In Islam they find a home and identity. The politics of Israel in the Middle East have thrown fuel on the fire consistently over the last two decades; the ongoing violence against the Palestinians in Gaza is only the most recent agony. The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has facilitated the mix of a toxic cocktail that targets Jews across Europe.

But Jews are not necessarily safer in Israel than they are on the streets of Paris or Berlin. Europe is facing an enormous challenge in reacting to this new element in its midst and defeating it without encouraging more converts to radical Islam. We saw this happen in the aftermath of United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in response to the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the Central Intelligence Agency’s black sites and the drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

On Feb. 14, the European Jewish Congress called for enhancing existing anti-racism legislation, which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. It envisions prohibiting the wearing of the full-face veil everywhere in Europe, punishing denial of the Holocaust and hate speech and outlawing praise for a terrorist act. But the proposal is not constructive in the long run. Such measures cast suspicion on all Muslims and would work to alienate rather than integrate.

European countries must devise a way to make Muslims feel part of their societies. Here in Paris it is stunning to experience firsthand how abruptly the City of Light ends at the banlieues, the tenement housing on Paris’ periphery where much of the migrant population lives. Here one leaves the urban wonderland of museums, fine restaurants, graceful apartment buildings and good jobs and enters the underworld of poverty, marginalization, unemployment and ugliness.

There are many ways that French and other European societies can reach out to their Muslim neighbors. This could mean interfaith dialogue, common civic initiatives, integrated schooling and more inclusive governance structures. Projects such as Germany’s Schule Ohne Rassismus, a nonprofit that fights racial bias against Jews, Muslims and others in secondary schools across the country should be replicated elsewhere in Europe. Ultimately, all Europeans, including Muslim communities, must insist on more democracy, civic culture and tolerance. Muslim leaders have to fight anti-Jewish mindsets as actively as Europe’s Jews must help dispel the falsehoods fueling the anti-Islam discourse. This is the way to beat the twin menaces of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Paul Hockenos is a journalist living in Berlin. He has covered the transformations of the EU for over 25 years.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.

How Obama’s Iran deal screwed up Homeland’s third season

 

Thanks a lot, Obama.Thanks a lot, Obama. (Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images, Kent Smith/SHOWTIME)

I am an avid Homeland fan, as is the POTUS.  I doubt that Homeland will be screwed behind the tentative Iran developments…

The Week

Saul Berenson’s grand scheme to assassinate an Iranian official as part of a CIA-orchestrated coup has been bettered by a simpler real-life option: Diplomacy

In a press conference less than 24 hours before Homeland aired the ninth episode of its uneven, Iran-focused third season, President Obama took the podium to offer a brief statement about a breakthrough deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The president described a diplomacy that had “opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

That announcement comes at a strange time for Homeland, which has built a big following by depicting a harrowing post-9/11 political landscape that feels eerily plausible. And the show’s third season has been all about Iran. Homeland‘s vision of the U.S.-Iran relationship shares at least one compelling similarity to real life: The Western world is obsessed with whatever nuclear enrichment might be afoot. But otherwise, the events of this past weekend showcased a sharp contrast between Homeland‘s fiction and the facts of real-life U.S. diplomacy.

The Iran of Homeland‘s third season has fueled nuclear paranoia, and acting CIA director Saul Berenson’s agency has done everything possible to infiltrate this foreign power. As Sunday night’s “One Last Time” revealed, Saul wants to send Nick Brody, a Marine turned terrorist turned fugitive, to kill a high-ranking Iranian intelligence official. This assassination will allow another Iranian official (who the CIA has implausibly blackmailed into working with them) to assume a top position. Saul calls Brody’s target — the head of Iran’s revolutionary guard — “the single greatest impediment to peace” without explaining why. His plan to end a vicious cycle of violence is deploying an assassin. That plotline, brewing all of Homeland’s third season, paints a Manichean picture of U.S.-Iran relations: An unending cycle of terrorist violence, hatred, and confusion.

How strange to have all that murky plotting offset, in the real world, by the first inklings of real dialogue, and an agreement cobbled together in Geneva to buy time and cooperation for something more permanent. In exchange for a reduction in sanctions, Iran will place limits on its much-feared nuclear program. Such news would be unthinkable in Homeland‘s world, and these real-life details mark a sharp contrast to the unsettled post-9/11 world that Homeland revels in.

The drama of Homeland is the drama of the bomber. The show can’t exist without that paranoia, not to mention that often ambiguous line between calm and violence, sanity and bipolar madness. Diplomacy is a distant dream in the world of Homeland. Enemy officials never call each other. Everything is built on backroom deals, blackmail, spying, trickery, and assassination. A deep moral guilt accompanies this battered landscape, as CIA agents like Peter Quinn question the stray causalities they leave behind. The lump-in-the-throat heartstopper of the early seasons revolved around Nick Brody’s rebellion against U.S. drone use and the innocent deaths drones cause.Homeland says the world is already damned, and everyone’s to blame for it.

But there’s a startling disconnect between news of Obama’s outreach, the tentative agreement, and the utter violence of the Iran of Homeland. Because what is Homeland’s Iran if not violent? The series has reached deep into this well of history (often true and troubling, of course), and its convenient thriller narrative in the show’s last several episodes. It assigned blame to Iran for a brutal bombing at Langley, killing more than 200 U.S. citizens. The show marketed this 12/12 attack as a second 9/11, the ghost of which always defines the dynamics at play in Homeland. The villainous Javadi isn’t just the mastermind of killings from afar, but the murderer of his own kin on American soil. Iran, as depicted on Homeland, is incapable of negotiation.

In a recent episode, Sen. Andrew Lockhart scoffs at the idea of blackmailing an Iranian official with knowledge of the official’s corruption. “Which in Iran just means it’s Tuesday,” the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman remarks, writing off the entire country as one of the U.S.’s “sworn enemies.”

“We fry Javadi’s ass publicly,” Lockhart demands, as he seeks to take down the Langley bombing mastermind who serves as an Iranian intelligence chief. This sort of trial strikes Saul as “short-sighted.” Saul would prefer having an asset within Iran, someone the U.S. can “control” to force regime change — the only acceptable option in his mind. (Note to Homeland: The U.S. did something kind of similar 60 years ago. Didn’t work out so well!) To Saul, if the U.S. seizes Javadi and tries him, Iran will inevitably replace Javadi with someone just like him. “And the attack that happened here happens again and again and again,” Saul tells the senator. All of this is fine for drama – but it also showcases the power of Iran in Western imagination, and the divergence between real Iran and TV Iran.

Really, that’s why it’s so bizarre to see this chilling, sinister vision of Iran contrasted with news of a deal crafted between Iran’s government and the U.S., Great Britain, China, Russia, France, and Germany. What would Saul say? Who did the CIA control within Iran to make this possible, Saul? Consider Saul’s explanation for killing an Iranian official and installing his blackmailed bomber in power:

Javadi won’t be just an intelligence source. He’ll be in control of the entire security apparatus. He can do something, something to break the logjam, something besides another war, something that’ll change the facts on the ground just enough, so two countries that haven’t been able to communicate for over 30 years except through terrorist actions and threats can sit down and talk. That’s the play, Carrie. Tell me it’s not worth your time.

Two countries that haven’t been able to communicate. What timing.

This is, of course, the popular conception of Iran, and a testament to how startling the weekend’s agreement really was. The deal blows past the action-movie fantasyland that CIA agents are about to plow into on Homeland. Don’t blame Showtime or Homeland‘s show runners for entrenching that vision of Iran, of course — the frames are certainly common enough. And for a show about U.S. intelligence officials, what better drama than conspiracies and assassinations? But for all the dense plotting of Homeland‘s third season, the real-life events of this weekend punctured Saul’s theories in a big way. It was a welcome dissonance.

Related articles

UVA PROFESSOR: We Cannot Rule Out A Conspiracy To Kill John F. Kennedy

Michael Kelley

JFK

It’s not just crackpots who question the conventional wisdom that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he killed President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, author of “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy” argues that “the chance of some sort of conspiracy involving Oswald is not insubstantial.”

Sabato reached this conclusion after considering 50 years of evidence, even while also debunking a conspiracy theory put forth by a House committee in 1979.

“For all attempts to close the case as ‘just Oswald,’ fair-minded observers continue to be troubled by many aspects of eyewitness testimony and paper trails,” he writes.

The founder of the UVA Center for Politics opened this never-ending debate “because the assassination is critical both to understanding America’s past and future paths and to the lasting legacy of John Kennedy that is the subject of this book.”

Alternative theories cannot be put to rest because of discrepancies and inadequacies in the initial response to the assassination.

To start, there are the questions about why the autopsy was performed at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland, not in Texas as required by the law, and why the Bethesda team did not confer with doctors from the Texas trauma room and did not have the president’s clothes.

“[The autopsy] opens it up to conspiracy theories immediately that the body was altered, the wounds were altered, and all the rest of it,” Sabato told us. “I understand why they couldn’t leave the body there but it would have been so much better if it had been performed in Dallas.”

More questions arise with the investigation ordered by President Lyndon Johnson, which Sabato claims was haphazard and inadequate.

“The problem is the Warren Commission did not do a thorough job when the trail was hot,” Sabato told Business Insider. “The trail went cold decades ago. It is virtually impossible 50 years later to put all of the pieces back together. I’ve interviewed people 50 years later that the Warren Commission never interviewed that were right there and took important photos or films.”

Because of these errors, certain conspiracy theories may never be put to rest.

JFK

The conspiracy theories

While all evidence suggests that Oswald killed Kennedy, some clues suggests that he may not have been the only assassin or that he may not have acted alone.

First, there remains “the live possibility of a second gunman in the grassy knoll area,” given the testimony of several witnesses, the presence of phony Secret Service agents, and the armed men seen in the vicinity of the Dealey plaza before, during, and after the assassination.

Adding to this theory is Dr. Robert McClelland, a physician in the trauma room of the hospital where JFK was taken, who contends that the wound he saw was consistent with a shot from the grassy knoll. Sabato notes that the “ambiguous nature of the visual evidence” has led to experts to disagree as to whether the bullet that entered JFK’s head came from the rear (where Oswald was) or the front (the grassy knoll).

As for the idea that Oswald received help or encouragement, there is no proof that he did, but there also is no proof that he didn’t — and there are reasons to be suspicious.

“For a complete nobody, Oswald certainly did seem to hang out with well-connected people,” Sabato told BI.

Some of those shady connections include:

Upon returning from his short defection to the Soviet Union, Oswald became friends with an international man of mystery named George de Mohrenschildt, who “had ties with American intelligence and the State Department … and killed himself before he could testify to the House Committee on Assassinations,” Sabato said.

When Oswald moved from Dallas to New Orleans, he moved in with his uncle, a small time hustler and bookie for New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. According to an FBI informant, Oswald received money from one of Marcello’s chief lieutenants.

It was in the Big Easy where Oswald became acquainted with the FBI. Oswald handed out pro-Castro literature with the address 544 Camp Street on it. Curiously, FBI agent Guy Bannister and a CIA-backed Cuban Revolutionary Council also rented space at the same location.

“One thing that I’ve always wondered about is [Oswald’s] time in New Orleans because he was apparently associated with Guy Bannister, who clearly had FBI and CIA ties, and yet he’s also scuffling on the street with [the local representative of] an anti-Castro group,” Sabato said.

When Oswald was arrested after the fight, he demanded to speak with FBI, and the agency sent Special Agent John Quigley to see him.

“All of these things are suspicious,” Sabato told BI.

As a teenage Oswald was photographed with David Ferrie, a staunch anticommunist who would allegedly go on to buy weapons from mob boss Marcello and hand them off to Bannister and a CIA asset. Ferrie denied ever knowing Oswald, yet in September 1963, six witnesses alleged that the two showed up at a voter registration office in Clinton, Miss.

“It could be that Oswald was just a Forrest-Gump like character who popped up at interesting moments wherever he happened to live,” Sabato writes. “But just as conceivably, whether related to the Kennedy assassination or not, Oswald actually had secretive contacts with the CIA or the FBI, or both.”

Dealey Plaza

Sabato details several more intriguing connections to Oswald, including the top CIA officials who withheld information about Oswald after he allegedly showed up at the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City on Oct. 9, 1963, in a failed attempt to secure visas so that he could go back to the Soviet Union.

When the CIA Mexico City station informed CIA headquarters that a man named Lee Oswald had been in contact with the Soviet consulate, Langley only sent a bare-bones reply with Oswald’s basic facts. And the CIA, which had self-operating surveillance cameras and telephone bugs in both buildings, has never produced a photo or recordings of Oswald at either embassy.

“The pieces of the Oswald puzzle stamped CIA may be ill-fitting, but they could reasonably create a portrait of covert action,” Sabato writes. “CIA headquarters might have found a good use for Oswald and would not have wanted to share how much they knew about this particular asset with lower-level employees or foreign country stations.”

Taken together, Sabato concludes that the prime suspects for influencing Oswald to murder JFK would be the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans, or a rogue cell within the CIA.

“They all had means, motive, and opportunity,” according to Sabato.

“As far as the CIA goes … it is clear beyond question that the CIA lied repeatedly to the Warren Commission and continued lying to the House Select Committee on Assassinations,” Sabato told BI. “Revealing nothing about the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. Revealing very little about the fact they kept close tabs on Oswald: They knew what he was doing, they were evaluating him. I think they had something in mind. I don’t subscribe to the hidden coup within the CIA, although I don’t rule it out. ”

The suspicions about CIA went all the way to the top. Sabato writes that Marvin Watson, LBJ’s postmaster general, told the FBI that “President Johnson expressed a belief in private in 1967 that the CIA had had a role in Kennedy’s death.”

Where the mystery stands

The Kennedy Half Century

“Given the lack of hard evidence, to accuse any arm or agency of the federal government of orchestrating Kennedy’s assassination is both irresponsible and disingenuous,” Sabato writes. “At the same time, it is impossible to rule out the possibility that small, secret cabal of CIA hard-liners, angry about Kennedy’s handling of Cuba and sensing a leftward turn on negotiations with the Soviets … took matters into their own hands lest the United States go soft on Communism.”

The truth is that we may never know.

“I think this subject after 50 years requires some humility, which very few analysts of the assassination have,” Sabato told BI.

“I am tired of reading books by authors who are absolutely certain that they have found the truth about the assassination. Malarkey,” Sabato said. “There is no way to have a full picture. We are where we are and I think we are just going to have to accept that.”

New details could come out soon, however, when thousands of documents are scheduled to be released in October 2017.

“The President at that time will get to rule whether anything can remain secret and redacted,” Sabato said.


CIA Kept Area 51 Secret Because Rumors Cooler Than Reality

Kelsey D. Atherton
[Australian Popular Science gives credence to what we’ve repeatedly inferred, that conspiracy theories are frequently employed as a style of propaganda. In this case, fabricated UFO and Alien conspiracies employed as a cover for real, but secret military experiments. As noted on this site previously, conspiracy theorists were the most prominent dupes and disseminators of crackpot, anti-American propaganda entirely fabricated by the Kremlin, for instance manufactured anti- American AIDS conspiracies as well anti-US, Kremlin invented JFK conspiracies.]
<strong>A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes</strong> One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
A Pair Of U-2 Spyplanes One the left is an original U-2, with an 80 feet wingspan, and on the right is a U-2R with a wingspan of 103 feet.
IMAGE BY Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday the CIA declassified a 400-page document about Area 51, the secret facility in the Nevada desert that has fascinated armchair historians and tormented conspiracy theorists for decades.

The site, about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, has been associated with a number of legends and rumors: about strange aircraft, experimental weapons, weather control, and especially aliens. So many alien conspiracy theories.

Area 51, it turns out, was just test site that housed spy planes, most notably the U-2. Introduced in 1957, the U-2 could travel as far as 7,000 miles, at an altitude of 70,000 feet, and stay airborne for up to 12 hours. U-2s are still in service with the U.S. Air Force today, and the old film cameras have been replaced U-2s used to carry have been replaced by digital cameras. In fact, some public land has weird, barcode-like patterns on it, built for U-2 camera tests.

Why is the CIA involved? Before spy satellites, U-2s flew over the Soviet Union to collect information about the USSR’s nuclear program. This was intelligence by airplane, conducted secretly and with huge consequences on the international stage. In 1960, a U-2 was shot down by Russia, spoiling a diplomatic meeting and escalating Cold War tensions. Later, in 1962, a U-2 took photos of what looked like preparations for nuclear weapons in Cuba, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is all old history by now, but when the CIA first classified the U-2 program and chose to keep Area 51 a secret, it was state-of-the-art technology, and an incredibly important test site for collecting secrets.

The declassification of the CIA’s documents won’t deter any conspiracy theorists; the kind of person who thinks the government creates weather machines for mind control will have no qualms believing the government also falsifies documents to cover up evidence of the same.


Unfortunate sons: CIA and DoD betrayal of their own
Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus at the New York Stock Exchange, where the CIA commemorated its 65th anniversary in September.
Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus at the New York Stock Exchange, where the CIA commemorated its 65th anniversary in September.
Credits: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Projects included involuntary human research subjects, failure to obtain informed consent and conducting surveillance. Symptoms experienced by research subjects included perceptions animals came through walls, amnesia and post traumatic stress disorder. While UFO buffs and self-described investigators might be quick to tell a person describing such an ordeal that they were likely abducted by aliens, it was actually the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense and associates that designed, conducted and concealed such research projects.

Covert operations consisting of abusing and monitoring involuntary human research subjects escalated to what could be described as unconscionable proportion during the mid 20th century. Victims included but were not limited to U.S. citizens and members of the armed forces. Such circumstances led select UFO researchers to strongly suspect the intelligence community was much more responsible for what came to be known as the modern UFO phenomenon and alien abduction than some would prefer we consider.

This writer’s plunge into the implications resulted in assessing that further research is indeed justified. My work with Leah Haley, a former self-described alien abductee who now believes herself to be a victim of covert research projects, revealed a number of relevant yet unanswered questions. The same could be said for circumstances surrounding such cases as the extremely intriguing Gulf Breeze Six and my interactions with certain additional members of the UFO community.

Similarly, my work related to members of the intelligence community who jockeyed to become staples of UFO conventions revealed numerous potentially important yet often unaddressed issues. Such individuals and their circumstances included the incredible claims and career path of Commander C.B. Scott Jones. I also considered the manner Military Intelligence Hall of Fame member Major General Albert N. Stubblebine III publicly claimed knowledge of covert mind control operations continuing after Congress ordered them ceased, yet the general failed to respond to multiple requests for clarification. I additionally had the opportunity to observe a man who is chronically interviewed yet rarely asked relevant questions, Colonel John B. Alexander, refuse to participate in a previously agreed upon interview with this writer. I continue to welcome their statements should the general or colonel ever decide to address issues I presented for their consideration in such posts on ‘The UFO Trail’ as ‘John Alexander, Contradictions and Unanswered Questions’ and ‘Ufology and Alleged Post-MKULTRA Mind Control’.

So, you might ask, why would some researchers immerse themselves in such circumstances while running down stories of black budget operations that go back some 60 years? One reason would be because the stories remain current.

Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al.

The San Francisco law offices of Morrison and Foerster are collectively representing Vietnam Veterans of America, Swords to Plowshares (a veterans advocacy organization) and a few specific veterans in a suit currently pending. The case is being handled pro bono against the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, U.S. Army and Department of Veterans Affairs. The suit states:

Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only – no monetary damages – and Plaintiffs seek redress for several decades of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:

  • the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry;
  • the failures to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;
  • an almost fanatical refusal to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;
  • the deliberate destruction of evidence and files documenting their illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.

The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants’ actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.

Readers familiar with the Project MKULTRA saga and related authenticated documents will be aware such circumstances as cited by Morrison and Foerster have long been acknowledged and conceded by the CIA. Basically, the agencies being sued do not deny what took place, they just want no current responsibilities in the matters.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in October that the suit could continue forward, setting the stage for a 2013 summer showdown. Judge Wilken denied repeated government attempts to derail the suit, ruling that federal regulations require notifying participants of increases in knowledge of potential health hazards. She additionally ruled the suit could include involuntary research subjects and their heirs dating as far back as 1922.

Sources such as the San Francisco Chronicle and Military.com reported an estimated 7,600 service members were abused in experiments conducted at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 to 1975. As many as 100,000 people are suspected of being subjected to hundreds of drugs, chemicals and biological agents without their informed consent and spanning over 50 years.

Plaintiff Frank D. Rochelle served in the Army in the late 1960’s and volunteered to be stationed at Edgewood for what he was apparently led to believe were harmless tests. During one incident, Rochelle stated, “I stayed high for two days.”

Rochelle experienced hallucinations of animals coming out of the walls and at one point he used a razor blade to try to remove what he thought were bugs from beneath his skin. Upon leaving Edgewood, Rochelle says he was instructed to never tell anyone about his experiences there. He was later assigned to Vietnam.

Congressional hearings into MKULTRA were conducted during the 1970’s. Testimony from individuals such as former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner included assurances a list would be produced of exploited veterans. Turner further stated that the participants would be notified of their involvement and provided proper medical care. The commitments were never fulfilled.

“Over 30 years ago,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan stated, “the government promised to locate the victims of the MKULTRA experiments and to take care of their needs. It now is painfully obvious that what it really wants is for the victims to just quietly die off while the government takes baby steps. VVA cannot leave these veterans behind.”

Potential significance to UFO Land

Researchers with whom I discussed the lawsuit were confident the CIA will never produce a complete list of involuntary human research subjects or notify all of them of the circumstances, regardless of what courts may rule. Reasons included possibilities that some victims might be prominent figures.

Many members of the UFO community avert from the implications for any number of reasons. I nonetheless invite consideration of just a few of the many potentially significant possibilities.

What if we were to find that a famous political figure had been an MKULTRA research subject? Would you find that interesting?

How about an infamous criminal? Would it interest you if you found out such a person had been an involuntary research subject?

More specific to ufology, imagine if we were to discover a high profile, self-described alien abductee was a former mind control subject; or an iconic researcher of alien abduction. Might you find those kinds of things worthy of further research?

What if you found out a family member was among the unfortunate sons? What would you think about that?

How about if you were notified that you were a former uninformed research subject? Then would the topic interest you?

Vietnam veteran Frank D. Rochelle and his fellow plaintiffs find themselves at the center of what became a decades-long saga. Them, and about 100,000 or so redacted others.


Propaganda and UFOs in Movies and Television with Comments from Robbie Graham

Big bucks are spent manipulating belief systems via the big screen.

In the novel ‘1984’, author George Orwell described life under a totalitarian regime in which a disingenuous Ministry of Truth regularly rewrote history to effectively promote the state. It might therefore be considered darkly ironic that the Central Intelligence Agency changed the ending to the movie version of the story. The change portrayed a less morally defeated main character than contained in the book and against the specific instructions of Orwell. The CIA apparently did not want movie goers to think Big Brother was all that bad.

That was the case according to Frances Stonor Saunders, author of the 2000 book, ‘The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters’. Stonor Saunders further reported the CIA purchased the film rights to Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ following his death in 1950. Agents were dispatched to visit Orwell’s widow and secure the rights so the Agency could present a more overtly anti-Communist message than the author saw fit to do in his original classic novel. Orwell used a tale of political unrest among animals on a farm to metaphorically suggest the fundamental difference between greedy, power hungry capitalists and greedy, power hungry Communists was impossible to discern, a point that seemed to have sat no better with the actual CIA than it might have sat with the fictional Ministry of Truth.
It is clear the media is used for propaganda purposes. The sources of such propaganda may represent a wide range of individuals and organizations, and the range of motives may be just as broad.

UFO censorship and propaganda
A review of such events in ufology might quickly turn our attention to insights provided by researcher Robbie Graham. A self-described independent scholar, Graham reports on such topics as processes by which Hollywood’s UFO movie content is shaped and the resulting impact on popular perception. According to his Blogger profile, Graham holds a Masters degree with Distinction in Cinema Studies from the University of Bristol and a First Class Honours degree in Film, Television and Radio Studies from Staffordshire University. He maintains the blog ‘Silver Screen Saucers’, has contributed content and interviews to numerous venues, and has collaborated on research projects with Matthew Alford. Their work includes a 2011 paper titled, ‘A History of Government Management of UFO Perceptions through Film and Television’, which presents many items of potential interest.

One such item involved a 1958 CBS broadcast in which the network subsequently admitted it was subjected to official censorship. During a televised discussion about UFOs in which military officers participated, the microphone of U.S. Navy Major Donald Keyhoe was cut. The major was muted when he made apparently unapproved statements, including suggesting UFOs were real machines under intelligent control. Nine days later, CBS director of editing, Herbert A. Carlborg, acknowledged that “pre-determined security standards were in place” and that deviations thereof were not authorized for release, resulting in the censorship.

Graham and Alford inform us that during the 1980’s the Department of Defense assisted in the production of a UFO fantasy film for children, ‘Invaders from Mars’. The DoD granted full cooperation, including providing Major Fred Peck and Chief Warrant Officer Chas Henry of the Los Angeles Public Affairs Office to assist the director. What’s more, a retired public affairs officer, Captain Dale Dye, prepared extras for the film.

There are many such examples. Government agencies clearly have certain levels of interest in productions involving UFO-related subject matter and controlling public perception of alleged alien space travelers. The history is long and well documented.

Some of the more recent events on the time-line include the splash Chase Brandon made in 2012 when he cannonballed into the deep end of the pool of ufology. Described by Graham and Alford as a 35-year veteran of the CIA, Brandon was apparently employed for some 25 years in undercover covert operations prior to his assignment in 1996 as an Entertainment Liaisons Officer. He was then involved for ten years in shaping film scripts, characters and concepts.

Brandon also claimed he knew about an official cover-up of alien bodies retrieved from Roswell or some such stuff. Such circumstances arguably give added meaning to the now classic line from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

Just how influential are intelligence agencies in manipulating UFO-related film scripts, info presented in documentaries and so on? “Very influential,” Graham informed me via email, but that is by no means to suggest Hollywood is entirely controlled by the powers that be, because of course it is not.

“Whatever effect UFO movies have on our perceptions of the phenomenon,” Graham continued, “it is largely the result of a natural cultural process whereby Hollywood creatives feed off of existing UFO literature and debate, and incorporate these ideas into their narratives. Just because a film contains specialized UFOlogical detail does not mean it has been produced at the behest of the US government for acclimation or disinformation purposes. More often than not, it means the screenwriter has read one or more books on UFOs or watched some documentaries on the subject and thought it would be cool to incorporate some of these ideas into a fictional story.

“That said, and as Matthew Alford and I showed in our peer reviewed article, the US government and military have demonstrated a very keen interest in Hollywood’s UFO output since the early years of the phenomenon and have, on occasion, monitored and successfully interfered in the production process of UFO-themed movies and documentaries. So, is there a Hollywood UFO conspiracy? Yes and no.”

Motives
Identifying motives for the vast majority of investors in film and other forms of media is simple enough. Some want to increase public awareness of topics in which they have personal interests. Some are artists and support the arts. Many, of course, desire to profit from their financial investments.

In the case of government manipulation of media and resulting perceptions about UFOs, motives become more difficult to conclusively identify. The fact such manipulation occurs is clear enough, but precisely why it happens is the subject of debate.

Some would argue a gradual disclosure of an alien presence is taking place. Others would disagree, suggesting such a gradual disclosure is highly unlikely for reasons including it has seemingly been crawling along at a snail’s pace for over 60 years.

Others still would suggest government interference in the Hollywood-portrayed UFO phenomenon might be indicative of efforts to cover up an alien presence – not disclose it. Arguments to this effect commonly include citing circumstances of official censorship of potentially relevant events. Those who support such theories and the extraterrestrial hypothesis also tend to suggest the topic is intentionally made to appear silly in an official attempt to devalue its likelihood and oppress serious public consideration.

Yet others argue government manipulation of public perceptions about UFOs might be due to it being a scam – that select members of the powers that be actually want us to believe in a nonexistent alien presence. Supporters of this school of thought suggest the intelligence community finds it advantageous to conduct some of its covert operations, such as certain projects involving advanced aircraft or psychological experiments, within the confusion and resulting cover provided by an alien meme. Some suspect the intelligence community has essentially perpetrated an alien hoax for numerous advantageous reasons.

Perhaps the truth is found somewhere among and between such possibilities, not entirely within or without any of them. Perhaps certain events indeed involve circumstances that confound many of us, but in reality have nothing whatsoever to do with interplanetary spaceships or their alleged occupants, interesting and fascinating as correct explanations might actually be. And perhaps sometimes the intelligence community indeed manipulates perception of such circumstances for many reasons.

Robbie Graham on UFOs in the movies
“Feature films and documentaries influence our opinions about pretty much everything, including UFOs,” Graham explained, “to a very great extent indeed. Outside of the UFO community – which is relatively very small – almost no one reads factual UFO literature (and most UFO literature isn’t very ‘factual’ anyway). For most people, ideas about UFOs and potential ET life come via TV and cinema – either in the form of ‘factual’ documentary series (such as ‘Ancient Aliens’, for example), or, more traditionally, through the fantastical imaginings of Hollywood creatives. TV and cinema are, without question, the two biggest ‘spoons’ feeding us ideas about UFOs and ET life.”

Graham suggested cinema is more powerful than television, lingering much longer in the memory. He gives television its due in cultural influence, but described cinema as having a mystical ability to completely detach us from our physical environments while creating a vivid realm of perception.

“But regardless of the medium through which they are screened, movies can pack a punch that we feel for weeks, months, or even years afterward. The power of the story – of storytelling – is primal, and essential. Movies, in their slick, neatly packaged, self-contained way, serve to narrativize the frustratingly non-narrative, and therefore unpredictable and confusing events, processes, and ideas that constitute our world. Life rarely makes sense, but movies usually do, and in that we take comfort – rightly or wrongly.”

How does Graham assess the overall accuracy of UFO documentaries, films based on true stories and similar such productions?
“Most TV documentary series about UFOs are sensationalized pap,” he replied. “This is a shame, because even the worst of them do include demonstrably factual and important information about the phenomenon; sadly, this information is usually presented in the tackiest and most hyperbolic manner, which has the effect of discrediting the actual material.”

Graham thinks there are a handful of very good documentaries dealing with the UFO issue, including ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘I Know What I Saw’ by James Fox. This would be the case, Graham added, even though Fox himself criticized what Graham termed “the impossibly ridiculous” National Geographic TV series, ‘Chasing UFOs’, in which Fox appeared last year.

As for films, Graham gives thumbs ups to the 1994 TV movie ‘Roswell’ by Paul Davids, ‘Fire in the Sky’ about the Travis Walton saga and ‘Communion’, in which the Whitley Strieber story is presented. The films do not always represent details in entirely accurate manners, Graham observed, but the films are nonetheless memorable and reasonable portrayals of the stories.

“So, while some UFO movies are arguably quite accurate in their depiction of certain aspects of the phenomenon, I think it’s impossible for any UFO movie to give an entirely accurate depiction of the phenomenon as a whole because, quite simply, no one in the world can claim to have a complete understanding of what we’re dealing with. Still, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of UFO/alien-themed movies take a considerable amount of artistic license with the UFO phenomenon as experienced by millions of people. And that’s absolutely fine, of course – Hollywood is interested in entertaining, not educating. But we do need to constantly remind ourselves of this fact, especially when watching films dealing with the UFO/ET issue: movies, no matter how realistic they are in the events they depict (and regardless of the nature of the events they are depicting), are not real life. They are, at best, reflections of our reality, snapshots of it, simulations of it, skewed and distorted through the ideological framework of those who have made them.

“Movies masquerade as the final word on a given topic. No matter what the subject, and regardless of how much that subject has already been written about and debated, once it is committed to film – once it has received the full Hollywood treatment – it is embedded in its glossy cinematic form firmly and forever into the popular consciousness.”

Commenting further on the extent such films result in largely inaccurate beliefs held by the public, Graham continued, “Cinema and TV are meme generators, or at least meme magnifiers. Think, for example, of the idea of ‘Little Green Men’. Actually, although little green beings were reported in the Hopkinsville, Kentucky ‘farm siege’ of 1955 and the ‘little green men’ term itself was coined by the press in their reporting of that event, it was Hollywood that took this meme and ran with it in the 1957 movie ‘Invasion of the Saucer Men’, in which little green men terrorize a small town in rural America. One of the characters describes the alien she encounters as ‘a little green man.’ Hollywood has thrown the ‘little green men’ meme at us ever since in movies too numerous to list (though the ‘Toy Story’ movies immediately spring to mind, as do ‘Planet 51’ and ‘Aliens in the Attic’). But actually, as anyone who has studied this subject knows, green beings – little or otherwise – are almost never reported by UFO witnesses.”

What does Graham think is most important for us to understand about the relationship between the film industry and UFO subject matter?
“Quite simply, when it comes to our understanding of UFO phenomena and our expectations regarding potential extraterrestrial life – make no mistake about it – movies matter… perhaps more even than anything else.  As audiences, we should therefore seek to actively engage with Hollywood’s depictions of UFOs and extraterrestrials – to look up from our popcorn once in a while and acknowledge that such phenomena spring first and foremost not from the minds of Hollywood creatives, but from the fabric of our lived historical reality. By more actively engaging with Hollywood’s UFO movies, we enhance our ability to distinguish UFO fact from fantasy, and to more easily identify and understand the political thinking behind instances of government manipulation of UFO-themed entertainment products.”

Looking ahead
Taking a look forward on the time-line of television and UFOs, we might turn our attention to an item that stated, “We’re seeking subjects for the first season of a new TV show for a leading US cable network.” The item specified interest in people who “have had an extraterrestrial encounter, seen a UFO, been abducted” or similar, and was posted on several UFO-related discussion forums and blogs. The post stated experts were available to help, yet provided no details other than a relatively generic hotmail address. However, one website which published the post identified a Lauren James as a contact.
Your writer sent emails to the hotmail address provided and requested permission to ask some questions about the upcoming production in order to include responses in a blog post. No replies were received from Lauren James, helpful experts or anyone else, for whatever reasons.

While there may of course be many reasons the involved parties might prefer to not field questions about their project, they might nonetheless choose to take the nature of the genre into ample consideration in the future and plan accordingly. Distrust understandably tends to figure rather prominently within the UFO community, and providing reasonable amounts of information tends to be much more of the solution than the problem.

Items on the film and UFOs horizon include The John Mack Project, which includes a forthcoming movie from Denise David Williams of MakeMagic Productions. David Williams reports that she secured the life rights to the late researcher of alleged alien abduction, Dr. Mack, apparently giving her exclusive access to and portrayal of the information contained in his books, personal archives, journals, manuscripts and similar such property.

Further research suggests the subject of life rights has become increasingly relevant when producing documentaries and films based on what are promoted as true stories. Obtaining such rights stands to become important when telling a story or retelling it if the story has previously been presented in another media or context. Life rights may also become relevant to ensure due consideration and/or compensation is provided to researchers who invest significant amounts of time and resources in a story.

Beliefs
A wide variety of individuals, corporations and agencies are clearly competing to influence your beliefs about alleged extraterrestrial visitors, for whatever ultimate reasons. Successfully accomplishing the task has apparently been identified as worthy of substantial amounts of money and sustained effort.

Ultimately, we are each responsible for that which we choose to believe, as well as how we arrive at such choices. Please recognize and be mindful of how you make your decisions.
Sanctity of free thought should be cherished and encouraged to thrive. Consciously develop your process of making intellectual choices, honor and respect your process, and do not allow it to be overtly or covertly hijacked.