FULL VIDEO: CN LIVE!: Webb on Epstein and the Guardian, the NYT and WikiLeaks: Episode 6

Episode 6 of CN Live! Whitney Webb’s powerful interview on Epstein and Mark Davis on The Guardian, the NYT, WikiLeaks and the publication of the Afghan War Logs.

CN Live!‘s live stream was interrupted for unknown causes on Friday. We recorded the program at its source and provide here the full broadcast, which includes blistering remarks about how the corporate media dealt with Julian Assange, as well as a powerful, hour-long, in-depth interview with journalist Whitney Webb on the life and death of Jeffery Epstein.

Watch the complete show here:

 




JOHN KIRIAKOU: How a Suicide Watch Really Works

If Jeffrey Epstein’s death turns out to have been self-inflicted, it would represent a complete breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect him.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

A cottage industry has been spawned over the past week for the chattering classes on every network to comment on the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier charged with sex-trafficking of underage girls. 

The talking heads have also babbled on about the inner workings of federal prisons.  Nearly every word I’ve heard is either factually incorrect, out of context, or fantastical.  I spent 23 months in a federal penitentiary and served on  suicide watch over a fellow inmate.  So I can set the record straight about how suicide watches work in federal prisons, and about the conditions that led Epstein, apparently, to take his own life.  If Epstein’s death turns out to have been an actual suicide, it would be the result of a complete breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect him.

First, suicide watch in the federal prison system is a big deal.  When a prisoner is suicidal, or has attempted suicide, he is placed in a designated “suicide watch room.”  It is a physical room in the medical unit where one wall is a window.  The prisoner is stripped naked and given a paper smock to wear.  There are no sheets or pillowcases on the bed. So the prisoner doesn’t harm himself, there is nothing else inside the room other than a sink and a toilet. Outside that window wall, a rotating shift of prisoner volunteers sits 24 hours a day to watch the prisoner to make sure he doesn’t attempt suicide again.  There are also video cameras inside the room to ensure the prisoner does not try to harm himself.  Uniformed guards check on the prisoner every 30 minutes, and a nurse, physician’s assistant, or psychologist visits the prisoner at least once a day.

When the prisoner is released from suicide watch, which usually takes a week or two, one of two things happen:  Either the prisoner is returned to his cell, where he normally has between one and five cellmates, or he is sent to solitary confinement, where he can be watched more closely than he could be watched in the general population.  In most prisons, solitary confinement is not at all solitary.  Solitary confinement is usually grossly overcrowded with two or even three prisoners in each cell built for one.  One prisoner is in a bunk and the other one or two sleep on mats on the floor.  Depending on the prison, guards patrol the unit every 15 or 30 minutes to make sure than nothing untoward is taking place.  And don’t forget that there are security cameras that cover literally every inch of a prison every minute of every day.  At least, there are supposed to be.

Many Mistakes

So how did Epstein kill himself, if that’s what happened?  Every safeguard at every turn had to fail.  First, we know that Epstein was not on suicide watch.  He had been removed, despite the fact that he had only recently attempted suicide. That was a mistake. 

We know also that Epstein was returned to a two-man cell and that his cellmate had been transferred to another prison, leaving him alone there.  That was a mistake. 

We know that two of the three guards who were responsible for watching Epstein were not trained corrections officers. The prison was short staffed — most are — and two of the three guards were actually supposed to be assigned elsewhere in the prison.  (Secretaries, nurses, even the dentist and the chaplain sometimes pitch in when there aren’t enough guards.)  That was a mistake.

Two of the three guards also were exhausted. One had worked overtime five days in a row and another was working mandatory overtime.  That was a mistake.  The guards were supposed to make rounds every 30 minutes to make sure that everything was in order and no prisoners were in danger.  They didn’t do that.  That was yet another mistake.

None of these observations answers the question of whether Epstein actually committed suicide.  It appears that he did.  But, let’s not forget that in any prison in America, sex offenders — and especially those who sexually assault children — are the lowest of the low. Their lives are always in danger. I can tell you a hundred stories of assaults on pedophiles that I observed from my time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania. 

One of the reasons that almost all pedophiles are kept in low-security prisons is that they’re so much more likely to be assaulted or even murdered in higher-security facilities and they’re not eligible to be placed in minimum-security work camps because of the gravity of their crimes.  The Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, however, where Epstein was awaiting trial, is a maximum-security facility because it’s a transportation center. Almost every prisoner there is awaiting trial and will eventually be sent somewhere else.  Epstein was likely a marked man from the minute he walked through the door.

I don’t know if Epstein committed suicide. When we have to choose between incompetence and conspiracy, I usually go with incompetence, though there are many powerful people who were in Epstein’s circle who would not have wanted facts to emerge at his trial. One cannot rule out that all these mistakes made could have been intentional to create the conditions for him to attempt suicide again—this time successfully.

One of my attorneys gave me some advice before I left for prison. “Don’t make anybody angry,” he said. “Most prisoners are attached to one gang or another — the Italians, the Aryans, the Crips and the Bloods, MS-13, the Mexican drug gangs. Every one of them has a long arm and they can reach into any prison in the country.”

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




Epstein’s Death & the Investigation of Powerful Networks

Craig Murray delves into allegations against Jeffrey Epstein and another suspicious death that the case recalls.  

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

There are a number of royal palaces and grand residences of former presidents and prime ministers where the inhabitants have a little bit more spring in their step following the death of Jeffrey Epstein. The media is rushing to attach the label “conspiracy theory” to any thought that his death might not have been suicide. In my view, given that so many very powerful people will be relieved he is no longer in a position to sing, and given that he was in a maximum-security jail following another alleged “suicide attempt” a week ago, it would be a very credulous person who did not view the question of who killed him an open one.

There has been a huge amount of obfuscation and misdirection on the activities of Epstein and his set. To my mind, the article which remains the best starting point for those new to the scandal is this one from Gawker. 

A few days ago a federal court unsealed 2,000 pages of documents related to the allegations against Epstein. Of these the most important appears to be a witness statement from Virginia Giuffre alleging that while a minor she had sex at Epstein’s direction with then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, plus a variety of senior foreign politicians.

Epstein’s sexual activities and partying with young girls were carried out in full view of key friends, his domestic and office staff, his pilots and of course the participants. There is no shortage of potential witnesses. Several of these really ought to be taking great care – though if I were them I would certainly eschew any protection involving U.S. security services or law enforcement. Ghislaine Maxwell might take heed of her father’s fate and avoid swimming for a few years.

(I am probably not the only one old enough to compare the many similarities between Robert Maxwell’s asset stripping career and that of Philip Green. The progress of society after 30 years of Thatcher, New Labour and returned Tories meaning that Green by contrast got no criminal charges and much bigger yachts.)

Evidence Concerning Prince Andrew

In the U.K., Giuffre’s alleged relationship with Prince Andrew has been mentioned in the media. In fact the evidence that she had a relationship with Prince Andrew of some sort is overwhelming. Here is some of the actual evidence from the court documents.

The age of heterosexual consent in England is 16 and there is no indication that Prince Andrew is doing anything illegal in this photograph in which Giuffre is 17. Nor is the photo in itself evidence of sex, though it certainly is intimate. The notion however that Giuffre was “lent out” to Andrew may have legal implications as she was flown into the country, allegedly for the purpose.

No satisfactory alternative explanation has been offered as to what might have been happening here, as Giuffre’s lawyers noted.

No further details appear in the documents to amplify Giuffre’s claim that she was forced to have sex with a “well known prime minister,” other than to repeat the claim. But what is plain is that her tale is not entirely invention. Just how much more did Epstein know, and who might he have taken down with him?

Bill Clinton’s Epstein Connection 

The truth is that sexual abuse by the rich and famous transcends all political boundaries. Bill Clinton was very frequently on Epstein’s plane and Epstein joins the very long list of those connected to the Clintons who died in dubious circumstances.

Two coincidences – the first being the bruise marks on the neck sustained in Epstein’s first “suicide attempt” in jail – remind me of the case of John Ashe, the senior official very close to the Clintons who died with bruise marks on his neck, when he accidentally dropped his barbell on his throat while bench-pressing alone at home.

Ashe was charged and awaiting trial for receiving corrupt funds from businessman Ng Lap Seng while Ashe was serving in the USA’s turn as president of the UN General Assembly. Ng Lap Seng, a six-time visitor to the Clinton White House, had previously been accused of making very large illegal donations to Clinton campaign funds, and was subsequently arrested while entering the USA with over $4 million in cash. Unlike the Clintons, Ashe was charged with taking Seng’s money and rather like Epstein may have had an interesting song to sing while going down, had he not conveniently dropped the barbell on his throat.

I said that the first thing that jogged me to link the Epstein/Clinton and the Ashe/Clinton cases was the bruise marks on the throat. The second is that both stories have been debunked by self-proclaimed “conspiracy-busting” website Snopes – in a manner which shows that Snopes has no regard for the truth whatsoever.

In the case of John Ashe, Snopes wrote an utterly tendentious piece of “myth-busting” which stated that it was a myth that Ashe’s death occurred shortly before his trial and that he was not due to testify against the Clintons. Snopes failed to mention that Ashe, a very senior Clinton appointee, was charged with taking corrupt money from precisely the same man who had been very widely accused of giving corrupt money to the Clintons. And while it was true his trial was not imminent, his pre-trial deposition was. 

In the Epstein/Clinton case Snopes wrote a piece debunking the notion that this is a photograph of Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private jet.

Snopes sets out to prove that this is not Epstein’s private jet but that of another billionaire, and that the girl is not Rachel Chandler. For the sake of argument I am prepared to accept what they say on both counts. But is the sensible reaction to that photo to say “Oh that’s OK it’s another billionaire’s jet” or to say “Why is Bill Clinton on a billionaire’s private jet in an intimate pose with a worryingly young female?” As with the Prince Andrew photo, although it has been circulating for years, no alternative innocent explanation is on offer.

Passion for Sexual Exploitation

And the fact that this is another billionaire’s plane should open again the much wider question of networks of the rich and the powerful indulging each other’s passion for sexual exploitation of the young. It is a great shame that in the U.K., the Establishment has been able to characterize the falsifications of Carl Beech as discrediting the entire notion of historical child sexual abuse. It is as though one person making up stories about a bishop would mean there was never child exploitation in the Catholic Church.

The deeper question is why such a significant proportion of the rich and powerful have a propensity to want to assuage their sexual desires on the most vulnerable and powerless in society, as opposed to forming relationships among their peers. I suspect it is connected to the kind of sociopathy that leads somebody to seek or hoard power or wealth in the first place. 

It is not necessary to develop that idea further, to understand that the Epstein case had given us a glimpse of criminal sexual behavior which, beyond doubt, involves many powerful people. It is essential that the threads that can be grasped are now worked on assiduously to uncover the entire network. 

I am afraid to say I suspect the chances of that actually happening are very slim indeed.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

This article is from CraigMurray.org.uk.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




How Holmes Would Work the Epstein Case

Given the roll call of high and mighty involved, Michael Brenner inspects the many dead ends investigators are likely to hit.    

By Michael Brenner

Jeffrey Epstein is dead. An alleged suicide who was found strangled in his prison cell Saturday morning at the federal Metropolitan Correction Center in NYC. He made an apparent previous attempt on July 23 – after which he was placed under suicide watch and received daily psychiatric examinations for six days. On July 29 he was returned to his original cell with the suicide watch removed, but scheduled to be checked by guards every 30 minutes. They did not do so the night of his death. There is a suggestion that they were working an unnaturally long overtime shift.

That’s all we know for sure. Let’s put ourselves in the position of those famed fictional detectives and consider their methods for dealing with hundreds of such cases. What lessons have Jules Maigret, Cain, Inspector Salvo Montelbano, et al, taught us?  

First, we should attempt to ascertain with as much exactitude as the evidence permits what happened. Epstein choked to death – by what means? A belt?  The legs of his trousers? By his own hands?  If the first, why wasn’t the elementary rule of removing every possible instrument of self-destruction from the cell observed – especially whatever it was he used in the first attempt? Where did he hang himself from – an overhanging pipe or other protuberance? If so, why was he placed in a cell so designed? 

Forensics  

How long had Epstein been dead when the body was discovered? Do we know with certainty the cause of death, i.e. could he have been killed by poison, for example, before the hanging? How long would it normally take for one to die from a self-administered hanging of this sort? How does that relate to the sequence of look-ins by guards? Are there any other observable marks on the cadaver?  

Motives 

Numerous. All those associated with Epstein before his 2006 conviction, during his virtual imprisonment, and subsequently by whomever might appear in his little black book, or remembered by pilots or other staff (e.g. one pilot testified that former President Bill Clinton was on 10-to-20 “Lolita Express” flights; the doorman at Epstein’s Manhattan apartment saw President Donald Trump join the party on several occasions). We are talking about a large slice of the American elite – political, economic, legal, entertainment. More than a cross-section, it is a veritable roll-call of the high and mighty. In addition, there is Prince Andrew and an array of Gulf sheiks. They all had compelling reason to want to keep Epstein’s mouth shut. So, too, those who arranged his unprecedented, highly dubious plea bargain in 2006.  

That may include the FBI and/or CIA which had a strong situationally defined interest in getting their hooks into Epstein who was in a position to blackmail all of the above. So, too Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Let’s note that Ghislaine Maxwell (Epstein’s No. 2 and sometime “partner”) is the daughter of the British publisher Robert Maxwell who is now known to have run an extensive intelligence network for Mossad among the London elite for which he was honored by President Shimon Peres and six former intelligence chiefs when buried in Jerusalem after a mysterious death off his private yacht in 1991. 

Cooperation from any of this list of suspects is unlikely. 

Interrogation 

Appropriate methods vary by person and circumstance. Here are a few standard techniques to get tongues wagging. 

No. 1. Build an irrefutable case against one of the suspects and then use that as leverage to induce a denunciation of others – particularly the most exposed and vulnerable. This is an old standard that retains its effectiveness. Blackmail holds its value. Some of the young women who served as sex slaves for our lords and masters should be able to identify the most recognizable figures. Doubtless, though, most have either been bought off (as Trump did Stormy Daniels and others), will be bribed, or blackmailed by virtue of their reluctance to put at risk their present lives. And they will need guarantees of protection. From whom? – accidents happen.

No. 2. Physical coercion.  Fortunately or not, this method is ruled out because of the case’s high visibility. Moreover, CIA Director Gina Haspel is currently unavailable as she is fighting tooth-and-nail to stay in the good graces of her boss. In addition, the Thai government reportedly has withdrawn its grant of access to the local “black sites” out of fear that the country’s highly lucrative sex tourism trade could be harmed by further exposure of the unsavory goings-on beyond the world of massage parlors. 

No. 3. Psychology. There are a variety of approaches that evidently are more effective for eliciting vital information than physical coercion. Only morons like those in the CIA believe that you can beat the truth out of resistant suspects – of course, for them the real satisfaction came in the torture rather than in the solicitation of vital information. Revenge is what the War on Terror has been all about. There is also the risk that they will fabricate information in order to stop the pain and/or because they have paid to do so. 

Those more subtle methods may run into other obstacles. 

For one thing, the high and the mighty have developed over their years in power both a sense of impunity/immunity and a pathological conviction that they can do no wrong – whatever the action involved.  Defense mechanisms are elaborate and well- practiced. They are habitual liars; many are clinical narcissists who may be unable to differentiate truth from falsehoods altogether, e.g. Trump.  Second, appeals to honor, morality or sense of embarrassment may also be fruitless because these people tend to be shameless.   Can anyone recall the last time that a prominent public figure in the United States has demonstrated genuine remorse? 

A Strategy 

If there were some intervention by another party that facilitated or encouraged Epstein’s death – an admittedly overriding IF – then the best way of determining who it was is to concentrate on the narrow end of the funnel. IF someone arranged for a lifting of the suicide watch with an ulterior motive in mind, or instructed guards to space out widely their look-ins at Epstein’s cell, or “forgot” to remove the drawstring from his pajamas – that conjectured person (or his intermediary) could be identified by whomever implemented the instructions/suggestions. Said person(s) could be more easily intimidated, blackmailed or induced to spill the beans than any of the big shots. 

The behavior of the psychiatrists who gave permission to lift the suicide watch is also suspect.  Their action is being described as unheard-of by renowned psychiatrists. One distinguished professor has told me in confidence that they will be in deep professional trouble for their warped judgment alone – whatever other circumstances obtain. All of their communications with outside parties should be examined. Any signs of evasion should evoke intense grilling – psychiatrists are easier to break than al-Qaeda fanatics, Mafia hitmen or narcissistic politicos. 

Conclusion 

We are assured that the investigation will cover the whole gamut of Epstein’s illicit actions, including the 2006 cover-up, which will be pursued.  At the moment, most powers-that-be seem to agree on that. Doubtless, will see a long editorial from that holier-than-thou/pillar of the republic, The New York Times board, calling for a full and thorough inquiry as to what happened. They will cite the public interest in reaffirming the impartiality of our hallowed judiciary – including looking back at 2006. They will make no mention of the awkward fact that they themselves paid the matter little heed for 13 years. Understandable – numerous persons cited are folks they run into at Upper East side cocktail parties and the Hamptons. 

Prediction: The Department of Justice, led by Trump’s lackey Attorney General William Barr, will insist on controlling all aspects of the investigation. If they can turn up a few snippets regarding the Clintons, they will leak them. Then, the entire affair will slip from public view. We have become expert at losing the past in the mists of the present – like the fog rolling through the Golden Gate — that erase all images on a regular 24-hour cycle. 

So, a year of two from now, there will be a low-key announcement that the investigation has found nothing that calls into question the conclusion that Epstein indeed committed suicide – alone and of his own volition. His earlier alleged crimes will be said to be excluded by the statute of limitations or the absence of credible evidence due in part to the deaths of certain principals. One negligent guard will be singled out for dereliction of duty; a letter of reprimand will be placed in his personnel file and he will be punished by a denial of coffee breaks for a full two weeks.  Maybe, just maybe, the American Psychiatric Association will devise some new guidelines re. Suicide Watches in prison – without specifically mentioning this incident. 

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. mbren@pitt.edu

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




WATCH: CN LIVE! The Latest on Assange; Plus America and Guns: Episode 5

The fifth episode of CN Live! discussed the latest on Julian Assange and the problem of guns in America. 

John Pilger saw Assange at Belmarsh prison on Tuesday and reports a troubling deterioration in his health. We discussed Assange and governments’ treatment of him and how the people are manipulated with Australian psychologist Lissa Johnson. Plus Mark Davis, a prominent Australian television journalist, revealed new details about WikiLeaks‘ relationship with The Guardian and The New York Times during publication of the Afghan War Logs.

And then, in the wake of the massacres last weekend in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, we got two perspectives on the crisis that has gripped the U.S. for too long: mass murder. 

First we were joined from Sydney, Australia by Rebecca Peters, who helped negotiate Australia’s gun laws enacted after a 1996 mass murder that has made a dramatic difference; and James Howard Kunstler went deep into what’s unwell about American culture that contributes to the ongoing, senseless massacres.

All on today’s episode of CN Live! with your hosts Elizabeth Vos and Joe Lauria.  

Watch the replay here!

 




New Fears for Julian Assange

Legendary journalist John Pilger has been to see Assange in Belmarsh Prison in London and his report is not encouraging.

Journalist John Pilger visited imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday and has raised an alarm about Assange’s “deteriorated” health.

Pilger said in a Tweet on Wednesday that Assange is “isolated” and treated “worse than a murderer.”

“I now fear for him,” Pilger wrote. 

Assange is suffering from an undisclosed ailment and has been confined to the hospital ward at the maximum security prison for several weeks.  He was arrested on April 11 by British police who were called by the Ecuadorian government into its London embassy in apparent violation of international asylum law. Assange had been granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012. He had been suffering health problems in the embassy but British authorities refused to allow him to leave the embassy for treatment and return without being arrested. 

Almost immediately after his eventual arrest the United States unveiled an indictment against him for alleged intrusion into a government computer although the indictment itself describes normal procedures of investigative journalism:  encouraging a source to provide more information and working to protect the source’s identity.

On May 23, Assange was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of classified information given to him by WikiLeak‘s source, Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. army intelligence analyst. It was the first time the Espionage Act was used against a journalist for publishing classified information.

Manning, meanwhile, is imprisoned in Alexandria, VA for refusing to testify to a grand jury on Assange’s case. Since Assange has already been twice indicted, it is not clear if a new indictment against him is being prepared. On Wednesday, the judge in Manning’s case denied her a hearing and said $1,000-a-day fines against her did not amount to “punishment.” 

Assange is now fighting an extradition request from the United States as he serves a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh for having skipped bail in an unrelated Swedish investigation into sexual assault allegations, which had been dropped twice before by Swedish authorities, but was revived after his arrest. Assange had sought asylum in the Ecuador embassy because he feared extradition to the United States, fears that have been borne out by events. 

He faces 175 years in prison in the U.S.




RAY McGOVERN: DNI Nominee Intent on Getting to Bottom of Russiagate

Attorney General Bill Bar will have a new deputy sheriff to go after those responsible for Russiagate, if John Ratcliffe is confirmed as new DNI, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Shortly before President Donald Trump announced he had nominated Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, Ratcliffe made it clear he intends to hit the deck running on the “crimes” behind Russiagate.

“What I do know as a former federal prosecutor is it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration,” Ratcliffe told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. Mincing few words, he claimed the Democrats “accused Donald Trump of a crime and then tried to reverse engineer a process to justify that accusation.”

It’s an extravagant claim. But it is also true, and the proof is in the pudding of which we should have a steady diet in the months to come.

Ratcliffe sounds partisan speaking of “crimes committed” under Obama. But there could well be documentary evidence to back it up. Some is classified. Trump has given Attorney General William Barr instructions to declassify what is necessary. Barr should be able to count on Ratcliffe, if he is confirmed by the Senate as DNI, to ride herd on those in the intelligence community with huge incentives to cover their tracks and those of their former bosses.

This may come as something of a shock to new readers of Consortium News because of the incessant drivel from corporate media “talking heads” for a full three years now. They are not likely to give up any time soon.

Ratcliffe on Where We Are Now

Ratcliffe told Bartiromo:

“The only place we can get the answers is from the Justice Department right now. The American people’s faith and trust has been shaken in our Justice Department, and the only way to get that back is for there to be real accountability with a very fair process. Again, I have supreme confidence in Bill Barr’s ability to deliver that and at the end of the day … as long as we know that the process was fair … justice will be done.”

If Ratcliffe means what he says, his remarks indicate that Barr (a former CIA official and relatively new-sheriff-back-in-town in his second stint as AG) should have in Ratcliffe a no-holds-Barred deputy sheriff, if he takes advantage of him. “Bill Barr has earned my trust already … that there will be a fair process, with John Durham and Michael Horowitz, to getting answers … and to provide accountability where it really belongs,” Ratcliffe said.

Barr has ordered John Durham, U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, to investigate how Russiagate got started. And Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice Inspector General, is said to be almost ready to report on the roles of the DOJ and FBI in promoting the Trump-Putin “collusion” narrative.

Durham, however, twice essentially covered up for CIA misdeeds. The New York Times reported: “In 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey assigned Mr. Durham to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes in 2005 showing the torture of terrorism suspects. A year later, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded Mr. Durham’s mandate to also examine whether the agency broke any laws in its abuses of detainees in its custody.”

Abundantly clear in those days, however, was the reality that neither Mukasey nor Holder wanted Durham to deliver the goods on CIA people demonstrably involved in well documented death-by-torture of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Good soldier Durham uttered not a peep when Holder announced that the Department of Justice “declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But Holder added this: “Our inquiry was limited to a determination of whether prosecutable offenses were committed and was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct.” The Times noted at the time that DOJ’s decision did not amount to “exoneration” of those involved in the prisoners’ treatment and deaths. Does that sound familiar?

Thus, judging from past experience, the question is not so much what Durham will come up with this time around when investigating folks from the same line of (intelligence) work. The more salient question is this: Will Durham’s role be limited by Deep State, gun-shy Trump, or will he be given the latitude to proceed with no-holds-Barred, so to speak.

Horowitz’s investigators, on the other hand, earlier discovered the extremely-damaging-to-the-Russia-gate-yarn text exchanges between senior FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and Horowitz decided to make them public in December 2017. First off the blocks the following day, the late Robert Parry, founder of this website, posted what turned out to be his last substantive article, “The Foundering Russia-gate Scandal.”

Horowitz’s investigators recently interviewed some formerly reluctant witnesses like Christopher Steele, who had been a paid informant of the FBI itself and whom the Clinton campaign later paid to assemble the infamous “dossier” on Trump’s alleged cavorting with prostitutes in Moscow and other scurrilous, since-disproven stories.

With the malleable nonentity Coats as DNI, and with top CIA officials trying to keep former CIA Director John Brennan out of jail (and shield their own derrieres), Barr has — until now — lacked a strong “deputy sheriff” with the requisite prosecutorial skills and courage to investigate the intelligence community to find out where the bodies are buried in Washington. As soon as Ratcliffe is confirmed, Barr should have what he needs to close that gap and tackle full bore the intelligence part of the Deep State’s role in Russiagate.

A Parvenu?

But how could Ratcliffe know anything, the corporate media asks, as they paint him as a newcomer, partisan ignoramus and focus on his lack of experience in foreign affairs. Sorry, Rachel Maddow, in case you haven’t noticed, the present focus is on affairs much closer to home. The “parvenu” label will not stick. Serving, as Ratcliffe has, on three key House committees —Intelligence, Judiciary, and Homeland Security — you can learn a whole lot, if you regard your responsibility as oversight, not overlook.

Is there documentary evidence? Admittedly, it would seem a stretch to believe that Obama’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials — in “collusion” with the corporate media — would fabricate a Trump-in-Putin’s-pocket story line first to try to prevent Trump from being elected, and then emasculate him as incoming president. But, yes, there should be all manner of documentary evidence indicating that this is precisely what happened.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) claimed in early April 2019, “They [the Democrats] have lied multiple times to the American people. All you have to do is look at their phony memos. They have had the full support of the media, 90 percent of the media in this country. They all have egg on their face.” The way things are now shaping up, we are likely to learn before too long whether the evidence supports Nunes’s accusations.

All the Naiveté That’s Fit to Print

The New York Times reported that many Republican Senators, who must vote on his confirmation, are “cool” to Ratcliffe:

“Democrats said on Monday that they were worried that Mr. Ratcliffe would do little to push back against the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Russia inquiry, for which Mr. Trump gave Attorney General William P. Barr broad power to declassify relevant documents.”

Democrats don’t watch Fox News, but does the Gray Lady still harbor hope Ratcliffe might “push back” when he says he will push full steam ahead?

None of the leaking, unmasking, surveillance, DNC-hired “opposition research,” or other activities directed against the Trump campaign can be properly understood if one does not bear in mind that it was considered a sure thing that Hillary Clinton would become President, at which point high-risk, illegal activities undertaken to help her win would likely bring gratitude and perhaps a promotion, not an indictment. But Clinton lost.

After her loss, Comey himself gave the game away in his book, “A Higher Loyalty” — which amounted to a pre-emptive move motivated by loyalty-to-self and eagerness to secure a Stay-Out-of-Jail card. Comey wrote, “I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president …” [Emphasis added.] This would, of course, confer automatic immunity on key players who may now find themselves criminally referred to the Department of Justice.

Worse still, because they all were convinced a Clinton victory was a sure thing, the plotters did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks. And that largely accounts for the fact that there should be documentary evidence — probably even on not-yet-shredded paper, as well as on computer hard drives.

Given his seats on Intelligence, Judiciary, and Homeland Security, Ratcliffe has seen a lot more of them than most Congress members. In the Sunday interview, he named some of those allegedly engaged in illegalities:  former FBI Director James Comey, senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr, and opposition research guru Glenn Simpson. Also mentioned but unnamed were the Obama officials who Ratcliffe said committed a “felony” by leaking highly classified phone transcripts to use against Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

But Now Running Scared

No one has more to fear from all this than ex-CIA Director Brennan. He eagerly awaited the final report from Mueller, whom Brennan has unctuously praised. Introducing Mueller to an audience at Georgetown University in June 2014, Brennan called him “a remarkable public servant as well as a great friend, a transformative leader, an outstanding partner to CIA, and a source of wise counsel to leaders across the intelligence community.”

In his testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on July 24, Mueller avoided discussing some of the chicanery that bears Brennan’s fingerprints, but he surely failed to “exonerate” him, so to speak. To suggest that the selection of Ratcliffe to become DNI was unwelcome news to Brennan is to state the obvious. Brennan got up early on Monday and at 7:11 AM sent this characteristic tweet — about integrity and subservience, of all things:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has tweeted information from “a high-level source” that it was Brennan who “insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier” be given prominent attention in the Russia-gate story.

Paul has also said he thinks Brennan has been “a partisan” and “abused his office in developing the Trump investigation. I think it was done under false pretenses and done for political reasons.”

Paul has been a strong advocate of investigating the origins of Mueller’s probe, including the dicey question of how witting President Obama was of the Deep State machinations during the last months of his administration. Page did tell Strzok in a Sept. 2, 2016 text that the president “wants to know everything we’re doing.”

So What DID Obama Know?

If anyone knows how much Obama knew, it is one of his closest confidants: Brennan. And it was Obama, of course, who commissioned the misnomered “Intelligence Community Assessment” of Jan. 6, 2017, which Russia-gate aficionados have long regarded as Bible truth. As readers of Consortium News know, candidate Hillary Clinton and her supporters were wrong in saying the ICA was the product of “all 17” U.S. intelligence agencies. The leaders of only three — CIA, FBI, and NSA — signed on to it, plus DNI James Clapper.

Months later, Clapper admitted it was “handpicked analysts” from those three who wrote the report. It is a safe bet that Brennan, Clapper, and perhaps Comey picked the analysts. The ICA is such a shabby piece of work that many — including me — suspect that Brennan took a direct hand in writing it.

Ratcliffe would be well advised to take a priority look into the “Excellent Adventure” of that Intelligence Community Assessment as soon as he is confirmed as Director of National Intelligence, and before Brennan, Clapper, and Comey leave town for parts unknown.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. As a CIA analyst, he served under nine CIA directors and seven presidents, for three of whom he prepared and gave the morning briefing based on The President’s Daily Brief. In retirement, he co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




WATCH THE REPLAY: CN Live! With Nancy Hollander, Margaret Kimberley, Ed Botowsky and Ray McGovern

Chelsea Manning’s lawyer gave an update on the imprisoned whistleblower; Margaret Kimberly spoke on the dangerous mix of nationalism and racism and the Seth Rich controversy was dissected on the 3rd episode of CN Live!

On Episode 3 of CN Live! we spoke with Chelsea Manning’s lead attorney, Nancy Hollander; Margaret Kimberley, editor and columnist at the Black Agenda Report, on the dangerous mix of racism and nationalism;  Ed Butowsky on the ongoing Seth Rich controversy and retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern analyzed the Rich story and Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress.

Watch the replay here:

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




Democrats Blowing on Embers With a Politicized Mueller

Robert Mueller appeared to have difficulty understanding and answering questions during his day-long hearings on Wednesday but snapped to attention to make political points, says Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Former Russiagate special counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on Wednesday was an exercise by the Democrats of trying to extract statements that would keep Russiagate alive and an attempt by the Republicans to finish off the story once and for all.

Appearing to be feigning, or actually suffering early signs of senility, the nearly 75-year old Mueller disappointed both parties and the public. He declined to answer 198 questions, according to a count by NBC News. When he did answer he was often barely intelligible and mostly stuck to what was in his final report, though he often had to fumble through pages to find passages he could not recall, eating into committee members’ five-minute time limit.

Mueller especially refused to comment on the process of his investigation, such as who he did or did not interview, what countries his investigators visited and he even dodged discussing some relevant points of law. It was an abdication of his responsibility to U.S. taxpayers who footed his roughly $30-million, 22-month probe.

But when it came to making political statements, the former FBI director suddenly rediscovered his mental acuity. He went way beyond his report to say, without prosecutorial evidence, that he agreed with the assessment of then CIA Director Mike Pompeo that WikiLeaks is a “non-state, hostile intelligence agency.”

Mueller called “illegal” WikiLeak‘s obtaining the Podesta and DNC emails, an act of journalism. In the 2016 election, the Espionage Act would not apply as the DNC and Podesta emails were not classified. Nor has WikiLeaks been accused by anyone of stealing the emails. And yet the foremost law enforcement figure in the U.S. accused WikiLeaks of breaking the law merely for publishing.

Though Mueller’s report makes no mention of The Guardian’s tale that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort visited WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy, when questioned on this, Mueller refused to refute the story, for which there isn’t a scrap of evidence. That was another purely political and not legal intervention from the lawman.

Russia, Russia, Russia

While Mueller concluded there was no evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to throw the 2016 election, he has not let up on the most politicized part of his message: that Russia interfered “massively” in “our democracy” and is still doing it. There was no waffling from Mueller when it came to this question.

He bases this on his indictment of 12 GRU Russian military intelligence agents whom he alleges hacked the DNC emails and transmitted them to WikiLeaks. Mueller knows those agents will never be arrested and brought to a courtroom to have his charges tested. In that sense the indictment was less a legal than a political document.

Among the inaccuracies about Russiagate that were recycled at the hearing is that the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency spent $1.25 million in the United States to influence the election. That figure belonged to a unit that acted worldwide, not just in the U.S., according to Mueller’s indictment. In fact it only spent $100,000 on Facebook ads, half coming after the election, and as even Mueller pointed out, some were anti-Trump.

Cambridge Analytica, by contrast, had 5,000 data points on 240 million Americans, some of it bought from Facebook, that gave an enormous advantage for targeted ads to the Trump campaign, which says it put out 5.9 million Facebook ads based on this data. It paid at least $5.9 million to the company co-founded by Trump’s campaign strategist Steve Bannon. But we are supposed to believe that a comparatively paltry number of social media messages from the IRA threw the election.

Mueller implied in his testimony that there was a link between the IRA and the Russian government despite an order from a judge for him to stop making that connection. In focusing again on Russia, no member of Congress from either party raised the content of the leaked emails.

For the Democrats especially, it is all about the source, who is irrelevant, since no one disputes the accuracy of the emails that exposed Hillary Clinton. (That the source of authentic documents is irrelevant is demonstrated by The Wall Street Journal and other major media using anonymous drop boxes pioneered by WikiLeaks.) Were a foreign power to spread disinformation about candidates in a U.S. election (something the candidates do to each other all the time) that would be sabotage. But the leaking and publication of the Clinton emails was information valuable to American voters. And WikiLeaks would have published Trump emails, but it never received any,  Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told Consortium New‘s webcast CN Live!

No Power to Exonerate

With “collusion” off the table, the Democrats have been obsessed with Trump allegedly obstructing an investigation that found no underlying crime. That’s something like being arrested for resisting arrest when you’ve committed no other infraction.

In his morning testimony, Mueller amplified the misperception that the only reason he didn’t charge Trump with obstruction is because of a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel policy that a sitting president can’t be indicted.

But then Mueller came back from a break in the  hearing to issue a “correction.” It was not true that he had concluded there’d been obstruction but was blocked by the OLC policy, he said. In fact he never concluded that there had been obstruction at all. “We didn’t make a decision about culpability,” Mueller said. “We didn’t go down that road.”

Instead of leaving it at that, Mueller said in his report and testimony that Trump was not “exonerated” of an obstruction charge. That led to blaring headlines Wednesday morning while the hearing was still going on. “Trump was not exonerated by my report, Robert Mueller tells Congress,” said the BBC. “Mueller Report Did Not Exonerate Trump, Mueller Says,” blared the HuffPost.

But in what may have been the most embarrassing moment for Mueller, Republican Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH) pointed out that a prosecutor does not have the power to exonerate anyone. A prosecutor  prosecutes.

“Mr. Mueller, does the Attorney General have the power or authority to exonerate?” Turner asked the witness. “What I’m putting up here is the United States code. This is where the Attorney General gets his power. And the constitution … .

“Mr. Mueller, nowhere in these [documents] … is there a process or description on ‘exonerate.’ There’s no office of exoneration at the Attorney General’s office. … Mr. Mueller, would you agree with me that the Attorney General does not have the power to exonerate?”

“I’m going to pass on that,” Mueller replied.

“Why?” Turner asked.

“Because it embroils us in a legal discussion, and I’m not prepared to do a legal discussion in that arena,” Mueller said.

Pointing to a CNN headline that had just appeared, “MUELLER: TRUMP WAS NOT EXONERATED,” Turner said: “What you know is, that this can’t say, ‘Mueller exonerated Trump,’ because you don’t have the power or authority to exonerate Trump. You have no more power to declare him exonerated than you have the power to declare him Anderson Cooper.”

Turner said: “The statement about exoneration is misleading, and it’s meaningless. It colors this investigation— one word of out the entire portion of your report. And it’s a meaningless word that has no legal meaning, and it has colored your entire report.”

Who is a Spy for Whom?

Mueller also took a pass every time the Steele dossier was raised, which it first was by Rep. David Nunes (R-CA):

“Despite acknowledging dossier allegations as being salacious and unverified, former FBI Director James Comey briefed those allegations to President Obama and President-elect Trump. Those briefings conveniently leaked to the press, resulting in the publication of the dossier and launching thousands of false press stories based on the word of a foreign ex-spy, one who admitted he was desperate that Trump lose the election and who was eventually fired as an FBI source for leaking to the press.

 “And the entire investigation was open based not on Five Eyes intelligence, but on a tip from a foreign politician about a conversation involving Joseph Mifsud. He’s a Maltese diplomat who’s widely portrayed as a Russian agent, but seems to have for more connections with Western governments, including our own FBI and our own State Department, than with Russia.”

Mueller admitted that though Mifsud lied to the FBI he never charged him as he had others. When Nunes pointed out to Mueller that Konstantin Kilimnik, a Manafort business associate, whom Mueller’s report identifies as having ties to Russian intelligence, was actually a U.S. State Department asset, Mueller refused to comment saying he was “loath” to get into it.

This Schiff Has Sailed

The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA) used the word “lies” 19 times in his opening statement, which contained at least that many.

The central one was this:

“Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself, knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian meddling into their strategy and used it.

Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?”

Schiff reluctantly admitted that no Trump conspiracy with Russia was uncovered, but said the “crime” of disloyalty was even worse.

“Disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded that we, the people and not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who governs us,” said Schiff.

It was pure fantasy.

Mueller should have taken a pass on that one too.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .




Left Unchecked, Trump Will Obliterate Right to Asylum

The president’s new asylum rule extends his systematic assault on migrants and undermines well-established law, says Marjorie Cohn.

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump has made 600 unilateral changes in immigration policy, more than any president in recent memory.

Pursuant to its zero tolerance policy,” the administration arrested undocumented immigrants who crossed the border, took thousands of their children away, put them in cages and then lost track of them, in violation of the Constitution’s Due Process Clause and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Trump instituted a Muslim ban, tried to add a citizenship question to the census, reneged on President Barack Obama’s promise to the Dreamers, and is terrorizing immigrant communities with threats of mass raids.

In an escalation of his war on migrants, Trump’s new asylum rule undermines well-established law and prevents refugees fleeing persecution from receiving asylum.

Violates Right to Asylum

The administration illegally refused to allow people to apply for asylum unless they entered the United States at a port of entry. And a federal judge ruled that the government cannot hold asylum applicants in indefinite detention.

Now the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have enacted a rule that threatens to virtually obliterate the legal right to asylum for Central American refugees. Many asylum seekers come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which are “experiencing extremely high levels of violence from which their governments have proven unwilling or unable to protect the population.”

On July 15, the administration issued a joint Interim Final Rule that creates an enormous bar to eligibility for asylum. Under the IFR, a noncitizen who crosses or tries to cross the U.S. southern border is ineligible to apply for asylum unless he or she: (No. 1) applied for and was denied asylum in at least one country through which he traveled en route to the United States; (No. 2) demonstrates that she is the “victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons”; or (No. 3) has traveled to the U.S. only through countries that were not parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, or the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Most of the asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle countries pass through Mexico as they travel to the United States. Mexico is a party to the Refugee Convention and Protocol and the Convention Against Torture.

Trump’s new asylum rule violates the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Refugee Convention. Moreover, the bedrock principle of the right to asylum is non-refoulement, which means that no person can be returned to a country where he or she is in danger of torture or being persecuted.

Under the Refugee Convention and the INA, a noncitizen has a right to asylum if he or she can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in the applicant’s home country due to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

A person is ineligible for asylum under the INA only if he or she “was firmly resettled in another country prior to arriving in the United States” or the U.S. has an agreement with a “safe third country” where the individual would have access to “a full and fair procedure” to determine eligibility for asylum. Canada is the only country with which the U.S. has a “safe third country” agreement.

It is well-settled that merely traveling through a third country is not a valid basis to categorically deny asylum to refugees who arrive in the United States. It is also widely accepted in international refugee law that “asylum should not be refused on the ground that it could be sought from another State.”

The IFR makes it virtually impossible for a refugee from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador who is fleeing a humanitarian crisis to be eligible for asylum unless he or she entered the United States by boat or plane. More than 12,000 migrants are waiting across the U.S. border in Mexico.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the new asylum rule “will put vulnerable families at risk.” UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, issued a statement saying it “believes the rule excessively curtails the right to apply for asylum, jeopardizes the right to protection from refoulement, significantly raises the burden of proof on asylum seekers beyond the international legal standard, sharply curtails basic rights and freedoms of those who manage to meet it, and is not in line with international obligations.”

In a lawsuit filed on July 16 in the Northern District of California, the ACLU argued on behalf of four immigrants’ rights groups that the IFR violates U.S. and international law. They wrote that the rule is “part of an unlawful effort to significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the U.S. asylum system at the southern border, and cruelly closes our doors to refugees fleeing persecution, forcing them to return to harm.”

Mark Morgan, acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told NPR that the government is expecting the new rule to be enjoined by a judge and he doesn’t think it will ultimately withstand legal scrutiny.

Trump’s War on Migrants

The new asylum rule is part and parcel of Trump’s systematic assault on migrants, which plays well with his xenophobic base. It comes at a time when he is threatening to conduct mass raids in the United States, instilling fear and terrorizing immigrant communities. Meanwhile, Trump is increasing his illegal militarization of the southern border by deploying 2,100 additional troops to join the 4,500 military personnel already there.

Trump launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were bringing drugs and crime into the United States. He is detaining migrants in conditions so squalid they are called concentration camps. His threat to shut down the government if his wall does not get built, his threat to close the border, and his threat to levy tariffs on Mexico if it doesn’t stem the tide of migrants crossing the U.S. border are emblematic of his war on immigrants.

The administration returns asylum seekers to Mexico pursuant to its “Migrant Protection Protocols” program, colloquially known as “Remain in Mexico.” This program began on January 25, 2019. Five months later, the U.S. had returned 15,079 people – including at least 4,780 children – who came mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Human Rights Watch reported at least 29 instances of harm to asylum seekers in Juárez, including kidnapping, violent attacks and sexual assaults.

After a 20-year-old asylum seeker who fled Guatemala with her four-year-old son was returned to Juárez, she was grabbed in the street and sexually assaulted by two men who threatened to kill her son. She said, “I can still feel the dirtiness of what they did in my body.”

Another asylum seeker from Guatemala who was sent back to Juárez was kidnapped by a taxi driver and freed after paying most of a $1,000 ransom. She was warned, “If you file a report, you know how people die in Juárez.”

The history of U.S. intervention in the Northern Triangle countries has destabilized them and exacerbated the migrant crisis. “[W]e must also acknowledge the role that a century of U.S.-backed military coups, corporate plundering, and neoliberal sapping of resources has played in the poverty, instability, and violence that now drives people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras toward Mexico and the United States,” Mark Tseng-Putterman wrote.

These desperate people travel thousands of miles at great peril to escape persecution. Yet in defiance of the Statue of Liberty’s entreaty, Trump seeks to turn away rather than embrace “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”

This article is from Truthout and is reprinted with permission.