hezbollah according a researcher from the atlantic council

After Arsal: Hezbollah’s new triangle of influence
Mona Alami, Middle East Eye, Jul 27 2017

Mona Alami is a researcher and journalist covering Levant politics. She is a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. Her primary focus is radical organisations. She holds a BA and an MBA in management.

Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon borderLebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal on Jul 25 2017 (Photo: AFP)

After years of attempts to eject Syrian militants from a mountainous area in eastern Lebanon, Hezbollah announced late on Wednesday that the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) chapter in the country is closed. “We are in the face of a very big military victory,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech, hours before the ceasefire between his group and JFS went into effect early Thursday morning. Fighters from JFS, once known as Jabhat al-Nusra, and their families will be sent to Idlib according to the terms of the ceasefire agreement. A week ago, the group launched its military operation in the area surrounding the town of Arsal, which has been a hotbed for Syrian militants since the onset of the revolution. The campaign has come as the de-escalation of the war inside Syria has allowed Hezbollah to redeploy troops to attack the exhausted remaining fighters in the area and complete its monopoly over a Syrian expanse stretching from Qassayr to Zabadani. In recent days, Hezbollah has claimed that it has captured what would be 80% of the area and warned remaining fighters, in an ultimatum released on Monday, that the fight was nearing its end. By the time the ceasefire was announced on Wednesday, the militants were surrounded to the west by Lebanese outposts and watchtowers, and by Hezbollah positions on the south and north, making it only a matter of time before the group completed its mission. Now Hezbollah’s battle, carried on without the Lebanese army which maintains a neutral stance on the Syrian conflict, is expected to target members of Daesh who remain. Completely securing the area would be a major moral and strategic victory for the group and, after PM Saad Hariri this week  called Hezbollah’s operation “illegitimate”, will raise tensions in Lebanon over control of the state’s sovereignty.

amended infographic.fw_

Since 2011, Arsal, located in the Bekaa Valley, has been a smuggling hub for Syrian militants of all sorts. Given its central role in defending the Assad regime, Hezbollah became a target for various Syrian rebel groups and later Nusra, which became JFS, and Daesh. Between 2013 and 2014, Arsal, which is populated mostly by Sunnis who support the Syrian revolution, became a transit point for many of the booby-trapped cars that targeted the group’s strongholds in Lebanon. More than 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in more than a dozen suicide bombing attacks on Shia-populated areas in 2013 and 2014, according to Jane’s Defence. Investigations showed at the time that vehicle bombs were put together in the Syria border region before being driven into Lebanon for the attacks. More than 18 additional suicide attacks have also taken place in Lebanon since 2013. Recent attacks such as Bourj Barajneh in 2015 and earlier in 2014 against the Duroy Hotel in Beirut were claimed by Daesh. Many of these attacks are thought to have involved individuals who passed through Arsal. Arsal is home today to at least 50,000 Syria refugees. An officer of the Lebanese army speaking on condition of anonymity:

Many of them are related to the remaining Daesh and JN fighters located in the mountainous areas.

However, residents in the town, including those in camps who reportedly raised Lebanese flags in support of Lebanese sovereignty as the campaign got underway, told MEE that they are terrified of what the militants will do and refused to join the fight when a JFS supporter tried to recruit them over a megaphone. It was also on the outskirts of Arsal that on Jun 30, five suicide bombers set off explosives during an army raid on refugee camps. Since then, the army has been accused of torturing to death four refugees who were picked up during the incident, although a military investigation concluded that the refugees died of natural causes. Earlier in the year, Hezbollah entered negotiations to secure the evacuation of refugees and some militants back to Syria ahead of a final push to regain the area. According to Arsal activist Abu Mohamad Ali Uweid, the negotiations also allowed for the evacuation of 100 or so FSA, leaving around 400 remaining, exhausted by a long siege. The Lebanese army officer says:

There are a few hundred of them currently engaged in the fight against Hezbollah in a small stretch of area between Lebanon and Syria.

Hezbollah’s impatience with the situation in Arsal was clearly highlighted by a Jul 11 speech by Sayed Hassan Nasrallah. He said of Arsal:

The threat still exists on the outskirts, and this matter needs a solution.

The timing of Hezbollah’s military operation also appears to be linked to recent developments in Syria and to Hezbollah’s strategic calculations. On Jul 7, Pindostan and Russia agreed on a deal that included establishing de-escalation zones along Syria’s borders, a plan backed by Jordan. Russian troops in charge of monitoring the ceasefire appear to have been deployed on Jul 17 in the Daraa province. As a result of the deal, Hezbollah was forced to retreat from the area, giving it an opportunity to use its forces to inflict a final onslaught to the militants in the border region between Syria and Lebanon. In addition to clearing the hotbed of insurgency, Hezbollah has other important strategic calculations in this peripheral region. Over the past two years, it has carved a militarised zone for itself, stretching from Qassayr in north-east Lebanon to Zabadani in the south of Syria. Once Hezbollah completes its capture of the mountainous area, it will have uninterrupted control over the Syrian side of the border in a triangle that stretches to Homs and Damascus, points out anti-Hezbollah activist Ali Amine who has been following the situation. Nasrallah has promised that once Arsal is completely in the group’s control, they will hand it over to the Lebanese army. After all, Hezbollah’s new, unchallenged border bastion will provide the group with a large military reach and incomparable leverage into neighbouring Syria. Whether the group will actually surrender the territory remains to be seen.

trump’s tweet shows him acting as part of the pentagon setup

Pentagon declares “time is running out” before war with NK
James Cogan, WSWS, Jul 28 2017

Ominous statements over the past 48 hours by top military commanders underscore how close the world is to a devastating war on the Korean Peninsula, which for the first time since 1945 could involve the use of nuclear weapons. The propaganda pretext for war is the claim of Pindo imperialism and its vassals that the isolated NK regime is on the verge of developing a nuclear-armed ICBM capable of destroying major cities on the Pindosi mainland. General Mark Milley, the Chief of Staff of the Army, told a conference at the National Press Club in Faschingstein yesterday:

War in the Korean Peninsula would be terrible. However, a nuclear weapon detonating in Los Angeles would be terrible.

Pointing to the preparations for a pre-emptive attack, Milley declared:

Time is running out for a non-military solution. We’re at a point in time where a choice will have to be made one way or the other.

The general gloated:

We would utterly destroy the NK military. There would be a high cost in terms of human life, in terms of infrastructure.

Milley’s statements follow those made last weekend by JCoS Dunford. He told a security forum that a war with NK was “not unimaginable.” Proceeding to imagine the consequences, he declared a war would cause “a loss of life unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes.” Dunford insisted that “negotiations” would only take place for “a few more months.” Passed over by the establishment media, which breathlessly reported such assertions, is the obvious question as to why NK, an economically backward state with a gross domestic product of barely $25b, would risk annihilation in a war with the planet’s greatest military power. The NK regime is without question a brutal and reactionary dictatorship, but it is not irrational. Its senior officials have repeatedly said their refusal to end the weapons programs is a response to what happened to Iraq and Libya after the governments of those countries submitted to Pindo diktats. Iraq was invaded in 2003 and its top leadership and hundreds of thousands of its citizens slaughtered. Libya was plunged into an imperialist-instigated civil war in 2011, which was used to justify a massive bombardment that killed thousands of civilians. Muammar Gaddafi was murdered by an Islamist lynch mob. The Korean people know all too well the carnage that Pindosi imperialism can and will inflict in pursuit of its geostrategic objectives. The day Milley made his statements, Jul 27, was the 64th anniversary of the end of the 1950–53 Korean War. The most conservative estimate is that three million people were killed or wounded—two million in what is now NK. The Pindo air bombardment of the North was murderous. The USAF noted in an assessment:

Eighteen of twenty-two major cities in NK had been at least half obliterated.

General Curtis LeMay later recalled:

We burned down just about every city in NK and SK both. We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes.

By the end of the conflict, pilots were reportedly dropping their payloads in the sea because there were no buildings left for them to level. Pindo imperialism has never accepted the outcome of the Korean War, which left NK intact to function as a buffer between the Pindo military forces in SK and both China and Russia, which border the peninsula. Following the collapse in 1991 of the Soviet Union, which was NK’s main economic partner, successive Pindo administrations have pursued the barely concealed policy of regime change in Pyongyang. The objective is to incorporate NK into SK and fundamentally alter the strategic balance of forces in north-east Asia. The rhetoric and threats of war over NK’s nuclear program are unfolding in the context of ever-mounting antagonisms between Pindostan and China. China is viewed in Faschingstein as an unacceptable challenge to Pindo dominance due to its development into the world’s second-largest economy and its increasing strategic influence. The greatest fear in Pindosi ruling circles is that the logic of global economic integration will result in a geopolitical partnership consolidating across the vast Eurasian landmass, involving the German-dominated European bloc, Russia and China, and ultimately drawing in Japan and other key Pindo vassals in Asia. Pindo imperialist strategy in every part of the world is driven by a determination to disrupt this process and prevent it becoming a reality. The threat of war with NK is a disruption of immense proportions. China and Russia have rejected attempts to subject NK to complete economic isolation and opposed any military action on the peninsula. There are reports of major Chinese military deployments on its Korean border. Encounters between Chinese or Russian aircraft with Pindo or Japanese aircraft occur daily. Pindo vassals in both Europe and Asia, even as they seek closer trade relations with China, are under pressure to fall in behind Faschingstein. The situation is rendered even more volatile and dangerous by the besieged character of the Trump presidency. The possibility cannot be excluded that Trump’s administration will respond to its crisis by attempting to divert tensions outward by launching a major war. The Pentagon thinks this is entirely possible. Hence its reported response to a Trump tweet yesterday morning which read:

For nine minutes, before Trump sent the second and third parts of the message, declaring he was banning transgender people from military service, the Pentagon allegedly believed the president was about to announce the start of hostilities via Twitter. If true, it is not difficult to imagine the phone calls that went out to military commanders in SK, Japan and around the world. It can be assumed that the NK, Chinese and Russian militaries were also on a knife-edge. For the best part of a decade, the Pentagon has been actively planning and preparing for a war with China, which could be sparked by an attack on NK and rapidly escalate. Asked yesterday in Australia if he would launch nuclear weapons at China if ordered to do so by Trump, Admiral Scott Swift, the commander of the Seventh Fleet, bluntly replied:

The answer would be yes.

a bit of straightforward statistics

Corporate media routinely repeat Pentagon kill estimates that defy reality
Reed Richardson, FAIR, Jul 27 2017

Body-Count-Collage

One of the hoariest methods of modern war propaganda remains the official body count. Government or military officials decisively touting large numbers of enemies killed has long been a surefire way to get credulous or friendly press coverage, despite the fact that the figures cited are routinely presented with no evidence to back them up or context about how they are counting this “enemy.” This dubious practice of body count reporting reached its peak during the Vietnam War, when the government relied upon this fabulism as a consistent tactic to prop up a failing war effort, as FAIR’s Jeff Cohen recounted (5/6/01):

Any alert journalist should have known the official count was grossly inflated, in large part by adding in dead civilians, yet Walter Cronkite and the other network anchors dutifully read it straight-faced week after week.

As a result of widespread criticism in the post-Vietnam era, the Pentagon and other Pindo boxtops curtailed this practice during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet who was Sec Def from 2013–15, told Wolf Blitzer back in December (12/16/16):

My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing. … I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam? Body counts make no sense.

CBS-45000-ISIS-Fighters

Nevertheless, in the past few years, official body count estimates have made a notable comeback, as US military and administration officials have tried to talk up the US coalition’s war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The transparent absurdity and contradictory nature of these claims hasn’t stopped corporate media from repeatedly citing these figures in headlines and news stories with little or no pushback. For example, last August, the commander of the Syrian-Iraq war garnered a flurry of favorable coverage of the war when he announced that the coalition had killed 45,000 Daesh in the past two years (NBC News, 8/12/16; CBS News, 8/10/16; Fox News, 8/10/16). By December, the official Daesh body count number, according to an anonymous “senior Pindo boxtop,” had risen to 50,000 and led headlines on cable news (Fox News, 12/8/16; CNN, 12/9/16). Fox News (12/8/16) reports mass killing is “breaking the back of ISIS.”

Fox-50000-Militants

Reading through that media coverage,one finds little scepticism about the figures or historical context about how these killed in action numbers line up with the official estimates of the overall size of Daesh, which have stayed stubbornly consistent year after year (Fox News, 2/4/16). In fact, the official estimated size of Daesh in 2015 and 2016 averaged 25,000 fighters, which means the coalition had supposedly wiped out the equivalent of its entire force over both years without making a dent in its overall size. ForeignPolicy.com (8/16/16) also took the time to comb through the body count and force-size numbers to highlight how the chronology of estimates made little sense as well:

If the Obama administration’s latest estimates are accurate, that would mean there was a 0% increase in the number of Daesh killed in the first four months of this year, followed by a remarkable 80% during the past four months.

Even more remarkably, only one week after the anonymous 50,000 body count number was reported in December, UK Sec Def Fallon, standing alongside Pindo Sec Def Ashtray Carter, publicly halved it. At a joint press briefing (12/15/16), Fallon said 25,000 Daesh had been killed by coalition forces, yet almost no newspapers or TV news networks (save CNN, 12/16/16) covered this glaring discrepancy.

CNN-60000-ISIS

Under the Trump administration, the public use of Daesh body counts has by no means diminished. In February, SOCOM commander Gen Tony Thomas, told a public symposium that 60,000 Daesh had been killed. Thomas added this disingenuous qualifier to his evidence-free number:

I’m not that into morbid body count, but that matters.

Unsurprisingly, Fox News (2/15/17) gobbled up his figure happily and with little scepticism. CNN (2/15/17) did at least point out the previously huge disconnect between Pindo & British body-count numbers in its reporting, saying it “underscores the challenge of assessing enemy casualties,” but its headline was a clear public relations win for the war:

Pindo SOF Chief: More Than 60,000 Daesh Killed.

Last Friday at the Aspen Security Forum, Thomas claimed yet another Daesh body-count number, this time citing up to 70,000 or put another way, another full Daesh army’s size from last August. Again, Fox News (7/21/17) ran this number with no pushback as part of a report that also uncritically repeated his accusation that the NYT published a leak that let Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi slip away. After the NYT pointed out the factual problems with Thomas’s claim, the Fox News story has since added an “update.” This 70,000 estimate is not new. The Pentagon started to provide this new total of Daesh “militants” killed in Syria and Iraq to the press as far back as April (LA Times, 4/21/17), a mere nine weeks after Thomas’s 60,000 estimate. While it’s true the operational tempo of coalition air attacks has increased significantly since Trump became president, it’s notable that up through this spring, Pindo boxtops also estimated coalition warplanes had only killed between 230 to 350 civilians in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

NYT-Civilian-Deaths

Research from the non-profit group Airwars, which uses both media and on-the-ground reports, suggests the Pentagon’s civilian casualty total is as absurdly low as its Daesh KIA claims appear absurdly high. Airwars’ count of the civilian casualties caused by Pindo coalition as of March was roughly 3,100, or more than eight times higher than what the Pentagon claimed (NYT 5/25/17). As of today, Airwars’ minimum estimate of Syrian and Iraqi civilian casualties stands at 4,544 killed. Is the coalition miscounting dead civilians as part of its Daesh KIA total? It seems highly likely, but it’s impossible to tell because these official body count estimates lack all transparency. All these glaring disconnects between the official estimates of Daesh killed, total contingent size and civilian casualties cries out for much greater skepticism and due diligence among the corporate media. As our not-too-distant past has clearly shown, enemy body counts are a handy hard-to-resist tool that administrations of both parties often use for war propaganda to promote the idea we are “winning” and to stave off dissent about why we’re fighting in the first place. Any reputable news organization need only consider this history and the obvious current contradictions reeled off by “Pindo boxtops” to realize that body counts should never be reported uncritically without context and expert third-party commentary. As our nation spirals toward the end of a second decade of uninterrupted war with our troops killing and dying in yet another Middle Eastern country, the press owes the Pindo sheeple nothing less.

problems with google search getting much worse

New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites
Andre Damon, Niles Niemuth, WSWS, Jul 27 2017

image-2Referrals from Google searches to WSWS have fallen by about 70%

In the three months since Google announced plans to keep users from accessing “fake news,” the global traffic rankings of a broad range of left-wing, progressive, anti-war and democratic rights organizations have fallen significantly. On Apr 25 2017, Google announced that it had implemented changes to its search service to make it harder for users to access what it called “low-quality” information such as “conspiracy theories” and “fake news.” The company said in a blog post that the central purpose of the change to its search algorithm was to give the search giant greater control in identifying content deemed objectionable by its guidelines. It declared:

We have improved our evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates to surface more authoritative content. Last month, we updated our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag.

These moderators are instructed to flag “upsetting user experiences,” including pages that present “conspiracy theories,” unless “the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.” Google does not explain precisely what it means by the term “conspiracy theory.” Using the broad and amorphous category of fake news, the aim of the change to Google’s search system is to restrict access to alternative web sites, whose coverage and interpretation of events conflict with those of such establishment media outlets as the NYT & WaPo. By flagging content in such a way that it does not appear in the first one or two pages of a search result, Google is able to effectively block users’ access to it. Given the fact that vast amounts of web traffic are influenced by search results, Google is able to effectively conceal or bury content to which it objects through the manipulation of search rankings. Just last month, the European Commission fined the company $2.7b for manipulating search results to inappropriately direct users to its own comparison shopping service, Google Shopping. Now, it appears that Google is using these criminal methods to block users from accessing political viewpoints the company deems objectionable. WSWS has been targeted by Google’s new “evaluation methods.” While in Apr 2017, 422,460 visits to the WSWS originated from Google searches, the figure has dropped to an estimated 120,000 this month, a fall of more than 70%. Even when using search terms such as “socialist” and “socialism,” readers have informed us that they find it increasingly difficult to locate WSWS in Google searches. According to Google’s webmaster tools service, the number of times a WSWS article appeared in a Google search fell from 467,890 a day to 138,275 over the past three months. The average position of articles in searches, meanwhile, fell from 15.9 to 37.2 over the same period. David North of the International Editorial Board of WSWS stated that Google is engaged in political censorship. He said:

WSWS has been in existence for nearly 20 years, and it has developed a large international audience. During this past spring, the number of individual visits to WSWS each month exceeded 900,000. While a significant percentage of our readers enter WSWS directly, many web users access the site through search engines, of which Google is the most widely used. There is no innocent explanation for the extraordinarily sharp fall in readers virtually overnight, coming from Google searches. Google’s claim that it is protecting readers from ‘fake news’ is a politically motivated lie. Google, a massive monopoly with the closest ties to the state and intelligence agencies, is blocking access to the WSWS and other left and progressive web sites through a system of rigged searches.

In the three months since Google implemented the changes to its search engine, fewer people have accessed left-wing and anti-war news sites. Based on information available on Alexa analytics, other sites that have experienced sharp drops in ranking include WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News and Truthout. Even prominent democratic rights groups such as the ACLU and Amnesty International appear to have been hit.

imageA broad range of left-wing, progressive, and anti-war sites have had their traffic rankings fall in recent months

According to Google Trends, the term “fake news” roughly quadrupled in popularity in early November, around the time of the election, as Demagogs, establishment media outlets and intelligence agencies sought to blame “false information” for the electoral victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. On Nov 14, the NYT proclaimed:

Google and Facebook face mounting criticism over how fake news on their sites may have influenced the presidential election’s outcome.

It said they would be taking measures to combat “fake news.” Ten days later, the WaPo published an article called “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” which cited an anonymous group known as PropOrNot that compiled a list of “fake news” sites spreading “Russian propaganda.” The list included several sites categorized by the group as “left-wing.” Significantly, it targeted Global Research, which often reposts articles from WSWS. After widespread criticism of what was little more than a blacklist of anti-war and anti-establishment sites, the WaPo was forced to publish a retraction, declaring:

The WaPo, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings.

On Apr 7, Bloomberg News reported that Google was working directly with the WaPo and the NYT to “fact-check” articles and eliminate “fake news.” This was followed by Google’s new search methodology. Three months later, out of the 17 sites declared to be “fake news” by the WaPo’s discredited blacklist, 14 had their global ranking fall. The average decline of the global reach of all of these sites is 25%, and some sites saw their global reach fall by as much as 60%. North stated:

The actions of Google constitute political censorship and are a blatant attack on free speech. At a time when public distrust of establishment media is widespread, this corporate giant is exploiting its monopolistic position to restrict public access to a broad spectrum of news and critical analysis.

Google rigs searches to block access to WSWS
WSWS Editorial Board, Jul 28 2017

An examination of web traffic data clearly shows that Google is manipulating search results to block access to WSWS. In April, under the guise of combatting “fake news,” Google introduced new procedures that give extraordinary powers to unnamed “evaluators” to demote web pages and websites. These procedures have been used to exclude the WSWS and other anti-war and oppositional sites. Over the past three months, traffic originating from Google to the WSWS has fallen by approximately 70%. In key searches relevant to a wide range of topics the WSWS regularly covers, including Pindosi military operations and the threat of war, social conditions, inequality, and even socialism, the number of search impressions referencing WSWS has fallen drastically. An “impression” is a technical term referring to a link shown by Google in response to a search result. If a search for “socialism” leads a user’s computer to show one link to the WSWS, that counts as an impression. By manipulating the “search ranking” assigned to the pages of the WSWS, Google can drive its content lower down on the list of results. This reduces the total number of impressions, which in turn leads to a very low number of “clicks,” or visits to the site. According to Google’s Webmaster Tools Service, the number of daily impressions for WSWS fell from 467,890 to 138,275 over the past three months. WSWS has analyzed data related to the results of specific searches between May and July, that is, the period after Google implemented its new website exclusion policies. To cite some searches:

  • During the month of May, Google searches including the word “war” produced 61,795 WSWS impressions. In July, WSWS impressions fell by approximately 90%, to 6,613.
  • Searches for the term “Korean war” produced 20,392 impressions in May. In July, searches using the same words produced zero WSWS impressions.
  • Searches for “North Korea war” produced 4,626 impressions in May. In July, the result of the same search produced zero WSWS impressions.
  • “India Pakistan war” produced 4,394 impressions in May. In July, the result, again, was zero.
  • “Nuclear war 2017” produced 2,319 impressions in May, and zero in July.
  • “WikiLeaks,” fell from 6,576 impressions to zero.
  • “Julian Assange” fell from 3,701 impressions to zero.
  • “Laura Poitras” fell from 4,499 impressions to zero.
  • “Michael Hastings” fell from 33,464 impressions in May, to 5,227 impressions in July.

In addition to geopolitics, WSWS regularly covers a broad range of social issues, many of which have seen precipitous drops in search results. Searches for “food stamps,” “Ford layoffs,” “Amazon warehouse,” and “secretary of education” all went down from more than 5,000 impressions in May to zero impressions in July. The number of search impressions for WSWS articles in searches including the term “strike” fell by 85% between May and July, from 19,395 to 2,964. Many people who conduct Google searches for these terms do so because they are critical of establishment politics and would be interested in hearing what socialists have to say. However, as a result of Google’s actions, they will not find material published by WSWS. And what about those directly looking for socialist politics? In May, the search term “socialism” generated 31,696 impressions, and the WSWS was ranked between 5th and 6th in search results. In June, the WSWS was removed from the top 100 search results for the term. Thus searches for “socialism” produced zero impressions for WSWS, the most widely read online socialist publication. What about those who are already committed socialists, and want to find out more about Leon Trotsky? Here too, the WSWS, published by the Trotskyist movement, is being blocked. While a query for “Leon Trotsky” resulted in 5,893 impressions in May, that number fell to zero in July. When the WSWS contacted Robert Epstein with our findings, the noted psychologist and Google critic concluded:

I have little doubt that Google demoted you. The evidence is rock solid. Google is manipulating people through search suggestions.

The policy guiding these actions is made absolutely clear in the April 25, 2017 blog post by Google’s Vice President for Engineering, Ben Gomes, and the updated “Search Quality Rater Guidelines” published at the same time. The post refers to the need to flag and demote “unexpected offensive results, hoaxes and conspiracy theories,” broad and amorphous language used to exclude any oppositional content. The rater guidelines are even more explicit. The unnamed “evaluators” are instructed to flag as the “lowest” rating sites that have “factually inaccurate information to manipulate users in order to benefit a person, business, government, or other organization politically, monetarily, or otherwise.” The “lowest” rating is also to be given to a website that “presents unsubstantiated conspiracy theories or hoaxes as if the information were factual.” It is impossible to formulate a more explicit policy of suppression of free speech. These guidelines are written in a way to allow Google to demote or block a massive array of websites that are critical of the government and expose its lies. Who precisely is to determine what is “factually inaccurate information” or what constitutes an “unsubstantiated conspiracy theory”? It in effect bars all expression of opinions, other than those that are acceptable to Google and its allies in the state, particularly the Demagog Party. There is not a publication or journal worth reading that would not fall afoul of these “guidelines.”

Adding to the cynicism of the new procedures is the fact that numerous sources have documented Google’s active involvement in supporting political candidates, specifically Hillary Clinton, by manipulating search results. In his recently published book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon cornered culture and undermined democracy, Jonathan Taplin documents the role of Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, in founding a firm called The Groundwork to directly assist the Clinton campaign. Moreover, earlier this year, the European Commission exposed Google’s widespread, deliberate, and criminal manipulation of its search results to promote its own comparison shopping service to the detriment of its competitors. The company was fined $2.7b. In the name of combating “fake news,” Google is providing fake searches. It has been transformed from a search engine into an instrument of censorship. The WSWS will continue to expose Google’s unconstitutional attack on democratic rights. We demand that Google give a full accounting of its procedures, and that it identify who has been given the power to “evaluate” websites. All of Google’s algorithms must be placed in the public domain. Ultimately, the actions of Google provide yet another demonstration of the need to take the dissemination of information out of private control. Powerful search engines cannot be run by monopolies controlled by billionaire oligarchs. They must be placed under democratic control by the working population of the world. There is no question that Google’s action has blocked tens of thousands of people that normally would have found the WSWS from accessing the site. This is the aim. However, a very substantial portion of WSWS readers access the site directly, via social media, or through other search engines, which at least up to this point have not implemented rules that go as far as Google. The WSWS has a loyal and large base of readers and continues to record hundreds of thousands of individual visits a month. We will oppose Google’s political censorship, but we need your support. (appeal follows)
 
Steve Bannon Wants Facebook And Google Regulated Like Utilities
Ryan Grim, The Intercept, Jul 27 2017

Tech companies like Facebook and Google that have become essential elements of 21st-century life should be regulated as utilities, top White House adviser Steve Bannon has argued, according to three people who’ve spoken to him about the issue. Bannon’s push for treating essential tech platforms as utilities pre-dates the Demagog “Better Deal” that was released this week. “Better Deal,” the branding for Demagogs’ political objectives, included planks aimed at breaking up monopolies in a variety of sectors, suggesting that anti-monopoly politics is on the rise on both the right and left. Bannon’s basic argument, as he has outlined it to people who’ve spoken with him, is that Facebook and Google have become effectively a necessity in contemporary life. Indeed, there may be something about an online social network or a search engine that lends itself to becoming a natural monopoly, much like a cable company, a water and sewer system, or a railroad. Regulating a company as a utility does not mean that the government controls it, but rather that it is much more tightly regulated in what it is able to do and prices it is able to charge. And it doesn’t mean every element of the company would be regulated in that way. For Google, which now calls itself Alphabet and has already conveniently broken itself up into discrete elements, it may only be the search function that would be regulated like a utility. Under the Obama administration, the FCC moved forward on a plan to regulate internet service providers as utilities, barring them from slowing down traffic to a site in order to pressure it into paying higher fees. The Trump administration is pushing to reverse that move, which complicates Bannon’s message. Bannon’s argument is bolstered by an unlikely player, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who for years has routinely described Facebook as a “social utility.” In an interview in 2007 with Time magazine, he was asked to elaborate on what had become a central talking point.

Q: Why do you describe Facebook as a “social utility” rather than a “social network”?
A: I think there’s confusion around what the point of social networks is. A lot of different companies characterized as social networks have different goals. Some serve the function of business networking. Some are media portals. What we’re trying to do is just make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information. We always try to emphasize the utility component.

The emphasis on the utility component has disappeared now that Zuckerberg is surrounded by lawyers well versed in monopoly laws, but the argument is as resonant today than it was a decade ago. In fact, more so. Tech companies, meanwhile, have feuded publicly with the administration, particularly over its decision to back out of the Paris climate accord, a move driven by Bannon. Silicon Valley’s liberal cultural politics puts it at odds occasionally with more conservative rural Trump voters. Facebook was confronted by a backlash over its news curating during last year’s presidential campaign. With insiders claiming there was an anti-conservative bias, Facebook pulled its live team off the project and turned its curation over to an algorithm that had little ability to detect whether an article had been utterly fabricated, giving rise to the explosive growth of “fake news,” before the moniker morphed into a description of any news a reader objects to. Silicon Valley caught on late to the Washington game. In 2011, then-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Pat Leahy complained that Google had waited too long to hire an armada of lobbyists. Google was playing catch up at the time, and hiring every committee staffer who wasn’t nailed down. Leahy said of the antitrust investigation he was leading:

Sometimes a company should pay attention early on, not just when matters happen. But I can’t tell them, nor would I, who they should hire or not. I consider myself a public works project right here. My colleagues call it the Leahy Full Employment Act.

They have since caught up: In the first few months of the Trump administration, tech firms set new lobbying spending records in Faschingstein.

mayhem in hebron

Settlers take over Palestinian home in Hebron
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada, Jul 28 2017

More than 100 Jewish settlers under Israeli military escort took over a Palestinian building in Hebron earlier this week. After barricading themselves in, the settlers dropped Israeli flags from the building, which is owned by the Abu Rajab family and located next to the Ibrahimi mosque, has been targeted by settlers for years. The site has been the subject of an ongoing legal battle, with settlers claiming they purchased the building from its Palestinian owners. Settlers raided the building on Tuesday and returned the following day, taking over two of its three floors and moving in furniture. Videos show IOF dragging Palestinians away from the home, while a crowd of young settlers looks on, singing and dancing to celebrate the eviction of the Abu Rajab family.

PM Netanyahu ordered the defense ministry and the military not to evict the settlers. Netanyahu previously urged against the eviction of settlers from the building during an earlier takeover attempt in 2013. The IOF declared the building a closed military zone on Wednesday, reportedly not allowing any more settlers to enter. Settlers made their first attempt to take over the building in 2012. They were evicted by the Israeli military after failing to produce documents proving they had bought the building, according to the settlement watchdog Peace Now. Since then, the settlers have put forward documents claiming ownership, but the Abu Rajab family say they are forged. Israeli officials are reportedly reviewing the documents as they consider how to proceed. Approximately 850 settlers live in a zone of Hebron which is under full IOF control. That zone includes Hebron’s Old City and the Ibrahimi mosque. Earlier this month UNESCO passed two resolutions recognizing the Ibrahimi mosque as an endangered Palestinian heritage site. Settlers roam freely in the area of Hebron which is under full IOF control, while Palestinians are subjected to severe movement restrictions, including segregated roads, and violence and harassment by soldiers and settlers alike. The Lubavitcher-Kachist Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers at the mosque in 1994.

mayhem in jayloomia

Joyful Palestinian worshippers greeted with Israeli violence
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Jul 27 2017

Tens of thousands of worshippers flooded into Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound for the first time in nearly two weeks on Thursday after Israel removed security cameras overnight.

But the rare scenes of Palestinian jubilation in Jerusalem were soon met with Israeli violence. Just an hour after the gates to al-Aqsa were opened, IOF injured dozens of worshippers with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets:

IOF were shown on video beating a detained youth with batons:

Heavily-armed IOF occupied the roof of al-Aqsa mosque and removed Palestinian flags that had been raised there:

They were also deployed in front of the Dome of the Rock:

IOF erected checkpoints near entrances to the Old City to prevent Palestinians from approaching the mosque compound:

Journalists present reported that stun grenades were fired inside al-Aqsa mosque while worshippers were crowded there:

Israel police stated that stones were thrown at police units and towards the Western Wall plaza after thousands entered the compound on Thursday afternoon. But witnesses said IOF attacked them without provocation. They told al-Jazeera on Thursday that IOF were angered when they saw people carrying sweets which they planned to distribute in celebration of the reopening of the mosque. Al-Aqsa has been the center of widespread protest over the past two weeks, both in Palestine and abroad. The mosque compound was closed for three days after the shootings of Jul 14. Worshippers boycotted prayer at the site in protest of Israel’s unilateral installation of metal detectors and security cameras. The last of those installations was removed by Israel overnight after mass protest in the streets of Jayloomia and international pressure. Palestinian factions had called for a day of protest on Friday. Five Palestinians have been killed during protests in the area since last Friday. Three Israelis were fatally stabbed in a settlement late last Friday night. On Thursday, Netanyahu called for the Palestinian assailant, who was shot but not killed during the settlement stabbing incident, to be executed. The Waqf called for the closure of mosques across Jayloomia on Friday and for worshippers to assemble at al-Aqsa. Israel’s police commander in Jerusalem warned of mass violence against worshippers on Friday. Yoram Halevy told media on Thursday:

If there are people who try tomorrow to disturb the peace, to harm police or citizens, they should not be surprised (when) there will be casualties and people injured.

Israeli leaders appear to be trying to save face after mass celebrations erupted in Jerusalem Wednesday night while police removed the newly installed security cameras:

Israeli settlers held a mock funeral for Israel’s “national dignity” after Netanyahu relented to Palestinian demand:

Also on Wednesday night, a massive crowd gathered in Umm al-Fahm for the burial of the three Palestinians slain during the course of the Jul 14 shootings outside al-Aqsa:

The bodies were transferred after a precedent-setting decision by Israel’s high court ordering police to hand them over to their families. In addition to closing al-Aqsa for Friday prayers for the first time in decades, Israel imposed a massive crackdown following the Jul 14 attack. More than 160 Palestinians were arrested in Jayloomia alone, including around 30 children, according to the Palestinian prisoner advocacy group Addameer. Fifteen Palestinian political leaders in Jayloomia were arrested on Jul 20 and released on condition that they don’t enter al-Aqsa mosque, engage in speeches or demonstrations or give media interviews, according to Addameer. IOF also stormed hospitals, preventing medical staff from providing emergency care to critically wounded patients. Netanyahu vowed to shut down al-Jazeera on Wednesday, after an international press freedoms watchdog decried Israel’s harming of Palestinian journalists covering al-Aqsa protests. Al-Jazeera had published a video showing Israeli police kicking a Palestinian kneeling in prayer on a street in Jayloomia last Friday.

It also broadcast live from al-Aqsa on Thursday as IOF attacked worshippers. Sherif Mansour, MENA Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, stated on Thursday:

PM Netanyahu’s threats to close al-Jazeera’s office in Jayloomia or to rewrite the law to allow the broadcaster to be expelled, smack of authoritarianism and are wholly inconsistent with the democratic image Israel wishes to project abroad. Netanyahu should stop threatening the media and should respect all journalists’ right to do their jobs without fear of retaliation.

Thousands of worshippers surge into al-Aqsa mosque, 113 injured
Reuters, Jul 27 2017

JAYLOOMIA – Thousands of Muslim worshippers surged into al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday and at least 113 were hurt in scuffles with police after Israel lifted security measures imposed at the sacred site in the face of days of violent protests. Chaotic scenes unfolded as Israeli police used stun grenades to try to control crowds charging forward when the last gate Muslims use to enter al-Aqsa was opened after a stand-off lasting several hours. The throng chanted:

We will sacrifice ourselves for Al-Aqsa!

Several young men clambered onto the mosque’s roof to affix Palestinian flags, which Israeli police soon confiscated. Israel’s removal of the security devices, including metal detectors and CCTV cameras, marked a significant climbdown by Netanyahu. While Palestinians celebrated, political opponents accused him of weakness. Netanyahu’s decision followed days of diplomatic effort by the UN, the involvement of Pres Trump’s Middle East envoy and pressure from Muslim Arab neighbours. Jordan, continued to fume at Netanyahu over the shooting deaths of two of its citizens by an Israeli Embassy guard in Amman on Sunday. Israel repatriated the guard to a hero’s welcome, saying he had fired in self-defense against an attack that may have been spurred by pro-Palestinian sentiment. Earlier on Thursday, the Waqf declared itself satisfied that Israeli authorities had scrapped all the new security measures and reverted to the set-up before Jul 14, and urged Muslims to return to al-Aqsa. Palestinian political factions issued statements supporting the Waqf that looked likely to help defuse the unrest. Before the announcement, factions had been calling for a “day of rage” on Friday. Jordan said Israel’s removal of the extra security was an “essential step to calm the situation.” But facing domestic outrage over the Israeli Embassy deaths, King Abdullah excoriated Netanyahu for embracing the guard involved after demanding he return without being investigated. Abdullah said in a statement:

The PM’s conduct has been provocative on all fronts and enrages us, destabilizes security and fuels extremism. Bilateral relations will be at risk if the guard is not brought to trial.

Palestinian political factions were quick to claim a rare victory over Israel after Netanyahu pulled the extra security measures. His aides declined to comment, but rivals in Israel’s fractious right-wing camp criticized Netanyahu’s decision. Education Minister Naftali Bennett said:

Israel is emerging weakened from this crisis, to my regret. Instead of bolstering our sovereignty in Jayloomia, a message was relayed that our sovereignty can be shaken.

In ordering the metal detectors and cameras, Netanyahu had said the extra security was needed to ensure safety at the site.

King Abdullah demands Israel put embassy guard on trial
Al-Jazeera, Jul 27 2017

Jordan’s King Abdullah has asked Benjamin Netanyahu to put an Israeli embassy guard who on Sunday shot and killed two Jordanian citizens, on trial. Jordan wants to question the guard but he has since returned to Israel, welcomed with an embrace by the Israeli prime minister. Jordan’s public prosecutor’s initial investigation has found the Israeli guard responsible for the killings and of possession of a firearm without a licence. Israel brought the guard home under diplomatic immunity on Monday. In his first public comments on the case on Thursday, King Abdullah criticised Netanyahu for embracing the guard, calling it provocative and destabilising. There are different versions of how the Jordanians were killed. The Israeli foreign ministry says the guard was stabbed by 17-year-old Mohammed al-Jawawdeh, who was at an embassy residence delivering furniture. The official Jordanian government version of events is similar. It says Jawawdeh attacked the Israeli guard, who shot and killed him and the landlord of the residence, Bashar Hamarneh. The guard’s version of events, as communicated by the Israelis, suggested that he was defending himself when Jawawdeh attempted to stab him with a screwdriver in a row over a late delivery of furniture. The Jordanian government gave conflicting statements about the incident, first describing it as a “crime” against Jordanian citizens and then supporting the Israeli version of events, when Jordan’s interior minister Ghaleb al-Zuabi said:

The deceased attacked the Israeli guard with a screwdriver. The guard shot him in self-defence.

Mohamad al-Hejuj, a former MP who is related to the Jawawdeh clan, told al-Jazeera he was informed by government security officials that Jawawdeh may have “attacked” the security guard. However, Jawawdeh’s family rejects the claim that attacked the guard. Denying that the Jawawdeh family was knowingly doing business with the Israeli embassy in Amman, a family member told al-Jazeera:

Our family would never deal with the Zionist occupiers. They killed our son in cold blood on Jordanian soil.

Jawawdeh’s father Zakariya told AFP that he wanted “the truth” and urged the authorities to view CCTV footage from security cameras at the embassy. He said:

My son has no interest in politics. He does not follow any extremist ideology. I want to know how the investigation is going and know what happened, and what led to the killing of my son.

The Jawawdeh family has hired a lawyer to follow up the case with the Jordanian government. Family members said officials from the Jordanian government, including the prime minister and officers from the General Intelligence Department, have visited the family to pay their respects. Adding to the confusion and conflicting accounts has been the disappearance of a key witness who was present at the apartment where the shooting took place. Maher Faris Ibrahimi, the truck driver who delivered furniture to the apartment, witnessed the shooting, according to his family. After the shooting, Ibrahimi was questioned by the Jordanian police and remained in custody until he was released on Wednesday. Ibrahimi’s family members told al-Jazeera that he was told by the police not to stay at his house, to shut off his mobile phone and not talk to anyone about the incident. Ibrahimi is now staying with other family members in other parts of Amman, his wife said.

avigdor ‘yvette’ liberman’s land swap proposal goes mainstream

PM seeks Trump OK for compulsory land swap
Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Jul 27 2017

F170621FFMS001-1David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, Jared Kushner, Benjamin Netanyahu at the PMO in Jayloomia, Jun 21 2017. (Photo: Matty Stern)

PM Netanyahu issued a proposal to Pindostan under which Israel would annex West Bank settlements and in exchange relinquish some Arab cities in Israel to Palestinian control, Channel 2 reported on Thursday. Netanyahu reportedly suggested that jurisdiction of several Israeli Arab villages in the Wadi Ara region could be transferred to Palestinian control in exchange for Israel annexing Jewish settlements in the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank, having discussed the plan with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. The TV report did not specify when the proposal was raised or when Israel sought the exchange to take place. A White House official indicated the ideas detailed in the report were raised, but only within the context of a final peace accord. The official told The Times of Israel:

This may have been one of many ideas discussed several weeks ago in the context of a peace agreement and not in the context of a separate annexation.

Netanyahu has not previously been known to suggest such a swap. Avigdor ‘Yvette’ Liberman has previously suggested that Arab Israeli cities in a region of central Israel that abuts the West Bank come under Palestinian control as part of a future peace deal. Minutes after Channel 2 aired the story, Liberman tweeted a link to it and wrote, “Mr Prime Minister, welcome to the club.” On Wednesday, Netanyahu indicated that he would give his backing for a bill to absorb four West Bank settlements and a settlement bloc into the Jerusalem municipality, while also removing around 100,000 Palestinians from the city’s census. The settlements in question are Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit and Efrat, along with the Etzion bloc of settlements. Some are fairly deep in the West Bank, more than 10 km from Jayloomia. In total, they are currently home to some 130,000 Israelis. According to the proposal, initiated by Likud MK Yoav Kisch and backed by Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, residents of those settlements would be able to vote in Jayloomia municipal elections, but the settlements would not be under full Israeli sovereignty. The move would make the local official demographic balance significantly more Jewish and would “bring back Jayloomia’s status as a symbol,” according to the proposal’s preamble. Kisch said residents of the settlements in question would maintain municipal autonomy through independent regional councils. He indicated they would vote in four local elections: for Jayloomia mayor, Jayloomia municipality council, head of regional council and members of said council. Under the same proposal, around 100,000 people living in Palestinian neighborhoods outside the security barrier surrounding the city would be removed from the city’s census, with a new municipality built for them. Netanyahu reportedly told Kisch to move ahead with the proposal following the Knesset summer recess.

good news

White House Sacks Top Iran Hawk Amid Ongoing Disagreements
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Jul 27 2017

04x

The White House has announced today that NSC member and top Trump adviser on Iran Derek Harvey has been fired, “effective immediately.” Harvey, who had previously worked for the DIA, was broadly hawkish on current issues and was said to have been among the main proponents of Pres Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Syria over allegations of chemical weapons use. He was seen as extremely hawkish on Iran, and his firing comes amid major cabinet disagreements on Iran policy. Harvey was said to be among the proponents for unilaterally withdrawing Pindostan from the P5+1 nuclear deal, a position which ultimately lost out in recent weeks, as Tillerson and Mattis managed to convince Trump to take a more measured approach. Some reports cited officials as denying that Harvey’s position on Iran was the reason for his dismissal, saying rather that he was viewed by other cabinet members as too close to Stephen Bannon. Harvey was initially hired for the council by Lt-Gen Michael Flynn, who has also been sacked, and may not have been favored by H R McMaster.

she lives in a world of bullshit

Senate Sends Russia Sanctions to Trump, 98-2
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, Jul 27 2017

Following the 419-3 vote in the House, the Senate today passed the new bill sanctioning Russia with a similar overwhelming margin, 98-2. The lone no votes were Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul. The bill initially started as limiting the president’s ability to ease sanctions on Russia, but quickly expanded to adding a bunch of new sanctions targeting Russia, and also some new sanctions against Iran and NK, done to secure the votes. The votes advance the bill on to Pres Trump, and despite his initial reticence at a bill limiting his power, White House officials have indicated that he will sign the bill as it now structured. This opens the door for retaliatory measures. Russian officials have already threatened retaliatory measures over this bill should it be signed, expected to include moves to expel some Pindo diplomats. The EU is also threatening to retaliate, as the sanctions target foreign investors in Russia’s energy sector, which includes a number of important EU companies who import energy from Russia. Iran has also threatened reciprocal measures over the sanctions against them, which officials see as violating the P5+1 nuclear deal, since they replace sanctions that Pindostan was obliged to lift under that deal, while claiming a different pretext for them.

why did mooch confide at all in this creep who spills every obscene bean?

Scaramucci: “Priebus Is A Fucking Paranoid Schizophrenic”, Slams “Cocksucker” Bannon, Wants To “Kill” Leakers
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jul 27 2017

After what was either his first White House nervous breakdown or a carefully disguised distraction intended to give the media something other than Russia to discuss on this weekend’s political talk show circuit, Anthony Scaramucci has just issued the following statement via Twitter:

And then, the White House communications director followed up with this:

Details have emerged about Anthony Scaramucci’s bizarre overnight breakdown, in which he accused Reince Priebus of leaking details of a private dinner he had with Trump, Melania, Sean Hannity and Bill Shine, as well as accusing the former GOP head of a “felony” leak of Scaramucci’s financial disclosures. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza has released the details of a phone call he received on Wednesday night from Scaramucci, after tweeting shortly prior:

As discussed earlier, Scaramucci was furious that Lizza found out about the dinner and convinced that Priebus was the one who told Lizza about it, tried to get an admission out of Lizza. Earlier in the day, the fund manager insinuated on twitter that Trump’s top aide was behind the “leak” of his financial disclosure forms, which subsequently it turned out were not leaked, but were public for anyone to access. Trump, who has previously expressed his strong support and admiration for Scaramucci, has yet to opine.

priebus mooch

Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Priebus & Bannon
Ryan Lizza, New Yorker, Jul 28 2017

scarrThe new White House communications director has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/ WaPo)

On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn’t happy. Earlier in the night, I’d tweeted, citing a “senior White House official,” that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with Pres Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question, for me. He wanted to know:

Who leaked that to you?

I said I couldn’t give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. Jr said:

What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over!

I laughed, not sure if he really believed that such a threat would convince a journalist to reveal a source. He continued to press me and complain about the staff he’s inherited in his new job, saying:

I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can’t help themselves! You’re a Pindosi citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the Pindosi country. So I’m asking you as a Pindosi patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it!

In Scaramucci’s view, the fact that word of the dinner had reached a reporter was evidence that his rivals in the West Wing, particularly Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, were plotting against him. While they have publicly maintained that there is no bad blood between them, Scaramucci and Priebus have been feuding for months. After the election, Trump asked Scaramucci to join his administration, and Scaramucci sold his company, SkyBridge Capital, in anticipation of taking on a senior role. But Priebus didn’t want him in the White House, and successfully blocked him for being appointed to a job until last week, when Trump offered him the communications job over Priebus’s vehement objections. In response to Scaramucci’s appointment, Sean Spicer, an ally of Priebus’s, resigned his position as press secretary. And in an additional slight to Priebus, the White House’s official announcement of Scaramucci’s hiring noted that he would report directly to the President, rather than to the chief of staff. Scaramucci’s first public appearance as communications director was a slick and conciliatory performance at the lectern in the White House briefing room last Friday. He suggested it was time for the White House to turn a page. But since then, he has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters. Michael Short, a White House press aide considered close to Priebus, resigned on Tuesday after Scaramucci publicly spoke about firing him. Meanwhile, several damaging stories about Scaramucci have appeared in the press, and he blamed Priebus for most of them. Now, he wanted to know whom I had been talking to about his dinner with the President. Scaramucci, who initiated the call, did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background. He asked:

Is it an assistant to the President?

I again told him I couldn’t say. He (again) replied:

OK, I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks!

I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. He said:

I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period. They won’t do it.

He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source. He said:

They’ll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus, if you want to leak something, he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.

He believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. Scaramucci channelled Priebus as he ridiculed him, saying:

Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac! ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in! Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months!’

Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn’t know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was “a felony.” He told me:

I’ve called the FBI and the DoJ! ‘The swamp will not defeat him!’ They’re trying to resist me, but it’s not going to work! I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go fuck themselves!

I asked:

Are you serious?

Scaramucci said that unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. He said:

I’m not Steve Bannon! I’m not trying to suck my own cock! I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President! I’m here to serve the country!

He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him. He said:

He didn’t get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President. And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me.

His list of allegations included leaking the Hannity dinner and the details from his financial-disclosure form. I got the sense that Scaramucci’s campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about the President. He cryptically suggested that he had more information about White House aides, saying:

What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the Pindo creeple, OK? The Mooch showed up a week ago. This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, OK? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the FBI and the fucking DoJ … Well, the felony. They’re gonna get prosecuted, probably, for the felony. The lie detector starts …

He changed the subject and returned to what he thought was the illegal leak of his financial-disclosure forms. I asked if the President knew all of this. He replied:

Well, he doesn’t know the extent of all that, he knows about some of that, but he’ll know about the rest of it first thing tomorrow morning when I see him. … Yeah, let me go though, because I’ve gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy.

Minutes later, he tweeted the following:

scardel

With the addition of Priebus’s Twitter handle, he was making public what he had just told me: that he believed Priebus was leaking information about him. The tweet quickly went viral. Scaramucci seemed to have second thoughts. Within two hours he deleted the original tweet and posted a new one denying that he was targeting the chief of staff:

A few hours later, I appeared on CNN to discuss the overnight drama. As I was talking about Scaramucci, he called into the show himself and referenced our conversation. He changed his story about Priebus. Instead of saying that he was trying to expose Priebus as a leaker, he said that the reason he mentioned Priebus in his deleted tweet was because he wanted to work together with Priebus to discover the leakers. After noting that he had talked to me Wednesday night, Scaramucci made an argument that journalists were assuming that he was accusing Priebus because they know Priebus leaks to the press. He said:

He’s the chief of staff, he’s responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night. When I put out a tweet, and I put Reince’s name in the tweet, they’re all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are. So, if Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that. Let me tell you something about myself. I’m a straight shooter.