SWIFT, CIPS, and NSA Spy Tools
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on MAY 9, 2017
Last month a hacker calling itself Shadow Brokers released materials suggesting that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring the SWIFT interbank messaging system. If fully verified, this is a serious threat in and of itself. According to an April 14, 2017 article by Clare Baldwin in Reuters:
“Hackers released documents and files on Friday that cybersecurity experts said indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT interbank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks.
The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity, said Shane Shook, a cyber security consultant who has helped banks investigate breaches of their SWIFT systems.”
The April 14th issue of WIRED by Andy Greenberg went into greater detail on the same story:
“…the Shadow Brokers published documents that—if legitimate—show just how thoroughly US intelligence has compromised elements of the global banking system. The new leak includes evidence that the NSA hacked into EastNets, a Dubai-based firm that oversees payments in the global SWIFT transaction system for dozens of client banks and other firms, particularly in the Middle East. The leak includes detailed lists of hacked or potentially targeted computers, including those belonging to firms in Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories. Also included in the data dump, as in previous Shadow Brokers releases, are a load of fresh hacking tools, this time targeting a slew of Windows versions.”
So what does SWIFT mean? From a WIRED magazine piece last year:
“SWIFT stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication and is a consortium that operates a trusted and closed computer network for communication between member banks around the world. The consortium, which dates back to the 1970s, is based in Belgium and is overseen by the National Bank of Belgium and a committee composed of representatives from the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and other major banks. The SWIFT platform has some 11,000 users and processes about 25 million communications a day, most of them money transfer transactions. Financial institutions and brokerage houses that use SWIFT have codes that identify each institution as well as credentials that authenticate and verify transactions.”
We already knew that the SWIFT system had been targeted by criminals. Proof comes in the fact that $81 million was stolen from Bangladesh with $1 billion having been targeted. Other banks were targeted and some maybe successfully. This had serious implications, according to Kim Zetter in that same WIRED magazine report (May 17, 2016):
What Does the Heist Mean?“Even if the hackers didn’t compromise the SWIFT network itself, such that all of SWIFT banks were vulnerable, it’s still bad news for the global banking process. By targeting the methods that member banks use to conduct transactions over the SWIFT network, the hackers undermine a system that until now had been viewed as stalwart.
The incidents also raise integrity issues about the trustworthiness of SWIFT reporting. The US government relies on SWIFT transaction records to alert it to suspicious money transfers that could be related to terrorism financing.”
Here is the problem. A couple of bank heists a year ago undermined the reputation of SWIFT. Now, with the NSA hacking/monitoring “tools” made public, the SWIFT system seems even more vulnerable.
For background, it is important to know that monitoring SWIFT is big business for spies. If you want to know what is happening, you follow the money. The NSA knows this and that is why they likely have been monitoring global transactions. In addition, the United States and/or United Nations have used their position to suggest that certain countries should be cutoff from SWIFT. Such a cutting off is a powerful economic weapon. Even the threat has serious ramifications. This was used recently with North Korea. Before that, SWIFT cutoff was used against Iran. Russia has feared being denied access to SWIFT so much that they created their own version. Perhaps the best known alternative was developed by China, known as CIPS (China International Payment System). According to Financial Times, the launch of CIPS was undertaken precisely because the Chinese feared SWIFT spying:
China launch of renminbi payments system reflects Swift spying concernsThe Financial Times article also suggests that having this system will allow the Chinese renminbi to rival the U.S. dollar for global trade. At one point, the Chinese want the U.S. dollar entirely replaced and the world “de-Americanized.”
Now, with the release of the Shadow Brokers files, the Chinese and Russians have the opening argument they need to pry the world off of SWIFT and on to an alternative. Russia is already bragging about this as shown in Sputnik News:
Why Washington is Terrified of Russia, Chinaby Pepe Escobar April 21, 2017
Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi Jinping high-level meetings.
Diplomats, off the record, occasionally let it slip there may have been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both.
For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it . . .
Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, Anton Vaino. Beijing stressed the talks will revolve around – what else — the Russia-China strategic partnership, “as previously agreed on by the countries’ leaders.” . . .
Follow the money
Exhibit B centers on Russia and China quietly advancing their agreement to progressively replace the US dollar’s reserve status with a gold-backed system . . .
In parallel, Russia and China are advancing their own payment systems. With the yuan now enjoying the status of a global currency, China has been swiftly promoting their payment system, CIPS, careful not to frontally antagonize the internationally accepted SWIFT, controlled by the US . . .
[To CONTINUE READING at Sputnik News…]
Whether this is bluster or serious warning, there should be little doubt that this is the story Russia is promoting. Putin has long threatened the U.S. dollar. If you believe the Russians would meddle in our election, can you be certain they wouldn’t try to undermine our financial system?
Now, connect the dots. With the newly released NSA information and the successful theft of huge amounts of money, the Chinese and Russians can argue that the Western-based system is vulnerable. They will attempt to get even allies of ours to at least connect via CIPS. Will they be successful? Likely yes. As proof remember back to how we opposed allies joining the Asian Development Bank. Yet, they joined China anyway despite our opposition. What happens if Russia and China use their very sophisticated hacker squads to turn the screws on SWIFT? And, if the Shadow Brokers release is proven accurate, will they be able to justify such activity if caught by pointing to the NSA files?
Many will no doubt argue that the Chinese economy is far too shaky for such a move. The truth is that such a move is actually more likely to occur out of desperation. If you run out of options and have nothing to lose, why wouldn’t you make a play? If the world turns away from SWIFT, that is bad enough as we lose a potent economic weapon.If the world turns to CIPS, it’s worse as we see China pick up a potentially loaded economic weapon.
The bottom line is this. Shadow Brokers have given Russia and China the justification to press their alternative to SWIFT if and when they so choose. And, if the Chinese economy starts to turn down, they may have the incentive to do so sooner rather than later. This is a serious cause for concern.
Is The Entertainment Industry a Modern Tool of Chinese Economic Warfare?
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on APRIL 18, 2017
Maybe the most famous movie theater in America is Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. It stands as an icon of the film industry. Although the actual theater is as American as they come (Chinese in name only), its name is a kind of metaphor for a cultural weapon being waged in the global economic war.
I’m reading a fascinating and informative book by Dr. Jeff Myers of Summit Ministries titled Understanding the Culture, A Survey of Social Engagement (third in a terrific series). Dr. Myers makes the point that culture is upstream of politics and politics is upstream of life in many ways. What this means is that if you can sway the culture, you can control the politics and the future of a nation. The Chinese Communists under Chairman Mao recognized this and attempted their own manufactured cultural revolution for a decade starting in 1966. In the West, we believe that our culture ultimately won out with freedom, free enterprise, and capitalism as the triumphant.
The only problem with that thinking is the fact that the culture war rages on. Much of the Islamic world argues that Western culture is too decadent and must be replaced by strict adherence to Shari’a law. Our own political correctness attempts to punish freedom of speech and thought. And, socialism has gained an incredible cache among our young people (how else can you explain Bernie Sanders?). We may have won a cultural battle but the war continues to rage and we appear to be losing.
In Chapter 7 of Understanding the Culture, Dr. Myers provides a very powerful insight. He explains how entertainment is upstream of culture and thus greatly influences life:
“I’ve always tried to be aware of what I say in my films, because all of us who make motion picture are teachers,” Star Wars producer George Lucas says, “–teachers with very loud voices. Entertainers teach by telling stories that shape peoples’ views of reality. Every one of these stories, Brian Godawa reminds us, “is informed by a worldview. Many entertainers relish the power this gives them. Courtney Love, a singer who was married to the late Kurt Cobain said, “I feel like I have a duty. I as an architect have a need to impose my worldview on the culture.”
In fact, the entertainment culture itself has become so influential that in some ways it forms its own worldview, its own pattern of ideas, values, behaviors, and habits. Says movie critic Neal Gabler, “It is not any ism but entertainment that is arguably the most persuasive, powerful, and ineluctable force of our time–a force so overwhelming that it has finally metastasized into life. Whatever the case, there is a battle of worldview in the entertainment culture, and it affects each of us every day.”
The Battle for Hearts and Minds
The arts have long been noted for their mesmerizing power. Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher (1653-1716) said, “If a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation. Why? Because as Plato explained in The Republic, “when the modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.”
Academic studies confirm this power.
Anyone who has witnessed the change in American culture over the past few decades is clearly aware of the tremendous influence that entertainment and the arts wield. There was a time, for example, that we had political police rooting out what they believed was Soviet Communist influence in Hollywood. There was a Hollywood Blacklist and actors, writers, producers, and directors feared being named as communist sympathizers. That era has long since passed and for that most people are grateful. But that does not mean that we should ignore the incredible power of entertainment in regard to culture, politics, economics, and our future.
Two articles came across my desk this morning that are pertinent to this concern. The first article from POLITICO describes the role that Hollywood is attempting to play in a Georgia Congressional race. Let that sink in for a moment. Hollywood elites have determined that they should help Georgians decide who will represent their sixth district in Congress:
Hollywood collides with Trump in Georgia raceCelebrities view Tuesday’s special election as a chance to rage against the president.
POLITICO Gabriel Debenedetti0 4/18/17 05:05 AM EDT
Spoiling for a fight against a president it can’t stand, Hollywood has latched onto Tuesday’s special election for a suburban Atlanta congressional seat, eyeing the contest as a unique opportunity to tarnish Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Many of the entertainment world’s liberal, politically active celebrities have showered Jon Ossoff, the leading Democratic candidate in Georgia’s 6th District, with cash and campaign assistance — a harbinger, some of them say, of a sustained revolt against the president’s agenda . . . [To CONTINUE READING at POLITICO…]
It is interesting to note that many of these celebrities getting so active into politics are admittedly doing so because they believed there was Russian influence in the Trump campaign and they want it rooted out. They feel that the Russians stole the election and we shouldn’t stand for it. Anyone else see the double irony of this from those who withstood McCarthyism? Should Hollywood control our government?
The second article that connects with this issue today was found in today’s The Wall Street Journal:
Hollywood’s New Script: You Can’t Make Movies Without ChinaThe U.S. movie industry has become reliant on China’s investors and its more than a billion potential moviegoers—a relationship with strings attached
Erich Schwartzel April 18, 2017 10:27 a.m. ET LOS ANGELES--
…Hollywood has become so entangled with China that the movie industry can’t run without it.
Chinese investors and more than a billion potential moviegoers have made China indispensable to the film business. The country’s box-office total last year, at $6.6 billion, was the world’s second-largest compared with the first-place U.S., $11.4 billion. In a few years, analysts predict, China will be No. 1.
While the U.S. movie-ticket sales have remained relatively flat, China’s have more than tripled since 2011.
“We never thought of China 10 years ago. Now, we’re at a point where Hollywood can’t exist without China,” said Adam Goodman, a former production chief at Paramount Pictures. He now runs a film-production company backed by Le Eco, a Beijing-based technology company.
Private and state-backed Chinese companies have invested tens of billions of dollars in U.S. film ventures over the past decade. The relationship comes with strings attached. Chinese authorities, censors and consumers influence nearly every aspect of American moviemaking in China, from scripts to casting to greenlighting sequels.
“We’re in a moment of significant disruption,” said Richard Lovett, president of Creative Artists Agency, which represents such clients as Sandra Bullock and J.J. Abrams. The firm announced Monday it was expanding its footprint in the country with a division called CAA China.
China’s ambition befits the big screen—to compete with the U.S. as a global storyteller and spread its perspective in the same fashion American filmmakers have for a century. [To CONTINUE READING at The Wall Street Journal]
Basically, the article makes the point that China controls Hollywood because films have to be made palatable for a Chinese audience and the Chinese studio owners. The last sentence we quoted sums it up. China’s ambition is to spread its perspective. We should not assume that this is benign as another quote in the Journal article explains:
Chinese investors bring the support of a Communist Party that under China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, has made cultural influence an important piece of its long-term growth plans.
“We must make patriotism into the main melody of literature and art creation, guide the people to establish and uphold correct views of history, views of the nation, views of the country and views of culture, and strengthen their fortitude and resolve to be Chinese,” said Mr. Xi at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art in October 2014.
And, what happened to Hollywood’s desperate demand for artistic license?
Hollywood executives can rattle off the rules for getting a movie approved by Chinese censors: no sex (too unseemly); no ghosts (too spiritual). Among 10 prohibited plot elements are “disrupts the social order” and “jeopardizes social morality.” Time travel is frowned upon because of its premise that individuals can change history.
U.S. filmmakers sometimes anticipate Chinese censors and alter movies before their release. The Oscar-winning alien-invasion drama “Arrival” was edited to make a Chinese general appear less antagonistic before the film’s debut in China this year.
The reality is that in 1950s Hollywood, the industry rebelled against the American government’s intrusion in their industry. Today, the Communist Chinese are calling the shots and no one seems to be objecting. Some might argue that the Chinese have a right to censor and control movies made for their nation. But, when you realize that the Chinese also now own America’s largest movie theater chain, you recognize that they have serious influence on movies made for Americans as well. There’s already a good deal of Chinese money in American studios. And there is an effort to buy and control the studios outright also.
Now, consider this quote from the 1999 book published by the People’s Liberation Army under the translated title Unrestricted Warfare:
Can special funds be set up to exert greater influence on another country’s government and legislature through lobbying? And could buying or gaining control of stocks be used to turn another country’s newspapers and television stations into tools of media warfare?
Does this mean that money is upstream of both entertainment and politics?
We know without question that the Chinese used “special funds” to influence the Democrat National Committee (DNC) during the Clinton Administration. And, we are witnessing a buying up of media assets to exert control right now. And, Hollywood clearly has a powerful political influence. For those people fixated on Russian influence in the last election, wake up and see what China has been doing. To the Chinese, this is Unrestricted Warfare.
The Mother of All Hacks and What You Must Do About It
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on MAY 14, 2017
With all due respect to Mother’s Day weekend, there is really no choice other than to label this weekend’s global cyber attack as anything but, “the Mother of All Hacks.” If you operate a Windows-based computer, you should definitely pay attention. Even if you prefer Apple, there are things you should learn from this. Plenty of news reports on this fast-spreading computer virus can keep you updated so we won’t dwell on all the messy details about how the largest hack in history happened. But we will pull out what should be viewed as the most critical points and then discuss what you can and should be doing about it.
First, let’s recognize the scope and speed with which this cyber pandemic made it around the globe. An early count shows 200,000 victims (including some pretty big name companies) in 150 countries. Each of these 200,000 faces a persistent ransomware requiring a payment or the permanent loss of files. For those who haven’t quite kept up with the news, imagine opening your computer to the following screen:
Now, imagine this same screen replicated at least 200,000 times, and that may be just the beginning. If all 200,000 paid the $300 demand, the total take would be $60 million. That’s a decent sum but not overwhelming, far less than the weekend box office for a blockbuster movie. It seems, however, that the intended take was substantially larger. And, this initial attack was just a drop in the bucket of what could have happened, what may happen yet, and what will certainly happen at some point.
The second point is that even though it is all about the money, the collateral damage could be extraordinary. One of the most serious victims has been England’s National Health System (NHS). If systems fail at hospitals, people can die. Fortunately, it appears that the current attack, at this point, is targeting control of files rather than operations. But a phase two cannot be ruled out. Just imagine if the hacker demanded ransom or else he would poison the water supply or release a human pathogen. We already know of the risk to the electric grid and other critical infrastructure. Some estimates suggest that a persistent long-term (year or more) failure of the electric grid could result in loss of up to 90% of the American population. In such cases, the demands could be measured in the billions of dollars per incident.
The third point is the recognition that the tools used for this latest attack appear to be those leaked by Shadow Brokers and taken from the NSA. We recently warned about this when discussing the risk to the SWIFT international banking transfer system. The tools were commercialized for mass distribution rather than targeted to a specific victim. The current exploit is known as ExternalBlue. What should be most concerning is that this is a single tool from what are no doubt full tool boxes developed by NSA and their counterparts around the world.
The fourth point is that this attack is not over. It was temporarily interrupted by a fluke. There was not a guaranteed “on the shelf” remedy ready to stop this pandemic once started. Or, if there was, it was not being released. Just imagine that. What if a military created a cyber virus and then kept the “cure” a secret to maintain the value of the weapon. Sounds sort of like a high-tech version of the Dustin Hoffman film, Outbreak. But, there are ways to protect yourself as we will describe at the end of this Blog.
The fifth point is that while these were nation-state level tools, this has been criminal activity so far. Just imagine the damage that could be inflicted if the purpose was to wage war rather than to make money. This would be warfare at a whole new level. And, these weapons do not require an army. There may be just a few hackers behind this horrendous breach of 200,000 computers in 150 countries. Terror groups have attempted to acquire such weapons and have hired hackers to build them.
The sixth point is that sometimes the only answer is to pay the demand. The FBI won’t directly tell you to do that but then they sort of have already. What this reinforces is that there isn’t a simple or inexpensive antidote to the infection.
The seventh point is that no one is really immune. It all depends on the weakest link in a chain and if one trusted computer or device gets infected, the infection can spread rapidly even to otherwise well-defended devices.
One final point has to do with Bitcoin. All ransoms are to be paid with Bitcoin and this is due to the security and anonymity provided. This is something we will be discussing at great length going forward. For now, just know that Bitcoin plays a role in this RansomWare scheme.
So What Should You Be Doing?
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Now, just insert the 21st Century addition: “Don’t put your treasure where hackers can hack.” The really good news is that RansomWare might lock up your family photos or even your work files. But it can’t interfere with your relationships or your trust in God which should be your true treasures.
None Dare Call It Genocide
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on APRIL 21, 2017
I heard Glenn Beck this morning describe a new movie, The Promise, and at his encouragement saw it tonight. It was a good movie but also difficult. It tells a remarkable story set in a historically accurate background. As hard as it was to watch, it was even harder to make. And that brings us to the point of this Blog.
We recently explained Chinese influence in Hollywood and how this can be a form of economic warfare. The key point is that culture is upstream of politics and entertainment is upstream of culture. Those who control the entertainment industry have a direct impact on the culture and eventually the politics. For those who don’t believe this, just consider the remarkable shift in attitudes toward homosexual marriage over the past few decades. That cultural shift, now enforced by the political class, would not have happened without the entertainment industry.
In our last post, we explained that China has a purposeful influence operation at work in Hollywood. They have done this with money. Shortly after our post was released, we were sent an article from The Times of London where Hollywood legend Richard Gere states that he has been denied movie roles because of Chinese influence:
Chinese influence in Hollywood has cost me film roles, says Richard GereApril 20 2017, 12:01am,Richard Gere has spent decades criticising China’s occupation of Tibet in interviews, at street protests and even from the Oscar podium — and now he suspects that he is paying the price.
Whereas his call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 fell flat, Gere believes that China has been rather more effective at persuading Hollywood to boycott him.
“There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him’,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”
On another occasion he was two weeks away from starting shooting on a small production with a Chinese director…
[Registration is required To CONTINUE READING…]
That’s pretty remarkable considering how loved Richard Gere is in Hollywood, as is his friend the Dalai Lama. But money speaks very loudly. Sadly, a good deal of the money that is speaking in Hollywood is now coming from Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company that took in $25 billion in its IPO a couple of years ago. It’s sad because the money being spent to influence Americans largely came from us when we bought Alibaba shares. Actually, American investors really bought shares in a Cayman Islands corporation rather than the Chinese company due to restrictions on foreign ownership. But that’s another story. Here are three articles on Alibaba buying up key Hollywood assets:
China’s Alibaba look to buy Billboard and the Hollywood ReporterJack Ma, Spielberg Strike Deal to Bring Hollywood to ChinaChina’s Alibaba to Invest $7.2B in Entertainment Over Three YearsNow, just a few days later, we have reminder of another influence operation story regarding Hollywood. The effort has been to keep the American people from knowing the truth for over eight decades. Free speech and truth have been silenced by money, even in the entertainment industry. And, the impact on culture is intended with an eye toward controlling politics. This is truly a form of economic warfare.
We already know that there will be no depictions of Mohammed due to blasphemy laws. There is a push to prevent any criticism of Islam or its founding prophet, even on Facebook. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, the history of The Promise demonstrates how Hollywood has been influenced. The movie describes the horrific genocide of up to 1.5 million Armenian Christians over a century ago. Anyone with any sense of history should recognize that the genocide absolutely led to Hitler’s holocaust that murdered as many as 11 million Jews. The making of The Promise creatively began more than eight decades ago and was slated to star Clark Gable. But an influence operation intervened with the clear intention of denying the truth of the genocide.
That influence operation continues today with the clear intention of keeping The Promise from success as explained in today’s edition of The Daily Good:
In 1934, almost two decades after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, MGM Studios cast a budding young actor named Clark Gable to star in a movie called The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Based on a novel of the same name, the film would tell the story of Gabriel Bagradian, a wealthy academic who—upon returning from Paris to his Armenian village in what is now modern-day Turkey—is forced to help defend his village against the genocidal onslaught of the Ottoman army.
The film, however, never made it to production. After fielding complaints from the Turkish ambassador about the project—which, he said, would reopen the “Armenian Question,” about whether what happened in Armenia at the hands of the Turkish government could be termed “genocide”--the U.S. State Department pressured MGM to drop the film in an effort to protect its political relationship with Turkey. The studio put up a fight, but eventually caved and dropped the movie . . .
The Promise is the auspicious victory of a long, hard struggle to memorialize the Armenian Genocide in popular culture, largely because the Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge their actions as a “genocide,” for reasons that have both to do with national pride and monetary reparations. To this day, Turkish lawmakers cite an article in their penal code in order to censor journalists, professors, and activists who speak too brazenly about what transpired. And, in an effort to preserve relations with Turkey—a major geopolitical power in the Middle East—no U.S. president has uttered the word “genocide” in any official commemorations of the anniversary either—not even Barack Obama, who, while still a senator, made a promise that he would do so.
“There has been a very well-organized systematic attempt to suppress the story, as the final phase of genocide,” says The Promise producer Eric Esrailian. “You’re dealing with all the weight of that denial for 102 years now. So there’s a general lack of awareness in the population, particularly in the United States, about the Armenian Genocide because of that.”
[To READ the entire article at The Daily Good.]
The problem with avoiding the truth is simple. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“ Here’s the tragic thing. The slaughter of Christians starting in 1915 was not the first, just the largest such genocide at the hands of the Turks. In fact, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) witnessed a massacre first hand in 1861.
From today’s edition of The American Minute by good friend Bill Federer:
In his book Innocents Abroad, 1869, which established his reputation as a writer, Mark Twain described Syria under the Ottoman Turkish Empire:
“Five thousand Christians…were massacred in Damascus in 1861 by the Turks…
Narrow streets ran blood for several days, and that men, women and children were butchered indiscriminately and left to rot by hundreds all through the Christian quarter…the stench was dreadful.
…All the Christians who could get away fled from the city, and the Mohammedans would not defile their hands by burying the ‘infidel dogs.’
…The thirst for blood extended to the high lands of Hermon and Anti-Lebanon, and in a short time twenty-five thousand more Christians were massacred…”
What we have been seeing across the Middle East in recent years has been an attempted extermination of Christianity. Yet, the American media has remained shamefully silent. History repeating itself?
In addition to the modern media blackout, we are also sadly seeing history repeat itself in Turkey with an emerging dictator. From The New Yorker:
TURKEY’S VOTE MAKES ERDOĞAN EFFECTIVELY A DICTATORBy Dexter Filkins, April 17, 2017Fifteen years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the hope of the Islamic world. He was an Islamist, of course, but that was part of his appeal. As the mayor of Istanbul, one of the world’s great cities, Erdoğan had governed as a charismatic and smart technocrat. He’d served time in prison, in 1999—for reading a poem that seemed to celebrate militant Islam—but his jailers had been the country’s rigid, military-backed secular leaders who, by then, seemed as suited to the present day as dinosaurs. When Erdoğan became Prime Minister, in 2003, every leader in the West wanted him to succeed. In a world still trying to make sense of the 9/11 attacks, he seemed like a bridge between cultures.
On Sunday, Erdoğan declared himself the winner of a nationwide referendum that all but brings Turkish democracy to an end. The vast new powers granted to Erdoğan—wide control over the judiciary, broad powers to make law by decree, the abolition of the office of the Prime Minister and of Turkey’s parliamentary system—effectively make him a dictator. Under the new rules, Erdoğan will be able to run for two more five-year terms, giving him potentially another decade in power, at least. With a vote by the now truncated parliament, he would be able to run for yet another term, one that would end in 2034. By then, he’ll be an old man.
The voting took place in a government-created atmosphere of violence, intimidation, and fear. Turks campaigning against the referendum were attacked and even shot at. For much of the past year, Erdoğan’s government has been working to stamp out what remained of the democratic opposition to his rule. Since July, some forty thousand people have been detained, including a hundred and fifty journalists. A hundred thousand government employees have been fired, and a hundred and seventy-nine television stations, newspapers, and other media outlets have been closed. Many opposition leaders are in jail. That’s not an environment conducive to asking a populace what it wants.
[To CONTINUE READING at The New Yorker…]
This “end of Democracy in Turkey” is a frightening development. But it will not be the last political intrusion of Islamism in Europe. Along with mass immigration, we are witnessing the rise of Islamic parties in traditionally Christian nations. London has a Muslim mayor, as just one example. Demographically, Islam appears destined to overtake Europe. We are seeing warning signs in Asia as well. And now we know that these democratic movements can be used to deny democracy and establish what is essentially an Islamic dictatorship. We saw the Muslim Brotherhood election takeover in Egypt that enforced a very strict Sharia law until deposed. Democracy is good but not if it becomes suicidal.
All of this is a reason to defy the propaganda and go see The Promise. Armenia was the first nation on earth to adopt Christianity under the miraculous leadership of Saint Gregory the Illuminator. No wonder there has been such an intense demonic effort to wipe out that nation. Amazingly, the man who provided $100 million to make the film, Kirk Kerkorian, did so in his death. Kerkorian passed away in 2015 at the age of 98. But he never forgot his Armenian roots and left the money to make certain the film was made. He was born in Fresno in 1917 to Armenian immigrant parents who had escaped the genocide.
It is a beautiful movie but extremely intense. Check out the MovieGuide review before taking younger people(as it seems more intense than the typical PG-13 rating). The acting is good and the story gripping. I had an unexpected personal connection when I saw the role of the American Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, Sr. (depicted by James Cromwell). Early in my economic warfare research and briefings, I had the honor to meet with and brief Robert Morgenthau, the grandson of Henry Sr. and the long-term District Attorney of New York. I was taken to that meeting by Jim Woolsey, former Director, Central Intelligence under President Clinton. It was a surreal moment but I recall very clearly how keenly aware DA Morgenthau was of the nature of the threat I was describing. His grandfather was famous but so was his father, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., the Treasury Secretary under FDR. Henry Jr. had advocated the bombing of the trains to Auschwitz to slow the Holocaust. Roosevelt never agreed. Some believe that Morgenthau Jr. was so adamant because he was Jewish. The reality is that he was “so unobservant a Jew that he had never attended a Passover Seder.” But he was very aware of history and clearly understood how ignoring the Armenian genocide had paved the way for future mass murders. We must not make this mistake again!
Go see The Promise and defy the economic warfare attempt to silence truth.
Soft Power, Higher Education, and Economic Warfare
by KEVIN D. FREEMAN on MAY 7, 2017
There are many means of warfare although our nation seems intent on ignoring most of them.It wasn’t always so but sadly, as the Chinese observed in their seminal book, Unrestricted Warfare, “Americans have become slaves to technology in their thinking.” What this means is that a vast majority of our time and attention is devoted to building better and more destructive bombs and missiles. We have, to a large extent, ignored non-lethal forms of warfare where we could be making a global case for our culture and way of life. Equally sad is the fact that we have been willfully blind to weapons being waged against us. This has been true even at the highest levels inside our government.
We have discussed at length the risks and challenges we face with our financial markets, Internet, and even Hollywood. One often overlooked area of serious concern is our educational institutions. This covers the gamut from elementary school curriculum to our major Universities. The concept of Academic Freedom has been co-opted by political correctness as well as political infiltration. This is not, however, the natural result of a shifting culture. It is in part purposed and well-funded, taking advantage of our very freedoms to undermine our future. This is provable factually but it is also intuitively recognizable if we are willing to admit it.
The late, great Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller once famously said:
“I don’t think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.”
— Wilma Mankiller
If this were true (and it is of course), why wouldn’t adversaries attempt to infiltrate the education systems of others? We know and admit there is a cultural battle for education within our nation. Whether it’s a fight over standards (common core) or focus (gender studies vs. traditional values), there is a battle for the soul of our future. In a free society, we are open to such competing differences although we definitely want America to make truly informed decisions. There is another battle underway between control by the State and parental rights. This one is a bit trickier because the government is expected to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” When the government usurps parental rights for its own ends, can it truly be for the people? Adolf Hitler understood the need to divide students from parents. We are seeing similar efforts underway today and that is ominous.
The third battle, and one that is little discussed and too often ignored, is where external adversaries manipulate our education system for their purposes. This is an exercise of soft power. In many ways, it is an effort of Economic Warfare.
There are so many places we could start in our discussion. We could talk about KGB infiltration in the Cold War or NAZI efforts prior to World War II. We could discuss the anti-Israel movements and BDS efforts that are popping up on campuses. We could look at the potential threats of the Gulen School movement. We could discuss how the name of Jesus is used only as an expletive on campuses of once Christian universities where worship of rocks and trees is now encouraged. Safe spaces have replaced academic challenge, making schools more day care than University.
The symptoms of a degraded academy are obvious. There are the rare exceptions such as Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Hillsdale College, Grove City, Patrick Henry College, Colorado Christian, Houston Baptist and a few others that maintain high principles and high standards. But it seems that the majority of colleges and universities have succumbed either to radical political correctness or outright infiltration.
One of the more glaring examples of infiltration, according to a recently released study, may be the Confucius Institutes on over 100 campuses. A new report, from the National Association of Scholars (NAS), outlines an influence operation that seems quite audacious.
Before being accused of conspiracy theory, it is important to understand the historical context. No one argues today against the idea of NAZI infiltration prior to World War II. In fact, noted academics have uncovered incontrovertible evidence that this did happen at varying degrees across higher education. Dr. Stephen H. Norwood, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma wrote extensively on this topic in of The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses. Inside Higher Education did a story on his book when it was released in 2009 and provided a nice summary:
“In order to understand the whole course of development that leads us to the Holocaust, I think it’s very important to see what influential sectors in the United States were doing. And in the case of higher education, it’s a very shameful record of complicity and indifference to atrocities committed against the Jews from 1933 onward — and actually a lot of collaboration, in terms of participating in well-organized student exchange programs, participating in well-orchestrated Nazi festivals in Germany, sending delegates to those and ignoring protests,” says Stephen H. Norwood….
While much of the book details failures of university leadership, one chapter, called Nazi Nests, focuses on the faculty — specifically those of German programs. “University German departments, often staffed by faculty members sympathetic to the Hitler regime, and the German clubs they sponsored, constituted important bases of support for Nazi Germany in the United States,” writes Norwood. German departments at the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin hosted receptions for Hans Luther, Nazi Germany’s ambassador to the United States, and German faculty members were prominently represented at anniversary celebrations for the Universities of Heidelberg and Goettingen, in 1936 and 1937, respectively.
The chapter also traces the termination of the single anti-Nazi German faculty member at the New Jersey College for Women (now Douglass Residential College, a part of Rutgers University), as illustrative: “The issues involved in [Lienhard] Bergel’s termination are complicated,” Norwood acknowledges, “but what is most alarming about the case is the administration’s indifference to having an all-Nazi German department at NJC, and the Rutgers’ trustees’ obvious hostility to committed opponents of Nazism.”
Another chapter throws an unflattering spotlight on the University of Virginia’s Institute of Public Affairs’ roundtables, which, from 1933 to 1941, “provided a major platform and an aura of academic legitimacy for Nazi Germany’s supporters and for the propagation of antisemitism,” Norwood argues. Charged with presenting “both sides of questions,” Virginia’s administration worked closely with Nazi Germany’s embassy in Washington to find speakers, and, Norwood writes, they “accorded great respect to the Nazi spokespersons, some of whom the U.S. government later arrested as seditionists, as unregistered German agents, or for disseminating Nazi propaganda.”
Meanwhile, Norwood criticizes American Catholic universities for keeping up friendly relations with Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government, and also for their support of the Fascist General Francisco Franco in Spain (“Catholic leaders in the United States and Europe considered Franco’s war against the democratically elected Loyalists a religious crusade against Communism,” Norwood writes). Norwood writes about the firing of Moyer Springer Fleisher, a bacteriology professor at Saint Louis University, for sponsoring a pro-Loyalist lecture.
It’s Norwood’s research on Harvard and Columbia, however, that — at least to date — has been most high profile. Norwood writes, among other things, of then-Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler’s “warm” reception of the German ambassador, Luther, describing him in 1933 as “the official diplomatic representative to the Government of the United States on the part of the government of a friendly people.” The university dismissed a Jewish instructor of art history, Jerome Klein, who signed a protest against the invitation to Luther, and also expelled a student, Robert Burke, who had protested the university’s decision to send a delegate to the University of Heidelberg’s 550th anniversary celebration, in 1936.
Columbia released a statement on Norwood’s research in 2006 that the university spokesman, Robert Hornsby, said still stands. “It is true, as Professor Norwood claims, that an official of the German government spoke on the Columbia campus in 1933 and that the University sent a representative to the University of Heidelberg in 1936 to attend the celebration of its 550th anniversary.
“In retrospect, one might wish that no one who believed in democratic values would have had any connection with Germany after Hitler’s accession to power. But in fact, American interactions with Nazi Germany – financial, commercial, cultural, academic, and political — were extensive throughout the 1930s and even into the first months of World War II. If the events that Professor Norwood describes are examples of ‘collaboration,’ then the collaborators include many thousands of leaders and citizens of the United States, Britain, and many other nations,” the statement reads, in part.
Stop for a moment and let that sink in. German Studies programs were used as means of infiltration by NAZIs into American academic life. Now, in that context, consider the Preface from the recently released NAS report(written by NAS President Peter Wood):
“Confucius Institutes” are a project by the Chinese government to shape American attitudes towards that nation’s Communist government. The Institutes are housed at American colleges and universities, and there are currently more than one hundred of them. The name “Confucius Institute,” like almost everything else about the initiative, is misleading. Confucius Institutes have nothing to do with the ancient Chinese sage. They are ostensibly centers for teaching American students Chinese language and puff courses on Chinese arts. In reality, they are instruments of what Harvard University professor Joseph Nye calls “soft power.” That is, they attempt to persuade people towards a compliant attitude, rather than coerce conformity.
But even this is not quite exactly right. Confucius Institutes don’t overtly force their views on Americans, but behind the appearance of a friendly and inviting form of diplomacy lies a grim authoritarian reality. The Confucius Institutes are tightly managed from China by an agency of the government. They are staffed by Chinese nationals on short-term contracts. Their relations with their American hosts are governed by secret agreements enforced in Chinese courts under Chinese law. And many students from China studying in the U.S as well as faculty members believe the Institutes are centers of surveillance. There is no positive proof that the Institutes are also centers for Chinese espionage against the United States, but virtually every independent observer who has looked into them believes that to be the case.
The study that follows says nothing about that speculation, but not for lack of testimony. The author, Rachelle Peterson, spoke to numerous individuals who demanded total anonymity as the condition for saying anything. Their stories go unreported here because the body of this report presents only verifiable facts. In this preface, however, I am granting myself license to go beyond what we can fully verify. That’s because the off-the-record stories we collected were consistent in their portrayal of the Confucius Institutes as centers of threats and intimidation directed at Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans, and as cover for covert activities on the part of the Chinese government.
Possibly this is a collective illusion harbored by Chinese nationals and by Americans who hold hostile views of the Chinese Communist government. We cannot with certainty say whether the accusations are warranted. But it would be a failure on our part if we did not report the allegations, which form a forest of suspicion surrounding the castle of Confucius Institutes. A major question that hangs over this report is why American colleges and universities lend themselves to serving as hosts for the Confucius Institutes. Are they unaware of the unsavory reputation of these instruments of “soft power” in the hands of one of America’s international adversaries? Are they naïve about the appearance of putting the credibility of their institutions at risk by making them subject to the whims of a foreign government that summarily rejects the freedom of expression and open inquiry that are bedrock principles of American higher education? Are they indifferent to the possible abuse of the rights of the Chinese students studying in the United States?
They are definitely not unaware of the unsavory reputation of Confucius Institutes. Within the world of American higher education, word has spread, and no college president could entertain an offer from the Hanban (the Chinese government body that orchestrates this effort) without finding out about the controversies that swirl around the Institutes.
The unfortunate answer to the other two questions is yes. The American colleges and universities that sign up are naïve, and they are generally indifferent to the consequences. What motivates the college administrators who accept these invitations is a combination of greed and vanity. The Hanban knows exactly how to play the contemporary American college president and his staff.
As Rachelle Peterson explains in the pages that follow, Confucius Institutes pay their way. Typically they enter into five-year contracts in which they pay their host universities a substantial annual fee. And they provide services, such as Chinese language instruction, that the host university need not pay for. It seldom stops there. The officials of the host university are invited to junkets in China where they lecture and are feted. And the Hanban supplies Chinese officials who hold impressive titles to speak at events on the American campuses.
The beribboned accolades go surprisingly far in turning the heads of American college presidents, but that isn’t all there is to the Chinese soft-power strategy behind the Confucius Institutes. The Chinese government fully realizes the vulnerability of American colleges and universities that lies in their financial dependence on tuition. China can turn on the tap to full-tuition paying Chinese students, turn it down, or shut it off. A college or university that becomes dependent on this flow of international students is loath to offend the Chinese government. China is now by far the largest source of international students in the U.S., comprising 31 percent of the total. In 2015, there were some 328,000 Chinese students studying in American universities.
Vulnerability to China’s control of the flow of students to the U.S. is one thing. The opportunity for American colleges and universities to their own open programs in China is another. This prospect is regularly dangled in front of American college and university presidents, and with it comes both a potentially large new income stream and international prestige.
Forfeiting a bit of academic integrity to attain such rewards must seem to many college presidents a small price to pay. Or if not “many” college presidents, at least the hundred or so who have said yes to the offer to have a Confucius Institute on campus.
There is much more to this story, but I will leave it for Rachelle to tell. She is the intrepid researcher who has ventured forth on a series of NAS projects that have taken her into counsels of groups that are not naturally friendly to the National Association of Scholars. Rachelle was the lead researcher and first author of Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism (2015); researcher and author of Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement to Turn a Generation Against Fossil Fuels (2015); and our observer at a Black Lives Matter training seminar. Studying Confucius Institutes proved even harder than these previous assignments. It became clear that the Chinese government did not at all welcome our attention.
A last few words of prefatory caution. We limit ourselves in the body of this report to what we know for sure. There are no smoking guns. There is instead a scrupulously clean room and a cast of very polite people who have hardly anything to say beyond banalities. Rachelle describes this eerie scene in exact detail and without shading. The reader is free to take all this at face value, in which case the report will supply only a minimalist description of décor. All nations, after all, attempt to put their best foot forward with both friends and rivals. There is no harm in that, and it is possible that Confucius Institutes are best seen as the equivalent of the Alliance Française, the Goethe-Institut, the British Council, the Instituto Cervantes, or the Società Dante Alighieri. You must be the judge of that.
We cannot do justice to the depth and issues raised in the 186-page report. You can download it HERE and read it for yourself. If you’d like a shorter summary that captures the essence, consider this great article by our friend Dr. Christopher Hull at Daily Caller.
Of course, we cannot directly compare the German intentions pre-World War II to those of Communist China today. We have the benefit of hindsight with regard to the NAZIs but the final chapter is not yet written on Sino-American relations. But we can share that many of the same techniques used some 80 years ago to sway American universities appear to be at work today.
Why Is This Significant?
Besides the obvious cultural and political influence, there is an absolute and direct economic impact. Higher education is not only the connection to our future as a nation, but also the source of one of our greatest debts (literally). Student loans have exploded since the government took over the Student Loan program in 2010 as shown in the chart from the Federal Reserve (FRED). As of now, student loans are by far our nation’s largest consumer liability and our government’s greatest financial asset (almost one-third of all Federal financial assets).
[Sadly, while we saddle American citizens with serious debt despite taxpayer subsidies, at least one school has chosen to give a free ride to undocumented immigrants (aka “illegal aliens”).]
Parents have leveraged their future with all the student loans, threatening their retirement (which is already threatened by a coming pension crisis). But what have they bought? Sadly, the education given has promoted anti-Americanism, a distaste for Western civilization, and a hatred of capitalism. Even sadder, many of the opinions are so misinformed as to be laughable. And the efforts are so out in the open. We can’t blame this on China but we can state that we are not getting all the benefits we should from our expenditures.
Another very serious risk is that America’s major colleges and universities have a direct pipeline into government and corporate intelligence. Those who have infiltrated the research academy may gain access to America’s top secrets.
All of this is to say that as a nation we have made an enormous investment into higher education with its own economic ramifications (which we will cover in a later post). Beyond loans, our higher academic institutions are the source of enormous potential innovation and cultural influence. But are we getting what we are paying for? And, can we afford to overlook a potentially serious infiltration?
Here is the amazing thing. If our own Federal Government, which funded higher education to the tune of $76 billion in 2013 (not counting loans), were to demand the kind of concessions from colleges and universities that the Confucius Institutes do, there would be an uproar about denying academic freedom. But when it was NAZIs, the money talked. Are we witnessing a repeat of history? The implications are enormous, both to our economy and to our nation’s security.