Archive for July 15, 2017

Temple Mt. opens in stages amid terror probe

July 15, 2017

Temple Mt. opens in stages amid terror probe, DEBKAfile, July 15, 2017

Pressure on Israel from the Arab world to reopen Temple Mount and its mosques for Muslim prayer without delay has been strongly countered by the Israeli police and security authorities. They need more time to complete their investigation of the scene of the terror attack, Friday, July 14, in which two Israeli officers on guard were shot dead and a third injured. The three Israeli Arabs who committed the murders were shot dead in the subsequent firefight outside the Dome of the Rock.

The Israeli government also decided that the shrine, which is sacred to three monotheistic faiths, needs better security installed before it is judged safe for worship and visits.

On Saturday, Washington came to the aid of the investigation. Strongly condemning the “heartbreaking act of terror on Temple Mount,” the White House press secretary added: “The attack forced the government of Israel to temporarily close the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif to conduct its investigation,” said the statement. “Israel has assured the world that it has no intention to alter the status of this holy site, a decision which the United States applauds and welcomes.”

Saturday night, the Netanyahu government Saturday nevertheless ordered Temple Mount opened Sunday “in stages” –  which gives the police and security authorities a little breathing space.

The police have been combing through the “scene of terror,” to reconstruct the crime and discover the secret arms caches hidden there. This undertaking is vast, complex and exceptionally sensitive.

The Temple Mount surface platform is 150,000 sq. meters in area with nine ancient open gates. It stands atop 13 historic periods of construction and destruction, each of which has left layer upon layer of mostly unexplored tunnels, pipes, caves, pits, shafts and debris. Even archeologists working there for decades and the clerical staff of the Waqf authority in charge of Muslim rites there can’t claim to have explored all the warrens hidden under the paved surface.

It is also suspected that there may be secret underground channels running under the Temple Mount wall and leading outside the compound.

The police are meanwhile keeping their cards very close to their vests. They have detained some Waqf officials on suspicion of a connection with the terrorists, without releasing figures, and discovered a quantity of firearms. But the cops, unfamiliar with this unique ancient site, don’t know what they will find. They are after information about the identities of the party which instructed them to hide the two rifles and pistols used by the terrorists and said when they should be handed over. In short, whether a terrorist network exists on Temple Mount.

Relatives of the three terrorists, who belonged to the same clan in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, have been detained in search of information about how they came to perform the first act of terror by Moslems on Temple Mount. Most of the town and other parts of the Arab population are hostile to the investigation.

Israeli Arab community leaders, including their 13 parliamentarians, have refused to condemn the attack, willing only to voice regret for all the deaths inflicted Friday, including the three assailants.

This was resented not only by Israelis at large, but most bitterly by the Druze community, which buried two of its sons, Hail Stawi, 30, from Maghar and Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hurfeish both in northern Israel. They were shot to death while guarding the holy site.

The Temple terror investigation has exposed troubling animosities in Israeli Arab society.

Assess This

July 15, 2017

Assess This, Power LineScott Johnson, July 15, 2017

Even this “eyes only” document must have left ambiguity about Putin’s “audacious objectives.” There is a rather big difference between the objective of damaging Hillary Clinton and the objective of defeating her. Given the unidentified sources of the leaks behind this revelation, however, one would have to be a fool to take the contents of the report or the validity of its assessments on faith.

One should think that the credibility of former government officials who betray their oaths to leak such information would be in question. Color me cynical. For whatever reason, however, the Post expresses no reservations regarding the credibility of these officials.

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Did Putin prefer Trump in the presidential election of 2016? According to the intelligence report dated January 6, 2017, Putin not only preferred Trump to Clinton. He mounted a so-called influence campaign to put him over. The report is posted online here.

Issued under the auspices of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the report is based on the intelligence and assessments of the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The report as released constitutes the “declassified version of a highly classified assessment that has been provided to the President and to recipients approved by the President.”

The authors of the declassified version of the report state that their conclusions “are all reflected in the classified assessment,” although “the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.” Our own ability to evaluate the report is necessarily limited by what has been disclosed to the public.

The report conforms to the line put out by Hillary Clinton’s communications team in the immediate aftermath of Clinton’s shocking loss. Perhaps that is a coincidence, or perhaps the Clintonistas were on to something.

The report also comports with the line peddled by former Obama administration officials who frequently retailed politicized “narratives” manufactured to support counterintuitive administration policies. See, for example, the long Washington Post article “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault.”

The former Obama administration officials feeding the Post feel free to blow such highly classified information as the administration’s putative cyber efforts against Russia. Trump administration officials decried the leaks to Adam Kredo for his Washington Free Beacon article on the subject.

The Washington Post article contains hints of the “highly classified” information that was omitted from the declassified version of the report. According to the Post, in August 2016 the CIA hand delivered an “eyes only” report “drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.”

The Post continued: “The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump” (emphasis added).

Even this “eyes only” document must have left ambiguity about Putin’s “audacious objectives.” There is a rather big difference between the objective of damaging Hillary Clinton and the objective of defeating her. Given the unidentified sources of the leaks behind this revelation, however, one would have to be a fool to take the contents of the report or the validity of its assessments on faith.

One should think that the credibility of former government officials who betray their oaths to leak such information would be in question. Color me cynical. For whatever reason, however, the Post expresses no reservations regarding the credibility of these officials.

The Post’s long article reminded me of the dialogue Woody Allen wrote for his voiceover spy parody What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? at the point where one character shows spy hero Phil Moscowitz a printed floor plan and explains: “This is Shepherd Wong’s home.” Moscowitz asks: “He lives in that piece of paper?” In the Post story, the lowdown on Putin lives in the piece of paper stuffed into the envelope transmitted by courier from the CIA to President Obama under extraordinary handling restrictions.

If we turn back to the declassified report to arrive at our own conclusions, we are underwhelmed by the presentation. It is, shall we say, thin.

Referring to the agencies’ finding that Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Trump win the election — a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence” — the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen (no friend of Trump) put it this way in her hilariously derisive account posted on January 9 at the site of the New York Review of Books:

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports.

But the real problems come with the findings themselves….

The report is so poorly written that it makes for painful reading. Gessen makes this point and advances her analysis as well:

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. Take, for example, this phrase: “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.” I think, though I cannot be sure, that the authors of the report are speculating that Moscow gave the products of its hacking operation to WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is known as a reliable source. The next line, however, makes this speculation unnecessary: “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

Or consider this: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.” Did Putin’s desire to discredit Clinton stem from his own public statements, or are the intelligence agencies basing their appraisal of Putin’s motives on his public statements? Logic suggests the latter, but grammar indicates the former. The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

Gessen observes at one point: “That is the entirety of the evidence the report offers to support its estimation of Putin’s motives for allegedly working to elect Trump: conjecture based on other politicians in other periods, on other continents—and also on misreported or mistranslated public statements.”

Along with disparaging comments on Trump, Gessen concludes that the report “suggests that the US intelligence agencies’ Russia expertise is weak and throws into question their ability to process and present information[.]” I won’t try to summarize Gessen’s devastating assessment of the report. You really have to read the whole thing.

Power Line readers are probably already familiar with Andy McCarthy’s invaluable assessment of the report in his NRO column “Missing from the intelligence report: The word ‘Podesta.’” It too is necessary reading.

Canada’s Multi-Million-Dollar Pay-Out to a ‘Foreign Terrorist Fighter’

July 15, 2017

Canada’s Multi-Million-Dollar Pay-Out to a ‘Foreign Terrorist Fighter’ Gatestone InstituteRuthie Blum, July 15, 2017

It is bad enough to describe a teenager who set out to “kill as many Americans as possible” in this way. It is far worse that he is a free — and still very young — man, paid not only respect by the government whose values he was raised to abhor, but millions of dollars, to boot. If anything serves to encourage other terrorists to leave North America and Europe to fight in the Middle East, it is stories such as this one.

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“Has any soldier who fought FOR Canada ever received as generous a reward as this soldier who fought against us?” — Canadian Senator Linda Frum.

In 2003, Khadr confessed to throwing the grenade that killed U.S. Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer and caused Sgt. 1st Class Layne Morris to lose an eye. Years later, he retracted his confession, claiming it had been extracted under duress. In fact, it was part of a plea deal that enabled him to be extradited to Canada to serve the rest of his sentence there.

“There was a Canadian flag flying along with the American flag at our base there, so it’s quite a thing that now Canada is giving millions to a guy who would attack a compound where Canadians were serving. I don’t see this as anything but treason. As far as I am concerned, Prime Minister Trudeau should be charged.” — Sgt. 1st Class Layne Morris, who lost an eye from the grenade thrown by Omar Khadr.

The government of Canada recently issued an official apology — and acknowledged awarding an “undisclosed” sum of money — to Toronto-born Islamist terrorist Omar Khadr for his “ordeal” at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and “any resulting harm” he was caused by the “torture” (specifically, sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and threats) that led to his confession.

On July 7, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale released a statement announcing the “hope that this expression, and the negotiated settlement reached with the Government, will assist him in his efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in his life with his fellow Canadians.”

The civil settlement was reached with Khadr, 30, who was 10 when his family returned to the Middle East, and 15 when he was arrested fighting in Afghanistan with al Qaeda and the Taliban, the terrorist organizations to which his father was affiliated — on the basis of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 2003, Khadr confessed to throwing the grenade that killed U.S. Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer and caused Sgt. 1st Class Layne Morris to lose an eye. Years later, he retracted his confession, claiming it had been extracted under duress. In fact, it was part of a plea deal that enabled him to be extradited to Canada to serve the rest of his sentence there.

With news of the large settlement he received — 10,500,000 Canadian dollars (approximately USD $8,000,000) — he gave an extensive interview to CBC’s Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton, in which he said he thinks that the apology from the Canadian government “restores a little bit my reputation here in Canada, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me.” He declined to comment on having just received multi-millions in tax-free dollars.

He also had the effrontery to say that he just wants “to be a normal person” and finish his nursing degree to help under-served communities. “I have a lot of experience with… and appreciation of pain,” he explained, expressing only sorrow that the Speer and Morris families consider him responsible for their own pain.

Amid harsh criticism against the Liberal government by opposition Conservatives and members of the public outraged that their tax dollars are going to a convicted terrorist, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to reporters’ questions on the matter during a press conference marking the July 8 close of G20 summit in Hamburg.

Trudeau said that the settlement had nothing to do with Khadr’s 2002 actions on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but rather with the fact that his rights had been violated. This is precisely what the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in 2008 and 2010, after Khadr’s lawyers sued for damages.

Trudeau added that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, “even when it is uncomfortable. When the government violates any Canadian’s Charter rights, we all end up paying for it.”

Meanwhile, Goodale tried to evade responsibility, by casting aspersions on the previous government, headed by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in power when Khadr was returned to Canada in 2012 to serve the remainder of his prison sentence for five counts of war crimes. Goodale accused Harper of having “refused to repatriate Mr. Khadr or otherwise resolve the matter.”

In spite of the fact that Khadr was arrested and detained when Liberal governments were in power in Canada, Goodale was referring to appeals during Harper’s tenure — which began in 2006 — by Canadian Liberal and human rights lawyers to “bring Omar Khadr home.”

In 2008, former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler wrote:

“I join other scholars and associations of jurists in calling for Omar Khadr to be transferred into the custody of Canadian law enforcement officials, to be afforded due process under Canadian law, with prospects for appropriate rehabilitation and integration.”

Cotler also stated,

“Admittedly, the Khadr family has emerged, as some have put it, as synonymous with terrorism. But, the test of the rule of law is not its application in the easy cases, but its retention in the unpopular ones… Omar Khadr, a child victim, should now be afforded the justice denied him all these years, however unpopular and unpalatable his case may appear to be.”

In response to Goodale’s implication that had it not been for the previous government, the current one would not have been forced to apologize to and pay Khadr, Harper immediately took to social media, writing:

The government today attempted to lay blame elsewhere for their decision to conclude a secret deal with Omar Khadr. The decision to enter into this deal is theirs, and theirs alone, and it is simply wrong. Canadians deserve better than this. Today my thoughts are with Tabitha Speer and the families of all Canadian and allied soldiers who paid the ultimate price fighting to protect us.

Canadian Senator Linda Frum railed against the settlement, tweeting: “Has any soldier who fought FOR Canada ever received as generous a reward as this soldier who fought against us?”

Given Khadr’s family history, Frum’s fury is justified.

As the New York Post reported, Khadr is the son of a Palestinian mother and an Egyptian father (Ahmed Khadr), who had strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and became one of Osama bin Laden’s loyal lieutenants. After 9/11, Ahmed Khadr was placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list in relations to the attacks. He was arrested in Pakistan in 1995 on suspicion of financing the suicide bombing at the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, in which 16 people were killed. Protesting his innocence, he went on a hunger strike, and the Canadian government, then headed by Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, rallied behind him.

While on a trade mission to Pakistan, Chrétien appealed to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and a few months later, Ahmed was released from prison and sent back with his family to Toronto. However, according to the New York Post, the Khadr clan soon returned to Pakistan, where Ahmed Khadr resumed his connections with al Qaeda and the Taliban. Young Omar Khadr not only met with the leaders of these terrorist groups, but lived with his parents and siblings in the bin Laden family compound, attending al Qaeda training camps, which his father — who was killed in 2003 — partly funded.

The report continued:

“A month before he joined an al Qaeda cell in 2002, Omar was sent by his father for private instruction in explosives and combat… [where he] learned to launch rocket-propelled grenades and became skilled at planting improvised explosive devices that were used to blow up US armored vehicles in Afghanistan.”

In his interrogation about the incident that led to his arrest and subsequent incarceration at Guantanamo, Omar Khadr said he had been on a suicide mission “to kill as many Americans as possible.”

In this still image taken from a video found in the rubble of the compound where Omar Khadr was captured on July 27, 2002, a 15-year-old Khadr constructs an improvised explosive device. (Courtesy U.S. Defense Operations/Wikimedia Commons)

This did not prevent the U.S. military from flying an ophthalmologist to the Bagram Air Base — where was being treated for wounds he sustained while fighting American and Canadian soldiers — to save his eyes and keep him from going blind.

Nor did it cause Omar to experience gratitude on the one hand, or remorse on the other. On the contrary, as military court documents revealed, when he was informed that Speer had died, he said he “felt happy” for having murdered an American. He also said that whenever he remembered killing Speer, it would make him “feel good.”

According to a report in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto lawyer representing Morris and Tabitha Speer — who won a default judgment in 2015 in the U.S. against Omar for $134 million – began proceedings to contest the Canadian government’s settlement and prevent it from going forward.

It is clearly too late for that; the money has already been transferred to Omar. Furthermore, the transaction was done swiftly and “quietly,” to make legal action by taxpayers in Canada or the Morris and Speer families in America virtually impossible.

Morris is understandably angry and hurt. “The fact is Chris Speer and myself were fighting with Canadians in Afghanistan,” he said.

“We were alongside the PPCLI (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry). There was a Canadian flag flying along with the American flag at our base there, so it’s quite a thing that now Canada is giving millions to a guy who would attack a compound where Canadians were serving. I don’t see this as anything but treason… As far as I am concerned, Prime Minister Trudeau should be charged.”

Thus far, the administration in Washington has remained silent on Khadr pay-out, which came to light during the weekend of the G20 summit in Germany, where U.S. President Donald Trump heaped praise on his Canadian counterpart.

Trump even opened his speech at a World Bank event to promote and finance women entrepreneurs in developing countries by declaring: “We have a great neighbor in Canada and Justin [Trudeau] is doing a spectacular job… Everybody loves him, and they love him for a reason…”

This assertion, given the information that has since emerged about Khadr case, was unfortunate. Far more ironic under the circumstances, however, was the “Statement on Countering Terrorism,” signed by the leaders of the G20.

Its 21 clauses include a commitment to “address the evolving threat of returning foreign terrorist fighters … from conflict zones such as Iraq and Syria and remain committed to preventing [them] from establishing a foothold in other countries and regions around the world,” and to “facilitate swift and targeted exchanges of information between intelligence and law enforcement and judicial authorities… [to] ensure that terrorists are brought to justice.”

Such words are empty without actions to back them up. Omar Khadr is a classic example of a “foreign terrorist fighter.” Yet the Canadian legal system categorized him — in Cotler’s words — as a “child victim, [who] should… be afforded the justice denied him all these years.”

It is bad enough to describe a teenager who set out to “kill as many Americans as possible” in this way. It is far worse that he is a free — and still very young — man, paid not only respect by the government whose values he was raised to abhor, but millions of dollars, to boot. If anything serves to encourage other terrorists to leave North America and Europe to fight in the Middle East, it is stories such as this one.

The Trump administration must call Trudeau to task for this perversion, and offer an immediate and very public apology to Khadr’s American victims, who did not receive a penny for their patriotic sacrifice.

Cartoons and Video of the Day

July 15, 2017

Andrew Klavan via YouTube

 

H/t Wattsupwiththat

 

H/t Vermont Loon Watch

 

H/t Power Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNHCR: Number of Venezuelans Applying for Asylum in 2017 Has Soared

July 15, 2017

UNHCR: Number of Venezuelans Applying for Asylum in 2017 Has Soared, Latin American Herald Tribune, July 15, 2017

GENEVA – Asylum requests lodged by Venezuelan citizens so far in the first half of 2017 have almost doubled the number recorded during the whole of the previous year, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

Some 27,000 Venezuelans applied for asylum in countries around the world during 2016, but in just the first six months of 2017, the figure had soared to 52,000, the UNHCR said in a statement, adding the principal destination for fleeing citizens were the United States, which received 18,300 asylum seekers, Brazil (12,960), Argentina (11,735) and Spain (4,300).

“The above figures represent only a fraction of the total number of Venezuelans who may be in need of international protection, as many do not register as asylum seekers, despite the fact that many have indicated that they fled because of violence and insecurity, as well as an inability to meet daily subsistence needs,” the UNHCR warned.

The refugee agency said that although many Venezuelans who have fled their country enjoyed temporary residence in South American countries because of a tradition of solidarity in the continent, bureaucracy and other obstacles to being granted asylum meant many remained in an irregular situation.

The UNHCR was working with authorities in neighboring Colombia, where an estimated 300,000 Venezuelans were estimated to be seeking refuge, as well as in Trinidad and Tobago (40,000) and Brazil (30,000), in order speed up registrations and provide basic humanitarian aid.

The UNHCR said it was concerned by the activities of armed groups and gangs exploiting fleeing Venezuelans.

Indigenous communities displaced along Venezuela’s border with Brazil and Colombia were also at risk of having their human rights breached, the UN body said.

The UNHCR urged all concerned States to protect the rights of Venezuelans and draw up measures to facilitate their asylum applications.

It also called on Venezuelans seeking refuge abroad to register as asylum seekers through the appropriate official channels.