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Sanctionstein: What is the real cause of America’s latest sanctions regime?

The latest round of American sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea are nothing more than a desperate attempt to curtail European investment.

Haneul Na'avi

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“Light, feeling, and sense will pass away; and in this condition must I find my happiness […] Polluted by crimes and torn by the bitterest remorse, where can I find rest but in death?

—Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Chapter 24

On 25th July, a united Congress issued a new round of economic sanctions against Russian, Iranian, and North Korean industries, ignoring US President Donald Trump’s provisions, and after last month’s attempts stalled due to unintended economic consequences.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions [R-TX] feared that they would cause “huge problems to companies in Dallas, Texas, that I represent,” putting them at a disadvantage.

Despite this, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders rallied Congress.

“We […] will continue to work with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia until the situation in Ukraine is fully resolved,” she read carefully from her talking points.

However, the actual legislation, “Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017” (S.1221) deems it necessary to “authorize the appropriation of $530 million […] to counter Russian influence in Europe and Eurasia and to promote energy security in Ukraine.”

In reality, the bill, a mess of incoherent reasoning, attempts to ‘isolate’ Russia and promote post-coup Ukraine’s privatised (and failing) oil and gas industry, now controlled by American investors.

For example, section 8 does not specify which companies to promote; however, Burmisa Holdings, the private Ukrainian oil conglomerate to which Hunter Biden, former US Vice President Joe Biden’s son, is a member of the board of directors, will eventually take precedence.

Burisma owns several Ukrainian oil and gas companies, including Esko Pivnich and Pari [and] the company also has assets in Ukraine’s Dnepr-Donetsk, the Carpathian and the Azov-Kuvan basins”, a May 2014 Moscow Times article reported.

“[Joe Biden] has pledged to support efforts to reduce [Ukraine’s] dependency on Russian energy”, it continued.

Lickspittle Ben Cardin (D-MD) of the Senate Foreign Relations’ Committee lavished the sanctions, citing the ubiquitous ramblings of ‘Russian aggression’ to Politico.

I believe the proposed changes to the bill have helped to clarify the intent of members of Congress as well as express solidarity with our closest allies in countering Russian aggression and holding the Kremlin accountable for their destabilizing activities,” he droned.

However, his ‘closest allies’—members of the European Union—were never consulted in the sanctions’ regime and did not share his sentiments.

Several high-ranking German, French, and Austrian officials have openly condemned the unilateral moves, RT reports.

Most salient was European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker’s scathing response:

[The bill] foresees the imposition of sanctions on any company (including European) which contributes to the development, maintenance, modernisation or repair of energy export pipelines by the Russian Federation [which] could affect infrastructure transporting energy resources to Europe [and] have an impact on projects crucial to the EU’s diversification objectives such as the Baltic Liquefied Natural Gas project.

This is why the Commission concluded today that if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days. America first cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also commented on the sanctions, calling them “extra-cynical”.

We, as you know, are behaving with restraint, very patiently, but at some point we will have to respond, it is impossible to tolerate arrogance toward our country forever,” he expressed.

The growing deterioration in EU-US relations threatens to midwife a powerful rebellion to which Congress cannot extricate itself, and this time, American’s disruptive meddling may irreversibly isolate it from longstanding allies.

Alienation, Commodity Fetishism, and American Sanctions

Karl Marx’s theory of historical materialism illustrates the contradiction within America’s sanctions’ regime.

Marx’s manuscript, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, points out that:

At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production [which] turn into their fetters.

Those ‘fetters’ are the dying petrodollar—oil as a commodity to dominate global productive forces—diminished by rising international currencies, which a previous Duran article explains.

Furthermore, the Trump administration hallmarks the transition of America into alienation. Simply put, as the US attempts to ‘isolate Russia, Iran, etc.’—whatever that means—it becomes further ostracised from other great powers who fight to assert themselves in the global market.

No longer are the American bourgeoisie controllers of the petrodollar, but quite the contrary, they fetishise it, invoking the monster of late-stage imperialism that compels them both to demise.

This is precisely what Marx implied in “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”, section 2,

“The mystical substance becomes the real subject and the real subject appears to be something else, namely a moment of the mystical substance.”

The American bourgeoisie’s wretched creation now demands a companion (empire), lest the vile creature completely destroys its creator as an impending consequence.

Inevitably, the bourgeoisie and petrodollar will share the same fate as Shelly’s antagonist, immolated together in the destructive flames of that (em)pyre.

Historical Developments Influencing the Sanctions

Several highly important developments have given rise to the blanket US sanctions regime.

One must note that the sanctions do not affect the European economy, but directly target it, as the EU is the single greatest existential threat to US dollar hegemony after China and Russia.

Growing investment between Iran, China, Russia, and the EU has followed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to which the P5+1 (United Nations Security Council permanent members China, Russia, France, the UK, and US with Germany) are signatories.

Earlier this month, delegates of Russian energy giant Gazprom and German petrochemicals company BASF negotiated completion of the Nord Stream-2 project in Moscow.

[…] in the first half of 2017 Gazprom supplied Germany with 26.5 billion cubic meters of gas, an increase of 3.8 billion cubic meters (+16.7 percent) against the first six months of 2016. The parties stressed the importance of the timely implementation of the project.

This is why EU Commission President Junker seeks retaliation: energy demands are increasing and the sanctions threaten the scheduled completion of the Nord Stream-2.

France, however, is the most relevant case study to date and the focus of the sanctions.

French President Emanuel Macron has long desired to end anti-Russian sanctions, even whilst serving as former President Francois Hollande’s finance minister.

The objective we all share is to provide the lifting of sanctions by the summer, as far as the peace process in south-eastern Ukraine is respected,” he stated in Jan 2016.

FARS news details France’s motivations perfectly,

Sanctions that are prohibitive or otherwise too restrictive to foster trade risk driving business to foreign markets — and, in doing so, broker new alliances between longtime American friends and foes. Tensions wrought by US sanctions against Russia, for example, have divided US allies in Europe that were already financially struggling before being hit with the economic penalties’ knock-on effects. That’s why the lower house of France’s parliament has voted [302-16] in a nonbinding agreement to lift EU sanctions against Russia.

EU Commission figures show that the global recession (2008-2014) and volatile oil prices compelled the Sarkozy and Hollande administrations to ‘diversify’ its Middle Eastern sources.

In this period, France’s domestic oil imports fell sharply from 610 mln. barrels at 59.5 bln. USD to 410 mln. barrels at 39.9 bln due to fluctuating crude oil costs and lower manufacturing demands.

Whist supply volumes diminished, 2011-2013 was the most expensive period for crude oil supply costs, with an average of 111 USD per barrel.

In 2011, at its most severe point, the Sarkozy administration invaded Libya along with its NATO allies. France’s Total also joined the now-defunct Nabucco pipeline, which was originally proposed in 2009 to diversify EU oil.

Ironically, Syria rejected it in favour of a pan-Islamic pipeline, which sparked the Saudi and US-backed coup and cancelled the Nabucco project; later, the war facilitated the future Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi security initiative.

“[The] natural gas pipeline would run through Syria’s Aleppo and Turkey unto Europe. However, Assad dampened this dream in 2011 when he instead forged a pact with Iraq and Iran to run an ‘Islamic pipeline’ eastward to the European market,” Christina Lin highlighted.

French oil conglomerate Total finally conceded and greenlighted the Iranian South Pars 11 project last November, defying previous US sanctions, in order to make up for the lost pipeline.

Total has signed a Heads of Agreement (HoA) with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for the development of phase 11 of South Pars, the world’s largest gas field [which] will have a production capacity of 1.8 billion cubic feet per day, or 370 000 barrels of oil equivalent [and] the produced gas will be fed into Iran’s gas network.

French, Iranian, and Chinese companies will finance the entire South Pars project, Total continues:

[We] will operate the SP11 project with a 50.1% interest alongside Petropars (19.9%), a 100% subsidiary of NIOC, and the Chinese state-owned oil and gas company CNPC (30%).

Total’s strategic partnership combines its technical experience with the financial autonomy of its investors and vast untapped reserves of Iranian natural gas.

“[Total] could not be immune to U.S. embargo due to investment in Iran’s oil sector. Over recent years, by setting up international consortiums, Total has managed to circumvent US’s D’Amato sanctions and join South Pars. CNPC’s presence is for the same reason of getting around the sanctions,” IRNA states

The trilateral partnership will also finance the project in Euros instead of dollars, which is the fundamental reason for the unilateral US sanctions.

With U.S. sanctions still in place prohibiting trading with Iran in dollars, Total will finance the project in euros from its own resources,” Reuters mentioned.

At the 1 June St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), CEO Patrick Pouyanne assured investors of his commitment to the project.

“It is worth taking the risk […] because it opens a huge market. We are perfectly conscious of some risks. We have taken into account (sanctions) snap-backs [and] regulation changes,” he stated.

The agreement will spark a European race for Iranian oil, which will guarantee longterm energy security, as most EU bureaucrats still wish to diversify (not divest) fuel sources away from Russia and find the Azerbaijani Shah Deniz project difficult and expensive to finance.

ADVFN explains further,

This contract, which has a 20-year duration, is the first Iranian Petroleum Contract (IPC) and is based on the […] Heads of Agreement signed on November 8, 2016.

Euronews also implies this as the source of last month’s Saudi-Qatari diplomatic row, as Qatar geographically shares the South Pars gas field with Iran,

South Pars is Iran’s section of the world’s biggest gas deposit, shared also with Qatar, and the Persian Gulf field lies at the center of a dispute embroiling Qatar and several Arab neighbors. Saudi Arabia severed commercial links with Qatar last month, accusing it of cozying up to arch-rival Iran. Qatar initially faced a Monday deadline to comply with 13 demands from a Saudi-led coalition, including a cutback in relations with Iran.

The Saudi monarchy now shares the fate of its American counterparts: self-imposed isolation due to economic meddling and bleeding profits due to new currencies entering the oil and gas sector.

In return for cooperating on the South Pars 11, France has offered Rouhani a spectacular deal: revitalising Tehran’s beleaguered airline industry and resuming flights after an 8-year suspension.

Zagros Airlines [will] buy 20 aircraft from the […] Airbus A320neo family and eight A330neo planes. Iran Airtour’s order would comprise 45 planes of the A320neo type,” FARS notes.

Iran’s former deputy Transport Minister Ali Abedzadeh also met last year with former French Transport Minister Alain Vidalies to discuss aviation training schemes along with the Airbus deal.

Finally, both France‘s AREP and Italy‘s Ferrovie dello Stato have signed 7 mln. and 1.3 bln. Euro agreements, respectively, to expand and modernise Iran’s ageing railway system.

To facilitate this, both President Macron and French Finance Minister Michel Sapin have prioritised normalising banking ties with Iran.

The French president vowed to do his utmost for deepening of economic, scientific and cultural relations with Iran during his tenure as French president,” FARS stated.

It’s our aim and our will to normalized banking ties with Iran even if it can’t be done in one day,” Sapin urged during the meeting.

By using the EU as a human shield for its sanctions regime, the United States has expedited its demise by speeding up global USD divestment.

It is of the utmost importance that the P5-1 (minus the US) begin using alternative payment systems such as the Chinese CIPS and Russian SPFS to facilitate their trade agreements.

If France wishes to redeem itself by leading the European pivot, it should facilitate and offer feedback on these new systems to accrue empirical data for other EU member states; other economic powers within the European Economic Area (EEA) will follow suit.

If the European Union, Russia, China and Iran can do this, the US sanctions will mean nothing.

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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative


The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.


Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.

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Via Zerohedge


Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Via Paul Craig Roberts…


Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50932.htm

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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