Australia’s Prime Minister Gives a Master Class in Exploiting Terrorism Fears to Seize New Powers

Australia’s Prime Minister Gives a Master Class in Exploiting Terrorism Fears to Seize New Powers

By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept
September 22, 2014

If you’re an Australian citizen, you have a greater chance of being killed by the following causes than you do by a terrorist attack: slipping in the bathtub and hitting your head; contracting a lethal intestinal illness from the next dinner you eat at a restaurant; being struck by lightning. In the post-9/11 era, there has been no terrorist attack carried out on Australian soil: not one. The attack that most affected Australians was the 2002 bombing of a nightclub in Bali which killed 88 of its citizens; that was 12 years ago.

Despite all that, Australia’s political class is in the midst of an increasingly unhinged fear-mongering orgy over terrorism. The campaign has two prongs: ISIS (needless to say: it’s now an all-purpose, global source of fear-manufacturing), and the weekend arrest of 15 people on charges that they planned to behead an unknown, random individual based on exhortations from an Australian member of ISIS.

The Australian government wasted no time at all exploiting this event to demand “broad new security powers to combat what it says is a rising threat from militant Islamists.” Even by the warped standards of the West’s 9/11 era liberty abridgments, these powers are extreme, including making it “a crime for an Australian citizen to travel to any area overseas once the government has declared it off limits.” Already pending in that country is a proposal by the attorney general to make it a criminal offense ”punishable by five years in jail for ‘any person who disclosed information relating to ‘special intelligence operations’”; the bill is clearly intended to outright criminalize WikiLeaks-and-Snowden-type reporting, and the government thus expressly refuses to exempt journalists.

This morning, Australia’s Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbott (pictured above), delivered a speech to the nation’s parliament that is a perfect distillation of the key post-9/11 pathologies of western democracies. It was a master class in how politicians shamelessly exploit terrorism fears to seize greater power.

Abbott assumed the grave demeanor and resolute tone that politicians in these situations don to convince others that they’re the modern incarnation of Winston Churchill: purposeful, unyielding, and courageously ready for the fight. He depicted his fight as one of Pure Good v. Pure Evil, and vehemently denied that his nation’s 10-year support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq plays any role whatsoever in animosity toward his country in that region (perish the thought!) (“It’s our acceptance that people can live and worship in the way they choose that bothers them, not our foreign policy”). And, most impressively, he just came right out and candidly acknowledged his real purpose: to exploit the emotions surrounding the terrorist arrests to erode liberty and increase state power, telling citizens that they will die if they do not meekly acquiesce:

Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we’re used to, and more inconvenience than we’d like.

Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift.

There may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protections for others.

After all, the most basic freedom of all is the freedom to walk the streets unharmed and to sleep safe in our beds at night.

With those scary premises in place, the prime minister proceeded to rattle off a laundry list of new legal powers and restraints on freedom that he craves. It begins with “creating new offences that are harder to beat on a technicality”, which he said is “a small price to pay for saving lives.” It includes brand new crimes and detention powers (“Legislation to create new terrorist offences and to extend existing powers to monitor or to detain terror suspects will be introduced this week”). There’s also this: “it will be an offence to be in a designated area, for example Raqqa in Syria, without a good reason.”

His Christmas list also (of course) entails vastly increased spending on security (“the government committed an additional $630 million to the Australian Federal Police, Customs and Border Protection, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Office of National Assessments…biometric screening will start to be introduced at international airports within 12 months”). And the government—already a member of the sprawling Five Eyes spying alliance—will vest itself with greater surveillance powers (“as well, legislation requiring telecommunications providers to keep the metadata they already create and to continue to make it available to police and security agencies will be introduced soon”).

The ease with which terrorism is exploited by western governments—a full 13 years after 9/11—is stunning. Americans now overwhelmingly favor military action against a group which, three months ago, almost none of them even knew existed, notwithstanding clear government admissions that the group poses no threat to the “homeland.” When I was in New Zealand last week for a national debate over mass surveillance, the frequency with which the government and its supporters invoked the scary specter of the Muslim Terrorist to justify all of that was remarkable: It’s New Zealand. And now the Liberal Party’s prime minister in Australia barely bats an eye as he overtly squeezes every drop of fear he can to justify a wide array of new powers and spending splurges in the name of a risk that, mathematically speaking, is trivial to the average citizen.

Political leaders love nothing more than when populations are put in fear of external threats. In that regard, these western leaders share exactly the same goal as ISIS: to terrorize their nation’s citizens by grossly exaggerating its power and reach. Any museum exhibit on the degradation of western behavior in the post-9/11 era would be well-advised to put Abbott’s full speech on the wall, as it illustrates the fear-mongering games and propagandistic tactics that have led to all of that.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

UPDATE: A reader writes with an important clarification, supported by various media accounts:

Just one clarification on your article about the Australian ‘anti terror’ raids.

You said that 15 people were arrested. In fact, 15 people were detained under ‘preventative detention’ laws. But only one person has been charged under any terrorism related offence. A further 3 have been charged under non terrorism related offences.

This despite the fact that the ‘threat’ was so high that the raids involved over 800 police.

A grand total of one person has been charged with terrorism-related crimes—one—and that has triggered a major fear campaign and a slew of legislative demands designed to dismantle basic legal protections. It is, indeed, a microcosm of a core disease of the 9/11 era.

Along those lines, The Guardian just reported that “a sweeping suppression order will prevent reporting of controversial preventative detention orders used in last week’s counter-terrorism operations indefinitely.” That “means details of the order will remain secret until a New South Wales supreme court judge rules otherwise.” Amazingly, “the judge’s ruling is so broad that a supreme court spokesman says even his name cannot be reported.” Like the US for the weeks, months, and even years after 9/11, Australia’s political system appears completely inebriated with hysteria, fear and power-hunger completely out of proportion to the ostensible risk to be addressed.

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New Zealand Launched Mass Surveillance Project While Publicly Denying It

New Zealand Launched Mass Surveillance Project While Publicly Denying It

By Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher
The Intercept
September 15, 2014

AUCKLAND, New Zealand—The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted.

Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key (pictured above), who said the law was merely designed to fix “an ambiguous legal framework” by expressly allowing the agency to do what it had done for years, that it “isn’t and will never be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” and the law “isn’t a revolution in the way New Zealand conducts its intelligence operations.”

Snowden, in a post for The Intercept published today, accused Prime Minster Key of fundamentally misleading the public about GCSB’s role in mass surveillance. “The Prime Minister’s claim to the public, that ‘there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance’, is false,” the former NSA analyst wrote. “The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.”

Snowden explained that “at the NSA, I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called ‘X KEYSCORE.”” He further detailed that “the GCSB provides mass surveillance data into XKEYSCORE. They also provide access to the communications of millions of New Zealanders to the NSA at facilities such as the GCSB facility in Waihopai, and the Prime Minister is personally aware of this fact.”

Top secret documents provided by the whistleblower demonstrate that the GCSB, with ongoing NSA cooperation, implemented Phase I of the mass surveillance program code-named “Speargun” at some point in 2012 or early 2013. “Speargun” involved the covert installation of “cable access” equipment, which appears to refer to surveillance of the country’s main undersea cable link, the Southern Cross cable. This cable carries the vast majority of internet traffic between New Zealand and the rest of the world, and mass collection from it would mark the greatest expansion of GCSB spying activities in decades.

Upon completion of the first stage, Speargun moved to Phase II, under which “metadata probes” were to be inserted into those cables. The NSA documents note that the first such metadata probe was scheduled for “mid-2013.” Surveillance probes of this sort are commonly used by NSA and their partners to tap into huge flows of information from communication cables in real time, enabling them to extract the dates, times, senders, and recipients of emails, phone calls, and the like. The technique is almost by definition a form of mass surveillance; metadata is relatively useless for intelligence purposes without a massive amount of similar data to analyze it against and trace connections through.

The NSA declined to comment for this story. A GCSB spokesperson would only say: “We don’t comment on matters that may or may not be operational.”

Over the weekend, in anticipation of this report, Key admitted for the first time that the GCSB did plan a program of mass surveillance aimed at his own citizens, but claimed that he ultimately rejected the program before implementation. Yesterday, after The Intercept sought comment from the NSA, the Prime Minister told reporters in Auckland that this reporting was referring merely to “a proposed widespread cyber protection programme that never got off the ground.” He vowed to declassify documents confirming his decision.

But the documents indicate that Speargun was not just an idea that stalled at the discussion stage. It was a system GCSB actively worked to implement. One top secret 2012 NSA document states: “Project Speargun underway.” Another top secret NSA document discussing the activities of its surveillance partners reports, under the heading “New Zealand,” that “Partner cable access program achieves Phase I.”

Critically, the NSA documents note in more than one place that completion of Speargun was impeded by one obstacle: The need to enact a new spying law that would allow the GCSB, for the first time, to spy on its own citizens as well as legal residents of the country. As one NSA planning document put it, completion of Speargun was “awaiting new GCSB Act expected July 2013.”

That legislation arose after it was revealed in 2012 that the GCSB illegally surveilled the communications of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, a legal resident of New Zealand. New Zealand law at the time forbade the GCSB from using its surveillance apparatus against citizens or legal residents. That illegal GCSB surveillance of Dotcom was followed by a massive military-style police raid by New Zealand authorities on his home in connection with Dotcom’s criminal prosecution in the United States for copyright violations.

A subsequent government investigation found that the GCSB not only illegally spied on Dotcom but also dozens of other citizens and legal residents. The deputy director of GCSB resigned. The government’s response to these revelations was to refuse to prosecute those who ordered the illegal spying and, instead, to propose a new law that would allow domestic electronic surveillance.

That proposal was intensely controversial, prompting large public protests and a concerted campaign against the law. One news broadcaster called it “one of the most polarizing pieces of legislation in recent times.” It was of sufficient interest to the NSA that in March 2013, the director of Prime Minister Key’s Intelligence Coordination Group traveled to NSA headquarters to offer an update on the legislation.

To assuage the public, Key and other top officials repeatedly insisted that the real purpose of the law was merely to provide oversight and to clarify that targeted domestic surveillance which had long been carried out by the agency was legal. Key categorically denied that the law would allow mass metadata collection on the New Zealand public: “There have been claims this Bill offers no protection of metadata and allows for wholesale collection of metadata without a warrant. None of that is true.”

Key told the public that the new law would not permit mass, warrantless metadata surveillance: “So when the GCSB wants to access metadata, it is treated with the same level of seriousness and protection as if the GCSB was accessing the actual content of a communication. And there are protections around that.”

In response to Key’s claims, legal experts extensively documented that the new law would indeed provide ”a major increase in the overall role and powers of the GCSB” and would allow the “very broad ‘wholesale’ powers” which Key denied. Yet the Key government, and the prime minister himself, steadfastly insisted that the law permits no mass surveillance. At one point, Key even promised to resign if it were found that the GCSB were engaging in mass surveillance.

Based on Key’s assurances, the New Zealand Parliament narrowly voted to enact the new law on August 21 of last year, by a vote of 61-59. Immediately prior to passage, Key acknowledged that the new law has “‘alarmed’ some people but blame[d] the Government’s opponents for stoking their fears” and again “rejected that by writing into law what the GCSB had already been doing meant an extension of its powers.”

But in high-level discussions between the Key government and the NSA, the new law was clearly viewed as the crucial means to empower the GCSB to engage in metadata surveillance. On more than one occasion, the NSA noted internally that Project Speargun, in the process of being implemented, could not and would not be completed until the new law was enacted. The NSA apparently viewed that new law as providing exactly the powers that Key repeatedly and publicly denied it would vest.

New Zealand’s national election will be held on September 20. Over the last several weeks, Key has been embroiled in a scandal that saw a top minister resign, after independent journalist Nicky Hager published a book, Dirty Politics, documenting ties between Key officials and a right-wing blogger known for attacking public figures and showing that Key officials declassified information for political purposes.

Revelations of illegal GCSB spying prompted the creation of the anti-surveillance Internet Party, which formed an alliance with the left-wing, indigenous Mana Party and is predicted to win several seats in Parliament. The party is funded by Dotcom, and has organized a “Moment of Truth” event for this Monday to discuss revelations of surveillance and other secret government actions. (Disclosure: Glenn Greenwald, one of the authors of this story, is scheduled to speak at that event pursuant to an invitation from the Internet Party, which paid his travel expenses to attend and agreed to donate a speaking fee to a designated charity.)

The disclosure that the GCSB plotted a program of mass surveillance based on this new law is likely to raise further questions about the ethics and credibility of the Key government. The new surveillance planning took place at high levels of the government, and expressly intended to use the new surveillance law as its basis even as Key himself insisted that the law provided no such authority.

Photo: Rob Griffith/AP

Additional reporting provided by Andrew Fishman


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The U.S. Government’s Secret Plans to Spy for American Corporations

The U.S. Government’s Secret Plans to Spy for American Corporations

By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept
September 5, 2014

Throughout the last year, the U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage, in an effort to distinguish its own spying from China’s infiltrations of Google, Nortel, and other corporate targets. So critical is this denial to the U.S. government that last August, an NSA spokesperson emailed The Washington Post to say (emphasis in original): “The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

After that categorical statement to the Post, the NSA was caught spying on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobraseconomic summitsinternational credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In response, the U.S. modified its denial to acknowledge that it does engage in economic spying, but unlike China, the spying is never done to benefit American corporations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, responded to the Petrobras revelations by claiming: “It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters…. What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

But a secret 2009 report issued by Clapper’s own office explicitly contemplates doing exactly that. The document, the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review—provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—is a fascinating window into the mindset of America’s spies as they identify future threats to the U.S. and lay out the actions the U.S. intelligence community should take in response. It anticipates a series of potential scenarios the U.S. may face in 2025, from a “China/Russia/India/Iran centered bloc [that] challenges U.S. supremacy” to a world in which “identity-based groups supplant nation-states,” and games out how the U.S. intelligence community should operate in those alternative futures—the idea being to assess “the most challenging issues [the U.S.] could face beyond the standard planning cycle.”

One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario “in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, “that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of U.S. corporations.” Such a development, the report says “could put the United States at a growing—and potentially permanent—disadvantage in crucial areas such as energy, nanotechnology, medicine, and information technology.”

How could U.S. intelligence agencies solve that problem? The report recommends “a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through overt means, clandestine penetration (through physical and cyber means), and counterintelligence” (emphasis added). In particular, the DNI’s report envisions “cyber operations” to penetrate “covert centers of innovation” such as R&D facilities.


In a graphic describing an “illustrative example,” the report heralds “technology acquisition by all means.” Some of the planning relates to foreign superiority in surveillance technology, but other parts are explicitly concerned with using cyber-espionage to bolster the competitive advantage of U.S. corporations. The report thus envisions a scenario in which companies from India and Russia work together to develop technological innovation, and the U.S. intelligence community then “conducts cyber operations” against “research facilities” in those countries, acquires their proprietary data, and then “assesses whether and how its findings would be useful to U.S. industry” (click on image to enlarge):

The document doesn’t describe any previous industrial espionage, a fact the DNI’s office emphasized in responding to questions from The InterceptA spokesman, Jeffrey Anchukaitis, insisted in an email that “the United States—unlike our adversaries—does not steal proprietary corporate information to further private American companies’ bottom lines,” and that “the Intelligence Community regularly engages in analytic exercises to identify potential future global environments, and how the IC could help the United States Government respond.” The report, he said, “is not intended to be, and is not, a reflection of current policy or operations.”

Yet the report describes itself as “an essential long-term piece, looking out between 10 and 20 years” designed to enable ”the IC [to] best posture itself to meet the range of challenges it may face.” Whatever else is true, one thing is unmistakable: the report blithely acknowledges that stealing secrets to help American corporations secure competitive advantage is an acceptable future role for U.S. intelligence agencies.

In May, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five Chinese government employees on charges that they spied on U.S. companies. At the time, Attorney General Eric Holder said the spying took place “for no reason other than to advantage state-owned companies and other interests in China,” and “this is a tactic that the U.S. government categorically denounces.”

But the following day, The New York Times detailed numerous episodes of American economic spying that seemed quite similar. Harvard Law School professor and former Bush Justice Department official Jack Goldsmith wrote that the accusations in the indictment sound “a lot like the kind of cyber-snooping on firms that the United States does.” But U.S. officials continued to insist that using surveillance capabilities to bestow economic advantage for the benefit of a country’s corporations is wrong, immoral, and illegal.

Yet this 2009 report advocates doing exactly that in the event that ”that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations outstrip[s] that of U.S. corporations.” Using covert cyber operations to pilfer “proprietary information” and then determining how it ”would be useful to U.S. industry” is precisely what the U.S. government has been vehemently insisting it does not do, even though for years it has officially prepared to do precisely that.

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Facebook killer called Ello gets the timing right

Facebook killer called Ello gets the timing right

By Therese Poletti
September 26, 2014

There has been a lot of chatter on social media this week about a new social network called Ello, which is getting buzz for its anti-Facebook Inc. stance. But is the start-up, which accepts no advertising and does no data mining, ready for prime time?

Ello has apparently been gaining such a huge influx of new users that its servers were having problems in the past two days, despite the requirement that you need an invitation to join. As Ello tells users who visit its simple, clean, black-and-white site: It has a “manifesto.”

“Your social network is owned by advertisers,” reads Ello’s “about” page. “Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. … We believe there is a better way.”

The network was launched earlier this year and is still in beta mode, so the uptick had initially been slow, according to Betabeat, a blog covering New York tech companies. Ello’s main creator, Paul Budnitz, told Betabeat that there have been 4,000 sign-ups an hour to the site this week. A second story posted Thursday said that number had risen almost seven-fold. In the past few days, people have even begun selling invites to Ello on eBay EBAY, +8.05% On Thursday, there were 33 invitations to join Ello for sale, at prices ranging from $5 to $500.

‘Facebook is at a critical moment where entire segments of its audience are all looking to jump ship.’

Christopher-Ian Reichel, user-experience executive in New York

Budnitz, who is also the founder of Budnitz Bicycles, which makes fast, light, retro-style bicycles, said in an email to MarketWatch that the genesis of Ello was that “we just wanted to create a social network for ourselves.” He declined to say how many people are trying out Ello. “It’s a lot!” he wrote.

There are seven co-creators listed on the website, including two graphic artists and software developers.

Many attribute the sudden surge of Ello users to a new policy at Facebook FB, -0.15% which is cracking down on users who don’t go by their real name or name that is “associated with a government ID.” That has caused a firestorm among artists, musicians and the LGBT community, who use stage names or pseudonyms as part of their profession or as a way of protecting themselves.

Budnitz, who is also Ello’s chief executive officer, said the young company has funding, but he declined to say who its investors are or how much it’s received. It is currently operating in multiple locations, with Budnitz based in Vermont, and also working part time in New York. His partners are in Colorado.

“I don’t know if it’s going to ever be ‘the next big thing,’ but it is definitely in the right place at the right time,” said Christopher-Ian Reichel, a user-experience executive in New York. “And Facebook is at a critical moment where entire segments of its audience are all looking to jump ship.”

Reichel said Ello is “still buggy and somewhat empty, and people are still joining.”

That is for sure. On Facebook, the buzz about people joining Ello has been especially noticeable in the past few days, especially among artists and performers I know. My friend Sara Klotz de Aguilar, a musician based in Oakland, said she wasn’t sure how Ello would make money, but she would be willing to pay a monthly rate to promote upcoming gigs for her band, Sara & Swingtime.

“What nobody can explain is how they will pay for it without ads or data mining,” Klotz de Aguilar said in an email. “Frankly, I would be thrilled to pay a subscription per month if I could have unlimited contacts and be able to promote to a wide audience without paying extra, and not to mention how Facebook doesn’t even deliver if you do pay to promote.”

Budnitz declined to explain how Ello plans to make money. “Yes, it’s a for-profit company,” he told me. “Otherwise it could never survive.”

Betabeat describes Ello as a cross between Tumblr and Facebook, with a pared-down interface. After I received an invitation to join, I have not found many people I know. The network seems to be slowly getting populated, but like most social networks, your feed is as empty or as full as your contacts. Many of the posts I found are photos or art work, with very little or no text.

“Ello is clean and simple and let[s] us connect with our friends and see awesome stuff, without feeling manipulated by a big system that was making social networking no fun,” Budnitz said in the email.

Ello said it does collect some data on its users. “This information helps us understand how people are using Ello, so we can make Ello better,” the company says on its website. “For example, if we create a feature that everybody is using, we want to know about that.”

Whether Ello will become just another unsuccessful attempt to compete with Facebook, such as Apple’s AAPL, +0.79%  iTunes Ping or the struggling Google+ GOOG, -0.23% is a big question. After all, Facebook’s market value just exceeded a staggering $200 billion.

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Power of Siberia – Solution for Problems Faced by the Far East

Power of Siberia – Solution for Problems Faced by the Far East

Konstantin Penzev
New Eastern Outlook
September 13, 2014

On September 1, President Vladimir Putin launched the construction of the eastern section of the Russian gas transmission system (GTS) connecting the West Siberian GTS with the Sakhalin branch. Thus, after 2018 almost all of the economically important territory of the Russian Federation will be covered by a network of main gas pipelines. This is indeed excellent news. One cannot but recall the words of Vladimir Lenin on the universal electrification of Russia as the most important task for the Soviet authorities. President Putin will complete the gasification of the country and provide it with new incentives for economic development. The Russian president announced: “This project will provide an opportunity not only to export Russian gas, but also to develop the gasification of the eastern regions in our own country, including the Far East and Eastern Siberia.”

From now on the Far East will be connected to Greater Russia not only by a network of railways, but also by a network of highways (construction completed recently) and by powerful energy lines (gas and electric lines).

During the first stage of constructing “Power of Siberia”, the “Yakutia-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok” branch will be constructed, during the second stage the “Power of Siberia” will be connected to the Irkutsk center for gas separation and gas processing, based on the premises of one of the largest chemical plants. The total length of the gas pipeline will be about 4000km (Yakutia-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok – about 3200km; the Irkutsk region-Yakutia – about 800km), total capacity equals 61 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per annum. The GTS route of “Power of Siberia” will be constructed along the highway of the ESPO pipeline. This will permit to minimize infrastructure and energy costs. The resource base of the project will be the Chayandinskoye field.

The export branch of the “Power of Siberia” pipeline will depart for China in the area of ​​Blagoveshchensk. From Blagoveshchensk the branch connecting “Power of Siberia” with the Sakhalin-Vladivostok GTS will pass through Birobidzhan. A high-power LNG plant is planned to be built near Vladivostok. The first line with a capacity of 5 million tons per year should enter into operation in 2018, and the total design capacity of the plant will be 15 million tons per year.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has a number of potential advantages, especially in terms of export to countries where gas pipelines, for one reason or another, cannot be extended. For instance, Japan meets its demand for natural gas almost entirely due to LNG (97%). The country receives LNG from producers in the Pacific region (Australia, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) and also from the Middle East (Oman, Qatar and the UAE).

The second largest importer of LNG in East Asia and the third country in terms of terminal capacity is South Korea. Major suppliers include Qatar, Indonesia, Malaysia and Oman.

India could also become a potential consumer, there are two terminals in the country: Dahej (capacity – 9 billion cubic meters per year, Petronet) and Hazira (capacity – 4 billion cubic meters per year, Total/Shell). Taiwan also imports LNG and in 2005 the island nation concluded a 25-year contract with the Qatari based project RasGas 2 (3 million tons per year). Recently Thailand has also started to import LNG. In the near future, several other countries in the Asia-Pacific region could start to import LNG including New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore among others.

According to the International Energy Agency, demand for natural gas by 2035 will grow by 48%, which would put it in second place after crude oil in the global energy market. The LNG sector could become a major direction for world trade in the gas production sphere. A confirmation of this statement is the volume of gas trading, which during the past 10 years has increased by 45%; LNG trade has more than doubled. Shell Corporation predicts an increase in the share of LNG from 10% today to 15% of global gas supply by 2030. Transportation of liquefied gas is beginning to compete with gas pipelines at distances of more than 2500km. This will allow to expand the geography of LNG.

At present the only existing LNG plant in Russia is Sakhalin-2 with a total capacity of 9.6 million tons per year. In various stages of implementation are several large-scale projects such as Vladivostok LNG, Baltic LNG, Yamal LNG, Pechora LNG and several others. However, before 2019 the new volumes of LNG from Russia will not appear on the world market. In the short term the most important plant is Vladivostok LNG, as well as the ROSNEFT project where the total LNG volume has already been contracted.

What are the reasons for the sustainable global growth in gas demand? J.P. Morgan analysts have highlighted a number of prevailing factors:

  - the desire of countries to diversify fuel sources for energy safety;

  - the departure from the use of non-ecological coal;

  - the negative attitude of a large part of the population to nuclear power plants.

The largest LNG exporting countries are: Qatar – 49bcm, Malaysia – 30bcm, Indonesia – 26bcm, Australia – 24bcm, Algeria – 21bcm, Trinidad and Tobago – 20bcm. The main importers of LNG are: Japan – 86bcm, South Korea – 35bcm, Spain – 28bcm, France – 16bcm , USA – 15bcm, India – 13bcm and China which has had gas pipelines joined from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

As a result of concluding the recent pipeline contract with China, Russia reduces its dependence on gas supplies to Europe. On the other hand, the enhancement of diversification of gas production in the LNG direction allows Russia to open up new energy markets and thus to further increase the stability of the country’s economy. Such things are not done instantly, and they can in no way be counted out.

Gazprom’s strategy should be acknowledged as being the most effective. Plans are not going to end with the eastward direction leading to China alone which accounts for an enormous market capacity; however, it is still only one country. Gazprom is planning the development of another branch in Primorsky Krai, in the direction of the sea in order to ensure sufficient resources for LNG production capacity. In the long term this implies the delivery of LNG to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India and other countries.

Konstantin Penzev, historian and writer, commentator for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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Sanction-Drunk West Forgets to Target ISIS Sponsors

Sanction-Drunk West Forgets to Target ISIS Sponsors

Ulson Gunnar
New Eastern Outlook
September 21, 2014

As the US and Europe prepare another round of sanctions against Russia over the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, the third round of such sanctions since the conflict began shortly after the Euromaidan unrest resulted in the installation of a NATO-backed regime in Kiev, a curious and inexplicable oversight appears to have been made.

While wild accusations have been leveled against Russia over its involvement over the violence in Ukraine, claims ranging from covert support up to and including unsubstantiated claims of a “full scale invasion,” prominent media organizations across the Western World have for years reported a flow of cash, weapons, equipment and fighters from America’s allies in the Persian Gulf as well as from nations like NATO member Turkey, and into the conflict raging within Syria’s borders.

While baseless claims leveled against Russia have served as ample justification for the West to continue leveling sanctions against Moscow, no sanctions have as of yet been leveled against the overt sponsors of militancy and, in fact, terrorism in Syria. So widespread has state-sponsored terrorism become in the Middle East that what began as a limited proxy war against Syria has transformed into an immense regional army with tens of thousands of paid soldiers requiring millions of dollars a day to operate across multiple borders and confounding the forces of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon combined.

ISIS is State-Sponsored, So Why Aren’t These States Being Sanctioned? 

Clearly, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria also known as ISIS or ISIL, are the benefactors of vast state-sponsorship and yet the West has not identified nor condemned these sponsors, let alone move toward leveling sanctions similar to what it is seeking to impose upon Moscow.

News articles by prominent British and American news outlets like the Daily Beast’s “America’s Allies Are Funding ISIS,” the London Telegraph’s “How Isil is funded, trained and operating in Iraq and Syria,” and the Daily Mail’s “Cameron tells European leaders to ‘be good to their word’ and stop funding ISIS with ransom payments,” give explanations ranging from outright admissions that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey are directly arming, funding, aiding and abetting ISIS, to descriptions that read like an immense money laundering operation, to ridiculous claims including “ransom payments” and “robbed banks” have been behind ISIS’ regional rise to menace.

At one point in the Daily Beast’s article it claims, “the U.S. has made the case as strongly as they can to regional countries, including Kuwait. But ultimately when you take a hands off, leading from behind approach to things, people don’t take you seriously and they take matters into their own hands.” If ever there was a case to use sanctions to be “taken seriously,” it would appear to be in this case, yet sure enough, no sanctions appear to be on the table.

Systematic Hypocrisy Undermines Legitimacy 

American and European hypocrisy so stark undermines the legitimacy of both their governments and institutions as well as their agenda domestically and abroad. Condemning and leveling sanctions against Russia for allegedly doing in Ukraine what the West is openly doing in Syria and Iraq with its own immense proxy army leaves the global audience to decide between Russia managing a crisis on its borders and a West meddling thousands of miles from its borders.

Beyond sanctions, the West’s presence across the Middle East has had a negative impact on public perception both across the region and back home. This is owed to a larger pattern of hypocrisy, deceit, and meddling that has been done under various pretenses but for obvious self-serving interests.

What West’s Missing Sanctions Tell Us About Its “War” on ISIS 

Versus Russia, the United States and Europe have used every means at their disposal to support their regime of choice in Ukraine as well as undermine both eastern Ukrainians and Russia who has emerged as their champion upon the international stage. From multiple rounds of sanctions, to threats of direct military force, and an overall strategy of geopolitical and military encirclement of Russian territory has been pursued to exact from Moscow concessions regarding Western designs in Ukraine.

Why hasn’t a similar full-spectrum commitment been used to render from Persian Gulf monarchies the same desired capitulation to Western desires in the Middle East and more specifically, in regards to ISIS? The answer is simple, the West does not desire an end to the massive state-sponsorship of ISIS via its own allies, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and others.

It appears instead that the West and its partners are pursuing a dual-track strategy of inflaming the region with barbarism and violence so appalling, global public opinion will desperately beg for military intervention by the United States and its allies it has been so far utterly unsuccessful selling to the public under any other pretense.

The lack of biting sanctions against state-sponsors of terrorism aiding and abetting ISIS in both Iraq and Syria is an indictment of the West’s lack of sincerity in its “war” on ISIS. Short of a signed confession, no other indicator could be more telling of yet another war being sold within a pack of lies than a West eager to sanction every nation on Earth to the point of isolating itself to exact global obedience, but absent of sanctions amid overt support for terrorists it believes are so dangerous it must militarily intervene in Iraq and Syria.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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America’s “Game” of Wars and Interventions

America’s “Game” of Wars and Interventions

Salman Rafi Sheikh
New Eastern Outlook
September 25, 2014

Since at least the end of the Second World War, the US has been directly and indirectly fostering, aiding, funding and training fighting militias and groups in different regions of the world to further its own interests. However, the irony of this policy is that in most of the cases, the US ended up fighting, in the name of establishing peace, these very forces of destruction. History is replete with such examples. As the ‘sole’ super power of the world, it has actually been fighting the war of its own survival, that is, to continue to survive as the ‘sole’ super power. As such, not only does it ‘invent’ enemies, but also reasons to fight them. Let’s have a look at some of these ‘invented’ wars.

A number of examples can be given from history to justify this proposition. For example, the emergence of the Taliban is most directly the result of the CIA’s involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War. Not only did CIA provide all possible funding, but also established camps across Pakistan-Afghan border which were extensively used to train people to do “Jihad” against the Soviet Union. And, the fact that the Americans joyfully disseminate information about different aspects of this war in the form of Hollywood movies shows the extent of acknowledgement the US has publicly made regarding once supporting the Taliban when they were hailed and glorified as the “defenders” of the “free world.” Given that, now it looks remarkably amazing how that very Taliban later on turned into enemies and dragged the US into the longest war of its history.

Nothing can explain this fundamental transition except the fact that the US first needed the Taliban to use them against its cold war rival, and then to use, as a pretext to go to war, the Taliban’s refusal to allow the US a free way to build oil and gas pipelines from the Central Asia to the India Ocean. The force that the US once ‘proudly’ created thus turned into the most pernicious enemy of the world—hence the war against “terrorism.” In other words, the most important reason of this longest war is nothing but the US’ own created group of fighters.

On the other hand, the US could still have ‘invented’ any reason to launch attack on Afghanistan even if the Taliban had not refused to accept American plans; after all, extensive militarization of the entire region around Afghanistan was, and still is, one of the cardinal policy objectives of the US’ twenty-first century grand strategy. The fact that the US wanted to militarize the entire region in order for controlling the flow of energy from here to many parts of the world becomes quite evident when we look at the very location of the key military bases of the US in Afghanistan. All of the key bases have been built on the proposed route of the TAPI pipeline.

Similar kind of things took place in Africa where the US first sponsored “rebels” to fight against the Qaddafi regime in Libya and then the same “rebels” started to threaten the US’ and its allies’ interests in Africa, particularly in Mali—hence, the French led attack on Mali in 2013. Contrary to the official propaganda narrative of the US and its allies, the “terrorists” in Mali were, until a few months earlier, the US’ frontline allies in Libya.

As a matter of fact, according to some of the very credible published material in the Western media, militancy in Mali is a direct result of the US’ and its allies’ own policies. For example, Jeremy Kennan(Professor at University of London) reported in one of his articles about the shadowy ties that link the ‘fundamentalist forces’ across the North Africa to Algeria, the U.S. and the Gulf states. The facts presented in such other reports show that the catastrophe now being played out in Mali, as also in Africa at large, is basically an inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War on Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since at least 2002.

According to a report of the New York Times, which uncovers the truth about the presence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali, much of the instability in Mali is a direct outcome of the US led NATO intervention in Libya. The report highlights a very crucial fact of the mechanisms of the US’ geo-politics. According to the said report, it was the (US-backed)heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters who returned from combat in Libya and played the precipitating role in the collapse of the US-supported central government in Mali.” Similarly, according to a report of the Guardian, Al-Qaeda itself does not as such exist in Mali. As a matter of fact, the so-called AQIM is a successor of an Algerian Islamist group, (a product of Algerian civil war) which is only using the brand “al-Qaeda”, and which is further being imposed by the West for propaganda. This militant group was smashed by the Algerian authorities, and most of its leadership is, in fact, Algerian. And, now after having been ousted from Mali, they are again challenging the Algerian government.

The fact of the matter is that it was neither AQIM nor the Tuaregs, but the US trained military officers of the Malian army, who actually overthrew the Malian government because of the latter’s inability to address the Tuareg problem, leading to instability and eventually to intervention of the West. The so-called defection of the Malian army can also be explained with reference to the US led intervention in Libya when we take into account the fact that Tuaregs – who traditionally hailed from northern Mali – made up a large portion of his army, and when Gaddafi was ejected from power, they returned to their homeland and joined the local armed resistance. Thus intervention in Libya precipitated the Malian crisis, the latter being the consequence of the former, as later on acknowledged by the UK’ Foreign Secretary William Hague himself.

Let’s now have a look at the crisis going on in Iraq. Much like the Libya-Mali case, the crisis in Iraq are deeply linked, notwithstanding the US’ own long war with Iraq, to the wider regional problem. The phenomenon of the ISIS, which was deliberately and most fervently ‘mothered’ by the US and its allies in the Middle East, has now all of a sudden gone rogue, causing a massive ‘threat’ to the US and its allied Kingdoms. However, a look at the circumstances preceding the emergence of the ISIS in the current form would suffice to show that the ISIS is also, like Afghan Taliban and fighters in Libya-Mali, a ‘child’ of the US’ geo-politics.

It is a bitter irony that until recently the rebels of the Islamic State were glorified and heralded by the West as Syria’s “opposition freedom fighters” committed to “restoring democracy” and unseating the “brutal” government of Bashar al Assad. Evidences presented and collected by certain Israeli Intelligence sources has sufficiently revealed that a number of US allies in the Middle East did take part in the recruitment, training and funding of the “jihadists” of the ISIS; and, these fighters of the ISIS, along with Al-Nusra front, had previously been the linchpin of the Western strategy to defeat the Syrian Army on ground. According to a report of London’s Daily Express, the most important source of ISIS financing, to date, has been the support coming out of the Gulf States, primarily Saudi Arabia but also Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. It is quite surprising to note that even such reports fail to mention the role of the US in channeling this support.

Undoubtedly, the crisis in Iraq has paved the way for the US intervention; however, this is not the end of the story. As a part of its favourite “game” of wars, the US is again backing the Saudi government to create another Jihadist organization to counter the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. As a part of the understanding reached between Saudia and the US, the former is to host a training facility for thousands of Syrian rebel fighters who are combating both the Islamic State and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In simple words, the chief architects of the ISIS are now, in order to conceal their true intentions and purposes, coming up with something new that would help them perpetuate chaos in order to maintain their own monopoly over the region’s Oil. The allies from Europe have, precisely for ensuring smooth supply of oil, been supporting every move engineered by the US and Saudia.

While all these actions are being undertaken under the banner of the “Global War on Terrorism”, the US has no real intention of targeting the ISIS’ terror brigades which are being systematically integrated by the Western Special Forces and intelligence operatives. In fact, the only meaningful and effective campaign against the ISIS terrorists is being waged by the Syrian army itself, which also happens to be the target of the US geo-politics.

Given that the US and its allies are at the helm of the ISIS even after the latter has occupied a large swath of territory, it becomes quite obvious that the actual purpose of this on-going “game” of war is perpetual destabilization of both Iraq and Syria, as also of other possible targets, such as Iran. The “Sunni” outlook of the ISIS is sufficient to understand that after Iraq and Syria—the two “Shia” states in the Middle East—Iran could possibly be the next target; and therefore, the government of Israel has not even opposed the ISIS’ expansion.

Such “games” of war are not and have never been waged to establish “peace” as is claimed by the so-called ‘democratic’ US and the West; rather their real aim is to eliminate all forces that stand in their way of maintaining hegemony in the world. From Asia to Africa, the “game” of wars is supposed to lead to one end: unchallenged politico-economic and military supremacy of the US and its allies. Nowhere in this “game” do ‘humane considerations’ find any reasonable space. The rhetoric of “peace and development” is only for the masses to digest to make them believe that the war is to “end all wars.” This, however, remains only a myth when it comes to ground realities where every “war on terrorism” sows seeds of a new “war,” just like stages of any game, where every stage leads to another stage, to another level.

Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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