Israeli Army Admits Tweeted Hezbollah Map Actually Fake

Having passed it around to foreign diplomats as a real thing, and tweeted it on Tuesday with the claim it proved Hezbollah’s “war crimes,” the Israeli military today was forced to admit that a map of “Hezbollah positions” around southern Lebanon was actually totally fabricated by the military itself, and not based on any intelligence.

The tweeted image claimed to have been “declassified,” and was hyped as proving Israel’s massive intelligence-gathering capabilities in southern Lebanon, in anticipation of Israel’s next invasion. Officials also say it was presented to foreign diplomats as proof Hezbollah poses a threat to Israeli territory.

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NY Times Attacks Gary Johnson for Equating US, Syrian War Crimes

Following an interview with the New York Times, Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is coming under fire for noting a moral equivalence between killing civilians in airstrikes, and killing civilians in airstrikes.

Pressed on the civilian death toll of Syrian airstrikes against populated areas, and whether he saw those as equivalent to US airstrikes against populated areas, Johnson mockingly declared “no of course not – we’re so much better than all that. We’re so much better when in Afghanistan, we bomb the hospital and 60 people are killed in the hospital.”

Johnson is referring to last year’s Kunduz airstrikes, in which a US warplane repeatedly and deliberately bombed a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital near Kunduz, Afghanistan, in what officials later characterized as “a mistake.” The Syrian government has recently been heavily criticized for airstrikes around Aleppo which hit hospitals.

Johnson further went after Hillary Clinton for overly interventionist instincts, noting that a number of civilians have been killed in US airstrikes in Syria as well, and saying that Clinton shares some of the responsibility for those deaths.

While charges of “moral equivalence” against antiwar candidates are a recurring theme in US elections, they have tended in the past to center around at least moderately different methods of killing civilians, like arguing suicide bombings to be “worse” than airstrikes. In this case, however, it’s difficult to avoid equating the two incidents, since they both involve remarkably similar aircraft dropping remarkably similar ordinance on hospitals run by international aid groups.

Johnson also said it would be important to know what sort of “deals” the Obama Administration promised to other nations to join the coalition bombing Syria, though he conceded he was at a disadvantage on that point as, unlike his opponents, he was not given classified briefings on the matter.



Trump Did Business With Sanctioned Iran Bank Way Before Sanctions

While most of the focus on the presidential campaign remains on the weight of a former Miss Universe and unsubstantiated claims of a Russian plot to get Donald Trump elected, a story with at least a tenuous grounding in reality emerged today.

Trump Rented Space to Outlawed Iranian Bank Linked to Terrorism

That’s a headline story if I’ve ever seen one. But is it true? Not really.

The bank in question, Bank Melli, was sanctioned in 2007 by the US Treasury Department on claims that, as a bank that exists in Iran, it had something to do with financial transactions related to Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program.

Which it probably did, being Iran’s main bank, which has some 30% of the market there. So did Trump violate sanctions by doing business with an “outlawed” bank? Not at all.

The “story” such as it is, is that Bank Melli rented office space in a Trump-owned building in New York City between 1998 and 2003. The sanctions, as noted above, only happened in 2007, years after the bank moved out of the building.


House Expects Friday Vote on 9/11 Lawsuit Bill Opposed by Saudis

Reports out of the Republican leadership say that the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, is expected to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives this week, likely on Friday.

The JASTA allows for 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for damages related to the 2001 terrorist attack. Saudi Arabia threatened the US over the bill back in April, threatening to immediately divest themselves of $750 billion in US treasury assets, potentially collapsing both the US debt market and the dollar.

The Saudi threats initially worked, with the White House threatening a veto, citing the risk of the bill to “taxpayers.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) also briefly blocked the bill, though the Senate did eventually pass the bill in mid-May.

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Governments’ Fury Reflects Success of Telegram App’s Privacy Features

While everyone gives lip-service to protecting customers’ privacy these days, many major US tech companies are known to be in bed with the NSA on wholesale surveillance. It’s tough to know, then, how seriously to take security promises from such companies.

A good rule of thumb, however, might be derived from Telegram, an open-sourced private messaging application with a soaring user base. While government officials sort of pooh-pooh anything that seems too private, the reaction to Telegram is downright apoplectic.

Several European officials are reacting with absolute fury toward Telegram for being a serious obstacle to surveillance, with French officials complaining they struggled to even find ways to get in touch with the company to demand they hand over information.

Even then, they’re not getting the chat logs from Telegram, because part of the design infrastructure ensuring the privacy of such chats is that the company doesn’t keep chat logs in the first place, and therefore has nothing to hand over.

The hostility toward Telegram, and the claims that they’re facilitating ISIS because their service isn’t built to be spied on, is a good indication that they’re doing their job pretty well.

Indeed, officials are calling Telegram a “technological nightmare,” which for people who don’t want those officials reading what they write can only be a good thing.

US Littoral Combat Ships a Figurative Disaster

When a branch of the US military starts rolling out a new pet project, it is rarely either cost effective or literally effective. The US Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) program is really underscoring that recently, with more ships breaking at seemingly random, meaning four nearly brand new ships have broken down in less than a year.

Just yesterday, the Navy discussed problems with its first LCS, the USS Freedom, which inexplicably was put out of commission back in July when seawater got into the engine and the oil system and started rusting things out. Limping back to home port, the USS Freedom now needs an engine replaced outright, with no timetable for the fix, or the cost.

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