April 20, 2015 - The Constantine Report    
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

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March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading

Julian Assange on the Exploitation of Edward Snowden by Plagiarist Luke Harding & The Guardian

This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.

Assange: How ‘The Guardian’ Milked Edward Snowden’s Story

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange investigates the book behind Snowden,Oliver Stone’s forthcoming film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood and Zachary Quinto. According to leaked Sony emails, movie rights for the book were bought for $700,000.

The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (Guardian/Faber & Faber, 2014) by Luke Harding is a hack job in the purest sense of the term. Pieced together from secondary sources and written with minimal additional research to be the first to market, the book’s thrifty origins are hard to miss.

The Guardian is a curiously inward-looking beast. If any other institution tried to market its own experience of its own work nearly as persistently as The Guardian, it would surely be called out for institutional narcissism. But because The Guardian is an embarrassingly central institution within the moribund “left-of-center” wing of the U.K. establishment, everyone holds their tongue.

In recent years, we have seen The Guardian consult itself into cinematic history—in the Jason Bourne films and others—as a hip, ultra-modern, intensely British newspaper with a progressive edge, a charmingly befuddled giant of investigative journalism with a cast-iron spine.

The Snowden Files positions The Guardian as central to the Edward Snowden affair, elbowing out more significant players like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras for Guardian stablemates, often with remarkably bad grace.

“Disputatious gay” Glenn Greenwald’s distress at the U.K.’s detention of his husband, David Miranda, is described as “emotional” and “over-the-top.” My WikiLeaks colleague Sarah Harrison—who helped rescue Snowden from Hong Kong—is dismissed as a “would-be journalist.”

Flatulent Tributes

I am referred to as the “self-styled editor of WikiLeaks.” In other words, the editor of WikiLeaks. This is about as subtle as Harding’s withering asides get. You could use this kind of thing on anyone.

The book is full of flatulent tributes to The Guardian and its would-be journalists. “[Guardian journalist Ewen] MacAskill had climbed the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Jungfrau. His calmness now stood him in good stead.” Self-styled Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is introduced and reintroduced in nearly every chapter, each time quoting the same hagiographic New Yorker profile as testimony to his “steely” composure and “radiant calm.”

That this is Hollywood bait could not be more blatant.

Adaptation rights for Harding’s book were acquired last year by Oliver Stone, whose Edward Snowden film began principal photography in January, and is due for release just before Christmas. I wince to think of the money that has now soaked into this turkey of a book.

According to the budget for the production, found in the Sony archive leak published by WikiLeaks on Thursday, April 16, the film rights for Harding’s book fetched $700,000, none of which, it must be remarked, has been contributed to Snowden’s legal defense. Having spoken to Stone, I’m confident that he is aware of the humdrum nature of his source material, and that his script does not lean too heavily on the book.

If any A-list director can put the sour omen of a Luke Harding film rights purchase behind him, it is probably Stone. And yet I’m still surprised that this author is not kryptonite to movie financiers by now. Harding was also the co-author of 2011’s WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, another tour de force of dreary cash-in publishing, which went on to be the basis for Dreamworks’ catastrophic box-office failure: 2013’s The Fifth Estate.

Harding’s co-author on that book—the self-styled former senior Guardianeditor David Leigh—is absent in The Snowden Files. This is good: In writing about his work with me on the WikiLeaks material, Leigh chose—over my explicit warnings—to print a confidential encryption password as a chapter heading, undoing eight months of our work (and of over a hundred other media organizations) and resulting in the dumping of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables onto the Internet without the selective redactions that had been carefully prepared for them.

In a Goebbelsian projection, Leigh and The Guardian promptly blamed me for this. Harding repeats the libel without irony in The Snowden Files.

In any case, gone is Leigh. Consequently, no sensitive passwords appear to have been disclosed in the making of Harding’s book. Furthermore, there is evidence in these pages that The Guardian is now attempting to embrace basic operational security procedures, a positive development, even if it is years late and being done haphazardly.

Back in 2010, when we were publishing classified Pentagon and State Department documents, the paper’s journalists jovially branded me “paranoid” for refusing to discuss sensitive information over email. Would-be lifestyle journalist Decca Aitkenhead later even took this as far as insinuating that I might be losing my mind. But I was just doing my job, and I am relieved that it’s starting to sink in at The Guardian that it’s their job, too.

Since I’ve started praising the book, I might as well continue. As hack jobs by Luke Harding go, a lot of work has gone into this one. Mr. Harding has clearly gone to uncharacteristic lengths in rewriting most of his source material, although it remains in large part unattributed.

Plagiarist of the Year

Notoriously, as the Moscow bureau chief for The Guardian, Harding used to ply his trade ripping off work by other Moscow-based journalists before his plagiarism was pointed out by The eXile’s Mark Ames and Yasha Levine, from whom he had misappropriated entire paragraphs without alteration. For this he was awarded “plagiarist of the year” by Private Eye in 2007.

But—disciplined by experience—he covers his tracks much more effectively here. This book thereby avoids the charge of naked plagiarism.

Yet the conclusion cannot be resisted that this work is painfully derivative. Snowden has never spoken to Harding. The two have never met. The story is largely pieced together from more original work by James Risen, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Peter Maas, Janet Reitman, writers from the South China Morning Post and others.

The subtitle of the book, “The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,” is therefore disingenuous. If this is an inside story of Snowden, then anyone can write an inside story of anything.

Something in me has to applaud the chutzpah. There simply isn’t a book here. Tangents and trivia serve as desperate page-filler, padding out scarce source material to book length. We are subjected to routine detours through Snowden’s historical namesakes, rehearsals of the plot of the James Bond movie Skyfall and lengthy forays into Harding’s pedestrian view of Soviet history.

Elsewhere, Harding runs out of external material to recycle and begins to rehash his own, best evidenced in the almost identical Homeric introductions Harding’s boss, Alan Rusbridger, receives every time he arrives on the page.

To be fair, not all of the book is secondhand information. The middle chapters, which document The Guardian’s internal struggles over the publication of the Snowden information, contain mostly novel anecdotes. True, I’d already heard many of them (The Guardian leaks like a sieve), but it’s convenient to have them all written down in one place.

For most of his narrative, however, Harding is riding on the coattails of other journalists. His is more of a “backside story” than an “inside story.” It reveals a glaring lack of expertise in just about every topic it touches on: the Internet and its subcultures, information and operational security, the digital rights and policy community, hacker culture, the cypherpunk movement, geopolitics, espionage and the security industry.

For our author, “computer skills” are about as comprehensible as magical powers in a J.K. Rowling novel. Although examples of this can be found throughout the book, it is nowhere more apparent than in a transparent promo piece in The Guardian where Harding claimed that while he was writing The Snowden Files, his word processor would occasionally start to delete paragraphs while he watched.

Mundane explanations abound, but Harding is apparently desperate to attribute the episode to clandestine actors. “Was it the NSA? GCHQ? A Russian hacker?” the article asks breathlessly. Or, a reader might be forgiven for wondering, a bit of clotted cream stuck under the backspace key?

As a computer security expert who’s been in this business for a long time, I can assure Harding that if a well-resourced intelligence agency has compromised his computer, it will not be going out of its way to advertise itself to him by playing silly games with his word processor. As we like to say at WikiLeaks, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

But maybe Harding isn’t as paranoid or gullible as he appears. After all, the “self-deleting paragraph” episode is only the latest in a string of self-aggrandizing promotional “likely stories” he has penned. As Richard de Lacy points out in his article “Face It, the FSB Is Just Not That Into You,” an earlier Harding book on Russia was announced with another article in The Guardianwhere the author constructed an elaborate Russian secret police conspiracy against him from such telltale signs as problems with his screen saver, stiff door handles and bouncing emails. The article was called—with characteristic immodesty—“Enemy of the State.”

Bullshitter’s Guide

This kind of breezy approach to facts is reflected throughout the volume. Thepersecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake by the U.S. Justice Department—so central to this story—is summarized clumsily and then forgotten. And even I know that Namco’s “Tekken” is not—as Harding claims—a “role-playing game.”

We are left with a “Bullshitter’s Guide” to the world of the world’s most wanted man. It is a book by someone who wasn’t there, doesn’t know, doesn’t belong and doesn’t understand.

Where the book is accurate, it is derivative. And where it is not derivative, it is not accurate. In the chapter on Snowden’s exit from Hong Kong, I discover that I had been “frantically trying to make contact with Edward Snowden” and that I had “barged [my] way into [his] drama.”

I was present at these events (Harding was not), and it was Edward Snowden who contacted me for help, not the other way around. This is something Snowden will happily confirm, at least to those who have access to him. The entire chapter is irredeemably specious. “Much is mysterious, but…” writes the self-styled journalist Harding, a polite way of saying that what follows has been made up.

Clues abound that Harding is filling in the blanks himself. All too often, we are presented with sentences such as “Snowden may have allowed himself a wry smile,” reminding us of the paucity of actual content. The result is a story that is a non-story—a generic rendition of the Snowden cycle where lifeless bromide and imagined melodrama stand in for authentic human narrative.

There is no attempt to make the arguments consistent, either. American newspapers are “deferential to authority,” but The Guardian is brave because it emerged from the “Darwinian” publish-or-perish London arena, supposedly a breeding ground for apex predators in the journalist food chain.

But later on, claims Harding, The Guardian holds out alone against the U.K. government while the rest of the London press cowers before a draconian Defense Advisory notice. It is hard to reconcile these stories, except insofar as they dignify The Guardian.

RTR4VR98The destroyed computer hard drive used by Guardian journalists to store documents leaked by Snowden, on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London until July 19. TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

In reality, The Guardian also caved to government pressure—something it continues to do. Originally, the paper wasn’t even going to publish the Snowden leaks—Glenn Greenwald had to force its hand. On request of the government, the paper later voluntarily destroyed its copies of the Snowden documents—and the computers they were saved on—in the basement of its London offices, under the supervision of [Britain’s electronic spying headquarters] GCHQ.

Greenwald eventually broke with The Guardian over reported censorship issues, which were later confirmed by Alan Rusbridger, keen to demonstrate the Guardian’s “patriotism” to a U.K. Home Affairs Select Committee, when he boasted that “there’s stuff in there about Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re not even going to look at it.”

Solidarity with The Guardian from the U.K. press was, indeed, thin on the ground in 2013, but this was not, as Harding wants us to believe, because the rest of the London press was trembling in its boots. It was because the holier-than-thou Guardian had rounded on the News of the World in 2011, something for which it is still loathed within the industry.

Cliché After Cliché

And it is certain that more papers would have run Snowden stories in the U.K. if The Guardian had shared its material with the rest of the London press. Who wants to recycle someone else’s scoops?

As you’d expect from a serial plagiarist, the book is a stylistic wasteland. There are no regular impasses in here, only the more refined kind of “impasse we can’t get past.” Never simply “deny” when you can “categorically deny.” Sympathetic characters are always either “wry” or “calm”; that is their entire emotional repertoire.

The words “Orwellian,” “Kafkaesque” and “McCarthyite” seem to apply to everything. Far too much is found to be “ironic,” all too often “cruelly” so. Cliché after cliché sweeps by in a wash of ugly prose until you are overwhelmed with the cynical functionalism of the thing.

It wouldn’t be a Guardian book without some institutional axe-grinding. I made the mistake of glancing at the index before I read the book. There I spotted my name, with the following reference:

Assange, Julian; Manichean world view of……….224.

There is something about seeing my “Manichean world view” casually assigned its own index entry that epitomizes the Guardian’s longstanding, cartoon-like vendetta against me.

Whence issues the charge of Manicheanism? In 2012, I independently produced and presented a television show where I interviewed a range of world figures, from Noam Chomsky and Hassan Nasrallah to the presidents of Tunisia and Ecuador.

Among those I invited was Alexei Navalny, hoping to discuss the “managed democracy” of post-Yeltsin Russia. I was game, but Navalny declined. It was worth a try. But I sold a broadcast license to—among others—Russia Today, which is financed by the Russian taxpayer. I am therefore to be held complicit—at least in Harding’s judgment—in Russian state repression.

Harding’s buddies are spared this sort of nonsense. Ewen MacAskill, who spent years in Hong Kong writing for The China Daily, gets the benefit of the doubt, having been, says Harding “in theory at least”—meaning “not really”—employed in “the Chinese Communist Party’s official propaganda unit.” And yet it is considered self-evident that I identify with Vladimir Putin. This is the level of sophistication of the author who imputes to me a “Manichean world view.”

If anyone should answer to the charge of “Manicheanism,” it is Harding, who, when he is not slogging through clumsy Hollywood film treatments smearing whistleblowers, can be found busily obsessing over Putin in the pages of The Guardian.

Decades after the Cold War, British liberal antipathy to Russia continues to distort the perception of human rights transgressions at home. Harding just cannot resist insinuating that the “high-minded and melodramatic” Snowden’s residency in Russia makes him a useful idiot, a “gift to Putin.” He spends a whole chapter seriously trying to argue that Russia is holding Snowden “captive.”

Outside of Harding’s alternative reality, Snowden is a refugee. Russia is not holding him captive. I know this. I had one of my employees stay with him 24 hours a day for four months to make sure his rights were respected.

Anyway, it is quite odious that Snowden is being beaten over the head with Russia by The Guardian—a publication he ought to have been able to trust. Snowden has to be in Russia. Russia is now the only place asylum for him can be meaningful. If he is anyone’s captive, he is a peculiar kind of captive of the United States, which, having canceled his passport, will not allow him to safely leave Russia’s borders, trapping him there.

Snowden Deserves Better

Even if Russia may not be kind to its journalists or its dissidents, granting Snowden asylum was a good thing to do and it deserves praise. Thanks to Russia (and thanks to WikiLeaks), Snowden remains free. Only someone with a “Manichean world view” would be unable to acknowledge this.

The most disappointing thing of all about The Snowden Files is that it is exploitative. It should not have existed at all. We all understand the pressures facing print journalism and the need to diversify revenue in order to cross-subsidize investigative journalism. But investigative journalism involves being able to develop relationships of trust with your sources.

There is a conflict of interest here. Edward Snowden was left in the lurch in Hong Kong by The Guardian, and WikiLeaks had to step in to make sure he was safe. While WikiLeaks worked to find him a safe haven, The Guardianwas already plotting to sell the film rights.

How can one reconcile the duty to a source with the mad rush to be the first to market with a lucrative, self-glorifying, unauthorized biography? For all the risks he took, Snowden deserves better than this.

The Snowden Files is a walloping fraud, written by frauds to be praised by frauds. Michiko Kakutani, the renowned New York Times book critic, wrote that it “reads like a le Carré novel crossed with something by Kafka.” Really? It’s more Tom Clancy meets Dan Brown, but without the crowd-pleasing plot, a thriller without thrills by the man who wasn’t there.

That a work so artless, so exploitative, so self-congratulatory, so cynical, so perfectly mediocre as The Snowden Files could receive such blinding praise from such a reputed critic completes the farce. The Snowden Files is—in effect if not in substance—a window into the tiny, shrinking world of industrial journalism and the swindling hacks that live in it.

For Snowden’s sake, it is fortunate that Oliver Stone and his production team seem to know what they are doing. Without their intervention, we might now have been facing another Guardian-inspired box office catastrophe.

“… In 2013 and 2014, according to a 2014 CAP report, oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $720 million to help elect members of congress that were friendly to its agenda. …”

In its first 100 days, the 114th Congress has cast more roll call votes on energy and environmental issues than on any other issue, according to a new report. Many of these votes sought to undermine environmental protections or fast track projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, but none of them have become law.

The report, published Wednesday by the Center for American Progress (CAP), cataloged the votes Congress has cast in the first 100 days of 2015, and found that 59 of the Senate’s 135 roll call votes — or 44 percent — were cast on energy or environment-related legislation or amendments, while 25 of the House’s 144 votes were cast on environmental and energy issues.

The report states that, despite these votes, “the energy and anti-environmental agenda of the 114th Congress has come off the rails before leaving the station,” noting that debates at the beginning of the year over bills that sought to approve the Keystone XL pipeline took weeks of lawmakers’ time. Legislation to approve the pipeline, rather than wait for the State Department to issue its final national interest report on the project, was passed by Congress in February but ultimately vetoed by the president.


Matt Lee-Ashley, director of public lands at CAP and co-author of the report, says “the energy and environmental votes thus far have been on overwhelmingly divisive questions like whether to lift protections on wilderness lands and to deny that human activity is contributing to climate change,” he said in an email. “The highest priorities of oil and gas companies, like facilitating the export of U.S. energy supplies, haven’t fared well so far on the floor of the Senate, and congressional leaders seem to have gotten sidetracked by ideological anti-environment proposals.”

The CAP report focused particularly on the Senate, whose new majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made Keystone XL his first order of business in the new year and pledged in late 2014 that he would do everything he could to stop the Obama administration’s proposed rule on power plant emissions.

The Senate seemed poised this year to tackle “a wishlist of fossil-fuel industry priorities:” in 2013 and 2014, according to a 2014 CAP report, oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $720 million to help elect members of congress that were friendly to its agenda.

But as Lee-Ashley noted, that agenda, which includes priorities like speeding up approval for oil and gas exports and opening up new regions for offshore drilling, hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, mostly because Senate leaders like Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have gotten sidetracked by other environmental issues, including President Obama’s proposal to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and attempts to make it easier to sell off America’s public lands for oil and gas development. The Senate also voted in January to approve a measure introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) that said that climate change is real, but then, a few minutes later, rejected a measure stating that it is caused by humans.


Lee-Ashley said this failure of Congress to enact its environmental goals in its first 100 days will have implications for the upcoming presidential election, and for the rest of the 114th Congress’ tenure.

“I think leaders in the new Congress and presidential hopefuls are going to have to look at the strategy the new Congress has pursued and ask: what went wrong?” he said. “There is plenty of room for thoughtful energy policy and bipartisanship on land conservation, but trying to sell national forests and weakening protections for clean air and clean water are nonstarters with most Americans.”

CAP isn’t the only group to criticize Congress’ focus on anti-environmental efforts in its first 100 days — environmental groups, too, have called out Senate Republicans in particular for driving the agenda.

“This Congress is rewarding big oil, coal, gas, with votes, amendments, bills that attempt to undermine the fundamental bedrock laws that the environmental community has been fighting for the last 45 years,” Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said.

Some Democrats in Congress are pushing back against Republicans’ energy and environmental agenda: Democratic lawmakers from New England and the West sent a letter to governors across the U.S. this week asking them not to heed Sen. McConnell’s callto opt out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed climate rule.

And environmental groups are hoping to get ahead of the issue in the upcoming presidential election: a coalition of groups is expected to announce this weekend an initiative to register 1 million climate voters by Election Day.

For three days, wearing a kaleidoscope of camouflage patterns, they huddled together on a military base in Florida. They came from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Army Special Operations Command, from France and Norway, from Denmark, Germany, and Canada: 13 nations in all. They came to plan a years-long “Special Operations-centric” military campaign supported by conventional forces, a multinational undertaking that — if carried out — might cost hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of dollars and who knows how many lives.

Ask the men involved and they’ll talk about being mindful of “sensitivities” and “cultural differences,” about the importance of “collaboration and coordination,” about the value of a variety of viewpoints, about “perspectives” and “partnerships.”  Nonetheless, behind closed doors and unbeknownst to most of the people in their own countries, let alone the countries fixed in their sights, a coterie of Western special ops planners were sketching out a possible multinational military future for a troubled region of Africa.

From January 13th to 15th, representatives from the U.S. and 12 partner nations gathered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa for an exercise dubbed Silent Quest 15-1. The fictional scenario on which they were to play out their war game had a ripped-from-the-headlines quality to it.  It was an amalgam of two perfectly real and ongoing foreign policy and counterterrorism disasters of the post-9/11 era: the growth of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the emergence of the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL.  The war game centered on the imagined rise of a group dubbed the “Islamic State of Africa” and the spread of its proto-caliphate over parts of NigeriaNiger, and Cameroon – countries terrorized by the real Boko Haram, which did recently pledge its allegiance to the Islamic State.

Silent Quest 15-1 was just the latest in a series of similarly named exercises — the first took place in March 2013 — designed to help plot out the special ops interventions of the next decade.  This war game was no paintball-style walk in the woods.  There were no mock firefights, no dress rehearsals.  It wasn’t the flag football equivalent of battle.  Instead, it was a tabletop exercise building on something all too real: the ever-expanding panoply of U.S. and allied military activities across ever-larger parts of Africa.  Speaking of that continent, Matt Pascual, a participant in Silent Quest and the Africa desk officer for SOCOM’s Euro-Africa Support Group, noted that the U.S. and its allies were already dealing with “myriad issues” in the region and, perhaps most importantly, that many of the participating countries “are already there.”  The country “already there” the most is, of course, Pascual’s own: the United States.

In recent years, the U.S. has been involved in a variety of multinational interventions in Africa, including one in Libya that involved both a secret war and a conventional campaign of missiles and air strikes, assistance to French forces in the Central African Republic and Mali, and the training and funding of African proxies to do battle against militant groups like Boko Haram as well as Somalia’s al-Shabab and Mali’s Ansar al-Dine.  In 2014, the U.S. carried out 674 military activities across Africa, nearly two missions per day, an almost 300% jump in the number of annual operations, exercises, and military-to-military training activities since U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008.

Despite this massive increase in missions and a similar swelling of bases, personnel, and funding, the picture painted last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee by AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez was startlingly bleak.  For all the American efforts across Africa, Rodriguez offered a vision of a continent in crisis, imperiled from East to West by militant groups that have developed, grown in strength, or increased their deadly reach in the face of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

“Transregional terrorists and criminal networks continue to adapt and expand aggressively,” Rodriguez told committee members. “Al-Shabab has broadened its operations to conduct, or attempt to conduct, asymmetric attacks against Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and especially Kenya.  Libya-based threats are growing rapidly, including an expanding ISIL presence… Boko Haram threatens the ability of the Nigerian government to provide security and basic services in large portions of the northeast.”  Despite the grim outcomes since the American military began “pivoting” to Africa after 9/11, the U.S. recently signed an agreement designed to keep its troops based on the continent until almost midcentury.

Mission Creep   

4827-special-operations-forces-sof-task-force-compound-master-plan-5049For years, the U.S. military has publicly insisted that its efforts in Africa are negligible, intentionally leaving the American people, not to mention most Africans, in the dark about the true size, scale, and scope of its operations there. AFRICOM public affairs personnel and commanders have repeatedly claimed no more than a “light footprint” on the continent.  They shrink from talk of camps and outposts, claiming to have just one base anywhere in Africa: Camp Lemonnier in the tiny nation of Djibouti.  They don’t like to talk about military operations.  They offer detailed information about only a tiny fraction of their training exercises.  They refuse to disclose the locations where personnel have been stationed or even counts of the countries involved.

During an interview, an AFRICOM spokesman once expressed his worry to me that even tabulating how many deployments the command has in Africa would offer a “skewed image” of U.S. efforts.  Behind closed doors, however, AFRICOM’s officers speak quite a different language.  They have repeatedly asserted that the continent is an American “battlefield” and that — make no bones about it — they are already embroiled in an actual “war.”

According to recently released figures from U.S. Africa Command, the scope of that “war” grew dramatically in 2014.  In its “posture statement,” AFRICOM reports that it conducted 68 operations last year, up from 55 the year before.  These included operations Juniper Micron and Echo Casemate, missions focused on aiding French and African interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic; Observant Compass, an effort to degrade or destroy what’s left of Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa; and United Assistance, the deployment of military personnel to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

The number of major joint field exercises U.S. personnel engaged in with African military partners inched up from 10 in 2013 to 11 last year. These included African Lion in Morocco, Western Accord in Senegal, Central Accord in Cameroon, and Southern Accord in Malawi, all of which had a field training component and served as capstone events for the prior year’s military-to-military instruction missions.

AFRICOM also conducted maritime security exercises including Obangame Express in the Gulf of Guinea, Saharan Express in the waters off Senegal, and three weeks of maritime security training scenarios as part of Phoenix Express 2014, with sailors from numerous countries including Algeria, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey.

The number of security cooperation activities skyrocketed from 481 in 2013 to 595 last year.  Such efforts included military training under a “state partnership program” that teams African military forces with U.S. National Guard units and the State Department-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance, or ACOTA, program through which U.S. military advisers and mentors provide equipment and instruction to African troops.

In 2013, the combined total of all U.S. activities on the continent reached 546, an average of more than one mission per day.  Last year, that number leapt to 674.  In other words, U.S. troops were carrying out almost two operations, exercises, or activities — from drone strikes to counterinsurgency instruction, intelligence gathering to marksmanship training — somewhere in Africa every day.  This represents an enormous increase from the 172 “missions, activities, programs, and exercises” that AFRICOM inherited from other geographic commands when it began operations in 2008.

Transnational Terror Groups: Something From Nothing

In 2000, a report prepared under the auspices of the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute examined the “African security environment.”  While it touched on “internal separatist or rebel movements” in “weak states,” as well as non-state actors like militias and “warlord armies,” there was conspicuously no mention of Islamic extremism or major transnational terrorist threats.  Prior to 2001, in fact, the United States did not recognize any terrorist organizations in sub-Saharan Africa and a senior Pentagon official noted that the most feared Islamic militants on the continent had “not engaged in acts of terrorism outside Somalia.”

In the wake of 9/11, even before AFRICOM was created, the U.S. began ramping up operations across the continent in an effort to bolster the counterterror capabilities of allies and insulate Africa from transnational terror groups, namely globe-trotting Islamic extremists.  The continent, in other words, was seen as something of a clean slate for experiments in terror prevention.

Billions of dollars have been pumped into Africa to build bases, arm allies, gather intelligence, fight proxy wars, assassinate militants, and conduct perhaps thousands of military missions — and none of it has had its intended effect.  Last year, for example, Somali militants “either planned or executed increasingly complex and lethal attacks in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, and Ethiopia,” according to AFRICOM.  Earlier this month, those same al-Shabab militants upped the ante by slaughtering 142 students at a college in Kenya.

And al-Shabab’s deadly growth and spread has hardly been the exception to the rule in Africa. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, AFRICOM commander Rodriguez rattled off the names of numerous Islamic terror groups that have sprung up in the intervening years, destabilizing the very countries the U.S. had sought to strengthen.  While the posture statement he presented put the best gloss possible on Washington’s military efforts in Africa, even a cursory reading of it — and under the circumstances, it’s worth quoting at length — paints a bleak picture of what that “pivot” to Africa has actually meant on the ground. Sections pulled from various parts of the document speak volumes:

“The network of al-Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents continues to exploit Africa’s under-governed regions and porous borders to train and conduct attacks. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is expanding its presence in North Africa. Terrorists with allegiances to multiple groups are expanding their collaboration in recruitment, financing, training, and operations, both within Africa and trans-regionally. Violent extremist organizations are utilizing increasingly sophisticated improvised explosive devices, and casualties from these weapons in Africa increased by approximately 40 percent in 2014…

“In North and West Africa, Libyan and Nigerian insecurity increasingly threaten U.S. interests. In spite of multinational security efforts, terrorist and criminal networks are gaining strength and interoperability. Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Murabitun, Boko Haram, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and other violent extremist organizations are exploiting weak governance, corrupt leadership, and porous borders across the Sahel and Maghreb to train and move fighters and distribute resources…

“Libya-based threats to U.S. interests are growing… Libyan governance, security, and economic stability deteriorated significantly in the past year… Today, armed groups control large areas of territory in Libya and operate with impunity. Libya appears to be emerging as a safe haven where terrorists, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-affiliated groups, can train and rebuild with impunity. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is increasingly active in Libya, including in Derna, Benghazi, Tripoli, and Sebha…

“The spillover effects of instability in Libya and northern Mali increase risks to U.S. interests in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, including the success of Tunisia’s democratic transition…

“The security situation in Nigeria also declined in the past year. Boko Haram threatens the functioning of a government that is challenged to maintain its people’s trust and to provide security and other basic services… Boko Haram has launched attacks across Nigeria’s borders into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger…

“…both the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo are at risk of further destabilization by insurgent groups, and simmering ethnic tensions in the Great Lakes region have the potential to boil over violently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

All this, mind you, is AFRICOM’s own assessment of the situation on the continent on which it has focused its efforts for the better part of a decade as U.S. missions there soared.  In this context, it’s worth reemphasizing that, before the U.S. ramped up those efforts, Africa was — by Washington’s own estimation — relatively free of transnational Islamic terror groups.

Tipping the Scales in Africa

Despite Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State and scareheadlines lamenting their merger or conflating those or other brutal terror outfits operating under similar monikers, there is currently no real Islamic State of Africa.  But the war game carried out at MacDill Air Force Base in January against that fictional group is far from fantasy, representing as it does the next logical step in a series of operations that have been gaining steam since AFRICOM’s birth. And buried in the command’s 2015 Posture Statement is actual news that signals a continuation of this trajectory into the 2040s.

In May 2014, the U.S. reached an agreement — it’s called an “implementing arrangement” — with the government of Djibouti “that secures [its] presence” in that country “through 2044.”  In addition, AFRICOM officers are now talking about the possibility of building a string of surveillance outposts along the northern tier of the continent.  And don’t forget how, over the past few years, U.S. staging areas, mini-bases, and airfields have popped up in the contiguous nations of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and —  skippingvChad (where AFRICOM recently built temporary facilities for a special ops exercise) — the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.  All of this suggests that the U.S. military is digging in for the long haul in Africa.

Silent Quest 15-1 was designed as a model to demonstrate just how Washington will conduct “Special Operations-centric” coalition warfare in Africa.  It was, in fact, designed to align, wrote Gunnery Sergeant Reina Barnett in SOCOM’s trade publication Tip of the Spear, with the “2020 planning guidance of Army Maj. Gen. James Linder, commander of Special Operations Command Africa.” And the agreement with Djibouti demonstrates that the U.S. military is now beginning to plan for almost a quarter-century beyond that.  But, if the last six years — marked by a 300% increase in U.S. missions as well as the spread of terror groups and terrorism in Africa — are any indicator, the results are likely to be anything but pleasing to Washington.

AFRICOM commander David Rodriguez continues to put the best face on U.S. efforts in Africa, citing “progress in several areas through close cooperation with our allies and partners.”  His command’s assessment of the situation, however, is remarkably bleak.  “Where our national interests compel us to tip the scales and enhance collective security gains, we may have to do more — either by enabling our allies and partners, or acting unilaterally,” reads the posture statement Rodriguez delivered to that Senate committee.

After more than a decade of increasing efforts, however, there’s little evidence that AFRICOM has the slightest idea how to tip the scales in its own favor in Africa.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute. A 2014 Izzy Award and American Book Award winner for his book Kill Anything That Moves, he has reported from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa and his pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Nation, and regularly atTomDispatch. His latest book, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa (Haymarket Books), will soon be published.