Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein

Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite

Nazis and Radical Priests Against the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky, a disembodied voice, vaguely recognizable from the world of advertising, declares: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” The quotation launches an eighteen-minute corporate video to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Filmed in 2012, the video tells the sanitized origin story of a pair of visionaries who built a global empire selling secrecy. The firm started as two people and grew to almost six hundred employees with forty-two offices around the world. Its Panama headquarters operated twenty-four hours a day, churning out anonymous companies, a product as versatile as it was desirable. Each company was an empty corporate shell waiting to be filled. It could do practically anything: hold a bank account, own a mansion, enter into complex business transactions. Best of all, it was […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Niger, 9/11, and Apocalyptic Humiliation

Honestly, if there’s an afterlife, then the soul of Osama bin Laden, whose body was consigned to the waves by the U.S. Navy back in 2011, must be swimming happily with the dolphins and sharks. At the cost of the sort of spare change that Donald Trump recently offered aides and former campaign officials for their legal troubles in the Russia investigation (on which he’s unlikely to deliver) — a mere $400,000 to $500,000 — bin Laden managed to launch the American war on terror. He did so with little but a clever game plan, a few fanatical followers, and a remarkably intuitive sense of how this country works. He had those 19 mostly Saudi hijackers, a scattering of supporters elsewhere in the world, and the “training camps” in Afghanistan, but his was a ragged and understaffed movement.  And keep in mind that his sworn enemy was the country that […]

Kill Anything That Moves

U.S. Commandos Are a “Persistent Presence” on Russia’s Doorstep

“They are very concerned about their adversary next door,” said General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado, in July.  “They make no bones about it.” The “they” in question were various Eastern European and Baltic nations.  “Their adversary”?  Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Thomas, the commander of America’s most elite troops — Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them — went on to raise fears about an upcoming Russian military training event, a wargame, known as “Zapad” or “West,” involving 10 Russian Navy ships, 70 jets and helicopters, and 250 tanks.  “The point of concern for most of these eastern Europeans right now is they’re about to do an exercise in Belarus… that’s going to entail up to 100,000 Russian troops moving into that country.” And he added, “The great concern is they’re not going to leave, and… that’s […]

The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance

An excerpt from Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance: A Graphic Novel by Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil Bendib.

Verax by Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil Bendib - Excerpt - Page 1

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

David Petraeus Finally Answers His Own Question

It took 14 years, but now we have an answer. It was March 2003, the invasion of Iraq was underway, and Major General David Petraeus was in command of the 101st Airborne Division heading for the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.  Rick Atkinson, Washington Post journalist and military historian, was accompanying him.  Six days into a lightning campaign, his division suddenly found itself stopped 30 miles southwest of the city of Najaf by terrible weather, including a blinding dust storm, and the unexpectedly “fanatical” attacks of Iraqi irregulars.  At that moment, Atkinson reported, “[Petraeus] hooked his thumbs into his flak vest and adjusted the weight on his shoulders. ‘Tell me how this ends,’ he said. ‘Eight years and eight divisions?’ The allusion was to advice supposedly given the White House in the early 1950s by a senior Army strategist upon being asked what it would take to prop up French forces in […]

How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America's Universities

[This post is an excerpt from Daniel Golden’s new book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities] Brandishing a light saber, and sporting a dark cloak and hood that concealed his eyes but not his grin, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi pranced about the stage of Window of the World Caesar’s Palace in Shenzhen, China, on the evening of January 30, 2016. So did Jedi warriors, imperial stormtroopers, and other Star Wars characters. Pulsating spotlights and jets of smoke alternately illuminated and clouded the spectacle as a cheering audience of seven hundred waved yellow, green, and purple sabers. Titled “Battle of Future—A New Dawn,” the Star Wars parody highlighted an extravaganza that also featured live music, sensual dances, people’s faces (poked through a screen) atop puppet bodies, and a tribute to China’s military. It marked the sixth anniversary of Kuang-Chi Institute of Advanced Technology and […]

America's War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich

Sixteen Years, But Who’s Counting?

Consider, if you will, these two indisputable facts.  First, the United States is today more or less permanently engaged in hostilities in not one faraway place, but at least seven.  Second, the vast majority of the American people could not care less.  Nor can it be said that we don’t care because we don’t know.  True, government authorities withhold certain aspects of ongoing military operations or release only details that they find convenient.  Yet information describing what U.S. forces are doing (and where) is readily available, even if buried in recent months by barrages of presidential tweets.  Here, for anyone interested, are press releases issued by United States Central Command for just one recent week: September 19: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq September 20: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq Iraqi Security Forces begin Hawijah offensive September 21: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS […]

Kill Anything That Moves

Who Makes the Story Possible?

We were already roaring down the road when the young man called to me over his shoulder. There was a woman seated between us on the motorbike and with the distance, his accent, the rushing air, and the engine noise, it took a moment for me to decipher what he had just said: We might have enough gas to get to Bamurye and back. I had spent the previous hour attempting to convince someone to take me on this ride while simultaneously weighing the ethics of the expedition, putting together a makeshift security plan, and negotiating a price.  Other motorbike drivers warned that it would be a one-way trip. “If you go, you don’t come back,” more than one of them told me. I insisted we turn around immediately. Once, I believed journalists roamed the world reporting stories on their own.  Presumably, somebody edited the articles, but a lone byline […]

Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian

Or How to Further Enrich “The Masters of the Universe”

[This interview has been excerpted from Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, the new book by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian to be published this December.]  David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is striving to enact, which receive less attention. Do you think he has any coherent economic, political, or international policy goals? What has Trump actually managed to accomplish in his first months in office?  Noam Chomsky: There is a diversionary process under way, perhaps just a natural result of the propensities of the figure at center stage and those doing the work behind the curtains. At one level, Trump’s antics ensure that attention is focused on him, and it makes little difference how. Who even remembers the charge that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, depriving the […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

Fiddling Through the Smoke in 2025

It’s January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases, former nations), including the Philippines, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the former Iraq, the former Syria, Kurdistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria. In the weeks before his inauguration, a series of events roiled the Greater Middle East and Africa. Drone strikes and raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in Saudi Arabia against both Shiite rebels and militants from the Global Islamic State killed scores of civilians, including children. They left that increasingly destabilized kingdom in an uproar, intensified the unpopularity of its young king, and led to the withdrawal of the Saudi […]

A First-C;ass Catastrophe by Diana Henriques

The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History

SILVER THURSDAY He was a towering six foot seven, his round, balding head perpetually wreathed in cigar smoke. Paul A. Volcker, the chairman of the Federal Reserve System, was formidable even when he was cheerful. On Wednesday afternoon, March 26, 1980, he was furious. Volcker, in office for barely seven months, had been pulled out of a meeting by a frantic message from Harry Jacobs, the chairman of Bache Halsey Stuart Shields, the second-largest brokerage firm on Wall Street. The Fed had almost no authority over brokerage firms, but Jacobs said he thought “it was in the national interest” that he alert Volcker to a crisis in the silver market—a market over which the Fed also had virtually no authority. Jacobs’s news was alarming. Silver prices were plummeting, and two of the firm’s biggest customers, a pair of billionaire brothers in Texas named William Herbert and Nelson Bunker Hunt, had […]

The Race for What's Left

Militarizing Homeland Security in the Climate-Change Era

Deployed to the Houston area to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, U.S. military forces hadn’t even completed their assignments when they were hurriedly dispatched to Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to face Irma, the fiercest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. Florida Governor Rick Scott, who had sent members of the state National Guard to devastated Houston, anxiously recalled them while putting in place emergency measures for his own state. A small flotilla of naval vessels, originally sent to waters off Texas, was similarly redirected to the Caribbean, while specialized combat units drawn from as far afield as Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island were rushed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, members of the California National Guard were being mobilized to fight wildfires raging across that state (as across much of the West) during its hottest summer on record. Think of this as […]

Or Buck Rogers in the 21st Century

[This piece has been adapted and expanded from Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.]  Not quite a century ago, on January 7, 1929, newspaper readers across America were captivated by a brand-new comic strip, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  It offered the country its first images of space-age death rays, atomic explosions, and inter-planetary travel. “I was twenty years old,” World War I veteran Anthony “Buck” Rogers told readers in the very first strip, “surveying the lower levels of an abandoned mine near Pittsburgh… when suddenly… gas knocked me out. But I didn’t die. The peculiar gas… preserved me in suspended animation. Finally, another shifting of strata admitted fresh air and I revived.” Staggering out of that mine, he finds himself in the 25th century surrounded by flying warriors shooting ray guns at each other. […]

Shadow Government by Tom Engelhardt

In America’s Wars, Failure Is the New Success

It was bloody and brutal, a true generational struggle, but give them credit. In the end, they won when so many lost. James Comey was axed. Sean Spicer went down in a heap of ashes. Anthony Scaramucci crashed and burned instantaneously. Reince Priebus hung on for dear life but was finally canned. Seven months in, Steve Bannon got the old heave-ho and soon after, his minion, Sebastian Gorka, was unceremoniously shoved out the White House door. In a downpour of potential conflicts of interest and scandal, Carl Icahn bowed out. Gary Cohn has reportedly been at the edge of resignation. And so it goes in the Trump administration. Except for the generals. Think of them as the last men standing. They did it.  They took the high ground in Washington and held it with remarkable panache. Three of them: National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense and […]

Or How I Learned Not to Love Big Brother

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to a massive expansion of its intelligence infrastructure, particularly of the emerging technologies for digital surveillance, agile drones, and biometric identification. In 2010, almost a decade into this secret war with its voracious appetite for information, the Washington Post reported that the national security state had swelled into a “fourth branch” of the federal government — with 854,000 vetted officials, 263 security organizations, and over 3,000 intelligence units, issuing 50,000 special reports every year. Though stunning, these statistics only skimmed the visible surface of what had become history’s largest and most lethal clandestine apparatus. According to classified documents that Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies alone had 107,035 employees and a combined “black budget” of $52.6 billion, the equivalent of 10% percent of […]