Guest: Sam Husseini. The origins of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus are not yet clear but the possibility of it being the result of bioweapon engineering research or gain-of-function experimentation that makes viruses more deadly or some other scenario have largely been dismissed, from early on, by officials and some scientists and to a large extent suppressed by the corporate media. Regardless of the origin of this pandemic, there needs to be more discussion and airing of different views on this subject and on the topic of the global biological arms race that is very real and happening largely outside of the public view.
There’s an extra/bonus segment for patrons on the question of privatized and/or covert biowarfare research, a short discussion with Sam and some additional information that I later added, reading from some articles and adding some commentary to expand a little and for important context. You can find that at Patreon, Episode 167 EXTRA.
Sam Husseini, a writer and artist living in Maryland. He has been published in The Nation, Consortium News, CounterPunch and elsewhere. He is senior analyst for the Institute for Public Accuracy. He's also founder of VotePact.org -- which helps break out of the two party bind.
FOLLOW @SamHusseini. Find his work at husseini.org.
Recorded on May 22, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Aaron Maté. Key allegations from the Russiagate conspiracy have now officially collapsed with the release of transcripts from witness interviews that were conducted over the past three years. Now the walls are truly closing in and not in the way the Trump-Russia obsessed media presented it in the past. Key Obama administration officials, under oath, said they had no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Perhaps the biggest blow was delivered by Crowdstrike, the private cybersecurity firm that served as a critical source on the Russian hacking claim. We now know that Crowdstrike’s president told Congress more than two years ago that it had no real evidence that Russian hackers exfiltrated emails and passed them to Wikileaks. Aaron notes, in an understated manner, that this “raises new questions about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller, intelligence officials and Democrats misled the public.” At the end of the interview, there’s an extra/bonus segment for patrons on the question of which forces were driving the Russiagate conspiracy. You can find that at Patreon, Episode 166 EXTRA.
Recorded on May 21, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Yasha Levine. We talk about his new series on Substack, titled Immigrants as a Weapon. Yasha refers to this as an “investigative newsletter” about “weaponized immigrants, oligarchs, and the twisted politics of American power”. He refers to himself as “a Soviet immigrant living in an era of American decline” and it speaks for itself as to why his perspective is so perfect for this fascinating topic. At the end of the discussion, there’s an extra segment on surveillance and contact tracing. It’s a separate bonus extra for patrons titled Episode 165 EXTRA Surveillance and Contact Tracing in the Pandemic Era.
Yasha Levine is an investigative journalist and author. Born in Leningrad, he grew up in San Francisco, and just moved back to California. He has reported from all over the world — with a focus on America and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of Surveillance Valley:The Secret Military History of the Internet, a book about the forgotten counterinsurgency origins of the Internet. He’s also working on some documentary projects, including one about California’s Oligarch Valley.
Swapcast: Around the Empire’s Joanne Leon and Dan Wright and Foreign Policy Focus host Kyle Anzalone discuss the origins of Russiagate. For three years, we have been fighting to debunk the fake news created about the imagined Russian conspiracy to help Trump beat Hillary. Now, the fake news and false allegations have run dry and some of the faces behind it are being exposed. We discuss the unmaskings and why it is so important.
Recorded on May 14, 2020.
Joanne and Dan Wright spend another afternoon while on quarantine / lockdown in New Jersey in a long conversation about the pandemic, civil rights, protests, religious rights, so called philanthropists and oligarchs, and the breaking news on the Flynn case and Russiagate. This episode is for patrons only and may be unlocked for the public at a later date.
Recorded on May 8, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Joanne and Dan Wright spend another evening while on quarantine / lockdown in New Jersey in a long conversation about Coronavirus, the reopening of states, “contact tracing”, Trump, the Clintons, Anthony Fauci, information from skeptics like RFK, Jr., and we also talk about the Kim Jong Un mystery. This episode is for patrons only but will be unlocked later for the public.
Recorded on April 27, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Dave DeCamp. We talk about the way that China hawks are exploiting the pandemic and global crisis to influence the opinion of a fearful public. There are legitimate issues with China but some of the same bad actors who were involved in the post 9/11 push for war in the Middle East and others seem to be using this crisis to advance their own great power competition agenda, for political and financial reasons and for the evergreen goal of preserving the empire. If there was ever a time to avoid conflict, it’s now, while the country is in pretty dire straits. Big crises can result in big changes and profiteers who don’t have our best interests at heart know that better than anyone. Dave has written two articles on the topic, filled with great examples and context and we talk about those today.
Recorded on May 1, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Joanne and Dan Wright spend an evening over the weekend while on quarantine / lockdown in New Jersey in a long conversation about Coronavirus, the theories about it and the response to this pandemic. We discuss the use of technology for surveillance measures, the hybrid war with China. We then spent some time talking about the “pandemic primary”, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. This episode is for patrons only but might be unlocked later for the public. .
Recorded on April 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Gareth Porter. Both in 1918 and 2020 pandemics forced the US military to make changes in their operations but the Pentagon has also revealed a resistance to stand down even when it’s necessary to protect troops. We talk about the similarities and differences between the situations in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic and World War I and today’s Coronavirus pandemic during never ending imperial wars. We also talk about the kinds of movements, changes and consequences that might be catalyzed by this latest crisis.
Gareth Porter is an independent Investigative historian and journalist on the national security state. He is the author of numerous books including Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (2005) and Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014).and the co-author with John Kiriakou of his latest book The CIA Insider's Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Gareth is the winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism
FOLLOW Gareth on Twitter at @GarethPorter. Find his work at The American Conservative, Truthdig, Antiwar.com, Middle East Eye and other media outlets. He’s also now at The Grayzone. Read his new book: The CIA Insider's Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War.
Recorded on April 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Mark Sleboda. We talk about the recent conflicts between Russia and Turkey in Syria. Negotiations resulted in a Sochi 2.0 Agreement, also called the Moscow Memorandum which settled the issue for the time being but none of the underlying problems were solved so it’s likely a temporary solution. We also discussed the overall situation in Syria and Turkish President Erdogan’s predicament and predictions for his future.
Mark is an International Affairs & Security Analyst, a US Navy veteran, a university lecturer and a foreign policy realist.
Recorded on March 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Mark Sleboda. We talk about recent events in Ukraine and what has developed into a crisis of confidence for Ukrainian President Zelensky. It resulted in a reshuffling in Zelensky’s cabinet, a no confidence vote in the Rada and no progress on bringing the civil conflict to an end, threats from the ultranationalist factions and strong opposition to Zelensky’s neoliberal economic policy proposals. Recent polls have also shown a larger lack of confidence in the legitimacy of the post-Maidan government overall. We also talk about the Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky and the Biden / Burisma Affair.
Mark is an International Affairs & Security Analyst, a US Navy veteran, a university lecturer and a foreign policy realist.
Recorded on March 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Régis Le Sommier. We discuss the fact that the United States and its western allies are in denial about having lost the war in Syria. Calls to reboot that war are unrealistic and against the wishes of the majority of Syrian people who are living in government controlled areas, still suffering under sanctions and whose voices are rarely heard in western media. The sanctions are being used in an effort to keep options open for regime change and to deny the Assad government the opportunity to rebuild and stabilize the country. Western leaders and media are also in denial about the nature and objectives of the people who control the opposition held areas. Régis brings us insights from Syria having spent time on the ground there in both government and opposition controlled areas.
Correction: in the interview I said that Jennifer Caparaella worked for the Institute for the Study of Peace but the name of the organization is the Institute for the Study of War. Apologies for that!
Régis Le Sommier is director at the Paris Match magazine. He has covered American presidential elections and interviewed several American presidents, other leaders and celebrities and reported from many places around the world including Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also spent time on the ground in Syria in both government and opposition held areas.
On this Foreign Policy Focus and Around the Empire swapcast, Kyle and Joanne discuss the five year anniversary of the US/Saudi/UAE war on Yemen. The anniversary has received almost no media coverage in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Ironically, the five years of war in Yemen has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – making Yemen one of the most likely to be devastated by a coronavirus. The US/Saudi/UAE/UK bombing campaign has intentionally targeted the civilian infracture of Yemen. Now – before coronavirus even reaches Yemen – 24 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and millions of children are at risk of starvation. Yemen must be remembered and the war must end.
Recorded on March 26, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Matthew Hoh. We talk about the Afghanistan Papers that were published in the Washington Post at the end of 2019 and the media treatment of these issues. We discuss Matthew’s experience in the military and in foreign service, the war in Afghanistan during the Bush and Obama administrations, and the culture of lying that has developed in the military. Matthew resigned in protest in 2009 over the war in Afghanistan.
Matthew Hoh is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. He’s a disabled veteran, a former US Marine Corps officer and Department of Defense and State Department official. Matthew was in the Iraq War with the Marines and in both Afghanistan and Iraq with State Department teams. He is on the Boards and Advisory Boards of a number of organizations including Expose Facts, Institute for Public Accuracy and Veterans For Peace. He writes and speaks regularly on issues of war and peace, has appeared on numerous media networks and his work has been published by a wide array of online and print media
FOLLOW Matthew on Facebook. Find his recent writings at CounterPunch, antiwar.com and on his website https://matthewhoh.com
Guests: Jennifer Pan, Alexandra Siegel. We talk about their research paper titled “How Saudi Crackdowns Fail to Silence Online Dissent” which was published in American Political Science Review. They studied the effects of well-known Saudi activists, religious leaders and journalists being imprisoned for online dissent. They analyzed tweets and Google search data from 2010 to 2017 using automated analysis of text and crowd-sourced evaluation of content to draw conclusions about the behavior of their peers and followers. Their research showed that it did not suppress online dissent overall.
Jennifer Pan is an Assistant Professor Dept. of Communication Stanford University. Her research focuses on political communication and authoritarian politics, political censorship, propaganda, and information manipulation in the digital age. She uses experimental and computational methods with large-scale datasets on political activity in China and other countries. Website: http://jenpan.com
Alexandra Siegel is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University Immigration Policy Lab and a Research Associate at NYU Social Media and Political Participation Lab.
In her research she studies mass and elite political behavior in the Arab World including intergroup conflict, extremism and disinformation. Her analysis involves large datasets from social media, text and networks, machine learning methods and experiments. Website: https://alexandra-siegel.com
Kevin Gosztola provides an account of his experience reporting on the Julian Assange extradition hearing for four days at the court in London, plus more details and insights about the case and the people involved.
Kevin Gosztola is a journalist and managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the excellent weekly podcast with Rania Khalek, "Unauthorized Disclosure." Kevin also reported on Chelsea Manning’s military
Recorded on February 28, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Gordon Dimmack. We discuss the extradition hearing for Julian Assange, the failure of the mainstream media journalists and more. John Pilger has made good use of the phrase “journalism on trial” and it As John Pilger noted today: “Should Julian #Assange be extradited, it will not only be a crime of the British state but of those quisling journalists who smeared and lied about him”. Their actions and negligence are also undermining their own press freedoms and placing their own profession in jeopardy. Gordon has repeatedly made these same arguments with strong substantiation. He has dedicated himself to both calling them out and making up for their failings.
Gordon hosts a popular YouTube channel where he covers news, politics, war and the horrific state of our corporate media. He broadcasts mostly from the Midlands but also on the ground at various events around the country and his slogan is “Make Orwell fiction again.”
Recorded on Feb 25, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Karen Kwiatkowski. We discuss the treatment of Julian Assange and his reported torture and interrogation by US authorities in Belmash prison, the ongoing Assange extradition hearing and more.
Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, USAF (ret.) is a farmer, a teacher and a retired Air Force officer. She has degrees from Harvard, University of Alaska and a PhD from Catholic University. Before retiring she was a Pentagon desk officer who was in the building during the attack on 9/11 and worked for the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia directorate which dealt with the Office of Special Plans. Since retiring, she has become a noted critic of the U.S. government's involvement in Iraq and other aspects of foreign policy. She is a founding member of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, and the recipient of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award in 2018 for her insider essays which denounced a corrupting political influence on the course of military intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Karen has said that the role she played as a source for Knight-Ridder is accurately portrayed in the Rob Reiner’s film “Shock and Awe.” She has also appeared in documentary films, including “Why We Fight”.
Guest: Maj. Danny Sjursen, US Army (ret.) We talk about two articles that Danny wrote about the conflicts between the United States and Iran over the last seven decades and what he calls a “timeline of provocations and retaliations” and we also talk about Iran’s history of relative restraint.
Major Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War titled: “Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge”. His articles are published by numerous media outlets: antiwar.com, The American Conservative, Truthdig, TomDispatch and others. He is the co-host of the Fortress on a Hill podcast.
Guest: Tim Shorrock. In recent weeks there have been cries of alarm about North Korea’s missile testing all throughout the media but they’ve omitted some key developments like the massive military build up in South Korea and Northeast Asia over the past few years. Tim provides us with some of that omitted context including the fact that the South Korean armed forces, allied with the US, is the seventh largest in the world.
Tim grew up in Japan and Korea and he has been covering national security and other topics around Asia and the Korean peninsula since the late 1970’s . He is a correspondent at The Nation and he’s the author of the popular book “Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing”.
FOLLOW @TimothyS Find his work at The Nation and at his website http://timshorrock.com. Buy his book: Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.
Recorded on December 31, 2019. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Alan MacLeod. We discuss the recent UK elections and how the Labour Party’s Brexit strategy backfired. We talk about the relentless propaganda campaign that was launched against Jeremy Corbyn and how there is a similar campaign being run against Bernie Sanders in the United States that is growing in intensity. We wonder if Bernie will learn from Corbyn’s experience or whether he’ll continue the kind of “high road” approach that did not turn out well for Corbyn. We also discuss the post-election implications for the future of the United Kingdom and its constituent countries England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We also discuss the coup in Bolivia.
Dr. Alan MacLeod is an academic, an author and a journalist who does work on media analysis and politics with a focus on social media, Latin American politics and propaganda. He writes for MintPress News and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and he has written two recent books, Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.
FOLLOW him on Twitter at @AlanRMacLeod. Find his work at MintPress News and look for his books Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.
Recorded on December 19, 2019. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Gareth Porter. As the news was breaking of Iranian retaliatory strikes on military bases in Iraq where American troops were deployed, Gareth Porter and I were talking about his analysis comparing the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s apparent strategy to “grease the skids” for war with Iran.
Gareth Porter is an independent Investigative historian and journalist on the national security state. He is the author of numerous books including Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (2005) and Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014). He is the winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism
FOLLOW Gareth on Twitter at @GarethPorter. Find his work at The American Conservative, Truthdig, Antiwar.com, Middle East Eye and other media outlets. Read his new book: The CIA Insider's Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War.
Recorded on Jan 7, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Jeffrey Carr. Dan Wright and Joanne Leon did a reunion conversation with cybersecurity expert, Jeffrey Carr, to revisit the infamously erroneous Crowdstrike analysis of the DNC hack which they attributed to Russia based on their analysis of an alleged Russian hack of a Ukrainian military artillery app. We also discussed Crowdstrike’s history, its recent mention in President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky (the same phone call that led to his impeachment for a different reason) and the broader issue of how cybersecurity firms are incentivized to make specious claims concerning attribution of a hack, particularly if it gains them notoriety that leads to more business.
Jeffrey Carr is a cybersecurity author, researcher, entrepreneur and consultant, who focuses on cyber warfare. He is the author of the book “Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld” and the creator of the Suits and Spooks conference series which “bridges the gap between the Intelligence Community and Industry on hard challenges in Information Security”.
Recorded on December 17, 2019. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Elijah Magnier. We discuss what really happened in Iraq over the past week, leading up to the killing of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the Iraqi PMU vice commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. We talk about the reactions, justifications and likely consequences. Also, Elijah provides some more clarification on the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU or Hashd al-Shaabi) and the way the different Iraqi security forces have been described inaccurately in western media.
Elijah Magnier is a veteran war correspondent and political analyst with over 35 years of experience covering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Recorded on January 4, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Neda Bolourchi. We talk about the assassination of Iranian major general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qasem Soleimani by the US military. Was it a punishment for past actions or an attempt at deterrence toward Iran or both? We discuss the impact on the people of Iraq and Iran and the recent protests, the prospects for retaliation by Iran and war throughout the region.
Dr. Bolourchi teaches at Rutgers University-New Brunswick Center for Middle Eastern Studies. She is is a thought leader whose work crosses multiple fields, from the academic to the legal to foreign policy and more. Her academic research examines the transformative discourse on Iran during the twentieth century across the political and religious spectra. She completed years of research in Iran, Syria, and Armenia and she has provided foreign policy and security analysis and commentary for a variety of publications and news channels internationally. She previously worked on matters of civil litigation and white collar criminal defense. Her legal work includes international and comparative analysis of human rights violations in the Middle East.
Find her at LinkedIn and find her work on her Rutgers University Center for Middle Eastern Studies web page.
Recorded on January 3, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.