MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Intelligence on Shoot-Down of Malaysian Plane

U.S.-Russian intensions are building in a precarious way over Ukraine, and we are far from certain that your advisers fully appreciate the danger of escalation. The New York Times and other media outlets are treating sensitive issues in dispute as flat-fact, taking their cue from U.S. government sources. Twelve days after the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, your administration still has issued no coordinated intelligence assessment summarizing what evidence exists to determine who was responsible – much less to convincingly support repeated claims that the plane was downed by a Russian-supplied missile in the hands of Ukrainian separatists. Your administration has not showed any satellite imagery showing that the separatists had such weaponry, and there are several other "dogs that have not barked." Washington’s credibility, and your own, will continue to erode, should you be unwilling – or unable – to present more tangible evidence behind administration claims. In what follows, we put this in the perspective of former intelligence professionals with a cumulative total of 260 years in various parts of U.S. intelligence.

We, the undersigned former intelligence officers want to share with you our concern about the evidence adduced so far to blame Russia for the July 17 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. We are retired from government service and none of us is on the payroll of CNN, Fox News, or any other outlet. We intend this memorandum to provide a fresh, different perspective.

As veteran intelligence analysts accustomed to waiting, except in emergency circumstances, for conclusive information before rushing to judgment, we believe that the charges against Russia should be rooted in solid, far more convincing evidence. And that goes in spades with respect to inflammatory incidents like the shoot-down of an airliner. We are also troubled by the amateurish manner in which fuzzy and flimsy evidence has been served up – some it via "social media."

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At a conference earlier this month, Daniel Ellsberg, the hero who revealed the Pentagon Papers, spoke about another hero, Edward Snowden.

Conor Friedersdorf writes about Ellsberg’s talk and introduces the talk at his Atlantic column.

Watch the video below (83 minutes):

Over the weekend, Professor David Bernstein penned an article for the Washington Post accusing the media of “journalistic malpractice” for using Gaza Health Ministry figures on civilian deaths in the Israeli onslaught, insisting they were inflated. And I quote

Contrary to early reports that 80% or so of the early casualties were civilians, Al-Jazeera published names and ages, and about 3/4 were men of fighting age (16-50), compared to a rough estimate of 20% of the Gazan population (40% to 50% of which is fourteen and under). Some of those men were undoubtedly civilians, but it strains credulity to believe that 80% of the casualties were civilian but just-so-happened to be overwhelmingly fighting-age men.

Does it strain credulity? Not at all. Let’s go to the mother of all civilian-centric incidents in recent history, 9/11, and do a similar calculation of the “military-aged” victims among the 2,977 slain there. Since this is America, and women are in the military here too, we’ll count both just to be fair. We’ll also use Bernstein’s age group of 16-50, even though 50-year-old men in blockaded Palestine probably aren’t really healthy enough to still be fighting.

We go to CNN’s memorial, sort by age, do a little math and we get:

2,500 “military-aged” / 2,977 victims = 84%.

84% of the victims of 9/11 were “military-aged,” but would it “strain credulity” to say they were overwhelmingly civilians when census data shows “military-aged” Americans only account for a hair over 40% of the overall population? Of course not!

In fact, there’s a very good reason that “military-aged” people, by which we really mean “able-bodied” people, are disproportionately hit in such incidents. It’s because those people are more active, out and doing stuff. Israel is leveling a lot of houses full of children in Gaza, but the deaths are doubtless primarily from people who are out-of-doors hit by shrapnel, and able-bodied people are more apt to be out-of-doors, especially mid-war.

Professor Bernstein seems to be trying to imply that “military-aged” is tantamount to an antonym for “innocent civilians.” As a law professor he surely knows that is not the case, yet efforts to gloss over the humanitarian calamity of the Gaza war is getting the better of common sense for many people.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today, with 49 countries having a predominantly Muslim population. Of these countries, 4 have been bombed by Israel, and 4 have been bombed by the US this year alone.

Here are the four countries bombed by Israel in 2014

1. Sudan (35.4 million people, 96.7% Muslim)
On July 21, Israel dropped bombs on a suspected weapon warehouse in Sudan. Israel alleged that the site stored weapons that were bound for Hamas in Gaza.

Israel has carried out other bombing attacks inside Sudan in recent years. In 2009, Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy of trucks in Sudan that was believed to be carrying arms to be smuggled into Gaza. And in 2012 eight Israeli planes struck a giant military factory outside of the capital, Khartoum.

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I was amazed to see this on CNN last night.

Erin Burnett reported on other passenger airliners that have been shot down, focusing on the 1988 shooting down of an Iranian passenger airliner by the US Navy, killing all 274 on board.

The US government worked hard to cover up the event and later to justify it. Vice President George H.W. Bush said before the UN:

“I will never apologize for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are.”

To this day, the US has still refused to apologize or to take responsibility for the deaths of 274 innocent people. Year later, the US agreed to pay $60 million to the families of the dead, without admitting responsibility.

Burnett compared the situation to the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Ukraine last week. She then interviewed presidential worshipper and former advisor David Gergen who admitted that it was “strikingly similar” to the MH17 events, but then tried to explain it was different because we were in the region to do good, unlike Putin’s involvement with events on Russia’s border.

The segment was an unusual one for CNN and especially for Erin Burnett, who rarely questions official US policy.

Watch it here:

To assist in a crime makes one a criminal by any legal standard. And the biggest crimes of all are war crimes, since they kill en masse and showcase the cruelest form of human behavior.

The fact that Israel is actively committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip is not open to debate, since a cursory glance at the conflict obviously exposes them in practice.

The two most glaring war crimes Israel is committing – as defined by the Geneva Convention – are the concepts of “collective punishment” and “necessity and proportionality.”

Under collective punishment, a warring party cannot respond to an attack by waging war on the attacker’s community, as is clearly happening in Gaza. The clearest proof that collective punishment is being used is that a 1,000 Gaza homes have been destroyed and the majority of the casualties are civilians.

Under “necessity and proportionality” a warring party must only use the amount of force necessary to defeat the opponent; disproportional force is a crime. So, for example, if Hamas fires wimpy rockets that kill virtually no Israelis, then it is “disproportionate” for Israel to rain massive bombs, missiles, and artillery to reduce large sections of Gaza to rubble. Even Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the Israel attack a “deliberately disproportionate form of collective punishment.”

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