About those German intercepts

I find it quite telling that after all the revelations about NSA and GCHQ (and for that matter the Bundesnachrichtendienst) eavesdropping, Kerry and the Obama Administration are left with mere assertions we’re supposed to accept on faith alone while the BND is providing actual intercepts that tell a quite different story.

Syrian forces may have used gas without Assad’s permission: paper


Sun Sep 8, 2013 8:17am EDT

Syrian brigade and division commanders had been asking the Presidential Palace to allow them to use chemical weapons for the last four-and-a-half months, according to radio messages intercepted by German spies, but permission had always been denied, the paper said.

This could mean Assad may not have personally approved the attack close to Damascus on August 21 in which more than 1,400 are estimated to have been killed, intelligence officers suggested.

Bild said the radio traffic was intercepted by a German naval reconnaissance vessel, the Oker, sailing close to the Syrian coast.

Intercepts caught Assad rejecting requests to use chemical weapons, German paper says

By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy

Monday, September 9, 2013

Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly rejected requests from his field commanders for approval to use chemical weapons, according to a report this weekend in a German newspaper.

The report in Bild am Sonntag, which is a widely read and influential national Sunday newspaper, reported that the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence officials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus’ eastern suburbs.

The newspaper’s article said that on numerous occasions in recent months, the German intelligence ship named Oker, which is off the Syrian coast, has intercepted communications indicating that field officers have contacted the Syrian presidential palace seeking permission to use chemical weapons and have been turned down.

The article added that German intelligence does not believe Assad sanctioned the alleged attack on August 21.

European foreign ministers on Saturday issued a statement calling the Aug. 21 attack a “war crime,” but said nothing should be done without U.N. approval. New opinion polls over the weekend in France, Germany and Great Britain showed strong disapproval of military action in Syria. The British poll, done for The Sunday Telegraph, indicated only 19 percent of the population backs the idea of military action with the United States, while 63 percent oppose it. The polls in France and Germany showed similar margins of opposition.

Meanwhile, a new tabulation of the dead from the Aug. 21 incident raised more questions about Obama administration officials’ account of what took place.

The Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, an anti-Assad group, said that it had been able to document 678 dead from the attacks, including 106 children and 157 women. The report said 51 of the dead, or 7 percent, were fighters from the Free Syrian Army, the designation used to describe rebels that are affiliated with the Supreme Military Council, which the U.S. backs.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said 1,429 people died Aug. 21, included 426 children, but has not said how the United States obtained the figures. Other estimates have ranged from a low of “at least 281” by the French government to 502, including “tens” of rebel fighters and about 100 children, by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that tracks violence in Syria.

Obama’s Case for Syria Didn’t Reflect Intel Consensus

Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

Sep 9 2013

The evidence indicates that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper culled intelligence analyses from various agencies and by the White House itself, but that the White House itself had the final say in the contents of the document.

Leading members of Congress to believe that the document was an intelligence community assessment and thus represents a credible picture of the intelligence on the alleged chemical attack of Aug. 21 has been a central element in the Obama administration’s case for war in Syria.

That part of the strategy, at least, has been successful. Despite strong opposition in Congress to the proposed military strike in Syria, no one in either chamber has yet challenged the administration’s characterisation of the intelligence. But the administration is vulnerable to the charge that it has put out an intelligence document that does not fully and accurately reflect the views of intelligence analysts.

Former intelligence officials told IPS that that the paper does not represent a genuine intelligence community assessment but rather one reflecting a predominantly Obama administration influence.

In essence, the White House selected those elements of the intelligence community assessments that supported the administration’s policy of planning a strike against the Syrian government force and omitted those that didn’t.

The issuance of the document by the White House rather than by Clapper, as had been apparently planned, points to a refusal by Clapper to put his name on the document as revised by the White House.

Clapper’s refusal to endorse it – presumably because it was too obviously an exercise in “cherry picking” intelligence to support a decision for war – would explain why the document had to be issued by the White House.

A clear indication that the White House, rather than Clapper, had the final say on the content of the document is that it includes a statement that a “preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children.”

That figure, for which no source was indicated, was several times larger than the estimates given by British and French intelligence.

The document issued by the White House cites intelligence that is either obviously ambiguous at best or is of doubtful authenticity, or both, as firm evidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack.

It claims that Syrian chemical weapons specialists were preparing for such an attack merely on the basis of signals intelligence indicating the presence of one or more individuals in a particular location. The same intelligence had been regarded prior to Aug. 21 as indicating nothing out of the ordinary, as was reported by CBS news Aug. 23.

The paper also cites a purported intercept by U.S intelligence of conversations between Syrian officials in which a “senior official” supposedly “confirmed” that the government had carried out the chemical weapons attack.

But the evidence appears to indicate that the alleged intercept was actually passed on to the United States by Israeli intelligence. U.S. intelligence officials have long been doubtful about intelligence from Israeli sources that is clearly in line with Israeli interests.

You know, it’s not like Assad isn’t aware we’re spying on him so who are we protecting the “sources and methods” from?  Congress?  The United States people?


  1. I had posted this just a bit ago:

    Quite interesting! (0.00 / 0)

    More about Assad NOT using gasses on his own citizens.

    Intercepts caught Assad rejecting requests to use chemical weapons, German paper says.

    Monday, September 9, 2013, By By Matthew Schofield | McClatchy Foreign Staff

    “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”–Aristotle

    by: tahoebasha3 @ Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 15:03:48 PDT

    [ Reply ]

    but, see also,

    Syrian rebels admit to being behind chemical weapons attack.  This one I cannot speak for the veracity of (a new site I bumped into), but it certainly seems possible.

    • banger on September 12, 2013 at 18:26

    First, it is sheer folly to believe anything coming out of any intel agency particularly when released to the public. Intel agencies all over the world act in their own interest primarily and usually but not always in the interest of the ruling cliques. Second, the tendency since the end of the Cold War is for agents of intel agents to join forces in promoting common iterests with a variety of countries not just allies in order, for example, to maintain a certain strategy of tension for mutual benefit.

    The Syrian crisis is utterly opaque unless you analyze what is going underneath the surface and understand the motivations and interests of th actors involved. Our job is to grasp that he dynamic in this country involves a hard-core struggle for power between the War Party and their opponents. This has virtually nothing to do with CW.

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