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MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON THIS SUBJECT, PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 19, 2018, IS PASTED BELOW THIS NEW ARTICLE. PLEASE READ IT FOR A MORE IN-DEPTH BACKGROUND ON THIS STORY.
On September 1, 2018 the New York Times ran an article from Pulitzer Prize winning science reporter William J. Broad titled, “Microwave Weapons are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers”. In the article Broad makes the case that U.S. “diplomats” (code for spies under diplomatic cover) stationed in Cuba, were attacked by Russians using a microwave weapon that caused concussion like symptoms and brain injuries.
On September 11, 2018, NBC News and its cable news outlet MSNBC, broke a story titled, “U.S. Officials Suspect Russia in Mystery Attacks on Diplomats in Cuba, China”. MSNBC ran the story, based entirely on the claims of anonymous U.S. Intelligence sources, as breaking news and covered it across their programming that day and into the next, with numerous hosts and guests saying that Russia and Putin had never stopped fighting the Cold War and that this attack was a dangerous escalation.
In the wake of that NBC report, numerous media outlets regurgiated the evidence free-claims and the hysteria went up a notch with feeble minded info-tainment hosts like Chris Matthews and Little Bill Maher and latching onto the story and declaring “of course Russia did it!!” and “Russia attacked us in Cuba!” respectively.
On September 19, 2018, I wrote an article on the subject that was published at CounterPunch.org where I made a clear case that the reporting on this story was at a minimum, journalistic malpractice, and more likely than not bold faced U.S. Intelligence agency anti-Russian propaganda.
The most compelling pieces of evidence of Intelligence agency manipulation were the Times article’s focus on a rather dubious source, Allen H. Frey, a biologist, who based on no tangible evidence at all claimed that Russia did it and that his theory should be believed because it was “viable”. Mr. Frey also made the far-fetched and incredulous claim to have been given access in the Soviet Union to the Soviet’s classified microwave weapon technology by the Soviet’s themselves at the height of the cold war and with the fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in Soviet hearts and minds.
The another piece of evidence was that NBC’s National Security Reporter, Ken Dilanian, was the point man for that network’s breathless and hyperbolic coverage of the story. As I have pointed out repeatedly, Dilanian is a notoriously ethically challenged reporter who has a long history of being a collaborator and shill for the U.S. intelligence community, so much so that as a reporter for the L.A. Times he would send the CIA his stories for them to vet and edit.
One final piece of evidence shows that these reporters and media outlets were either willing accomplices in deception, or blind to their own bias and anti-Russian animus, and that is that there was very clear and compelling evidence that Russians had no involvement in the “attacks”, but also contradictory evidence doubting that any “attacks” had taken place at all. The New York Times and NBC both either ignored or downplayed that evidence and instead embraced the “Russia did it!” narrative all based on either a dubious and uninformed source, or anonymous intelligence sources.
Now, four months later, a study has come out that puts a major kink in the “Russian Microwave Attack” story. The study, done by Alexander Stubbs of Berkeley and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln (UK), decimates a critical piece of evidence claiming a Russian attack.
In 2017 the Associated Press obtained a recording of the sound the “diplomats” heard during the alleged attacks. The thinking was that this this sound was the sound of the microwave weapon being used and what caused all the damage and injury to the embassy personal.
The study by Stubbs and Montealgre-Z shows that this sound is not a microwave weapon, but a particular type of cricket trying to get the attention of any and all single crickets for the purpose of making more crickets. In other words, the nefarious Russian Bond-villain microwave super weapon is in reality nothing more than a horny cricket.
Stubbs and Montealgre-Z’s findings are in complete agreement with another group of scientists who studied the sound but were ignored, Cuban scientists have long claimed the sound was that of crickets…but since they are Cuban, and God knows we can’t trust Cubans, well, at least Cubans in Cuba, their findings were discounted.
The Cuban scientist weren’t the only ones whose conclusions were ignored by the media in favor of the more salacious claim that Russia did it with a microwave super weapon. Numerous American doctors and scientists, even the esteemed JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) examining the case thought that the evidence of physical harm showed that no “attack” had taken place at all. These scientists and doctors thought that there were other reasons behind the symptoms that the alleged “victims” had suffered, up to and included hysteria.
Look, more evidence may come out that proves or shows beyond a shadow of a doubt or even a preponderance of evidence that attacks did take place on U.S. “diplomatic” and embassy personnel in Cuba and China, and that Russia was behind it. A mysterious attack of some kind having taken place is a possibility. Russian guilt in that potential attack is definitely “possible”…but at looking at the evidence presented (or not presented as the case may be) and the claims made in the media in September, that possibility seemed unlikely to me then, and with this new study pointing the finger at crickets, seems even more highly unlikely today.
The lessons to be learn from this story are thus…first…skepticism regarding any claims of Russian misconduct or criminality is a must if you are going to keep your head about you in our current media climate. Russia has been successfully turned into a boogey man for all the ills of the U.S. and the world. This phase of the propaganda war against Russia began in earnest earlier this decade and has hit hyper-speed since the 2016 election. In order to wade through the morass of anti-Russian stories that are riddled with an implied or implicit Russo-phobia, one must not only seek, but demand, actual evidence when claims are made against Russia.
These false stories of Russian nefariousness, whether it be their supposed hacking into the Vermont electrical grid (false), the election systems of 21 state (false), C-Span (false), or their manipulation of the mainstream news or social media (false), all come in with a chest-thumping and flag-waving bang and leave with a red-faced whimper because they were such hysterical nonsense.
I know liberals and Democrats don’t want to hear this, but another story included on that list should and will be all of the claims about Russian “meddling” or “interference” in the 2016 election. The paucity, if not the downright total absence of evidence in the Russian meddling case is astonishing, and if you do not see that, that is an indictment of you, your wishful thinking and your confirmation bias, not Putin and the evil Russians.
Secondly, any story that relies on anonymous sources who make convenient claims that support your previously held belief, must be discarded. That doesn’t mean you immediately ignore all anonymous sources, just those who do not back up their claims with documentary evidence. For instance, Edward Snowden gave us documents, Bradley Manning gave us documents, Wikileaks gives us documents. Of course, Snowden, Manning and Wikileaks are now atop the public enemies list because they PROVED U.S. criminality, and the establishment and their media wing are not interested in documented U.S. wrong-doing, only in speculation of undocumented Russian wrong-doing.
In this case NBC News had anonymous sources from various U.S. intelligence agencies that claimed to have signal intelligence that proved that Russia was behind the attacks. Of course, NBC never saw that intelligence but just took the word of the intelligence officials that the alleged signal intelligence existed and that it proved Russian guilt. As I said in my original piece, “this is not journalism, this is stenography.”
And finally, and maybe the most important thing to take away from this whole story is that…I was right in smelling a rat. I’m kidding of course, no one cares that I was right in sniffing out a piece of propaganda. I will not be offered a job at The New York Times or The L.A. Times or NBC News for having seen this story for what it is…or for the myriad of other stories I have accurately diagnosed and dissected. No, I am not the type of guy those media outlets want to let loose on the world because I am not a mealy-mouthed, kiss ass only interested in access to power or fame or any of the other bullshit that distracts those fools from seeing the crickets fucking at the end of their nose. No, my only interest, and where my loyalty lies, is the Truth.
A good way to try and find the Truth amid the tidal wave of bullshit is don’t just read the headlines, but read the news, and don’t just to read the news, but read between the lines of the news. The major media in the U.S. is designed to disseminate disinformation and to leave citizens either misinformed or uninformed and always either afraid or angry or both. My best advice to news consumers trapped in a corporatist, oligarchic and aristocratic empire in a death spiral…think often, think critically, think skeptically and think rationally (and go read Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent). As Orwell tells us, “To see what is in front of one’s nose, needs a constant struggle.” Keep struggling...constantly.
MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE OF SEPTEMBER 19, 2018, IS BELOW. PLEASE READ IT FOR A DEEPER BACKGROUND ON THE STORY.
The U.S. media’s lazy reporting of mystery attacks on American personnel in Cuba takes the predictable path of blaming Russia without evidence.
I came across a story recently in the New York Times that was intriguing. The story, headlined “Microwave Weapons are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers”, was written by William J. Broad and was about mysterious “attacks” that started in 2016 on U.S. personnel stationed in Cuba who had suffered the equivalent of concussive brain trauma and the ensuing after effects, such as hearing loss, dizziness and diminished cognitive function, yet had not been visibly assaulted or struck in the head. The article posits the “attacks” were made by a microwave-type of weapon that would invisibly strike its targets.
In the Times article it never states outright but certainly gives the distinct impression, that the mystery is now solved and that the “attacks” were made by a microwave type of weapon that would invisibly strike its targets.
The most striking thing about this story was the seemingly out of nowhere speculation that it was Russia that perpetrated these “attacks”. What was so odd about this assertion was that upon closer inspection it became clear the actual facts presented in the story indicate there is no consensus or actual evidence Russia was responsible for the attacks or that any attacks had even taken place.
The article begins by giving a brief history of microwave radiation as a weapon, stating in its opening sentence, “During the Cold War: Washington feared that Moscow was seeking to turn microwave radiation into covert weapons of mind control.”
For the next nine paragraphs, Broad never mentions Russia, but then with no background as to where his speculation comes from, he writes,
“The microwave idea teems with unanswered questions. Who fired the beams? The Russian government? The Cuban government? A rogue Cuban faction sympathetic to Moscow? And, if so, where did the attackers get the unconventional arms?”
In re-reading the opening paragraph, you will notice that there is no proof that Russia has ever had a microwave weapon, only decades-old “fears” it was “seeking” to develop one. It would seem the entire basis for the speculation blaming Russia in this article is nothing more than some old, fleeting sense of Soviet super-villainy, that this fact is hidden in plain sight reveals a deft but ultimately duplicitous hand writing the story.
In fact, the only person quoted in the piece claiming Russia as the prime suspect is a scientist, biologist Allan H. Frey, who has vast experience with microwave technology. Mr. Frey is described as having “traveled widely and long served as a contractor and a consultant to a number of federal agencies.” That description of Mr. Frey is curiously, if not suspiciously, lacking in specifics.
The New York Times goes on to write in regards to Mr. Frey, “he speculated that Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation’s longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States.” Mr. Frey describes his own analysis as a “perfectly viable explanation.”
So the New York Times bases the underlying assumption of Russian guilt on the uninformed speculation of a biologist, who has no expertise or insight into the subject, and who also admits that his beliefs only rise to the rather tepid level of being a “viable” explanation.
Frey’s credibility and believability takes a serious hit later in the article when he recounts the story of how, after he made a name for himself in the early 60’s with numerous papers about the effects of microwave energy on the human body which brought him a lot of attention, so much so that these effects were given the name the “Frey effect”, he was invited to the Soviet Union to speak.
The New York Times writes, “The Soviets took notice. Not long after his initial discoveries, Mr. Frey said, he was invited to the Soviet Academy of Sciences to visit and lecture. Toward the end, in a surprise, he was taken outside of Moscow to a military base surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire fences.”They had me visiting the various labs and discussing problems”, including the neural impacts of microwaves, Mr. Frey recalled. “I got an inside look at their classified program.
Now, just think about what Frey is claiming here. Frey is saying that at the very height of the Cold War, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in everyone’s mind, he was invited to go to the Soviet Union and then WAS GIVEN AN INSIDE LOOK INTO THE SOVIET’S CLASSIFIED PROGRAM! In what universe is this even remotely plausible? This story has got to be at best embellishment and at worst a total fabrication. And yet, the New York Times prints it as if it isn’t a big deal and must unquestionably be true. Frey reveals himself to be a pretty dubious character with that statement, and yet the New York Times’ reporter, William J. Broad, still uses him as the backbone of his assertion that Russia was behind the “attacks”.
Another rather remarkable piece of news that appears towards the end of this article is some contradictory evidence to the notion that Russia is the culprit behind the attacks, namely that other alleged microwave attacks have happened to U.S. diplomats stationed in China.
What makes that fact all the more salient is that the article describes a list of states that may have the ability to make a microwave weapon.
“Russia, CHINA and many European states are seen as having the know-how to make basic microwave weapons that can debilitate, sow noise or even kill. Advanced powers, experts say, might accomplish more nuanced aims such as beaming spoken words into people’s heads.” (emphasis mine)
Obviously, if China is capable of making this sort of weapon and there have been “attacks” upon U.S. diplomats in China, wouldn’t China be a better suspect than Russia? And China also has deep connections to Cuba…so…why did the New York Times write so suspiciously of Russia and not China? It makes you wonder if an “advanced power” like the U.S. beamed this article into the head of reporter William J. Broad.
Further proof of something being greatly amiss about this article and story is the paucity of actual evidence that an “attack” even took place. According to thew York Times’ own reporting, the most clear cut pronouncement of an attack was made by James C. Lin, a scientist and expert in the field who wrote in a paper that the effects felt by the U.S. diplomats could “plausibly arise” from microwave beams. “Plausibly arise” is an extremely low bar, so much so that it is absurd to base any conclusions on that statement at all. Of course, many other things could be “plausible explanations”, and Broad even admits that no one really knows or agrees on what happened.
“Scientists still disagree over what hit diplomats. Last month, JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) ran four letters critical of the March study, some faulting the report for ruling out mass hysteria.”
Mass hysteria sounds like it could be not only a “plausible” explanation for this alleged Russian microwave attack in Cuba but also for the Times’ slanted article, as well as the spate of Russo-phobia infecting America’s establishment media.
The Times article glosses over the skepticism of scientists that actually claim they do not know what happened, and instead embraces speculation it was a “microwave attack”, and then despite a total lack of evidence and in the face of some contradictory evidence, confidently speculates that it was Russia that is the likely suspect.
Furthering this journalistic malpractice was NBC News, which followed up on the Times article ten days later with even more vapid reporting on the subject. The NBC News headline of September 11th reads “U.S. officials suspect Russia in mystery ‘attacks’ on diplomats in Cuba, China”.
What is so amusing is that even the headline questions whether these events are attacks at all, putting quotation marks around the word. But that doesn’t stop NBC from devouring intel agency pablum hook, line and sinker. NBC relies entirely on anonymous sources for the story and never quotes anyone saying what the story so boldly asserts, which is that Russia is the main culprit in these “attacks”.
NBC News simply repeats unchallenged, the claims of anonymous intelligence officials that the suspicion of Russia is “backed up by evidence from communications intercepts”. The same paragraph making this assertion ends with this gem of a revealing statement, “The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence”.
So NBC, which ran the story on as “Breaking News” and hyped it endlessly on MSNBC, simply repeats intelligence agency speculation without ever seeing any of the alleged corroborating evidence or challenging the voracity of that alleged evidence, and calls it news. That isn’t journalism that is stenography.
The stenography charge against NBC shouldn’t come as a surprise since one of the reporters who “broke” the story is Ken Dilanian. Dilanian is a notorious intelligence agency shill, who was exposed by The Intercept as having shared his stories and outlines with the CIA before he submitted them while he was working as a national security reporter at the L.A. Times, a shockingly unprofessional journalistic practice. What is even more outrageous is that Dilanian’s lack of journalistic ethics never hampered him from getting a job at NBC as their lead national security reporter. And since he has gotten to NBC he has done nothing but regurgitate intelligence agency approved talking points and narratives non-stop.
NBC’s and the Times’ reporting on this issue is perniciously vacuous, insipidly shallow and riddled with an insidious anti-Russian bias. These articles are forms of malignant disinformation that alchemically transform speculation into fact and replace critical thinking with presumption, the final result of which is that these presumed “facts” will go unchallenged and become part of a wider and often nefarious narrative. An example of which is that last week cable news talking heads like Chris Matthews proclaimed “of course Russia did it!” and even comedian Bill Maher roared “Russia attacked us in Cuba!”
These incidents may very well be proven to be attacks, and Russia may ultimately be responsible for them, but we should wait for actual evidence and not accept whispered innuendo wrapped in a slavish deference to intelligence agency authority as proof.
After the media’s complicity in deceiving the American public into war with Iraq, followed quickly by their acquiescence on torture, or as the Times preferred to call it “enhanced interrogation”, and then concealing Bush’s warrantless surveillance program, of which the Times was aware but refused to publish for more than a full year, we the people must condition ourselves to read all of the establishment media news with an acutely jaundiced eye.
Similar to the delirious fever for war in the lead up to Iraq, the media are currently suffering from a virulent hysteria, this time of the anti-Russian variety. Now more than ever it is imperative to maintain a healthy and vigilant skepticism whenever Russia is blamed for misdeeds but there is a dearth or absence of concrete evidence. If we succumb to the corporate media’s Siren’s call of compulsive Russia blaming, our new Cold war may just turn very hot, and that will be a catastrophe for all of us.
A version of this article was originally published at CounterPunch.