The latest beheading video, like the ones before, comes to us by way of the SITE intelligence group
. There is much to say about this group and its founder, Rita Katz. I won't be able to say it all here.
Of Katz, let us begin with her insistence that she is not anti-Muslim, simply anti-terrorism.
Of course, we are all
anti-terror. Some of us are even concerned enough to note the fact that ISIS was funded by allies of the United States -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey -- undoubtedly with US knowledge and probably at US behest
. (That link goes to an interview with a personal friend of beheading victim James Foley.) Strangely, Rita Katz -- despite her fierce determination to root out terrorists -- has never, to my knowledge, made public mention of this origin story.
What, then, of the beheading videos? They are the main reason for the turnaround in public opinion
on the question of intervention in Syria and Iraq. They are the reason why we will probably soon see American boots on the ground in Syria -- which is precisely what Lindsey Graham is calling for
and Michael Hayden is predicting
(Incidentally, both Graham and Hayden
are predicting an ISIS strike on the American "homeland" -- even though such a strike would be of zero tactical advantage to ISIS. In fact, such an attack could only do harm to what they claim is their cause. The confidence with which Graham and Hayden make this forecast is pretty damned unnerving -- not to mention suspicious.)
In short: Those videos are of supreme political importance. Those videos are the casus belli. Those videos will lead to thousands -- perhaps millions -- of deaths.
And as far as I can tell, the only organization to vouch for their authenticity is SITE.
The CIA has not confirmed that they are real,
although we are continually assured that the Agency is working on the issue. I'm pretty sure that American intelligence can answer an important question like this one within a day or two -- perhaps an hour or two. Therefore, any delay in the Agency's assessment probably has something to do with politics.
The question before us is simple: Can anyone prove -- prove -- that the beheading videos had any existence before Rita Katz's organization delivered them to the world?
Katz says that she "finds" these things on YouTube (because only she
knows where to look), but does not favor us with a citation of the actual channel, although I can't see why anyone would play coy about such a detail. Then, instead of merely linking to the video, she re-encodes and re-uploads them, plastering her SITE logo all over the results.
We don't know the identities of the uploaders. They could be anyone.
I am not saying that these videos are (or are not) fakes. I don't know. In fact (as discussed in a previous post
), I have not fully watched any of them, due to the grisly subject matter. At this time, however, I feel that the arguments against their authenticity rise above the usual twaddle reflexively offered by conspiracy aficionados. For example, an expert consulted by the Times of London has said that the Foley video was "staged."
So who is Rita Katz? What is SITE?
SITE, I believe, is Mossad.
I am not engaging in conspiracy theory. I am not automatically shouting "Israel! Israel!" every time something happens in the news.
Here's the evidence
(and please note that these words, written in 2008, are rhetorically addressed to Rita Katz herself):
One more suggestion: It might make your latest incarnation of SITE more believable if the IP address wasn't the same as another MOSSAD asset, MEMRI. See, you both have the same 18.104.22.168 IP address.
Checking with Whois one can easily find IP addresses, so having the same IP number as another MOSSAD asset, well, let's say that some might find that a bit more convenient than necessary.
MEMRI was established by "former" Mossad members to provide intelligence and translation services directed against...well, anyone who might have a grudge against Israel, and anyone from the Islamic world. Some background
The Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI for short, is a Middle Eastern press monitoring organization. Its headquarters is located in Washington, DC, with branch offices in Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Rome, Shanghai, Baghdad, and Tokyo. MEMRI was co-founded in 1998 by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence, and another Israeli Meyrav Wurmser. It provides a free source of English language translations of material published in Arabic and Persian script, and publishes its analyses and in-depth reports on its website.
The organization's translations are regularly quoted by major international newspapers, and its work has generated strong criticism and praise. Critics have accused MEMRI of selectivity choosing for translation and dissemination the most extreme views from Arabic and Persian media, which portray the Arab and Muslim world in a negative light, while ignoring moderate views that are often found in the same media outlets.
has had at least one unhappy run-in with MEMRI...
MEMRI is a main arm of Israeli propaganda. Although widely used in the mainstream media as a source of information on the Arab world, it is as trustworthy as Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer was on the Jewish world.
MEMRI outrageously misquoted Finkelstein (a staunch critic of Israel) to make him appear to be a Holocaust denier. He is, of course, no such thing -- in fact, close members of his families died in the concentration camps.
More on MEMRI in this excellent article
by Lawrence Swaim (by way of the Wayback Machine):
MEMRI’s obsessive interest in protecting Israel derives from the people and interests that founded, fund and manage the institute’s international operations.
It was founded in 1998 by Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in the Israel Defense Forces (Intelligence Branch) from 1968 until 1988, acting head of civil administration in the West Bank from 1977 to 1982; and Israeli-born Meyrav Wurmser, an extreme rightwing neoconservative now affiliated with the Hudson Institute.
Meyrav is married to David Wurmser, at one time an American Enterprise Institute "scholar" and then a State Department apparatchik under John Bolton.
Both participated in the collective writing of "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," a seminal 1996 neocon document that advocated an end to negotiations with the Palestinians and permanent war against the Arab world.
They also worked with Douglas Feith, Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle and other rightwing ideologues who promoted and embellished the fiction that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.
MEMRI has offices in Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Washington and Tokyo, and in a 2006 Jerusalem Post interview, Carmon claimed to have one in Iraq.
It translates film and print into English, German, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese.
Tax returns for 2004 indicate American funding of between two to three million dollars, much of it from conservative donors and foundations - but those who have followed its far-flung operations suspect much higher expenditures.
Besides Carmon, several MEMRI staffers are former Israeli intelligence specialists. Especially troubling are suspected links between MEMRI and the current Israeli intelligence establishment.
According to a 2005 article in Israel’s Ha’aretz, the Israeli Defense Forces plants fake stories in the Arab media, which it then translates and tries to retail to Israeli journalists. How much of MEMRI is simply an extension of such IDF operations?
The questions raised by the Ha’aretz story caused Proffesor Juan Cole to write, "How much of what we ‘know’ from ‘Arab sources’ about ‘Hizbullah terrorism’ was simply made up by this fantasy factory in Tel Aviv?"
British journalist Brian Whitaker, Middle East editor of the Guardian, dismisses MEMRI as "basically a propaganda machine."
Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, accuses them of "outright distortion," and former CIA case officer Vince Cannistraro has written that "they (MEMRI) are selective and act as propagandists for their political point of view, which is the extreme-right of Likud."
Sorry for inflicting upon you a quotation so lengthy as to border on republication, but this article is not so well-known as it ought to be.
MEMRI's list of advisers reads like neo-con central. From the RightWeb profile
MEMRI's directors and advisory boards are top-heavy with neoconservatives and other supporters of hawkish U.S. and Israeli policies. Current and former board members include Elliott Abrams, Steve Emerson, Bernard Lewis, Elie Wiesel, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Jose Maria Aznar, Donald Rumsfeld, James Woolsey, John Bolton, John Ashcroft, Ehud Barak, Mort Zuckerman, Michael Mukasey, Norman Podhoretz, William Bennett, Christopher DeMuth (former president of the American Enterprise Institute), Paul Bremer, Herb London (president of the Hudson Institute), Natan Sharanksy, James Q. Wilson, Alan Dershowitz, Richard Holbrooke, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Irving Kristol. (As of October 2011, information about MEMRI staff and directors was available online. However, previously, the organization was criticized for not providing access to this information online and for attempting to disguise its political ties.
Did you like the Iraq War? The same people who gave you that war are behind MEMRI -- and SITE. One of the co-founders of the organizations was Meyrav Wurmser...
Wurmser, who has taught at Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Naval Academy, has played a role in several neoconservative and Likud-aligned policy initiatives. For example, she was participant in the study group that led to the publication of the 1996 report, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," which was published by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, a Jerusalem- and DC-based think tank. The report, which urged Israel to break off then-ongoing peace initiatives, contained six pages of recommendations for Likud Party leader and then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "to work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll back" regional threats, help overthrow Saddam Hussein, and to strike "Syrian military targets in Lebanon" and possibly in Syria. Other study participants included Richard Perle, David Wurmser, and Douglas Feith.
Given this background, one must ask: Are these beheading videos simply the latest version of the "yellowcake from Niger" story?
We are Americans. We have our own history, our own issues, our own traditions. We have our own problems to attend to, our own wrongs to right, our own people to help, our own future to build. Must we continually be dragged into war after war by these sick games?