Daily Archives: November 13, 2012

Did German Intelligence Fuel Far-Right Extremism?


This photo shows suspected NSU member Beatte Zschäpe (center, front), who is being held in police custody as she awaits trial, at a neo-Nazi march in the German city of Worms in 1996 commemorating the annivesary of the death of senior Nazi official Rudolf Hess. The marches, a former annual tradition of neo-Nazis, have since been banned by German courts. One of the informants currently under scrutiny is believed to have helped organize the march.

spiegel.de | Nov 6, 2012

A secret paper written by senior police officers paints a disastrous picture of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. It suggests that the service may have actually strengthened the country’s far-right scene through its large network of far-right informants.

It’s a Wednesday in early summer 2012, on the terrace of a Chinese restaurant in Nuremberg’s city center. Kai D., 48, once one of the most subversive activists in the German neo-Nazi community, is sitting at a table, drinking a glass of roasted wheat tea, the house specialty, eagerly answering questions about his past in the right-wing extremist community.

The ex-Nazi seems at ease as he chats about his experiences as the head of the Covenant of the New Front (Gesinnungsgemeinschaft der Neuen Front) and the Thule Network, a neo-Nazi data-sharing group, which he helped build. He describes his role as one of the organizers of the Rudolf Hess memorial marches — annual neo-Nazi ceremonies in memory of the prominent Nazi politician that were banned by German courts in 2005. He talks about the tiresome pressure from the police with all the interrogations and raids. He also admits to having known members of a group called the Thüringer Heimatschutz (loosely translated as “Thuringian Homeland Protection”), where the terrorists who later formed the National Socialist Underground (NSU) became radicalized. According to D., they were the people who organized regular meetings in the eastern state of Thuringia. The authorities found D.’s number on a phone list used by NSU terrorist Uwe Mundlos.

On one subject, however, D. becomes tight-lipped. No, he says vehemently, “at no time, not even remotely” was he an informant for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, and anyone who claims otherwise is lying.

In a 1997 “position paper,” Germany’s Federal Police Office (BKA) vented its frustrations over the Office for the Protection of the Constitution over what it believed was “increasing divergence” between the domestic intelligence agencies and law enforcement. The BKA warned the informants could have an “incendiary effect,” goading other extremists to commit even bigger acts. It also alleged that some sources who were “found to be criminals” were often “neither indicted nor convicted”.

Apparently, D. is still stretching the truth today. Responding to research conducted by SPIEGEL reporters, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), has told members of the Bavarian state parliament that D. worked with the Bavarian state intelligence service between the end of 1987 and 1998. D. was a major informant, and he was also one of the masterminds in the neo-Nazi network.

German law enforcement authorities uncovered the NSU right-wing terrorist cell almost exactly a year ago. On Nov. 4, 2011, the police found the bodies of Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt in a camper parked in the eastern city of Eisenach. The NSU claimed responsibility for killing at least nine men and a policewoman during a seven-year murder spree that began in 2000. The male victims, all of them shopkeepers or employeed in small businesses, belonged to ethnic minorities — eight were of Turkish origin and one was Greek.

Systematic Failure

Four parliamentary committees of inquiry are currently dissecting the work of law enforcement units, and four department heads have already resigned. The government’s failures in fighting right-wing terrorists have plunged the domestic intelligence service into the worst crisis since it was established. It was set up in postwar Germany to identify and stop the spread of precisely the kind of extremist thinking that allowed the Nazis to rise to power in the 1930s. The discovery of the NSU and its crimes, however, has shaken the system to its core.

The committees are currently examining more than 100,000 pages of classified documents. The more secrets come to light, the clearer it becomes how extensively intelligence agencies had infiltrated right-wing extremist groups. The trio of neo-Nazis that made up the NSU was surrounded by informants linked with the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, and Kai D. was only one of many. Nevertheless, the authorities had no idea what plans were being hatched in the neo-Nazi underground. The system of undercover informants had failed.

One of the big questions now being asked is whether the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and its methods are suited to protecting the German constitution — or whether it actually strengthened militant right-wing groups. “It cannot be that informants are being used who are more harmful to the community than they are beneficial,” says Thomas Oppermann, a senior lawmaker for the opposition Social Democratic Party.

Once before, during the failed effort to ban the far-right NPD party in 2003, the links between law enforcement and right-wing extremist groups led to a political fiasco. The Federal Constitutional Court rejected the motion to ban the NPD because it appeared as if the government could in fact be controlling the right-wing extremists through its informants.

Incendiary Agents

The discussion is now being fueled by a previously unknown position paper dating from 1997. It comes from an authoritative source: the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Germany’s version of the FBI. At the time, the police officials leveled serious charges against their counterparts with the German intelligence agencies, just a year before the NSU terrorists, who had operated in the eastern city of Jena, went into hiding. In the position paper that has now surfaced, which is still classified as “secret,” the BKA listed 10 theories that were presented to the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

The BKA document centers around the core idea that the informants egged each other on, essentially acting as incendiary agents. Instead of decisively combatting the neo-Nazis, the BKA posits, the intelligence agency protected them, and judging by the way the Office for the Protection of the Constitution deployed its informants, they became part of the problem and not part of the solution.

The classified document, which SPIEGEL has obtained, is both an urgent warning and an indictment of the agents at the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Did the intelligence service, intoxicated by the exclusive access it had gained, in fact protect some members of the far right? Is it indirectly responsible for the strengthening of militant neo-Nazi structures in the 1990s, from which the NSU, the most brutal and militant of all the extremist groups, emerged?

The BKA paper was written at a time, just after German reunification, when right-wing extremist groups were bursting with strength. Attacks against foreigners in the eastern cities of Hoyerswerda and Rostock in 1991 and 1992 respectively were followed by deadly arson attacks against Turkish inhabitants in Mölln, a town near Hamburg, and in Solingen in the west. Hundreds of neo-Nazi skinheads staged rallies every August to mark the anniversary of the death of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. Entire sections of eastern Germany became practically off-limits for foreigners. Mundlos, Böhnhardt and Beate Zschäpe — the third member of the NSU group who is being held in police custody as she awaits trial — grew up in a self-confident political movement that was enjoying unchecked growth.

The BKA stepped up its investigations to find out who was responsible for what crimes. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, for its part, infiltrated the neo-Nazi community, wanting to understand its structures and identify the masterminds and leaders, on the one hand, and their followers, on the other.

In the mid-1990s, the intelligence agencies — which operate with both a national agency as well as regional branches in the 16 German federal states — managed to recruit a large number of sources within the far-right community. For some activists, this conspiratorial cooperation with what they in fact saw as the hated “federal system” proved to be a blessing, since the intelligence agents had a vital interest in making sure that their spies would not be prosecuted.

This had to lead to conflicts between police and intelligence. According to the position paper, the tensions came to a head on Nov. 27, 1996, during a top-level meeting between the presidents of the BKA and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to discuss the crisis. The BKA officials instructed their state security division, which works to combat politically motivated crime, to ascertain the problems at a “working level”.

Full Story

Terminator-style self-healing robot skin moves closer to reality

rsc.org | Nov 12, 2012

by Simon Hadlington

Scientists have developed a self-healing, pressure sensitive polymer ‘skin’ © Moviestore collections/Rex Features

Synthetic skin for robots that can repair itself when it becomes damaged – akin to the idea of the T-800 cyborg in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator films – has taken a step closer to reality with new research by scientists in the US. The researchers, led by Zhenan Baoof Stanford University in California, have created a flexible, touch-sensitive, electrically conducting and pressure-sensitive polymer-based material that could have ‘e-skin’ applications for robots or prosthetic body parts, such as artificial hands.

The polymer matrix consists of a network of randomly branched oligomers that contain multiple urea groups. The presence of these groups results in a high density of hydrogen bonding within the network – contributing substantially to the structural integrity of the matrix’s scaffold. Nickel particles are dispersed throughout the matrix. The presence of oxygen on the surface of the nickel particles, in the form of an oxide, also allows hydrogen bonds to be made with the urea groups, further contributing to the structural stability of the composite.

The extensive hydrogen bonding accounts for the self-healing properties of the material and the nickel particles for its electrical conductivity and pressure-sensitivity, as team member Benjamin Tee explains. ‘Because hydrogen bonds are weaker than covalent bonds, when the material is damaged the hydrogen bonds break preferentially. Because hydrogen bonding is dynamic, the bonds can reassociate very quickly and this results in the material’s mechanical healing properties.’ If the material is ruptured, it spontaneously repairs itself and regains its mechanical strength within around 10 minutes.

Tiny spikes

The micro-nickel particles impart electrical conductivity to the material. ‘The particles do not need to be in contact with each other for electrical conductivity to occur,’ says Tee. ‘Electrons can hop between the particles through quantum tunnelling.’ The team found that particles that were microscopically rough, covered with tiny spikes, produced a more efficient conducting matrix than smooth particles. This, Tee says, is because the electronic charge accumulates at the tips of the surface spikes, enhancing quantum tunnelling and thereby enabling more efficient charge transfer throughout the matrix. The team showed that if the polymer is broken or damaged, once the damaged parts are placed together and the healing process starts, electrical conductivity is almost completely restored within about 15 seconds.

The ‘e-skin’ can detect the application of pressure. The harder someone presses the brighter the mannequin’s LED glows © NPG

If an external load is applied to the polymer, this changes the distance between the nickel particles, resulting in a change in conductivity. This allows the e-skin to detect changes in pressure or its shape – which would allow, for example, the position of moveable joints to be monitored. However, the material is not as stretchy as the researchers would like – something, Tee says, that is now being worked on.

Commenting on the work, Wayne Hayes, an expert in self-healing polymers at the University of Reading in the UK, says: ‘Although this isn’t the first example of a supramolecular polymer–metallic particle composite, the paper does report the successful use of electrical conductivity in the route to healable elastomers and materials of this type do offer a way towards healable devices, especially in coatings or the biomedical field.’ Hayes adds: ‘It is a nice preliminary result but there is a significantly more fundamental science needed to understand the healing mechanism within this type of composite and further development work required before such materials can be used in feasible devices.’

Afghan massacre involved multiple shooters: investigator


Grave stones of some of the 16 Afghan villagers who were killed in the March massacre are pictured in the graveyard in Panjwai district of Kandahar province on 4 November 2012. (Photo: AFP – Mamoon Durrani)

AFP | Nov 12, 2012

A shooting rampage in March that left 16 Afghans dead in two villages was the work of more than one person, an Afghan police investigator testified on Sunday, contradicting the US government’s account.

Military prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who is charged with killing the villagers, mostly women and children who were shot in the head.

The US government says it believes Bales was solely responsible for the killings, but several indirect accounts have suggested that more than one US soldier was involved.

“One person did not have the courage to go to the villages in the dark of night,” Major Khudai Dad, the Afghan Uniform Police’s chief of criminal techniques in Kandahar City, told a hearing at a US Army base via video link from Kandahar.

“There’s no way it is one person,” said Dad, speaking through an interpreter. Dad visited three compounds several thousand meters apart in the villages of Alkozai and Najiban around 8 am on March 11, hours after the attacks.

Prosecutors at a pre-trial hearing, held on an army base south of Seattle, have alleged that Bales left the base twice to carry out the killings, returning in between and even telling a colleague what he had done.

For the last three nights it has heard testimony by video link from southern Afghanistan – held at night to allow witnesses to give their accounts during the daytime.

Bales, wearing standard army combat uniform, showed no emotion as he watched the testimony on a small monitor placed in front of him.

The shootings in Kandahar province marked the worst case of civilian slaughter blamed on an individual US soldier since the Vietnam War.

Second shooter theory

On Saturday, a US investigator told the hearing that the wife of one of the victims told her during questioning in June that she saw more than one soldier on the night in question.

Army criminal investigator Leona Mansapit said the wife of Mohammed Dawood, who was killed in the village of Najiban, recalled a gunman entering the couple’s room shouting about the Taliban, while another man, a US soldier, stood at the door.

This woman was persuaded by male family members not to testify to the hearing, an army source, who asked not to be named, said on Sunday.

Dad said he took bullet shells from three different compounds, which were several kilometers apart, and turned them over to the Afghan National Army, who passed them on to US investigators.

“In those three areas, where the incidents were, I was thinking and I’m thinking that is not a thing that one person would do,” he said.

Bales faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder, as well as charges of assault and wrongfully possessing and using steroids and alcohol while deployed.

Prosecutors have already presented physical evidence to tie Bales to the crime scene, with a forensic investigator saying a sample of blood on his clothing matched a swab taken in one of the compounds where the shooting occurred.

Bales’ lawyers have not set out an alternative theory to the prosecution case, but have pointed out inconsistencies in testimony and highlighted incidents before the shooting in which Bales lost his temper easily, possibly setting up an argument that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Agenda 21 – GMO Poison Documentary: Deteriorating health of Americans linked to Genetically Modified foods

When the US government ignored repeated warnings by its own scientists and allowed untested genetically modified (GM) crops into our environment and food supply, it was a gamble of unprecedented proportions. The health of all living things and all future generations were put at risk by an infant technology.

After two decades, physicians and scientists have uncovered a grave trend. The same serious health problems found in lab animals, livestock, and pets that have been fed GM foods are now on the rise in the US population. And when people and animals stop eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their health improves.

This seminal documentary provides compelling evidence to help explain the deteriorating health of Americans, especially among children, and offers a recipe for protecting ourselves and our future.

Youtube | Nov 9, 2012  by DocumentaryFeast

Agenda 21 – GMO Poison (Full Documentary) (1/2)

Agenda 21 – GMO Poison (Documentary) (2/2)

‘Essential medicine’ Tamiflu useless against flu, experts call for legal action against manufacturers


The BMJ journal is asking the drug maker Roche to release all its data on Tamiflu

Daily Mail | Nov 13, 2012

By Anna Edwards

A leading British medical journal is asking the drug maker Roche to release all its data on Tamiflu, claiming there is no evidence the drug can actually stop the influenza virus.

The drug has been stockpiled by dozens of governments worldwide in case of a global flu outbreak and was widely used during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

On Monday, one of the researchers linked to the BMJ journal called for European governments to sue Roche.

‘I suggest we boycott Roche’s products until they publish missing Tamiflu data,’ wrote Peter Gotzsche, leader of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen.

He said governments should take legal action against Roche to get the money back that was ‘needlessly’ spent on stockpiling Tamiflu.

Last year, Tamiflu was included in a list of ‘essential medicines’ by the World Health Organization, a list that often prompts governments or donor agencies to buy the drug.

Tamiflu is used to treat both seasonal flu and new flu viruses like bird flu or swine flu.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said the agency had enough proof to warrant its use for unusual influenza viruses, like bird flu.

‘We do have substantive evidence it can stop or hinder progression to severe disease like pneumonia,’ he said.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Tamiflu as one of two medications for treating regular flu. The other is GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza.

The CDC says such antivirals can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications and hospitalization.

In 2009, the BMJ and researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Centre asked Roche to make all its Tamiflu data available.

At the time, Cochrane Centre scientists were commissioned by Britain to evaluate flu drugs. They found no proof that Tamiflu reduced the number of complications in people with influenza.

‘Despite a public promise to release (internal company reports) for each (Tamiflu) trial…Roche has stonewalled,’ BMJ editor Fiona Godlee wrote in an editorial last month.

In a statement, Roche said it had complied with all legal requirements on publishing data and provided Gotzsche and his colleagues with 3,200 pages of information to answer their questions.

‘Roche has made full clinical study data … available to national health authorities according to their various requirements, so they can conduct their own analyses,’ the company said.

Roche says it doesn’t usually release patient-level data available due to legal or confidentiality constraints. It said it did not provide the requested data to the scientists because they refused to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Roche is also being investigated by the European Medicines Agency for not properly reporting side effects, including possible deaths, for 19 drugs including Tamiflu that were used in about 80,000 patients in the U.S.