May 16, 2017
It is #Fakenews Day – On North-Korea, Syria and the U.S. President
It is #fakenews day. Three stories are making the rounds through the media that are each based on false or widely exaggerated interpretation of claims. North Korea, Syria and the U.S. President are the targets.
1. The Wall Street Journal asserts with a #fakenews headline that bits of computer-code in the recent WannaCry ransom virus are identical with bits of computer code that was allegedly used in a 2014 hack of Sony. (The Sony attack was falsely attributed to North Korea.)
Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, on Monday pointed out similarities between that earlier WannaCry variant and code used in a series of attacks that security specialists have attributed to the Lazarus group.
The “Lazerus group” (which probably does not exist at all) was attributed to North Korean state agencies. But six paragraphs later we learn:
State Department: Renamed Al-Qaeda Not A Terrorist Organization – Can Receive CIA Supplies
Max Abrams, a professor who works about terrorism, came up with this new definition of “terrorism”:
Nonstate actors who use violence against civilians for a political goal and haven’t been supported by the US.
The highlighted part is “new” to those who have not learned from history and the many occasions of U.S. support for (typically extremely right-wing) terrorist organizations like the “contras” in Nicaragua, OUN fascists in Ukraine or Jihadi Mujahedin in Afghanistan. It can indeed be argued that the U.S. created al-Qaeda as well as the Islamic State (ISIS).
But lets just be happy that people get again reminded of the issue.
Prof. Adams remark came after a report by the Canadian CBC which found that the U.S. has not designated al-Qaeda’s recently renamed organization in Syria as a “foreign terrorist entity”. HTS rules (vid) the Syrian city and governate of Idleb.
The U.S. offered a $10,000,000 reward (official pdf) for Abu Muhammad al-Joulani the founder al Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Jabhat Fatah al-Sham). But newly again renamed organization which he leads as the official military commander, the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), is not on any U.S. (and Canadian) terrorist entity list:
The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.
[I]n January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It altered its name, changing the word “Jabhat” (Front) to “Hay’at” (Organization), and “Fateh” (Conquest) to “Tahrir” (Liberation).
The State Department did issue a statement in March, in Arabic only, branding HTS a terrorist group. But the State Department’s Nicole Thompson told CBC that was a mistake.”Though closely affiliated with al-Nusra, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham is not a designated terrorist organization,” she said in an email. “The statement you found should have said al-Nusrah Front and has been corrected.”
Al-Nusra, however, no longer exists.
The non-designation will make it more difficult to prosecute members and supporters of the organization. Donations and other support to HTS are now legal. While Nusra and HTS had claimed to no longer be part of al-Qaeda (but never retracted their oath to it), scholars within those organization frequently argue for publicly admit the connection. No professional working on the issue denies that HTS is part of al-Qaeda and a terrorist group. But, apparently, the U.S. State Department does.
The CBC speculates why HTS is not (or no longer) designated: