News Items – 02.11.17

The book shown above is “Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State,” which is: published by Oxford University Press; written by Emily Bell (Columbia University’s professor of professional practice & director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism) and Taylor Owen (assistant professor digital media and global affairs at the University of British Columbia); and has an excerpt provided by Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation.

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Federation of American Scientists: “‘The Office of Naval Research is conducting groundbreaking research into the dangers of working for prolonged periods of time in extreme high and low pressure environments.’ Why? In part, it reflects ‘the increased operational focus being placed on undersea clandestine operations,’ said Rear Adm. Mathias W. Winter in newly published answers to questions for the record from a February 2016 hearing. ‘The missions include deep dives to work on the ocean floor, clandestine transits in cold, dark waters, and long durations in the confines of the submarine. The Undersea Medicine Program comprises the science and technology efforts to overcome human shortfalls in operating in this extreme environment,’ he told the House Armed Services Committee.”

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Absurd time/money wasted until 1995: “CIA files reveal how U.S. used psychics to spy on Iran” during the 1979 hostage crisis, by the Miami Herald. While on the topic of absurdity meeting geopolitical (not human rights) opposition to Iran, here’s “Trump’s Iran-Bashing Distraction,” by Paul Pillar — former CIA Executive Assistant to the Director and Deputy Director of the Counterterrorist Center; senior fellow and former visiting professor at Georgetown University; and former National Intelligence Council Officer for the Near East and South Asia.

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Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire,” by the New York Times.

“While the president says he has walked away from the day-to-day operations of his business, two people close to him are the named trustees and have broad legal authority over his assets: his eldest son, Donald Jr., and Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Trump, who will receive reports on any profit, or loss, on his company as a whole, can revoke their authority at any time. What’s more, the purpose of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is to hold assets for the ‘exclusive benefit’ of the president. This trust remains under Mr. Trump’s Social Security number, at least as far as federal taxes are concerned. … The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust has existed since at least 2014, records show. By 2016 it was the only shareholder in DJT Holdings, one of Mr. Trump’s main limited liability companies, according to documents filed by Mr. Trump as part of his bid for president and released by the Federal Election Commission. That company holds some of Mr. Trump’s largest assets, including his Old Post Office lease, golf courses and residential properties including a house in Beverly Hills, Calif.”

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“The terrorism that is actually not covered as much in many newsfeeds is terrorism in Muslim majority countries that have been targeted for destabilization by lunatic fringes among the fundamentalists and by lunatics like the people in the Bush-Cheney administration who fell upon Iraq for no discernible reason. When a bomb goes off in a European capital, we rightly sympathize and put a spotlight on it. But where is the love for people in Istanbul, Beirut, and Baghdad? The point, in any case, is that the major terrorism is perpetrated against Muslim publics in non-fundamentalist countries like Iraq by groups hoping to polarize people, drive them into extremism, and then take over. For the Breitbart alt-Neonazis to go all snowflake about Muslim terrorism in the US tells us about their own cowardice or malice, not about the real world.”

~ Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan

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The Washington Post: “U.S. immigration authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least a half-dozen states this week in a series of raids that marked the first large-scale enforcement of President Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally. The raids, which officials said targeted known criminals, also netted some immigrants who did not have criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration that aimed to just corral and deport those who had committed crimes.”

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The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that “nine children under the age of 13 were killed and five were wounded in the [covert US] raid in [Yemen’s] al Bayda province on January 29.” One Navy SEAL also died. Sean Spicer, White House Chief PR(opagandist), described that as a “successful operation by all standards.

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Glenn Greenwald via The Intercept: “An endless array of stunning statistics can be marshaled to demonstrate the extent of that collapse. But perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence is that even one of the U.S. media’s most stalwart Democratic loyalists, writing in an outlet that is as much of a reliable party organ as the DNC itself, has acknowledged the severity of the destruction. ‘The Obama years have created a Democratic Party that’s essentially a smoking pile of rubble,’ wrote Vox’s Matthew Yglesias after the 2016 debacle, adding that ‘the story of the 21st-century Democratic Party looks to be overwhelmingly the story of failure.’

A failed, collapsed party cannot form an effective resistance. Trump did not become president and the Republicans do not dominate virtually all levels of government because there is some sort of massive surge in enthusiasm for right-wing extremism. Quite the contrary: This all happened because the Democrats are perceived — with good reason — to be out of touch, artificial, talking points-spouting automatons who serve Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the agenda of endless war, led bymillionaires and funded by oligarchs to do the least amount possible for ordinary, powerless citizens while still keeping their votes.

What drove Bernie Sanders’s remarkably potent challenge to Hillary Clinton was the extreme animosity of huge numbers of Democrats — led by its youngest voters — to the values, practices, and corporatist loyalties of the party’s establishment. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary war — which was far more vicious and nasty but devoid of any real ideological conflict — the 2016 primary was grounded in important and substantive disputes about what the Democratic Party should be, what principles should guide it, and, most important of all, whose interests it should serve.

That’s why those disputes have not disappeared with the inauguration of Trump, nor should they. It matters a great deal, perhaps more than anything else, who leads the resistance to Trump and what the nature of that opposition is. Everyone knows the popular cliché that insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting different outcomes; it illustrates why Democrats cannot continue as is and expect anything other than ongoing impotence and failure. The party’s steadfast refusal to change course even in symbolic ways — We hereby elevate by acclamation Chuck ‘Wall Street‘ Schumer and re-install Nancy ‘I’m a multimillionaire and we are capitalists‘ Pelosi — bodes very poorly for its future success.

[…]

In sum, demanding that one refrain from critiquing the Democratic Party in order to exclusively denounce Trump over and over is akin to demanding that one single-mindedly denounce cancer without worrying about who the treating doctor is or what type of research is being conducted to cure it. Trump happened because the Democrats failed. And he and similar (or worse) phenomena will continue to happen until they are fixed.

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Here’s William Blum’s latest Anti-Empire Report, and a bonus part here.

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Trump’s ‘Great Wall’ and the ‘Drug War’,” by Jonathan Marshall at Consortiumnews.

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Here’s how Trump got schooled on the separation of powers by Marjorie Cohn — Professor Emerita of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild.

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NYT: Unlike Russian Wars, US Wars ‘Promote Freedom and Democracy,'” by FAIR:

“A rough look at the actions in question since Putin has been in office reveals this outrage to be, at best, misplaced. One tally by Airwars, a Western nonprofit, puts the total number of Syrian civilians killed by Russia since it entered the war in September 2015 at just over 4,000, or 0.8–0.4 percent of the 500,000 to 1 million civilians who died due to George W. Bush’s unilateral invasion of Iraq in 2003. Add to this the thousands of other civilians killed in other theaters of the “War on Terror” under the Bush and Obama administrations, including Afghanistan, Libya and Syria itself, and the idea of pointing to respect for civilian lives as something that elevates the United States above Russia seems a little absurd.

But the addition of stifling dissent and allegedly killing journalists takes Russia over the line into Bad Guy territory, the Times suggests—ignoring the US’s own harsh punishment for whistleblowersinfiltration of dissident groups and bombing of foreign journalists. Not to mention the US’s sprawling, unprecedented incarceration system, or its unmatched institutional racism–all human right abuses leveled at home.

The Times goes on to insist that ‘no American president has done what Mr. Putin has done,’ including ‘invading Ukraine’ and ‘interfering in the American election.’ Of course, American presidents have invaded other countries and intervened in other elections, but for reasons unclear, the Times suggests that those two cases are the ones that indicate the US’s moral superiority over Russia.

[…]

That US invasions ‘have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy’ is not argued, let alone proved; it’s presented as an article of faith. As the Times’ ‘recent decades’ go back to World War II, the United States presumably killed an estimated 3.8 million in Vietnam ‘to promote freedom and democracy’—despite President Dwight Eisenhower admitting that given the chance, 80 percent of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh, the leader whose government the US opposed. Implicitly, the US’s use of covert terror to try to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua, and US military support for death squad regimes elsewhere in Central America, were likewise motivated by a longing for freedom and democracy.

As FAIR (9/30/16) has noted, the most important function of major editorial boards is to be gatekeepers of national security orthodoxy. And there is no more axiomatic orthodoxy than American exceptionalism. One can handwring over ‘mistakes,’ even occasionally do harsh reporting on American war crimes—so long as one arrives back at the position of American moral superiority. ‘Yes, America has made mistakes,’ the good liberal insists, ‘but at least we don’t do this other bad thing that is, unaccountably, uniquely disqualifying.'”

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On Iran, The Southern Poverty Law Center’s ‘Extremist’ Is NPR’s ‘Expert,'” by FAIR:

“Who is Fred Fleitz? He’s the senior vice president for policy and programs at the Center for Security Policy—an important piece of omitted context, for two reasons: 1) The CSP has close ties with the Trump White House, with its founder and president, Frank Gaffney, personally advising him. 2) The benign-sounding CSP is, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ‘a conspiracy-oriented mouthpiece for the growing anti-Muslim movement in the United States.’ Here’s what the nation’s foremost hate-group monitor said of NPR’s source:

For the past decade, CSP’s main focus has been on demonizing Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security. Statements from Frank Gaffney and other CSP staffers, along with claims made in CSP publications, have become increasingly conspiratorial in nature, making such claims as Muslims are attempting to overthrow the US government from within, and that Shariah law is trumping the constitution in American courts.

Conventional wisdom on the issue of Iran has moved so far to the right that high-status Breitbart wannabes are now propped up by NPR as a reasonable second opinion. At the very least, NPR should have noted Fleitz’s ties to an anti-Muslim extremist group instead of simply labeling him a ‘former CIA analyst,’ as if he’s just a neutral party calling balls and strikes.

This is part of a broader pattern whereby the media are very critical of Trump on his unconventional truth-fudging, but give him a pass on truth-fudging that is bipartisan and long-standing in nature (FAIR.org1/25/171/25/17). Iran is eagerly seeking a nuclear weapons and must be stopped at all costs is a truism (FAIR.org9/9/15), even more so when Trump doubles down on it.

To top it off, Kenyon ends the piece by uncritically echoing former Obama administration official Philip Gordon’s fear-inducing claim that Iran could respond by launching ‘terrorist attacks on Americans in the Mideast’—despite the fact that Iran has never launched a terror attack on American civilians, in the Mideast or elsewhere.”

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A Lesson Media Missed About the Dangers of Scapegoating,” by FAIR:

“To get a sense of how little coverage the Quebec mosque [by an anti-immigrant white nationalist that liked Donald Trump] attack got, FAIR counted mentions of Bissonnette’s name in eight outlets included in the Nexis news database, from January 30 (when his name was released by police) until February 2. For comparison purposes we tallied mentions of the name of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the reported assailant in a 2014 attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, that left one soldier, along with Zehaf-Bibeau, dead. We searched for his name in stories from October 22–25, 2014.

Every outlet we checked had more coverage of  Zehaf-Bibeau than of Bissonnette—ranging from 50 percent more stories on CBS to more than 11 times as many stories on CNN. (The PBS NewsHour, which ran three stories referencing Zehaf-Bibeau, did not run any stories on Bissonnette.) Mostly these outlets ran one or two stories talking about the mosque attack suspect, versus 5–7 stories with the parliament attacker. All in all, there were 88 Zehaf-Bibeau stories and 15 Bissonnette stories—a ratio of about 6 to 1.

Of course, as with any two incidents, there are differences between the two attacks—the most obvious being that the one Bissonnette is accused of killed six times as many victims. But for corporate media, the salient difference is that Zehaf-Bibeau was a Muslim convert, reportedly upset about Canadian military intervention in the Middle East. (He also had a long history of substance abuse problems and reportedly told a friend that “the Devil is chasing me,” but that was less relevant to news outlets’ choice to focus on him.)

Corporate media in the United States have a strong predisposition to identify “terrorism” as politically motivated violence committed by Muslims—even though such crimes are a small percentage of US political violence.”

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How Corporate Media Paved the Way for Trump’s Muslim Ban,” by FAIR:

“President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations justifiably led to much outcry from activists, politicians and foreign leaders. The list—currently struck down by a federal judge in Seattle—was arbitrary, motivated by disjointed racist panic and was reportedly causing deaths worldwide. But while it’s important to lay primary blame for the ban at the feet of the man who signed it, years of Islamophobic coverage in corporate media—right-wing, centrist and “liberal”—laid the propaganda groundwork to get us here. Surveys have found support for Trump’s Muslim ban ranging from 42 to 47 percent. This in line with the 43 percent of Americans willing to admit to having at least some prejudice against Muslims. Trump’s order exploits an irrational fear that media have spent at least 15 years conditioning.

Attention has rightly been paid to the Islamophobia industry—a loose consortium of professional far-right trolls such as Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, Steve EmersonBreitbartInfowars, etc. And while these forces certainly were major factor in creating the Trump-friendly Muslim-fearing climate, it’s important not to lose sight of at least three other media phenomena that also had a major role: 1) the presentation of ‘terrorism’ as a unique, existential threat, arbitrarily defined as applying almost exclusively to Muslim violence, 2) New Atheist liberal bigots and 3) disproportionate news coverage of the ISIS spectacle.

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As FAIR has shown time and again (5/1/114/15/146/22/156/14/16) over the years, media unjustifiably reserve the word ‘terrorism’—and the corollary breathless coverage it entails—overwhelmingly for political violence leveled by Muslims. Indeed, this past week provided one of the starkest examples of this asymmetry: White supremacist Alexandre Bissonnette’s January 30 attack on a Quebec mosque was not generally described as ‘terrorism’ by the press, and despite killing six times more people than the October 2014 attack on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill by Muslim Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, it received only one-sixth as much coverage by US media (FAIR.org2/4/17).

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On his popular HBO show Real Time, Maher has repeatedly railed against Muslim immigration into Europe and the United States. He once declared that ‘civilization begins with civilizing the men; talk to women who’ve ever dated an Arab man. The results are not good.’ Maher has repeatedly downplayed the killing of Palestinians in Gaza, even once comparingHamas to a ‘crazy woman’ whose wrists you could only hold ‘so long before you have to slap her.’

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That the ‘demographic’ threat is demographically groundless is no surprise; a 2016 Pew Research poll showed that people often wildly overestimate how many of their compatriots are Muslims. In France, for example, respondents said they believed 31 percent of the population was Muslim, when the number is actually 7.5 percent. In the United States, people put the number at 17 percent, when the actual figure is less than 1 percent. This distortion of reality is promoted by the ‘demographic threat’ fear that Harris sows.

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Americans’ perception of terrorism is, for the most part, not informed by actual terrorist activity, but rather what we call “meta-terror,” or the fear caused by the coverage of terrorism, unconnected from any actual threat. Meta-terror has five manifestations: 1) the media disseminating ISIS threats in the form of video or audio; 2) reports about speculative terror attacks (e.g., LA Times, ‘A Freeway Terror Attack Is the “Nightmare We Worry About,” Law Enforcers Say,’ 12/21/15); 3) media treating ‘ISIS plots’ manufactured by the FBI as actual ISIS plots, despite the fact that no one in ISIS was actually involved; 4) FBI and DHS ‘terror alerts‘ that never precede any actual attacks; and 5) the whole-cloth creation of fake ISIS stories.

In all five of these categories, it bears repeating, there is no actual act of terrorism. There is simply the specter of a threat, or a Potemkin plot. Taken together, meta-terror inflates the perception of Islamic terrorism, inflaming anti-Muslim prejudice. There is no doubt the so-called Islamic State has killed tens of thousands under its brutal rule. In the lead-up to the war in fall 2014, however, this legitimate threat was consistently magnified wildly out of proportion by US media, especially as it related to the group’s direct threat to the US ‘homeland.’

As FAIR (2/15/15) noted at the time, in the second half of 2014, there was basically no story involving ISIS media wouldn’t publish. Fox News told us ISIS was building training camps in Mexico, ABC News published a scary-as-hell ‘ISIS caliphate map‘ that was lifted from a neo-Nazi website, a fake storyabout ISIS imposing female genital mutilation, an even faker story about a $425 million bank robbery in Mosul, a church burning that never took place—none true, but all reported as such by mainstream outlets. Again, while ISIS’s crimes are not in doubt, the rush to exaggerate and fabricate the scope of its horrors inflated the threat to an apocalyptic fervor.

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The inflated terror threat didn’t stop there. As FAIR has documented repeatedly (4/1/15), FBI-contrived terror plots (ones where the FBI is the primary mover—buying materials, making plans, etc.) are frequently reported by the media simply as ‘ISIS plots.’ For example, when former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell went on CBS This Morning in June 2015, referencing this map as evidence of recently unraveled ISIS plots, he omitted that every single one of these was created with the assistance of the FBI, and none ever posed any actual threat. … Another notable such case was an ‘ISIS nuclear plot’ in 2015 that never actually involved either ISIS or nuclear weapons (FAIR.org10/9/15)—but one would hardly know this, reading or watching US media.”

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Here is “Ways of Living With ‘Alternative Facts’: An Anecdote,” by Richard Falk — Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice and Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University; former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine; former professor at the Universities of Harvard and Ohio State; and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

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Universalism and Particularism” in Russian intellectual dialogue, by Paul Robinson — professor of Russian and military history at the University of Ottawa.

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De-Anonymizing Browser History Using Social-Network Data“:

“Can online trackers and network adversaries de-anonymize web browsing data readily available to them? We show — theoretically, via simulation, and through experiments on real user data — that de-identified web browsing histories can\ be linked to social media profiles using only publicly available data. Our approach is based on a simple observation: each person has a distinctive social network, and thus the set of links appearing in one’s feed is unique. … We evaluate this strategy on simulated browsing histories, and show that given a history with 30 links originating from Twitter, we can deduce the corresponding Twitter profile more than 50% of the time. To gauge the real-world effectiveness of this approach, we recruited nearly 400 people to donate their web browsing histories, and we were able to correctly identify more than 70% of them. We further show that several online trackers are embedded on sufficiently many websites to carry out this attack with high accuracy.”

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Click Here to Kill Everyone: With the Internet of Things, we’re building a world-size robot. How are we going to control it?,” by Bruce Schneier — fellow at Harvard University; board member of The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Here is the most recent blog post from George Washington University’s National Security Archive blog, Unredacted.

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State Department Intelligence and Research Predicted 1973 Arab-Israeli War,” by George Washington University’s National Security Archive.

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Federation of American Scientists: “The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has modified its classification policies in favor of heightened secrecy, withholding budget records that were previously considered releasable and redesignating certain unclassified budget information as classified. NRO is the U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates the nation’s intelligence satellites. Since 2006, and for most of the past decade, the NRO has released unclassified portions of its budget justification documents in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. But in a January 23, 2017 letter, the NRO said it would no longer release that unclassified budget information, which it now deems classified.”

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Yale University: “Poachers killed more tigers in the forests of India in 2016 than any year in the last 15. The spike is linked to demand for tiger parts in China, where the endangered animal’s bones and skins are regarded as exotic luxury items.”

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Yale University: “When a place is designated a Natural World Heritage Site, it is a recognition that it has “outstanding universal value” and must be protected. But a new study shows many of these sites are being severely damaged by human activity and are deteriorating rapidly.”

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Trump Justice Department delivers CIA ‘Torture Report’ to federal court,” by Miami Herald:

“The Trump administration said on Friday it delivered to a federal court vault in Washington, D.C., a Justice Department copy of the so-called Senate Torture Report on the CIA’s secret prison network during the George W. Bush administration. The Obama administration had balked at turning over a copy to any court. But Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler, who joined the Justice Department on Jan. 30 from the Jones Day firm, notified the court that ‘the government deposited for the Court Information Security Officers (CISOs) for secure storage a complete and unredacted electronic copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.'”

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The Moscow Times: “The new laws require mobile operators to store customers’ messages, including photos and videos, for six months. Metadata, such as information on the time and date a message was sent, must be kept for three years. Companies will also face a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($15,700) for not decoding users’ data at the request of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The law comes into force on July 1, 2018. Russia’s top communication companies say the cost of building data storage facilities capable of hosting the information could be as much as 2.2 trillion rubles ($33.8 billion).”

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Our Articles on the Attacks Trump Says the Media Didn’t Cover,” by the New York Times:

“The White House has issued a list of 78 terrorist attacks, saying most were underreported. The Trump administration, under fire for immigration restrictions and other policies it says are designed to curb terrorism, has portrayed the news media and other institutions as playing down the threat. But the list, which was released on Monday night and details episodes from September 2014 to December 2016, includes dozens of attacks that were covered heavily in the news media, including by The New York Times. (Examples are included in the list below.) Just as striking was what the list excluded: attacks targeting Muslims, who make up the overwhelming majority of victims of Islamist terrorism.

[…]

Prominent attacks carried out by non-Muslims are also conspicuously omitted. In June 2015, Dylann S. Roof opened fire in a predominantly black church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine. That November, three people were shot to death at a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs. Robert L. Dear Jr., describing himself as a “warrior for the babies,” acknowledged that he had carried out the attack, but he was later declared mentally unfit to stand trial. Right-wing violence has been rising in the United States, according to a recent report by the New America Foundation, and has in some years claimed more lives than Islamist attacks in the country. The White House’s list, by focusing on a significant but narrow slice of terrorism, feeds into perceptions that the administration is seeking to target Muslims with other policies, particularly its immigration restrictions against predominantly Muslim countries.

Here [within the article linked-to above] is the list from the White House, along with our references to news coverage. Some names from the list have been edited to correct spelling.”

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