Bonus Ep. 31: DNC Leaks (Not Hacks)

Preview of episode 31 (a bonus episode for our patrons), part 1 of a series of bonus episodes on the alleged “Russian hack” of the 2016 presidential election.

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Recorded on August 20, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Ep. 30 Washington Babylon feat. Ken Silverstein

Dan and Joanne talk with American author and investigative journalist Ken Silverstein about power and influence peddling in Washington and the role of think tanks, NGOs and the media.

Ken is a DC-based investigative journalist,  and creator of He is a contributing writer to VICE and columnist for the New York Observer. His stated goal for Washington Babylon was “to cover DC politicians and journalists like Hollywood celebrities —  not the way they are worshiped by our current media masters.” He also wrote for Harpers Magazine, AP and LA Times.

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Recorded on August 11, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Ep. 29 Report From Baghdad on Iraq & Syria feat. Elijah Magnier

We talk with Elijah Magnier, chief international war correspondent for Al Rai media, reporting from Baghdad on current situation in Iraq and Syria.  

Elijah has covered wars in Lebanon, the Balkans, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, and Syria.  Beyond reporting on wars from the ground, Mr. Magnier also offers expert analysis on terrorism and terrorist organizations. He spoke to us from Baghdad.

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Recorded on August 4, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Ep. 28 War & Peace With North Korea feat. Tim Shorrock

Dan and Joanne interview Tim Shorrock, an author, investigative journalist and commentator on US foreign policy, national security and intelligence, and East Asian politics.

Tim grew up in Japan and Korea and was recently in South Korea for an extended visit. He’s the author of the popular book “Spies for Hire”. You can find Tim’s work at The Nation, Newstapa/Korea Center for Investigative Reporting, and many other media outlets and also at his website

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Recorded on August 1, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

War In Afghanistan Driving U.S. Opioid Crisis

By now, most Americans should be aware that the country is in the middle of a serious opioid addiction crisis. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, two thirds of which are from opioid overdoses.

While approximately half the opioid overdose deaths are from prescription drugs, heroin use has also dramatically increased. A study from Columbia University found that heroin use among American adults has increased almost fivefold in the last decade.

Source: Center for Disease Control (CDC)

The relationship between prescription drug abuse and heroin use is key to understanding the crisis. Often after getting addicted to a prescription opioid like OxyContin or Vicodin, a now-addict is cut off by a physician from legally obtaining an opioid drug. That person then moves to heroin, which is readily available on the black market and in high-quality form.

And where is all this high-quality heroin coming from? Afghanistan.

Since the U.S. invasion in 2001, opium production in Afghanistan has spiked – paralleling the spike in opioid use in the United States.

According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, opium production has massively increased since 2001, hitting higher levels in 2016 from 2015.

Source: UNODC, opium surveys 1994-2016.

This increased production has led to the U.S. (and other places) being flooded with cheap and very potent heroin.

Given the scale of the opium production in Afghanistan, it would be absurd to claim the U.S. government is somehow unaware of the activity. In fact, all available evidence suggests U.S. forces are tolerating the thriving opium trade in exchange for loyalty from Afghan political leaders – a process that, at one time at least, went all the way up to the president.

After the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the U.S. installed Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan. The president’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, became one of the biggest opium dealers in Afghanistan to such a degree that U.S. officials felt the need to continually lobby President Karzai to get his brother under control or exile him.

As The New York Times reported in 2008:

The White House says it believes that Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking, and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability, two senior Bush administration officials said in interviews last week.

Numerous reports link Ahmed Wali Karzai to the drug trade, according to current and former officials from the White House, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Afghanistan, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. In meetings with President Karzai, including a 2006 session with the United States ambassador, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief and their British counterparts, American officials have talked about the allegations in hopes that the president might move his brother out of the country, said several people who took part in or were briefed on the talks.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was assassinated in 2011, but the president’s family were hardly the only ones in the Afghan ruling class getting a taste of the profits from one of the country’s biggest exports.

Nor is this the first time the U.S. empire has tolerated opium dealing among its allies. As noted in the seminal work by Alfred McCoy The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, U.S. intelligence agencies collaborated with major opium dealers in Laos and throughout Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s in exchange for political support against “the spread of communism.”

A similar deal was made by the Reagan Administration in the 1980s with cocaine dealers in Central and South America. The CIA helped facilitate the importation of cocaine into Los Angeles by an anti-communist group known as the Contras (at the beginning of what would become the crack epidemic) in order to assist the Contras in their war against the socialist government of Nicaragua.

While there is a realpolitik argument for making alliances with drug dealers to achieve larger geopolitical goals, it does fundamentally undermine the moral preening associated with the so-called U.S. “War on Drugs.”

But if the U.S. government really wants to curtail the opioid crisis, it has at least one clear and obvious action it can take – stop the war in Afghanistan.

Ep. 27 (BONUS): Russia Hysteria

Listen to or download Episode 27 at Patreon.

Dan and Joanne discuss Dan and Joanne talk about the hysteria around Russia and Vladimir Putin in western media which is not calming down and instead is getting progressively worse.

Episode 27 is a bonus episode for our patrons. Thank you! You can gain access to all of our content by becoming a patron.

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Recorded on July 21, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Armed Drone Tech Moving To Urban Combat And Law Enforcement

No military technology has defined the “Global War on Terror” more than unmanned aerial vehicles, referred to commonly as drones. Initially used just for aerial surveillance, drones have become a central player in counter-terrorism strategy and morphed from vehicles for supporting intelligence collection to lead-role killing machines.

The next iteration may be even more troubling as drones are moving from being strictly instruments of war to tools for domestic law enforcement.

Drones first saw major combat with the 2001 U.S. war in Afghanistan. The first confirmed use of a drone for a targeted killing attack was in February 2002, when a CIA operated Predator drone shot a Hellfire missile in Paktia province in Afghanistan at what was supposed to be Osama Bin Laden.

The missile hit its target, but, in what would soon become a common occurrence, the target itself had been misidentified. Instead of killing a high-value enemy of the United States, innocent civilians were blown away. In this case, local Afghans collecting scrap metal.

Since 2002, the drone targeted killing program has expanded to numerous countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The amount of people killed so far under the program runs in the thousands.

The American government has already admitted that at least four Americans have been killed by a U.S. drone strike, with one, Anwar Al-Awlaki, being intentionally targeted for assassination. The then-Obama Administration’s legal memo justifying the killing of Al-Awlaki was released after a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU argues the memo shows that “the government claims broad authority to kill American terrorism suspects without judicial process or geographic limitation.”

As U.S. law has been rewritten (or, more accurately, reinterpreted) to allow unrestricted drone killings, drone technological advancement has continued flying forward. Now, a new generation of drones are being offered based not on targeted strikes in (theoretically) remote and loosely populated areas, but urban warfare and pacification.

Among this new wave is the TIKAD drone offered by Duke Robotics based in Florida, a company co-founded by a former colonel in the Israeli special forces. The TIKAD is a small multi-rotor remote controlled drone designed for urban combat that can be equipped with armaments such as a machine gun or grenade launcher.

According to Defense One, Duke Robotics has already secured a a contract with the Israeli military to buy TIKAD drones and is also pursuing U.S. contracts.

Israel is a central hub in U.S. defense technology development. One of the leaked U.S. State Department cables published by Wikileaks shows that the U.S. considers Rafael Advanced Systems in Haifa, Israel to be part of the “critical infrastructure and key resources” needed to maintain U.S. security. If the TIKAD proves itself in Israel and the occupied territories, expect the U.S. to make its own much larger purchases.

And there’s every reason to believe that the drone will prove to be useful as a Duke Robotics drone has been used in at least one improvised combat scenario already. From Defense One again:

In 2015, Israeli Special Forces took out a target with a sniper rifle mounted on an off-the-shelf consumer drone supplied by Duke Robotics.

A similar improvised killing was performed by the Dallas police department in July of 2016, when they rigged a bomb to a Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros F5 robot and killed a man who was suspected of shooting multiple police officers. This is believed to be the first intentional use of a robot by a government agency to kill an American citizen on American soil.

But now we are moving past improvised uses of military drone tech to systemic ones. The TIKAD joins other next generation drone and robot tech that will be used for urban combat situations – by they military or law enforcement related.

The law enforcement market can be just as lucrative as the defense market. In fact, thanks to the 1033 program that allows local and state law enforcement-agencies to request military equipment from the Pentagon, those markets are increasingly overlapping.

The 1033 program gained some national attention when protesters in Ferguson, Missouri were met with military grade urban warfare equipment by local police.

Police are already using drones to chase down suspects, how long before those drones are authorized to kill suspects? Given the drones are (for the time being) under human control, it could be argued there’s no fundamental difference between a police officer pushing a button and pulling a trigger to neutralize someone categorized as an imminent threat to public safety.

These questions, once considered science fiction, are now science fact. These are not theoretical weapons, they are operational and in the process of being distributed.

Killer drones are coming home.

Ep. 26 Torture in the American Empire feat. Jeffrey Kaye

Dan and Joanne interview retired psychologist and writer Jeffrey Kaye about the history of torture in the American empire and the latest news of black sites and outsourced torture in Yemen.

Jeff is a retired psychologist and a writer, specializing on the topics of torture, national security, civil rights. He has done some major collaborative investigatory work (some co-written with Jason Leopold) that have been published at Firedoglake, Truthout, and The Public Record.

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Recorded on June 27, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Ep. 25 (BONUS): Russiagate or Intelgate?

Listen to or download Episode 25 at Patreon.

Dan and Joanne discuss Russiagate and analyze Stephen Cohen’s and Oliver Stone’s recent comments about how the intelligence “assessment” was contrived. Both Cohen and Stone spoke strongly on the subject, turning the tables, citing three main figures in the Obama administration’s national security state. Is Russiagate the real scandal rivaling Watergate? Or is it Intelgate?

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Recorded on June 23, 2017. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Podcast Episode 24: What is the Antiwar Right? feat. Angela Keaton

Originally published on June 21, 2017.

In Around the Empire Episode 24, Dan and Joanne talk with Angela Keaton, executive director of Antiwar.comabout libertarian and right-wing opposition to war and about areas of common ground with the antiwar Left where alliances or coalitions might be formed.

Angela is a second generation libertarian, a writer, legal researcher, and the Executive Director of She has worked in news and public affairs broadcasting since 1999 and she has served on the Libertarian National Committee. Her work is focused on a long term goal of ending militarism, war and torture.

Follow Angela on Twitter @Antiwar2.

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Podcast Episode 23: High-Level Leaks, Soft Coup, and Conspiracy feat. Philip Giraldi

Originally published on June 14, 2017.

In episode 23 of Around The Empire, Dan and Joanne talk with Phil Giraldi about his recent article, “Do High-Level Leaks Suggest a Conspiracy?” Former intelligence officers are questioning whether leaks and other events signal an ongoing soft coup based in the national security establishment.

Phil Giraldi is a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer of the CIA. Giraldi is a columnist at The American Conservative and He is also a commentator on mainstream and independent media. He is a consultant, the Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, and he is a member of a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Phil’s article: “Do High-Level Leaks Suggest a Conspiracy?

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Podcast Episode 22: Shadow Wars and the Manchester Bombing feat. Christopher Davidson

Originally published June 7, 2017.

Dan and Joanne speak with author and scholar Dr. Christopher Davidson about manipulation of the Middle East by Western powers, the use of extremist groups as a strategic asset, the strife and extremism that has resulted. We also focus on the recent attack in Manchester by a man who fought with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which helped overthrow Gaddafi.

Dr. Christopher Davidson is a scholar and expert in Middle East politics who teaches at Durham University in northern England. He is the author of numerous books including his latest: “Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East,” based on four years of archival work and interviews with former intelligence officials.

Follow Dr. Davison on Twitter @Dr_Davidson

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Podcast Episode 21: Impeach Trump, Get President Pence? Hell No feat. Doug Henwood

Originally published on May 24, 2017.

On this episode of Around The Empire, Dan and Joanne talk with Doug Henwood about the anti-Trump faction’s endgame, the force applied by the unelected permanent government and about the prospect of a President Pence (a “horror”) and Republican-controlled Congress implementing the Republican dream in short order.

Doug Henwood is an American journalist, economic analyst, and financial trader who writes frequently about economic affairs. He publishes a newsletter, “Left Business Observer” and he hosts “Behind the News” a weekly radio show covering economics and politics.”

Follow Doug on Twitter @DougHenwood

Doug’s recent article “The post-Trump Era?”

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Podcast Episode 20 (bonus): Comeypocalypse

Originally published on May 15, 2017 for our patrons. You can get our bonus material by becoming a patron of Around the Empire.

In Episode 20, a bonus episode for our excellent patrons (thank you!), Dan and Joanne talk with about the firing of FBI director, James Comey and the immediate aftermath.
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Recorded on 5/12/17. Music by Fluorescent Grey.

Podcast Episode 19: Deep State Sells Out American Counterterrorism Interests feat. Gareth Porter

Originally published on May 9, 2017.

In Episode 19, Dan and Joanne talk with Gareth Porter about how US national security bureaucracies or the “Deep State” sell-out American counterterrorism interests by conducting policy and operations that serve their own and their allies’ interests. The result is that they strengthen and fuel the rise of extremist groups like al Qaeda.

Gareth Porter is an American historian, investigative journalist and policy analyst specializing in the national security state. He is the author of several books including: “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.” His work has been published in distinguished media for decades, and he was the 2012 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. He is also working on a new book on the same subject as his recent article.

Follow Gareth on Twitter at @GarethPorter.

Gareth’s recent article “US ‘deep state’ sold out counter-terrorism to keep itself in business”

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