Posted on | July 6, 2013 | 92 Comments
Oct. 8, 2012: Russia’s EMERCOM Minister Vladimir Puchkov (left)
and U.S. Deputy Administrator for National Preparedness and Protection,
Timothy Manning, sign the protocol of a bilateral meeting in Vladivostok, Russia.
Have FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security signed a deal that would permit as many as 15,000 Russian troops to be deployed in the United States to deal with an unspecified emergency?
This was not a question that I expected to be researching when I woke up today and decided to get back in the groove as Editor in Chief at ViralRead after the Fourth of July holiday. But then I checked the site stats and found that the top story and the top referrer were these items:
Obama’s DHS Requests 15,000 Russian Troops
— Lisa Jennings, ViralRead
What’s With The 15,000 Russian
Troops Requested By DHS?
— The Lonely Conservative
Well, well — what’s up with that, indeed? The most obvious explanations would seem to be either:
• One of our writers has bought into a fringe conspiracy theory;
• It’s time to start stockpiling ammo and freeze-dried food, before the black helicopters show up to take us to FEMA camps.
This required me to do some research, because if either of these explanations is true, there’s a problem. The credibility of ViralRead could be jeopardized if there’s nothing to a story like this, but if there is something to the story, why isn’t it being covered by mainstream news organizations? And, after doing some research, I found out that this is exactly the problem: While I cannot say for sure you shouldn’t be stockpiling ammo, neither can I cite any official source on the content of these U.S.-Russia emergency agreements, and the regular media don’t seem to have paid any attention at all to these agreements.
Let’s start with what we can learn from official sources, which frankly isn’t much. From the FEMA site, Oct. 25, 2012:
Deputy Administrator leads U.S. delegation
to annual meeting with Russia
By Jess Bratton, International Affairs Division
FEMA’s Deputy Administrator led an interagency delegation to Vladivostok, Russia, for the third annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Working Group on Emergency Situations and the 16th annual meeting of the Joint U.S.-Russia Committee on Cooperation in Emergency Management, Oct. 8.
Presentations were made by members of both delegations on subjects including cooperation in the forecasting and monitoring of natural hazards, the production of a Russian documentary on volunteer firefighting in the United States, exchanges and cooperation between institutions of higher education preparing students for careers in Emergency Management, and the provision of psychological support to disaster survivors.
The meetings concluded with Deputy Administrator Manning and EMERCOM Minister Vladimir Puchkov formally signing a protocol of the meeting and adopting the 2012-2014 joint work plan that detailed plans for conducting a host of cooperative activities and exchanges.
FEMA led delegation participated in the sixth meeting of the Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum hosted by EMERCOM of Russia and was attended by delegations of the 21 member economies and other international organizations, Oct. 9-10. The forum concluded with an agreement to explore mechanisms for enhanced exchange of information among the emergency managers for the member economies; collaboration on monitoring and forecasting of natural hazards; strengthening the resiliency of supply chains in the region; promoting business continuity of operations; and disaster risk reduction in the Asia-Pacific region.
Thanks for that vague and bland report, Jess Bratton. (Question: What is Jess Bratton’s salary? What sort of educational requirements are necessary to get a job cranking out dull press releases like this for the FEMA Web site?) The problem here is that we have Jess Bratton’s report summarizing this Vladivostok meeting, including the news off Manning and Puchkov “formally signing a protocol,” but we do not have the text of the actually protocol itself.
Hey, Jess Bratton: Do you know how to upload a PDF document? Or is that kind of stuff above your pay-grade?
We might call this “pseudo-transparency”: The U.S.-Russia emergency preparedness meetings are not secret, but neither does the administration go out of its way to make widely available to the public the official business transacted therein. We get a bland press-release summary, but we don’t get the official document, and this not-exactly-transparent process provides the basis of suspicion.
Next official source is a press release by the Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters, June 26, 2013:
Several documents signed during joint work
of Russian Emergency Ministry and FEMA
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry and the USA Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are going to exchange experts during joint rescue operations in major disasters. This is provided by a protocol of the fourth meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Working Group on Emergency Situations and seventeenth meeting of Joint U.S.-Russia Cooperation Committee on Emergency Situations, which took place in Washington on 25 June.
The document provides for expert cooperation in disaster response operations and to study the latest practices.
In addition, the parties approved of U.S.-Russian cooperation in this field in 2013-2014, which envisages exchange of experience including in monitoring and forecasting emergency situations, training of rescuers, development of mine-rescuing and provision of security at mass events.
At the end of the meeting the parties expressed their satisfaction with the level of cooperation between the Russian Federation and the United States in the area of emergency prevention and response and agreed to develop it in order to respond efficiently to all kinds of disasters.
Here, so far as I can tell, the “official sources” trail goes cold, because apparently Jess Bratton was on vacation or something and the FEMA Web site doesn’t say a word about this meeting. Go search their site.
From the Russian source, we have news of yet another “protocol” agreement that involves “exchang[ing] experts during joint rescue operations in major disasters” and “U.S.-Russian cooperation . . . in 2013-2014” to include “provision of security at mass events.”
Not a word in there about 15,000 Russian troops, though.
Where did that come from? So far as I can tell (and this is linked in Lisa Jennings’ ViralRead article) the earliest mention of this is at a site called the European Union Times on June 27:
An unsettling report prepared by the Emergencies Ministry (EMERCOM) circulating in the Kremlin today on the just completed talks between Russia and the United States in Washington D.C. says that the Obama regime has requested at least 15,000 Russian troops trained in disaster relief and “crowd functions” [i.e. riot control] be pre-positioned to respond to FEMA Region III during an unspecified “upcoming” disaster.
According to this report, this unprecedented request was made directly to Minister Vladimir Puchkov by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Director Janet Napolitano who said these Russian troops would work “directly and jointly” with her Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of whose mission is to secure the continuity of the US government in the event of natural disasters or war. . . .
That article is bullshit, so far as I can tell. It links to a seemingly legitimate Russian news site’s report about the U.S.-Russian meeting, but that article says nothing at all about a report “circulating in the Kremlin” or Janet Napolitano requesting 15,000 Russian troops. The EU Times (bullshit) article also says this:
FEMA Region III, the area Russian troops are being requested for, includes Washington D.C. and the surrounding States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, “strongly suggesting” that the Obama regime has lost confidence in its own military being able to secure its survival should it be called upon to do so.
We have zero official sources for this, and good luck finding any mainstream news organization — Associated Press, Washington Post, Reuters, etc. — that has even taken notice of the June 25 U.S.-Russian meeting which (a) we know actually happened, based on a statement from the Russian agency, but which (b) apparently wasn’t considered important enough to merit a press release from FEMA.
By the way, how can I be so sure this EU Times story is bullshit? Because if you keep reading, it goes off into a bunch of paranoid stuff about Edward Snowden and Michael Hastings, a problem that I tried to warn people about weeks ago (see “Hope, Fear and Michael Hastings,” The American Spectator, June 21).
You’ve got emotionally disturbed hysterics like Glenn Greenwald deliberately stoking the flames beneath a boiling cauldron of paranoia — and being treated like serious journalists for so doing — yet it is impossible to say that any particular far-fetched fear is unfounded, because what we were promised would be “the most transparent administration in history” is in fact so opaque that everything they do looks like a conspiratorial cover-up.
(Incidentally, the White House press office still has not replied to my requests for information about the Benghazi attack.)
Fear and Loathing have become so pervasive, as I noted last week, that some people are starting to take Barrett Brown seriously. In this kind of paranoid environment, it becomes difficult for people to distinguish real threats from imaginary dangers. If a Web site says Janet Napolitano has requested 15,000 Russian troops to defend the D.C. region because “the Obama regime has lost confidence in its own military being able to secure its survival” — well, yeah, it sounds crazy, but how do we know it’s not actually true? Crazier things happen every day in the Obama Age.
Look, let me connect the dots here: Serious people in the world of national security suspect that the whole Benghazi charade — Susan Rice and the YouTube video cover story — was intended to conceal the ugly truth about what the U.S. did to help overthrow Gaddhafi.
There are reasons to believe that the State Department set up its own independent operation to provide U.S. arms to Libyan “rebels,” some of whom turned out to be al-Qaeda-connected Islamic extremists. It is suspected that the CIA was operating out of the Benghazi consulate in an effort either to get these weapons back, or else “neutralize” the jihadis whom the U.S. had armed. Basically, the CIA was trying to help the State Department cover its ass, and instead the terrorists decided to strike first — a knockout blow against the U.S. presence in Benghazi, crippling the attempt to disarm the “rebels.”
A lot of that is conjecture, but as I say, there are Serious People who suspect this is the true story behind the Benghazi attack and subsequent cover-up, which is otherwise utterly inexplicable. When you have an administration as shady as this one, it is not at all surprising to find that paranoia flourishes. Meanwhile . . .
Wherever the tale of Janet Napolitano and the 15,000 Russian soldiers originated, it soon started circulating around the Internet and by July 1 showed up at Alex Jones’ InfoWars site with the headline, “Russian Forces to Provide ‘Security’ At US Events.” That article didn’t mention the 15,000 number, but it apparently caused enough of a stir that FEMA actually was forced to deny it:
The top US emergency response agency moved to quell a flurry of Internet-driven speculation this week that Russian security teams could be deployed at large public events in the United States, saying the two countries will not swap security guards or soldiers under a long-running partnership agreement.
There will be “no exchange of security or military personnel” under a recently renewed partnership between the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry, a FEMA spokesman told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
“The agreement continues information-sharing meetings and observation opportunities with first responders and emergency managers,” the spokesman said.
OK, so now you have an official FEMA denial, which might soothe your fears if (a) FEMA would publish the “protocols” they signed with their Russian counterparts, and (b) it weren’t for the fact that this administration constantly lies about everything.
Looking at Lisa Jennings’ article at ViralRead now, obviously it needs an update to clarify the facts, but that’s OK. There are ways to report a story like that — where the accuracy is unknown and the sources are dubious — with the appropriate skepticism. And I’ve reached out to a source on Capitol Hill to see if I can find out exactly what Congress knows about FEMA’s deal with the Russians.
This story does indeed raise serious questions: Why has FEMA allowed this practice of “pseudo-transparency” to continue to the point that it becomes necessary for the agency to officially deny Internet rumors like this? Is there any reason why FEMA could not have published the text of its protocol agreements with Russia? And if these protocols could have been published, why weren’t they? Why did it take more than two weeks after the Vladivostok meeting last October for FEMA to publish a press release about it? And why has FEMA still not published anything on its Web site about its June 25 meeting with the Russians in Washington?
If they say “sequester,” I’m gonna punch somebody in the face.
Because I’ve just spent four hours today chasing down this crazy story, and I still haven’t heard back about Benghazi, assholes.