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Security troops on US nuclear missile base took LSD

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*************************Above:  Link to SLIDESHARE VIDEO  ********************** ***************************************************************************************


By Robert Burns, Associated Press |

WASHINGTON (AP)One airman said he felt paranoia. Another marveled at the vibrant colors. A third admitted, “I absolutely just loved altering my mind.”

Meet service members entrusted with guarding nuclear missiles that are among the most powerful in America’s arsenal. Air Force records obtained by The Associated Press show they bought, distributed and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure military base in Wyoming. After investigators closed in, one airman deserted to Mexico.

“Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn’t,” said Capt. Charles Grimsley, the lead prosecutor of one of several courts martial.

A slipup on social media by one airman enabled investigators to crack the drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in March 2016, details of which are reported here for the first time. Fourteen airmen were disciplined. Six of them were convicted in courts martial of LSD use or distribution or both.

None of the airmen was accused of using drugs on duty. Yet it’s another blow to the reputation of the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps, which is capable of unleashing hell in the form of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. The corps has struggled at times with misbehavior, mismanagement and low morale.

Although seen by some as a backwater of the U.S. military, the missile force has returned to the spotlight as President Donald Trump has called for strengthening U.S. nuclear firepower and exchanged threats last year with North Korea. The administration’s nuclear strategy calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending in coming decades.

The service members accused of involvement in the LSD ring were from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand “on alert” 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains.

Documents obtained by the AP over the past two years through the Freedom of Information Act tell a sordid tale of off-duty use of LSD, cocaine and other drugs in 2015 and 2016 by airmen who were supposed to be held to strict behavioral standards because of their role in securing the weapons.

“It’s another black eye for the Air Force — for the ICBM force in particular,” says Stephen Schwartz, an independent consultant and nuclear expert.

In response to AP inquiries, an Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, said the drug activity took place during off-duty hours. “There are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely and effectively,” he said.

Airman 1st Class Tommy N. Ashworth was among those who used LSD supplied by colleagues with connections to civilian drug dealers.

“I felt paranoia, panic” for hours after taking a hit of acid, Ashworth said under oath at his court martial. He confessed to using LSD three times while off duty. The first time, in the summer of 2015, shook him up. “I didn’t know if I was going to die that night or not,” he said as a witness at another airman’s drug trial. Recalling another episode with LSD, he said it felt “almost as if I was going to have like a heart attack or a heat stroke.”

Airman Basic Kyle S. Morrison acknowledged at his court martial that under the influence of LSD he could not have responded if recalled to duty in a nuclear security emergency.

In prosecuting the cases at F.E. Warren, the Air Force asserted that LSD users can experience “profound effects” from even small amounts. It said common psychological effects include “paranoia, fear and panic, unwanted and overwhelming feelings, unwanted life-changing spiritual experiences, and flashbacks.”

It’s unclear how long before being on duty any of the airmen had taken LSD, which stands for lysergic acid diethylamide. The drug became popularized as “acid” in the 1960s, and views since then have been widely split on its mental health risks. Although illegal in the U.S., it had been showing up so infrequently in drug tests across the military that in December 2006 the Pentagon eliminated LSD screening from standard drug-testing procedures. An internal Pentagon memo at the time said that over the previous three years only four positive specimens had been identified in 2.1 million specimens screened for LSD.

Yet Air Force investigators found those implicated in the F.E. Warren drug ring used LSD on base and off, at least twice at outdoor gatherings. Some also snorted cocaine and used ecstasy. Civilians joined them in the LSD use, including some who had recently left Air Force service, according to two officials with knowledge of the investigation. The Air Force declined to discuss this.

Airman 1st Class Nickolos A. Harris, said to be the leader of the drug ring, testified that he had no trouble getting LSD and other drugs from civilian sources. He pleaded guilty to using and distributing LSD and using ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana.

He acknowledged using LSD eight times and distributing LSD multiple times to fellow airmen at parties in Denver and other locations from spring 2015 to early 2016.

“I absolutely just loved altering my mind,” he told the military judge, blaming his decisions to use hallucinogens and other drugs on his addictive personality.

Other airmen testified that it was easy to obtain LSD in a liquid form spread on small tabs of perforated white paper. Airmen ingested at least one tab by placing it on their tongue. In one episode summarized by a military judge at Harris’ court martial, he and other airmen watched YouTube videos and “then went longboarding on the streets of Denver while high on LSD.”

Harris was sentenced to 12 months in jail and other penalties, but under a pretrial agreement he avoided a punitive discharge. The lead prosecutor in that case, Air Force Capt. C. Rhodes Berry, had argued Harris should be locked up for 42 months, including nine months for the “aggravating circumstance” of undercutting public trust by using hallucinogens and other drugs on a nuclear weapons base.

“I cannot think of anything more aggravating than being the ringleader of a drug ring on F.E. Warren Air Force Base,” Berry said at the courts martial.

In all, the AP obtained transcripts of seven courts martial proceedings, plus related documents. They provide vivid descriptions of LSD trips.

“I’m dying!” one airman is quoted as exclaiming, followed by “When is this going to end?” during a “bad trip” on LSD in February 2016 at Curt Gowdy State Park, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Cheyenne, where F.E. Warren is located. A portion of that episode was video-recorded by one member of the group; a transcript of the audio was included in court records.

Others said they enjoyed the drug.

“Minutes felt like hours, colors seemed more vibrant and clear,” Morrison testified. “In general, I felt more alive.” He said he had used LSD in high school, which could have disqualified him from Air Force service; he said that his recruiter told him he should lie about it and that lying about prior drug use was “normal” in the Air Force.

At his court martial, Morrison acknowledged distributing LSD on the missile base in February 2016. A month later, when summoned for questioning by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Morrison confessed and became an informant for the agency, an arrangement the Air Force said yielded legally admissible evidence against 10 other airmen. Under a pretrial agreement, he agreed to testify against other airmen and avoided a punitive discharge. He was sentenced to five months’ confinement, 15 days of hard labor and loss of $5,200 in pay.

Most of the airmen involved were members of two related security units at F.E. Warren — the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron and the 90th Security Forces Squadron. Together, they are responsible for the security and defense of the nuclear weapons there as well as the missile complex.

By coincidence, the No. 2 Pentagon official at the time, Robert Work, visited F.E. Warren one month before the drug investigation became public. Accompanied by an AP reporter, he watched as airmen of the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron — whose members at the time included Harris, the accused leader of the drug ring — demonstrated how they would force their way into and regain control of a captured missile silo.

Work, the deputy defense secretary, was there to assess progress in fixing problems in the ICBM force identified by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who ordered an investigation after the AP reported on personnel, resource, training and leadership problems in 2013-14. Those problems included the firing of the general in charge of the entire ICBM force for inappropriate behavior the Air Force said was linked to alcohol abuse. A month later the AP revealed that an unpublished study prepared for the Air Force found “burnout” among nuclear missile launch officers and evidence of broader behavioral problems, including sexual assaults and domestic violence. Air Force officials say the force has since rebounded.

In an interview, Work said he was not aware during his visit that anything was amiss. Nor was he briefed later on the investigation. He said he wouldn’t have expected to be briefed unless the Air Force found that LSD or other illegal drugs were a “systemic problem” for the nuclear force, beyond the security forces group at F.E. Warren.

Work said he had never heard of LSD use anywhere in the nuclear workforce.

For the inexperienced members of the drug ring, Harris, the ringleader, had set out several “rules” for LSD use at a gathering of several airmen in a Cheyenne apartment in late 2015 that was recorded on video. Rule No. 1: “No social media at all.” He added: “No bad trips. Everybody’s happy right now. Let’s keep it that way.”

But social media proved their undoing. In March 2016, one member posted a Snapchat video of himself smoking marijuana, setting Air Force investigators on their trail.

As the investigators closed in, one of the accused, Airman 1st Class Devin R. Hagarty, grabbed a backpack and cash, text-messaged his mother that he loved her, turned off his cellphone and fled to Mexico. “I started panicking,” he told a military judge after giving himself up and being charged with desertion.

The Air Force said Hagarty was the first convicted deserter from an ICBM base since January 2013. In court, he admitted using LSD four times in 2015-16 and distributing it once, and he said he had deserted with the intention of never returning. He also admitted to using cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana multiple times. He was sentenced to 13 months in a military jail.

In all, disciplinary action was taken against 14 airmen. In addition, two accused airmen were acquitted at courts martial, and three other suspects were not charged.

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Facebook announces latest step in censorship campaign, prioritizing “local news”

by Will Morrow (WSWS repost)
Tuesday Feb 6th, 2018 9:09 AM

Facebook’s latest step aimed at censoring online information.

6 February 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced January 29 that the social media platform will prioritize news from “local sources” in the News Feed displayed to users. The announcement is the third in a creeping roll-out of updates announced by Facebook since the start of the year aimed at censoring online information.

On January 12, Facebook reported that it would deprioritize news and political content—that is, display them less often…

—in favor of “personal moments.” One week later, Zuckerberg announced that of the news articles that are shown to users, the News Feed will prioritize those published by what it called “trustworthy” sources, meaning pro-establishment outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Zuckerberg’s post announcing the most recent change made little effort to conceal its political motivation. It would serve to “turn down the temperature on the more divisive issues and instead focus on concrete local issues,” he wrote, so that the population can “all make progress together.”

Presumably this means more information about school bake sales and sporting events, and less about the Trump administration, the global crisis of capitalism, and the growing danger of world war.

Zuckerberg apparently regrets the great technological advance that created the “World Wide Web” and made it possible for people on every continent to communicate with each other rapidly and without corporate and government censors controlling what they say. He prefers the posture of the ostrich with its head stuck firmly in the ground.

The post is filled with the Orwellian newspeak used to describe all of Facebook’s censorship measures. Walling users off from being able to read about events outside their immediate vicinity will help “build community—both on and offline,” and ensure that Facebook “isn’t just fun but also good for your well-being and for society.”

The Facebook billionaire does not want people to have access to unfiltered information on such questions as the United States government preparation to wage nuclear war against North Korea, Russia and China, government censorship of the Internet and spying on the population, mass demonstrations against immigration raids, police violence, workers strikes, or details about growing levels of social inequality, including the fact that five multi-billionaires (Zuckerberg is one) own as much wealth as half the world’s population.

While the change will initially apply to US Facebook accounts, Zuckerberg states that the “goal is to expand to more countries this year.” Pointing to further censorship announcements still to come, Zuckerberg concludes with the note that he is “looking forward to sharing more updates soon.”

There are more than 2 billion Facebook users around the world, the majority of whom access news via the social media platform. Approximately 45 percent of the American population, or 145 million people, access the news on Facebook—the highest news readership rate of any social media platform—according to a Pew Research Center study from November 2017.

Millions of people turned to independent and alternative news publications via social media precisely because it provided a means to circumvent the establishment media, which have become popularly and correctly identified as pro-government propaganda outlets. According to a 2016 Pew Research poll, the American population’s trust in the media had fallen to 32 percent in that year, the lowest level on record.

By confining users to “local news,” the social media giants are seeking to wind back the clock to the days when the population had access to the news mainly through local newspapers, and could find about world events only through the officially sanctioned corporate press.

Zuckerberg’s announcement explains that publishers will be promoted according to how many users in a “tight geographical area” click on links to their articles. This means of surfacing content explicitly demotes web sites which by their nature are oriented to a national or international readership, such as the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), which is directed to the world working class.

It also enforces the monopoly of giant media conglomerates, which own the vast majority of smaller, localised publications. The concentration of newspaper ownership has developed enormously over the past two decades, via an ongoing process of mergers and acquisitions. According to newspaperownership.com, a handful of top private media corporations collectively owned 1,449 newspapers in 2014, up from 1,128 just 10 years earlier. Many more local newspapers have simply closed their doors.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it was testing a new section of its mobile phone app called “Today in,” which will include only local news, events and announcements. The test is being conducted in only six US cities so far. All news publishers who appear there must first be approved and vetted by Facebook’s News Partnerships team.

Facebook’s latest announcement also coincided with Google’s January 26 restricted release of a new smartphone app, Bulletin, to promote what Google calls “hyperlocal” news, which it defines as news “about your community, for your community.”

The application will allow users to publish stories directly to the web through Google, without the need to create their own blog, web page, or use social media. What this will mean in practise is that Google will have even more direct control over the hosting of independent news content not vetted by the state-sanctioned, corporate-controlled media outlets.

Google is already engaged in systematically blacklisting socialist and left-wing news publications, particularly the WSWS, by rigging results from its search engine to block links to specified web domains. This change was initiated by Google in April 2017 under the banner of combating “fake news” and promoting what it called “authoritative” content.

The purpose of the ongoing changes was made clear in a post by Zuckerberg on Wednesday accompanying the company’s latest earnings report. The report showed that Facebook use actually declined for the first time over the past year, a fact that Zuckerberg welcomes in his post. Zuckerberg states that Facebook is taking action to demote “viral videos,” because such material—which includes videos of police violence and war crimes—is not “good for people’s well-being and society.” This argument complements the McCarthyite campaign being waged by the Democratic Party, intelligence agencies and technology companies, labelling all political opposition in the United States as the outcome of Russian influence and “fake news” promoted by the Kremlin.

The post further notes that Facebook is using artificial intelligence to closely monitor every photo, video, message and post on the platform, to “understand all the content on Facebook,” in what amounts to surveillance on billions of people. (See: “From Facebook to Policebook”)

The avalanche of new measures for mass political censorship and surveillance, now being released on a weekly and even daily basis, testifies to the correctness and urgency of the World Socialist Web Site ’s open letter to socialist, left-wing and anti-war organizations, individuals and web sites, “For an International Coalition against Internet Censorship.” We urge our readers to read and widely share the letter and to take up this fight.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/06…

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