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Sibel Edmonds on Michael Isikoff, Newsweek...
By Sibel Edmonds
on 6/3/2009, 3:42pm PT
Guest Blogged by Sibel Edmonds
Last week, 123 Real Change, announced the experimental 'Project Expose MSM' in hopes of providing readers with specific, documented cases of blackout and/or misinformation in the mainstream media, based on the first-hand experiences of legitimate and credible sources and whistleblowers.
As noted in the announcement, 123 Real Change invites all members of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, other active (covert or overt) government whistleblowers, and reporters, to publish their experiences in regard to their own first-hand dealings with the media, where their legit disclosures were either intentionally censored/blacked out, tainted, or otherwise met with a betrayal of trust.
Here is the first project report, this one based on my own first-hand documented experience. In 2003 Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff interviewed me for, and then published a story on the FBI translation program. His report knowingly omitted crucial facts, directly relevant cases, witness statements and confirmed official reports, while advancing the FBI's already-discredited point of view...
Name, title, and/or background:
Name: Sibel Edmonds
Title: Founder & Director of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), former FBI Language Specialist.
Background: For my bio click here. For relevant case background click here.
Name of Publication and/or Editor and/or Reporter:
Reporter: Michael Isikoff
Description of Disclosure and Significance:
On October 27, 2003 , Newsweek published 'Lost in Translation,' an article by Michael Isikoff on the FBI translation program, its problems, and the impact on the post-9/11 war on terror.
For more than a year prior to the publication of Mr. Isikoff's article, the following facts had become official and public:
1. My case was the FBI Translation Division's first publicly known and officially confirmed whistleblowing case. At the time that Newsweek published their article, the case had already become public. It had been filed and was being fought before the courts. Senate investigations had resulted in official public confirmations, and an FBI Inspector General's investigation was well on its way.
2. A joint Senate investigation of the FBI Washington Field Office Translation Division by Senators Grassley (R) & Leahy (D), and several press releases and statements by their offices had confirmed security breaches, possible espionage incidents, and severe mismanagement involving the FBI Translation Division. You can view a few samples of these statements and confirmation by Congress here [PDF], here, here and here.
3. There were also two separate ongoing investigations into the FBI Translation Division by the Justice Department's IG. One investigation [PDF] was focused on espionage-related reports in my case, while the other was an audit on the performance of the FBI Language Division requested by Congress. The IG's 'audit' had already been released, in August 2003, before Mr. Isikoff's article, and here is a very relevant conclusion of the IG's report [emphasis added]: "Some of the most serious weaknesses still have not been fully remedied and expose the FBI to the risk of serious compromises by other moles."
4. Several major news releases and extensive coverage of the FBI Translation Division by the MSM had already occurred. Examples include: CBS-60 Minutes segment 'Lost in Translation' (from which the title of the Newsweek article by Mr. Isikoff was taken) and Washington Post articles.
5. Other witnesses and whistleblowers had come forward to confirm serious issues and problems involving FBI translation management, hiring, and security issues. Examples include Veteran FBI Counterintelligence Operation Director John M. Cole and Veteran FBI Language Specialist Behrooz Sarshar.
6. No denial had been issued by either DOJ or the FBI regarding revelations from any of the investigations or the various media reports. In fact, during the Senate investigation the FBI had confirmed almost all allegations.
One evening, about a week before the publication of Mr. Isikoff's piece, I met with him, as a source, in the Mayflower Hotel's lounge area. I had a witness in the background to observe the meeting. During the hour-long meeting I provided him with information regarding the FBI Language Division, and gave him names of witnesses and sources who were willing to meet with him and corroborate the information I had given him. At the time, some of the sources were willing to do so on-the-record: FBI Operations Director John Cole, FBI LS Behrooz Sarshar & Amin Neshati, and certain Senate staff members involved in the investigation of my reports; while others would have done so 'anonymously' due to fear of protecting their employment. I also made his job easier by giving him relevant Congressional, IG, and legal public documents, reports, and references. Of course all the previous press coverage of these issues, and the case itself, was available to him in any news archive or online.
Back to Mr. Isikoff's lengthy article - the article did not cite a single fact mentioned above. The confirmed security problems, possible espionage cases and compromised intelligence, severe problems in hiring and vetting translators, the absence of quality & accuracy control for translation jobs that were produced…None of them were mentioned. In fact, as FBI bureaucrats and management had done consistently, the article too blamed all problems on a 'shortage' of translators.
I know Mr. Isikoff was well aware of the facts and points cited above. I had given him information, documents and sources that were 100% relevant and central to his upcoming story. I am certain he had access to other official documents and statements as well --- all available in public records.
Despite that, Mr. Isikoff's story instead advanced the FBI's already-discredited point of view that; the FBI's Translation Division's problems could be summed up as a 'shortage.' The article completely ignored and omitted established cases, problems, and severe weaknesses in the FBI's background security check of applicant translators, security measures in preventing espionage and security breaches, and quality control for translated work.
Mr. Isikoff was given the DOJ-IG audit report on the performance of the FBI Language Division. According to this report, the shortage of translators was not the only or main problem, but that the division was infested with major security problems, systemic difficulties, and an astounding lack of organization. Yet, he cherry picked the 'shortage' and completely disregarded and omitted the rest; the exact same trend and position followed by the FBI itself.
I provided Mr. Isikoff with background information which included Congressional letters and other documents on the Dickerson Case; a case characterized by Senator Grassley as "a very major internal security breach, and a potential espionage breach." In that case, Melek Dickerson was hired, given Top Secret Clearance, and placed in charge of translating sensitive intelligence (including terrorist targets) by the bureau, despite her previous membership and employment with organizations that were the targets of FBI investigations, and despite her on-going relationship with individuals who were also the targets of FBI investigations. Based on confirmations by the FBI and the United States Congress, Ms. Dickerson, in fact, blocked and mistranslated intelligence gathered from these targets.
Here is an IG report/investigation [PDF] confirming the Dickerson case.
Mr. Isikoff was also provided with another major case which involved a Pakistani translator at the FBI who was hired and given security clearance, even though her father was a Pakistani retired general who still worked with ISI (the Pakistani intelligence service) in DC, the very target of FBI counterintelligence investigations. John M. Cole, FBI Counterintelligence Operations Manager, was available to provide Mr. Isikoff with details and facts regarding this case and several others, as he had done in 2002.
I gave Mr. Isikoff names and contact information for other FBI translators who had first-hand information on other cases involving major security breaches and possible espionage at the FBI language units. One of them, Mr. Behrooz Sarshar, FBI Farsi translator, had first-hand documented information regarding an Iranian translator working for the FBI-New York Field Office who was found to be working for the target(s) of FBI counterintelligence and criminal investigations. This translator was providing the FBI targets with tips/information, and was tampering with intelligence in Farsi gathered by the FBI. The FBI asked this translator to resign and leave quietly. No criminal investigation and no damage assessment were conducted. Mr. Isikoff chose not to contact these sources.
On the major security breaches and possible espionage issues, Mr. Isikoff knowingly disregarded not only the confirmed facts on my case, and other witnesses who were available to him on additional cases, he also omitted those established by previous IG reports such as this one; Congressional reports; and misreported the 'Robert Hansen case' as the only known 'flap', as follows:
…The FBI can rightly point out that its attention to security has so far avoided any comparable flaps. "We haven't loosened our standards one bit," said Margaret Galotta, chief of the FBI's Language Service Division.
Now, a real reporter would have pressed Ms. Galotta by pointing at facts, at several IG reports, Congressional reports and statements, and established cases such as mine. But Mr. Isikoff did not. A real journalist would have given the readers the facts and the entire picture, not the misinformation fed to him by the government. Again, Mr. Isikoff did not. Not only did he write/repeat the FBI's spin and misinformation, he even went further by 'selling' it to the readers as [emphasis added] '…the FBI can rightly point out that its attention to security has so far avoided any comparable flaps.'
At the time, I didn't know who Mr. Isikoff's editor was; I still don't. Did this editor have anything to do with the 'flavor' and apparent angle/agenda given to this story? Did he have any role in sanitizing and/or removing the well-known and highly relevant cases and related witnesses, documents, facts, and investigations from a story that was focused on the FBI Translation Division, but which failed to detail well-known, and well-detailed allegations that ran contrary to the FBI's published point of view? Was it an editorialdecision at Newsweek to black-out all the current (at the time) and established related facts and information from this 1,900 word, three-page story solely focused on the FBI Translation Division?
I don't know the answer. However, I know the following facts:
- The DOJ invocation of the State Secrets Privilege (SSP) by Attorney General John Ashcroft in my case --- the first case of SSP use/abuse by the Bush Administration --- was never reported by Newsweek at all. It's unlikely that was because it was not 'newsworthy', since most major publications, including the television news networks, deemed it important enough to at least report.
- The DOJ's Retroactive Classification of Congressional investigations, reports, and statements, which was considered by Senator Grassley to be 'gagging the Congress,' was never reported by Newsweek.
- The closure [PDF] of the (Federal District Court) session to all reporters and the public during the appeal hearing of my case, where I was represented by the ACLU, was also never reported, or mentioned, by Newsweek. That, despite the fact that a large group of both MSM and alternative media groups had joined in filing a motion challenging the ban on courtroom coverage.
- The release of the IG report vindicating the core claims of my case was similarly never covered by Newsweek.
- The security breach and possible espionage confirmed by the Senate investigation was never mentioned by Newsweek, even though they certainly seem to have known about it, as they 'borrowed' their article title from a segment aired by CBS-60 Minutes ('Lost in Translation'), which covered the espionage angle of my case in detail.
Suffice it to say that during the last eight years, throughout many outrageous gag orders, draconian uses of the State Secrets Privilege, Court Closings, Vindicating IG & Congressional Reports, Newsweek has consistently maintained one position: Blackout every fact of this particular case. You may check it out yourself by searching their archives. Your search result will come back as '0.'
I would like to know why; wouldn't you?
Response from Isikoff and Newsweek:
- We attempted to contact Mr. Isikoff twice. To our second request he replied via email:
sorry. No comment.
- Despite several notices over the last week, submitted through their website's "Contact Us" page, we received no reply to our requests for comment from any Newsweek editor(s).
Project Expose MSM is an experimental project created to provide readers with specific mainstream media blackout and/or misinformation cases based on documented and credible first-hand experiences of legitimate sources and whistleblowers. Those with direct knowledge and experience are encouraged to join the project, by sharing your stories. Please E-mail me with your report, following the format described in the introductory announcement. Private information, and the privacy of sources where needed, will always be full respected.
* * *
Sibel Edmonds is the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Ms. Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Since that time, court proceedings on her case have been blocked by the assertion of "State Secret Privilege"; the Congress of the United States has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice. Ms. Edmonds is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; and has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University. PEN American Center awarded Ms. Edmonds the 2006 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award. Her new blog site is 123 Real Change.
Reader comments follow below ad...
READER COMMENTS ON
"'Project Expose MSM' Report #1"
(21 Responses so far...)
COMMENT #1 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 6:04 am PT...
No explanation or defense from Isikoff. Just a "sorry" and "no comment".
COMMENT #2 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 6:39 am PT...
Isikoff's actions are all too typical of so-called "professional journalists" who value their official source relationships above the truth.
One core issue you touch upon, Sibel, is the "state secrets doctrine," which, because of the ease with which it can be invoked stands out as a significant threat to justice, the rule of law and democratic accountability.
The privilege was asserted in a case filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against AT&T over the issue of illegal NSA domestic eavesdropping. The Justice Department’s motion argued that “if the ‘very subject matter of the action’ is a state secret, then the court should dismiss the plaintiff’s action based solely on the invocation of the state secrets privilege.” In the AT&T case, the privilege was supported by an affidavit from John Negroponte which was reviewed by the judge in camera. This means that the attorneys representing the Electronic Frontier Foundation had no right to inspect the affidavit or to challenge its validity.
In addition to its invocation in your case, Sibel, a case which had the added indignity of retroactive classification used to cover-up government malfeasance, it was invoked to dismiss the cases of innocent civilians snatched up by CIA extraordinary rendition teams and flown across the globe to be tortured.
More often than not, secrecy is invoked not to protect the security of the American people but as a means of CYA.
Ernest A. Canning
COMMENT #3 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 8:58 am PT...
Thanks Sibel for your courage in bringing this forward. @Mr. Canning - Yes state secrets privilege is being severely abused but as I understand it the government isn't even supposed to be able to use it to throw out an entire case. They're only supposed to be able to use it to block out specific evidence which they think would endanger national security. The judge is supposed to be able to review the evidence and along with the government decide how much can be allowed to be seen and how much is to be censored. As far as I know Sibel's case was the first, or one of the first, ever where and entire case was thrown out because the very subject matter of the case (criminal activity by the government) was a state secret. Than in itself is a severe abuse of the state secrets privilege and very dangerous for us as citizens in my opinion.
COMMENT #4 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 8:59 am PT...
Thank you Sibel for exposing the brainwashing the Mouth Piece Media imposes on the American public.
Only through liberal exercise of our right to free speech can we hope to begin to deprogram the people who are this country.
COMMENT #5 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 12:46 pm PT...
It looks like Isikoff is prevented from responding, probably for the same reason none of these facts were included in his article.
My question is, what would have happened to Isikoff had he insisted on including them? Fired, reassigned or worse?
I think a step in the right direction would be how Valerie Wilson Plame's publisher handled it: include the sentences blacked out so we can at least be aware we're not getting the full story.
COMMENT #6 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 1:06 pm PT...
"All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself."
—NAZI Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler Schicklegruber
COMMENT #7 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 1:07 pm PT...
COMMENT #8 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 1:22 pm PT...
Mr. Isikoff's reputation, at least among whistleblowers and washington journalists, in this regard is pretty well known.
He's gotten away with this for years, since the knowledge has been limited to whispers. Time to say it out loud, and make it known.
Please digg this story, forward it to everyone you know, and post wherever you can. Let's make this one of our first project accomplishments.
COMMENT #9 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 2:06 pm PT...
Excellent work, Sibel. Isikoff's worthless.
COMMENT #10 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 2:30 pm PT...
COMMENT #11 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 4:16 pm PT...
Informative link Sibel, thank you for passing that along.
Admittedly, I didn't know much about what goes on behind the scenes with "star" journalists like Isikoff.
And progressive media continues to embrace him regularly, like Rachel Maddow and Cenk Uygur:
What's Isikoff's motive for slanting and minimizing issues in his reporting? Does he lean right and/or just want to protect the beltway establishment to which he belongs?
I also feel let down by Bob Woodward during the Bush administration's run up to war in Iraq.
Yeah, we really do need to put the microscope on beltway journalists. Greg Palast shouldn't be exiled from the MSM.
COMMENT #12 [Permalink]
said on 6/3/2009 @ 7:23 pm PT...
Sibel, thanks for taking on this effort. It's needed, and there's not many people out there that either have the freedom to take on this effort, or the courage to do so, given our current very sorry state of affairs in the media. Heck, I remember even a long time ago back in the early 80's when I worked for a local television station in a small market where only two companies owned the tv stations, the major newspaper, and the major news radio stations there. And how even then, there was rumors of and I think I saw happening the results of a "gentleman's agreement" between them not to report on each other's labor difficulties and in some cases mass firings. They'd report on the nearby manufacturing plant's labor strikes, etc. but not on each other. I can believe there's a lot of unstated pressures on these reporters out there that we aren't being allowed to hear about, and how many are being controlled, and how many are voluntarily complicit with these coverups.
Regarding Mr. Isikoff. Here's an idea on how to go further with trying to expose what's going on with him. Being a regular watcher of Link TV's Viewpoint with James Zogby, I note that he's a regular guest of Mr. Zogby's whenever security issues come up, and the show's format usually takes a few calls for each guest from the phones.
He does this show live weekly on Thursdays (tomorrow is the next show) at 3 PM PST. Perhaps someone can call in and ask him a pointed question regarding this, if the stated topic will allow for such a question.
Mr. Zogby has decent shows in many cases, and at times will push the limits on asking questions on impeachment, the torture issue, etc. But sometimes I wonder how much he holds back too, much like Isikoff. His show is sponsored by Dubai Television, and I think perhaps a conflict of interest was exposed when he tried to talk about the Dubai ports scandal where he seemed to voice strong opinions slanted towards his employer there.
But aside from that, I think he doesn't do to badly. But this might be a good test if we can find a time when Isikoff is a guest, and one of us can call in with a pointed question, and perhaps others can not state them explicitly, but shroud the meat of the question with another question that they might be more inclined to put on. That way, we can see if the call screeners are trying to screen out important questions or not, and whether someone like Isikoff will make an effort to respond to them on a live show when he's being watched by an international live audience.
You can get LINK TV on DirecTV on channel 375, and on Dish Network on channel 9410.
COMMENT #13 [Permalink]
said on 6/4/2009 @ 9:13 am PT...
You DO have your ducks in a row on this first chapter in exposing the MSM. I kept thinking to myself as I read about Isikoff, that if it's this way with the prize-winning ones--and Isikoff has, in fact, been one closest to Woodward-Bernstein Old School of investigative journalism---what's it like with the rest?!
The defensiveness and cover-ups employed to keep from admitting the truth are also just amazing. The FBI has always had tons of problems in its language department and no one can deny how difficult it is to recruit and hire trustworthy and competent linguists and translators, especially when the competition in the intelligence community and "war on terror" is so intense, but why don't they just tell the truth about the problems and the difficulties?
COMMENT #14 [Permalink]
said on 6/4/2009 @ 9:39 am PT...
Ohmygosh! I just read John Amato's 2005 Huffpost expose of Isikoff and boy do I feel stupid comparing him to the Old School of investigative journalism. It just shows the need for a project to expose the MSM if someone like myself who's been around the block still had some idealistic notions about the integrity of this main stream reporter.
I often talk, however, about need to "grade on the curve" these days when all prior standards seem to have gone so far downhill. (There are undoubtedly many worse journalists than Isikoff so maybe he gets a "C+"?) But in a way that's like trying to distinguish those who drank one glass of cyanide Kool-aid and those who drank two glasses. They both end up dead.
COMMENT #15 [Permalink]
said on 6/4/2009 @ 9:43 am PT...
He works for the CIA/CFR (Geogre HW Bush & David Rockefeller). What's the question? Barbara Starr doesn't work for CNN, she works for the Pentagon (David Rockefeller). Steve Leissman doesn't work for CNBC, he works for the Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs (David Rockefeller & Evelyn de Rothschild)
The bigger picture is revealed here.
And most of the dots are connected here.
COMMENT #16 [Permalink]
said on 6/6/2009 @ 5:57 am PT...
I'm going to defend Isikoff (and I'm not him under another name). Journalists trade their free speech for access to a large audience. This access is controlled by the bosses of the media megaconglomerates - News Corp, GE, Group W, Time Warner, etc. Newsweek is owned by WaPo and it's likely his speech has been muzzled on both his original article and the non-reply above. These guys have few options - they can get fired and sued, blackballed, threatened or worse.
Unlike the state secrets privilege, the problem here is plainly the hammerlock of non-disclosure agreements. You cannot work for a network or a Newsweek without signing one. This includes Maddow and Olbermann who I respectfully called out for blacking out the Mike Connell death this Christmas.
The question is whether an NDA trumps the public's right to know about possible criminal conduct. If there is no law allowing reporters to break NDAs to to alert law enforcement or Congress of evidence of the commission of crimes, there should be.
And if Mike Isikoff is listening, I hope you are getting in writing the gag orders you are receiving from your bosses so you can absolve yourself from complicity in deceiving the American public. You let Sibel and company twist in the wind after they attempted to protect us from an administration cover up. Only you and your lawyer know how you really feel, but at the very least you could have put a winky emoticon in your reply to Sibel.
COMMENT #17 [Permalink]
said on 6/6/2009 @ 11:50 am PT...
Defending Mr. Isikoff on the grounds that he might only be doing the bidding of his corporate masters won't fly.
If an honest professional in any trade finds that he or she is working for people who will not permit him to do his work to the extent his conscience allows, shouldn't he leave? I would think this would be all the greater if the job is essential to the well-being of others. If a hospital forbade a physician from prescribing her best care because the hospital had a financial interest in a lesser treatment, what honest physician would submit?
Isikoff is just another MSM prostitute. Honest journalism isn't his goal. Self-interest and self-promotion are. It's emblematic of the corruption of American journalism that a private citizen like Ms. Edmonds--one under official state oppression, no less--do far better journalism that one of the MSM's "stars."
Thanks again, Sibel.
COMMENT #18 [Permalink]
said on 6/6/2009 @ 6:24 pm PT...
Surely the Siegelman-related media blackouts in parts of the deep south are proof enough that the media is owned by the same old interests.
To expose the MSM, you'll need this new media we are conversing on here, it's not likely the media monopolists would contribute to their own demise.
But the toobz seem to be functioning in lieu of the MSM. Maybe the 4th Estate is a state of mind and not a media. per se.
And. carrying that logic one step further, the open source internet has given that state of mind a vehicle to inhabit as its old shell peels away.
History always proves it. Without new-tech, if the old media still managed things, it is likely we'd have George Allen as President.
Viva la blogs!
COMMENT #19 [Permalink]
said on 6/7/2009 @ 1:06 am PT...
Isikoff seems to be Newsweek's go-to-guy when it comes to their most explosive stories, but I'm convinced he is best at putting them to rest.
COMMENT #20 [Permalink]
said on 6/8/2009 @ 8:38 am PT...
On May 29th, we got an snail mail from Arbitron inside was a crisp dollar bill. I couldn't believe it. Who the hell sends money in the mail. CASH! heh heh heh
This information following should enlighten folks to where ratings come from.
(note: I shall edit out my address and the serial number)
The letter says,
9740 Petuxent Woods Drive
Columbia, Maryland 21046
(number edited out)
May 29, 2009
XXXX Street Name
Sacramento, CA XXXXX-XXXX
Be Part of the Radio Ratings!
Whether you listen a little, alot, or not at all, you are important. Yours is one of the few housholds in your area chosen to tell radio stations what you listen to.
It's easy and fun to take part in our radio survey. In just a few days, an Arbitron research assistant will call with more details. Or, here is how to get started right away:
* Call 1-800-638-7091 and ask to speak with an Arbitron research assistant; or
* Enroll online at www.enroll.arbitronratings.com by using the following serial number
(sn edited out)
Thanks for your help,
Mike P. Skarzynski
President, Arbitron Ratings
P.S. Please accept the small token of appreciation we have enclosed with this letter.
Visit Our Web Sites:
To learn more: www.arbitronratings.com
To enroll: www.enroll.arbitronratings.com
The Serial number on the dollar bill was
E 31322705 H
To be honest, I'm not sure what to do with the dollar.
I am not a survey taker. I hang up on all telemarketers. Around that time I had to take the phone off the hook for about three days. Worth a dollar? I don't think so.
If they want to pay me to play, they got another thing coming. I promote shit. The shit I like I promote, not some canned forms with choices filled out to choose from.
COMMENT #21 [Permalink]
said on 6/8/2009 @ 1:07 pm PT...
Thanks for posting this information! Incidentally, I have just finished posting an original piece on my blog about Newsweek and Michael Isikoff regarding the handling of his story, "Death in a Libyan Jail Cell," featured in Newsweek's May 25th print issue. It's relevant as it once again documents how Isikoff (and Newsweek) are useful to state-sponsored propaganda. Read by visiting: http://ericpottenger.blo...6/story-of-dead-man.html
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