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More Holes in Russia-gate Narrative

By William Binney and Ray McGovern | Consortium News | September 20, 2017

It is no secret that our July 24 VIPS Memorandum for the President, entitled “Was the ‘Russian Hack’ an Inside Job?,” gave rise to some questioning and controversy – nor was it a surprise that it was met with almost total silence in the mainstream media.

The ongoing U.S. media campaign against Russia has been so effective that otherwise intelligent people have been unable even to entertain the notion that they may have been totally misled by the intelligence community. The last time this happened in 2003, after a year of such propaganda, the U.S. attacked Iraq on fraudulent – not “mistaken” – intelligence.

Anticipating resistance from those allergic to rethinking “what everybody knows” about Russian “meddling,” we based our VIPS analysis on forensic investigations that, oddly, the FBI had bent over backwards to avoid. In other words, we relied on the principles of physics and the known capability of the Internet in early July 2016.

We stand by our main conclusion that the data from the intrusion of July 5, 2016, into the Democratic National Committee’s computers, an intrusion blamed on “Russian hacking,” was not a hack but rather a download/copy onto an external storage device by someone with physical access to the DNC.

That principal finding relied heavily on the speed with which the copy took place – a speed much faster than a hack over the Internet could have achieved at the time – or, it seems clear, even now. Challenged on that conclusion – often by those conducting experiments within the confines of a laboratory – we have conducted and documented additional tests to determine the speeds that can be achieved now, more than a year later.

To remind: We noted in the VIPS memo that on July 5, 2016, a computer directly connected to the DNC server or DNC Local Area Network, copied 1,976 megabytes of data in 87 seconds onto an external storage device. That yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

Recent Tests

Over the last few weeks, we ran three tests to determine how quickly data could be exfiltrated from the U.S. across the Atlantic to Europe.

–First, we used a 100 megabits-per-second (mbps) line to pull data from a one-gigabyte file to Amsterdam. The peak transfer speed was .8 MBps.

–Second, we used a commercial DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) to send the same one-gigabyte file to a commercial DSL in Amsterdam. The peak transfer speed was 1.8 MBps.

–Third, we pushed the same one-gigabyte file from a data center in New Jersey to a data center in the UK. The peak transfer speed was 12 MBps.

None of these attempts achieve anything close to the average rate of 22.7 megabytes per second evident in the July 5, 2016 download/copy associated with the DNC. In fact, this happens to be the speed typical of a transfer to a USB-2 external storage device. We do not think this pure coincidence; rather, it is additional evidence of a local download.

We are preparing further trans-Atlantic testing over the next few weeks.

Some researchers have noted that some partitioning of the data might have occurred in the U.S., allowing for a transfer to be made at the measured speed over the Internet, and that this could have made possible a hack from the other side of the Atlantic. One of our associate investigators has found a way to achieve this kind of data partitioning and later transfer.

In theory, this would be one possible way to achieve such a large-data transfer, but we have no evidence that anything like this actually occurred. More important, in such a scenario, the National Security Agency would have chapter and verse on it, because such a hack would have to include software to execute the partitioning and subsequent data transfer. NSA gives the highest priority to collection on “execution software.”

Most Americans, apparently including President Donald Trump, remain in a Russia-did-it-or-could-have-maybe-might-have-done-it subjunctive mood on this important issue – one that has been used to inject Cold War ice into relations with Russia? The answer is absolutely not. Rather, definitive answers are at hand.

How can we be so confident? Because NSA alumni now active in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) are intimately familiar with NSA’s capabilities and practice with respect to bulk capture and storage of fiber-optic communications. Two of us actually devised the systems still in use, and Edward Snowden’s revelations filled in remaining gaps. Today’s NSA is in position to clear up any and all questions about intrusions into the DNC.

In sum, we are certain that the truth of what actually happened – or didn’t happen – can be found in the databases of NSA. We tried to explain this to President Barack Obama in a VIPS Memorandum of Jan. 17, just three days before he left office, noting that NSA’s known programs are fully capable of capturing – and together with liaison intelligence services do capture – all electronic transfers of data.

Our Jan. 17 Memorandum included this admonition: “We strongly suggest that you ask NSA for any evidence it may have indicating that the results of Russian hacking were given to WikiLeaks.” … “If NSA cannot give you that information – and quickly – this would probably mean it does not have any.”

We also appealed to Obama in his final days in office to order the chiefs of the NSA, FBI and CIA to the White House and have them lay all their cards on the table about “Russian hacking,” and show him what tangible evidence they might have – not simply their “assessments.” We added, “We assume you would not wish to hobble your successor with charges that cannot withstand close scrutiny.” Having said this, we already were reaching the assumption that there was no real evidence to back the “assessments” up.

FBI: Not Leaning Forward

The FBI could still redeem itself by doing what it should have done as soon as the DNC claimed to have been “hacked.” For reasons best known to former FBI Director James Comey, the Bureau failed to get whatever warrant was needed to confiscate the DNC servers and computers to properly examine them.

In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee six months ago, Comey conceded “best practice is always to get access to the machines themselves.” And yet he chose not to. And his decision came amid frenzied charges by senior U.S. officials that Russia had committed “an act of war.”

But is it not already too late for such an investigation? We hope that, at this point, it is crystal clear that the answer is: No, it is not too late. All the data the FBI needs to do a proper job is in NSA databases – including data going across the Internet to the DNC server and then included in their network logs.

If President Trump wants to know the truth, he can order the FBI to do its job and NSA to cooperate. Whether the two and the CIA would obey such orders is an open question, given how heavily invested all three agencies are in their evidence-impoverished narrative about “Russian hacking.”

Let us close with the obvious. All three agencies have been aware all along that NSA has the data. One wonders why it should require a Presidential order for them to delve into that data and come up with conclusions based on fact, as opposed to “assessing.”


William Binney (williambinney0802@comcast.net) worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA. Ray McGovern (rrmcgovern@gmail.com) was a CIA analyst for 27 years; from 1981 to 1985 he briefed the President’s Daily Brief one-on-one to President Reagan’s most senior national security officials.

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Manafort Demands Probe After Leak Revealed He Was Being Wiretapped

Sputnik – 20.09.2017

A legal representative of Paul Manafort, who at one time managed the successful 2016 presidential bid of Donald Trump, has demanded an investigation into the FBI after anonymous sources seemingly broke federal law by leaking classified information to the media regarding the investigation into Manafort.

On Tuesday, CNN broke the news that the FBI had secured a wiretap on Manafort’s phone under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.) The investigation began in 2014 following allegations that Manafort was operating as a foreign agent in his capacity as a campaign adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The wiretap paused in 2016, and resumed in 2017 under new allegations of Manafort’s ties to Russian intelligence. Eventually, the FBI ended the wiretapping for a lack of evidence.

If the reports are true, then a felony has been committed — but not by Manafort. According to Jason Maloni, a spokesman for the former lobbyist and Trump presidential campaign manager, “it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged. The US Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous Administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent.”

“Mr. Manafort requests that the Department of Justice release any intercepts involving him and any non-Americans so interested parties can come to the same conclusion as the DOJ — there is nothing there.”

Manafort has denied the charges that he “knowingly” communicated with Russian intelligence operatives during the election. He denies any participation in efforts to “undermine the interests of the United States.”

FISA warrants aren’t easy to secure. As former FBI agent Asha Rangappa told Public Radio International, “what the FBI has to do is go into a secret FISA court and show the judge that there’s probable cause to believe that the person they are targeting is acting as what’s called ‘an agent of a foreign power,’ that they’re acting at the direction and control of a foreign intelligence service in this case.”

Robert Mueller, the Department of Justice Special Counsel in charge of investigating the alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign team, has been undertaking what the New York Times called a “shock and awe” strategy in his investigation, utilizing tactics like dramatic nighttime raids on Manafort’s residence and impaneling a grand jury to indict Manafort.

“Mr. Mueller has obtained a flurry of subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury, lawyers and witnesses say, sometimes before his prosecutors have taken the customary first step of interviewing them. One witness was called before the grand jury less than a month after his name surfaced in news accounts. The special counsel even took the unusual step of obtaining a subpoena for one of Mr. Manafort’s former lawyers, claiming an exception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny,” The Times reported.

“It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington,” one attorney told the Times, in reference to Mueller’s probe.

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence

Consortium News | July 24, 2017

In a memo to President Trump, a group of former U.S. intelligence officers, including NSA specialists, cite new forensic studies to challenge the claim of the key Jan. 6 “assessment” that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails last year. 

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?

Executive Summary

Forensic studies of “Russian hacking” into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia.

After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016 intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device, and that “telltale signs” implicating Russia were then inserted.

Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal importance, the forensics show that the copying and doctoring were performed on the East coast of the U.S. Thus far, mainstream media have ignored the findings of these independent studies [see here and here].

Independent analyst Skip Folden, a retired IBM Program Manager for Information Technology US, who examined the recent forensic findings, is a co-author of this Memorandum. He has drafted a more detailed technical report titled “Cyber-Forensic Investigation of ‘Russian Hack’ and Missing Intelligence Community Disclaimers,” and sent it to the offices of the Special Counsel and the Attorney General. VIPS member William Binney, a former Technical Director at the National Security Agency, and other senior NSA “alumni” in VIPS attest to the professionalism of the independent forensic findings.

The recent forensic studies fill in a critical gap. Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original “Guccifer 2.0” material remains a mystery – as does the lack of any sign that the “hand-picked analysts” from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the “Intelligence Community Assessment” dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics.

NOTE: There has been so much conflation of charges about hacking that we wish to make very clear the primary focus of this Memorandum. We focus specifically on the July 5, 2016 alleged Guccifer 2.0 “hack” of the DNC server. In earlier VIPS memoranda we addressed the lack of any evidence connecting the Guccifer 2.0 alleged hacks and WikiLeaks, and we asked President Obama specifically to disclose any evidence that WikiLeaks received DNC data from the Russians [see here and here].

Addressing this point at his last press conference (January 18), he described “the conclusions of the intelligence community” as “not conclusive,” even though the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 6 expressed “high confidence” that Russian intelligence “relayed material it acquired from the DNC … to WikiLeaks.”

Obama’s admission came as no surprise to us. It has long been clear to us that the reason the U.S. government lacks conclusive evidence of a transfer of a “Russian hack” to WikiLeaks is because there was no such transfer. Based mostly on the cumulatively unique technical experience of our ex-NSA colleagues, we have been saying for almost a year that the DNC data reached WikiLeaks via a copy/leak by a DNC insider (but almost certainly not the same person who copied DNC data on July 5, 2016).

From the information available, we conclude that the same inside-DNC, copy/leak process was used at two different times, by two different entities, for two distinctly different purposes:

-(1) an inside leak to WikiLeaks before Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, that he had DNC documents and planned to publish them (which he did on July 22) – the presumed objective being to expose strong DNC bias toward the Clinton candidacy; and

-(2) a separate leak on July 5, 2016, to pre-emptively taint anything WikiLeaks might later publish by “showing” it came from a “Russian hack.”

*  *  *

Mr. President:

This is our first VIPS Memorandum for you, but we have a history of letting U.S. Presidents know when we think our former intelligence colleagues have gotten something important wrong, and why. For example, our first such memorandum, a same-day commentary for President George W. Bush on Colin Powell’s U.N. speech on February 5, 2003, warned that the “unintended consequences were likely to be catastrophic,” should the U.S. attack Iraq and “justfy” the war on intelligence that we retired intelligence officers could readily see as fraudulent and driven by a war agenda.

The January 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” by “hand-picked” analysts from the FBI, CIA, and NSA seems to fit into the same agenda-driven category. It is largely based on an “assessment,” not supported by any apparent evidence, that a shadowy entity with the moniker “Guccifer 2.0” hacked the DNC on behalf of Russian intelligence and gave DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

The recent forensic findings mentioned above have put a huge dent in that assessment and cast serious doubt on the underpinnings of the extraordinarily successful campaign to blame the Russian government for hacking. The pundits and politicians who have led the charge against Russian “meddling” in the U.S. election can be expected to try to cast doubt on the forensic findings, if they ever do bubble up into the mainstream media. But the principles of physics don’t lie; and the technical limitations of today’s Internet are widely understood. We are prepared to answer any substantive challenges on their merits.

You may wish to ask CIA Director Mike Pompeo what he knows about this. Our own lengthy intelligence community experience suggests that it is possible that neither former CIA Director John Brennan, nor the cyber-warriors who worked for him, have been completely candid with their new director regarding how this all went down.

Copied, Not Hacked

As indicated above, the independent forensic work just completed focused on data copied (not hacked) by a shadowy persona named “Guccifer 2.0.” The forensics reflect what seems to have been a desperate effort to “blame the Russians” for publishing highly embarrassing DNC emails three days before the Democratic convention last July. Since the content of the DNC emails reeked of pro-Clinton bias, her campaign saw an overriding need to divert attention from content to provenance – as in, who “hacked” those DNC emails? The campaign was enthusiastically supported by a compliant “mainstream” media; they are still on a roll.

“The Russians” were the ideal culprit. And, after WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, “We have emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication,” her campaign had more than a month before the convention to insert its own “forensic facts” and prime the media pump to put the blame on “Russian meddling.” Mrs. Clinton’s PR chief Jennifer Palmieri has explained how she used golf carts to make the rounds at the convention. She wrote that her “mission was to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the DNC, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.”

Independent cyber-investigators have now completed the kind of forensic work that the intelligence assessment did not do. Oddly, the “hand-picked” intelligence analysts contented themselves with “assessing” this and “assessing” that. In contrast, the investigators dug deep and came up with verifiable evidence from metadata found in the record of the alleged Russian hack.

They found that the purported “hack” of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 was not a hack, by Russia or anyone else. Rather it originated with a copy (onto an external storage device – a thumb drive, for example) by an insider. The data was leaked after being doctored with a cut-and-paste job to implicate Russia. We do not know who or what the murky Guccifer 2.0 is. You may wish to ask the FBI.

The Time Sequence

June 12, 2016: Assange announces WikiLeaks is about to publish “emails related to Hillary Clinton.”

June 15, 2016: DNC contractor Crowdstrike, (with a dubious professional record and multiple conflicts of interest) announces that malware has been found on the DNC server and claims there is evidence it was injected by Russians.

June 15, 2016: On the same day, “Guccifer 2.0” affirms the DNC statement; claims responsibility for the “hack;” claims to be a WikiLeaks source; and posts a document that the forensics show was synthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”

We do not think that the June 12 & 15 timing was pure coincidence. Rather, it suggests the start of a pre-emptive move to associate Russia with anything WikiLeaks might have been about to publish and to “show” that it came from a Russian hack.

The Key Event

July 5, 2016: In the early evening, Eastern Daylight Time, someone working in the EDT time zone with a computer directly connected to the DNC server or DNC Local Area Network, copied 1,976 MegaBytes of data in 87 seconds onto an external storage device. That speed is many times faster than what is physically possible with a hack.

It thus appears that the purported “hack” of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 (the self-proclaimed WikiLeaks source) was not a hack by Russia or anyone else, but was rather a copy of DNC data onto an external storage device. Moreover, the forensics performed on the metadata reveal there was a subsequent synthetic insertion – a cut-and-paste job using a Russian template, with the clear aim of attributing the data to a “Russian hack.” This was all performed in the East Coast time zone.

“Obfuscation & De-obfuscation”

Mr. President, the disclosure described below may be related. Even if it is not, it is something we think you should be made aware of in this general connection. On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks began to publish a trove of original CIA documents that WikiLeaks labeled “Vault 7.” WikiLeaks said it got the trove from a current or former CIA contractor and described it as comparable in scale and significance to the information Edward Snowden gave to reporters in 2013.

No one has challenged the authenticity of the original documents of Vault 7, which disclosed a vast array of cyber warfare tools developed, probably with help from NSA, by CIA’s Engineering Development Group. That Group was part of the sprawling CIA Directorate of Digital Innovation – a growth industry established by John Brennan in 2015.

Scarcely imaginable digital tools – that can take control of your car and make it race over 100 mph, for example, or can enable remote spying through a TV – were described and duly reported in the New York Times and other media throughout March. But the Vault 7, part 3 release on March 31 that exposed the “Marble Framework” program apparently was judged too delicate to qualify as “news fit to print” and was kept out of the Times.

The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima, it seems, “did not get the memo” in time. Her March 31 article bore the catching (and accurate) headline: “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.”

The WikiLeaks release indicated that Marble was designed for flexible and easy-to-use “obfuscation,” and that Marble source code includes a “deobfuscator” to reverse CIA text obfuscation.

More important, the CIA reportedly used Marble during 2016. In her Washington Post report, Nakashima left that out, but did include another significant point made by WikiLeaks; namely, that the obfuscation tool could be used to conduct a “forensic attribution double game” or false-flag operation because it included test samples in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi.

The CIA’s reaction was neuralgic. Director Mike Pompeo lashed out two weeks later, calling Assange and his associates “demons,” and insisting, “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Mr. President, we do not know if CIA’s Marble Framework, or tools like it, played some kind of role in the campaign to blame Russia for hacking the DNC. Nor do we know how candid the denizens of CIA’s Digital Innovation Directorate have been with you and with Director Pompeo. These are areas that might profit from early White House review.

Putin and the Technology

We also do not know if you have discussed cyber issues in any detail with President Putin. In his interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, he seemed quite willing – perhaps even eager – to address issues related to the kind of cyber tools revealed in the Vault 7 disclosures, if only to indicate he has been briefed on them. Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack.”

“Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”

Full Disclosure: Over recent decades the ethos of our intelligence profession has eroded in the public mind to the point that agenda-free analysis is deemed well nigh impossible. Thus, we add this disclaimer, which applies to everything we in VIPS say and do: We have no political agenda; our sole purpose is to spread truth around and, when necessary, hold to account our former intelligence colleagues.

We speak and write without fear or favor. Consequently, any resemblance between what we say and what presidents, politicians and pundits say is purely coincidental. The fact we find it is necessary to include that reminder speaks volumes about these highly politicized times. This is our 50th VIPS Memorandum since the afternoon of Powell’s speech at the UN. Live links to the 49 past memos can be found at https://consortiumnews.com/vips-memos/.

FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY

William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center

Skip Folden, independent analyst, retired IBM Program Manager for Information Technology US (Associate VIPS)

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Michael S. Kearns, Air Force Intelligence Officer (Ret.), Master SERE Resistance to Interrogation Instructor

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, Jr., former NSA Technical Director for the Office of Signals Processing

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former U.S. Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and CIA analyst

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Cian Westmoreland, former USAF Radio Frequency Transmission Systems Technician and Unmanned Aircraft Systems whistleblower (Associate VIPS)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Maintain public confidence’: Obama’s plan to defend from election cyberattacks

RT | July 20, 2017

The Obama administration quietly set up an interagency task force to deal with possible physical and cyber disruptions of the 2016 US presidential election, but believed most cyber incidents would be “unsubstantiated or inconsequential.”

Time magazine, which obtained and published the 15-page Concept of Operations document on Thursday, wrote that the plan was put in place to counter “Russian hacking.” The actual word “Russia” appears nowhere in the document, however.

The planning document, which Time dated to October 2016, shows that the Obama administration set up the Cyber Unified Coordination Group (UCG) to coordinate the response of various federal agencies to “reports of cyber incidents impacting election infrastructure.”

In addition to a lot of training, advice and interagency communication, the first specific action the agencies were instructed to take was to “develop integrated public relations guidance that seeks to maintain public confidence in the electoral system” ‒ a task that fell on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Public Affairs. The Department of Justice, Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI were supposed to assist with that task.

Any public statements “should be developed to avoid inadvertently calling into doubt the integrity of the voting process and to avoid negative impacts to voter turnout,” the document said.

The FBI was to set up a national command post at its headquarters in Washington, DC, from which it would monitor reports from the entire country from 6am to midnight on Election Day. The FBI would also establish Cyber Incident Command Center (CICC), starting on November 7.

A cyber threat intelligence center was to work with the intelligence community to “aggregate relevant intelligence and information to build and maintain a common threat and incident picture” that would then “set cyber incidents in the context of adversary activity across all domains to draw connections and implications,” the document says.

Cyber Action Teams (CAT) were set up at 26 FBI field offices and one overseas location, ready to deploy in case of a serious incident. Six interagency coordination calls were scheduled for Election Day, once every three hours between 6am and midnight.

The coordination mechanism was supposed to stay in effect until November 11, to “address any post-election cyber incidents (e.g. planted stories calling into question the results).”

For all the concern about potential cyberattacks on the US election systems, however, the document noted that “the vast majority of cyber incidents will be assessed as ‘baseline’ or ‘low’ on the schema,” based on DHS intelligence assessments.

“These are unsubstantiated or inconsequential events, or events that are unlikely to impact health or safety, national security, economic security, foreign relations, civil liberties, or public confidence,” the document explained.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

MSM, Still Living in Propaganda-ville

By Robert Parry | Consortium news | July 6, 2017

As much as the U.S. mainstream media wants people to believe that it is the Guardian of Truth, it is actually lost in a wilderness of propaganda and falsehoods, a dangerous land of delusion that is putting the future of humankind at risk as tensions escalate with nuclear-armed Russia.

This media problem has grown over recent decades as lucrative careerism has replaced responsible professionalism. Pack journalism has always been a threat to quality reporting but now it has evolved into a self-sustaining media lifestyle in which the old motto, “there’s safety in numbers,” is borne out by the fact that being horrendously wrong, such as on Iraq’s WMD, leads to almost no accountability because so many important colleagues were wrong as well.

Similarly, there has been no accountability after many mainstream journalists and commentators falsely stated as flat-fact that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred that Russia did “meddle” in last November’s U.S. election.

For months, this claim has been the go-to put-down whenever anyone questions the groupthink of Russian venality perverting American democracy. Even the esteemed “Politifact” deemed the assertion “true.” But it was never true.

It was at best a needled distortion of a claim by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper when he issued a statement last Oct. 7 alleging Russian meddling. Because Clapper was the chief of the U.S. Intelligence Community, his opinion morphed into a claim that it represented the consensus of all 17 intelligence agencies, a dishonest twist that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton began touting.

However, for people who understand how the U.S. Intelligence Community works, the claim of a 17-agencies consensus has a specific meaning, some form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that seeks out judgments and dissents from the various agencies.

But there was no NIE regarding alleged Russian meddling and there apparently wasn’t even a formal assessment from a subset of the agencies at the time of Clapper’s statement. President Obama did not order a publishable assessment until December – after the election – and it was not completed until Jan. 6, when a report from Clapper’s office presented the opinions of analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency – three agencies (or four if you count the DNI’s office), not 17.

Lacking Hard Evidence

The report also contained no hard evidence of a Russian “hack” and amounted to a one-sided circumstantial case at best. However, by then, the U.S. mainstream media had embraced the “all-17-intelligence-agencies” refrain and anyone who disagreed, including President Trump, was treated as delusional. The argument went: “How can anyone question what all 17 intelligence agencies have confirmed as true?”

It wasn’t until May 8 when then-former DNI Clapper belatedly set the record straight in sworn congressional testimony in which he explained that there were only three “contributing agencies” from which analysts were “hand-picked.”

The reference to “hand-picked” analysts pricked the ears of some former U.S. intelligence analysts who had suffered through earlier periods of “politicized” intelligence when malleable analysts were chosen to deliver what their political bosses wanted to hear.

On May 23, also in congressional testimony, former CIA Director John Brennan confirmed Clapper’s description, saying only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment.

Brennan said the Jan. 6 report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies.”

After this testimony, some of the major news organizations, which had been waving around the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme, subtly changed their phrasing to either depict Russian “meddling” as an established fact no longer requiring attribution or referred to the “unanimous judgment” of the Intelligence Community without citing a specific number.

This “unanimous judgment” formulation was deceptive, too, because it suggested that all 17 agencies were in accord albeit without exactly saying that. For a regular reader of The New York Times or a frequent viewer of CNN, the distinction would almost assuredly not be detected.

For more than a month after the Clapper-Brennan testimonies, there was no formal correction.

A Belated Correction

Finally, on June 25, the Times’ hand was forced when White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reverted to the old formulation, mocking Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

When this falsehood was called to the Times’ attention, it had little choice but to append a correction to the article, noting that the intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Associated Press ran a similar “clarification” applied to some of its fallacious reporting repeating the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme.

So, you might have thought that the mainstream media was finally adjusting its reporting to conform to reality. But that would mean that one of the pillars of the Russia-gate “scandal” had crumbled, the certainty that Russia and Putin did “meddle” in the election.

The story would have to go back to square one and the major news organizations would have to begin reporting on whether or not there ever was solid evidence to support what had become a “certainty” – and there appeared to be no stomach for such soul-searching. Since pretty much all the important media figures had made the same error, it would be much easier to simply move on as if nothing had changed.

That would mean that skepticism would still be unwelcome and curious leads would not be followed. For instance, there was a head-turning reference in an otherwise typical Washington Post take-out on June 25 accusing Russia of committing “the crime of the century.”

A reference, stuck deep inside the five-page opus, said, “Some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia came from another country, officials said. Because of the source of the material, the NSA was reluctant to view it with high confidence.”

Though the Post did not identify the country, this reference suggests that more than one key element of the case for Russian culpability was based not on direct investigations by the U.S. intelligence agencies, but on the work of external organizations.

Earlier, the Democratic National Committee denied the FBI access to its supposedly hacked computers, forcing the investigators to rely on a DNC contractor called CrowdStrike, which has a checkered record of getting this sort of analytics right and whose chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, is an anti-Putin Russian émigré with ties to the anti-Russian think tank, Atlantic Council.

Relying on Outsiders

You might be wondering why something as important as this “crime of the century,” which has pushed the world closer to nuclear annihilation, is dependent on dubious entities outside the U.S. government with possible conflicts of interest.

If the U.S. government really took this issue seriously, which it should, why didn’t the FBI seize the DNC’s computers and insist that impartial government experts lead the investigation? And why – given the extraordinary expertise of the NSA in computer hacking – is “some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia [coming] from another country,” one that doesn’t inspire the NSA’s confidence?

But such pesky questions are not likely to be asked or answered by a mainstream U.S. media that displays deep-seated bias toward both Putin and Trump.

Mostly, major news outlets continue to brush aside the clarifications and return to various formulations that continue to embrace the “17-intelligence-agencies” canard, albeit in slightly different forms, such as references to the collective Intelligence Community without the specific number. Anyone who questions this established conventional wisdom is still crazy and out of step.

For instance, James Holmes of Esquire was stunned on Thursday when Trump at a news conference in Poland reminded the traveling press corps about the inaccurate reporting regarding the 17 intelligence agencies and said he still wasn’t entirely sure about Russia’s guilt.

“In public, he’s still casting doubt on the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election nearly nine months after the fact,” Holmes sputtered before describing Trump’s comment as a “rant.”

So, if you thought that a chastened mainstream media might stop in the wake of the “17-intelligence-agencies” falsehood and rethink the whole Russia-gate business, you would have been sadly mistaken.

But the problem is not just the question of whether Russia hacked into Democratic emails and slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication (something that both Russia and WikiLeaks deny). Perhaps the larger danger is how the major U.S. news outlets have adopted a consistently propagandistic approach toward everything relating to Russia.

Hating Putin

This pattern traces back to the earliest days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in 2000 when he began to rein in the U.S.-prescribed “shock therapy,” which had sold off Russia’s assets to well-connected insiders, making billions of dollars for the West-favored “oligarchs,” even as the process threw millions of average Russian into poverty.

But the U.S. mainstream media’s contempt for Putin reached new heights after he helped President Obama head off neoconservative (and liberal interventionist) demands for a full-scale U.S. military assault on Syria in August 2013 and helped bring Iran into a restrictive nuclear agreement when the neocons wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.

The neocons delivered their payback to Putin in early 2014 by supporting a violent coup in Ukraine, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. operation was spearheaded by neocon National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, with enthusiastic support from neocon Sen. John McCain.

Nuland was heard in an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should become the new leaders and pondering how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

Despite the clear evidence of U.S. interference in Ukrainian politics, the U.S. government and the mainstream media embraced the coup and accused Putin of “aggression” when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, called the Donbas, resisted the coup regime.

When ethnic Russians and other citizens in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to reject the coup regime and rejoin Russia – a move protected by some of the 20,000 Russian troops inside Crimea as part of a basing agreement – that became a Russian “invasion.” But it was the most peculiar “invasion,” since there were no images of tanks crashing across borders or amphibious landing craft on Crimean beaches, because no such “invasion” had occurred.

However, in virtually every instance, the U.S. mainstream media insisted on the most extreme anti-Russian propaganda line and accused people who questioned this Official Narrative of disseminating Russian “propaganda” – or being a “Moscow stooge” or acting as a “useful fool.” There was no tolerance for skepticism about whatever the State Department or the Washington think tanks were saying.

Trump Meets Putin

So, as Trump prepares for his first meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the U.S. mainstream media has been in a frenzy, linking up its groupthinks about the Ukraine “invasion” with its groupthinks about Russian “hacking” the election.

In a July 3 editorial, The Washington Post declared, “Mr. Trump simply cannot fail to admonish Mr. Putin for Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. He must make clear the United States will not tolerate it, period. Naturally, this is a difficult issue for Mr. Trump, who reaped the benefit of Russia’s intervention and now faces a special counsel’s investigation, but nonetheless, in his first session with Mr. Putin, the president must not hesitate to be blunt. …

“On Ukraine, Mr. Trump must also display determination. Russia fomented an armed uprising and seized Crimea in violation of international norms, and it continues to instigate violence in the Donbas. Mr. Trump ought to make it unmistakably clear to Mr.Putin that the United States will not retreat from the sanctions imposed over Ukraine until the conditions of peace agreements are met.”

Along the same lines, even while suggesting the value of some collaboration with Russia toward ending the war in Syria, Post columnist David Ignatius wrote in a July 5 column, “Russian-American cooperation on Syria faces a huge obstacle right now. It would legitimize a Russian regime that invaded Ukraine and meddled in U.S. and European elections, in addition to its intervention in Syria.”

Note the smug certainty of Ignatius and the Post editors. There is no doubt that Russia “invaded” Ukraine; “seized” Crimea; “meddled” in U.S. and European elections. Yet all these groupthinks should be subjected to skepticism, not simply treated as undeniable truths.

But seeing only one side to a story is where the U.S. mainstream media is at this point in history. Yes, it is possible that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hacks and did funnel the material to WikiLeaks, but evidence has so far been lacking. And, instead of presenting both sides fairly, the major media acts as if only one side deserves any respect and dissenting views must be ridiculed and condemned.

In this perverted process, collectively approved versions of complex situations congeal into conventional wisdom, which simply cannot be significantly reconsidered regardless of future revelations.

As offensive as this rejection of true truth-seeking may be, it also represents an extraordinary danger when mixed with the existential risk of nuclear conflagration.

With the stakes this high, the demand for hard evidence – and the avoidance of soft-minded groupthink – should go without question. Journalists and commentators should hold themselves to professional precision, not slide into sloppy careerism, lost in “propaganda-ville.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NYT Finally Retracts Russia-gate Canard

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 29, 2017

The New York Times has finally admitted that one of the favorite Russia-gate canards – that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred on the assessment of Russian hacking of Democratic emails – is false.

On Thursday, the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true.

In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

However, on Thursday, the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

Politicized Intelligence

In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this selective approach has worked, such as the phony determination of the Reagan administration pinning the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.

Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed State Department and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.

Since Clapper’s and Brennan’s testimony in May, the Times and other mainstream news outlets have avoided a direct contradiction of their earlier acceptance of the 17-intelligence-agencies canard by simply referring to a judgment by “the intelligence community.”

That finessing of their earlier errors has allowed Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats to continue referencing this fictional consensus without challenge, at least in the mainstream media.

For instance, on May 31 at a technology conference in California, Clinton referred to the Jan. 6 report, asserting that “Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get. They concluded with high confidence that the Russians ran an extensive information war campaign against my campaign, to influence voters in the election.”

The failure of the major news organizations to clarify this point about the 17 agencies may have contributed to Haberman’s mistake on June 25 as she simply repeated the groupthink that nearly all the Important People in Washington just knew to be true.

But the Times’ belated correction also underscores the growing sense that the U.S. mainstream media has joined in a political vendetta against Trump and has cast aside professional standards to the point of repeating false claims designed to denigrate him.

That, in turn, plays into Trump’s Twitter complaints that he and his administration are the targets of a “witch hunt” led by the “fake news” media, a grievance that appears to be energizing his supporters and could discredit whatever ongoing investigations eventually conclude.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

June 29, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

NBC’s Kelly Hits Putin with a Beloved Canard

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | June 12, 2017

NBC’s Megyn Kelly wielded one of Official Washington’s most beloved groupthinks to smack Russian President Vladimir Putin over his denials that he and his government were responsible for hacking Democratic emails and interfering with the U.S. presidential election.

In her June 2 interview with Putin, Kelly noted that all “17 intelligence agencies” of the U.S. government concurred in their conclusion of Russian guilt and how could Putin suggest that they all are “lying.” It’s an argument that has been used to silence skeptics for months and apparently is so useful that no one seems to care that it isn’t true.

For instance, on May 8, in testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper conceded publicly that the number of intelligence agencies involved in the assessment was three, not 17, and that the analysts assigned to the project from CIA, FBI and NSA had been “handpicked.”

On May 23, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, former CIA Director John Brennan confirmed Clapper’s account about the three agencies involved. “It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies,” Brennan acknowledged.

But those public admissions haven’t stopped Democrats and the mainstream media from continuing to repeat the false claim. In comments on May 31, failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton repeated the canard, with a flourish, saying: “Seventeen agencies, all in agreement, which I know from my experience as a Senator and Secretary of State, is hard to get.”

A couple of days later, Kelly revived the myth of the consensus among the 17 intelligence agencies in her interview with the Russian president. But Putin passed up the opportunity to correct her, replying instead:

“They have been misled and they are not analyzing the information in its entirety. … We have talked about it with former President Obama and with several other officials. No one ever showed me any direct evidence. When we spoke with President Obama about that, you know, you should probably better ask him about it – I think he will tell you that he, too, is confident of it. But when he and I talked I saw that he, too, started having doubts. At any rate, that’s how I saw it.”

As I noted in a Jan. 20 article about Obama’s news conference two days earlier, “Did President Barack Obama acknowledge that the extraordinary propaganda campaign to blame Russia for helping Donald Trump become president has a very big hole in it, i.e., that the U.S. intelligence community has no idea how the Democratic emails reached WikiLeaks? For weeks, eloquent obfuscation – expressed with ‘high confidence’ – has been the name of the game, but inadvertent admissions now are dispelling some of the clouds. …

“At President Obama’s Jan. 18 press conference, he admitted as much: ‘the conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.’” [Emphasis added]

Explaining the Technology

More importantly, Putin in his interview with Kelly points out that “today’s technology” enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” of the hack. “And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack. Modern technology is very sophisticated and subtle and allows this to be done. And when we realize that we will get rid of all the illusions. …”

Later, when Kelly came back to the issue of hacking, Putin expanded on the difficulty in tracing the source of cyber attacks.

“Hackers may be anywhere,” Putin said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? In the middle of an internal political fight, it was convenient for them, whatever the reason, to put out that information. And put it out they did. And, doing it, they made a reference to Russia. Can’t you imagine it happening? I can.

“Let us recall the assassination of President Kennedy. There is a theory that Kennedy’s assassination was arranged by the United States special services. If this theory is correct, and one cannot rule it out, so what can be easier in today’s context, being able to rely on the entire technical capabilities available to special services than to organize some kind of attacks in the appropriate manner while making a reference to Russia in the process. …”

Kelly: “Let’s move on.”

However carefully Megyn Kelly and her NBC colleagues peruse The New York Times, they might well not know WikiLeaks’ disclosure on March 31 of original CIA documents showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs (like Cyrillic markings, for example).

The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the “Vault 7” trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines. But the Deep State has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for “proving” the Russians hacked into Democratic Party emails.

In other words, it is altogether possible that the hacking attributed to Russia was actually one of several “active measures” undertaken by a cabal consisting of the CIA, FBI, NSA and Clapper — the same agencies responsible for the lame, evidence-free report of Jan. 6, that Clapper and Brennan acknowledged last month was not the consensus view of the 17 intelligence agencies.

There is also the issue of the forensics. Former FBI Director James Comey displayed considerable discomfort on March 20, explaining to the House Intelligence Committee why the FBI did not insist on getting physical access to the Democratic National Committee’s computers in order to do its own proper forensics, but chose to rely on the examination done by the DNC’s private contractor, Crowdstrike.

The firm itself has conflicts of interests in its links to the pro-NATO and anti-Russia think tank, the Atlantic Council, through Dmitri Alperovitch, who is an Atlantic Council senior fellow and the co-founder of Crowdstrike.

Strange Oversight

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – now including a possible impeachment battle over removing the President of the United States – wouldn’t it seem logical for the FBI to insist on its own forensics for this fundamental predicate of the case? Or could Comey’s hesitancy to demand access to the DNC’s computers be explained by a fear that FBI technicians not fully briefed on CIA/NSA/FBI Deep State programs might uncover a lot more than he wanted?

Comey was asked again about this curious oversight on June 8 by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr:

BURR: “And the FBI, in this case, unlike other cases that you might investigate — did you ever have access to the actual hardware that was hacked? Or did you have to rely on a third party to provide you the data that they had collected?”

COMEY: “In the case of the DNC, and, I believe, the DCCC, but I’m sure the DNC, we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity, that had done the work. But we didn’t get direct access.”

BURR: “But no content?”

COMEY: “Correct.”

BURR: “Isn’t content an important part of the forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint?”

COMEY: “It is, although what was briefed to me by my folks — the people who were my folks at the time is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.”

Burr demurred on asking Comey to explain what amounts to gross misfeasance, if not worse. Perhaps, NBC could arrange for Megyn Kelly to interview Burr to ask if he has a clue as to what Putin might have been referring to when he noted, “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia.”

Given the congressional intelligence “oversight” committees’ obsequiousness and repeated “high esteem” for the “intelligence community,” there seems an even chance that – no doubt because of an oversight – the CIA/FBI/NSA deep-stage troika failed to brief the Senate “oversight committee” chairman on WikiLeaks “Vault 7” disclosures – even when WikiLeaks publishes original CIA documents. 

Ray McGovern is a 27-year veteran of the CIA analysis division and was chief of its Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared the President’s Daily Brief for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

This is How Comey Really Helped US President by Trying to Damage Him

Sputnik – 09.06.2017

WASHINGTON – Former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey’s testimony to a US Senate hearing did further political damage to President Donald Trump, but also cleared him of having been a subject of inquiry, former FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley told Sputnik.

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey said that President Donald Trump did not ask him to drop his probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

“Overall it did do some further damage to Trump… [but] I don’t think there was a whole lot new learned,” Rowley said on Thursday. “Finally we learned that Trump was personally not a subject of the investigation at least until Comey was fired.”

Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel noted that Comey had admitted to inappropriate behavior himself during the hearing before the US Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I thought the most interesting thing they did that did come out now was that Comey was responsible for leaking his own memorandum to a law professor at Columbia University,” she said.

Neither Republican nor Democratic senators had followed up on Comey’s admission and tried to learn the full details behind it and the extent of the leaks he had performed himself or knew about, Rowley observed.

“It is a pity that no senators followed up on that or asked how often he had done it before and if he knew who else (among senior officials) had been leaking. That was a missed opportunity,” she said.

Comey produced no hard evidence of wrongdoing on Trump’s part, but he had proved skillful at painting a critical portrait of the president in his testimony, Rowley assessed.

“Comey is very good on his feet. He is fast thinking and very political. He is a performer,” she said.

Media coverage of the hearing was biased against Trump and highly sympathetic and uncritical towards Comey, Rowley commented.

“Our news coverage was very one-sided,” she said.

In previous published comments, Rowley has recalled that when Comey was deputy attorney general, he had signed off on highly illegal programs, including warrantless surveillance of Americans and torture of captives.

As top law enforcement official of the George W. Bush administration, Comey presided over post-September 11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the US Constitution, including fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain incompetence, Rowley has stated.

Rowley sent a May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller that exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. She was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

‘Soft Coup’ on Trump, Hiding in Plain Sight

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 8, 2017

So what were we watching in ex-FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Thursday: an upright public servant punished for resisting a power-mad President or a participant in a political scheme to use the law as a way to overturn a U.S. presidential election?

There was a general consensus in the mainstream media that it was the first, that Comey was the noble victim and President Trump the conniving villain. And, surely, Trump could be criticized for his clumsy firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and ensuing expression of “hope” to then-FBI Director Comey that Flynn would not be punished further.

But – outside the view of the MSM – there are other troubling aspects of what is now unfolding, including the scene of FBI Director Comey informing President-elect Trump on Jan. 6 about a defamatory annex to an intelligence report detailing unproven but salacious allegations and then seeing those details leaked almost immediately to humiliate Trump in the days before his Inauguration.

In his Thursday testimony, Comey defended his role in alerting Trump to the Intelligence Community’s publication of the allegations, which summarized opposition research done to benefit Hillary Clinton’s campaign and alleging that Trump had hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on him as he lay in a bed once used by President and Mrs. Obama at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow – while supposedly secretly videotaped by Russian intelligence.

In the testimony, Comey said that after he and other Obama’s intelligence chiefs briefed the President-elect at Trump Towers on Jan. 6 about their report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, “I remained alone with the President-elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

“The I.C. leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the I.C. should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

“The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-elect.”

Like J. Edgar Hoover

Given the mainstream media’s determined promotion of Russia-gate as a legitimate scandal, the extraordinary nature of this briefing incident has passed largely unnoticed.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

If, however, you substituted FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for FBI Director Comey, the significance of the I.C.’s gratuitous inclusion of such an unsubstantiated smear might take on a different coloring. It was, after all, the decision to tack this classified annex onto the Jan. 6 report that gave the mainstream media the hook to disseminate the “golden shower” accusation across the country and around the world.

Rather than minimizing “potential embarrassment to the President-elect,” as Comey demurred, the classified annex was guaranteed to maximize Trump’s embarrassment, which it did.

In other words, just as Comey said he inferred an improper or illegal order when Trump expressed “hope” that Flynn’s legal ordeal might end, Trump might well have deduced that Comey’s elevation of the urination story amounted to coercion or blackmail from the Intelligence Community.

Trump, who surely knows the shadier corners of the construction trade, might have heard something like, “Gee, we’d hate for your wife and children (not to mention the rest of the world) to hear this story about prostitutes peeing on you” – and read the warning as a threat.

FBI Director Hoover was a master of just this sort of warning, conveyed as a sincere concern about some politician’s well-being. Trump, who has emphatically denied the salacious accusation, could well have seen Comey sending him a message from the leaders of the powerful Intelligence Community that they were determined to remove Trump or at least politically cripple him.

Just three days earlier, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that Trump was “being really dumb” by taking on the Intelligence Community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

In the five months since the Jan. 6 briefing, Trump has gotten a taste of how accurate Schumer’s observation was. Making sure that the public got to read the “dirty dossier” – compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele and financed by some still unknown Clinton supporter – was clearly one of those six ways.

On top of that, Obama’s intelligence chiefs, including Comey, have testified repeatedly before Congress while they or their allies have leaked derogatory information about Trump to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets.

The ‘Soft Coup’

In other words, what we may have witnessed in Comey’s ballyhooed testimony on Thursday was just the latest chapter in a “soft coup” to remove Trump – either through a forced resignation or impeachment. The thinking is that Trump is so incompetent that “wise men” must step in to “correct a mistake” made by the U.S. electorate and made possible by the Constitution’s Electoral College system, which enabled Trump to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote,

But the American people are not supposed to see it that way. After all, the realization that U.S. intelligence chieftains might be conspiring to overturn a constitutional election of a U.S. president could be most upsetting and unsettling, even if one assumes that they are sincerely doing what they think is “best for the country.”

So, this side of the story remains unspoken, a silence made possible by the fact that most of the nation’s top news executives and much of its political elite share the opinion that Trump’s presidency must be ended and a more traditional chief executive installed.

But no one in authority wants to acknowledge that a “soft coup” is in the works because that would make America look like a banana republic to the world. It also could infuriate Trump’s 63 million voters who might take exception to this sort of “deep state” veto of a duly certified election.

So, what that means is that the planned removal of Trump will be a deliberate process cloaked in high-minded legal principles and much talk about the rule of law.

Of course, Trump would not be the only loser in this process. His sinking presidency would drag down many of those around him – and, in the case of Michael Flynn, might well lead to criminal charges.

Indeed, if civil libertarians were not largely committed to the anti-Trump #Resistance, they might pause for a moment and consider the disturbing picture of what was done to retired Lt. Gen. Flynn.

Trapping Flynn

To engineer the ouster of Flynn as Trump’s first National Security Adviser, President Obama’s Justice Department holdovers used the archaic 1799 Logan Act as a predicate to justify an FBI interrogation of Flynn about the details of a phone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyac on Dec. 29, 2016, while Flynn was vacationing in the Dominican Republic.

Since the FBI agents had a transcript of the intercepted phone call and Flynn was working from memory – possibly a bit hazy from a Pina Colada or two – Flynn was an easy mark for a perjury trap. Leaving out some detail, whether intentionally or not, would open him to an obstruction case – and Comey reportedly has indicated that the ongoing criminal investigation of Flynn indeed relates to whether he withheld information from investigators.

Every American who is concerned about the future political use of the U.S. intelligence agencies’ powerful surveillance tools should have shuddered a bit over what was done to Flynn. But many on the Left so desperately want Trump removed from office that they have joined the Russia-gate stampede as the best way to trample Trump.

So, few tears have been shed for Flynn even as he was ambushed based on transcripts of National Security Agency transcripts, a precedent that could be replicated in many other circumstances against American citizens who get on the Intelligence Community’s “six ways from Sunday” black list.

The use of the Logan Act predicate should have set off other alarm bells. The law, which was enacted during the Alien and Sedition Act period, was meant to stop private citizens from trying to conduct U.S. foreign policy on their own, but its constitutionality was always suspect and it has never led to a prosecution, not one in 218 years.

It was also never intended to apply to incoming foreign policy officials of a new presidential administration after the election, when they are understandably beginning to make contacts with foreign officials. So, for then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates to have dusted it off as a predicate for going after Flynn suggests additional entrapment problems.

True, Flynn may have used poor judgment in how he handled a 2015 paid speaking engagement in Moscow, how he reported on his consulting work for a Dutch company owned by a wealthy Turk with high-level political connections, and what he might have said to Kislyak (although we still don’t know the details of that conversation).

Islamic State Warning

But Flynn also had been an Army lieutenant general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2012 when it produced the U.S. government’s most perceptive critique of President Obama’s proxy war in Syria, even predicting the emergence of an “Islamic state,” a judgment that annoyed other intelligence leaders who were participating in the covert war to overthrow the Syrian government.

The DIA report embarrassed the advocates for an escalation of the war in Syria and the ouster of secular President Bashar al-Assad. Journalist Seymour Hersh reported that Flynn’s DIA “had sent a constant stream of classified warnings … about the dire consequences of toppling Assad.” Flynn told Hersh that these reports “got enormous pushback from the Obama administration.”

After being forced out of his DIA job and retiring from the Army in 2014, Flynn went even further in a 2015 interview when he said the intelligence was “very clear” that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to back these jihadists in league with Middle East allies, a choice that looked particularly stupid when Islamic State militants started beheading American hostages and capturing cities in Iraq, forcing the reintroduction of U.S. military troops.

However, out of a job, Flynn scrambled around for additional income, including signing up with a speakers’ bureau and forming a consulting company, as many other national security veterans have done.

In perhaps Flynn’s most controversial decision, he accepted a speaking fee of about $45,000 to address the tenth anniversary dinner for Russia’s RT network in Moscow, sitting next to President Vladimir Putin for part of the evening. Given the Obama administration’s heightened hostility toward Russia, Flynn’s appearance drew some high-level criticism.

Flynn further antagonized Obama’s team by signing up with the Trump campaign and then joining the “lock her up” chant at the Republican National Convention directed toward Hillary Clinton.

In the wake of Clinton’s shocking defeat and amid the Intelligence Community’s claims about Russian interference in the election, Flynn’s friendly relations with Russian leaders made him an obvious target.

Still, the notion of Obama holdovers taking Flynn out via dubious legal tactics – and their fueling of a McCarthyistic hysteria over Russia – normally might have raised more objections if not for the widespread disdain for Trump, his narcissistic behavior and his offensive policies, such as the “Muslim travel ban.”

However, amid the mainstream media’s increasingly frenzied talk about Trump’s potential impeachment, this other remarkable story – how the U.S. Intelligence Community is moving to reverse the outcome of a presidential election – is getting ignored in plain sight.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

June 8, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Russia-gate’s Mythical ‘Heroes’

By Coleen Rowley | Consortium News | June 6, 2017

Mainstream commentators display amnesia when they describe former FBI Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey as stellar and credible law enforcement figures. Perhaps if they included J. Edgar Hoover, such fulsome praise could be put into proper perspective.

Robert Mueller with President George W. Bush
July 5, 2001 – (White House photo)

Although these Hoover successors, now occupying center stage in the investigation of President Trump, have been hailed for their impeccable character by much of Official Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush Administration (Mueller as FBI Director and James Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain vanilla incompetence.

TIME Magazine would probably have not called my own disclosures a “bombshell memo” to the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry in May 2002 if it had not been for Mueller’s having so misled everyone after 9/11. Although he bore no personal responsibility for intelligence failures before the attack, since he only became FBI Director a week before, Mueller denied or downplayed the significance of warnings that had poured in yet were all ignored or mishandled during the Spring and Summer of 2001.

Bush Administration officials had circled the wagons and refused to publicly own up to what the 9/11 Commission eventually concluded, “that the system had been blinking red.” Failures to read, share or act upon important intelligence, which a FBI agent witness termed “criminal negligence” in later trial testimony, were therefore not fixed in a timely manner. (Some failures were never fixed at all.)

Worse, Bush and Cheney used that post 9/11 period of obfuscation to “roll out” their misbegotten “war on terror,” which only served to exponentially increase worldwide terrorism.

Unfulfilled Promise

I wanted to believe Director Mueller when he expressed some regret in our personal meeting the night before we both testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He told me he was seeking improvements and that I should not hesitate to contact him if I ever witnessed a similar situation to what was behind the FBI’s pre 9/11 failures.

A few months later, when it appeared he was acceding to Bush-Cheney’s ginning up intelligence to launch the unjustified, counterproductive and illegal war on Iraq, I took Mueller up on his offer, emailing him my concerns in late February 2003. Mueller knew, for instance, that Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims connecting 9/11 to Iraq were bogus yet he remained quiet. He also never responded to my email.

Beyond ignoring politicized intelligence, Mueller bent to other political pressures. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mueller directed the “post 9/11 round-up” of about 1,000 immigrants who mostly happened to be in the wrong place (the New York City area) at the wrong time. FBI Headquarters encouraged more and more detentions for what seemed to be essentially P.R. purposes. Field offices were required to report daily the number of detentions in order to supply grist for FBI press releases about FBI “progress” in fighting terrorism. Consequently, some of the detainees were brutalized and jailed for up to a year despite the fact that none turned out to be terrorists.

A History of Failure

Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI-operated) Bulger gang.

Current media applause omits the fact that former FBI Director Mueller was the top official in charge of the Anthrax terror fiasco investigation into those 2001 murders, which targeted an innocent man (Steven Hatfill) whose lawsuit eventually forced the FBI to pay $5 million in compensation. Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the law improperly serving hundreds of thousands of “national security letters” to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating “terrorism.”

For his part, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, too, went along with the abuses of Bush and Cheney after 9/11 and signed off on a number of highly illegal programs including warrantless surveillance of Americans and torture of captives. Comey also defended the Bush Administration’s three-year-long detention of an American citizen without charges or right to counsel.

Up to the March 2004 night in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room, both Comey and Mueller were complicit with implementing a form of martial law, perpetrated via secret Office of Legal Counsel memos mainly written by John Yoo and predicated upon Yoo’s singular theories of absolute “imperial” or “war presidency” powers, and requiring Ashcroft every 90 days to renew certification of a “state of emergency.”

The Comey/Mueller Myth

What’s not well understood is that Comey’s and Mueller’s joint intervention to stop Bush’s men from forcing the sick Attorney General to sign the certification that night was a short-lived moment. A few days later, they all simply went back to the drawing board to draft new legal loopholes to continue the same (unconstitutional) surveillance of Americans.

The mythology of this episode, repeated endlessly throughout the press, is that Comey and Mueller did something significant and lasting in that hospital room. They didn’t. Only the legal rationale for their unconstitutional actions was tweaked.

Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities.

Neither Comey nor Mueller — who are reported to be “joined at the hip” — deserve their current lionization among politicians and mainstream media. Instead of Jimmy Stewart-like “G-men” with reputations for principled integrity, the two close confidants and collaborators merely proved themselves, along with former CIA Director George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, reliably politicized sycophants, enmeshing themselves in a series of wrongful abuses of power along with official incompetence.

It seems clear that based on his history and close “partnership” with Comey, called “one of the closest working relationships the top ranks of the Justice Department have ever seen,” Mueller was chosen as Special Counsel not because he has integrity but because he will do what the powerful want him to do.

Mueller didn’t speak the truth about a war he knew to be unjustified. He didn’t speak out against torture. He didn’t speak out against unconstitutional surveillance. And he didn’t tell the truth about 9/11. He is just “their man.”

Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Her 2003 letter to Robert Mueller in opposition to launching the Iraq War is archived in full text on the NYT and her 2013 op-ed entitled “Questions for the FBI Nominee” was published on the day of James Comey’s confirmation hearing. This piece will also be cross-posted on Rowley’s Huffington Post page.)

Relevant links:

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20020603,00.html

 

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Ch8.pdf

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/21/us/nationalspecial3/fbi-agent-testifies-superiors-didnt-pursue-moussaoui.html

 

http://www.truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/68973:the-iraq-effect-war-has-increased-terrorism-sevenfold-worldwide

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3322308/Number-people-killed-terrorists-worldwide-soars-80-just-year.html

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/politics/full-text-of-fbi-agents-letter-to-director-mueller.html

 

https://oig.justice.gov/special/0306/full.pdf

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/18/us/immigrants-suit-over-detention-after-9-11-is-revived.html

 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/1970/01/19/one-lingering-question-for-fbi-director-robert-mueller/613uW0MR7czurRn7M4BG2J/story.html

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/05/21/comey-mueller-bungled-big-anthrax-case-together/

 

https://www.mintpressnews.com/anthrax-russiagate-muellers-special-counsel-appointment-raise-concern/228317/

 

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/government_programs-jan-june07-patriotact_03-09/

 

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/DOJ/story?id=4444329

 

https://www.aclu.org/news/fbi-counterterrorism-unit-spies-peaceful-faith-based-protest-group

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/opinion/questions-for-the-fbi-nominee.html

 

https://theintercept.com/2016/02/25/fbi-director-james-comey-who-signed-off-on-waterboarding-is-now-losing-sleep-over-an-iphone/

 

http://www.newsweek.com/ali-soufan-breaks-his-silence-77243

 

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/05/19/gregg-jarrett-why-robert-mueller-should-resign-as-special-counsel.html

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/10/want-a-special-prosecutor-to-replace-james-comey-history-might-change-your-mind/?utm_ter4091053795m

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/03/03/the-flawed-record-of-special-prosecutors-who-create-as-much-controversy-as-they-resolve/?utm_term=.29989d7a3635

June 6, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

New Cracks in Russia-gate ‘Assessment’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | May 23, 2017

At the center of the Russia-gate scandal is a curious U.S. intelligence “assessment” that was pulled together in less than a month and excluded many of the agencies that would normally weigh in on such an important topic as whether Russia tried to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

The Jan. 6 report and its allegation that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails and publicized them through WikiLeaks have been treated as gospel by the mainstream U.S. media and many politicians of both parties, but two senior Obama administration intelligence officials have provided new information that raises fresh doubts about the findings.

On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment, relying on analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the oversight of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Brennan said the report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies, and for good reason because of the nature and the sensitivity of the information trying, once again, to keep that tightly compartmented.”

But Brennan’s excuse about “tightly compartmented” information was somewhat disingenuous because other intelligence agencies, such as the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), could have been consulted in a limited fashion, based on their areas of expertise. For instance, INR could have weighed in on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would have taken the risk of trying to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign, knowing that – if she won as expected and learned of the operation – she might have sought revenge against him and his country.

The Jan. 6 report argued one side of the case – that Putin had a motive for undermining Clinton because he objected to her work as Secretary of State when she encouraged anti-Putin protests inside Russia – but the report ignored the counter-argument that the usually cautious Putin might well have feared infuriating the incoming U.S. President if the anti-Clinton ploy failed to block her election.

A balanced intelligence assessment would have included not just arguments for believing that the Russians did supply the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks but the reasons to doubt that they did.

Pre-Cooked Intelligence

However, the restricted nature of the Jan. 6 report – limiting it to analysts from CIA, NSA and FBI – blocked the kind of expertise that the State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies might have provided. In other words, the Jan. 6 report has the look of pre-cooked intelligence.

That impression was further strengthened by the admission of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that “the two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.”

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

In the history of U.S. intelligence, we have seen how this approach has worked, such as the determination of the Reagan administration to pin the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II and other acts of terror on the Soviet Union.

CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates shepherded the desired findings through the process by putting the assessment under the control of pliable analysts and sidelining those who objected to this politicization of intelligence.

The point of enlisting the broader intelligence community – and incorporating dissents into a final report – is to guard against such “stove-piping” of intelligence that delivers the politically desired result but ultimately distorts reality.

Another painful example of politicized intelligence was President George W. Bush’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD that removed INR’s and other dissents from the declassified version that was given to the public.

Lacking Evidence

The Jan. 6 report – technically called an Intelligence Community Assessment (or ICA) – avoided the need to remove any dissents by excluding the intelligence agencies that might have dissented and by hand-picking the analysts who compiled the report.

However, like the declassified version of the Iraq NIE, the Russia-gate ICA lacked any solid evidence to support the conclusions. The ICA basically demanded that the American public “trust us” and got away with that bluff because much of the mainstream U.S. news media wanted to believe anything negative about then-President-elect Trump.

Because of that, the American people were repeatedly – and falsely – informed that the findings about Russian “hacking” reflected the collective judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, making anyone who dared question the conclusion seem like a crackpot or a “Russian apologist.”

Yet, based on the testimonies of Clapper and Brennan, we now know that the ICA represented only a hand-picked selection of the intelligence community – four, not 17, agencies.

There were other biases reflected in the ICA, such as a bizarre appendix that excoriated RT, the Russian television network, for supposedly undermining Americans’ confidence in their democratic process.

This seven-page appendix, dating from 2012, accused RT of portraying “the US electoral process as undemocratic” and offered such “proof” as RT’s staging of a debate among third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

“RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates,” the report said, as if allowing political figures in the United States who were not part of the two-party system to express their views, was somehow anti-democratic, when you might think that letting Americans hear alternatives was the essence of democracy.

“The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham,’” the report continued. Yet, polls have shown that large numbers of Americans would prefer more choices than the usual two candidates and, indeed, most Western democracies have multiple parties, So, the implicit RT criticism of the U.S. political process is certainly not out of the ordinary.

The report also took RT to task for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reporting on the environmental dangers from “fracking,” topics cited as further proof that the Russian government was using RT to weaken U.S. public support for Washington’s policies (although, again, these are topics of genuine public interest).

Assessing or Guessing

But at least the appendix offered up some “evidence” – as silly as those examples might have been. The main body of the report amounted to one “assessment” after another with no verifiable evidence included, at least in the unclassified version that the American people were allowed to see.

The report also contained a warning about how unreliable these “assessments” could be: “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

In other words, “assessing” in intelligence terms often equates with “guessing” – and if the guessers are hand-picked by political appointees – it shouldn’t be surprising that they would come up with an “assessment” that would please their bosses, in this case, President Obama and his appointees at CIA, NSA, FBI and ODNI.

The timing and speed of the Jan. 6 report also drew some attention at Tuesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, where Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, noted that President Obama requested the ICA on Dec. 9 and the last entry was dated Dec. 29.

“This report was produced in just 20 days in December,” Stefanik said, adding: “It’s of concern to me that there was a two-month lag” between when Obama’s intelligence agencies first alleged Russian “hacking” of Democratic emails and when Obama ordered the ICA.

Of course, the ICA’s flaws do not mean that Russia is innocent or that WikiLeaks is telling the truth when it asserts that the two batches of Democratic emails – one from the Democratic National Committee and the other from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta – did not come from the Russians.

But the Jan. 6 report has served as the foundation for a series of investigations that have hobbled the Trump administration and could lead to the negation of a U.S. presidential election via the impeachment or forced resignation of President Trump.

The seriousness of that possibility would seem to demand the most thorough examination and the fullest vetting of the evidence. Even just the appearance that the ICA might be one more case of politicized intelligence would do more to destroy Americans’ faith in their democratic system than anything that Putin might dream up.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

May 23, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate

By Ray McGovern and William Binney | Consortium News | May 20, 2017

Official Washington got to relive the excitement of Watergate in a “gotcha” moment after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. There were fond recollections of how righteous the major newspapers felt when condemning President Nixon over his “Saturday Night Massacre” firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

But the overriding question from “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia” — as President Trump calls it — is whether there is any there there. The President labeled it a “made-up story” and, by all appearances from what is known at this time, he is mostly correct.

A few days before Comey’s firing, the FBI Director reportedly had asked for still more resources to hunt the Russian bear for supposedly “interfering” with last year’s election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. And so the firing allowed the Watergate-recalling news outlets to trot out the old trope that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.”

But can that argument bear close scrutiny, or is it the “phony narrative” that Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas claims it to be? Cornyn quipped that, if impeding the investigation was Trump’s aim, “This strikes me as a lousy way to do it. All it does is heighten the attention given to the issue.”

Truth is, President Trump had ample reason to be fed up with Comey, in part for his lack of enthusiasm toward investigating actual, provable crimes related to “Russia-gate” — like the flood of sensitive national security leaks, such as the highly sensitive intercepted communications used to precipitate the demise of Trump aide Michael Flynn.

The retired Army lieutenant general was “caught” talking with Russia’s ambassador last December, a normal undertaking for a person designated as the incoming National Security Adviser. But Obama administration holdovers twisted that into a supposed violation of the archaic 1799 Logan Act and then used a transcript of the phone call to trip up Flynn because he didn’t have perfect recollection of the conversation.

So, a trumped-up federal case was used to help get Flynn fired, but an apparent criminal act – the Flynn leak among many other leaks – was apparently ignored. We suspect that one reason for Comey’s disinterest was that he already knows who was responsible.

In contrast to Comey’s see-no-evil reaction to criminal leaking, the FBI Director evinced strong determination to chase after ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until the cows came home. The investigation (already underway for 10 months) had the decided advantage of casting doubt on the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and putting the kibosh on his plans to forge a more workable relationship with Russia, a win-win for the Establishment, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the FBI/CIA/NSA “Deep State”; a lose-lose for the President – and arguably the American people and the world, both of whom might benefit from fewer big-power tensions and lower spending on an arms race.

An Evidence Shortage

What has been particularly noteworthy about this “scandal” is how much spooky music we’ve heard and how many sinister suspicions have been raised versus actual “evidence” of the core allegations. So far, it has been smoke and mirrors with no chargeable offenses and not a scintilla of convincing proof of Russian “meddling” in the election.

The oft-cited, but evidence-free, CIA/FBI/NSA report of Jan. 6 — crafted by selected senior analysts, according to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — is of a piece with the “high-confidence,” but fraudulent, National Intelligence Estimate 15 years ago about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But what about the “Russian hacking,” the centerpiece of the accusations about Kremlin “interference” to help Trump? Surely, we know that happened. Or do we?

On March 31, 2017, WikiLeaks released original CIA documents — almost completely ignored by the mainstream media — showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs (like Cyrillic markings, for example). The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the “Vault 7” trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines. But the Deep State has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for “proving” the Russians hacked into Democratic Party emails.

In other words, it is altogether possible that the hacking attributed to Russia was actually one of several “active measures” undertaken by a cabal consisting of the CIA, FBI, NSA and Clapper — the same agencies responsible for the lame, evidence-free report of Jan. 6.

Comey displayed considerable discomfort on March 20, explaining to the House Intelligence Committee why the FBI did not insist on getting physical access to the Democratic National Committee’s computers in order to do its own proper forensics, but chose to rely on the examination done by the DNC’s private contractor, Crowdstrike. The firm itself has conflicts of interests in its links to the pro-NATO and anti-Russia think tank, the Atlantic Council, through Dmitri Alperovitch, who is an Atlantic Council senior fellow and the co-founder of Crowdstrike.

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – now including a possible impeachment battle over removing the President of the United States – wouldn’t it seem logical for the FBI to insist on its own forensics for this fundamental predicate of the case? Or could Comey’s hesitancy to demand access to the DNC’s computers be explained by a fear that FBI technicians not fully briefed on CIA/NSA/FBI Deep State programs might uncover a lot more than he wanted?

President Trump has entered into a high-stakes gamble in confronting the Deep State and its media allies over the accusations of his colluding with Russia. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, publicly warned him of the risk earlier this year. “You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Jan. 3.

If Mr. Trump continues to “take on” the Deep State, he will be fighting uphill, whether he’s in the right or not. It is far from certain he will prevail.

Ray McGovern (rrmcgovern@gmail.com) was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president’s daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan’s most senior national security officials from 1981-85. William Binney (williambinney0802@comcast.net) worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment