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The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 11, 2018

Russia-gate is becoming FBI-gate, thanks to the official release of unguarded text messages between loose-lipped FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and his garrulous girlfriend, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. (Ten illustrative texts from their exchange appear at the end of this article.)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in their third debate,
as Clinton called Trump Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.”

Despite his former job as chief of the FBI’s counterintelligence section, Strzok had the naive notion that texting on FBI phones could not be traced. Strzok must have slept through “Security 101.” Or perhaps he was busy texting during that class. Girlfriend Page cannot be happy at being misled by his assurance that using office phones would be a secure way to conduct their affair(s).

It would have been unfortunate enough for Strzok and Page to have their adolescent-sounding texts merely exposed, revealing the reckless abandon of star-crossed lovers hiding (they thought) secrets from cuckolded spouses, office colleagues, and the rest of us. However, for the never-Trump plotters in the FBI, the official release of just a fraction (375) of almost 10,000 messages does incalculably more damage than that.

We suddenly have documentary proof that key elements of the U.S. intelligence community were trying to short-circuit the U.S. democratic process. And that puts in a new and dark context the year-long promotion of Russia-gate. It now appears that it was not the Russians trying to rig the outcome of the U.S. election, but leading officials of the U.S. intelligence community, shadowy characters sometimes called the Deep State.

More of the Strzok-Page texting dialogue is expected to be released. And the Department of Justice Inspector General reportedly has additional damaging texts from others on the team that Special Counsel Robert Mueller selected to help him investigate Russia-gate.

Besides forcing the removal of Strzok and Page, the text exposures also sounded the death knell for the career of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, in whose office some of the plotting took place and who has already announced his plans to retire soon.

But the main casualty is the FBI’s 18-month campaign to sabotage candidate-and-now-President Donald Trump by using the Obama administration’s Russia-gate intelligence “assessment,” electronic surveillance of dubious legality, and a salacious dossier that could never pass the smell test, while at the same time using equally dubious techniques to immunize Hillary Clinton and her closest advisers from crimes that include lying to the FBI and endangering secrets.

Ironically, the Strzok-Page texts provide something that the Russia-gate investigation has been sorely lacking: first-hand evidence of both corrupt intent and action. After months of breathless searching for “evidence” of Russian-Trump collusion designed to put Trump in the White House, what now exists is actual evidence that senior officials of the Obama administration colluded to keep Trump out of the White House – proof of what old-time gumshoes used to call “means, motive and opportunity.”

Even more unfortunately for Russia-gate enthusiasts, the FBI lovers’ correspondence provides factual evidence exposing much of the made-up “Resistance” narrative – the contrived storyline that The New York Times and much of the rest of the U.S. mainstream media deemed fit to print with little skepticism and few if any caveats, a scenario about brilliantly devious Russians that not only lacks actual evidence – relying on unverified hearsay and rumor – but doesn’t make sense on its face.

The Russia-gate narrative always hinged on the preposterous notion that Russian President Vladimir Putin foresaw years ago what no American political analyst considered even possible, the political ascendancy of Donald Trump. According to the narrative, the fortune-telling Putin then risked creating even worse tensions with a nuclear-armed America that would – by all odds – have been led by a vengeful President Hillary Clinton.

Besides this wildly improbable storyline, there were flat denials from WikiLeaks, which distributed the supposedly “hacked” Democratic emails, that the information came from Russia – and there was the curious inability of the National Security Agency to use its immense powers to supply any technical evidence to support the Russia-hack scenario.

The Trump Shock

But the shock of Trump’s election and the decision of many never-Trumpers to cast their lot with the Resistance led to a situation in which any prudent skepticism or demand for evidence was swept aside.

So, on Jan. 6, 2017, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released an evidence-free report that he said was compiled by “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and NSA, offering an “assessment” that Russia and President Putin were behind the release of the Democratic emails in a plot to help Trump win the presidency.

Despite the extraordinary gravity of the charge, even New York Times correspondent Scott Shane noted that proof was lacking. He wrote at the time: “What is missing from the [the Jan. 6] public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

But the “assessment” served a useful purpose for the never-Trumpers: it applied an official imprimatur on the case for delegitimizing Trump’s election and even raised the long-shot hope that the Electoral College might reverse the outcome and possibly install a compromise candidate, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, in the White House. Though the Powell ploy fizzled, the hope of somehow removing Trump from office continued to bubble, fueled by the growing hysteria around Russia-gate.

Virtually all skepticism about the evidence-free “assessment” was banned. For months, the Times and other newspapers of record repeated the lie that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had concurred in the conclusion about the Russian “hack.” Even when that falsehood was belatedly acknowledged, the major news outlets just shifted the phrasing slightly to say that U.S. intelligence agencies had reached the Russian “hack” conclusion. Shane’s blunt initial recognition about the lack of proof disappeared from the mainstream media’s approved narrative of Russia-gate.

Doubts about the Russian “hack” or dissident suggestions that what we were witnessing was a “soft coup” were scoffed at by leading media commentators. Other warnings from veteran U.S. intelligence professionals about the weaknesses of the Russia-gate narrative and the danger of letting politicized intelligence overturn a constitutional election were also brushed aside in pursuit of the goal of removing Trump from the White House.

It didn’t even seem to matter when new Russia-gate disclosures conflicted with the original narrative that Putin had somehow set Trump up as a Manchurian candidate. All normal journalistic skepticism was jettisoned. It was as if the Russia-gate advocates started with the conclusion that Trump must go and then made the facts fit into that mold, but anyone who noted the violations of normal investigative procedures was dismissed as a “Trump enabler” or a “Moscow stooge.”

The Text Evidence

But then came the FBI text messages, providing documentary evivdence that key FBI officials involved in the Russia-gate investigation were indeed deeply biased and out to get Trump, adding hard proof to Trump’s longstanding lament that he was the subject of a “witch hunt.”

Justified or not, Trump’s feeling of vindication could hardly be more dangerous — particularly at a time when the most urgent need is to drain some testosterone from the self-styled Stable-Genius-in-Chief and his martinet generals.

On the home front, Trump, his wealthy friends, and like-thinkers in Congress may now feel they have an even wider carte blanche to visit untold misery on the poor, the widow, the stranger and other vulnerable humans. That was always an underlying danger of the Resistance’s strategy to seize on whatever weapons were available – no matter how reckless or unfair – to “get Trump.”

Beyond that, Russia-gate has become so central to the Washington establishment’s storyline that there appears to be no room for second-thoughts or turning back. The momentum is such that some Democrats and the media never-Trumpers can’t stop stoking the smoke of Russia-gate and holding out hope against hope that it will somehow justify Trump’s impeachment.

Yet, the sordid process of using legal/investigative means to settle political scores further compromises the principle of the “rule of law” and integrity of journalism in the eyes of many Americans. After a year of Russia-gate, the “rule of law” and “pursuit of truth” appear to have been reduced to high-falutin’ phrases for political score-setttling, a process besmirched by Republicans in earlier pursuits of Democrats and now appearing to be a bipartisan method for punishing political rivals regardless of the lack of evidence.

Strzok and Page

Peter Strzok (pronounced “struck”) has an interesting pedigree with multiple tasks regarding both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. As the FBI’s chief of counterespionage during the investigation into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a personal email server for classified information, Strzok reportedly changed the words “grossly negligent” (which could have triggered legal prosecution) to the far less serious “extremely careless” in FBI Director James Comey’s depiction of Clinton’s actions. This semantic shift cleared the way for Comey to conclude just 20 days before the Democratic National Convention began in July 2016, that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges against Mrs. Clinton.

Then, as Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, Strzok led the FBI’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election of 2016. It is a safe bet that he took a strong hand in hand-picking the FBI contingent of analysts that joined “hand-picked” counterparts from CIA and NSA in preparing the evidence-free, Jan. 6, 2017 assessment accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of interfering in the election of 2016. (Although accepted in Establishment groupthink as revealed truth, that poor excuse for analysis reflected the apogee of intelligence politicization — rivaled only by the fraudulent intelligence on “weapons of mass destruction“ in Iraq 15 years ago.)

In June and July 2017 Strzok was the top FBI official working on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia, but was taken off that job when the Justice Department IG learned of the Strzok-Page text-message exchange and told Mueller.

There is no little irony in the fact that what did in the FBI sweathearts was their visceral disdain for Mr. Trump, their cheerleading-cum-kid-gloves treatment of Mrs. Clinton and her associates, their 1950-ish, James Clapperesque attitude toward Russians as “almost genetically driven” to evil, and their (Strzok/Page) elitist conviction that they know far better what is good for the country than regular American citizens, including those “deplorables” whom Clinton said made up half of Trump’s supporters.

But Strzok/Page had no idea that their hubris, elitism and scheming would be revealed in so tangible a way. Worst of all for them, the very thing that Strzok, in particular, worked so hard to achieve — the sabotaging of Trump and immunization of Mrs. Clinton and her closest advisers is now coming apart at the seams.

Congress: Oversee? or Overlook?

At this point, the $64 question is whether the various congressional oversight committees will remain ensconced in their customarily cozy role as “overlook” committees, or whether they will have the courage to attempt to carry out their Constitutional duty. The latter course would mean confronting a powerful Deep State and its large toolbox of well-practiced retaliatory techniques, including J. Edgar Hoover-style blackmail on steroids, enabled by electronic surveillance of just about everything and everyone. Yes, today’s technology permits blanket collection, and “Collect Everything” has become the motto.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, with almost four decades of membership in the House and Senate, openly warned incoming President Trump in January 2017 against criticizing the U.S. intelligence community because U.S. intelligence officials have “six ways from Sunday to get back at you” if you are “dumb” enough to take them on.

Thanks to the almost 10,000 text messages between Strzok and Page, only a small fraction of which were given to Congress four weeks ago, there is now real evidentiary meat on the bones of the suspicions that there indeed was a “deep-state coup” to “correct” the outcome of the 2016 election. We now know that the supposedly apolitical FBI officials had huge political axes to grind. The Strzok-Page exchanges drip with disdain for Trump and those deemed his smelly deplorable supporters. In one text message, Strzok expressed visceral contempt for those working-class Trump voters, writing on Aug. 26, 2016, “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support. … it’s scary real down here.”

The texts even show Strzok warning of the need for an “insurance policy” to thwart Trump on the off-chance that his poll numbers closed in on those of Mrs. Clinton.

An Aug. 6, 2016 text message, for example, shows Page giving her knight in shining armor strong affirmation: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace [Trump].” That text to Strzok includes a link to a David Brooks column in The New York Times, in which Brooks concludes with the clarion call: “There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame.”

Another text message shows that other senior government officials – alarmed at the possibility of a Trump presidency – joined the discussion. In an apparent reference to an August 2016 meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Strzok wrote to Page on Aug. 15, 2016, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.”  Strzok added, “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event that you die before you’re 40.”

Insurance Policy?

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says he will ask Strzok to explain the “insurance policy” when he calls him to testify. What seems already clear is that the celebrated “Steele Dossier” was part of the “insurance,” as was the evidence-less legend that Russia hacked the DNC’s and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails and gave them to WikiLeaks.

If congressional investigators have been paying attention, they already know what former weapons inspector Scott Ritter shared with Veteran intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) colleagues this week; namely, that Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson, who commissioned the Russia dossier using Democratic Party money, said he reached out to Steele after June 17, just three days before Steele’s first report was published, drawing on seven sources.

“There is a snowball’s chance in hell that this is raw intelligence gathered by Steele; rather he seems to have drawn on a single ‘trusted intermediary’ to gather unsubstantiated rumor already in existence.”

Another VIPS colleague, Phil Giraldi, writing out of his own experience in private sector consulting, added: “The fact that you do not control your sources frequently means that they will feed you what they think you want to hear. Since they are only doing it for money, the more lurid the details the better, as it increases the apparent value of the information. The private security firm in turn, which is also doing it for the money, will pass on the stories and even embroider them to keep the client happy and to encourage him to come back for more. When I read the Steele dossier it looked awfully familiar to me, like the scores of similar reports I had seen which combined bullshit with enough credible information to make the whole product look respectable.”

It is now widely known that the Democrats ponied up the “insurance premiums,” so to speak, for former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s “dossier” of lurid — but largely unproven — “intelligence” on Trump and the Russians. If, as many have concluded, the dossier was used to help justify a FISA warrant to snoop on the Trump campaign, those involved will be in deep kimchi, if congressional overseers do their job.

How, you might ask, could Strzok and associates undertake these extra-legal steps with such blithe disregard for the possible consequences should they be caught? The answer is easy; Mrs. Clinton was a shoo-in, remember? This was just extra insurance with no expectation of any “death benefit” ever coming into play — save for Trump’s electoral demise in November 2016. The attitude seemed to be that, if abuse of the FISA law should eventually be discovered — there would be little interest in a serious investigation by the editors of The New York Times and other anti-Trump publications and whatever troubles remained could be handled by President Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee of Judiciary on Crime and Terrorism, joined Sen. Grassley in signing the letter referring Christopher Steele to the Justice Department to investigate what appear to be false statements about the dossier. In signing, Graham noted the “many stop signs the Department of Justice ignored in its use of the dossier.” The signature of committee ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, however, was missing — an early sign that a highly partisan battle royale is in the offing. On Tuesday, Feinstein unilaterally released a voluminous transcript of Glenn Simpson’s earlier testimony and, as though on cue, Establishment pundits portrayed Steele as a good source and Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson as a victim.

The Donnybrook is now underway; the outcome uncertain.

+++++++++++++

Sample text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, released to Congress and the media on December 13, 2016

++++++++++++++

03/04/2016

Strzok – God Hillary should win. 100,000,000-0.

Page – I know

++++++++++++

04/02/2016

Page – So look, you say we text on that phone when we talk about Hillary because it can’t be traced, you were just venting, bc you feel bad that you’re gone so much but that can’t be helped right now.

++++++++++

07/08/2016

Strzok – And meanwhile, we have Black Lives Matter protestors, right now, chanting “no justice no peace” around DoJ and the White House…

Page – That’s awful.

+++++++++

07/14/2016

Page – Have you read this? It’s really frightening. For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance http://NYTI/ms/29WCu5!

Strzok – I have not. But I think it’s clear he’s capturing all the white, poor voters who the mainstream republicans abandoned in all but name in the quest for the almighty $$$

Page – Yeah, it’s not good.

Strzok – Poll Finds Emails Weighing on Hillary Clinton, Now Tied With Donald Trump http://nyti.ms/29RV5gf

Page – It is

+++++++++++++

07/26/2016

Strzok – And hey. Congrats on a woman nominated for President in a major party! About damn time! Many many more returns of the day!!

Page – That’s cute. Thanks

++++++++++

08/06/2016

Page – Jesus. You should read this. And Trump should go f himself. Moment in Convention Glare Shakes Up Khans American Life http://nyti.ms/2aHulE0

Strzok – God that’s a great article. Thanks for sharing. And F TRUMP.

++++++++

08/06/2016

Page – And maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace. To that end comma, read this:

Page – Trump Enablers Will Finally Have to Take A Stand http://nyti.ms/2aFakry

Strzok – Thanks. It’s absolutely true that we’re both very fortunate. And of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps

++++++++++++

08/09/2016

Page – He’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!

Strzok – OMG did you hear what Trump just said?

+++++++++++

08/26/2016

Strzok – Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support…

Page – Yep. Out to lunch with (redacted) We both hate everyone and everything.

Page – Just riffing on the hot mess that is our country.

Strzok – Yeah…it’s scary real down here

+++++++++

10/20/2016

Strzok: I am riled up. Trump is a f***ing idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer.

Strzok – I CAN’T PULL AWAY, WHAT THE F**K HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY (redacted)??!?!

Page– I don’t know. But we’ll get it back. We’re America. We rock.

Strzok– Donald just said “bad hombres”

Strzok– Trump just said what the FBI did is disgraceful.

END

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army and CIA intelligence analyst for 30 years; prepared and briefed the President’s Daily Brief for Nixon, Ford, and Reagan; and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 11, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

War propaganda

By Paul Robinson | Irrussianality | January 10, 2018

Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, obliges states to impose certain restrictions on freedom of speech. The article was the product of a long debate among UN members. Countries from the Soviet bloc and many non-aligned nations, notably Brazil, were keen to include a prohibition on propaganda for war, and also to make it as broadly defined as possible – that is to say to ban not just incitement of war, but propaganda on behalf of war more generally. Western states, by contrast, were rather more reluctant to include the provision, and in so far as they were willing to accept it, wanted to limit it just to incitement. In the end, the West lost the debate. The final wording of Article 20 states clearly: “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

In the aftermath of the Covenant, communist countries in many cases enacted suitable provisions in their domestic law. For instance, a Soviet law entitled ‘The Defence of Peace’ stated that ‘war propaganda’ of any sort was a criminal offence. East Germany similarly made propaganda for a war an offence punishable by up to eight years in prison. To this day, many post-communist states retain similar provisions in their law. Moldova’s constitutions, for instance, prohibits incitement to war; Armenia’s constitution bans speech ‘for the purposes of  … propaganda for violence and war’; and the criminal codes in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzia, and Latvia similarly ban any ‘advocacy for war’. Some other countries, such as Morocco and Kenya have also enacted legislation to this end. Apart from Germany, however, states in the Western world have not met their obligation under the Covenant.

In the English speaking world, meanwhile, propaganda for war is not only not prohibited, but actually quite respectable, and scarily common. Take, for instance, an article published this week by Foreign Policy magazine, and entitled ‘It’s time to bomb North Korea.’ I wish that I could say that this is an isolated case, but it isn’t. Over the past two decades, the American and British press has published no shortage of articles calling for a military attack on this country or that. To use just the example of the New York Times, in March 2015 it published a piece by John Bolton entitled ‘To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran’; in 2012, it printed an article by Michael Doran and Max Boot entitled ‘5 Reasons to Intervene in Syria Now’; in 2011, it ran several op-eds urging Western powers to intervene in Libya (such as this and this); and of course in 2003, it famously supported the invasion of Iraq. And that’s just one newspaper. It’s a story repeated across the Western media. There must have been hundreds of articles in different outlets urging the bombing or invasion of countries such as Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

It has been argued that enacting a prohibition on war propaganda as required by the International Covenant is impossible as the term ‘war propaganda’ cannot be properly defined. But this is a poor argument. In the past 15 years, numerous Western states have enacted laws prohibiting incitement to terrorism and in some cases, such as the British 2006 Terrorism Act, even the ‘glorification of terrorism’. Just suggesting that terrorism might on occasion be justified is sufficient to get you locked up in some countries. In Canada, for example, it is a crime to ‘advocate’ terrorism. Yet, you can advocate for war as much as you like.

This is despite the obvious fact that war is far more damaging than terrorism. The number of people killed by terrorists in the past 20 years pales into insignificance when compared to number killed in the wars which states, including those in the Western world, have started. It is a serious crime to advocate for the killing of a few. But advocating for the killing of human beings en masse is quite all right.

Sadly, in the English-speaking world, war propaganda isn’t just respectable; it’s mainstream. It shouldn’t be.

January 11, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Wired’s Fake-News Suggests Russia Plotting to Cut Trans-Atlantic Internet Cables

By Robert BRIDGE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.01.2018

Well, that didn’t take long. Just five days into 2018, and the American fake news industry is already up and running, churning out tasteless whoppers faster than Burger King.

Wired magazine has joined the greasy ranks of other Western mythmakers now fueling a black wave of anti-Russia hysteria by mass-producing never-ending unsubstantiated claims and outright lies against the Kremlin.

The article begins with a doomsday scenario involving some “terrorist organization or nefarious nation” making the reckless decision to cut the undersea fiber optic cables that connect people across the world. So out of all the numerous diabolical groups that now populate the planet, who did Wired nominate as the most likely to pull off such a wanton act of sabotage? Yes, you got it. Putin’s Russia.

The obvious question for any rational thinking person is: Why would Russia do such a thing? Because, according to Wired, the Russian Navy has been “repeatedly caught snooping near the cables” that run along the entire expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. Wired conveniently fails to remind its readers, however, that any country with a naval force would be forced to pass these lines on numerous occasions in the course of its travels. But acknowledging as much would be putting facts before fiction, and of course we can’t have that.

So where does Wired get its information regarding these latest nefarious plans on the part of Russia? From yet another purveyor of Russian fake news – arguably second only to the Washington Post – the New York Times.

“Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict,” the Times breathlessly reported back in 2015.

However, just like the fake news of ‘Russia hacking the 2016 US presidential elections,’ don’t expect any evidence to support the claims. In fact, the Times admits as much in the third paragraph.

“While there is no evidence yet of any cable cutting, the concern is part of a growing wariness among senior American and allied military and intelligence officials over the accelerated activity by Russian armed forces around the globe.”

Well, now we’re getting somewhere. What really seems to be annoying the Americans is not some sort of outlandish attack on the Internet by Russia, but the fact that the Russian military is now a force to reckon with.

It is also worth noting that the Times article appeared just one month after Vladimir Putin committed the Russian military in September 2015 to fighting against Islamic State forces in Syria – following a formal request by Syrian President Bashar Assad. Some might call that curious timing.

So what exactly would Russia stand to gain from cutting these undersea cables? Absolutely nothing. In fact, as even Wired was gracious enough to admit – albeit buried far at sea in its hit piece – is that any cutting of the cables would be more injurious to Russia than most other countries.

“… Russia’s epic hypothetical cable attack would primarily harm its own people,” according to a Telegeography senior analyst Jonathan Hjembo, as quoted by the magazine. “It would hurt the Russians perhaps even more than it would hurt [Americans]. They’re far more dependent on international networks than we are, because so much of our content is stored locally.”

In fact, Wired was forced to admit that the greatest threat to the undersea cables is not Russia, the bogeyman of nearly every Western publication in circulation, but fishermen and scavengers.

Wired retold the story of one elderly woman who accidentally cut through an underground cable “while scavenging for copper,” cutting off Armenia’s entire internet access, leaving the country offline for five hours.

Yet despite those admissions, and the absolute lack of any incentive on the part of Russia to commit such an act of folly, Wired bowed out of its story with a parting shot at “Putin’s Russia” anyways.

“There have also been no ruptures attributed to Russian aggression. It appears that Putin has largely left the undersea cables alone, at least for now.”

Clearly, as this ridiculously flimsy article illustrates, without any shame, there will be no pause in the anti-Russia propaganda mudslinging in the New Year.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Surrounded by Neocons

They are all the news that fits

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • January 9, 2018

Award winning journalist James Risen has recently described in some detail his sometimes painful relationship with The New York Times. His lengthy account is well worth reading as it demonstrates how successive editors of the paper frequently cooperated with the government to suppress stories on torture and illegal activity while also self-censoring to make sure that nothing outside the framework provided by the “war on terror” should be seriously discussed. It became a faithful lap dog for an American role as global hegemon, promoting government half-truths and suppressing information that it knew to be true but which would embarrass the administration in power, be they Democrats or Republicans.

If one were to obtain a similar insider account of goings-on at the other national “newspaper of record”, The Washington Post, it is quite likely that comparable trimming of the narrative also took place. To be sure, the Post is worse than the Times, characterized by heavily editorializing in its news coverage without necessarily tipping off the reader when “facts” end and speculation begins. In both publications, stories about Iran or Russia routinely begin with an assertion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and that Iran is the aggressor in the Middle East, contentions that have not been demonstrated and can easily be challenged. Both publications also have endorsed every American war since 2001, including Iraq, Libya and the current mess in Syria, one indication of the quality of their reporting and analysis.

A recent op-ed in the Times by Bret Stephens is a perfect example of warmongering mischief wrapped in faux expert testimony to make it palatable. Stephens is the resident neocon at the Times. He was brought over from the Wall Street Journal when it was determined that his neocon colleague David Brooks had become overly squishy, while the resident “conservative” Russ Douthat had proven to be a bit too cautious and even rational to please the increasingly hawkish senior editors.

Stephens’ article, entitled Finding the Way Forward on Iran sparkles with throwaway gems like “Tehran’s hyperaggressive foreign policy in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal” and “Real democracies don’t live in fear of their own people” and even “it’s not too soon to start rethinking the way we think about Iran.” Or try “A better way of describing Iran’s dictatorship is as a kleptotheocracy, driven by impulses that are by turns doctrinal and venal.”

Bret has been a hardliner on Iran for years. Early on in this op-ed he makes very clear that he wants it to be dealt with forcibly because it has “centrifuges, ballistic missiles, enriched uranium [and] fund[s] Hezbollah, assist Bashar al-Assad, arm[s] the Houthis, [and] imprison[s] the occasional British or American citizen.” He describes how Iran is a very corrupt place run by religious leaders and Revolutionary Guards and proposes that their corruption be exposed so that the Iranian people can take note and rise up in anger. And if exposure doesn’t work, they should be hammered with sanctions. He does not explain why sanctions, which disproportionately hurt the people he expects to rise up, will bring about any real change.

Stephens cites two of his buddies Ken Weinstein of the Hudson Institute and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), who are apparently experts on how to squeeze Iran. Weinstein prefers exposing the misdeeds of the Mullahs to anger the Iranian people while Dubowitz prefers punitive sanctions “for corruption.”

The article does not reveal that Weinstein and Dubowitz are long time critics of Iran, are part of the Israel Lobby and just happen to be Jewish, as is Stephens. The Hudson Institute and the FDD are leading neocon and pro-Israel fronts. So my question becomes, “Why Iran?” The often-heard Israeli complaint about its being unfairly picked on could reasonably be turned on its head in asking the same about Iran. In fact, Iran compares favorably with Israel. It has no nuclear weapons, it does not support any of the Sunni terrorist groups that are chopping heads, and it has not disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of people that it rules over. The fact is that Iran is being targeted because Israel sees it as its prime enemy in the region and has corrupted many “opinion makers” in the U.S., to include Stephens, to hammer home that point. To be sure, Iran is a very corrupt place run by people who should not be running a hot dog stand, but the same applies to the United States and Israel. And there are lots of places that are not being targeted like Iran that are far worse, including good friend and ally of both Jerusalem and Washington, Saudi Arabia.

Oddly enough Stephens, Weinstein and Dubowitz do not get into any of that back story, presumably because it would be unseemly. And, of course and unfortunately, the New York Times opinion page is not unique. An interesting recent podcast interview by Politico‘s Chief International Affairs correspondent Susan Glasser with leading neoconservatives Eliot Cohen and Max Boot, is typical of how the media selectively shapes a narrative to suit its own biases. Glasser, Cohen and Boot are all part of the establishment foreign policy consensus in the U.S. and therefore both hate and fail to understand the Trump phenomenon. Both Cohen and Booth were vociferous founding members of the #NeverTrump foreign policy resistance movement.

Boot describes the new regime’s foreign policy as “kowtow[ing] to dictators and undermin[ing] American support for freedom and democracy around the world,” typical neocon leitmotifs. Glasser appears to be in love with her interviewees and hurls softball after softball. She describes Boot as “fantastic” and Cohen receives the epithet “The Great.” The interview itself is remarkably devoid of any serious discussion of foreign policy and is essentially a sustained assault on Trump while also implicitly supporting hardline national security positions. Cohen fulminates about “a very serious Russian attack on the core of our political system. I mean, I don’t know how you get more reckless and dangerous than that,” while Boot asks what “has to be done” about Iran.

Pompous ass Cohen, who interjected in the interview that “and you know, Max and I are both intellectuals,” notably very publicly refused to have any part in a Trump foreign policy team during the campaign but later when The Donald was actually elected suggested that the new regime might approach him with humility to offer a senior position and he just might condescend to join them. They did not do so, and he wrote an angry commentary on their refusal.

Hating Trump is one thing, but I would bet that if the question of a hardline policy vis-à-vis Russia or the Jerusalem Embassy move had come up Cohen and Boot would have expressed delight. The irony is that Trump is in fact pursuing a basically neocon foreign policy which the two men would normally support, but they appear to be making room for Trump haters in the policy formulation process to push the national security consensus even farther to the right. Indeed, in another article by Boot at Foreign Policy he writes “I applaud Trump’s decisions to provide Ukraine with arms to defend itself from Russian aggression, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to send additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and to accelerate former President Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting the Islamic State.” Cohen meanwhile applauds the embassy move, though he warns that Trump’s success in so doing might embolden him to do something reckless over North Korea.

Perhaps one should not be astonished that leading neocons appearing in the mainstream media will continue to have their eyes on the ball and seek for more aggressive engagement in places like Iran and Russia. The media should be faulted because it rarely publishes any contrary viewpoint and it also consistently fails to give any space to the considerable downside to the agitprop. It must be reassuring for many Americans to know that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is preparing itself to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the United States and it will be sharing information on the appropriate preparations with the American people. There will be a public session on how to prepare for a nuclear explosion on January 16th.

CDC experts will consider “planning and preparation efforts” for such a strike. “While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps,” the Center elaborated in its press release on the event.

That the United States should be preparing for a possible nuclear future can in part be attributed to recent commentary by the “like, really smart” and “very stable genius” who is the nation’s chief executive, but the fuel being poured on the fire for war is from the very same neocons who are featured in the mainstream media as all-purpose experts and have succeeded in selling the snake oil about America’s proper role as aggressor-in-chief for the entire world. It would be an unparalleled delight to be able to open a newspaper and not see Bret Stephens, Eliot Cohen, Max Boot or even the redoubtable Bill Kristol grinning back from the editorial page, but I suppose I am only dreaming.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Times Rides to Mueller’s Rescue

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • January 2, 2018

What caused the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016, which evolved into the criminal investigation that is said today to imperil the Trump presidency?

As James Comey’s FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have, for 18 months, failed to prove Donald Trump’s “collusion” with the Kremlin, what was it, in mid-2016, that justified starting this investigation?

What was the basis for the belief Trump was colluding, that he was the Manchurian candidate of Vladimir Putin? What evidence did the FBI cite to get FISA court warrants to surveil and wiretap Trump’s team?

Republican congressmen have for months been demanding answers to these questions. And, as Mueller’s men have stonewalled, suspicions have arisen that this investigation was, from the outset, a politicized operation to take down Trump.

Feeding those suspicions has been the proven anti-Trump bias of investigators. Also, wiretap warrants of Trump’s team are said to have been issued on the basis of a “dirty dossier” that was floating around town in 2016 — but which mainstream media refused to publish as they could not validate its lurid allegations.

Who produced the dossier?

Ex-British spy Christopher Steele, whose dirt was delivered by ex-Kremlin agents. And Steele was himself a hireling of Fusion GPS, the oppo research outfit enlisted and paid by the Clinton campaign and DNC.

Writes the Washington Times, Steele “paid Kremlin sources with Democratic cash.”

Yet, if Steele’s dossier is a farrago of falsehoods and fake news, and the dossier’s contents were used to justify warrants for wiretaps on Trump associates, Mueller has a problem.

Prosecutions his team brings could be contaminated by what the FBI did, leaving his investigation discredited.

Fortunately, all this was cleared up for us New Year’s Eve by a major revelation in The New York Times. Top headline on page one:

“Unlikely Source Propelled Russia Meddling Inquiry”

The story that followed correctly framed the crucial question:

“What so alarmed American officials to provoke the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?”

The Times then gave us the answer we have been looking for:

“It was not, as Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.”

The ally: Australia, whose ambassador to Britain was in an “upscale London Bar” in the West End in May 2016, drinking with a sloshed George Papadopoulos, who had ties to the Trump campaign and who informed the diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Papadopoulos had reportedly been told in April that Russia had access to Clinton’s emails.

Thus, when the DNC and John Podesta emails were splashed all over the U.S. press in June, Amb. Alexander Downer, recalling his conversation with Papadopoulos, informed his government, which has excellent ties to U.S. intelligence, and the FBI took it from there.

The Times’ story pounds home this version of events:

“The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Trump’s associates conspired.”

This, the Times assures us, “answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year.”

Well, perhaps.

But if Papadopoulos’s drunken babbling to the Aussie ambassador triggered the investigation in July 2016, why was George not interviewed by the FBI until January 2017?

According to the Times, an FBI agent in Rome had been told by Steele in June 2016 what he had learned from the Russians.

And Steele was interviewed by the FBI in October 2016.

If Papadopoulos triggered the investigation, why the seeming FBI disinterest in him — as compared to Steele?

Yet another major question remains unanswered.

If, as the Times writes, the FBI was looking “into Russian attempts to disrupt the elections,” why did the FBI not open an investigation into the KGB roots of the Steele dossier that was written to destroy the Republican candidate, Donald Trump?

If Trump’s alleged “collusion” with Putin to damage Clinton was worthy of an all-out FBI investigation, why did the Clinton-DNC scheme to tie Trump to Russian prostitutes, using British spies and former KGB agents, not merit an FBI investigation?

Why was there less concern about the Clinton campaign’s ties to Russian agents, than to Trumpian “collusion” that is yet unproven?

Consider what the British spy Steele and his former KGB/FSB comrades accomplished:

They have kept alive a special counsel’s investigation that has divided our country, imperiled the FBI’s reputation, preoccupied and damaged a president, and partially paralyzed the U.S. government.

Putin must be marveling at the astonishing success of his old comrades from KGB days, who could pull off an intelligence coup like this and so cripple the superpower that won the Cold War.

Copyright 2018 Creators.com.

January 2, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Botched reporting- A Reply to The NYT on “How Climate Change Deniers Rise to the Top in Google Searches”

By Leo Goldstein | Watts Up With That? | January 1, 2018

The New York Times remains a slave to climate alarmism even after its miserable failure in Paris on December 12, and continues to push the fossil fuels conspiracy theory. It’s regularly publishing fake news. A NYT piece that appeared on December 29, How Climate Change Deniers Rise to the Top in Google Searches, mentions me, my website DefyCCC, and WUWT, and I take this opportunity to reply. In November and December 2017, I experimented with distributing the climate realism message using advertising options on Google and some other platforms. I will report on the results of this experiment in a separate article.  Apparently, some of my Google ads caught the attention of the NYT. On December 4th, a NYT reporter named Hiroko Tabuchi interviewed me for 45 minutes in preparing for the above NYT piece.

In the interview, I attempted to convince the reporter that the NYT got science wrong, that real scientists are against climate alarmism, and that other countries build coal power plants and more. The reporter was honest in telling me that the NYT piece would be about the ads, not about the climate debate (I hope NYT does not fire her for this act of honesty, unfit for its organizational culture), so I already knew what to expect. However, the piece weaves lies, half-truths, and trivial facts so seamlessly that it elevates fake news into an art form.  I will comment only on some falsehoods related to me.

The only thing that surprised me in the NYT piece was how it used me to link Trump to Russia:

“Of course, people click,” said Mr. Goldstein, who said he had emigrated from Russia two decades ago and had worked in the software and power industries. “Google is the No. 1 advertising choice.”

The proliferation of climate disinformation, both online and off, has coincided with an effort to undermine measures to combat climate change. Republican leaders regularly question climate science and President Trump has called climate change a hoax.

I emigrated from the Soviet Union (not from Russia) before it dissolved in 1991, the dissolution that happened twenty-six years ago. I was born and grew up in the Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. This information is present in the About page of my site. I did not tell the reporter that I “emigrated from Russia two decades ago.” Here, the New York Times has “slightly” changed times and names in order to evoke another conspiracy theory, one of a Trump-Russia collusion. The rest could have been expected. This is how the NYT linked me to the Koch brothers:

DefyCCC, the site that recently bought the “climate change” search term on Google, devotes an entire section of its site to content from WattsUpWithThat, a well-known climate denial site by the blogger Anthony Watts. Mr. Watts has received funding from the Heartland Institute, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.

Beyond that, little is known about DefyCCC. …

The reporter ran this line (except for the last quoted sentence) by me in the interview. In fact, DefyCCC has no sections at all. It does have a menu, and links to my articles in WUWT are collected under top menu items In WattsUpWithThat and WUWT 2016. I explained that to the reporter. But the NYT still published this line, falsely insinuating that I am connected to the Koch brothers. The next sentence was supposed to cement this lie as truth:

“Beyond that, little is known about DefyCCC.”

This is also a typical line in the hatchet job pieces, used when it cannot find dirt on somebody. For the record, I also told her I have no information about other allegations in that paragraph. Further in the piece, the NYT made another wild insinuation about me:

He received help with his site but would not say who his backers were to protect their privacy.

In the interview, I said I have colleagues and refused to name them. Then, I told the reporter about the shooting of the UAH building as a reason to withdraw personal information. This topic was blacked out by the media, so the NYT didn’t mention it, but made up its own explanation. This is where fake news becomes an art form. In the sentence, the word help (from colleagues or coworkers) is followed by the word backers, subtly turning it into financial support. And then a quote, taken out of context, cements this impression.

Having written about my imaginary backers, the NYT failed to disclose its own. Its largest shareholder is Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim, who was the world’s richest man a few years ago. Mr. Slim has significant investments in oil and natural gas in Latin America, which compete against U.S. oil, gas, and coal industries. The NYT’s attempts to damage the U.S. fossil fuels industry and promote the financial interests of its largest shareholder.

I took record of the insults that the NYT hurled at me, but I will not dignify them with a response.

The NYT piece mentions WUWT and DefyCCC, but it links to neither of our sites. I understand that it doesn’t want to transfer “link equity” or encourage readers to visit them. But, when the NYT wrote about white supremacists, it linked to Stormfront with a perfect, link equity carrying link (3), although it didn’t have to, or could have used a nofollow tag that prevented transfer of link equity. When I checked in September 2017, I found that the top neo-nazi websites received most of their link equity from the leftstream media. Just a note.

I don’t want to finish this article on the NYT links to neo-nazi websites. Sorry, I mean, the links from the NYT site to neo-nazi sites. Reading the NYT is not only misinforming, but also morally degrading. The NYT published two pieces about UFOs in December 2017:  2 Navy Airmen and an Object That ‘Accelerated Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen’ (in the section Politics) and Dad Believed in U.F.O.s. Turns Out He Wasn’t Alone (in the section News Analysis). Seems to me that the NYT is looking for its niche among tabloids.

Notes

Carlos Slim owned ~17% of class A shares of the NYT until a few months ago. But Class A shares of the NYT elect only about one third of the board. Class B shares are thought to be held by the Ochs-Sulzberger family. Father and son Ochs-Sulzberger have been the NYT publishers since 1963, so the NYT was considered independent from external financial influences. But, in the precarious financial situation into which the NYT painted itself by serving as a propaganda accessory and by false reporting — money ends up mattering more than formal voting rights. Thus, Carlos Slim probably wields or wielded much more power in the editorial room of the NYT than previously thought. To his credit, he is not a liberal. Mr. Slim also owns substantial interest in the tobacco industry around the world, which makes the NYT a sister company of Big Tobacco.

Posts about the New York Times take a good part of the fakestream media category in DefyCCC. Besides printing fake news, it was caught doing near-Orwellian re-writing of its articles to toe the party line. I have even proposed a new logo and byline for it that better reflects its new nature. It can use them free of charge under a Creative Commons license, just like other content of my website.


Addendum by Anthony:

The way the NYT article is written, it implies that WUWT has an ad campaign running in Google Adwords to attract readers. It does not, and never has. We have no advertising budget. The article also implies that WUWT is funded by the Heartland Institute. It is not and never has been. Neither WUWT nor the owner Anthony receives any payroll or regular funding from Heartland. We rely entirely upon advertisements (managed by WordPress.com and a sharing agreement) and donations from readers. In the past, Heartland helped locate a donor for a project, and Anthony has been given a $1000 honorarium and travel expenses to speak at some Heartland conferences on climate change, just like any other speaker, including pro-warming/pro-climate change scientist, Dr. Scott Denning.

Tabuchi also insinuated that WUWT and/or me is funded by the Koch Brothers; this is a laughable falsehood. They have never sent me a dime, either directly or indirectly. They don’t even know who I am and I’ve never had any contact with them or their charitable organization; it’s just a weak conspiracy theory pushed by the weak-minded who would rather take talking points from others than do their own homework.

But, the writer, one unheard of Ms. HIROKO TABUCHI never bothered to ask any questions of me. So as a journalist, she fails miserably based by relying on and writing about her own assumptions.

Is this the best the New York Times can do? Apparently so.

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

The NYT’s latest Russiagate story on George Papadopoulos is not believable. Here’s why

Attempt to distance Russiagate investigation from discredited Trump Dossier fails on Papadopoulos’s inherent unreliability as a witness

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | January 1, 2018

As confidence in Robert Mueller’s investigation crumbles there have been the inevitable leaks intended to suggest that the Russiagate investigation is still on track and that despite the increasing appearances to the contrary there is actually some reality to the case it is investigating.

The leaks take the form of claims that Mueller is planning to issue a “supplemental indictment” of Paul Manafort supposedly fleshing out the tax evasion and money laundering claims he has brought against him, and more information about the strange case of George Papadopoulos.

I will not take up time discussing the ‘supplemental indictment’ against Paul Manafort. The case against Paul Manafort does not touch on the collusion allegations which are the focus of the Russiagate affair, and by all accounts the new ‘supplemental indictment’ will not change that.

What the fact that Mueller is now preparing a ‘supplemental indictment’ against Manafort shows is that what I and many others have said previously is true: the original indictment against Manafort was rushed and unprepared, probably because it was rushed out to counter criticism of Mueller which was appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

Of much more interest is the new information which has been published about George Papadopoulos. The information appears in an article in the New York Times which reads in part as follows:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

This information has clearly been published in order to counter the increasingly widely circulating claim that it was the Trump Dossier which triggered the Russiagate investigation.

This is made absolutely clear by the following paragraphs in the New York Times article

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired…

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.

Is this however really so?

The drunken bragging of a twenty eight year old man in a London bar presumably with attractive young women present is not usually considered grounds to initiate a top secret investigation resulting in the secret surveillance of people against whom no other evidence of wrongdoing exists.

The known timeline of the Russiagate inquiry anyway strongly argues against this claim.

The DNC emails were published by Wikileaks on 22nd July 2016. The FBI launched the Russiagate inquiry in late July 2016, probably after the DNC emails were published.

This was however after the FBI had interviewed Christopher Steele, the compiler of the Trump Dossier, in early July 2016. The Trump Dossier’s first two entries are dated 20th June 2016 and 19th July 2016 – ie. before publication of the DNC emails – and it is likely that before the FBI launched the Russiagate inquiry in late July 2016 it had seen them.

The New York Times says that the FBI received the information about Papadopoulos’s bragging in front of the Australian High Commissioner after the DNC emails were published. However the FBI did not actually interview Papadopoulos until 27th January 2017.

What seems to have happened is that after the Russiagate inquiry was launched the FBI went through all the information it received which might touch on the inquiry. At some point the Australian High Commissioner’s report about Papadopoulos’s bragging in May 2016 in the London bar came up and a decision was taken to interview him.

However – contrary to what the New York Times says – the FBI cannot have accorded this any great importance since though the Russiagate inquiry was launched at the end of July 2016 the FBI did not interview Papadopoulos until 27th January 2017 ie. six months later.

That makes it all but inconceivable that it was – as the New York Times claims – the report from Australia about what Papadopoulos said in the presence of the Australian High Commissioner in the London bar rather than the Trump Dossier which triggered the Russiagate inquiry.

As it happens the rest of the New York Times article, though outlining at fantastic length the nature of Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts provides no evidence of collusion illegal or otherwise between the Russians, Papadopoulos or anyone else in the Trump campaign.

What the New York Times article does show is who Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts were.

It turns out that they were senior people in the Valdai Discussion Club, which is not at all surprising given that Professor Mifsud, the Maltese professor who was Papadopoulos’s contact, is known to have participated in a Valdai Discussion Club panel on 19th April 2016.

The Valdai Discussion Club for those who do not know is a Russian NGO which regularly hosts discussions between top level Russian officials and senior people from around the world.  It is sometimes spoken of as the Russian equivalent to Davos. This page from its website gives an idea of its activities and of the very senior people from around the world who have been involved in it,

In other words when Papadopoulos and Professor Mifsud got to know each other Professor Mifsud simply put Papadopoulos in touch with the Russian organisers of the meeting he was attending.

That does not argue for Professor Mifsud’s “high level contacts” within the Russian government; it argues against it.

As it happens no Russian government official appears to have been directly involved in the discussions between the various members of the Valdai Discussion Group and Papadopoulos.

The New York Times says that Igor Ivanov, who was Russia’s foreign minister from 1998 to 2004, was consulted by Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts. Ivanov is presumably the “Russian MFA Connection” referred to in Papadopoulos’s indictment. However Ivanov is a retired official not an active one, and his Wikipedia profile suggests that he is now mainly involved in academic work and in the work of various international NGOs. As such he would have been an obvious person for members of the Valdai Discussion Club to consult, and was not in any sense a representative of the Russian government.

As for the subject matter of the discussions between Papadopoulos and his Russian contacts, there is no hint in the New York Times article of any conspiracy between Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign and the Russians concerning the election or any other matter.

Instead we are told – again at inordinate length – about Papadopoulos’s already known but ultimately futile efforts to arrange a summit meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, which Papadopoulos persisted in even after he was told to stop them.

As has by now become typical of the New York Times’ Russiagate coverage, its latest article about Papadopoulos also states as facts things which are in fact strongly disputed.

For example it states as flat facts that it was Professor Mifsud who falsely claimed to Papadopoulos that Olga Polonskaya – one of Papadopoulos’s Russian contacts – was President Putin’s niece, and that it was Professor Mifsud who told Papadopoulos during a hotel meeting in London in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Professor Mifsud however has publicly denying telling Papadopoulos either of these things, and the only evidence he did so is that Papadopoulos says he did.

On the subject of the false claim that Polonskaya was Putin’s niece, it is intrinsically far more likely that this is an invention of Papadopoulos’s and not of Professor Mifsud’s. Why after all would Mifsud  – presumably in cooperation with the Russians – seek to pass off Polonskaya as Putin’s niece when a five minute internet search would establish that Putin has no niece? What would be the purpose of such a thing?

The only confirmed reference to Polonskaya being Putin’s niece other than Papadopoulos’s statements to the FBI is an email Papadopoulos sent to the Trump campaign describing her as such.

It is Papadopoulos not Professor Mifsud who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Papadopoulos’s behaviour in fact clearly points to him being a young man out of his depth and given to fantasising. Even the New York Times calls him “brash, boastful and underqualified”.

It turns out that Papadopoulos even publicly reprimanded British Prime Minister David Cameron in a May 2016 interview with The London Times which he was not authorised by the Trump campaign to give, and for which he was subsequently severely reprimanded, and it is also known that he persisted in trying to arrange with the Russians a summit meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin even when told to stop doing so.

Given that Papadopoulos is therefore a known loose cannon with a record of bragging and a conviction for lying why assume that on any subject  – eg. the false claims about Polonskaya – it is Papadopoulos who is telling the truth and that it is Professor Mifsud who is lying? Surely the opposite is far more likely to be true?

In the case of Polonskaya the New York Times has to pretend that it is Papadopoulos not Professor Mifsud who is telling the truth because if it were confirmed that it was Papadopoulos who invented the story about Polonskaya being Putin’s niece then that would expose him as a fantasist, which would discredit the whole elaborate scenario the New York Times is trying to spin around him.

That shows why it is dangerous to assume that Papadopoulos is telling the truth on any point when those who have a vested interest in the Russiagate story say he is. On the contrary Papadopoulos is an inherently unreliable witness and must always be treated as such.

Does the information in the New York Times article however tell us anything we didn’t previously know about the core issue in the case: the “dirt” Papadopoulos says Professor Mifsud told him that the Russians have on Hillary Clinton?

Firstly, despite the New York Times’ painstaking attempts to link the boasts which Papadopoulos blurted out in a London bar to the DNC and Podesta emails, it seems that Papadopoulos whilst he was bragging in the London bar did not in fact refer to those emails.

The relevant paragraph in the New York Times article on this point needs to be read carefully

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. (bold italics added)

The words “political dirt on Hillary Clinton” are almost certainly copied from the Australian High Commissioner’s report to his government, which was subsequently passed on to the FBI, and which forms the basis of the story in the New York Times.

What these words show is that Papadopoulos was boasting in the London bar that the Russians had “political dirt about Hillary Clinton”, not that they had the DNC or Podesta emails.

What this paragraph also shows is that Papadopoulos in May 2016 was bragging about his high position in the Trump campaign and about his contacts with the Russians, and was doing so openly in the presence of no less a person than the Australian High Commissioner, whose identity he cannot have been unaware of.

This sort of wild indiscretion all but proves that Papadopoulos was not involved in a secret criminal conspiracy with the Russians. Of course the rest of the New York Times article and the text of his indictment provides no evidence that he was.

In fact it is possible to make some educated guesses about the Papadopoulos affair based on this new information, which leads to diametrically opposite conclusions to the ones reached by the New York Times.

In May 2016 Papadopoulos was clearly on a high, giving foolish interviews to The London Times and bragging in front of the Australian High Commissioner in a London bar about his high level position in the Trump campaign and about his contacts with the Russians.

That strongly points to his boast in the London bar that the Russians had ‘political dirt’ on Hillary Clinton being his own invention.

Subsequently, when he was asked about it by the FBI – long after the Russiagate scandal broke out – he panicked and blamed the whole thing on Professor Mifsud who he said told him about it during their meeting in the London hotel in April 2016.

Note that the wording of the indictment shows that Papadopoulos was vague about what precisely Professor Mifsud was supposed to have told him:

On or about April 26, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for breakfast at a London hotel.  During this meeting, the Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained “dirt” on then-candidate Clinton. The Professor told defendant PAPADOPOULOS, as defendant PAPADOPOULOS later described to the FBI, that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton“; “they have thousands of emails.” (bold italics added)

The words “the Russians had emails of Clinton” make it clear that the emails and supposedly discussed by Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos were not the DNC and Podesta emails but Hillary Clinton’s own 33,000 emails deleted from her private email server. Had Papadopoulos referred to the DNC and Podesta emails in his interview with the FBI the indictment would have surely said so.

In May 2016 – the month when Papadopoulos was drunkenly bragging in the London bar – the scandal around Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private email server for her State Department emails was at its height, with the Inspector General of the State Department publishing an 83 page report and with speculation rife about the progress of the FBI’s investigation into the affair.

Possibly Papadopoulos was thinking about Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails when he was bragging in the London bar. More likely he referred to these emails when he tried to explain away his comments in the London bar to the FBI.

By the time the FBI interviewed him Papadopoulos would have known that any reference to the DNC and Podesta emails would have exposed him to suspicion of involvement in a far greater conspiracy.  Frightened and searching for ways to get himself out of trouble, and perhaps realising that he would not be believed if he admitted that he had been lying when he had been bragging in the London bar, he brought up the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails instead, and involved Professor Mifsud in the story to give himself cover.

Regardless, the fact that Papadopoulos’s recollection of what Professor Mifsud is supposed to have told him is so vague points to what is almost certainly the truth: Papadopoulos is making it all up.

Not only does this seem to me a far more plausible explanation of the Papadopoulos affair than the one suggested by the New York Times, but there is one obvious point which for me confirms it.

Nothing Papadopoulos says about this episode can be independently confirmed.

His account of his meeting in April with Professor Mifsud is disputed by Professor Mifsud who is the only other witness.

Apart from his bragging in the London bar there is no evidence dating from the time that he had any knowledge that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.  None of his very numerous communications to the Trump campaign refer to the fact.

To those who say that Papadopoulos would wish to keep his reports about this secret, all I would say is that Papadopoulos cannot have thought of it so very secret since in May 2016 he was openly bragging about it in front of the Australian High Commissioner in a London bar.

All this taken together makes it highly likely that Papadopoulos is inventing the whole story, just as he is almost certainly the person who invented the story of Polonskaya being Putin’s niece.

In summary the New York Times story, far from lending credence to the Russiagate collusion allegations actually provides further reason to doubt them. As for Papadopoulos, far from being a star ‘smoking gun’ witness, he comes across as a boastful fantasist who is not telling the truth.

What the article does highlight is the pressure the FBI and the Mueller investigation are under as the doubts about the Trump Dossier grow.

It is the Trump Dossier which remains however the key to the affair. This latest attempt to deny the fact and to distract from it does not refute it. On the contrary it confirms it.

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

NYT Trumpwashes 70 Years of US Crimes

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | December 30, 2017

Trumpwashing—defined as whitewashing, obscuring or rewriting the broader US record by presenting Donald Trump as an aberration (FAIR, 6/3/16)—was on full display Thursday in a nominally straight news report from the New York Times’ Mark Landler (12/28/17) on how Trump has reshaped US foreign policy. Buried in the otherwise banal analysis was this gem of US imperial agitprop:

Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.

There’s lots of ideology to unpack here, but let’s start with the empirically false assertion that the “world” viewed the United States as a “reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order.” Poll (Guardian, 6/15/06) after poll (Pew, 3/14/07) after poll (PRI, 1/3/14) throughout the years has shown that much of the world views the United States as threat to peace, often taking the top spot as the single greatest threat. What evidence Landler has for the world viewing the US as a sort of good-natured global babysitter is unclear, as he cites nothing to support this hugely important claim (since if Trump’s cynical disregard for “human rights” is nothing new, then there’s no real story here). It’s just thrown out with the assumption the Times readership is sufficiently nationalistic and/or amnesiac to either not notice or not care. It’s designed to flatter, not to elucidate.

"Shock and Awe" in Iraq.

The US invasion of Iraq in defiance of international law

The second dubious assertion is the idea that the US is “viewed” as being (or, by implication, objectively is) concerned with “liberal, rules-based international order.” Perhaps Landler missed the part where the US runs offshore penal colonies for untried political prisoners, and a decade-long drone war that’s killed thousands—both entirely outside the scope of international law. Or the time the US invaded and destroyed Iraq without any international authorization, killing hundreds of thousands. Or perhaps he missed the part where the United States refuses to sign “liberal, rules-based international order” treaties such as the International Criminal Court or the ban on bombs and or a prohibition on nuclear weapons. Or the part where the US not only doesn’t recognize the International Criminal Court, but has a law on its books (dubbed “the Hague Invasion Act,” passed in 2002) that if an American is ever held by the ICC for committing war crimes, the US is obligated to literally invade the Hague and free them.

And this is just in the past 15 years. Landler, even more laughably, starts the clock in 1947, which would include dozens of non-“liberal,” non-“rules-based” coups, invasions, bombing campaigns, assassinations, extrajudicial murders and so forth. The number of actions carried out by the US not sanctioned by even the thinnest pretext of “international order” is too long to list.

What exactly is this “liberal, rules-based international order,” and when did “the world” view the United States as its most reliable anchor? Landler doesn’t say, he simply asserts this highly contestable and ideological claim, and moves on to pearl-clutch about Trump ruining the US’s hard-won moral authority. He has some 100 percent uncut pro-US ideology to push under the guise of criticizing Trump, and no amount of basic historical facts will get in his way.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

NYT’s Argentina Op-Ed Fails to Disclose Authors’ Financial Conflict of Interest

paul-singer-
Photo: Paul Singer
By Eli Clifton | LobeLog | December 13, 2017

On Tuesday, Mark Dubowitz and Toby Dershowitz, two executives at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), took to the op-ed pages of The New York Times to celebrate last week’s announcement that Argentina’s former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, would face treason charges for her alleged role in covering up Iran’s alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aries, killing 85 people.

But their op-ed fails to disclose a serious financial conflict of interest underpinning their attacks on Kirchner. One of FDD’s biggest donors financed a multi-year public diplomacy campaign against Kirchner all while attempting to collect $2 billion in debt from Argentina.

Indeed, legitimate questions exist about the bombing and suspicious 2015 death of Argentine Special Investigator Alberto Nisman who claimed in 2006 that Iran ordered the bombing. But Kirchner’s supporters fear that Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri is using judicial reforms and charges against Kirchner to remove his political opposition.

FDD has been eager to promote Nisman’s work. The group also runs AlbertoNisman.org “to honor the legacy of late Argentine Prosecutor Natalio Alberto Nisman and his tireless pursuit of justice.” FDD continues this work despite serious questions about large unexplained deposits to Nisman’s bank account.

Moreover, their rush to denigrate Kirchner omits a major conflict of interest in Dubowitz and Dershowitz’s funding. Between 2007 and 2011, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer contributed $3.6 million to FDD. That coincided with his battle to force Argentina to repay the full amount of the sovereign debt held by Singer’s firm, Elliott Management, a payout that Kirchner rejected. Ninety-three percent of Argentina’s creditors accepted losses, but Singer was one of the few holdouts. Having bought up Argentina’s defaulted bonds at pennies on the dollar, he had then sued the country for payment in full.

Singer embarked on a 15-year legal battle to collect on Argentina’s debt payments by attempting to seize Argentine government assets around the world, including a 100-meter three-masted tall ship when it docked in Ghana). After financing public diplomacy campaigns against Kirchner, Singer’s firm walked away with approximately 75 percent of what he was owed, $2.4 billion. The deal, finalized last year, was largely credited to Mauricio Macri, Kirchner’s successor.

Groups receiving Singer’s donations kept up a steady drumbeat of attacks on Kirchner and sought to tie her to Iran and Nisman’s suspicious death. “We do whatever we can to get our government and media’s attention focused on what a bad actor Argentina is,” Robert Raben, executive director of the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) explained to The Huffington Post.

ATFA, a group created by Singer and other hedge fund holdouts, spent at least $3.8 million dollars over five years in its efforts attacking Argentina.

“Argentina and Iran: Shameful Allies” was the headline of one ATFA ad that ran in Washington newspapers in June 2013 as the Obama administration was weighing whether to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Argentina’s favor. The ad featured side-by-side photos of Kirchner and then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad connected by the question, “A Pact With the Devil?” That same spring, FDD release an English-language summary of a new “ground-breaking” report by Nisman detailing “Iran’s extensive terrorist network in Latin America.”

This was followed by a flood of op-eds by FDD fellows and a series of hearings held by the House Homeland Security Subcommittee. According to FDD’s vice president, Toby Dershowitz, the report, which contains serious flaws and leaps of logic (detailed by Jim Lobe here and here), provided:

[A] virtual road map for how Iran’s long arm of terrorism can reach unsuspecting communities and that the AMIA attack was merely the canary in the coal mine. … The no-holds-barred, courageous report is a ‘must read’ for policy makers and law enforcement around the world and Nisman himself should be tapped for his guidance and profound understanding of Iran’s terrorism strategy.

Singer’s largesse also extended to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he contributed $1.1 million in 2009. AEI Fellow Roger Noriega, who received $60,000 directly from Elliott Management in 2007 to lobby on the issue of “Sovereign Debt Owed to a U.S. Company,” published an article on the group’s website—“Argentina’s Secret Deal with Iran?”—citing secret documents about an alleged nuclear cooperation agreement between Tehran and Buenos Aires “brokered and paid for” by then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

In 2013, Noriega and Jose Cardenas, a contributor to AEI’s “Venezuela-Iran Project,” co-authored a seven-page policy report—“Argentina’s Race to the Bottom”—charging that Kirchner’s government was “casting its lot with rogue governments like those in Venezuela and Iran.”

Singer also gave $500,000 to The Israel Project (TIP) in 2007 and $1 million in 2012. By May 2015, the group’s magazine, The Tower, published no fewer than 48 articles that mentioned Argentina and 40 that cited Nisman and the 1994 bombing.

Neither AEI, TIP, nor FDD has bothered to disclose its funding from Singer when publishing work that advanced his public pressure campaign against Kirchner. Indeed, there is no public record of why Singer chooses to fund these organizations. But his funding poses a conflict of interest, especially when The New York Times publishes Dershowitz and Dubowitz without any public acknowledgement that their criticism of Kirchner conveniently follows the narrative and financial interests of one of the duo’s biggest financial donors.

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Protecting the Shaky Russia-gate Narrative

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the third presidential debate in 2016, during which Clinton called Trump Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.”
By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 15, 2017

If Russia-gate is the massive scandal that we are told it is by so many Important People — across the U.S. mainstream media and the political world — why do its proponents have to resort to lies and exaggerations to maintain the pillars supporting the narrative?

A new example on Thursday was The New York Times’ statement that a Russian agency “spent $100,000 on [Facebook’s] platform to influence the United States presidential election last year” – when the Times knows that statement is not true.

According to Facebook, only 44 percent of that amount appeared before the U.S. presidential election in 2016 (i.e., $44,000) and few of those ads addressed the actual election. And, we know that the Times is aware of the truth because it was acknowledged in a Times article in early October.

As part of that article, Times correspondents Mike Isaac and Scott Shane reported that the ads also covered a wide range of other topics: “There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.”

As nefarious as the Times may think it is for Russians to promote a Facebook page about “adorable puppies,” the absurdity of that concern – and the dishonesty of the Times then “forgetting” what it itself reported just two months ago about the timing and contents of these “Russian-linked ads” – tells you a great deal about Russia-gate.

On Thursday, the Times chose to distort what it already knew to be true presumably because it didn’t want to make the $100,000 ad buy (which is not a particularly large sum) look even smaller and less significant by acknowledging the pre-election total was less than half that modest amount – and even that total had little to do with the election.

Why would the Times lie? Because to tell the truth would undercut the narrative of evil Russians defeating Hillary Clinton and putting Donald Trump in the White House – the core narrative of Russia-gate.

Another relevant fact is that Facebook failed to find any “Russian-linked” ads during its first two searches and only detected the $100,000 after a personal visit from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leading legislator on Internet regulation.

In other words, Facebook’s corporate executives dredged up something to appease Warner. That way, Warner and the Democrats could blame Russia for the Trump presidency, sparing further criticism of Clinton’s dreadful campaign (in which she labeled half of Trump’s voters “deplorables”) and her neo-liberal economic policies (and neo-conservative foreign policies) that have alienated much of America’s working class as well as many progressives.

Leaving Out Context

The Times also might have put the $100,000 in “Russian-linked” ads over a two-year period in the context of Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue, but the Times didn’t do that – apparently because it would make even the full $100,000 look like a pittance.

Trimming the total down to $44,000 and admitting that only a few of those ads actually dealt with Clinton and Trump would be even worse for the Russia-gate narrative.

Ironically, the Times’ latest false depiction of the $100,000 in ads as designed “to influence” the 2016 election appeared in an article about Facebook determining that other Russian-linked ads, which supposedly had a powerful effect on Great Britain’s Brexit vote, totaled just three ads at the cost of 97 cents. (That is not a misprint.)

According to Facebook, the three ads, which focused on immigration, were viewed some 200 times by Britons over four days in May 2016. Of course, the response from British parliamentarians who wanted to blame the Brexit vote on Moscow was to assert that Facebook must have missed something. It couldn’t be that many Britons had lost faith in the promise of the European Union for their own reasons.

We have seen a similar pattern with allegations about Russian interference in German and French elections, with the initial accusations being widely touted but not so much the later conclusions by serious investigations knocking down the claims. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’sGerman Intel Clears Russia on Interference.”]

The only acceptable conclusion, it seems, is “Russia Guilty!”

These days in Official Washington, it has become almost forbidden to ask for actual evidence that would prove the original claim that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails, even though the accusation came from what President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged were “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

These “hand-picked” analysts produced the evidence-lite Jan. 6 “assessment” about Russia “hacking” the emails and slipping them to WikiLeaks – a scenario denied by both WikiLeaks and Russia.

When that “assessment” was released almost a year ago, even the Times’ Scott Shane noticed the lack of proof, writing: “What is missing from the [the Jan. 6] public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

But the Times soon “forgot” what Shane had inconveniently noted and began reporting the Russian “hacking” as accepted wisdom.

The 17-Agencies Canard

Whenever scattered expressions of skepticism arose from a few analysts or non-mainstream media, the doubts were beaten back by the claim that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred in the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the hacking to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. And what kind of nut would doubt the collective judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies!

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, John Brennan and other national security aides present. (Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

Though the 17-agency canard was never true, it served an important purpose in establishing the Russia-gate groupthink. Wielding the “all 17 intelligence agencies” club, the U.S. mainstream media pounded politicians and policymakers into line, making any remaining skeptics seem more out of step and crazy.

So, in May 2017, when Clapper (along with former CIA Director John Brennan) admitted in congressional testimony that it wasn’t true that all 17 agencies concurred in the Russian hacking conclusion, those statements received very little attention in the mainstream media.

The New York Times among other major news outlets just continued asserting the 17-agency falsehood until the Times was finally pressured to correct its lie in late June, but that only led to the Times shifting to slightly different but still misleading wording, citing a “consensus” among the intelligence agencies without mentioning a number or by simply stating the unproven hacking claim as flat fact.

Even efforts to test the Russian-hack claims through science were ignored or ridiculed. When former NSA technical director William Binney conducted experiments that showed that the known download speed of one batch of DNC emails could not have occurred over the Internet but matched what was possible for a USB-connected thumb drive — an indication that a Democratic insider likely downloaded the emails and thus that there was no “hack” — Binney was mocked as a “conspiracy theorist.”

Even with the new disclosures about deep-seated anti-Trump bias in text messages exchanged between two senior FBI officials who played important early roles in the Russia-gate investigation, there is no indication that Official Washington is willing to go back to the beginning and see how the Russia-gate story might have been deceptively spun.

In a recently released Aug. 15, 2016 text message from Peter Strzok, a senior FBI counterintelligence official, to his reputed lover, senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Strzok referenced an apparent plan to keep Trump from getting elected before suggesting the need for “an insurance policy” just in case he did. A serious investigation into Russia-gate might want to know what these senior FBI officials had in mind.

But the Times and other big promoters of Russia-gate continue to dismiss doubters as delusional or as covering up for Russia and/or Trump. By this point – more than a year into this investigation – too many Important People have bought into the Russia-gate narrative to consider the possibility that there may be little or nothing there, or even worse, that it is the “insurance policy” that Strzok envisioned.

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

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Foundering Russia-gate ‘Scandal’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 13, 2017

The disclosure of fiercely anti-Trump text messages between two romantically involved senior FBI officials who played key roles in the early Russia-gate inquiry has turned the supposed Russian-election-meddling “scandal” into its own scandal, by providing evidence that some government investigators saw it as their duty to block or destroy Donald Trump’s presidency.

As much as the U.S. mainstream media has mocked the idea that an American “deep state” exists and that it has maneuvered to remove Trump from office, the text messages between senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page reveal how two high-ranking members of the government’s intelligence/legal bureaucracy saw their role as protecting the United States from an election that might elevate to the presidency someone as unfit as Trump.

In one Aug. 6, 2016 text exchange, Page told Strzok: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.” At the end of that text, she sent Strzok a link to a David Brooks column in The New York Times, which concludes with the clarion call: “There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame.”

Apparently after reading that stirring advice, Strzok replied, “And of course I’ll try and approach it that way. I just know it will be tough at times. I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps.”

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, criticized Strzok’s boast that “I can protect our country at many levels.” Jordan said: “this guy thought he was super-agent James Bond at the FBI [deciding] there’s no way we can let the American people make Donald Trump the next president.”

In the text messages, Strzok also expressed visceral contempt for working-class Trump voters, for instance, writing on Aug. 26, 2016, “Just went to a southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support. … it’s scary real down here.”

Another text message suggested that other senior government officials – alarmed at the possibility of a Trump presidency – joined the discussion. In an apparent reference to an August 2016 meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Strzok wrote to Page, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.”

It’s unclear what strategy these FBI officials were contemplating to ensure Trump’s defeat, but the comments mesh with what an intelligence source told me after the 2016 election, that there was a plan among senior Obama administration officials to use the allegations about Russian meddling to block Trump’s momentum with the voters and — if elected — to persuade members of the Electoral College to deny Trump a majority of votes and thus throw the selection of a new president into the House of Representatives under the rules of the Twelfth Amendment.

The scheme involved having some Democrats vote for former Secretary of State Colin Powell (which did happen), making him the third-place vote-getter in the Electoral College and thus eligible for selection by the House. But the plan fizzled when enough of Trump’s electors stayed loyal to their candidate to officially make him President.

After that, Trump’s opponents turned to the Russia-gate investigation as the vehicle to create the conditions for somehow nullifying the election, impeaching Trump, or at least weakening him sufficiently so he could not take steps to improve relations with Russia.

In one of her text messages to Strzok, Page made reference to a possible Watergate-style ouster of Trump, writing: “Bought all the president’s men. Figure I needed to brush up on watergate.”

As a key feature in this oust-Trump effort, Democrats have continued to lie by claiming that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred” in the assessment that Russia hacked the Democratic emails last year on orders from President Vladimir Putin and then slipped them to WikiLeaks to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

That canard was used in the early months of the Russia-gate imbroglio to silence any skepticism about the “hacking” accusation, and the falsehood was repeated again by a Democratic congressman during Wednesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

But the “consensus” claim was never true. In May 2017 testimony, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” was put together by “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies: the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

Biased at the Creation

And, the new revelations of high-level FBI bias puts Clapper’s statement about “hand-picked” analysts in sharper perspective, since any intelligence veteran will tell you that if you hand-pick the analysts you are effectively hand-picking the analysis.

Although it has not yet been spelled out exactly what role Strzok and Page may have had in the Jan. 6 report, I was told by one source that Strzok had a direct hand in writing it. Whether that is indeed the case, Strzok, as a senior FBI counterintelligence official, would almost surely have had input into the selection of the FBI analysts and thus into the substance of the report itself. [For challenges from intelligence experts to the Jan. 6 report, see Consortiumnews.com’sMore Holes in the Russia-gate Narrative.“]

If the FBI contributors to the Jan. 6 report shared Strzok’s contempt for Trump, it could explain why claims from an unverified dossier of Democratic-financed “dirt” on Trump, including salacious charges that Russian intelligence operatives videotaped Trump being urinated on by prostitutes in a five-star Moscow hotel, was added as a classified appendix to the report and presented personally to President-elect Trump.

Though Democrats and the Clinton campaign long denied financing the dossier – prepared by ex-British spy Christopher Steele who claimed to rely on second- and third-hand information from anonymous Russian contacts – it was revealed in October 2017 that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign shared in the costs, with the payments going to the “oppo” research firm, Fusion GPS, through the Democrats’ law firm, Perkins Coie.

That discovery helped ensnare another senior Justice Department official, Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who talked with Steele during the campaign and had a post-election meeting with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Recently, Simpson has acknowledged that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was hired by Fusion GPS last year to investigate Trump.

Bruce Ohr has since been demoted and Strzok was quietly removed from the Russia-gate investigation last July although the reasons for these moves were not publicly explained at the time.

Still, the drive for “another Watergate” to oust an unpopular – and to many insiders, unfit – President remains at the center of the thinking among the top mainstream news organizations as they have scrambled for Russia-gate “scoops” over the past year even at the cost of making serious reporting errors.

For instance, last Friday, CNN — and then CBS News and MSNBC — trumpeted an email supposedly sent from someone named Michael J. Erickson on Sept. 4, 2016, to Donald Trump Jr. that involved WikiLeaks offering the Trump campaign pre-publication access to purloined Democratic National Committee emails that WikiLeaks published on Sept. 13, nine days later.

Grasping for Confirmation

Since the Jan. 6 report alleged that WikiLeaks received the “hacked” emails from Russia — a claim that WikiLeaks and Russia deny — the story seemed to finally tie together the notion that the Trump campaign had at least indirectly colluded with Russia.

This new “evidence” spread like wildfire across social media. As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald wrote in an article critical of the media’s performance, some Russia-gate enthusiasts heralded the revelation with graphics of cannons booming and nukes exploding.

But the story soon collapsed when it turned out that the date on the email was actually Sept. 14, 2016, i.e., the day after WikiLeaks released the batch of DNC emails, not Sept. 4. It appeared that “Erickson” – whoever he was – had simply alerted the Trump campaign to the public existence of the WikiLeaks disclosure.

Greenwald noted, “So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all.”

Yet, despite the cascade of errors and grudging corrections, including some belated admissions that there was no “17-intelligence-agency consensus” on Russian “hacking” – The New York Times made a preemptive strike against the new documentary evidence that the Russia-gate investigation was riddled with conflicts of interest.

The Times’ lead editorial on Wednesday mocked reporters at Fox News for living in an “alternate universe” where the Russia-gate “investigation is ‘illegitimate and corrupt,’ or so says Gregg Jarrett, a legal analyst who appears regularly on [Sean] Hannity’s nightly exercise in presidential ego-stroking.”

Though briefly mentioning the situation with Strzok’s text messages, the Times offered no details or context for the concerns, instead just heaping ridicule on anyone who questions the Russia-gate narrative.

“To put it mildly, this is insane,” the Times declared. “The primary purpose of Mr. Mueller’s investigation is not to take down Mr. Trump. It’s to protect America’s national security and the integrity of its elections by determining whether a presidential campaign conspired with a foreign adversary to influence the 2016 election – a proposition that grows more plausible every day.”

The Times fumed that “roughly three-quarters of Republicans still refuse to accept that Russia interfered in the 2016 election – a fact that is glaringly obvious to everyone else, including the nation’s intelligence community.” (There we go again with the false suggestion of a consensus within the intelligence community.)

The Times also took to task Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, for seeking “a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 – not just Trump and Russia.” The Times insisted that “None of these attacks or insinuations are grounded in good faith.”

But what are the Times editors so afraid of? As much as they try to insult and intimidate anyone who demands serious evidence about the Russia-gate allegations, why shouldn’t the American people be informed about how Washington insiders manipulate elite opinion in pursuit of reversing “mistaken” judgments by the unwashed masses?

Do the Times editors really believe in democracy – a process that historically has had its share of warts and mistakes – or are they just elitists who think they know best and turn away their noses from the smell of working-class people at Walmart?

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

December 14, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Russia-gate’s Litany of Corrections

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 11, 2017

The U.S. mainstream media’s year-long hysteria over Russia’s alleged role in the election of Donald Trump has obliterated normal reporting standards leading to a rash of journalistic embarrassments that have both disgraced the profession and energized Trump’s backers over new grievances about the MSM’s “fake news.”

Misguided groupthink is always a danger when key elements of the Washington establishment and the major news media share the same belief – whether that is Iraq’s supposed possession of WMD or the need to bring down some foreign or domestic leader unpopular with the elites.

Yet, we have rarely witnessed such a cascading collapse of journalistic principles as has occurred around the Russia-gate “scandal.” It is hard to keep track of all the corrections or to take note of all the dead ends that the investigation keeps finding.

But anyone who dares note the errors, the inconsistencies or the illogical claims is either dismissed as a “Kremlin stooge” or a “Trump enabler.” The national Democrats and the mainstream media seem determined to keep hurtling down the Russia-gate roadway assuming that the evidentiary barriers ahead will magically disappear at some point and the path to Trump’s impeachment will be clear.

On Friday, the rush to finally prove the Russia-gate narrative led CNN — and then CBS News and MSNBC — to trumpet an email supposedly sent from someone named Michael J. Erickson on Sept. 4, 2016, to Donald Trump Jr. that involved WikiLeaks offering the Trump campaign pre-publication access to purloined Democratic National Committee emails that WikiLeaks published on Sept. 13, nine days later.

With CNN finally tying together the CIA’s unproven claim that WikiLeaks collaborates with Russia and the equally unproven claim that Russian intelligence “hacked” the Democratic emails, CNN drew the noose more tightly around the Trump campaign for “colluding” with Russia.

After having congressional reporter Manu Raju lay out the supposed facts of the scoop, CNN turned to a panel of legal experts to pontificate about the crimes that the Trump campaign may have committed now that the “evidence” proving Russia-gate was finally coming together.

Not surprisingly the arrival of this long-awaited “proof” of Russian “collusion” exploded across social media. As The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald noted in an article critical of the media’s performance, some Russia-gate enthusiasts heralded the CNN revelation with graphics of cannons booming and nukes exploding.

The problem, however, was that CNN and other news outlets that jumped on the story misreported the date of the email; it was Sept. 14, 2016, i.e., the day after WikiLeaks released the batch of DNC emails, not Sept. 4. In other words, it appeared that “Erickson” – whoever he was – was simply alerting the Trump campaign to the WikiLeaks disclosure.

CNN later issued a quiet correction to its inflammatory report – and not surprisingly people close to Trump cited the false claim as yet another example of “fake news” being spread by the mainstream media, which has put itself at the forefront of the anti-Trump Resistance over the past year.

But this sloppy journalism – compounded by CNN’s rush to put the “Sept. 4 email” in some criminal context and with CBS and MSNBC panting close behind – was not a stand-alone screw-up. A week earlier, ABC News made a similar mistake in claiming that candidate Donald Trump instructed Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials during the campaign, when Trump actually made the request after the election when Flynn was national security adviser-designate, a thoroughly normal move for a President-elect to make. That botched story led ABC News to suspend veteran investigative reporter Brian Ross.

Another inaccurate report from Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets – that Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records of President Trump and his family – was denied by Trump’s lawyer and later led to more corrections. The error apparently was that the bank records were not those of Trump and his family but possibly other associates.

A Pattern of Bias

But it wasn’t just a bad week for American mainstream journalism. The string of errors followed a pattern of earlier false and misleading reporting and other violations of journalistic standards, a sorry record that has been the hallmark of the Russia-gate “scandal.” Many stories have stirred national outrage toward nuclear-armed Russia before petering out as either false or wildly exaggerated. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’sRussia-gate Jumps the Shark.”]

As Greenwald noted, “So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all.”

The phenomenon began in the weeks after Trump’s shocking victory over Hillary Clinton as Democrats and the mainstream media looked for people to blame for the defeat of their much-preferred candidate.

So, on Thanksgiving Day, just weeks after the election, The Washington Post published a front-page story based on an anonymous group called PropOrNot accusing 200 Web sites of acting as propaganda agents for Russia. The list included some of the Internet’s leading independent news sources, including Consortiumnews, but the Post did not bother to contact the slandered Web sites nor to dissect the dubious methodology of the unnamed accusers.

Apparently, the “crime” of the Web sites was to show skepticism toward the State Department’s claims about Syria and Ukraine. In conflating a few isolated cases of “fake news” in which people fabricated stories for political or profitable ends with serious dissent regarding the demonizing of Russia and its allies, the Post was laying down a marker that failure to get in line behind the U.S. government’s propaganda on these and other topics would get you labeled a “Kremlin tool.”

As the Russia-gate hysteria built in the run-up to Trump’s inauguration during the final weeks of the Obama administration, the Post also jumped on a claim from the Department of Homeland Security that Russian hackers had penetrated into the nation’s electrical grid through Vermont’s Burlington Electric.

As journalist Gareth Porter noted, “The Post failed to follow the most basic rule of journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking with the Burlington Electric Department first. The result was the Post’s sensational Dec. 30 story under the headline ‘Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.’ …

“The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question was connected to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim that the electricity grid had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story that the utility had been the victim of a Russian hack for another three days before admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed.”

The Original Sin

In other cases, major news outlets, such as The New York Times, reported dubious Russia-gate claims from U.S. intelligence agencies as flat fact, rather than unproven allegations that remain in serious dispute. The Times and others reported Russian “hacking” of Democratic emails as true even though WikiLeaks denied getting the material from the Russians and the Russians denied providing it.

For months into 2017, in dismissing or ignoring those denials, the U.S. mainstream media reported routinely that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred in the conclusion that Russia was behind the disclosure of Democratic emails as part of a plot initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to help elect Trump. Anyone who dared question this supposed collective judgment of all the U.S. intelligence agencies risked being called a “conspiracy theorist” or worse.

But the “consensus” claim was never true. Such a consensus judgment would have called for a comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate, which was never commissioned on the Russian “hacking” issue. Instead there was something called an “Intelligence Community Assessment” on Jan. 6 that – according to testimony by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in May 2017 – was put together by “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies: the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

Even after Clapper’s testimony, the “consensus” canard continued to circulate. For instance, in The New York 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.”

Finally, the Times ran a correction appended to that article. The Associated Press ran a similar “clarification” applied to some of its fallacious reporting which used the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme.

After the correction, however, the Times simply shifted to other deceptive wording to continue suggesting that U.S. intelligence agencies were in accord on Russian “hacking.” Other times, the Times just asserted the claim of Russian email hacking as flat fact. All of this was quite unprofessional, since the Jan. 6 “assessment” itself stated that it was not asserting Russian “hacking” as fact, explaining: “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

Even worse than the Times, the “fact-checking” site Politifact, which is part of Google’s First Draft Coalition for deciding what the search engine’s algorithms will promote as true and what information will be disappeared as false, simply decided to tough it out and continued insisting that the false “consensus” claim was true.

When actual experts, such as former National Security Agency technical director William Binney, sought to apply scientific analysis to the core claim about Russian “hacking,” they reached the unpopular conclusion that the one known download speed of a supposed “hack” was not possible over the Internet but closely matched what would occur via a USB download, i.e., from someone with direct access to the Democratic National Committee’s computers using a thumb drive. In other words, the emails more likely came from a DNC insider, not an external “hack” from the Russians or anyone else.

You might have thought that the U.S. news media would have welcomed Binney’s discovery. However, instead he was either ignored or mocked as a “conspiracy theorist.” The near-religious belief in the certainty of the Russian “hack” was not to be mocked or doubted.

‘Hand-picked’ Trouble

In recent days, former DNI Clapper’s reference to “hand-picked” analysts for the Jan. 6 report has also taken on a more troubling odor, since questions have been raised about the objectivity of the Russia-gate investigators and — as any intelligence expert will tell you — if you “hand-pick” analysts known for their personal biases, you are hand-picking the conclusion, a process that became known during the Reagan administration as “politicizing intelligence.”

Though little is known about exactly who was “hand-picked” by President Obama’s intelligence chiefs to assess the Russian “hacking” suspicions, Russia-gate special prosecutor Robert Mueller has been forced to reassign Peter Strzok, one of the top FBI investigators who worked on both the Hillary Clinton email-server case and the Trump-Russia inquiry, after it was discovered that he exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Clinton text messages with a lawyer who also works at the FBI.

Last week, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee sought answers from new FBI Director Christopher Wren about Strzok’s role in clearing Hillary Clinton of criminal wrongdoing in her use of a private unsecured email server to handle official State Department communications while Secretary of State. They also wanted to know what role in the Russia-gate probe was played by a Democratic-funded “opposition research” report from ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which included unverified hearsay claims by unnamed Russians about Trump.

Wren avoided direct answers by citing an ongoing Inspector General’s review and Mueller’s criminal investigation, but Republicans expressed displeasure at this evasiveness.

The Republican questions prompted E.J. Dionne Jr., a liberal columnist at The Washington Post, to publish a spirited attack on the GOP committee members, accusing them of McCarthyistic tactics in questioning the FBI’s integrity.

Dionne’s straw man was to postulate that Republicans – because of this discovery of anti-Trump bias – would discount evidence that proves Trump’s collusion with Russia: “if Strzok played some role in developing [the] material. … Trump’s allies want us to say: Too bad the president lied or broke the law or that Russia tried to tilt our election. This FBI guy sending anti-Trump texts is far more important, so let’s just forget the whole thing. Really?”

But the point is that no such evidence of Russian collusion has been presented and to speculate how people might react if such evidence is discovered is itself McCarthyistic, suggesting guilt based on hypotheticals, not proof. Whatever one thinks of Trump, it is troubling for Dionne or anyone to imply treasonous activities based on speculation. That is the sort of journalistic malfeasance that has contributed to the string of professional abuses that pervades Russia-gate.

What we are witnessing is such an intense desire by mainstream journalists to get credit for helping oust Trump from office that they have forgotten that journalism’s deal with the public should be to treat everyone fairly, even if you personally disdain the subject of your reporting.

Journalists are always going to get criticized when they dig up information that puts some politician or public figure in a negative light, but that’s why it’s especially important for journalists to strive for genuine fairness and not act as if journalism is just another cover for partisan hatchetmen.

The loss of faith among large swaths of Americans in the professionalism of journalists will ultimately do severe harm to the democratic process by transforming information into just one more ideological weapon. Some would say that the damage has already been done.

It was, if you recall, the U.S. mainstream media that started the controversy over “fake news,” expanding the concept from the few low-lifes who make up stories for fun and profit into a smear against anyone who expressed skepticism toward State Department narratives on foreign conflicts. That was the point of The Washington Post’s PropOrNot story.

But now many of these same mainstream outlets are livid when Trump and his backers throw the same “fake news” epithet back at the major media. The sad truth is that The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC and other leading news organizations that have let their hatred of Trump blind them from their professional responsibilities have made Trump’s job easy.

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

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment