The CIA, Trump and Unverified News
London — Morning breakfast news on the BBC’s Radio Four on Friday was a delightful affair filled with discussions on Russia (when do we not talk about that busy, stirring Bear these days?), Donald Trump, dossiers and the intelligence fraternity. Did it even matter that various sources have been unverified, subject matter lumped together in cumbersome conversations on fake news, sexual frolics and the like?
Discussants on the Beeb who kept listeners company over coffee included former, recently confessed spook Frederick Forsyth, for years the go-to creator of the spy narrative, and the official intelligence historian Sir Christopher Andrew.
For Forsyth, the allegations outlined by former British spy Christopher Steele that Trump found himself in prancing company with Russian hookers, dubious real estate deals targeted as bribes and a treasonous coordination with the Russian intelligence services to defeat Hillary Clinton, beggared belief. Trump was hardly that much of a buffoon, surely.
On Wednesday night, the US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., issued a statement in the aftermath of a conversation with Trump on the Steele dossier, suggesting that the agencies had “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.” Naturally, despite any claims about authenticity, the report had been circulated within the deepest recesses of spook central. Clapper would never want to deny his own officials the pleasure of that smut.
The New York Times conceded that much of the story remained “out of reach – most critically the basis question of how much, if anything, in the dossier is true.” You would think that this point was most salient, rendering any other discussion empty and flatulent.
Nonetheless, the paper would go on to assert that it was “possible to piece together a rough narrative of what led to the current crisis, including lingering questions about the ties binding Mr. Trump and his team to Russia.”
With the US presidential inauguration fast approaching, the press jackals have been swarming. The tid bits offered by the Steele report are themselves shrouded, stemming from September 2015 when an anti-Trump Republican donor (naturally, we do not know the name) commissioned Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research firm stacked by former journalists turned information hit-men, to do some digging. The mission was simple: find as much debilitating dirt as possible and sink the Trump ship.
Steele, considered at one point one of Britain’s foremost Russian experts within MI6, was considered ideal for the job of funneling information to Glenn Simpson at Fusion GPS. The themes of those memos were stock standard: the old compromising (kompromat) material, with sex being central; and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee with discussion by Trump officials with Russian entities.
Trump has not done himself any favours, preferring to throw meagre carrion at the press corps, and hope that it miraculously dissipates. His polemical advisors would have been best served to tell him to shut it. News is not interesting. Allegations have become the gold dust of political debate.
This latest battle of spite and indignation reveals that internally, there is a war between claims and institutions within the United States. The intelligence community finds itself unsheathing its weapons. Trump has duly responded.
The point being missed here is the possibility that the servants of the elected commander-in-chief may actually be subverting the Republic, for all Trump’s sullen, and childish authoritarianism. Sources garnered from the very foundry of deception have assumed an aura of reliability. The argument about fake news has been turned inside out.
While care should be taken in packaging the entire US intelligence community into a neat box of anti-Trump enthusiasts, a good number of former officials were very keen that Hillary Clinton take over the reins in the White House. Views were expressed throughout the election cycle: Trump had to be defeated at all costs.
Once it became clear that Trump was gaining electoral momentum at nerve racking pace, it was important to side with the Clinton electoral team on a revived Cold War mantra: the Russians were doing terrible things, with Trump operating in the shadow of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For former CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, Trump was “the useful fool, some naïf, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
Former CIA Director Michael J. Morell also took a step that can only be regarded as singular and institutionally troubling: coming out from the shadows to pick his preferred candidate while denigrating another.
In August, he bored readers with his resume in an opinion piece for the New York Times. (“In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties.”) He expressed a solemn view that Trump was “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.” Russia’s Putin “had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
The Fourth Estate used to be the solemn interrogating power of the parliamentary galleries. Being unelected, it was given, as an accident of history, a certain influence. Like all power, it can be misdirected, even ill-informed. The questioners can become vessels and conduits.
Over time, that same estate has withered, becoming a faint echo of investigation and fact checking. Even in notionally democratic states, it can be co-opted. As Glenn Greenwald has argued, the most useful tool of the deep state has been the US media, “much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials.”
Leakers are punished; facts are not cross-checked. The hack now floats in an ether of speculation, fed by the unverifiable, and pampered by the intelligence official. The battles now seemingly are not over narratives of veracity but narratives of invention. Power, it would seem, to the creative in this new Republic of trouble that is the United States.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: email@example.com.
From ancient Hebrew folklore, the dybbuk is a demonic spirit that inhabits a person’s body and soul in order to get what it wants. American foreign policy is endlessly driven to search and destroy imaginary demons: Noriega, Milosevic, Saddam, Ho, Tojo, Nasser, Gaddafi, Lumumba, Castro, Osama, Yanukovych, and a host of others in its hit parade. Obama wouldn’t be fulfilling his duty as warmonger-in-chief if he didn’t submit at least one new person to the pantheon of evil nogoodniks. He found his dybbuk in Vladimir Putin.
Apparently, the Democrats and their partners within the Republican cabal, particularly McCain and Graham, believe that Mr. Putin qualifies as an evil spirit, a super dybbuk, who controls the destiny of American politics – and even the Vermont electrical grid. Anyone who questions this is simply possessed, which obviously includes the soon-to-be White House zombie, Mr. Trump. Playing on the old Western trope of the untamed Russian Bear, Obama has titled the Putin conspiracy Grizzly Steppe. In his last remaining days in office, the American president is hoping to create dramatic memorabilia, such as his expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats just before Christmas, to fill what would otherwise be a rather vacant Obama Library.
Unfortunately for the Cold Warriors, the Kremlin dybbuk responded by simply laughing it off as not worth responding in kind. Focused on his legacy obsession, Obama’s sour grapes is not only about his limited achievements and his party shamelessly losing the election to a crude, narcissistic, and inexperienced child-like politician but also about his loss of face in the Middle East conflict, where the Russians are scoring military and diplomatic points left and right. It’s also about Obama’s last ditch efforts to dispossess Trump of any legitimate power, employing well-tested Cold War propaganda tactics to try to break up any Republican policy consensus.
What is the basis on which liberals insist on depicting the Russians in such dark conspiratorial terms? First, the Cold Warriors assert that Russia is an aggressor, citing its alleged “invasion” of South Ossetia in 2008. On December 26, 2016, Dan Lamothe, a Washington Post national security reporter, and formerly an embedded journalist in Afghanistan, told viewers on C-Span that Russia is an imperialist state. His evidence? He claims that Russia “invaded” Georgia in 2008. Even the New York Times, a reliable echo chamber of the State Department, had to admit on November 6, 2008 that its earlier report (August 8, 2008) that Russia initiated the conflict in that autonomous region was false. There has since been a broad understanding among informed reporters, though not Mr. Lamothe, that it was the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who attacked South Ossetia and the Russian peacekeepers who were stationed there to prevent Georgian attacks on nearby Russian towns. Russia chased out the invaders and left South Ossetia with its autonomous status intact.
The leading German weekly, Der Spiegel, reported at the time that, according to the EU investigative mission head, Heidi Tagliavini, “It was Georgia which triggered off the war when it attacked [the South Ossetian capital] Tskhinvali.” Following the Georgian invasion, the pro-US Saakashvili increasingly came under internal criticism for corruption and authoritarianism and fled Georgia in 2013 while under criminal investigation. With the backing of Ukraine’s president, Petro (“Porky”) Poroshenko, Saakashvili briefly served as a failed governor of Odessa. Meanwhile, Georgia has stripped him of his citizenship.
The second broadly cited “evidence” of Putin’s imperialist behavior is the allegation that Russia “invaded” Crimea in 2014. This is another distortion, stripped of historical context, that typically ignores the referendum that Crimea held to separate from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, of which it had been a part for hundreds of years before Khrushchev gifted it to a Ukraine that was then part of the USSR. The circumstances of that secession vote was that it occurred in the aftermath of the US-supported coup earlier in the year that illegally and unconstitutionally deposed Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency and forced him to flee for his life. This began a series of reprisals by the coup regime against the ethnic Russian population, pushed by its neo-Nazi faction – reminiscent of the Bandera fascist movement in World War II that assisted the German military in the murder of millions of Ukraine’s Russians, Jews, Gypsies, and Poles. The March 2014 irredentist vote in favor of reunification with Russia won with overwhelming 97% support, with an 83% turnout. The Obama administration and its legions in the mainstream media, which condemned the “annexation” of Crimea, failed to explain how it was significantly different from the Kosovo secession that the US supported following the massive US and NATO bombardment of Serbia that ended its control over the province. Selective perception indeed.
The Cold Warriors didn’t stop there in outing the dybbuk. The clever demon, they insist, acted as chief opposition researcher for the Trump campaign. Everyone from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, to Obama and Clinton herself, along with their pet media pundits and their yes men (and women) in the CIA, backed the claim that “Russian state actors,” working under orders from no less than the dybbuk himself, hacked Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta emails in order to elect Donald Trump. Putin’s response was that if America’s elections could be so easily manipulated, it must be a banana republic. The Russian hacking story originated with “research” done by a group of private consulting firms attached to the Democratic Party. To date, neither the CIA nor the Obama administration has revealed any real evidence of Russian state involvement in the alleged hacking, nor have the mainstream media. The media’s lapse in not insisting on evidential confirmation raises the question of who are the real hacks?
The MSM won’t let go of the hacking story. Here is a sample of their headlines:
+ New York Times– Spy Agency Consensus Grows that Russia Hacked D.N.C.
+ New York Times – S. Says Russia Directed Hacks to Influence Elections
+ NBC News – Why Experts Are Sure Russia Hacked the DNC Emails
+ Washington Post – Russian Government Hackers Penetrated DNC, Stole Opposition Research on Trump
+ Washington Post – Russian Operation Hacked a Vermont Utility
On the last story, the Post later printed a brief retraction that first appeared within the reprinted original story itself, as if it were maybe a retraction and maybe not. MSM fake news is the new normal. Evgeny Morozov has written: “Democracy may or may not be drowning in fake news, but it’s definitely drowning in elite hypocrisy.”
What happened to the contents of the leaked emails? One of the significant revelations is that Clinton knew while secretary of state (she said so in one of her emails) that the Saudis and Qataris were funding ISIS, and yet she subsequently took millions from them for her personal foundation, which is an extraordinary act of corruption that would be tolerated in few countries that purport to be democratic. She also diverted millions of dollars she raised, supposedly for the benefit of Democratic state parties, to her own campaign. The leaks also showed that the DNC had sabotaged the Bernie Sanders campaign and were planning to further undermine his candidacy by labeling him an “atheist.” The Democrats and the MSM managed to bury these issues with a kill the messenger tactic and blocked the possibility of a serious party house cleaning. Blame the dybbuk.
One of the few politicians unwilling to join the anti-Putin chorus is Donald Trump, making him a prime target of the corporate mainstream media, which have abandoned all pretense of respect for the “canons of journalism.” The exaggerated efforts at depicting Trump as a puppet of Putin (the former “diplomat” Madeleine Albright used the term “useful idiot”) are laughable. But despite lacking any credible evidence, the thesis that Russia conspired to get Trump elected finds almost no resistance in the MSM or in academia. More recently, the press and later the official US intelligence report has launched a jeremiad against the Russian media, particularly RT (Russia Today) for its dissemination of “fake news” (confession: I’ve appeared on its English language TV news reports as a commentator multiple times), aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the democratic system in America. Hillary Clinton made much of the fact that Trump gave an interview on RT, but she neglected to point out that the program was hosted by long-time liberal and talk show pillar of CNN, Larry King. She also made the extremely graceless and undiplomatic comparison of Putin to Hitler, an insult not only to the Russian president but to the memory of the 27 million Russians who died in the ultimate defeat of Naziism.
The implication of these attacks is that Donald Trump is a fifth columnist president. On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu (another dybbuk), who openly campaigned for Mitt Romney in 2012 and met with both party candidates on the eve of the final 2016 presidential debate, is off the MSM hook on foreign political interference. And the patriotism of Republicans who brought the apartheider to speak in Congress without the benefit of a White House invitation is also not questioned. Moreover, as the Guardian’s Owen Jones notes, Americans should know something about election meddling “because they’ve been doing it for years.” Among America’s many clients, the Russian autocrat Boris Yeltsin was a beneficiary of US election intervention in the 1990s (with Bill Clinton’s strong support), funding him and supplying a team of American election consultants to get him elected, by hook and by crook, in 1996. Russia’s current prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, at the time a close associate of Yeltsin, admitted that the election outcome was rigged against the real winner, Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov.
All of this renewed Cold War anti-Russia hysteria can be seen to have core purposes. Most conspicuous is the devastating defeat of the Democratic Party in the 2016 elections, losing the White House and failing to take either the House or Senate, but also leaving Republicans fully in charge of 33 state legislatures and, over the past 4 election cycles, net gains of some 1,000 legislative seats, which makes Obama’s legacy look pretty shabby. The Democrats, from Obama on down, have refused to radically rethink their party’s institutional character and instead put failed leader Nancy Pelosi back in charge of the House minority and the Wall Street favorite, Charles Schumer, as head of the Senate Democrats. Strategically, American neocons, including the Clintons, see Russia as obstructing US global ambitions and demand nothing less than Russian obedience to Pax Americana. Third, the mainstream corporate media, especially the Washington Post, owned by the viscerally anti-Trump tycoon, Jeff Bezos, have hitched their wagons to an aggressive US foreign policy and the patronage of global Fortune 500 companies, including the petroleum and defense industries.
Before demanding a Trump exorcism of the dybbuk’s influence, one needs to ask, with a view to recent history, whether Russia is the aggressor that the establishment is making it out to be. Are Russian forces lined up along the US border, north and south, the way NATO is poised for direct intervention with bases across Russia’s “near abroad”? Which country has a history of arming the most repressive, jihadi-supporting states in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar), military dictatorships across Latin America and Asia, apartheid in South Africa and Israel, and regime change across eastern Europe? Which country has starved Cuba of basic necessities for 56 years out of revenge for instituting a socialist government that has won the support of nearly all of Latin America? According to William Blum, since 1945 “the US has attempted to overthrow more than fifty governments, most of which were democratically elected, and grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least thirty countries.”
Are the CIA claims about the Russian takeover of the American election to be believed, the same CIA that lied about WMDs in Iraq (Obama’s intelligence chief, James Clapper, being one of the fabricators of this, among his many official lies) and that country’s import of aluminum tubes for making nuclear centrifuges, Saddam’s involvement in 9/11 and his support for terrorism, Iraq’s alleged purchase of yellowcake uranium powder from Niger, the black site detention and torture chambers set up around the world for kidnapped Arabs and other alleged “terrorists,” Abu Ghraib, and a much longer list of lies and cover-ups serving US imperialism over its 70-year history? Why would political elites and the MSM assume, without seeing a shred of evidence, that the “Company” is telling the truth about the Russia “threat”?
The answer lies in the real objectives of US foreign policy, which are really quite obvious. The new Cold War serves US hegemonic interests in the Middle East, including the elimination of Assad, and in NATO-fortified eastern Europe, and its efforts to neuter Russia as an independent state. Its motives, however, are cloaked, as they always have been, in fake news about Russia, about Syria, and every other state that has pursued either non-alignment or active resistance to US domination. What the naïve believed to be an “information society” has actually matured into a propaganda society, adapting to the informational mode of production to create new platforms and techniques of public perception management. The latest effort in this direction is the Obama administration’s creation of the Orwellian-sounding Global Engagement Center, housed in the State Department, yet another propaganda apparatus (remember Rumsfeld’s bizarre-sounding “Office of Strategic Influence”?) designed to offset the real news in the world media that are critical of US militarist and regime change policies, including RT and Press TV.
Cyber security specialist John McAfee has publicly disputed the Russian hacking claims, arguing that anyone who leaves fingerprints on a hack that tracks him/her as “Russian” isn’t Russian: “if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians.” It should be plain enough that the real hack job is the one that the Democrats, including Obama, used against the Russians to refocus the story away from the party’s and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, election manipulations, and self-aggrandizing personal politics.
What the US government should be concerned about is the global perception, based on 2014 Gallup polling, that the United States is regarded as the greatest threat to world peace. The only way this perception will be altered is when the US disembarks from its unipolarism, imperialism, warmongering ambitions and dybbuk-hunting excuses for its foreign and domestic failures as a supposed democratic state. We can only hope that the highly unpredictable Trump tweetocracy keeps the warmongers in their harbors and steers the US in a less aggressive pattern of international behavior that avoids demonizing world leaders who challenge US global hegemony.
Gerald Sussman is a Professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. He is the author of Branding Democracy: US Regime Change in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe.
The recent hysteria surrounding Russia’s alleged interference with the November presidential elections saw another episode after an intelligence report, jointly elaborated by the CIA, FBI and NSA, was released on Friday, January 6th.
After weeks of bombshell headlines based on statements from anonymous intelligence officials, western media finally had an official intelligence report to support their bombshell headlines. Unsurprisingly, all headlines look very similar, with the Guardian even changing the title of their main story after realising it was not menacing enough.
The problem is that, much like the old stories, the new ones do not contain any evidence to support the claims, because the report itself does not have anything in that regard. The report says that the “evidence” remains highly classified. These outlets are just being fed the same (non-)information in a new package, and reporting it as “remarkably blunt” (WaPo) and “damning and surprisingly detailed” (NYT) does not change the fact that there are no facts to back this thesis that there was a campaign orchestrated by the Russian state which decided the American presidential elections. Repeating the same accusation time and again is not a way of proving it, and given their track record, we cannot just take intelligence agencies at their word.1
Because threatening foreign leaders don’t “work”, they “order”!
The report: little substance, but lots of irony!
And in contrast to the dramatic style of the media headlines, the report itself has very little in terms of substance. It is a 25-page document, containing a 15-page report. The main part is a 5-page “assessment” from the three intelligence agencies, which they felt needed to be summarised in a page of “key judgements”.2 Furthermore, if we look in detail, the charges levelled against Putin are very hypocritical given that they come from the self-proclaimed beacon of freedom of the world. In the “key judgements” we read:
Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order […]
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
First of all, it’s laughable that Putin is blamed for developing a “clear preference” when one of the choices promised better relations with Russia and the other promised a more aggressive approach, to say the least. Secondly, it’s beyond ironic that the US is aggrieved that someone tried to influence elections in a foreign country.3 Finally, if in the above statement we make the following changes:
- Russia/Putin/Moscow→United States/US president/Washington
- undermine → spread
- Trump → pro-US puppet; Clinton →other candidate
- US election/democratic process → any other country’s election
we end up with something resembling the mission statement of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Funded primarily by the US government, the NED channels funds to US-aligned political parties and NGOs around the world, under the slogan of “promoting democracy”.
The rest of the report is filled with an annex detailing the grave menace that RT (formerly Russia Today) is supposed to be. RT is accused of terrible propaganda, such as covering the Occupy protests or highlighting the environmental risks of fracking. Unfortunately, this annex seems to be an outdated report from 2012, so the 2016 election result ends up being blamed on Abby Martin’s “Breaking the Set”, even though she stopped doing it in 2015.4 Once again, accusing RT of being a propaganda tool of the Kremlin reeks of hypocrisy, when the US has created dozens of TV and radio stations all around the world to echo their own propaganda. And even the mainstream outlets, not just in the US but in Europe as well, hardly ever deviate from the official narrative when it comes to foreign policy matters.
When real life overtakes fiction – exchange from HBO’s satirical show Veep
“The Russians are coming”
This episode comes on the heels of another paranoid “the Russians are coming” episode. Panicked media outlets reported that the Russians had hacked the electricity grid in Vermont, meaning its inhabitants were only a Vladimir Putin click away from freezing to death this winter. Of course, in reality nothing of the sort had happened. A single computer, which was not connected to the electrical grid, had Russian-made malware found in it after Homeland Security sent a notice to utility companies about the malware found in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) software. So the story is probably that someone had used his/her work computer to visit inadvisable websites. The story got so surreal that the electricity company itself had to come out and clarify it, but even this most mundane of stories kept its catastrophic headlines. Beyond that, anyone can buy Russian-made malware, so its presence hardly proves anything about Russian state involvement, in this case or any other. Claiming so is the equivalent of blaming the Russian government for everyone killed by a Russian-made Kalashnikov rifle.5
Finally, the crux of the matter remains the Wikileaks publication of the DNC and Podesta (Clinton’s campaign manager) emails. I will not talk about the alleged Russian origin of these contents, but refer to Craig Murray’s6 writing on the subject. Murray has claimed that this hack was, in fact, a leak from inside the Democratic Party. While his word is not the gospel, he has far more credibility on these matters than the aforementioned intelligence agencies combined. What is more astounding is to see Democratic Party officials and journalists blaming the release of this information, which revealed how the party sabotaged Bernie Sanders and some of Hillary Clinton’s sordid dealings, for Trump’s victory. Saying that “our candidate was terrible, but people were not supposed to know” does not make for a very convincing case.
All of this would make for amusing satire or comedy if it weren’t for the fact that we are talking about two nuclear-armed superpowers. It is disgusting that high-ranking figures are raising the stakes in this game of nuclear chicken in order to justify an unexpected defeat. Intelligence agencies are made of professional liars, whose budgets and careers depend upon the existence of grave threats. This takes us to the role of the media, which should be to question the motives of known/anonymous officials and scrutinise grave claims such as these in the absence of evidence. The fact that the mainstream media have become pure propaganda machines is extremely dangerous and only highlights the importance of having an independent press and free access to information.
• Source: Investig’Action
- Despite all the innuendo, nobody is accusing the Russians of having hacked the voting machines or interfered with the vote tallying. That is the only clear statement in this report.
- The content is really stretched, for example the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of the “key judgements” are repeated almost verbatim in the beginning of the “assessment”.
- In 2011, the US famously ordered the Haiti electoral commission to move Michel Martelly to the second round of the 2010-11 election, even though he had come in third in the first round.
- Abby Martin became an overnight hero of western pundits when she criticized Russia’s actions in Crimea during her show on RT. Of course, these pundits were probably unaware of the content of her show, and it’s fair to guess that they are not fans of her recent work for TeleSur, “The Empire Files”.
- On this and all other matters concerning intelligence agencies and poor journalism standards, there’s no better source than Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept.
- A former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, he lost his career for exposing the use of torture in the “war on terror”. He has been a staunch activist and supporter of whistleblowers ever since.
The dark, infamous days of American lynch-mob rule and burning witches at stakes are back as never before. But not in backwater enclaves of benighted bigotry. Oh no, the modern lynch mobs are running amok in Washington’s seat of government, across prime TV and on the editorial pages of its supposed finest newspapers.
It is the effete, self-regarding ruling US elite who are acting like a murderous rabble. The hate-figures are Russian leader Vladimir Putin and incoming president Donald Trump. Both are being lined up to be lynched, one as a foreign enemy, the other as a traitor.
Lynch mob blood-lust is a mere finger pointed, the baying of deranged crowds and the stringing up of some unfortunate from the nearest tree without pause for a fair trial. «Guilty!» shouted with red-faced thunder is all that’s needed. And anyone who dares to question the madding crowd is liable to meet the same grim fate.
Public opinion in the US is being stampeded to accept as unquestioned fact that Russia «attacked American democracy» as Senators like John McCain are claiming on prime time television. Furthermore, Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of being the mastermind behind the alleged cyber attacks, which supposedly subverted the US presidential election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Incumbent President Barack Obama, the US «intelligence community» and a consensus of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are all asserting without a flicker of doubt that Russian state-sponsored hackers interfered in the November election. The US mainstream media have abdicated any pretense of independence or journalistic standard by rowing in behind the assertions, stating what are fundamentally tendentious claims as if they are fact. The word «alleged» before the words «Russian hacking» has been shorn from headlines and commentaries. The American lynch mob has decreed Russia as guilty. No due process, no skepticism, no verifiable proof, just stampeding group-think let loose.
Never mind that Moscow has repeatedly rejected the vapid claims, and has demanded verifiable evidence to be presented. Never mind that Washington has failed to provide any verifiable evidence to support its accusations. Never mind that several respected former US intelligence experts, such as William Binney formerly of the NSA, have come forward to dismiss the claims of Russian hacking as preposterous.
The inherent lack of credibility in Washington’s narrative was given a seeming fix when Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats last week. The intention of the sanctions was to brand the word «scumbag» over the Kremlin in the eyes of the world, a US cyber security expert told Reuters. This is more of the same demonization-mentality that resulted in African-Americans being dangled from branches or suspected sorcerers being torched alive by self-righteous American christians.
A second seeming fix to the attenuated «Russian hacker» story came with reports of an alleged attempt to disable the US power grid. The CIA-linked Washington Post broke the story of an electric company in Vermont finding «Russian malware» on a laptop. The report can be quickly parsed as fake, but it seemingly gave substance to claims that the US was «under attack from Russia». Right on cue.
Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to be baited by Obama’s expulsion of diplomats by declining to reciprocate similar measures against US officials in Moscow. Wisely too. For such a response would tend to only lend credibility to what are otherwise baseless American claims.
More insanity to back up Russophobia is expected this week when shadowy «US intelligence officials» give «briefings» to President-elect Trump and members of Congress. The latter will inevitably be «wowed» by more of the same anti-Russian claims that the CIA has already inculcated the American mass media with.
Trump, however, is not such an easy pushover. He appears to remain skeptical about «intelligence» impugning Russia. Trump previously lampooned CIA claims as «ridiculous». Again this week he referred to the «disaster of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction» when false US intelligence led to a decade-long war in the Middle East country, the death of over a million people and the unleashing of jihadist terrorism across the globe.
To browbeat Trump into joining the lynch mob to hang Putin and Russia, the US media are blatantly setting him as a «traitor» if he doesn’t comply.
Referring to his forthcoming presidential inauguration, the New York Times editorial board demanded: «In less than a month, Mr Trump will have to decide whether he stands with his democratic allies on Capitol Hill or his authoritarian friend in the Kremlin».
The editors at the Washington Post continued the treason theme, making the reckless claim that Russia had perpetrated a «Cyber Pearl Harbor» on the US. The newspaper then went on to note Trump’s «odd behavior in the face of a clear threat from Russia». The Post insinuated that Trump was putting alleged personal business interests with Russia ahead of patriotic duty.
Another report in the New York Times quoted various pundits claiming that Trump is undermining national security by being friendly towards Russia and expressing his skepticism towards US intelligence.
One senior lawmaker, Democrat Representative Adam Schiff called on Trump «to stop denigrating» US secret services.
Moreover, if veteran Republican Senator John McCain is allowed to assert on CNN that Russian cyber attacks are an «act of war» – then, it follows according to this warped logic, that Trump is in bed with the enemy.
This embodies lynch mob rule rolled into burning witches at Salem along with McCarthyite Red Scaremongering.
Trump is effectively being noosed with claims that he is a Russian stooge and a traitor to his country. Claims that are in turn based on unfounded, hysterical allegations that Russia has «attacked our nation». All that’s missing here are effigies of Putin and Trump being set alight on Capitol Hill.
What this represents is a profound degeneration in American democracy. Rumor, speculation and propaganda have become the currency of US public discourse, ranging from the supposedly highest office of the White House to the legislative branch of government – and all reinforced by a supine media.
Anyone who shows the slightest dissent from the stampeding mentality to lynch Russia is also liable to be lynched. The fate of Donald Trump is in the balance.
The irony in all this is that it is not some external enemy who is eroding American democracy. It is its own political establishment that is throttling the supposed pillars of democracy.
Whenever two of its purported leading newspapers are openly accusing the next president of «treason» – based on fabricated accusations – then it is a clear sign that American democracy has indeed become condemned.
Pacifica’s radio station in Berkeley, KPFA 94.1 fm, has been airing a pitch to listeners which contains the line: “There’s a lot of fake news, propaganda and misinformation emanating from phony media outlets.” The reader of this pitch is the station’s General Manager, Quincy McCoy, who goes on to assure listeners that KPFA is a news source that can be trusted. This pitch is played several times daily as part of a post-fund drive effort to remind listeners to please fulfil their pledges.
That line about “fake news” and “phony media outlets” is truly a strange thing to hear from KPFA. The “fake news” meme comes from the corporate media which has even offered a list of hundreds of offending websites. On Thanksgiving Day the Washington Post came out with a front page article titled: “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.”
The Post’s “experts” were primarily the “PropOrNot” team, who identified and named two hundred websites that, according to PropOrNot, “reliably echo Russian propaganda.” The targeted sites included not only left-wing, but also right-wing and libertarian websites. Writers and editors of these sites are often guests on the various KPFA shows; many are persons who speak at KPFA sponsored speaking events. These websites are, like KPFA, part of the alternative media which offers information that we don’t get from the corporate media.
So who are the “expert” investigators of the PropOrNot team, and what are their qualifications? Nobody seems to know anything about them, other than that they’re an anonymous group with a name that’s quite a tongue twister and a website that apparently cannot be traced to anybody. In effect, it’s a website that makes unsubstantiated claims.
Nevertheless, for a few days PropOrNot was echoed by the NYT, CNN, NPR and many other mainstream media outlets. Fortunately, it was soon discredited by investigative journalists writing for the websites it attacked. Among the most devastating take-downs of PropOrNot was one by Glenn Greenwald on the Intercept website.
Nor was The New Yorker much impressed with PropOrNot. The magazine dismissed it saying, “its methodology is a mess.”
So PropOrNot was exposed as a hoax, a glaring example of a real fake news website. However, it was a hoax that served the interests of the establishment, and many mainstream news outlets have continued the campaign against alleged “fake news.” Congress has taken up the issue and written a provision into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which will create a “Global Engagement Center” to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter … propaganda and disinformation”.
On December 23rd, President Obama signed it into law, a Christmas present for the next president — a MINISTRY OF TRUTH for Donald Trump to play with.
And now, as the New Year approaches, KPFA’s station manager is still making that same pitch to KPFA listeners, echoing the establishment’s campaign. The full recording reads:
“Fear, anxiety, and confusion grips a lot of folks in today’s dark post-election world. There’s a lot of fake news, propaganda and misinformation emanating from phony media outlets. If you’re searching for truth, unfiltered news, in-depth public affairs programming, you can count on one independent radio station to do what it’s been doing for 67 years, staying vigilant as always, 94.1 FM, KPFA”
The manager’s message reflects the panic, the confusion, and the uncritical conformity which is rife among many liberals and progressives today. Such feelings are quite understandable. However, lashing out at alternative media outlets plays into the agenda of the neoliberal establishment and also undermines KPFA’s credibility. Some of the station’s listeners have written to the manager, reminding him that the main source of disinformation is the corporate media, the ones who have promoted that PropOrNot blacklist.
Best to stay off of that bandwagon. KPFA should be defending the First Amendment rights of all alternative media outlets.
The New York Times misquoted the acting head of Russia’s anti-doping agency (RUSADA), Anna Antseliovich, the agency said in a statement, contesting the newspaper’s claim that Russia acknowledged the existence of an institutional doping program.
“The words of the acting Director General, Anna Antseliovich, have been distorted and taken out of context,” the statement issued by RUSADA says.
The agency went on to explain that Antseliovich was actually just drawing attention to the fact that Richard McLaren, the Canadian lawyer who compiled a report detailing the results of an investigation into doping allegations against Russia, used the words “institutional conspiracy” instead of “state doping system” in his latest December 9 report.
At that time, McLaren said at a news conference that “it was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy.”
Antseliovich stressed that McLaren ruled out the possibility of the involvement of the Russian leadership in the alleged doping program but she never confirmed the existence of any “institutional conspiracy,” the RUSADA statement emphasizes.
“Unfortunately, [New York Times journalist] Rebecca Ruiz has taken these words out of context and created an impression that the RUSADA executive group acknowledges the existence of the institutional cheating scheme in Russia,” it adds, stressing that “RUSADA… has no authority to confirm or deny such facts.”
The agency then once again re-affirmed its commitment to the fight against doping and strict compliance with the International Anti-doping Codex and Russia’s anti-doping regulations.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published an article titled ‘Russians No Longer Dispute Olympic Doping Operation,’ in which it claimed that Russia “conceded” that its officials carried out “a far-reaching doping operation.”
In its publication, the newspaper cited Antseliovich, as saying “It was an institutional conspiracy.”
The media outlet also cited McLaren telling the paper that he was pleased Russian officials were no longer disputing his finding.
The article was criticized by Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov, who said that it is inconsistent and stressed that Russia insists on the absence of any state-sponsored doping system and makes every effort to fight doping.
“There was not, there is not and there could not be any system of supporting doping in Russia,” Kolobkov told R-Sport.
Kolobkov then drew attention to the fact that Antseliovich “is neither a governmental official, nor a civil servant at all,” as RUSADA is not a governmental organization and is not subordinate to the Russian Sports Ministry.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, a member of the RUSADA supervisory board and the deputy head of the Russian Olympic Committee, also sharply criticized the article published in the New York Times by calling it a “journalistic fake.”
“The quotes featured in the article were taken out of context of the [interview]. That is why I would call this article a journalistic fake, a bogus story,” he told R-Sport, adding that this type of approach does not help solve the problem of doping that “concerns not only Russia but all sports around the world.”
He also expressed confidence that the sports community would agree with him in his assessment of the New York Times article, and called on foreign journalists to “be more scrupulous about the publication of such materials.”
In response, Rebecca Ruiz insisted that she did not take anything out of context and stressed that all the quotes featured in the article are “correct.”
Ruiz also said that she received confirmation of Russia’s acknowledgement of the existence of the doping program from Vitaly Smirnov, the head of the Russian independent anti-doping commission, although her piece in the New York Times does not feature an exact quote that could back up that statement.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told journalists: “It was an interview to the New York Times. One should first check how accurate those words were.”
On December 9, McLaren claimed in his report that over 1,000 Russian athletes – in the summer, winter and Paralympic competitions, including 12 Sochi 2014 Olympic medalists – benefited from the alleged plot to conceal positive doping tests.
It followed another McLaren report published in mid-July which focused on the allegation that the Russian Ministry of Sport took part in swapping test samples in Moscow, also claiming that the Federal Security Service (FSB) assisted in the alleged plot.
The probe was based on accusations made in the New York Times by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, who is due in court in Russia on charges of abuse of authority and his own involvement in doping schemes.
In response, the Russian Sports Ministry said “there is no state-run program promoting doping in sport” and pledged to “fight doping with a zero-tolerance policy.”
Following the release of the second part of McLaren’s findings, Russia was stripped of the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships, which was scheduled to take place in Sochi in February 2017.
In the week leading up to the brazen, cold-blooded murder of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara, Turkey, the United States repeatedly and publicly threatened “retaliation” against Russia for allegedly “hacking” the 2016 US presidential elections.
During the same week, Syrian forces backed by Russian air power and Iranian ground support, finally ended the occupation of the northern city of Aleppo by armed militants who invaded in 2012. The inevitable liberation of Aleppo was accompanied by apoplectic hysteria across Western political, policy and pundit circles calling for everything from additional sanctions on Russia to threats against the lives of Russians themselves.
While the Western media has since attempted to dismiss murmurs across Russian and Turkish media in the aftermath of Ambassador Karlov’s assassination implicating US involvement, they simultaneously appear incapable of concealing what can only be described as delight over the tragic attack.
The Washington Post, in an article titled, “Turkish police officer, invoking Aleppo, guns down Russian ambassador in Ankara,” would characterize the assassination as a “retaliatory attack,” stating:
The shooting was among the most brazen retaliatory attacks yet on Russia since Moscow entered the war in Syria on the side of President Bashar al-Assad, and unleashed a bombardment on Aleppo that has drawn international condemnation for what observers on the ground have called indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
The Washington Post also intentionally portrays labeling the incident as a terrorist attack as Moscow’s exclusive point of view, claiming:
But in Moscow, where the Kremlin has maintained that its aerial sorties and missile attacks have exclusively targeted “terrorists,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the shooting “a terrorist attack,” and President Vladimir Putin called it a “provocation aimed at rupturing ties between Russia and Turkey.”
The Washington Post is able to refrain from openly applauding the assassination, but does everything in its power to legitimize, even defend it within the context of an angry “police officer” provoked by what the Washington Post calls Russia’s “indiscriminate attacks on civilians.” Relegated deep within the article and beyond the attention span of most readers, are details that reveal Ambassador Karlov’s attacker as a participant in organized terror.
CNN, the BBC and the New York Times have also carried, almost verbatim, the same talking points and perspectives provided by the Washington Post, just falling short of openly defending the attack or praising the attacker.
Elsewhere, however, pundits help readers unable to read between the lines of these messages. The New York Daily News in an article titled, “Assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was not terrorism, but retribution for Vladimir Putin’s war crimes,” connects the dots plotted out by papers like the Washington Post. It bluntly states:
The image of an assassin standing over the dying body of Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov is a shocking one — but not a surprising one.
As Vladimir Putin’s man in Turkey, Karlov was the public face of that murderous dictator’s war crimes around the globe and of oppression at home. Andrei Karlov is the human embodiment of policies that deployed bunker busters to kill babies, sent fighter planes on scorched earth bombing runs that destroyed a whole city, aided Syrian madman Bashar al-Assad in his campaign that has killed hundreds of thousands, and even ordered attacks on UN aid workers.
In addition to the baseless, even fully discredited accusations made, the New York Daily News compares Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler, and Ambassador Karlov’s attacker to a “soldier — not a terrorist.”
The Western media does not perform “journalism,” but rather reflects the thinking and designs of Western policymakers, politicians and power brokers. That the media appears unanimously spinning the attack as “retaliatory,” after spending the last week promising “retaliation” is if nothing else the worst case of institutional self-incrimination in recent memory. More likely, it is a blunt, ugly gesture toward Russia.
Unfortunately for the West, they find themselves threatening the world and celebrating the murder of ambassadors shot in the back by terrorists not from a position of strength, but from a position of profound and growing weakness. It is a vicious cycle that will only further undermine their legitimacy, diminish their influence and accelerate their decline.
Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst.
The latest mantra of CIA-linked media since the “Pizzagate” leaks of data alleging that Hillary Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta and other highly influential political persons in Washington were connected to an unusual pizza place near the White House run by a 41-year old James Achilles Alefantis called Comet Ping Pong, is the need to crack down (i.e. censorship) on what is being called “Fake News.” The latest step in this internet censorship drive is a decision by the murky social media organization called Facebook to hire special organizations to determine if Facebook messages are pushing Fake News or not. Now it comes out that the “fact check” private organizations used by Facebook are tied to the CIA and CIA-related NGO’s including George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
In the last weeks of the US Presidential campaign, Wikileaks released a huge number of emails linked to Clinton Campaign Manager, John Podesta. The contents of thousands of emails revealed detailed exchanges between Podesta and the oddly-influential Comet Ping Pong pizza place owner, Alefantis, as well as the Clinton campaign, which held fundraisers at Comet Ping Pong.
The Pizzagate scandal exploded in the final weeks of the US campaign as teams of private researchers documented and posted Facebook, Instagram and other data suggesting that Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong were at the heart of a pedophilia ring that implicated some of the most prominent politicians in Washington and beyond.
The New York Times and Washington Post moved swiftly to assert that the Pizzagate revelations were Fake News, quoting “anonymous sources” who supposedly said the CIA “believed” Russia was behind hackers who exposed emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. Former NSA senior intelligence expert William Binney claimed the Podesta and Clinton campaign data were leaked, not hacked. The NSA, he pointed out, would immediately identify a hack, especially a foreign hack, and they have remained silent.
The uncovering and release to Wikileaks of the Podesta emails were immediately blamed on Russian intelligence by the CIA, and now by the US President, with not a shred of proof, and despite the fact that NSA. Wikipedia, whose content is often manipulated by US intelligence agencies, rapidly posted a page with the curious title, “Pizzagate (Conspiracy Theory).”
To make certain the neutral interested reader gets the message, the first line reads, “Pizzagate is a debunked conspiracy theory which emerged during the 2016 United States presidential election cycle, alleging that John Podesta’s emails, which were leaked by WikiLeaks, contain coded messages referring to human trafficking, and connecting a number of pizzerias in Washington, D.C. and members of the Democratic Party to a child-sex ring.”
‘Fake News’ Mantra Begins
My purpose in mentioning Pizzagate details is not to demonstrate the authenticity of the Pizzagate allegations. That others are doing with far more resources. Rather, it is to point out the time synchronicity of the explosive Pizzagate email releases by Julian Assange’s Wikileaks web blog, with the launch of a massive mainstream media and political campaign against what is now being called “Fake News.”
The cited New York Times article that Wikipedia cites as “debunking” the Pizzagate allegations states, “None of it was true. While Mr. Alefantis has some prominent Democratic friends in Washington and was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, he has never met her, does not sell or abuse children, and is not being investigated by law enforcement for any of these claims. He and his 40 employees had unwittingly become real people caught in the middle of a storm of fake news.” The article contains not one concrete proof that the allegations are false, merely quoting Alefantis as the poor victim of malicious Fake News.
That New York Times story was accompanied by a series of articles such as “How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study.” Another headline reads, “Obama, With Angela Merkel in Berlin, Assails Spread of Fake News.” Then on November 19, strong Clinton supporter, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is quoted in a prominent article titled, “Facebook Considering Ways to Combat Fake News, Mark Zuckerberg Says.”
Facebook uses CIA Censors
Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of the world-leading social media site, Facebook.com, the world’s 5th wealthiest man at an estimated $50 billion, has now established a network of “Third Party Fact Checkers” whose job is to red flag any Facebook message of the estimated one billion people using the site, with a prominent warning that reads, “Disputed by Third-Party Fact Checkers.”
Facebook has announced that it is taking its censorship ques from something called The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). This IFCN, a new creation, has drafted a code of five principles for news websites to accept, and Facebook will work with “third-party fact checking organizations” that are signatories to that code of principles.
If we search under the name International Fact-Checking Network, we find ourselves at the homepage of something called the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.
OK. If we look a bit deeper we find that the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network in turn, as its website states, gets money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Foundations of George Soros.
Oh my, oh my! Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who partners with Soros in numerous nasty projects such as convincing African countries to accept Genetically Modified or GMO seeds? Google, whose origins date back to funding by the CIA and NSA as what intelligence researcher Nafeez Ahmed describes as a “plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority‘ “?
The Omidyar Foundation is the foundation of eBay founder and multi billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, which finances among other projects the online digital publication, The Intercept, launched in 2014 by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.
And the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Government-financed “private” NGO behind every Color Revolution CIA regime change from the Ukraine Color Revolutions to the Arab Spring? The NED was a CIA project created in the 1980’s during the Reagan Administration as part of privatizing US intelligence dirty operations, to do, as Allen Weinstein, who drafted the Congressional legislation to establish the NED, noted in a candid 1991 Washington Post interview, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
And if we dig even deeper we find, lo and behold, the name George Soros, convicted hedge fund insider trader, tax-exempt philanthropist and giga-billionaire who seems to fund not only Hillary Clinton and virtually every CIA and US State Department Color Revolution from Russia to China to Iran through his network of Open Society Foundations including the 1990’s Jeffrey Sachs Shock Therapy plunder of Russia and most of former Communist East Europe.
Another one of the media working with Zuckerberg’s Facebook censorship of Fake News is the Washington Post, today owned by Amazon billionaire founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos is a major media business partner of…. The US Central Intelligence Agency, a fact he omitted to inform about after taking over ownership of the most important newspaper in Washington.
Bezos’ Washington Post recently published a bizarre list of 200 websites it claimed generated Fake News. It refused to identify who gave them the list. Veteran Washington investigative reporter, Wayne Madsen, exposed the source of the McCarthy-style taboo list of so-called Fake News. It was a “website called PropOrNot.com that has links to the CIA and George Soros.”
It’s not merely the Pizzagate revelations that have triggered such a massive attack on independent Internet websites. It seems that back in January 2014 at the Davos World Economic Forum control of information on the Internet was a top item of discussion. At the time, Madsen noted, “With the impending demise of World Wide Web ‘net neutrality,’ which has afforded equal access for website operators to the Internet, the one percent of billionaire investors are busy positioning themselves to take over total control of news reporting on the Internet.”
It’s not even the foxes who are guarding the Internet Henhouse. It’s the werewolves of CIA and US Government censorship. Whether the explosive Pizzagate Podesta revelations merely triggered a dramatic acceleration in the timetable for the CIA’s planned “Fake News” operation as the successor to their 1980’s “Conspiracy Theory” linguistic discrediting operation, it’s clear this is no unbiased, objective, transparent public service to protect the Internet public from harmful content.
And, besides, who are they to tell me or you what you are allowed to read, digest and form your independent ideas about? This is a 21st Century reincarnation of the Spanish Inquisition, one by the real fake newsmakers–Washington Post, AP, ABCNews, Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, the CIA and friends. I would say it’s an alarming development of cyber warfare, not by Russia, but by those CIA-run networks that are fomenting Fake News to demonize any and everyone who opposes Washington intelligence propaganda.
The New York Times has been leading the charge against “fake news.” Yet its own reporting and editorial positions are often as one-sided, distorted, or downright mendacious as the worst of the pseudo-alternative websites. The Times’ coverage of wars, especially those of strategic import for the US and/or Israel (not necessarily in that order) is a particularly fertile field of fake news flummery.
Most of America’s armed conflicts and interventions have been driven by New York Times war propaganda, and the current conflagration in Syria is no exception. An especially egregious, over-the-top example of “damn the facts, full speed ahead” warmongering, every bit as bad as the Judith Miller version of Iraqi WMD, is last Wednesday’s op-ed by the Editorial Board, “Aleppo’s Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran.”
The headline, like the diatribe beneath it, conceals the identities of the worst of the “destroyers” of Aleppo and Syria: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, the US and Israel. These governments have created, armed, financed, advised, and otherwise enabled the various militias, mercenaries, and terrorist groups that overran Aleppo and dismembered Syria.
Assad is the elected President of Syria, and Russia and Iran have intervened at the request of Syria’s legitimate government. Naming these three the “destroyers” of Aleppo, while ignoring the aggressors responsible for the proxy war on Syria, is practicing “fake news” at its worst.
The NY Times Editorial Board writes:
“Mr. Putin’s bloody actions — the bombing of civilian neighborhoods, the destruction of hospitals, the refusal to allow noncombatants to receive food, fuel and medical supplies — are all in violation of international law.”
International law?! What about the non-aggression principle and the doctrine of national sovereignty, the twin foundations of international law as it pertains to war and peace? Are not all nations sovereign entities whose borders are inviolable? Are not the Americans, Israelis, Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis and Turks committing aggression by attempting to overthrow the government of a sovereign nation? And is not such aggression “the supreme war crime” according to international law as enshrined in the Nuremberg precedent?
We know who is committing the supreme war crime, aggression. And we know who is fighting in defense of national sovereignty.
What about the lesser war crimes, all of which are the fruits of the supreme crime, aggression?
It is difficult to separate the facts from the propaganda regarding allegations of particular war crimes in Syria, thanks in large part to the lies of the anti-Assad propaganda industry supported by the West and its regional proxies. We do know that the worst atrocity alleged to have been committed by Assad – the August 2013 chemical weapons massacre at al-Ghouta – has been exposed as a false flag whose real authors were Saudi and Turkish intelligence agents, aided and abetted by Americans and Israelis. (Veterans Today exposed how the sarin was manufactured in Georgia at a US-run factory and smuggled through Turkey into Syria, while Seymour Hersh had to find a non-US publisher to explain how the monumental false flag fail at al-Ghouta forced Obama to abort plans for a US aerial assault on Damascus.)
Wikipedia tells us that between 281 and 1,729 people died in the al-Ghouta sarin attack. Why is the New York Times not demanding war crimes trials for the American, Turkish, and Saudi perpetrators of this monstrous massacre, which was designed to be blamed on Assad in order to trigger a US bombing campaign? Why has al-Ghouta, the worst atrocity of the war, been consigned to the memory hole?
The New York Times falsely reported that Assad bombed his own people at al-Ghouta. No more outrageous, criminal example of “fake news” could possibly be imagined — except, perhaps, for the Times coverage of 9/11 … coverage whose monumental lies, concealments and coverups have directly led to the deaths of many millions of people worldwide, including those who have perished in the “civil war” in Syria as well as the violence in the other “seven countries in five years” whose destruction was the main purpose of the 9/11 false flag operation.
The New York Times is not just a purveyor of fake news, it is a purveyor of propaganda for the supreme war crime, aggression, and several lesser crimes including genocide. If we are going to start shutting down “fake news” outlets, perhaps we should begin with the Times and the other mainstream media war criminals.
President Obama admitted in his press conference on Friday that his government hasn’t released any evidence yet of Russian interference in the election, but he said some would be coming.
That’s proof that an uncritical press has already printed stories as if true without any evidence just on the say-so of the Central Intelligence Agency, an organization long dedicated to deception, disinformation and meddling in other countries’ elections, not to mention arranging coups to overthrow elected governments.
Forty years ago, the established press would have been skeptical to buy anything the CIA was selling after a series of Congressional committees exposed a raft of criminal acts and abuses of power by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Today’s journalists work for newspapers that fraudulently still bear the names New York Times and Washington Post, but they are no longer the same papers.
The vast U.S. news media also is not the same. The working journalist today is living off the reputation for skepticism and determination to get beyond government pronouncements that was established by their papers decades ago. Rather than add to that reputation, the credibility of the biggest newspapers continues to erode.
Both the Times and the Post should today be stained by their credulous reporting of official lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Instead of showing professional skepticism, the big papers became cheerleaders for an illegal invasion that killed hundreds of thousands of people and left behind a disaster that still reverberates today. Neither the Times nor the Post suffered any consequences and have picked up where they left off, still uncritically reporting anonymous U.S. officials without demanding proof.
On the contrary, any reporter who did demand evidence was in danger of career consequences. An editor for a newspaper chain that I was reporting for called me to chew me out because he said my stories were not in support of the Iraq war effort. He told me his son was a Marine. I told him I was sure he was proud but that my job was to report the news based on the evidence. On the very day when the invasion began, I was fired.
Of course, the television networks, including CNN, were most egregious for selling the war. I was shocked when I heard reporter Kyra Philips from aboard a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf gleefully announce: “Welcome to Shock and Awe!” just after a cruise missile was shown being fired. The people it killed on the receiving end were almost never mentioned.
CNN, which has accepted Russian interference in the U.S. election as a given, is also living off its reputation of a once very serious news organization. On its very first broadcast on June 1, 1980, Cable News Network aired as its second story a lengthy investigative report on faulty fuel gauges in commercial airliners. It broadcast an in-depth live report from the Middle East, and veteran newsman Daniel Schorr interviewed and challenged President Jimmy Carter.
But 1980 was when the period of skeptical, professional journalism that demanded proof from its own government started to decline as Ronald Reagan was elected. He worked to stamp out the skepticism bred from Watergate, Vietnam and the Congressional intelligence hearings. Reagan did this, in part, by resurrecting the most obvious and adolescent myths about America. And he worked with the CIA to manage America’s perceptions away from the critical thinking of the 1970s, as journalist Robert Parry has extensively reported.
There have been a few periods in American journalism when demanding proof from government was expected. The muckraking period led by Lincoln Steffens of the Progressive Era was one. The 1970s was another. But mostly it has been a business filled with careerists who live vicariously through the powerful people they cover, disregarding the even greater power the press has to cut the powerful down to size.
The reporting on the supposed Russian hack of the elections is one of the most egregious examples of unprofessional journalism since 2003, particularly because of the stakes involved.
There have now been a slew of stories, each of which seems to offer a new promise of evidence, such as one under the ludicrous New York Times headline, “C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence.” But when you read the piece, its only sources are still unnamed intelligence officials. A later 8,000-word Times article was the same, as though the length by itself was supposed to lend it more credibility.
If there were any doubts, Obama wiped them away with his admission that no evidence had been released. Worse still, perhaps, is that counter-evidence has been suppressed, another consistent feature of today’s journalism.
The former British diplomat Craig Murray, has written and told at least two radio interviewers that the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta emails were not obtained by WikiLeaks through hacks, but instead from leaks by American insiders.
This story was totally ignored by established media until the Daily Mail in London reported it online, but incorrectly said Murray had himself received the leak. In the U.S., only The Washington Times reported the story, quoting the Mail. But that story took a swipe at Murray’s reputation, merely saying he was “removed from his diplomatic post amid allegations of misconduct.” In fact, Murray was let go for blowing the whistle on U.K. use of evidence extracted by torture by the corrupt Karimov administration in Uzbekistan. The rest of the Washington Times story just repeats what every other reporter has written about Russian interference.
Even if it were proven that Russian government operatives hacked these emails as part of their intelligence gathering, there remains the additional evidentiary hurdle that they then supplied the data to WikiLeaks, when the recipients, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, say the source or sources weren’t Russians.
It’s also noteworthy that none of the information in the emails has been shown to be false. The leaks provided real insights into how the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders and revealed some shady practices of the Clinton Foundation as well as the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street bankers that she had tried to hide. In other words, the leaks gave voters more information about Hillary Clinton, confirming what many voters already believed: that she was beholden to the financial sector and benefited from her insider connections. But none of that was particularly news.
It is important to note, too, that Obama himself in his press conference said there is zero evidence Russia tried to hack into the electronic voting systems. In fact it now emerges from dogged reporting by a local Atlanta TV station that the Department of Homeland Security appears to have been behind earlier attempted hacks of voting systems in several states.
So, it would be virtually impossible to prove that the DNC and Podesta emails were the deciding factor in the election. Indeed, before the election, pro-Clinton corporate media downplayed the email-related stories and Podesta said the emails may have been faked (although none of them appears to have been made up).
The emails also revealed numerous instances of reporters colluding with the Clinton campaign before publishing stories, something no hard-boiled editor from an earlier era would have stood for.
By focusing on the alleged Russian role now, Democrats also have diverted attention from other factors that likely were far more consequential to the outcome, such as Clinton largely ignoring the Rust Belt and not going once to Wisconsin or her calling many Trump supporters “deplorables” and “irredeemable.” Further, Clinton was a quintessential Establishment candidate in an anti-Establishment year.
And, there was the fact that in the campaign’s final week, FBI Director James Comey briefly reopened the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State, a move that reminded many Americans why they distrusted Clinton.
Yet, as the mainstream U.S. media now hypes as flat fact the supposed Russian role, there remains the inconvenient truth that the Obama administration’s intelligence community has presented no verifiable evidence that the Russians were the source of the leaks.
Demanding to see the evidence on Russia, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee called the CIA, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to a closed-door briefing. Though these agencies are obligated to show up in response to requests from their Congressional oversight committees, the three agencies flatly refused. Then, DNI James Clapper refused to brief concerned Electoral College voters whose votes for or against Trump may have been influenced by the news media frenzy about alleged Russian interference. Clapper reportedly is preparing a report on Russia’s “hacking” for Congress.
The Russia fiasco appears to have been part of a political strategy that I first wrote about on Nov. 5 – three days before the election – that a fallback plan, if Trump won a narrow victory, would be to influence the electors to reject Trump when they assemble in state capitals on Dec. 19. Playing the Russian card was designed to appeal to the electors’ patriotism to defend their country against foreign interference.
Assuming that Electoral College long shot failed, there would be one more chance for Clinton to stop Trump: on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to certify the election. The Clinton camp needs one Senator and one Representative to sign an objection to Trump’s certification (no doubt citing Russia) forcing a vote by both chambers.
If Trump loses – and there are a number of anti-Trump Republicans in Congress – the election would be thrown to the House where Clinton or a more conventional Republican could be selected as President.
Given those stakes for the American democracy and the risks inherent in U.S. relations with nuclear-armed Russia, the fact that the most influential establishment media has bought into this extremely flimsy story about Russian hacking should condemn them further in the minds of the public.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
Intent and causation are important features in the course of history. The former envisages motive and hope, irrespective of outcome; the latter envisages consequence. Often, these get muddled in the jumbled process of reasoning. An intervention in the affairs of another state goes awry; a historical incident goes belly up with ferocious consequences. Suddenly, in the aftermath, we are wise, we knew better, and we can categorise plans as venal and characters as wicked.
In a world of Clinton-Trump machinations, distinctions about intent and causation have fallen into a soup of conjecture. The stakes to win in November were so high for either candidate, mendacity and assumptions were bound to take centre stage.
From fake news to false modesty, from traditional deception to the exotica of dissimulation, it was a contest that furnished the US political landscape with greater punch and interest than anything offered since the infant days of the Republic.
Central to one allegation of the 2016 presidential election was that Russian hacking efforts, supposedly directed by Moscow’s intelligence managers, had a direct effect on the outcome of the election. WikiLeaks had been roped into the cause, and was duly accused of being a Russian front, or an infatuate of Trump.
Trump has done his bit, as is his wont, to sink these propositions. To begin with, he told Time that he did not believe them as credible. “I don’t believe [Russia] interfered.” Nor did he find CIA assessments in general that credible. He specifically pointed out CIA incompetence, notably in its assessment of Iraq’s famed, and subsequently non-existent stockpile of weapons prior to the invasion of 2003. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Behind him is Trump’s national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn. The CIA, according to Flynn in an interview with the New York Times in October 2015, “lost sight of who they actually work for. They work for the American people. They don’t work for the president of the United States.” In its declining utility, the organisation had become “a very political organisation”.
The intelligence cognoscenti were quick to wonder whether his presidency would be more than troubling for the 16 spying agencies he will have to cope with. “Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin,” claimed Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism centre, “this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community.”
This, at best, is a claim of the disgruntled, but it is one that has attracted its adherents. Linked to the causation argument is the notion that Russia’s Vladimir Putin envisaged the electoral outcome, backing a more sympathetic horse in a far from sympathetic race.
The impact of these claims has been furthered by unquestioning media outlets now termed, euphemistically, the mainstream. These mainstreamers have been keeping a rather pedestrian line on matters, taking a few choice notes from various official sources to build an empire of speculation.
The Washington Post delved out one example last week, engaging in what Glenn Greenwald regarded as “classic American journalism of the worst sort”. This entailed claims from “unverified assertions of anonymous officials, who in turn are disseminating their own claims about what the CIA purportedly believes, all based on evidence that remains completely secret.”
With one step, possibly two removed from the official CIA report, we were left with the view that the agency had “concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the US electoral system.”
This aptly perverse manoeuvre suggests that the very outlets keen to condemn fake news sites themselves become the incubators, and unquestioning disseminators, of unreliable material.
Within the intelligence community, the material on hacking – in so far as it pertains to goals – has also been questioned. Not all have jumped onto the CIA assisted narrative that the Kremlin was dabbling in its own gambling variant of regime change.
According to the Office of the Director of National intelligence (ODNI), more is needed. Yes, there may well have been hacking, but the issue of a Moscow-directed drive to benefit Trump over Clinton in the presidential race would require more heft.
According to Reuters, which similarly adopted the Washington recipe in interviewing three unnamed American officials on Monday, albeit more sceptical ones, “ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent. Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.” At the very least, such views add a sliver of needed context.
The CIA conclusion had a broader context to it, suggesting a pattern of hacking and penetration that was far from specific to Clinton. In other words, it was, again in the words of one of the three officials, a “judgment based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked.” It was, to that end, “a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment.”
When all these factors are considered, Trump’s dismissiveness of the intelligence community, while seemingly flippant, makes that much more sense. Predictably, it has been done by the wave of the hand, a contemptuous move that we will come to see as normal in due course. The intelligence bunglers will be having to do much more to earn their keep.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: email@example.com.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest has accused media outlets which reported on the contents of the hacked DNC emails as being “arms of Russian intelligence,” once again accusing Moscow of being behind the cyberattack.
The statement was made during the White House press briefing on Wednesday, in response to New York Times reporter Gardiner Harris, who, siding with the official White House rhetoric, stated that “from the first days, investigators knew it had Russian ties.”
Harris then asked why it took until October for Washington to announce it believed the hack was carried out by Russia, when the cyberattack was confirmed in April.
“That delay covered most of the presidential election, causing months of coverage of the leaks that were not properly informed by a formal government statement that this was an act of foreign espionage,” he said.
“Wasn’t that a mistake to take so long?” Harris asked.
Earnest had a lengthy response to that question, stating that the US intelligence community wanted to have “high confidence” that the Russians were behind the hack before announcing it, and said it wanted to be “as specific as possible in putting forward that assessment.”
The press secretary went on to agree with a Wednesday New York Times article which stated that “every major publication, including the Times, published multiple stories citing the DNC and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.”
Continuing his response to Harris, Earnest said “… There’s no denying that those materials [emails] were stolen property… there was no denial on the part of the US government that somehow the DNC had not been hacked, so even as news organizations were reporting on this information, they were reporting on information that they knew had been stolen and leaked…”
“… Those are editorial decisions that are made by independent news organizations. But even the excellent report that was included in your newspaper today about this incident makes clear that news organizations in the united states essentially became the arms of Russian intelligence,” Earnest said.
However, author and journalist Chris Hedges, who worked for the New York Times for 15 years, told RT that the White House’s approach is “clearly a form of red-baiting.”
“It is a form of intimidation. It is a way to essentially paint elements of the press, including the mainstream press, as essentially complicit in treasonous activity. It’s quite disturbing,” he said.
Hedges went on to state that publishing such information is simply “part of the game.”
“The question is not whether the information was leaked, the question is whether for instance the Podesta emails are authentic or not. And if they’re authentic, you publish them. That’s how it works…” he said.
Hedges stressed that there is “no conclusive evidence that Russia was behind the leaks, but even if they were, the US government does this all the time…
“… I was given all sorts of information by the US government to tarnish and in some cases totally discredit figures or regimes that they wanted discredited.”
Despite consistent claims by the US government that Russia was behind the hack, not everyone is convinced that is the case. Earlier this week, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton suggested the hack could have been a false flag operation by the Obama administration.
Russia itself has dismissed the hacking allegations, as well as claims that it aimed to influence the US election, as “nonsense.”
“Does anyone seriously think that Russia can somehow influence the choice of the American people?” Putin asked in October. “Is America some sort of a banana republic?”
In November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that the “whole story is from the field of myth-making.”