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More Holes in Russia-gate Narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBI: Not Leaning Forward

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence

Consortium News | July 24, 2017

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

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

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

Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  *  *

Mr. President:

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

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

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

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

Copied, Not Hacked

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

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

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

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

The Time Sequence

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

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

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

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

The Key Event

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

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

“Obfuscation & De-obfuscation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putin and the Technology

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

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

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

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

FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYT Finally Retracts Russia-gate Canard

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politicized Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | June 26, 2017

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice, dissenting in Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 341 (1966)

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

Credit for this particular brainchild goes to the Obama administration, which issued Executive Order 12333 authorizing the collection of Americans’ data from surveillance conducted on foreign soil.

Using this rationale, the government has justified hacking into and collecting an estimated 180 million user records from Google and Yahoo data centers every month because the data travels over international fiber-optic cables. The NSA program, dubbed MUSCULAR, is carried out in concert with British intelligence.

No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about the USA Freedom Act, which was supposed to put an end to the NSA’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls.

The NSA had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo pill intended to make the citizenry feel better and let the politicians take credit for reforming mass surveillance. In other words, it was a sham, a sleight-of-hand political gag pulled on a gullible public desperate to believe that we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a down-and-out, out-of-control, corporate-controlled, economically impoverished, corrupt, warring, militarized banana republic.

In fact, more than a year before politicians attempted to patch up our mortally wounded privacy rights with the legislative band-aid fix that is the USA Freedom Act, researchers at Harvard and Boston University documented secret loopholes that allow government agents to bypass Fourth Amendment protections to conduct massive domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie.

The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

In other words, the surveillance state is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America.

On any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

We have now moved into a full-blown police state that is rapidly shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state.

Not content to merely transform local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are working to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

Thus, the NSA’s “technotyranny”  is the least of our worries.

A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing cannot be reformed from the inside out.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have managed to shut down the government’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities.

Even with restrictions on its ability to collect mass quantities of telephone metadata, the government and its various spy agencies, from the NSA to the FBI, can still employ an endless number of methods for carrying out warrantless surveillance on Americans, all of which are far more invasive than the bulk collection program.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases, exploiting your social media posts and turning that information over to the government.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

For instance, imagine what the NSA could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike.

As The Guardian reports, “voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces… multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”

Suddenly the NSA’s telephone metadata program seems like child’s play compared to what’s coming down the pike.

That, of course, is the point.

The NSA is merely one small part of the shadowy Deep State comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control.

For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability and a representative government by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we the people.”

Incredibly, there are still individuals who insist that they have nothing to fear from the police state and nothing to hide from the surveillance state, because they have done nothing wrong.

To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning.

There is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

The danger posed by the American police/surveillance state applies equally to all of us: lawbreaker and law-abider alike, black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, and any other distinction you’d care to trot out.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NBC’s Kelly Hits Putin with a Beloved Canard

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | June 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explaining the Technology

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

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

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

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

Kelly: “Let’s move on.”

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Oversight

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

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

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

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

BURR: “But no content?”

COMEY: “Correct.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Soft Coup’ on Trump, Hiding in Plain Sight

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | June 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like J. Edgar Hoover

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

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Soft Coup’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trapping Flynn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islamic State Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak

By Peter Van Buren | We Meant Well | June 6, 2017

An NSA document purporting to show Russian military hacker attempts to access a Florida company which makes voter registration software is sent anonymously to The Intercept. A low-level NSA contractor, Reality Winner, is arrested almost immediately. What’s wrong with this picture? A lot.

Who Benefits?

Start with the question of who benefits — cui bono— same as detectives do when assessing a crime.

— Trump looks bad as another trickle of information comes out connecting something Russian to something 2016 election. Intelligence community (IC) looks like they are onto something, a day or so before ousted FBI Director James Comey testifies before Congress on related matters.

— The Intercept looks like it contributed to burning a source. Which potential leaker is going to them in the future? If potential leakers are made to think twice, another win for the IC.

— The FBI made an arrest right away, nearly simultaneous to the publication, with the formal charges coming barely an hour after The Intercept published. The bust is sure thing according to the very publicly released information. No Ed Snowden hiding out in Russia this time. IC looks good here.

— More evidence is now in the public domain that the Russians are after our election process. Seems as if the IC has been right all along.

What Happened is… Curious and Curiouser…

Now let’s look at what we know so far about how this happened.

A 25-year-old improbably-named Reality Winner leaves behind a trail long and wide on social media of anti-Trump stuff, including proclaiming herself a member of The Resistance. Never mind, she takes her Top Secret clearance with her out of the Air Force (she had been stationed with the military’s 94th Intelligence Squadron out of Fort Meade, Maryland, co-located with the NSA’s headquarters) and scores a job with an NSA contractor. Despite the lessons of too-much-access the Snowden episode should have taught the NSA, Winner apparently enjoys all sorts of classified documents — her Air Force expertise was in Afghan matters, so it is unclear why she would have access to info on Russia hacking of U.S. domestic companies.

Within only about 90 days of starting her new job, she prints out the one (and only one apparently, why not more?) document in question and mails it to The Intercept. She also uses her work computer inside an NSA facility to write to the Intercept twice about this same time.

Winner has a clearance. She was trained as a Dari, Pashto, and Farsi linguist by the Air Force. She knows how classified stuff works. She has been told repeatedly, as all persons with a clearance are, that her computer, email, printing, and phone are monitored. She mailed the document from Augusta, Georgia, the city where she lives and where the NSA facility is located. She practiced no tradecraft, did nothing to hide her actions and many things to call attention to them. It is very, very unclear why she took the actions she did under those circumstances.

The Document

The Intercept meanwhile drops by their friendly neighborhood NSA contact and shows them the document. NSA very publicly confirms the veracity of the document (unusual in itself, officially the Snowden and Manning documents remain unconfirmed) and then makes sure the open-court document filed is not sealed and includes the information on how the spooks know the leaked doc was printed inside the NSA facility. Winner went on to make a full confession to the FBI. The upshot? This document is not a plant. The NSA wants you to very much know it is real. The Russians certainly are messing with our election.

But funny thing. While the leaked NSA document seems to be a big deal, at least to the general public, it sort of isn’t. It shows one piece of analysis suggesting but not confirming the GRU, Russian military intelligence, tried to steal some credentials and gain access to a private company. No U.S. sources and methods, or raw technical intel, are revealed, the crown jewel stuff. There is no evidence the hack accomplished anything at all, never mind anything nefarious. The hack took place months ago and ran its course, meaning the Russian operation was already dead. The Russians were running a run-of-the-mill spearfishing attack, potentially effective, but nothing especially sophisticated. You get similar stuff all the time trying to harvest your credit card information. The leaked document looks like a big deal but isn’t.

Another issue. The Intercept has a lot of very smart people working for it, people with real-world intelligence and tradecraft experience. People who know about microdot encoding on printed documents, one of the tells here, and people who know they don’t show their whole hand when asking the NSA for a comment. The Intercept journalist volunteered to an NSA contracting company that the envelope received was postmarked to Augusta, where Winner lived and worked. Like Reality Winner and her own security training, it is very, very unclear why the Intercept took the actions it did under those circumstances.

So For Now…

So, look, what we know about this story may represent .01% of the whole picture, and that tiny sliver of visible information is only what the government has chosen to reveal. And sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence. Sometimes smart people make dumb mistakes.

But that’s not the way you place your bets, especially when dealing with the IC who are good at these kinds of games. At this very early stage I’m going to say there are too many coincidences and too many mistakes to simple shrug it all off. Too many of the benefits in this have accrued on the side of the IC than is typical when a real whistleblower shares classified documents with a journalist.

If it frightens you that I invoke the question of the Deep State using journalists to smear the President, just forget I said anything. But if we’re willing to believe the Russians somehow successfully manipulated our entire society to elect their favored candidate, then we can at least ask a few questions.

Otherwise, if anyone hears Winner’s lawyer use the word “patsy,” let me know, OK?

BONUS: Matt Cole, one of The Intercept journalists credited to this story, was also involved in the outing of source CIA officer John Kiriakou in connection with CIA torture claims. Small world!

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Latest Russia-hacking ‘revelation’ only exposes more ‘garbage’ US journalism

RT | June 6, 2017

A report, allegedly based on leaks within the NSA, once again lacks underlying raw intelligence, yet reporters from The Intercept ran with it anyway, Brian Becker from the anti-war ANSWER Coalition told RT.

The US National Security Agency has arrested a former contractor after she allegedly leaked classified defense material.

A Department of Justice statement said Reality Leigh Winner had a complaint filed against her after stealing a document and supplying it to a news outlet.

Some Western media have already linked the arrest to a newly published article by The Intercept about alleged Russian hacking.

The report by The Intercept alleges Russia carried out at least one cyberattack against the US during the 2016 election. Like other so-called intelligence, it does not provide any concrete evidence. Nor does it name the source of the information it based the article on.

RT: “The Intercept” has published a highly classified report by NSA stating that Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one US voting software supplier just days before the US presidential election. Do you think the report is credible?

Brian Becker: The article in The Intercept has to be read carefully, and I would say with a giant grain of salt. I actually think it is very shoddy journalism. Why would the NSA or NSA contractors, who have spared no effort to generate an anti-Russia witch hunt over the last year, release this document to The Intercept ? Why not The New York Times, why not The Washington Post, why not CNN? The Intercept is one of the few websites that has some audience in the US that has had critical thinking from Glenn Greenwald and others who have doubted the veracity of the assertions. The report shows that the report from the NSA – again, which was given by someone working with the NSA to The Intercept for some reason – lacks all underlying raw intelligence. So we have again the formulation ‘a high degree of confidence’ and then mixing and matching as if the NSA, which has made this revelation available to The Intercept, found out that Russia was hacking American voting machines on the eve of the election. But again with no connectivity to trying to get Donald Trump elected, and yet that is what the article summarizes in its conclusion. It’s shoddy journalism; I would say it is garbage journalism and it is based on nothing with underlying intelligence. Again, why would the NSA, FBI, and CIA have been waging a war for the past year to convince the American people that Russia is taking over America, why would they release this document to The Intercept ?

There are a number of things that are peculiar here. One of them is the circumstance of the arrest of this contractor so quickly after this item appeared in The Intercept. But on The Intercept article itself, it is a little odd: this is the first article that appears to be pointed toward any kind of compromise of the actual election system, as opposed to releasing information that maybe prejudicial to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that came from the DNC, which has been the allegation thus far. Also it seems odd it would be sent to some place like The Intercept rather than the usual vehicles for leaked information, like The Washington Post or The New York Times. – former US diplomat Jim Jatras

RT: Although it’s supposedly the most detailed US report yet on claimed Russian interference in the election, it doesn’t actually show the raw intelligence. Are we ever going to see the actual hard evidence?

BB: No one actually knows what the Russian intelligence agencies hacked or didn’t hack. We don’t know. We do know that during the past year when this has become the dominant narrative within the mainstream media, the dominant call by the Democratic Party elites, the primary allegation explaining why they lost the election, when we see all of this, and we realize even up to today, even with this article, not one piece of hard evidence backing it up. Wouldn’t there be some hard evidence now, after all of this time showing the raw intelligence underlying the report? For some reason, the NSA wanted to use this liberal website in order to give them a top classified document again without any real facts or evidence contained therein.

Some people are touting this as the first counter-attack from the Trump administration to this tyranny of leaks that has been going on here in Washington. I certainly don’t see it as that. If we look at other leaks, like ones concerning General Flynn, or Comey’s conversations with Trump or the meeting of Trump and Lavrov, again, these went to the prestige media, New York Times and The Washington Post. Nobody has been nailed for any of those leaks. Those are things coming from within the deep state itself. Here is a 25-year old contractor, who doesn’t seem to be the kind of vehicle for this we are talking about, and she gets nailed right from the top on a very questionable report. This just happened today, but it almost seems like a provocation of some sort. – former US diplomat Jim Jatras

RT: Even if the hacking took place, why does the NSA insist the Russian government made the interference? Couldn’t random hackers have done it with “patriotic leanings”?

BB: Because we are in the midst of a witch hunt. After WWII, and after the breakup of the US-British-Soviet military alliance that defeated fascism, the US media and the intelligence agencies, like CIA, like FBI, later now the NSA, joined to generate a witch hunt against anyone associated with the Soviet Union and thus Russia. We see the same thing happening today. There are no facts, there is no evidence, but there is a hysteria being created. The intelligence agencies, which have overthrown other countries’ governments if they win elections that the Americans don’t prefer, who have intervened in other countries’ governments, who have carried out assassination programs now are saying we are the champions and the defenders of American democracy from the great menace to American democracy which is posed by the Kremlin. This is political; it is actually pure politics.

Read more:

DOJ charges govt contractor with leaking top secret material to The Intercept

June 6, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

Who Controls the Information Space and Why

By Jean Perier – New Eastern Outlook – 28.05.2017

Recently behind-the-scenes rules and restrictions being used by Facebook have fallen into the hands of Guardian reporters. According to their report, moderators employed by the tech giant are entitled to decide what exactly the 2 billion users of this social network can or cannot publish on their pages. This report has provoked a massive discussion on the absence of any ethical norms that could prevent the tech giant from exercising censorship, along with disputes about the determination of US intelligence agencies to spy on their citizens in violation of the USA Freedom Act.

The fact that the US created the Internet as a tool of exercising control over information space, as a convenient environment for espionage, collecting dirty facts and spreading lies has been established long ago. For those naive few who refuse to believe the facts, one can only be reminded of the old saying: There’s no such thing as a free lunchBut who owns the allegedly free Internet? Who created it and why?

According to Reuters, last year alone the US National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted 151 million phone calls of American citizens, in spite of the fact that Congress has allegedly limited the ability to exercise surveillance for intelligence agencies by adopting the USA Freedom Act, according to which courts must decide when to allow intelligence agencies to collect information about a person suspected of criminal activity.

However, the all-encompassing control of US intelligence services over the world’s information space has been uncovered by an unending stream of publications in American and foreign media sources, showing that the United States is grossly violating even the most basic human rights, by creating a system of electronic interception and processing of all sorts of data about users on the Internet.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that every aspect of our day-to-day lives is being controlled: phone conversations, short text messages, everything we write on social media networks or send via email. Thus, the British Guardian confirmed the existing exchange of information about intercepted electronic messages of both US citizens and British citizens established by US intelligence agencies and the British Government Communications Headquarters. Even British courts recognized that such cooperation that existed for at least seven years is unlawful, since they were carried out in violation of international conventions on human rights.

In addition, the Guardian has also revealed that phone tapping that Mi-5 and Mi-6 authorized in order to intercept private consultations between UK citizens and their lawyers in a bid to guarantee the authorities an upper hand during trials, constitutes a violation of both national laws and international norms.

The Intercept has also revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British partners from the Government Communications Headquarters stole the encryption keys of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer – Gemalto, situated in the Netherlands. This allowed intelligence agencies from both nations ever since to tap all sorts of phone conversations and intercept any data sent via a mobile device carrying a SIM card produced by Gemalto.

In late 2014, the Wall Street Journal has also revealed the practices that allowed US intelligence agencies to record information stored on millions of cell phones across the US through the use of special spyware. Additionally, Wikileaks released CIA documents that show this agency is capable of intercepting messages sent via encrypted message apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.

It should be noted that US intelligence agencies have been pretty methodical in the collection of information that in one way or another could be used not just against ordinary citizens, but even against leading political figures. When in October 2013 a scandal erupted with the National Security Agency’s wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, it turned out that the NSA had been carrying out such intrusions for more than ten years by that time. Back then, the scandal was downplayed and no actual changes in those malicious practices were pursued.

So how many more revelations about the total control that US intelligence agencies exercise over information space should be published before Washington’s open mockery of human rights and freedom of speech is finally challenged and stopped?

Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

New Cracks in Russia-gate ‘Assessment’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | May 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Cooked Intelligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lacking Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing or Guessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Journalism’s New ‘Golden Age’?

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | May 22, 2017

The mainstream U.S. media is congratulating itself on its courageous defiance of President Trump and its hard-hitting condemnations of Russia, but the press seems to have forgotten that its proper role within the U.S. democratic structure is not to slant stories one way or another but to provide objective information for the American people.

By that standard – of respecting that the people are the nation’s true sovereigns – the mainstream media is failing again. Indeed, the chasm between what America’s elites are thinking these days and what many working-class Americans are feeling is underscored by the high-fiving that’s going on inside the elite mainstream news media, which is celebrating its Trump- and Russia-bashing as the “new golden age of American journalism.”

The New York Times and The Washington Post, in particular, view themselves as embattled victims of a tyrannical abuser. The Times presents itself as the brave guardian of “truth” and the Post added a new slogan: “Democracy dies in darkness.” In doing so, they have moved beyond the normal constraints of professional, objective journalism into political advocacy – and they are deeply proud of themselves.

In a Sunday column entitled “How Trump inspired a golden age,” Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that Trump “took on the institution of a free press – and it fought back. Trump came to office after intimidating publishers, barring journalists from covering him and threatening to rewrite press laws, and he has sought to discredit the ‘fake news’ media at every chance. Instead, he wound up inspiring a new golden age in American journalism.

“Trump provoked the extraordinary work of reporters on the intelligence, justice and national security beats, who blew wide open the Russia election scandal, the contacts between Russia and top Trump officials, and interference by Trump in the FBI investigation. Last week’s appointment of a special prosecutor – a crucial check on a president who lacks self-restraint – is a direct result of their work.”

Journalism or Hatchet Job?

But has this journalism been professional or has it been a hatchet job? Are we seeing a new “golden age” of journalism or a McCarthyistic lynch mob operating on behalf of elites who disdain the U.S. constitutional process for electing American presidents?

For one thing, you might have thought that professional journalists would have demanded proof about the predicate for this burgeoning “scandal” – whether the Russians really did “hack” into emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and then slip the information to WikiLeaks to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

You have surely heard and read endlessly that this conclusion about Russia’s skulduggery was the “consensus view of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” and thus only some crazy conspiracy theorist would doubt its accuracy even if no specific evidence was evinced to support the accusation.

But that repeated assertion is not true. There was no National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that would compile the views of the 17 intelligence agencies. Instead, as President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8, the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, or as Clapper put it, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community.”

Further, as Clapper explained, the “ICA” was something of a rush job beginning on President Obama’s instructions “in early December” and completed by Jan. 6, in other words, a month or less.

Clapper continued: “The two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.” However, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion.

You can say the analysts worked independently but their selection, as advocates for one position or another, could itself dictate the outcome. If the analysts were hardliners on Russia or hated Trump, they could be expected to deliver the conclusion that Obama and Clapper wanted, i.e., challenging the legitimacy of Trump’s election and blaming Russia.

The point of having a more substantive NIE is that it taps into a much broader network of U.S. intelligence analysts who have the right to insert dissents to the dominant opinions. So, for instance, when President George W. Bush belatedly ordered an NIE regarding Iraq’s WMD in 2002, some analysts – especially at the State Department – inserted dissents (although they were expunged from the declassified version given to the American people to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq).

An Embarrassing Product

Obama’s “ICA,” which was released on Jan. 6, was a piece of work that embarrassed many former U.S. intelligence analysts. It was a one-sided argument that lacked any specific evidence to support its findings. Its key point was that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a motive to authorize an information operation to help Hillary Clinton’s rival, Donald Trump, because Putin disdained her work as Secretary of State.

But the Jan. 6 report failed to include the counter-argument to that cui bono assertion, that it would be an extraordinary risk for Putin to release information to hurt Clinton when she was the overwhelming favorite to win the presidency. Given the NSA’s electronic-interception capabilities, Putin would have to assume that any such undertaking would be picked up by U.S. intelligence and that he would likely be facing a vengeful new U.S. president on Jan. 20.

While it’s possible that Putin still took the risk – despite the daunting odds against a Trump victory – a balanced intelligence assessment would have included such contrary arguments. Instead, the report had the look of a prosecutor’s brief albeit without actual evidence pointing to the guilt of the accused.

Further, the report repeatedly used the word “assesses” – rather than “proves” or “establishes” – and the terminology is important because, in intelligence-world-speak, “assesses” often means “guesses.” The report admits as much, saying, “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

In other words, the predicate for the entire Russia-gate scandal, which may now lead to the impeachment of a U.S. president and thus the negation of the Constitution’s electoral process, is based partly on a lie – i.e., the claim that the assessment comes from all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies – and partly on evidence-free speculation by a group of “hand-picked” analysts, chosen by Obama’s intelligence chiefs.

Yet, the mainstream U.S. news media has neither corrected the false assertion about the 17 intelligence agencies nor demanded that actual evidence be made public to support the key allegation that Russia was the source of the WikiLeaks’s email dumps.

By the way, both Russia and WikiLeaks deny that Russia was the source, although it is certainly possible that the Russian government would lie and that WikiLeaks might not know where the two batches of Democratic emails originated.

A True ‘Golden Age’?

Yet, one might think that the new “golden age of American journalism” would want to establish a firm foundation for its self-admiring reporting on Russia-gate. You might think, too, that these esteemed MSM reporters would show some professional skepticism toward dubious claims being fed to them by the Obama administration’s intelligence appointees.

That is unless, of course, the major U.S. news organizations are not abiding by journalistic principles, but rather see themselves as combatants in the anti-Trump “resistance.” In other words, if they are behaving less as a Fourth Estate and more as a well-dressed mob determined to drag the interloper, Trump, from the White House.

The mainstream U.S. media’s bias against Putin and Russia also oozes from every pore of the Times’ and Post’s reporting from Moscow. For instance, the Times’ article on Putin’s comments about supposed secrets that Trump shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House had the headline in the print editions: “Putin Butts In to Claim There Were No Secrets…” The article by Andrew Higgins then describes Putin “asserting himself with his customary disruptive panache” and “seizing on foreign crises to make Russia’s voice heard.”

Clearly, we are all supposed to hate and ridicule Vladimir Putin. He is being demonized as the new “enemy” in much the way that George Orwell foresaw in his dystopian novel, 1984. Yet, what is perhaps most troubling is that the major U.S. news outlets, which played instrumental roles in demonizing leaders of Iraq, Syria and Libya, believe they are engaged in some “golden age” journalism, rather than writing propaganda.

Contempt for Trump

Yes, I realize that many good people want to see Trump removed from office because of his destructive policies and his buffoonish behavior – and many are eager to use the new bête noire, Russia, as the excuse to do it. But that still does not make it right for the U.S. news media to abandon its professional responsibilities in favor of a political agenda.

On a political level, it may not even be a good idea for Democrats and progressives who seem to be following the failed strategy of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in seeking to demonize Trump rather than figuring out how to speak to the white working-class people who voted for him, many out of fear over their economic vulnerability and others out of anger over how Clinton dismissed many of them as “deplorables.”

And, by the way, if anyone thinks that whatever the Russians may have done damaged Clinton’s chances more than her colorful phrase disdaining millions of working-class people who understandably feel left behind by neo-liberal economics, you may want to enroll in a Politics 101 course. The last thing a competent politician does is utter a memorable insult that will rally the opposition.

In conversations that I’ve had recently with Trump voters, they complain that Clinton and the Democrats weren’t even bothering to listen to them or to talk to them. These voters were less enamored of Trump than they were conceded to Trump by the Clinton campaign. These voters also are not impressed by the endless Trump- and Russia-bashing from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and MSNBC, which they see as instruments of the elites.

The political danger for national Democrats and many progressives is that mocking Trump and thus further insulting his supporters only extends the losing Clinton strategy and cements the image of Democrats as know-it-all elitists. Thus, the Democrats risk losing a key segment of the U.S. electorate for a generation.

Not only could that deny the Democrats a congressional majority for the foreseeable future, but it might even get Trump a second term.

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Evidence Shortage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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