FBI Director Comey’s and NSA Director Rogers’s public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday 20th March 2017 cast some interesting light on the ‘Russiagate’ allegations, though these were not the ones the media has sought to emphasise.
Firstly, almost from the moment the House Intelligence Committee began its session, the establishment media as one chose to highlight Comey’s public confirmation that the FBI is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the US election, and that this involves investigating allegations of collusion between some of President Trump’s associates and the Russians, as if this was a major revelation.
Suffice to say that this was the headline story in all the British newspapers on Monday and on the BBC, as well as in the Washington Post. The confirmation was called a ‘bombshell’, or at least a ‘setback’ for the President.
It should be said clearly that it was nothing of the sort.
The fact that the FBI is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the elections, and that this involves investigating allegations of collusion between some of President Trump’s associates and the Russians, has been all over the media for months, in fact since long before the election. It would have been nothing short of ridiculous, and would have served no purpose, if Comey had refused to confirm that such an investigation was underway when he appeared publicly before the Committee, and it would have rendered his entire public appearance before the Committee completely pointless had he done so.
It should also be said clearly that the mere fact that an investigation is underway is not in itself proof that any crime or wrongdoing was committed or that any person is guilty of anything. Comey made that very point in his testimony, and it is the reason why he – very properly – repeatedly refused to discuss individual cases. The way in which some sections of the media are trying to overturn the whole presumption of innocence by insinuating that the mere existence of an investigation is a sign of guilt, is actually shocking.
A far more important revelation to have come out of the Committee is that this is a counter-espionage not a crime investigation, and that it was (according to Comey) launched at the end of July 2016.
We can probably be a little more precise as to the precise date. On 22nd July 2016 Wikileaks began publishing the DNC emails. On 25th July 2016 the FBI publicly confirmed that it was investigating the hack of the DNC’s computers (though in the event it never actually examined them). That suggests that the investigation was launched between those dates, ie. almost immediately after Wikileaks started publishing the DNC emails.
That is important since the US intelligence community did not publish its first assessment that Russia was behind the DNC and Podesta leaks before October 2016, and did not publish its final assessment until January 2017.
In other words someone decided between 22nd and 25th July 2016 – long before any intelligence assessments had been published blaming Russia, and directly after the DNC leaks appeared – that the Russians were responsible, and initiated an FBI counter-espionage investigation.
What this also means is that this investigation was underway throughout the critical weeks of the election, with Donald Trump’s associates, and quite possibly (indeed probably) Donald Trump himself, being investigated and monitored by the FBI and by other US intelligence agencies throughout the election period as part of a counter-espionage investigation.
There was no word at the House Intelligence Committee hearing of who was the person or persons who initiated the investigation, or what were the reasons for doing so before any intelligence assessments blaming the Russians had been published.
For the record, I will say that though Barack Obama was the President at the time, and would have been receiving any confidential intelligence assessments, I am sure he was not that person.
Despite the denials of physical wiretaps of Trump Tower, that an investigation and surveillance operation of at least some of Donald Trump’s associates and quite possibly of Donald Trump himself was underway during the election period is therefore now officially confirmed as fact, and is no longer subject to doubt.
I would add that since this was a counter-espionage investigation and not a crime investigation, it was and could be launched despite the fact that neither in July 2016 nor at any time since has there been any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of those US citizens who are being investigated and who might have been placed under surveillance.
We know this for a fact because numerous sources, including Devin Nunes, the Committee Chair who together with the other members of the Committee receives in private classified updates of the progress of the investigation, have told us as much.
One particular point constantly made by Hillary Clinton’s supporters – that Comey treated Hillary Clinton unfairly by making public the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server whilst concealing the ‘far more serious investigation’ of the contacts between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia – might as well be addressed at this point.
Hillary Clinton’s defenders who make this claim consistently underestimate the seriousness of the issue of her misuse of a private server. The key point anyway is that these are two completely different types of investigation.
The investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server was a crime investigation into a potential federal felony. The investigation into the contacts between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia falls under a counter-espionage investigation, in which they are not necessarily suspected of any crime or wrongdoing. Since this is a counter-espionage investigation whose subject is classified, and which has been brought in the absence of any suspicion of any crime or wrongdoing by any particular person, it would have been wholly wrong for Comey to disclose its existence until the Justice Department gave him permission to do so, which it only did just before his appearance before the Committee on Monday.
One other important fact came out of the Committee hearing.
The Republicans on the Committee have rallied behind the President, almost certainly because – as Nunes says – the investigation has produced no evidence of any crime or wrongdoing by anyone. Instead, to Comey’s obvious unease, they are refusing to let the question of who was responsible for the leaking of the classified information that destroyed General Flynn’s career rest.
Both Representative Schiff for the Democrats and Representative Gowdy for the Republicans set out in public for the Committee the persons who each believes should be investigated, in the one case for collusion with the Russians, in the other for leaking the information about General Flynn.
It should be stressed that in neither case has any evidence been published against any of these persons. Nunes and Gowdy have however correctly pointed out that in contrast to the claims about collusion with Russia, in the case of the leaking of classified information to destroy General Flynn there is no doubt that a federal felony was committed. That does make Gowdy’s list of names at least interesting
GOWDY: I guess what I’m getting at, Director Comey, is you say it’s vital, you say it’s critical, you say it’s indispensable. We both know it’s a threat to the reauthorization of 702 later on this fall. And by the way, it’s also a felony punishable by up to 10 years.
So how would you begin your investigation, assuming for the sake of argument that a U.S. citizen’s name appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times unlawfully. Where would you begin that investigation?
COMEY: Well, I’m not gonna talk about any particular investigation…
GOWDY: That’s why I said in theory.
COMEY: You would start by figuring out, so who are the suspects? Who touched the information that you’ve concluded ended up unlawfully in the newspaper and start with that universe and then use investigative tools and techniques to see if you can eliminate people, or include people as more serious suspects.
GOWDY: Do you know whether Director Clapper knew the name of the U.S. citizen that appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post ?
COMEY: I can’t say in this forum because again, I don’t wanna confirm that there was classified information in the newspaper.
GOWDY: Would he have access to an unmasked name?
COMEY: In — in some circumstances, sure, he was the director of national intelligence. But I’m not talking about the particular.
GOWDY: Would Director Brennan have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: In some circumstances, yes.
GOWDY: Would National Security Adviser Susan Rice have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: I think any — yes, in general, and any other national security adviser would, I think, as a matter of their ordinary course of their business.
GOWDY: Would former White House Advisor Ben Rhodes have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: I don’t know the answer to that.
GOWDY: Would former Attorney General Loretta Lynch have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: In general, yes, as would any attorney general.
GOWDY: So that would also include Acting AG Sally Yates?
COMEY: Same answer.
GOWDY: Did you brief President Obama on — well, I’ll just ask you. Did you brief President Obama on any calls involving Michael Flynn?
COMEY: I’m not gonna get into either that particular case that matter, or any conversations I had with the president. So I can’t answer that.
I have recently written that the true scandal of the 2016 US Presidential election is that under cover of a counter-espionage investigation cooked up through a wave of anti-Russian hysteria US citizens who had been accused of no wrongdoing were being investigated and placed under surveillance by the US’s intelligence and security agencies during the election. Despite all the evasions and qualifications that came from the Committee and from Comey and Rogers during the hearings, there is now official confirmation that this investigation and surveillance during this election actually took place.
What was interesting is that their questions about the leaks suggest that the Republicans on the Committee are beginning to see it this way, and are starting to look beyond the cloud of anti-Russian paranoia which has been blown up to confuse the issue. This is why they homed in on the question of who was behind the leaks that destroyed General Flynn.
As for the Democrats, they may also be starting to sense this as well. Glenn Greenwald thinks they are starting to have doubts about ‘Russiagate’, and I think he is right. That no doubt explains the frantic attempts of people like Schiff to keep ‘Russiagate’ going by conjuring up more and more claims against people like Manafort and Carter Page, who must by now have been investigated already. It may also explain some of the fantastic language some of the Democrats on the Committee resorted to.
Comey said that the FBI investigation is open-ended and has far to go. Given the stakes involved, I wonder whether it will report at all.
Americans are ill-governed and ill-served by officials at all levels of government – federal, state and local.
On Monday, clear evidence showed it. Disgraceful witch-hunt McCarthyism was on display for viewers tuning in to see.
Hysterical House Select Committee on Intelligence members disgraced themselves during tediously long testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA head Michael Rogers.
Committee members obsessed over nonexistent Trump ties to Russia, his charges about Obama wiretapping him, nonexistent Moscow US election hacking, Putin bashing, and security leaks.
Comey acknowledged an ongoing classified investigation into alleged Russian interference in America’s presidential election, saying:
“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”
“And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
“As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
He offered no further elaboration despite hours of badgering by committee members to explain more.
The proceedings amounted to orchestrated McCarthyism, infamous witch-hunt hysteria, a disgusting display.
Russia was demonized for nonexistent US election hacking. Comey stopped short of suggesting collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow – because of an ongoing investigation he’s not at liberty to discuss.
After months of bashing Russia and Trump, no evidence surfaced of collusion between him, his campaign and Moscow – or proof of Russian US election hacking. None exists, yet baseless accusations persist.
Trump addressed Monday’s proceedings via multiple tweets, saying:
“James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!”
“The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!”
“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!”
“What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians? Also, is it true that the DNC would not let the FBI in to look?”
Last fall Putin asked “is America a banana republic?” Televised Monday proceedings provided more evidence of a politically corrupt system too debauched to fix.
Of greater concern is creating pretexts for war on Russia. House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R. CA) claimed nonexistent “pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat (sic)” Putin, urging “stronger action against Russian belligerence.”
Stoking conflict between the world’s top nuclear powers is madness. Is this where things are heading?
Will neocons infesting Washington risk nuclear armageddon to satisfy their lust for unchallenged power?
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
The Kremlin has been accused of launching large-scale cyberwar ostensibly aimed at undermining democracy in the United States, with high-profile hacks on the Democratic Party cited as evidence, but technology pioneer and founder of McAfee securities John McAfee told Radio Sputnik that Russia is not behind these high-profile cyberattacks.
“I can promise you it was not the Russians who hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The software used was way too old. The state hackers would not use an old version of software which was less functional than the updated versions,” he said. “One of the things that the CIA said and I’ve been saying for years is that it is virtually impossible to find attribution for any hack because a good hacker can hide their tracks plus make it look like someone else did it. This happens all the time.”
It is extremely likely that if a cyberattack appears to have originated in Russia or China for instance, it was in fact launched from a third country. In this case locations are placed specifically to hide the tracks of the true perpetrator, he explained.
McAfee suggested that there could be political motivation behind accusations that Russia launched cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and John Podesta, the former chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Vladimir Putin is “possibly the most powerful man in the world. America resents that. The Democrats for some reason hate Putin. I think Donald Trump is far wiser,” he said, referring to Trump’s pledge to improve relations with Russia which were ruined during the Obama administration. “If in fact they spoke with each other daily, wouldn’t we have a more harmonious world? And yet here in America we are trashing people for speaking to Putin. It’s bizarre.”
McAfee further commented on recent revelations with regard to the CIA’s hacking secrets. He expressed doubt that the US intelligence community could be made more accountable and transparent if stricter rules on its operations are passed.
“I’ve never seen a covert agency adhere to any kind of legislation. We all know that murder is illegal in almost every country and yet there is not a single covert agency in America, except possibly for the FBI, that does not engage in assassinations. We all know this. I don’t think legislation is needed. I think that we need a firm hand. We need to fire the directors and management all the way down to the street agent and then start over,” he said.
McAfee also said that cyberwar could have far more serious implications than a nuclear conflict.
“We are not in a nuclear age anymore. There will not be another nuclear war because cyberwar is far more devastating. The tools will eventually be in the hands of hackers because this is what happens when you build weaponized software. The first time you use it you send a copy into the wild and every researcher in the world has a copy of that. It can then be duplicated and in a year from now, these tools will be sold on the dark web by 15-year-old boys for a hundred dollars,” he explained.
It is the leakiest of times in the Executive Branch. Last week, Wikileaks published a massive and, by all accounts genuine, trove of documents revealing that the CIA has been stockpiling, and lost control of, hacking tools it uses against targets. Particularly noteworthy were the revelations that the CIA developed a tool to hack Samsung TVs and turn them into recording devices and that the CIA worked to infiltrate both Apple and Google smart phone operating systems since it could not break encryption. No one in government has challenged the authenticity of the documents disclosed.
We do not know the identity of the source or sources, nor can we be 100% certain of his or her motivations. Wikileaks writes that the source sent a statement that policy questions “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency” and that the source “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyber-weapons.”
The FBI has already begun hunting down the source as part of a criminal leak investigation. Historically, the criminal justice system has been a particularly inept judge of who is a whistleblower. Moreover, it has allowed the use of the pernicious Espionage Act—an arcane law meant to go after spies—to go after whistleblowers who reveal information the public interest. My client, former NSA senior official Thomas Drake, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, only to later be widely recognized as a whistleblower. There is no public interest defense to Espionage Act charges, and courts have ruled that a whistleblower’s motive, however salutary, is irrelevant to determining guilt.
The Intelligence Community is an equally bad judge of who is a whistleblower, and has a vested interest in giving no positive reinforcement to those who air its dirty laundry. The Intelligence Community reflexively claims that anyone who makes public secret information is not a whistleblower. Former NSA and CIA Director General Michael V. Hayden speculated that the recent leaks are to be blamed on young millennials harboring some disrespect for the venerable intelligence agencies responsible for mass surveillance and torture. Not only is his speculation speculative, but it’s proven wrong by the fact that whistleblowers who go to the press span the generational spectrum from Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to mid-career and senior level public servants like CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake to early-career millennials like Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The lawbreaker does not get to decide who is a whistleblower.
Not all leaks of information are whistleblowing, and the word “whistleblower” is a loaded term, so whether or not the Vault 7 source conceives of him or herself as a whistleblower is not a particularly pertinent inquiry. The label “whistleblower” does not convey some mythical power or goodness, or some “moral narcissism,” a term used to describe me when I blew the whistle. Rather, whether an action is whistleblowing depends on whether or not the information disclosed is in the public interest and reveals fraud, waste, abuse, illegality or dangers to public health and safety. Even if some of the information revealed does not qualify, it should be remembered that whistleblowers are often faulted with being over- or under-inclusive with their disclosures. Again, it is the quality of the information, not the quantity, nor the character of the source.
Already, the information in the Vault 7 documents revealed that the Intelligence Community has misled the American people. In the wake of Snowden’s revelations, the Intelligence Community committed to avoid the stockpiling of technological vulnerabilities, publicly claiming that its bias was toward “disclosing them” so as to better protect everyone’s privacy. However, the Vault 7 documents reveal just the opposite: not only has the CIA been stockpiling exploits, it has been aggressively working to undermine our Internet security. Even assuming the CIA is using its hacking tools against the right targets, a pause-worthy presumption given the agency’s checkered history, the CIA has empowered the rest of the hacker world and foreign adversaries by hoarding vulnerabilities, and thereby undermined the privacy rights of all Americans and millions of innocent people around the world. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and journalistic sources—whether they call themselves whistleblowers or not—are a critical component when the government uses national security as justification to keep so much of its activities hidden from public view.
As we learn more about the Vault 7 source and the disclosures, our focus should be on the substance of the disclosures. Historically, the government’s reflexive instinct is to shoot the messenger, pathologize the whistleblower, and drill down on his or her motives, while the transparency community holds its breath that he or she will turn out to be pure as the driven snow. But that’s all deflection from plumbing the much more difficult questions, which are: Should the CIA be allowed to conduct these activities, and should it be doing so in secret without any public oversight?
These are questions we would not even be asking without the Vault 7 source.
Jesselyn Radack is a national security and human rights attorney who heads the “Whistleblower & Source Protection” project at ExposeFacts. Twitter: @jesselynradack
The danger lies in what might be coming next
The WikiLeaks exposure of thousands of documents relating to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) hacking program, which was expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama between 2013 and 2016, has created something of a panic in the users of cell phones, online computers and even for smart television viewers. The documents describe “more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses and other ‘weaponized’ malware” and one document even identifies attempts to enable CIA controllers to take control of automobiles that have “On Star” or similar satellite interactive features.
According to analysts who have gone through the documents, any electronic device that is connected to the internet is reported to be vulnerable to being taken over and “weaponized,” manipulated through its microphone or camera function even if it appears to be turned off. Apple, Google, Android and Microsoft products were among the technologies that were targeted, with the security systems being constantly probed for vulnerabilities. When a flaw was discovered it was described as “zero day” because the user would have zero time to react to the detection and exploitation of the vulnerability.
And they are indeed everywhere. Ron Paul has described a woman’s test on the Amazon marketed interactive voice controlled device called Alexa, asking it if it were reporting to the CIA. Alexa, which allegedly cannot tell a lie, refused to answer.
According to Wikipedia, “Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon Lab126, made popular by the Amazon Echo. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information.” One reviewer observed “In a good but scary feature, Amazon Echo can learn a person’s habits over time. It will get used to the way a person talks, his/her habits and routines and will save all the data in the cloud.”
Alexa demonstrates that CIA and NSA intrusion into the lives of ordinary people is not unique. In the cyber-sphere there are many predators. Amazon has apparently run special sales to get Alexa devices into as many homes as possible, presumably for commercial reasons, to have a machine in one’s home that will eventually replace the cookies on computers that collect information on what people are interested in buying. The company’s president Jeff Bezos also recently completed a deal worth $600 million for Amazon to provide cloud hosting services for the Agency. And there are, of course, two clear conflicts of interest in that deal as Bezos is selling a device that can be hacked by the government while he also owns The Washington Post newspaper, which, at least in theory, is supposed to be keeping an eye on the CIA.
But spying for profit and spying by the government are two different things and the WikiLeaks revelations suggest that the CIA has had a massive program of cyberespionage running for a number of years, even having created a major new division to support the effort called the Directorate for Digital Innovation, with an operation component called the Center for Cyber Intelligence. Media reports also suggest that a major hub for the operation was the American Consulate General in Frankfurt Germany, where the Agency established a base of operations.
First of all, it is necessary to make an attempt to understand why the CIA believes it needs to have the capability to get inside the operating systems of phones and other devices which rely on the internet. It should be pointed out that the United States government already has highly developed capabilities to get at phones and other electronics. It is indeed the principal raison d’etre of the National Security Agency (NSA) to do so and the FBI also does so when it initiates wiretaps during criminal and national security investigations.
Beyond that, since the NSA basically collects all electronic communications in the United States as well as more of the same fairly aggressively overseas, it would seem to be redundant for the CIA to be doing the same thing. The CIA rationale is that it has a different mission than the NSA. It exists to conduct espionage against foreign intelligence targets, which frequently requires being able to tap into their personal phones or other electronic devices by exploiting vulnerabilities in the operating systems. As the targets would be either sources or even prospective agents, the Agency would have to protect their identity in the highly compartmented world of intelligence, making outsourcing to NSA problematical.
This need to develop an independent capability led to the development of new technologies by the CIA working with its British counterparts. There were apparently successful efforts to target Samsung “smart” televisions, which would use their speakers to record conversations even when the set was turned off. The project was called “Weeping Angel,” and other hacking programs were called “Brutal Kangaroo,” “Assassin,” “Hammer Drill,” “Swindle,” “Fine Dining” and “Cutthroat,” demonstrating that government bureaucrats sometimes possess a dark sense of humor.
Being able to enter one’s home through a television would be considered a major success in the intelligence world. And the ability to access cell phones at source through obtaining full control of the operating system rather than through their transmissions means that any security system will be ineffective because the snoopers will be able to intrude and hear the conversation as it is spoken before any encryption is applied. CIA and its British allies were reportedly able to take control of either Android or i-Phones through vulnerabilities in their security systems by using their attack technologies.
WikiLeaks claims to have 8,761 documents detailing efforts to circumvent the security features on a broad range of electronic devices to enable them to be remotely tapped, the information having apparently been passed to WikiLeaks by a disgruntled government contractor, though the Russians are perhaps inevitably also being blamed. The U.S. government has apparently been aware of the theft of the information for the past year and one presumes it has both done damage control and is searching for the miscreant involved. Also, there have been security fixes on both Apple and Android phones in the past year that might well have rendered the attack technologies no longer effective.
So many will shrug and wonder what the big deal is. So the CIA is tapping into the electronics of suspected bad guys overseas. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? That question has to be answered with another question: How do we know if that is all the CIA is doing? Technology that can attack and take control of a telephone or television or computer overseas can also do the same inside the United States. And the Agency can always plausibly claim that a connection with a suspect overseas leads back to the U.S. to enable working on related targets on this side of the Atlantic.
Another issue is the possibility to engage in mischief, with potentially serious consequences. The WikiLeaks documents suggest that the CIA program called UMBRAGE had been able to acquire malware signatures and attack codes from Russia, China, Iran and other places. It does that so it can confuse detection systems and preserve “plausible denial” if its intrusion gets caught, disguising its own efforts as Russian or Chinese to cast the blame on the intelligence services of those countries. It has been alleged that the hack of the Democratic National Committee computers was carried out by Moscow employed surrogates and part of the evidence produced was signature malware that had left “fingerprints” linked to Russian military intelligence in Ukraine. What if that hack was actually done by the CIA for domestic political reasons?
Critics have also pointed out that President Obama in 2014 had come to an agreement with major communications industry executives to share with manufacturers information regarding the vulnerabilities in their systems so they could be addressed and made secure. This would have benefited both the industry and the general public. The agreement was obviously ignored in the CIA case and is just another sign that one cannot trust the government.
However, the real downside regarding the CIA hacking is something that might not even have occurred yet. It is an unfortunate reality that government spying operations largely lack regulation, oversight or any effective supervision by Congress or anyone else outside the agencies themselves. Even if knowledge about communications vulnerabilities has not been employed illegally against American targets or to mislead regarding domestic hacks, the potential to use those capabilities once they are in place will likely prove too hard to resist. As such, no home or work environment will any more be considered a safe place and it is potentially, if not actually, the greatest existing threat to Americans’ few remaining liberties.
New revelations from Wikileaks’ ‘Vault 7’ leak shed a disturbing light on the safeguarding of privacy. Something already known and largely suspected has now become documented by Wikileaks. It seems evident that the CIA is now a state within a state, an entity out of control that has even arrived at the point of creating its own hacking network in order to avoid the scrutiny of the NSA and other agencies.
Reading the revelations contained in the documents released by WikiLeaks and adding them to those already presented in recent years by Snowden, it now seems evident that the technological aspect regarding espionage is a specialty in which the CIA, as far as we know, excels. Hardware and software vendors that are complicit — most of which are American, British or Israeli — give the CIA the opportunity to achieve informational full-spectrum dominance, relegating privacy to extinction. Such a convergence of power, money and technology entails major conflicts of interest, as can be seen in the case of Amazon AWS (Amazon’s Cloud Service), cloud provider for the CIA, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, is also the owner of The Washington Post. It is a clear overlap of private interests that conflicts with the theoretical need to declare uncomfortable truths without the need to consider orders numbering in the millions of dollars from clients like the CIA.
While it is just one example, there are thousands more out there. The perverse interplay between media, spy agencies and politicians has compromised the very meaning of the much vaunted democracy of the land of the Stars and Stripes. The constant scandals that are beamed onto our screens now serve the sole purpose of advancing the deep interest of the Washington establishment. In geopolitical terms, it is now more than obvious that the deep state has committed all available means toward sabotaging any dialogue and détente between the United States and Russia. In terms of news, the Wikileaks revelations shed light on the methods used by US intelligence agencies like the CIA to place blame on the Kremlin, or networks associated with it, for the hacking that occurred during the American elections.
Perhaps this is too generous a depiction of matters, given that the general public has yet to see any evidence of the hacking of the DNC servers. In addition to this, we know that the origin of Podesta’s email revelations stem from the loss of a smartphone and the low data-security measures employed by the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In general, when the 16 US spy agencies blamed Russia for the hacking of the elections, they were never specific in terms of forensic evidence. Simply put, the media, spies and politicians created false accusations based on the fact that Moscow, together with RT and other media (not directly linked to the Kremlin), finally enjoy a major presence in the mainstream media. The biggest problem for the Washington establishment lies in the revelation of news that is counterproductive to the interests of the deep state. RT, Sputnik, this site and many others have diligently covered and reported to the general public every development concerning the Podesta revelations or the hacking of the DNC.
Now what is revealed through Wikileaks’ publications in Vault 7 is the ability of a subsection of the CIA, known as Umbrage, to use malware, viruses, trojans and other cyber tools for their own geopolitical purposes. The CIA’s Umbrage collects, analyzes and then employs software created variously from foreign security agencies, cyber mafia, private companies, and hackers in general. These revelations become particularly relevant when we consider the consequences of these actions. The main example can be seen in the hacking of the DNC. For now, what we know is that the hacking – if it ever occurred – is of Russian origin. This does not mean at all that the Kremlin directed it. It could actually be very much the opposite, its responsibility falling into the category of a cyber false-flag. One thing is for sure: all 16 US intelligence agencies are of the view that “the Russians did it”. That said, the methods used to hack vulnerabilities cannot be revealed, so as to limit the spread of easily reusable exploits on systems, such as the one that hosted the DNC server. It is a great excuse for avoiding the revelation of any evidence at all.
So, with little information available, independent citizens are left with very little information on which to reliably form an opinion on what happened. There is no evidence, and no evidence will be provided to the media. For politicians and so-called mainstream journalists, this is an acceptable state of affairs. What we are left with instead is blind faith in the 16 spy agencies. The problem for them is that what WikiLeaks revealed with Vault 7 exposes a scenario that looks more likely than not: a cyber false-flag carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency using engineered malware and viruses made in Russia and hypothetically linking them back to hacking networks in Russia. In all likelihood, it looks like the Democrats’ server was hacked by the CIA with the clear objective of leaving Russian fingerprints and obvious traces to be picked up by other US agencies.
In this way, it becomes easier to explain the unique views of all 16 spy agencies. Thus, it is far more likely that the CIA intentionally left fake Russian fingerprints all over the DNC server, thereby misleading other intelligence agencies in promoting the narrative that Russia hacked the DNC server. Of course the objective was to create a false narrative that could immediately be picked up by the media, creating even more hysteria surrounding any rapprochement with Russia.
Diversification of computer systems.
The revelations contained in the Wikileaks vault 7 (less than 1 % of the total data in Wikileaks’ possession has been released to date) have caused a stir, especially by exposing the astonishing complicity between hardware and software manufacturers, often intentionally creating backdoors in their products to allow access by the CIA and NSA. In today’s digital environment, all essential services rely on computer technology and connectivity. These revelations are yet more reason why countries targeted by Washington, like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, should get rid of European and American products and invest in reducing technological dependence on American products in particular.
The People’s Republic has already started down this track, with the replacement of many network devices with local vendors like Huawei in order to avoid the type of interference revealed by Snowden. Russia has been doing the same in terms of software, even laying the groundwork to launch of its own operating system, abandoning American and European systems. In North Korea, this idea was already put into practice years ago and is an excellent tool for deterrence for external interference. In more than one computer security conference, US experts have praised the capabilities of the DPRK to isolate its Internet network from the rest of the world, allowing them to have strong safety mechanisms. Often, the only access route to the DPRK systems are through the People’s Republic of China, not the easiest way for the CIA or NSA to infiltrate a protected computer network.
An important aspect of the world in which we live today involves information security, something all nations have to deal with. At the moment, we still live in a world in which the realization of the danger and effect of hacking attacks are not apparent to many. On the other hand, militarily speaking, the diversification and rationalization of critical equipment in terms of networks and operability (smartphones, laptops, etc) has already produced strong growth in non-American and European manufacturers, with the aim of making their systems more secure.
This strengthening of technology also produces deleterious consequences, such as the need for intelligence agencies to be able to prevent the spread of data encryption so as to always enjoy access to any desired information. The birth of the Tor protocol, the deployment of Bitcoin, and apps that are more and more encrypted (although the WikiLeaks documents have shown that the collection of information takes place on the device before the information is encrypted) are all responses to an exponential increase in the invasion of privacy by federal or American government entities.
We live in a world that has an enormous dependence on the Internet and computer technology. The CIA over the years has focused on the ability to make sure vulnerable systems are exploited as well as seeking out major security flaws in consumer products without disclosing this to vendors, thereby taking advantage of these security gaps and leaving all consumers with a potential lack of security. Slowly, thanks to the work and courage of people like Snowden and Assange, the world is beginning to understand how important it is to keep personal data under control and prevent access to it by third parties, especially if they are state actors. In the case of national security, the issue is expanded exponentially by the need to protect key and vital infrastructure, considering how many critical services operate via the Internet and rely on computing devices.
The wars of the future will have a strong technological basis, and it is no coincidence that many armed forces, primarily the Russian and Chinese, have opted in recent years toward training troops, and conducting operations, not completely relying on connectivity. No one can deny that in the event of a large-scale conflict, connectivity is far from guaranteed. One of the major goals of competing nations is to penetrate the military security systems of rival nations and be able to disarm the internal networks that operate major systems of defense and attack.
The Wikileaks revelations are yet another confirmation of how important it is to break the technological unipolar moment, if it may be dubbed this way, especially for nations targeted by the United States. Currently Washington dictates the technological capacities of the private and government sectors of Europe and America, steering their development, timing and methods to suit its own interests. It represents a clear disadvantage that the PRC and its allies will inevitably have to redress in the near future in order to achieve full security for its vital infrastructure.
“The Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form.” – Michel Foucault
In the late eighteenth century English Utilitarian philosopher and social-theorist Jeremy Bentham devised what he called the “perfect prison” – The Panopticon. The design is simple, a circular prison with one guard in the central room, and all the cells facing the guard tower. In this way the gaoler can have a line of sight to every cell at once, and no inmate can ever be sure he’s not being observed. Bentham described it as:
“… a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example… a mill for grinding rogues honest.”
Wikileaks latest release of classified documents, entitled Vault 7, comes as a timely reminder to all of us (as if we needed it) that the panopticon – the theorized perfect prison – is now a fibre-optic, digitized, hard-coded reality.
Here’s a run down from Wikileaks’ own analysis page (with some added emphasis):
The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is surely its most emblematic realization.
The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS. After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on. In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.
As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.
The CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.
The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation. With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.
These early analyses show us the powerful trifecta of these operations – the CIA can hear you, find you and…if they deem it necessary…kill you. In fact, the reveal that the CIA has been working on hacking vehicle control systems adds new dimensions to the (as yet unsolved) case of Michael Hastings, a counter-culture voice in the American press who died in an inexplicable car accident four years ago. (A good rundown of the case can be found here.)
The repetition of a now well-established fact – that the CIA, NSA, DHS… whoever… can hack various electrical devices to listen in to our communications is nicely topical, given the current clash between the in-coming and out-going presidential administrations. An interesting thought is that Wikileaks, if it ever was as completely impartial and alternative as it purports to be, might be being used to score political points. The theorized split between the CIA (pro-Hillary) and the FBI (pro-Trump) works well as an explanation for this, as it did with the DNC and Podesta e-mail dumps prior to the elections. Either way, this information is nicely timed to remind the world that, as we already reported, of course Donald Trump was being surveilled. Everyone is.
The final section we’ve highlighted, the proof that “… the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from” is an interesting tidbit of information. Worth remembering, because it will almost definitely have fallen down the memory hole next time some “evidence” is produced claiming Russia or China or Iran have hacked this, that or the other.
Further along in Wikileaks’ explanation of the data, and much discussed on CNN and in Congress (who seem rather unfazed by the illegal bugging and possible assassinations), is that the CIA’s arsenal of “cyber-weapons” were unsecured, and probably stolen by unknown parties.
Did state and/or non-state actors access and steal CIA created data-mining programs and spyware? I don’t think it matters. At all. The reasoning behind this is fairly simple. Firstly, there are no groups LESS trustworthy than the American military intelligence institutions. Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t believe it to be true.
I don’t think the CIA had their weapons “stolen”, I think that establishing – in the public eye – that they don’t have sole control of these tools enables them to preserve plausible deniability, in the event they are used.
If the cyber-tools the CIA developed are also in private hands, they were more likely sold than stolen. The CIA has massive corporate ties in the media, defense, pharmaceuticals and countless other big corporate interests. To the extent it is essentially one large family.
So what has the media reaction been? Four years ago I would have answered “disappointing”, these days I would say “predictable”.
CNN chose to focus on the “stolen” angle, suggesting there be a Senate investigation – not into the CIA’s power to illegally surveil and/or kill American citizens – but into their lax security and whether or not they have endangered national security by letting their toys get taken away.
Already the false premise is set and the subject for debate is decided: The question is not whether or not they should have these powers, but whether enough is being done to ensure they are the only people who have them. In this way a public outcry can be generated, the CIA can be brought before the senate and begged to tighten their security (possibly further slipping what little congressional oversight they still endure in the process). Engineering a situation whereby the citizenry plead with you to what you wanted to do all along is one of the oldest tricks of government.
Ewen McAskill, writing in the Guardian, has this to say:
The leak, dubbed “Vault 7” by WikiLeaks, will once again raise questions about the inability of US spy agencies to protect secret documents in the digital age.
He talks about it being an “embarrassment” for the CIA, and “good timing” for Trump. You’ll also be interested to know he considers the sky to be blue, and water wet. In-depth analysis is thin on the ground, as (more troublingly) is any indication that he understands that this is morally repugnant.
The BBC considers Wikileaks revelations to be a smaller story than the Lords voting on small amendments to the article 50 bill, or the Champions League. The story about how the CIA is spying on all of us and researching covert assassination techniques was filed, not under “politics”, but rather “technology”. You can only imagine that, had this modern BBC existed in 1945, they’d have reported the bombing of Hiroshima under “technology” too, perhaps with the headline “US make breakthrough in use of Nuclear energy”.
No one in the media is ready to concede this vindicates Trumps “wire-tap” tweets from a few days ago, or willing to admit that the “that would be illegal!” defence from Obama’s reps was farcical. (They will instead, in the coming days, point to this being another example of WikiLeaks being on Trump’s side and probably in the pay of Russia. Just watch).
All-in-all the media are taking it in their stride, not one source I could find expressed any kind of shock or moral outrage. They take a deliberately apathetic tone chosen very carefully. They tell us the facts, but refuse to analyse them. They address the current reality as the only option.
That the state claims the power to invade our privacy is a given, that they have the tools to do so, an unfortunate fact of life. Set in stone. The way the world works. No thought is given to holding governmental power to account, and no column inches supplied to those with an angry voice. In short the media provide only one message: They are always watching you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
In that sense the media, and even Wikileaks, provide a valuable service. There’s no point in creating a panopticon if nobody knows they are being watched.
At Mar-a-Lago this weekend President Donald Trump was filled “with fury” says The Washington Post, “mad — steaming, raging, mad.”
Early Saturday the fuming president exploded with this tweet: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
The president has reason to be enraged. For what is afoot is a loose but broad conspiracy to break and bring him down, abort his populist agenda, and overturn the results of the 2016 election.
At its heart is the “deep state” — agents of the intel community, their media collaborators, and their amen corner in a Democratic party whose control of our permanent government is all but total.
At the heart of the case against Trump is what appears to be a Big Lie.
It is that Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s email account, then colluded with Trump’s friends or associates to systematically sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Therefore, Trump stole the election and is an illegitimate president. In this city, Trump is looked upon as a border-jumper, an illegal alien.
Yet let us consider the constituent components of the charge.
For months, we have heard that U.S. intel agencies agree that the Russians hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign, and gave the fruits of their cybertheft to WikiLeaks, because Putin wanted Trump to win.
For months, this storyline has been investigated by the FBI and the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.
Yet where is the body of evidence that the Russians did this?
More critically, where is the evidence Trump’s people played an active role in the operation? Why is it taking the FBI the better part of a year to come up with a single indictment in this Trump-Putin plot?
Is this all smoke and mirrors?
In late February, The New York Times reported that Trump officials had been in regular touch with Russian intelligence officers.
The smoking gun had been found!
Yet, almost immediately after that report, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News “the top levels of the intelligence community” had assured him that the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia were “not only grossly overstated, but also wrong.”
If what Reince says is true, the real crime here is U.S. security officials enlisting their Fourth Estate collaborators, who enjoy First Amendment privileges against having to testify under oath or being prosecuted, to undermine the elected commander in chief.
Now we expect Russia to seek to steal our secrets as we steal theirs. After all, our NSA wiretapped Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Our National Endowment for Democracy pushes “color revolutions” to bring about regime change in the near abroad of Putin’s Russian Federation.
Our NGOs are being restricted, shut down, expelled from Russia, China, Israel and Egypt, because they have been caught interfering in the internal affairs of those countries.
There is talk that Putin used the pilfered emails as payback for Clinton’s urging demonstrators to take to the streets of Moscow to protest a narrow victory by his United Russia party in 2011.
As for the alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower, President Obama has denied ordering any such thing and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assures us nothing of the sort was ever done.
Yet, there are other reports that intelligence officials got a warrant to surveil Trump campaign officials or the Trump Tower, and, though failing to succeed in the FISA court that authorizes such surveillance in June, they did succeed in October.
If true, this is a far more explosive matter than whether a Trump aide may have told the Russians, “You’re doing a great job!” when WikiLeaks blew DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of her job for tilting the playing field against Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
What needs to be done now?
The White House should tell the Justice Department to tell the FBI to expedite its investigation and file a report on what was done by the Russians. And if any Trump campaign official criminally colluded with the Russians, send the recommendation to indict to Justice.
The acting attorney general should instruct Director James Comey to run down, remove and recommend for prosecution any FBI or intel agent who has leaked the fruits of their investigation, or fake news, to the media. If Comey cannot find the source of the leaks, or lies, coming out of this investigation, a housecleaning may be needed at the bureau.
While President Obama may not have ordered any surveillance of Trump or his advisors, the real question is whether he or Attorney General Loretta Lynch were aware of or approved of any surveillance of Trump and his staff during the campaign.
Russian hacking of the DNC is a problem, not a scandal. The scandal is this: Who inside the government of the United States is trying to discredit, damage or destroy the President of the United States?
For these are the real subversives.
Copyright 2017 Creators.com.
Following Saturday’s charges come Sunday’s denials.
On Saturday in a series of tweets Donald Trump accused his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping his office in Trump Tower. A few hours later Obama responded with a statement published by his spokesman which neither admitted nor denied the wiretap but which said that Obama himself had never ordered surveillance within the US on anyone.
Then came an interview for NBC by Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In it in carefully chosen words Clapper said that he had “no knowledge” of any FISA court authorising wiretaps of Trump Tower, and that no section of the US intelligence community which he supervised had carried out such a wiretap.
Some sections of the media – especially in Britain the BBC and the Guardian – have reported these denials in a way that gives the impression to a casual viewer or reader that Clapper has denied the existence of the wiretap outright. This is certainly not so. Clapper’s careful words were
[For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw] there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign….. I can’t speak for other authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity (bold italics added)
In words which have received far less publicity, Clapper also denied that he had seen any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and said that the report on Russian interference in the election submitted to Obama and Trump, a redacted version of which was provided to Congress, and a further redacted (and content free) version of which was made public, made no such claim
Clapper was also asked on “Meet the Press” if he had any evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government while the Kremlin was working to influence the election.
“Not to my knowledge,” Clapper said, based on the information he had before his time in the position ended.
“We did not include anything in our report … that had any reflect of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report,” he said. “We had no evidence of such collusion.”
A few hours after Clapper’s comments, there appeared an article in The New York Times drawing on the usual anonymous sources. This claimed that shortly after the President published his tweets on Saturday FBI Director Comey contacted the Justice Department to say that the President’s claim that Obama had ordered Trump’s phone in Trump Tower wiretapped was false, and asked the Justice Department to publish a retraction (as of the time of writing the Justice Department has published no such retraction).
In a comment which I see as intended to goad Comey into publishing his own statement denying the President’s claims, The New York Times questions why he has not done so
It is not clear why Mr. Comey did not issue a statement himself. He is the most senior law enforcement official who was kept on the job as the Obama administration gave way to the Trump administration. And while the Justice Department applies for intelligence-gathering warrants, the F.B.I. keeps its own records and is in a position to know whether Mr. Trump’s claims are true. While intelligence officials do not normally discuss the existence or nonexistence of surveillance warrants, no law prevents Mr. Comey from issuing the statement.
As I recall, The New York Times initially also made the very strange claim that because Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia, Comey was finding it difficult to find anyone in the Justice Department competent to handle his request.
That cannot be true since Sessions’s statement on Friday made it clear that it would be the acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente who would henceforth be supervising the investigation and who Comey would therefore be dealing with. I notice that the current version of the story in The New York Times no longer makes this claim.
It is always difficult (and perhaps unwise) to comment on something someone is reported to have said based on accounts of what that person is reported to have said which are provided anonymously and at second hand. Assuming however that The New York Times story is true (as I believe) and assuming that Comey’s concerns are also being reported accurately (which with some qualifications I also believe) then Comey is not actually denying that a wiretap took place, merely that Obama ordered it. Here is the first paragraph of The New York Times report
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.
This is of course what Obama said in his statement on Saturday, and which (as I have already pointed out) is almost certainly true
The statement does not deny that Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower was wiretapped. Nor does it deny that Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ (a flexible word the precise meaning of which has never been made clear) or members of his campaign team were placed under surveillance.
Instead it indirectly denies that Obama himself or people working directly under him in the White House ordered these actions. It does so by denying they have ever ordered surveillance of any US citizen, something which by the way is almost certainly true.
The statement hints than any order to wiretap Donald Trump’s office or for carrying out surveillance on Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ was the work of officials in the Justice Department, and it seeks to shift responsibility – or blame – onto them.
This too is almost certainly true. (bold italics added)
On the face of it therefore Comey’s comments – if they are being reported accurately – do not add anything to what following Obama’s statement of Saturday we already know.
Certain other comments attributed to Comey in The New York Times article are attracting less attention, though they are actually very interesting.
Firstly, it seems that what drove Comey to contact the Justice Department is concern that Donald Trump’s tweets on Saturday implied that the FBI by wiretapping his office had broken the law.
Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump levelled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.
Comey’s concern here is entirely legitimate. As I have said previously, if there was a wiretap and if it was authorised by a court after an application made in the proper way by the Justice Department, then the wiretap was legal. Comey is absolutely right to want to set the record straight about this. Presumably in the absence of a public statement that will be done over the course of the Congressional inquiries which the President has now requested.
The second point is even more interesting, which is that The New York Times story again essentially confirms that the FBI investigation into the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is drawing a blank.
In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau’s credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public’s expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the presidential election. (bold italics added)
This is very twisted language which shows that The New York Times is not reporting this part of the story straightforwardly. However the meaning is clear enough. The FBI is worried that the more discussion of its investigation there is – extending all the way to discussions by no less a person than the President himself of court approved wiretaps – the more people will fall for the false ‘no smoke without fire’ argument, and will feel let down by the FBI when it eventually announces that its investigation has drawn a blank.
This is an entirely valid concern, and is one of several reasons why such investigations are supposed to be confidential.
This is the second confirmation within a few hours from people who have held posts within the national security bureaucracy that the endlessly repeated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are not supported by evidence. The first was made by Clapper (see above) and the second was made anonymously to The New York Times by officials of the FBI.
These admissions follow a continuous pattern of admissions from officials within the national security bureaucracy now stretching back months that inquiries into claims of collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia are drawing a blank.
Not only in the present paranoid atmosphere are these admissions being ignored, but the security agencies are being constantly bullied to divert more and more resources into more and more inquiries to find the evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which officials of the security agencies repeatedly say is not there.
Students of political witch-hunts eg. the Popish Plot in Seventeenth Century England, the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, or the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s, will recognise the phenomenon.
The position therefore as of the time of writing is that Obama has denied – though in a very convoluted way – that he ordered a wiretap (though he has hinted that if there was a wiretap it was the Justice Department which requested it), Comey is reported as having also denied that Obama ordered a wiretap, and Clapper has denied that the part of the bureaucracy that he supervised sought or carried out a wiretap.
These are not denials that a wiretap took place. Neither are they admissions that it did take place. I have repeatedly warned against the logical error of inferring a positive from a negative, and of treating a denial of one thing as an admission of something else. What it is fair to say is that the fingers are being pointed towards Obama’s Justice Department, and that so far its senior officers – Loretta Lynch and Sally Yates – are staying silent.
If Obama ordered Trump Tower wiretapped as Donald Trump claims, evidence may or may not be easily obtained.
If FISA court authorization occurred, a congressional inquiry could prove it. If conducted warrantless by the NSA, CIA or FBI, verifying Trump’s claim will be much harder.
Cooperation by agency heads would be needed. NSA director Admiral Michael Rogers is an Obama administration holdover. So is FBI head James Comey. CIA director Mike Pompeo is a Trump appointee.
If Obama got FISA court authorization to wiretap Trump Tower, or a server the building uses for electronic communications located anywhere, court records would verify it.
Still, it’s unproved so far if spying on Trump occurred, and if so, whether it stemmed from FISA court authorization or by other means.
The NSA, CIA and FBI notoriously conduct warrantless surveillance. Post-9/11, the NSA was authorized by a GW Bush executive order to warrantlessly spy on phone and other electronic communications in the name of national security.
Monitoring internally and abroad followed, a clear Fourth Amendment violation, prohibiting searches and seizures without judicial authorization – based on probable cause.
In 2012, Congress extended warrantless spying, constitutional law ignored. The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act passed both houses overwhelmingly.
Obama signed it into law. Warrantless spying was extended for another five years. GW Bush and Obama authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans lawlessly.
The CIA and FBI operate the same way extrajudicially. Constitutional protections no longer apply. Rogue governance does what it pleases – the way all police states operate.
It’s bad enough to spy on ordinary Americans, quite another on a major party presidential candidate if hard evidence proves it.
According to a NYT report, FBI director Comey “asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones” – citing the usual unnamed “senior American officials.”
Comey, an Obama holdover, said Trump’s charge is false, according to The Times. The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment.
If a FISA warrant was issued, it would have likely come through the DOJ or the FBI it administers. A statement by AG Jeff Sessions, another senior department official, or Comey would confirm or deny if one or the other agencies was involved. So far, no public comment by either.
Over the weekend, Trump reportedly said “(t)his will be investigated. It will all come out. I will be proven right.”
For starters, he should publicly reveal what he knows, any evidence he’s aware of, putting meat on the bones of his serious accusation.
One thing’s clear. This story has a long way to go. How it’ll end remains uncertain.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. © Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ show that he is unaware of any evidence that the Russian government colluded with the Trump campaign during the US election, but still believes contacts existed.
“We didn’t include evidence in our report that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report,” Clapper said, referring to a paper compiled by the NSA, FBI and CIA, together with the office of the DNI.
When asked if such proof even existed, he said: “Not to my knowledge.”
The show’s host, Chuck Todd, continued to press the issue, asking: “If [evidence] existed, it would have been in the report?”
Clapper answered that “this could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government. But at the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.”
Todd hinted that the public could start wondering if the situation is “all just smoke,” given the absence of a “smoking gun.”
“Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know,” Clapper responded. “I do think, though, it is in everyone’s interest, in the current president’s interests, in the Democrats’ interests, in the Republican interests, the country’s interest to get to the bottom of all of this, because it’s such a distraction. And certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissension in this country.”
Clapper, however, still appeared unable to put his finger on where to look for any proof of the alleged “dissension-sowing.”
Asked if he still believed the Trump-Russia collusion claims, Clapper stated: “Yes, I do.”
Clapper is not the first to face questions over the issue of any substantial proof – or the lack thereof – of the Trump-Russia allegations.
At the end of February, the House Intelligence Committee chief, Rep. Devin Nunes, told journalists that they “still haven’t seen any evidence” of “any phone calls [between the Trump campaign and Russian officials]” but mysteriously added: “It doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of contact with the Trump campaign, with the Kremlin spokesman lamenting that it’s become difficult to distinguish fact from fiction in the US media.
“Those reports are not based on concrete facts,” Dmitry Peskov said in mid-February, commenting on claims made by the New York Times and CNN, among others. Peskov noted that “there are five different sources in the story and none are named. So you see, really laughable stories are now given a go.”
Image from popularresistance.org
The ongoing clashes between the factions that make up the US political elite keep getting more and more absurd. And annoyingly, as no particular fan of Donald Trump, I keep finding myself in the position of having to fight his corner.
In this instance it is about wire-tapping. Donald Trump tweeted out that the Obama’s previous administration had pulled a Watergate and had his office phones monitored during the election. As yet there is no proof, something everyone from CNN to the Guardian to The NYT were very eager to point out.
In fact, every single MSM source that covered this story mentioned the lack of evidence in the headline:
Somebody get these guys a thesaurus.
Whilst simultaneously quoting the other side of the story, without feeling the need to be quite so thoroughly honest:
Don’t worry everyone… Obama denied it. So that settles that.
And honestly, yes, there is (as yet) no proof. There may not be any proof, ever. It’s a possibility that Trump simply made it up. Politicians make things up all the time. I doubt one word in fifty spoken in Washington DC has any kind of basis in fact.
There is, indeed, no proof. However, there is quite a large piece of evidence, one that the media seem to have neglected to mention.
This is where we need to have a quick reality check, because it seems our friends in the media have forgotten:
The Obama administration spied. A lot.
They spied on American civilians, foreign nationals, domestic political figures, and international heads of state. They monitored our internet histories and our phone calls and read our e-mails. None of this is disputed. Obama did one of his hokey phony apologies about it. He almost certainly used the word “folks”.
This was famously reported exclusively in the Guardian just 4 years ago. They stood by their serious journalism back then… right up until GCHQ told them to smash their hard drives with a sledgehammer. Edward Snowden (perhaps you remember him?) is currently hiding-out in Russia for telling us all about it. Luke Harding, a Guardian star reporter, wrote a not-very-good book about it. It seems odd they’ve all forgotten.
The refutation of Trump’s claim, offered by former Obama admin. officials went roughly as follows:
No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you. https://t.co/lEVscjkzSw
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) March 4, 2017
There was also this statement from an Obama spokesperson.
The argument being that Barack Obama can’t have ordered a wire-tap on Donald Trump… because it would exceed his legal authority. Now, I’m all for living in a world where the US Government, and all the elected and unelected officials there-in, act only according to their legal authority. It would be a nice world…a lot of people would still be alive that, currently, are not.
But time has shown, hundreds (if not thousands) of times over the past few decades, that legality is not an obstacle to an American political establishment driven to protect their financial interests and military empire.
Torture camps, extraordinary renditions, drone executions, funding of terrorist groups, targeting of civilians, use of cluster munitions, use of chemical weapons, use of depleted uranium, terrorist attacks, mass surveillance and all out wars of conquest are all very, very illegal. That has never been a problem.
To suppose that adding illegal wire taps on presidential candidates to this list is a line they would not cross is naive to the point of insanity.
It is inherently ridiculous to openly acknowledge the existence of a massive (illegal) surveillance network, and not assume that bombastic, populist political opponents would be at the top the target list.
In summary: of course the Obama administration spied on Donald Trump. They spied on everybody.
It’s very important we don’t let them shove that fact down the memory-hole.