Devin Nunes just set the cat down among the pigeons.
Two days after FBI Director James Comey assured us there was no truth to President Trump’s tweet about being wiretapped by Barack Obama, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump may have had more than just a small point.
The U.S. intelligence community, says Nunes, during surveillance of legitimate targets, picked up the names of Trump transition officials during surveillance of targets, “unmasked” their identity, and spread their names around, virtually assuring they would be leaked.
If true, this has the look and smell of a conspiracy to sabotage the Trump presidency, before it began.
Comey readily confirmed there was no evidence to back up the Trump tweet. But when it came to electronic surveillance of Trump and his campaign, Comey, somehow, could not comment on that.
Which raises the question: What is the real scandal here?
Is it that Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails and handed them off to WikiLeaks? We have heard that since June.
Is it that Trump officials may have colluded with the Russians?
But former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and ex-CIA Director Mike Morrell have both said they saw no evidence of this.
This March, Sen. Chris Coons walked back his stunning declaration about transcripts showing a Russia-Trump collusion, confessing, “I have no hard evidence of collusion.”
But if Clapper and Morrell saw no Russia-Trump collusion, what were they looking at during all those months to make them so conclude?
Was it “FBI transcripts,” as Sen. Coons blurted out?
If so, who intercepted and transcribed the conversations? If it was intel agencies engaged in surveillance, who authorized that? How extensive was it? Against whom? Is it still going on?
And if today, after eight months, the intel agencies cannot tell us whether or not any member of the Trump team colluded with the Russians, what does that say of their competence?
The real scandal, which the media regard as a diversion from the primary target, Trump, is that a Deep State conspiracy to bring down his presidency seems to have been put in place by Obamaites, and perhaps approved by Obama himself.
Consider. On Jan. 12, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote,
“According to a senior U.S. government official, (Gen. Michael) Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials … What did Flynn say?”
Now, on Dec. 29, Flynn, national security adviser-designate, was not only doing his job calling the ambassador, he was a private citizen.
Why was he unmasked by U.S. intelligence?
Who is this “senior official” who dropped the dime on him? Could this official have known how many times Flynn spoke to Kislyak, yet not known what was said on the calls?
That is hard to believe. This looks like a contract hit by an anti-Trump agent in the intel community, using Ignatius to do the wet work.
Flynn was taken down. Did Comey turn his FBI loose to ferret out the felon who had unmasked Flynn and done him in? If not, why not?
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger points anew to a story in The New York Times of March 1 that began:
“In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Trump and Russians — across the government.”
“This is what they did,” wrote Henninger, quoting the Times :
“At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies.”
For what benign purpose would U.S. intelligence agents spread secrets damaging to their own president — to foreign regimes? Is this not disloyalty? Is this not sedition?
On Jan. 12, writes Henninger, the Times “reported that Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed rules that let the National Security Agency disseminate ‘raw signals intelligence information’ to 16 other intelligence agencies.”
Astounding. The Obamaites seeded the U.S. and allied intel communities with IEDs to be detonated on Trump’s arrival. This is the scandal, not Trump telling Vlad to go find Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails.
We need to know who colluded with the Russians, if anyone did. But more critically, we need to unearth the deep state conspiracy to sabotage a presidency.
So far, the Russia-connection investigation has proven a dry hole. But an investigation into who in the FBI, CIA or NSA is unmasking U.S. citizens and criminally leaking information to a Trump-hating press to destroy a president they are sworn to serve could prove to be a gusher.
As for the reports of Lynch-White House involvement in this unfolding plot to damage and destroy Trump the real question is: What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?
Copyright 2017 Creators.com.
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.
Criticizing their thuggery is anti-Semitism?
We have a president who is belligerent towards Iran, who is sending “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS, who loves Israel passionately and who is increasing already bloated defense budgets. If one were a neoconservative, what is there not to like, yet neocons in the media and ensconced comfortably in their multitude of think tanks hate Donald Trump. I suspect it comes down to three reasons. First, it is because Trump knows who was sticking the knife in his back during his campaign in 2016 and he has neither forgiven nor hired them. Nor does he pay any attention to their bleating, denying them the status that they think they deserve because of their self-promoted foreign policy brilliance.
And second, Trump persists in his desire to “do business” with Russia. The predominantly Jewish neocons always imagine the thunder of hooves of approaching Cossacks preparing to engage in pogroms whenever they hear the word Russia. And this is particularly true of Vladimir Putin’s regime, which is Holy Russia revived. When not musing over how it is always 1938 and one is in Munich, neocons are nearly as unsettled when they think it is 1905 in Odessa.
The third reason, linked to number two, is that having a plausible and dangerous enemy like Russia on tap keeps the cash flowing from defense industries to the foundations and think tanks that the neocons nest in when they are not running the Pentagon and National Security Council. Follow the money. So it is all about self-interest combined with tribal memory: money, status and a visceral hatred of Russia.
The hatred of Trump runs so deep that a leading neocon Bill Kristol actually tweeted that he would prefer a country run by bureaucrats and special interests rather than the current constitutional arrangement. The neocon vendetta was as well neatly summed up in two recent articles by Max Boot. The first is entitled “Trump knows the Feds are closing in on him” and the second is “WikiLeaks has joined the Trump Administration.” In the former piece Boot asserts that “Trump’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish—they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience” and in the latter, that “The anti-American WikiLeaks has become the preferred intelligence service for a conspiracy-addled White House.”
Now, who is Max Boot and why should anyone care what he writes? Russian-born, Max entered the United States with his family through a special visa exemption under the 1975 Jackson-Vanik Amendment even though they were not notably persecuted and only had to prove that they were Jewish. Jackson-Vanik was one of the first public assertions of neoconism, having reportedly been drafted in the office of Senator Henry Jackson by no less than Richard Perle and Ben Wattenberg as a form of affirmative action for Russian Jews. As refugees instead of immigrants, the new arrivals received welfare, health insurance, job placement, English language classes, and the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after only five years. Max went to college at Berkeley and received an M.A. from Yale.
Boot, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012, networked his way up the neocon ladder, including writing for The Weekly Standard, Commentary, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He was a member of the neocon incubator Project for a New American Century and now sits on the heavily neocon Council on Foreign Relations. Boot characteristically has never served in the U.S. military but likes war a lot. In 2012 he co-authored “5 Reasons to Intervene in Syria Now.” He is a reliable Russia and Putin basher.
Max Boot’s articles are smears of Donald Trump from top to bottom. The “closing in” piece calls for establishment of a special counsel to investigate every aspect of the Trump Team/Russian relationship. Along the way, it makes its case to come to that conclusion by accepting every single worst case scenario regarding Trump as true. Yes, per Boot “Putin was intervening in the presidential election to help Trump.” And President Barack Obama could not possibly have “interfered with the lawful workings of the FBI.” As is always the case, not one shred of evidence is produced to demonstrate that anyone associated with Donald Trump somehow became a Russian useful idiot, but Boot assumes that the White House is now being run out of the Kremlin.
Max is certainly fun to read but on a more serious note, the National Review is working hard to make us forget about employing the expression “neocon” because it is apparently rarely understood by the people who use the term. Plus its implied meaning is anti-Semitic in nature, something that David Brooks in an article pretty much denying that neocons really exist suggested thirteen years ago when he postulated that it was shorthand for “Jewish conservative.”
National Review actually searched hard to find a gentile who could write the piece, one Kevin D. Williamson, who is described as a “roving correspondent” for the magazine. His article is entitled “Word Games: The Right Discovers the Deep State.” Williamson begins by observing that using “neocon” disparagingly in the post-9/11 context acts either “as a kind of catalyst enabling a political reaction that revived a great many stupid and ugly myths about Jewish bankers orchestrating wars for profit…” or serves as a standby expression for a “Jew with politics I don’t like.”
Interestingly, I have never heard the “Jewish bankers” theory or disparagement of Jewish “politics” from the many responsible critics who have been dismayed by the aberrant U.S. foreign policy that has evolved since 2001. I don’t know how much money Goldman Sachs has made since the World Trade Center went down and that is not really the issue, nor is the fact that Jews overwhelmingly vote Democratic, which is a party that I don’t particularly like. Williamson dodges the increasingly held view that America slid into the abyss when Washington declared war on the entire world and invaded Iraq based on a tissue of lies, in large part to benefit Israel, which is what matters and why the enabling role of the neocons is important.
And one might reasonably argue that U.S. policy since that time has nearly always deferred to Israeli interests, most recently declaring its prime mission at the U.N. to be protecting Israel, then acting on that premise by forcing the resignation of a senior official who had prepared a report critical of Israel’s “apartheid” regime. I recognize that relatively few American Jews are neocons and that many American Jews are in the forefront in resistance to Israel’s inhumane policies, but the reality is that nearly all neocons are Jewish. And they are in your face every time you turn on the television or pick up a newspaper. Abrasive and abusive Professor Alan Dershowitz recently proclaimed that Jews should never apologize for Jewish power, saying that it is deserved and granted by God, but I for one think it is past time for a little pushback from the rest of us to make Washington protect American interests instead of those of Israel.
The neocon cult has been behind the promotion of Israel as well as the serial foreign policy misadventures since 2001. Do the names Perle, Feith, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Edelman, Ledeen, Senor, Libby and Nuland in and around the government as well as a host of others in think tanks and lobbies like AIPAC, AEI, WINEP, PNAC, FPI, FDD, JINSA and Hudson ring a bell? And do the loud voices in the media to include Judith Miller, Robert Kaplan, Charles Krauthammer, Jennifer Rubin, Fred Hiatt, Bret Stephens, Bill Kristol, the Kagans and the Podhoretzes, as well as the entire Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editorial pages, suggest any connivance?
They are all Jews and many are connected in terms of their careers, which were heavily networked from the inside to advance them up the ladder, often to include moving between government and lucrative think tank and academic positions. They mostly self-identify as neoconservatives and all share some significant traits, notably extreme dedication to Israel and embrace of the doctrine that the U.S. should not be shy about using military force, so it is interesting to learn from Williamson that they really do not constitute a cohesive group with shared values and interests as well as excellent access to the media and the levers of power. When did you last see an “expert” on the Middle East on television who was not Jewish?
Having made his pithy comments and dismissed neoconservatism-phobes as bigots, Williamson then wanders off subject into the Deep State, which, like neoconism apparently is some kind of urban legend being propagated by the poorly informed, whom these days he identifies as Trump supporters. He argues that the entities that are frequently cited as the Deep State, including the neocons, actually have quite divergent interests and it is unlikely that those interests should become “identical or aligned” to enable running of the country in an essentially clandestine fashion.
It is perhaps inevitable that Williamson is confused as he does not recognize how the American Deep State differs from that in most other countries – it is perhaps better described as the Establishment. Unlike in places like Turkey, it operates largely out in the open and ostensibly legally along a New York-Washington axis that constantly revitalizes itself through the revolving door allowing the entry of politicians and high government officials who create and enforce the legislation that benefits Deep State interests. Its components do indeed have different motives, but they come together in preserving the status quo, which benefits all parties, while little dissent comes from the Fourth Estate as the process plays out, since much of the media and many of the proliferating Washington think tanks that provide Deep State “intellectual” credibility are also part of the same malignancy. And yes, quite a bit of today’s Establishment is Jewish, most particularly financial and legal services, the think tanks, and academia. Many of them support or are part of the neocon persuasion and frequently also of the Israel Lobby.
The existence of a Deep State means that many issues that impact on the citizenry never are discussed as part of the political process, leading to jokes that the United States has only one political party with two wings. Issues like the relationship with Israel, though hotly debated by some of the public, are never really debated and are dealt with by consensus crafted by the politicians and the media. Significant policies like those relating to war and peace, healthcare and immigration were rarely seriously challenged prior to Trump because there is a broad agreement regarding what the Establishment will allow to take place. That is how the Deep State operates.
When it comes to foreign and national security policy the neocons are most definitely an integral part of the Deep State, using money and access to politicians to influence what is taking place without anyone seriously challenging their role. They are an essential cog in a system that is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. And it is so successful because it wins no matter who is in power, by creating bipartisan-supported money pits within the system. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries, and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the Deep State persists in promoting policies that enrich its constituencies but otherwise make no sense, to include funding the unending and unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the gift of $38 billion to Israel.
Max Boot spews the kind of bile that is commonly seen or heard when the neocons zero in on their enemies. The National Review meanwhile provides cover for Max and others by suggesting that only anti-Semites or the demented could possibly have it in for neoconservatives or be wary of zany concepts like a Deep State. Together they generate the fog that makes it impossible to challenge certain aspects of the status quo. Maybe, just maybe, what Donald Trump has been saying about his predecessor’s Deep State inspired machinations are true. And just possibly there is a largely Jewish cabal within that Deep State, call it what you will, that works very hard behind the scenes to favor Israel while also pushing for a state of perpetual war, from which it benefits personally. I know that thinking that we Americans are on the receiving end of a vast and very effective conspiracy makes many uneasy, but history has taught us that sometimes our worst nightmares are actually true.
Geo-politics in this bold new 21st century world is anything but boring. Just look at the headlines and you’ll agree, 1970s tabloids were real news compared to today’s sensationalist propaganda. One shining example from America’s capital, the Washington Post has become a barometer for truth – but not in the way you might think. Here’s some curious observances of the once venerable newspaper a billionaire technocrat bought for a purpose.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos does not like Donald Trump one little bit. One gander at the front page of his Washington Post tells us that anything “Trump” is bad. The same newspaper that spilled the beans about Richard Nixon’s Watergate mess, it’s now gone over to the dark side with recent front page stories on; Congressional Republicans criticizing Trump’s budget, Sean Spicer’s “angry” defense of the wiretapping claim, Trump and his team blabbing, White House dumping 30,000 FAA workers, Trump picking a “deeply disturbing” hero, Trump’s budget being “utterly unrealistic”, how Republicans plan on hurting American families, and you’ve got the picture on the rest. Bezos’ bullhorn is over the top.
The good “news” is that discerning analysts, researchers, and interested citizens can use the Washington Post’s propaganda for good, by applying some reverse psychology. Or to simplify, if Bezos is against it, then it must be good. Yes, the Washington Post tabloid can point us to the truth! But everyone knows by now the WP is so-called “Fake News”, but few know the ins and outs.
Bezos: The Globalist Minion
Back in the 1980’s Jeff Bezos was a relative nobody. The “legend of Bezos” tells us the science wiz from Princeton went to Wall Street to work the hedge fund company D. E. Shaw & Co. for a few years. Then all-of-a-sudden the soon to be Amazon legend decides to load up his car like the Beverly Hillbillies and head to Seattle. The story goes, he supposedly wrote up the Amazon business plan along the way – and it’s a full American bit of malarkey in my book. Then all of a sudden (as American legends go) “BAM”, in rapid succession he founds Amazon, snags $8 million in series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 1995. And gets a boat load of fame for basically regurgitating what Sears & Roebuck did in the 1800#s – and nothing more. That’s right, there was no innovation or engineering involved – Amazon is a digital mail-order catalog clone. While Amazon and eBay were the early lead in substantial online commercialism, I submit Bezos and Co. were propped up. Here’s some clues.
The digital advertising gurus say Bezos’ company survived the dot-com bust because of his brilliant business planning. But this is simply not the case. When Amazon started selling books online, huge brick and mortar interests like Books-A-Million, Inc. and Barnes & Noble rapidly followed suit. While the latter two book behemoths suffered share price disasters when the bubble burst, Amazon’s stock also fell from $107 to $7 per share. Then something interesting happend. AOL Time Warner bailed Bezos out with $100 million dollars in capital. The trail of fascinating “coincidences” in between Amazon, AOL and Time Warner – intersect with momentous occasions like the one in Tiananmen Square when AOL’s Stephen M. Case and Warner’s Gerald M. Levin met at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (strangely) in 1999. Even though the AOL-Time Warner deal proved to be the biggest merger flop in history, the investment in Amazon puzzled many even back then.
Faye Landes, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company at the time, questioned Bezos’ explanation for revenue shortfalls just prior to the deal. And she was not alone. Amazon was not a real growth and earnings business back then – and the company does not really make that much even today. Compared to other tech giants, Amazon makes peanuts per share these days. Amazon is one giant “equity bubble”, or a kind of mirror of the Federal Reserve under Barack Obama and his predecessors. And in a way the Washington Post is one pixel of an overall game of economics smoke and mirrors. Hundreds of billions of dollars are flowing through entities large and small in America, and only the very rich seem to be getting richer. This is another story though. The Bezos “puzzle” – the geo-policy of globalism – how technocracy entered into the world sweepstakes is where the Texas billionaire is interesting. To understand Bezos’ role in the globalist doctrine, we have to follow the trail of money that made his company successful. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which also funded AOL early on, has its fingers in just about every big pie worth eating in the digital space. It should also come as no surprise that former Secretary of State Colin Powell is a partner; as are former Vice President Al Gore, and Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla (see more political alliances here). Put mildly, the technocrats like Bezos are in thick as thieves with the globalist perpetrators on the world stage. From Powell and Tony Blair, to Michael Bloomberg (see Bloom Energy) and KPCB’s L. John Doerr (Obama’s economic recovery advisor), Bezos has plenty of miraculously powerful cohorts in his anti-Trump war.
The Real Evil Geniuses Behind
While Bezos is the subject of my report today, John Doerr is an even more critical figure to take stock of. Back in 2008 he and Steve Jobs announced the Kleiner Perkins $100 million iFund along with a prophetic statement: Doerr declared that the iPhone was “more important than the personal computer” because “it knows who you are” and “where you are.” This fund is the largest single investment in cell phone application history. Given the recent WikiLeaks Vault 7 revelations on the CIA, the fact Doerr and these others are so wired into mobile is significant. Doerr also serves on the board of Google, the company most often accused of collusion with the NSA and CIA in spying on everyone.
If we can grasp that there are two sides in the ideological battle for the world going on, then revealing Jeff Bezos and the other technocrats on the new globalist order side is simplified. The Washington Post, or even Bloomberg’s media for instance, hammer each day to try and forge an alternative reality for people. Take the assertion that Russia and Vladimir Putin were influential in Trump’s victory. The WikiLeaks releases about CIA espionage with the 2012 French elections shows us my “reverse psychology” theory in practice. Russia is blamed, when all along the United States’ administration is the one doing the tampering. And who is fundamental in the technologies and infrastructure necessary for complete surveillance? The technocrats, of course. But the game is big. It’s “huge”, as President Trump would exclaim. And as for those like Bezos, they were not innovators at all – only willing soldiers in a much larger scheme where profit for Amazon was not the goal. Amazon, you see, is a mechanism. If I had to bet, I’d say Amazon serves as a distribution hub, a data collection point, and as a money moving apparatus to assist in expanding the globalist control capability. Washington Post is the company blog, so to speak, spitting out contravening messages to distract and leverage. Just play “what if” for a brief moment. What if all those smart TVs Amazon ship came pre-loaded with CIA malware or spying apparatus? What if agents did not have to physically install malware on targeted devices? Again, I got your attention. I quote from WikiLeaks
“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.”
If I may, since the world of media and news now operates on theory, conjecture, and opinion, then perhaps I may have license to speculate further on Bezos’ rise to wealth and fame. Looking at his past and his associations, it’s fair to suggest Bezos is not the genius behind Amazon’s success. If I had to bet real money, I’d say his boss at D. E. Shaw & Co., computer genius and Hillary Clinton campaign funder David Elliot Shaw is. I’d presuppose that Bezos did not just take off for Seattle in the mid-90s, but that Shaw sent him. Without delving deeply into who Shaw is, the reader should know he is the most successful and enigmatic hedge fund billionaire of all. He advised Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and is a key mover and shaker in the business of supercomputers and molecular dynamics.
After reading this some will ask the question; “How does this relate to world détente and policy?” Well, the answer is pointedly obvious – policy is about business these days. You read about Angela Merkel travelling to Washington to meet President Trump. This is not about saving the world for the people, you must realize. The meetup is so that Germany can continue to lead a European Union entity powered by banking and corporate interest. We can no longer be fooled into thinking the new world order (NOW) is some crazy conspiracy theory. Why the likes of Bezos, George Soros, even politicians admit that the “globalist” mission is endangered by Trump! The Washington Post fake news, installed billionaires, the genius Big Brothers standing behind – they are the reality. We have to start to think independently of their advertising – and make no mistake – the ads are aimed at fleecing you.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
The Kagan family, America’s neoconservative aristocracy, has reemerged having recovered from the letdown over not gaining its expected influence from the election of Hillary Clinton and from its loss of official power at the start of the Trump presidency.
Back pontificating on prominent op-ed pages, the Family Kagan now is pushing for an expanded U.S. military invasion of Syria and baiting Republicans for not joining more enthusiastically in the anti-Russian witch hunt over Moscow’s alleged help in electing Donald Trump.
In a Washington Post op-ed on March 7, Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century and a key architect of the Iraq War, jabbed at Republicans for serving as “Russia’s accomplices after the fact” by not investigating more aggressively.
Then, Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the neocon American Enterprise Institute, and his wife, Kimberly Kagan, president of her own think tank, Institute for the Study of War, touted the idea of a bigger U.S. invasion of Syria in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on March 15.
Yet, as much standing as the Kagans retain in Official Washington’s world of think tanks and op-ed placements, they remain mostly outside the new Trump-era power centers looking in, although they seem to have detected a door being forced open.
Still, a year ago, their prospects looked much brighter. They could pick from a large field of neocon-oriented Republican presidential contenders or – like Robert Kagan – they could support the establishment Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, whose “liberal interventionism” matched closely with neoconservatism, differing only slightly in the rationalizations used for justifying wars and more wars.
There was also hope that a President Hillary Clinton would recognize how sympatico the liberal hawks and the neocons were by promoting Robert Kagan’s neocon wife, Victoria Nuland, from Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs to Secretary of State.
Then, there would have been a powerful momentum for both increasing the U.S. military intervention in Syria and escalating the New Cold War with Russia, putting “regime change” back on the agenda for those two countries. So, early last year, the possibilities seemed endless for the Family Kagan to flex their muscles and make lots of money.
A Family Business
As I noted two years ago in an article entitled “A Family Business of Perpetual War”: “Neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan and his wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, run a remarkable family business: she has sparked a hot war in Ukraine and helped launch Cold War II with Russia and he steps in to demand that Congress jack up military spending so America can meet these new security threats.
“This extraordinary husband-and-wife duo makes quite a one-two punch for the Military-Industrial Complex, an inside-outside team that creates the need for more military spending, applies political pressure to ensure higher appropriations, and watches as thankful weapons manufacturers lavish grants on like-minded hawkish Washington think tanks.
“Not only does the broader community of neoconservatives stand to benefit but so do other members of the Kagan clan, including Robert’s brother Frederick at the American Enterprise Institute and his wife Kimberly, who runs her own shop called the Institute for the Study of War.”
But things didn’t quite turn out as the Kagans had drawn them up. The neocon Republicans stumbled through the GOP primaries losing out to Donald Trump and then – after Hillary Clinton muscled aside Sen. Bernie Sanders to claim the Democratic nomination – she fumbled away the general election to Trump.
After his surprising victory, Trump – for all his many shortcomings – recognized that the neocons were not his friends and mostly left them out in the cold. Nuland not only lost her politically appointed job as Assistant Secretary but resigned from the Foreign Service, too.
With Trump in the White House, Official Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment was down but far from out. The neocons were tossed a lifeline by Democrats and liberals who detested Trump so much that they were happy to pick up Nuland’s fallen banner of the New Cold War with Russia. As part of a dubious scheme to drive Trump from office, Democrats and liberals hyped evidence-free allegations that Russia had colluded with Trump’s team to rig the U.S. election.
New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman spoke for many of this group when he compared Russia’s alleged “meddling” to Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and Al Qaeda’s 9/11 terror attacks.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, Friedman demanded that the Russia hacking allegations be treated as a casus belli: “That was a 9/11 scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor scale event.” Both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 led to wars.
So, with many liberals blinded by their hatred of Trump, the path was open for neocons to reassert themselves.
Robert Kagan took to the high-profile op-ed page of The Washington Post to bait key Republicans, such as Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who was pictured above the Post article and its headline, “Running interference for Russia.”
Kagan wrote: “It would have been impossible to imagine a year ago that the Republican Party’s leaders would be effectively serving as enablers of Russian interference in this country’s political system. Yet, astonishingly, that is the role the Republican Party is playing.”
Kagan then reprised Official Washington’s groupthink that accepted without skepticism the claims from President Obama’s outgoing intelligence chiefs that Russia had “hacked” Democratic emails and released them via WikiLeaks to embarrass the Clinton campaign.
Though Obama’s intelligence officials offered no verifiable evidence to support the claims – and WikiLeaks denied getting the two batches of emails from the Russians – the allegations were widely accepted across Official Washington as grounds for discrediting Trump and possibly seeking his removal from office.
Ignoring the political conflict of interest for Obama’s appointees, Kagan judged that “given the significance of this particular finding [about Russian meddling], the evidence must be compelling” and justified “a serious, wide-ranging and open investigation.”
But Kagan also must have recognized the potential for the neocons to claw their way back to power behind the smokescreen of a New Cold War with Russia.
He declared: “The most important question concerns Russia’s ability to manipulate U.S. elections. That is not a political issue. It is a national security issue. If the Russian government did interfere in the United States’ electoral processes last year, then it has the capacity to do so in every election going forward. This is a powerful and dangerous weapon, more than warships or tanks or bombers.
“Neither Russia nor any potential adversary has the power to damage the U.S. political system with weapons of war. But by creating doubts about the validity, integrity and reliability of U.S. elections, it can shake that system to its foundations.”
A Different Reality
As alarmist as Kagan’s op-ed was, the reality was far different. Even if the Russians did hack the Democratic emails and somehow slipped the information to WikiLeaks – an unsubstantiated and disputed contention – those two rounds of email disclosures were not that significant to the election’s outcome.
Hillary Clinton blamed her surprise defeat on FBI Director James Comey briefly reopening the investigation into her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
Further, by all accounts, the WikiLeaks-released emails were real and revealed wrongdoing by leading Democrats, such as the Democratic National Committee’s tilting of the primaries against Sen. Bernie Sanders and in favor of Clinton. The emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta disclosed the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street, which she was trying to hide from voters, as well as some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.
In other words, the WikiLeaks’ releases helped inform American voters about abuses to the U.S. democratic process. The emails were not “disinformation” or “fake news.” They were real news.
A similar disclosure occurred both before the election and this week when someone leaked details about Trump’s tax returns, which are protected by law. However, except for the Trump camp, almost no one thought that this illegal act of releasing a citizen’s tax returns was somehow a threat to American democracy.
The general feeling was that Americans have a right to know such details about someone seeking the White House. I agree, but doesn’t it equally follow that we had a right to know about the DNC abusing its power to grease the skids for Clinton’s nomination, about the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street bankers, and about foreign governments seeking pay-to-play influence by contributing to the Clinton Foundation?
Yet, because Obama’s political appointees in the U.S. intelligence community “assess” that Russia was the source of the WikiLeaks emails, the assault on U.S. democracy is a reason for World War III.
More Loose Talk
But Kagan was not satisfied with unsubstantiated accusations regarding Russia undermining U.S. democracy. He asserted as “fact” – although again without presenting evidence – that Russia is “interfering in the coming elections in France and Germany, and it has already interfered in Italy’s recent referendum and in numerous other elections across Europe. Russia is deploying this weapon against as many democracies as it can to sap public confidence in democratic institutions.”
There’s been a lot of handwringing in Official Washington and across the Mainstream Media about the “post-truth” era, but these supposed avatars for truth are as guilty as anyone, acting as if constantly repeating a fact-free claim is the same as proving it.
But it’s clear what Kagan and other neocons have in mind, an escalation of hostilities with Russia and a substantial increase in spending on U.S. military hardware and on Western propaganda to “counter” what is deemed “Russian propaganda.”
Kagan recognizes that he already has many key Democrats and liberals on his side. So he is taking aim at Republicans to force them to join in the full-throated Russia-bashing, writing:
“But it is the Republicans who are covering up. The party’s current leader, the president, questions the intelligence community’s findings, motives and integrity. Republican leaders in Congress have opposed the creation of any special investigating committee, either inside or outside Congress. They have insisted that inquiries be conducted by the two intelligence committees.
“Yet the Republican chairman of the committee in the House has indicated that he sees no great urgency to the investigation and has even questioned the seriousness and validity of the accusations. The Republican chairman of the committee in the Senate has approached the task grudgingly.
“The result is that the investigations seem destined to move slowly, produce little information and provide even less to the public. It is hard not to conclude that this is precisely the intent of the Republican Party’s leadership, both in the White House and Congress. …
“When Republicans stand in the way of thorough, open and immediate investigations, they become Russia’s accomplices after the fact.”
Lying with the Neocons
Many Democrats and liberals may find it encouraging that a leading neocon who helped pave the road to war in Iraq is now by their side in running down Republicans for not enthusiastically joining the latest Russian witch hunt. But they also might pause to ask themselves how they let their hatred of Trump get them into an alliance with the neocons.
On Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Robert Kagan’s brother Frederick and his wife Kimberly dropped the other shoe, laying out the neocons’ long-held dream of a full-scale U.S. invasion of Syria, a project that was put on hold in 2004 because of U.S. military reversals in Iraq.
But the neocons have long lusted for “regime change” in Syria and were not satisfied with Obama’s arming of anti-government rebels and the limited infiltration of U.S. Special Forces into northern Syria to assist in the retaking of the Islamic State’s “capital” of Raqqa.
In the Journal op-ed, Frederick and Kimberly Kagan call for opening a new military front in southeastern Syria:
“American military forces will be necessary. But the U.S. can recruit new Sunni Arab partners by fighting alongside them in their land. The goal in the beginning must be against ISIS because it controls the last areas in Syria where the U.S. can reasonably hope to find Sunni allies not yet under the influence of al Qaeda. But the aim after evicting ISIS must be to raise a Sunni Arab army that can ultimately defeat al Qaeda and help negotiate a settlement of the war.
“The U.S. will have to pressure the Assad regime, Iran and Russia to end the conflict on terms that the Sunni Arabs will accept. That will be easier to do with the independence and leverage of a secure base inside Syria. … President Trump should break through the flawed logic and poor planning that he inherited from his predecessor. He can transform this struggle, but only by transforming America’s approach to it.”
A New Scheme on Syria
In other words, the neocons are back to their clever word games and their strategic maneuverings to entice the U.S. military into a “regime change” project in Syria.
The neocons thought they had almost pulled off that goal by pinning a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, on the Syrian government and mousetrapping Obama into launching a major U.S. air assault on the Syrian military.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped in to arrange for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to surrender all his chemical weapons even as Assad continued to deny any role in the sarin attack.
Putin’s interference in thwarting the neocons’ dream of a Syrian “regime war” moved Putin to the top of their enemies’ list. Soon key neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, were taking aim at Ukraine, which Gershman deemed “the biggest prize” and a steppingstone toward eventually ousting Putin in Moscow.
It fell to Assistant Secretary Victoria “Toria” Nuland to oversee the “regime change” in Ukraine. She was caught on an unsecured phone line in late January or early February 2014 discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt how “to glue” or “to midwife” a change in Ukraine’s elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Several weeks later, neo-Nazi and ultranationalist street fighters spearheaded a violent assault on government buildings forcing Yanukovych and other officials to flee for their lives, with the U.S. government quickly hailing the coup regime as “legitimate.”
But the Ukraine putsch led to the secession of Crimea and a bloody civil war in eastern Ukraine with ethnic Russians, events that the State Department and the mainstream Western media deemed “Russian aggression” or a “Russian invasion.”
So, by the last years of the Obama administration, the stage was set for the neocons and the Family Kagan to lead the next stage of the strategy of cornering Russia and instituting a “regime change” in Syria.
All that was needed was for Hillary Clinton to be elected president. But these best-laid plans surprisingly went astray. Despite his overall unfitness for the presidency, Trump defeated Clinton, a bitter disappointment for the neocons and their liberal interventionist sidekicks.
Yet, the so-called “#Resistance” to Trump’s presidency and President Obama’s unprecedented use of his intelligence agencies to paint Trump as a Russian “Manchurian candidate” gave new hope to the neocons and their agenda.
It has taken them a few months to reorganize and regroup but they now see hope in pressuring Trump so hard regarding Russia that he will have little choice but to buy into their belligerent schemes.
As often is the case, the Family Kagan has charted the course of action – batter Republicans into joining the all-out Russia-bashing and then persuade a softened Trump to launch a full-scale invasion of Syria. In this endeavor, the Kagans have Democrats and liberals as the foot soldiers.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
The March 1 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry” asserted that the bloody attack on a humanitarian aid convoy west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was an airstrike by Syrian government planes. But an analysis of the U.N. panel’s report shows that it was based on an account of the attack from the pro-rebel Syrian “White Helmets” civil defense organization that was full of internal contradictions.
The U.N. account also was not supported by either the photographic evidence that the White Helmets provided or by satellite imagery that was available to the commission, according to independent experts. Further undermining the U.N. report’s credibility, the White Helmets now acknowledge that rockets they photographed were not fired from Russian or Syrian planes but from the ground.
Like last December’s summary of the U.N.’s Headquarters Board of Inquiry report on the same incident, the Commission’s report described the attack as having begun with “barrel bombs” dropped by Syrian helicopters, followed by further bombing by fixed-wing planes and, finally, strafing by machine guns from the air.
The March 1 report did not identify any specific source for its narrative, citing only “[c]ommunications from governments and non-government organizations.” But in fact the U.N. investigators accepted the version of events provided by the White Helmets chief in Aleppo province as well as specific evidence that the White Helmets had made public.
The White Helmets, which are heavily funded by Western governments and operate only in rebel-controlled areas, are famous for using social media to upload videos purporting to show injured children and other civilian victims of the war.
Last year, a well-organized campaign pushed the group’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize and a Netflix film about the group won an Oscar last month. The United Nations and the mainstream Western news media have frequently relied on White Helmets accounts from war zones that are not accessible to outsiders. But the White Helmets’ officials have pursued an obvious political agenda in support of opposition forces in Al Qaeda-dominated zones in Aleppo and Idlib where they have operated.
On Sept. 19, immediately after the attack on the aid convoy, the chief of the White Helmets organization in the Aleppo governorate, Ammar al-Selmo, presented a dramatic narrative of a Russian-Syrian air attack, but it was marked by obvious internal contradictions.
At first, Selmo claimed in an interview that he had been more than a kilometer away from the warehouses where the attack occurred and had seen Syrian helicopters dropping “barrel bombs” on the site. But his eyewitness account would have been impossible because it was already dark by the time he said the attack began at about 7:15 p.m. He changed his story in a later interview, claiming that he had been right across the street at the moment of the attack and had heard the “barrel bombs” being dropped rather than seeing them.
Selmo insisted in a video filmed that night that the attack began with Syrian helicopters dropping eight “barrel bombs,” which are described as large, crudely constructed bombs weighing from 250 kg to 500 kg or even more. Citing a box-shaped indentation in the rubble, Selmo said the video is showing “the box of the barrel bomb,” but the indentation is far too small to be a crater from such a bomb.
Selmo continued the account, “Then the regime also target this place with cluster bombs two times, and also the aircraft of the Russians target this place with C-5 and with bullets,” apparently referring to Soviet-era S-5 rockets. The White Helmets photographed two such rockets and sent it to media outlets, including the Washington Post, which published the picture in the Post story with credit to the White Helmets.
But Hussein Badawi, apparently the White Helmet official in charge of the Urum al Kubrah area, contradicted Selmo’s story. In a separate interview, Badawi said the attack had begun not with “barrel bombs” but with “four consecutive rockets” that he said had been launched by government forces from their defense plant in Aleppo province – meaning that it was a ground-launched attack rather than an air attack.
In an email response to a query from me, Selmo retracted his own original claim about the S-5 rockets. “[B]efore aircraft’s attack on the area,” he wrote, “many land to land missiles attacked the place coming from the defense factories which [are] located in eastern Aleppo [east of] the city, regime controlled area. [T]hen aircraft came and attacked the place.”
But such a rocket attack from that “regime controlled area” would not have been technically possible. The Syrian government defense plant is located in Safira, 25 kilometers southeast of Aleppo City and even farther from Urum al-Kubrah, whereas the S-5 rockets that the White Helmets photographed have a range of only three or four kilometers.
Moreover, the Russians and Syrian government forces were not the only warring parties to have S-5s in their arsenal. According to a study of the S-5 rocket by Armament Research Services consultancy, Syrian armed opposition forces had been using S-5 rockets as well. They had gotten them from the CIA’s covert program of moving weapons from Libyan government stockpiles to be distributed to Syrian rebels beginning in late 2011 or early 2012. Syrian rebels had used improvised launch systems to fire them, as the ARS study documented with a picture.
Significantly, too, the explicit claim by Selmo that Russian planes were involved in the attack, which was immediately echoed by the Pentagon, was summarily dismissed by the U.N. panel report, which stated flatly, without further explanation, that “no Russian strike aircraft were nearby during the attack.”
Yet, despite the multiple discrepancies in the White Helmets’ story, the U.N. investigators said they corroborated the account of the air attack “by a site assessment, including analysis of remnants of aerial bombs and rockets documented at the site, as well as satellite imagery showing impact consistent with the use of air-delivered munitions.”
The U.N. Commission’s report cited a photograph of the crumpled tailfin of a Russian OFAB-250 bomb found under some boxes in a warehouse as evidence that it had been used in the attack. The White Helmets took the photograph and circulated it to the news media, including to the Washington Post and to the Bellingcat website, which specializes in countering Russia’s claims about its operations in Syria.
But that bomb could not have exploded in that spot because it would have made a crater many times larger than the small indentation in the floor in the White Helmet photo – as shown in this video of a man standing in the crater of a similar bomb in Palmyra.
Something other than an OFAB-250 bomb – such as an S-5 rocket — had caused the fine shrapnel tears in the boxes shown in the photo, as a detail from the larger scene reveals. So the OFAB bomb tailfin must have been placed at the scene after the attack.
Both U.N. imagery analysts and independent experts who examined the satellite images found that the impact craters could not have come from the “aerial bombs” cited by the Commission.
The analysis of the satellite images by United Nations specialists at UNITAR-UNOSAT made public by the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Coordination on March 1 further contradicts the White Helmet account, reflecting the absence of any evidence of either “barrel bombs” or OFAB-250 bombs dropped on the site.
The U.N. analysts identified four spots in the images on pages five and six of their report as “possible impact craters.” But a U.N. source familiar with their analysis of the images told me that it had ruled out the possibility that those impact points could have been caused by either “barrel bombs” or Russian OFAB-250 bombs.
The reason, the U.N. source said, was that such bombs would have left much larger craters than those found in the images. Those possible impact points could have been either from much smaller air-launched munitions or from ground-based artillery or mortar fire, but not from either of those weapons, according to the U.N. source.
A former U.S. intelligence official with long experience in analysis of aerial photos and Pierre Sprey, a former Pentagon analyst, both of whom reviewed the satellite images, agreed that the spots identified by UNOSAT could not have been from either “barrel bombs” or OFAB-250 bombs.
The former intelligence official, who demanded anonymity because he still deals with government officials, said the small impact points identified by the U.N. team reminded him of impacts from “a multiple rocket launcher or possibly a mortar.”
Sprey agreed that all of those impact points could have been from artillery or mortar fire but also noted that photographs of the trucks and other damaged vehicles show no evidence that they were hit by an airstrike. The photos show only extensive fire damage and, in the case of one car, holes of irregular size and shape, he said, suggesting flying debris rather than bomb shrapnel.
Sprey further pointed to photographic evidence indicating that an explosion that the U.N. Commission blamed on a Syrian airstrike came from within the building itself, not from an external blast. The building across the street from some of the trucks destroyed by an explosion (in Figure 9 of a series of photos on the Bellngcat website)
clearly shows that the front wall of the building was blown outward toward the road, whereas the rear wall and the roof were still intact.
The photograph (in Figure 10) taken from inside the remains of that same building shows the debris from the blast was blown all the way across the street to the damaged truck. Sprey said those pictures strongly suggest that an IED (improvised explosive device) had been set in the house to explode toward the trucks.
In embracing the Syrian-air-strike narrative — although it falls apart on closer examination — the U.N. “Commission of Inquiry” thus fell into line with the dominant Western political bias in favor of the armed opposition to the Syrian government, a prejudice that has been applied to the Syrian conflict by U.N. organs since the beginning of the war in 2011.
But never has the evidence so clearly contradicted that line as it has in this case – even though you will not learn that by reading or watching the West’s commercial news media.
Gareth Porter is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
My analysis of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent statements on climate change, and the response to his statements.
Last week, there was a controversial interview of Scott Pruitt on CNBC. A sampling of the headlines reporting on his interview:
New Yorker : Scott Pruitt rejects climate change reality. A relatively thorough summary of the interview with Scott Pruitt.
Guardian : EPA head Scott Pruitt denies that carbon dioxide causes global warming. Subtitle: Trump adviser shocks scientists and environmental advocates with statement that negates EPA policy and ‘overwhelmingly clear’ evidence on climate change
David Robert at Vox : Scott Pruitt denies basic climate science. But most of the outrage is missing the point. Subtitle: It’s not about Pruitt and it’s not about facts. Excerpt: The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.
A number of scientists have responded in various venues regarding their opinion on Scott Pruitt’s statements. Here I include the ‘official’ statement from the AGU:
AGU Responds to Statements from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Climate Change. Excerpt: The position statement of the American Geophysical Union regarding climate change leaves no doubt that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity is the dominant source of climate change during the last several decades.
You may recall my concerns about the AGU policy statement on climate change [link]
What Scott Pruitt actually said
Listen to what Scott Pruitt actually said on CNBC and then compare it to the portrayal in the media. Here is the key text:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.
Can you square what Pruitt actually said with the distorted quotes and headlines about this? I can’t.
I think that these two statements made by Pruitt are absolutely correct:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact
We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.
The other two statements give slightly conflicting messages:
I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet.
The main statement of controversy is:
I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
You can interpret this in two ways:
1.Pruitt is denying that CO2 is a primary contributor to recent global warming
2.Pruitt is saying that he does not accept as a ‘fact’ that CO2 is a primary contributor because we simply don’t know.
Since his subsequent statement is “But we don’t know that yet”, #2 is obviously the correct interpretation.
I think he is saying that he is not convinced that we know with certainty that humans have caused 100% of the recent warming (which is what some climate modelers are saying, see recent tweets from Gavin Schmidt), or that humans have caused ‘more than half’ of the recent warming (which was the conclusion from the IPCC AR5.
If I am interpreting Pruitt’s statements correctly, I do not find anything to disagree with in what he said: we don’t know how much of recent warming can be attributed to humans. In my opinion, this is correct and is a healthy position for both the science and policy debates.
Exactly what the Trump administration intends to do regarding funding climate science, energy policy and the Paris climate agreement presumably remain as subjects of debate within the administration. Looking at every little leak and quote out of context as a rationale for hysteria simply isn’t rational or useful.
The most interesting reaction to all this is David Robert’s Vox article:
The right’s refusal to accept the authority of climate science is of a piece with its rejection of mainstream media, academia, and government, the shared institutions and norms that bind us together and contain our political disputes.
The ‘problem’: a change of administration and party after 8 years, mainstream media no longer has a lock on the media’s message (given all of the new news sources on the internet), academia’s profoundly liberal bias is being challenged, and the consensus that has been negotiated and enforced by certain elite scientists is being challenged.
Three cheers for democracy, the internet and the scientific process.
U.S. Ambassador Daniel Fried, who recently retired as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy.
It’s probably safe to wager that few people outside of Washington, and perhaps even quite a few people inside it, have ever heard of Ambassador Daniel Fried — at least not until very recently.
The longtime Ambassador, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. State Department, recently made headlines in Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Politico and NPR for a farewell speech he made to his State Department colleagues during which he took a parting shot at President Trump for the latter’s widely assumed (but yet to be acted upon) desire to come to an accommodation with Russia.
Fried’s address won praise from Establishment figures like former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken (a “powerful defense of liberal international order”), Atlantic Council executive Damon Wilson ( a “clarion call for the U.S. to believe in itself and lead [a] liberal order”) and New York Times columnist Roger Cohen (“a superb summation of everything worth fighting for to keep this planet fit for human habitation”).
Why all the excitement? Well for one, Frieds’s farewell hit the many of Establishment’s erogenous zones:
–NATO expansion as an unalloyed good: NATO and the E.U. – grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans… this great achievement is now under assault by Russia
–Realists just don’t “get it”: George Kennan didn’t think much of what he termed America’s moralistic-legalistic tradition. But this foreign policy exceptionalism was the heart of our Grand Strategy through two World Wars, the Cold War and the post-1989 era, and it was crowned with success.
–And then there is Fried’s tendentious (and among neoconservatives and liberal interventionists widely shared) rendering of history and his puzzling conflation of the world situations as they obtained in 1940 and as it obtains currently, in 2017: In 1940, Germany offered Britain a sphere of influence deal: German recognition of the British Empire in exchange for London’s recognition of Germany dominance of continental Europe. Churchill didn’t take the deal then; we should not take similar deals now.
While there can be little doubt that Fried served loyally, with distinction and was in all likelihood an exemplary functionary of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, what else explains the outpouring of praise for Fried?
Part of it of course is that in Washington, you get points for longevity regardless of your record. Recall the encomiums heaped upon Andrew Marshall a couple years ago when Marshall, who spent his career as the Pentagon’s chief policy hand, retired after four decades in 2015.
The Washington Post reverentially called Marshall “the Pentagon’s Yoda”; The Economist praised him as “the quiet American”; and that year a flattering book was released about Marshall entitled The Last Warrior: Andrew Marshall and the Shaping of Modern American Defense Strategy. In a review of the book, Notre Dame political scientist Michael Desch tartly noted that “at the end of the day, Marshall was not a saint but rather a public official who served too long and whose record was more mixed than his incense burners are prepared to admit.”
#Resistance to Trump
Another reason for the current praise for Fried’s address is that it combined two of the essential ingredients of the #Resistance that is currently so in vogue in today’s Washington: opposition to Trump and hostility to Russia – never mind whether the policy implications of such a stance are necessary or wise.
Days after he retired, Fried sat down with another tried-and-true Russia critic, former Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post Susan Glasser, and said that in his opinion, “Russia despises the West. And it is doing what it can to weaken the West.” Trump should not, said Fried, “be so desperate to rub up against a Russia which is busy trying to do us in all over the world.”
That Fried’s carries these opinions on Russia is unsurprising; a look at his career in the Foreign Service shows a diplomat who took the most hawkish positions possible regarding Russia in the post-Cold War period. Fried was a vocal champion of NATO enlargement, arguing, as U.S. Ambassador to Poland in January 1998 that “NATO membership had a stabilizing effect on Western Europe’s ‘ethnic rivalries’ and the prospect of membership in ‘the West’ has strengthened political moderates and weakened nationalists throughout Central Europe, to U.S. benefit.”
This assessment looks rather less than prescient in light of the recent rise in ethno-nationalist regimes in Poland, Hungary and, of course, Ukraine.
As U.S. Assistant Secretary for Europe under George W Bush, Fried declared that Russia’s defense of the ethnic Russian enclave of South Ossetia against the neoconservative puppet government of Mikheil Saakashvili was “not the sign of a strong nation. It is the sign of a weak one.”
Russia, said Fried, anticipating many of the same talking points we hear today, told the Washington Post in August 2008, “Russia is going to have to come to terms with the reality; it can either integrate with the world or it can be a self-isolated bully. But it can’t be both.”
Fried was one of the lead architects of U.S. sanctions against Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis and Crimean annexation. Having served as the State Department’s coordinator of sanctions policy, he recently argued that “without the sanctions the situation might well be much worse. And if you don’t think it can be worse then I think you just lack imagination. The Russians could have driven deeper into Ukraine and they could have tried to seize Mariupol or driven on land all the way to Crimea or attack Harkhiv. The sanctions may have stopped the Russians from going further.”
This summation is, to put it mildly, open to question, given that there is little evidence that the Russians even want the small part of Donetsk and Luhansk that they currently help to subsidize and support.
In the end, in judging the supposed wisdom of Fried’s recent fusillades against Trump and Russia we might look to the record of the man rather than his rhetoric.
James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s eastwestaccord.com. He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.
(Photo from YouTube)
The New York Times has made it official. In a Sunday front-page article entitled “Trump Ruled the Tabloid Media. Washington Is a Different Story,” the paper gloats that Donald Trump has proved powerless to stop a flood of leaks threatening to capsize his administration.
As reporters Glenn Thrush and Michael M. Grynbaum put it: “This New York-iest of politicians, now an idiosyncratic, write-your-own-rules president, has stumbled into the most conventional of Washington traps: believing he can master an entrenched political press corps with far deeper connections to the permanent government of federal law enforcement and executive department officials than he has.”
Thrush and Grynbaum add a few paragraphs later that Trump “is being force-fed lessons all presidents eventually learn – that the iron triangle of the Washington press corps, West Wing staff and federal bureaucracy is simply too powerful to bully.”
Iron triangle? Permanent government? In its tale of how Trump went from being a favorite of the New York Post and Daily News to fodder for the big-time Washington news media, the Times seems to be going out of its way to confirm dark paranoid fears of a “deep state” lurking behind the scenes and dictating what political leaders can and cannot do. “Too powerful to bully” by a “write-your-own-rules president” is another way of saying that the permanent government wants to do things its way and will not put up with a president telling it to take a different approach.
Entrenched interests are nothing new, of course. But a major news outlet bragging about collaborating with such elements in order to cripple a legally established government is. The Times was beside itself with outrage when top White House adviser Steve Bannon described the media as “the opposition party.” But one can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about since an alliance aimed at hamstringing a presidency is nothing if not oppositional.
If so, a few things are worth keeping in mind. One is that Trump was elected, even if only by an Eighteenth-Century relic known as the Electoral College, whereas the deep state, permanent government, or whatever else you want to call it was not. Where Trump gave speeches, kissed babies, and otherwise sought out the vote, the deep state did nothing. To the degree this country is still a democracy, that must count for something. So if the conflict between president and the deep state ever comes down to a question of legitimacy, there is no doubt who will come out ahead: The Donald.
A second thing worth keeping in mind is that if ever there was a case of the unspeakable versus the inedible (to quote Oscar Wilde), the contest between a billionaire president and billionaire-owned press is it.
Both sides are more or less correct in what they say about the other. Trump really is a strongman at war with basic democratic norms just as innumerable Times op-ed articles say he is. And giant press organizations like the Times and the Washington Post are every bit as biased and one-sided as Trump maintains – and no less willfully gullible, one might add, than in 2002 or 2003 when they happily swallowed every lie put out by the George W. Bush administration regarding Iraqi WMDs or Saddam Hussein’s support for Al Qaeda.
Trump’s Feb. 16 press conference – surely the most riveting TV since Jerry Springer was in his prime – is a case in point. The President bobbed, weaved, and hurled abuse like a Catskills insult comic. He threw out pseudo-facts, describing his victory, for instance, as “the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan” when in fact George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all got more votes. But commentators who panned the display as a “freak show” or simply “batshit crazy” didn’t get it. It wasn’t Trump who bombed that afternoon, but the press.
Why? Because reporters behaved with all the intelligence of a pack of Jack Russell terriers barking at a cat up a tree. Basically, they’ve been seized by the idée fixe that Russia is a predator state that hacks elections, threatens U.S. national security, and has now accomplished the neat trick of planting a Kremlin puppet in the Oval Office. It doesn’t matter that evidence is lacking or that the thesis defies common sense. It’s what they believe, what their editors believe, and what the deep state believes too (or at least pretends to). So the purpose of the Feb. 16 press conference was to pin Trump down as to whether he also believes the Russia-did-it thesis and pillory him for deviating from the party line.
More than half the questions that reporters threw out were thus about Russia, about Mike Flynn, the ex-national security adviser who got into trouble for talking to the Russian ambassador before the new administration formally took office, or about reputed contacts between the Trump campaign staff and Moscow. One reporter thus demanded to know if anyone from Trump’s campaign staff had ever spoken with the Russian government or Russian intelligence. Another asked if Trump had requested FBI telephone intercepts before determining that Flynn had not broken the law.
“I just want to get you to clarify this very important point,” said a third. “Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign?” A fourth wanted to get the President’s reaction to such “provocations” as a Russian communications vessel floating 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut (in international waters). “Is Putin testing you, do you believe, sir?” the reporter asked as if he had just uncovered a Russian agent in the Lincoln Bedroom. “… But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine this country’s ability to work with Russia?”
When yet another journalist asked yet again “whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election,” Trump cried out in frustration: “How many times do I have to answer this question?” It was the most intelligent query of the day.
The press played straight into Trump’s hands, all but providing him with his best lines. “Well, I guess one of the reasons I’m here today is to tell you the whole Russian thing, that’s a ruse,” he responded at one point. “That’s a ruse. And by the way, it would be great if we could get along with Russia, just so you understand that. Now tomorrow, you’ll say, ‘Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible.’ It’s not terrible. It’s good.”
The prose may not be very polished, but the sentiments are unassailable. Ditto Trump’s statement a few minutes later that “false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. … And that’s a shame because if we could get along with Russia – and by the way, China and Japan and everyone – if we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.”
If the Washington Post and the Times do not agree that bogus assertions about unauthorized contacts with Russia are not poisoning the atmosphere, they should explain very clearly why not. They should also explain what they hope to accomplish with a showdown with Russia and why it will not be a step toward World War III.
But they won’t, of course. The media (with encouragement from parts of the U.S. government) are working themselves into a fit of outrage against Vladimir Putin just as, in past years, they did against Daniel Ortega, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein (again), Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, and Viktor Yanukovych. In each instance, the outcome has been war, and so far the present episode shows all signs of heading in the same direction as well.
Reporters may be clueless, but working-class Americans aren’t. They don’t want a war because they’re the ones who would have to fight it. So they’re not unsympathetic to Trump and all the more inclined to give the yapping media short shrift.
This is a classic pattern in which strongmen advance on the basis of a liberal opposition that proves to be weak and feckless. Today’s liberal media are obliging Trump by behaving in a way that is even sillier than usual and well ahead of schedule to boot.
A Fragile Meme
The anti-Russia meme, meanwhile, rests on the thinnest of foundations. The argument that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and thereby tipped the election to Trump is based on a single report by CrowdStrike, the California-based cyber-security firm hired by the DNC to look into the mass email leak. The document is festooned with head-spinning techno-jargon.
It says of Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, the hackers who allegedly penetrated the DNC in behalf of Russian intelligence: “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none, and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and ‘access management’ tradecraft – both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels, and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected. Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.”
Impressive? Not to independent tech experts who have already begun taking potshots. Sam Biddle, The Intercept’s extremely smart tech writer, notes that CrowdStrike claims to have proved that Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear are Russian because they left behind Cyrillic comments in their “metadata” along with the name “Felix Edmundovich,” also in Cyrillic, an obvious reference to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka, as the Soviet political police were originally known.
But, Biddle observes, there’s an obvious contradiction: “Would a group whose ‘tradecraft is superb’ with ‘operational security second to none’ really leave behind the name of a Soviet spy chief imprinted on a document it sent to American journalists? Would these groups really be dumb enough to leave Cyrillic comments on these documents? … It’s very hard to buy the argument that the Democrats were hacked by one of the most sophisticated, diabolical foreign intelligence services in history, and that we know this because they screwed up over and over again.”
Indeed, John McAfee, founder of McAfee Associates and developer of the first commercial anti-virus software, casts doubt on the entire enterprise, wondering whether it is possible to identify a hacker at all. “If I were the Chinese,” he told TV interviewer Larry King in late December, “and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it, I would use Russian language within the code, I would use Russian techniques of breaking into organizations. … If it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you: it was not the Russians.” (Quote starts at 4:30.)
This may be too sweeping. Nonetheless, if the press really wanted to get to the bottom of what the Russians are doing, they would not begin with the question of what Trump knew and when he knew it. They would begin, rather, with the question of what we know and how we can be sure. It’s the question that the press should have asked during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but failed to. But it’s the question that reporters should be asking now before the conflict with Russia spins out of control, with consequences that are potentially even more horrendous.
It’s not easy making Donald Trump seem like a peacenik, but that’s what the billionaire’s press has done.
It’s heartwarming that The New York Times and The Washington Post are troubled that President Trump is loosely throwing around accusations of “fake news.” It’s nice that they now realize that truth does not reliably come from the mouth of every senior government official or from every official report.
The Times is even taking out full-page ads in its own pages to offer truisms about truth: “The truth is hard. The truth is hidden. The truth must be pursued. The truth is hard to hear. The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious. …” On Sunday, those truth truisms ran opposite an alarmist column by Jim Rutenberg entitled, “Will the Real Democracy Lovers Please Stand Up?” Meanwhile, The Washington Post launched its own melodramatic slogan, “Dies in Darkness.”
Yet, it was only weeks ago when the Post and Times were eagerly promoting plans for silencing or blacklisting independent news sites that didn’t toe the line on what the U.S. government and its allies were claiming was true.
On Nov. 20, the Times published a lead editorial calling on Facebook and other technology giants to devise algorithms that could eliminate stories that the Times deemed to be “fake.” The Times and other mainstream news outlets – along with a few favored Internet sites – joined a special Google-sponsored task force, called the First Draft Coalition, to decide what is true and what is not. If the Times’ editorial recommendations were followed, the disfavored stories and the sites publishing them would no longer be accessible through popular search engines and platforms, essentially blocking the public’s access to them. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What to Do About ‘Fake News.’”]
On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page story citing an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, blacklisting 200 Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other important sources of independent journalism, because we supposedly promoted “Russian propaganda.”
Although PropOrNot and the Post didn’t bother to cite any actual examples or to ask the accused for comment, the point was clear: If you didn’t march in lockstep behind the Official Narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis or the war in Syria, you were to be isolated, demonized and effectively silenced. In the article, the Post blurred the lines between “fake news” – stories that are simply made up – and what was deemed “propaganda,” in effect, information that didn’t jibe with what the U.S. State Department was saying.
Back then, in November, the big newspapers believed that the truth was easy, simple, obvious, requiring only access to some well-placed government official or a quick reading of the executive summary from some official report. Over the last quarter century or so, the Times, in particular, has made a fetish out of embracing pretty much whatever Officialdom declared to be true. After all, such well-dressed folks with those important-sounding titles couldn’t possibly be lying.
That gullibility went from the serious, such as rejecting overwhelming evidence that Ronald Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contra rebels were deeply involved in drug trafficking, to the silly, trusting the NFL’s absurd Deflategate allegations against Tom Brady. In those “old” days, which apparently ended a few weeks ago, the Times could have run full-page ads, saying “Truth is whatever those in authority say it is.”
In 2002, when the George W. Bush administration was vouching for a motley crew of Iraqi “defectors” describing Saddam Hussein’s hidden WMDs, Iraq’s purchase of some “aluminum tubes” must have been for building nuclear bombs. In 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell showed some artist drawings of “mobile chemical weapons labs,” they must really exist – and anyone who doubted Powell’s “slam-dunk” testimony deserved only contempt and ridicule.
When the Obama administration issued a “government assessment” blaming the Syrian military for the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, there was no need to scrutinize its dubious assertions or ask for actual proof. To do so made you an “Assad apologist.”
When a bunch of U.S. allies under the effective control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence service presented some videos with computer-generated graphics showing Russians supplying the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, there was no need to examine the holes in the evidence or note that the realistic-looking graphics were fictional and based on dubious assumptions. To do so made you a “Moscow stooge.”
In other words, when the U.S. government was gluing black hats on an “enemy” and white hats on a U.S. “ally,” the Times never seemed to object. Nor did pretty much anyone else in the mainstream media. No one seemed to note that both sides usually deserved gray hats. With very few exceptions – when the State Department or other U.S. agencies were making the charges – the Times and its cohorts simply stopped applying responsible journalistic skepticism.
Of course, there is a problem with “fake news,” i.e., stories that are consciously made up for the purpose of making money from lots of clicks. There are also fact-free conspiracy theories that operate without evidence or in defiance of it. No one hates such bogus stories more than I do — and they have long been a bane of serious journalism, dating back centuries, not just to the last election.
But what the Times, the Post and the rest of the mainstream media have typically ignored is that there are many situations in which the facts are not clear or when there are alternative explanations that could reasonably explain a set of facts. There are even times when the evidence goes firmly against what the U.S. government is claiming. At those moments, skepticism and courage are necessary to challenge false or dubious Official Narratives. You might even say, “The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious…”
A Tough Transition
During the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump team, the Times, the Post and other mainstream media outlets got caught in their own transition from trusting whatever the outgoing officials said to distrusting whatever the incoming officials said. In those final days, big media accepted what President Obama’s intelligence agencies asserted about Russia supposedly interfering in the U.S. election despite the lack of publicly available evidence that could be scrutinized and tested.
Even something as squirrelly as the attack on Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – with Obama holdovers citing the never-prosecuted Logan Act from 1799 as the pretext for ginning up some kind of criminal-sounding case that scared Trump into firing Flynn – was treated as legitimate, without serious questions asked. Since Obama officials were doing the feeding, the no-skepticism rule applied to the eating. But whatever statements came from Trump, even his few lucid moments explaining why war with nuclear-armed Russia wasn’t such a great idea, were treated as dangerous nonsense.
When Trump scolded the mainstream press for engaging in “fake news” and then applied the phrase “enemy of the people,” the Times, the Post and the rest went into full victimization-mode. When a few news companies were excluded from a White House news briefing, they all rushed to the barricades to defend freedom of the press. Then, Trump went even further – he rejected his invitation to the White House Correspondents Dinner, the black-tie/evening-gown event where mainstream media stars compete to attract the hottest celebrity guests and hobnob with important government officials, a walking-talking conflict-of-interest-filled evening, an orgy of self-importance.
So, the Times, the Post and their mainstream-media friends now feel under attack. Whereas just weeks ago they were demanding that Google, Facebook and other powerful information platforms throttle those of us who showed professional skepticism toward dubious claims from the U.S. government, now the Times, the Post and the others are insisting that we all rally around them, to defend their journalistic freedom. In another full-page ad on Sunday, the Times wrote: “Truth. It’s more important now than ever.”
I would argue that truth is always important, but especially so when government officials are leading countries toward war, when lives are at stake, whether in Iraq or Syria or Ukraine or the many other global hotspots. At those moments in the recent past, the Times did not treat truth – in all its subtlety and nuance – as important at all.
I would argue, too, that the stakes are raised even higher when propagandists and ideologues are risking the prospect of nuclear war that could kill billions and effectively end human civilization. However, in that case, the American people have seen little truly professional journalism nor a real commitment to the truth. Instead, it’s been much more fun to demonize Russian President Vladimir Putin and paint black-and-white pictures of the evil Russians.
At such moments, those New York Times’ truisms about truth are forgotten: “The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious. …”
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
With the departure of the Trump’s national security adviser, political crisis in the US has only depended and is likely to exacerbate into a full-fledged struggle for power and control between Trump and what some call ‘deep-state.’ While Donald Trump is an elected president of the United States of America, he doesn’t seem to be able to exercise power in actual terms. This is evident from the way a so-called ‘pro-Russian’ adviser has been forced to resign. Following this resignation an intense debate has emerged in the US, leading a considerable number of people, 48 per cent according to a recent poll, to reject the way Trump has performed in the first month of his presidency. Already Trump has retracted on Crimea. Accordingly, he is in no hurry to engage Russia in Syria nor does he consider NATO to be “obsolete.” In the same vain, his U-turn towards China is something that nobody could foresee during his election campaign. As of now, a great deal of Trump’s election rhetoric is dead and lies buried deep inside the rubric of deep structures of power, marking the very first instance of its sort when an American president has found himself deeply at odds with the system. And, there is no certainty that he can or may overcome this tussle and emerge as the American ‘knight in shining armour.’
While this may or may not happen, a lot of questions about Trump’s ability to steer the course of American foreign and domestic policies have emerged following Flynn’s resignation and with it the so-called crisis of legitimacy has deepened, leaving minimum to no space for Trump to freely determine the course of American policy making.
The crisis, or the power struggle, has deepened to an extent where an American elected president has been forced to publicly blame American intelligence agencies for feeding the media with information against him and claimed that today’s America was `just like Russia’.
The Russophobia campaign is, indeed, being fed to the American public and the declining support for Trump is more a direct result of this spread of false information than an outcome of actual ‘bad performance.’
The media leaks have already led to Michael Flynn’s resignation. The Washington Post has recently reported that Flynn had “discussed sanctions” with a Russian official during the transition period, although Flynn had assured Vice President Mike Pence that this did not happen.
In turn, The New York Times noted on February 14, 2017, that other officials of the Trump administration and his election campaign have had contacts with Russian intelligence agents as well.
Flynn’s departure just three weeks after Trump’s inauguration as president has allowed the media to claim that the White House was in total disarray.
The media’s propagandist claim has certainly irked Trump who went to his favourite medium of communication, Twitter, to fire off a series of tweets, attacking the media as well as the intelligence agencies. In at least two tweets, Trump named the agencies the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) that he said were `running a campaign against him’.
`The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by `intelligence’ like candy. ‘Very un-American’, he tweeted. `Information is being illegally given to the failing New York Times and Washington Post by the intelligence community.
The crisis that has thus ensued and which is being fanned out by the mainstream US media is asking for changes in the policies, particularly towards Russia about Crimea and co-operation in Syria, that Trump had advocated during his election campaign.
We have already seen that some of it has already changed. What this retraction implies, in political terms, is that the establishment has also shown that it has the ability and the grit to undermine Trump if he were to deviate from their script—a script that is premised on the existence of an enemy (Russia) and which the establishment and the deep-state can use to protect, enhance and materialize its own political and economic interests in both domestic and global political and economic arenas.
The “Russophobia” based containment of Donald Trump is, however, not going to remain exclusive to the US’ domestic political circles. On the contrary, it is likely to, and already has, expanded into international political arena and is going to define and shape Trump’s relations with the US’ European allies, who in turn are neither comfortable with Trump’s foreign policy nor are going to allow him to retract the US-NATO security system (read: NATO is no longer “obsolete”).
Interestingly enough, this ‘trans-Atlantic Russophobia’ is being transformed into a new Cold War. The NATO defence ministers have been recently been discussing the presence of their fleets in the Black Sea in a closed summit in Brusells. Clearly, the western bloc on the whole loathes Trump, creating an unprecedented disequilibrium within the Western alliance wherein Trump leads the alliance, but the partners do not know how far he is to be taken seriously due to his inability to control things (read: establishment’s course of action is more appealing to the NATO allies for its anti-Russia, pro-sanctions commitments).
The Trump administration has lost, by losing Flynn, its authority and the ability to guide the American public to its vision. On the contrary, the media-establishment nexus has hijacked Donald Trump’s own vision, forcing him to forget his election rhetoric promises and come out in the open to fight for his political survival through social media.
Just as Trump’s confrontation with the American establishment is causing unease in the domestic and European political arena, Trump’s fight with the establishment is being equally fought in both domestic and European arenas. Whereas Trump has resorted to twitter to fight back against a sustained media campaign, in the European arena he has hit back by re-casting doubts over the US’ commitment to NATO.
That is to say, while he no doubt has willy-nilly accepted NATO as the “bedrock” of American security, Mattis’ remarks at NATO defence ministers’ meeting show that the crisis is not yet over and that it will remain unsettled unless the dust of the tussle between Trump and American establishment remains in the air—something that may not happen overnight—and unless the all-powerful American establishment succeeds in modifying Trump into a typical Neo-Con hawk.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.
Opponents of the Trump administration have generally accepted as fact the common theme across mainstream media that aides to Donald Trump were involved in some kind of illicit communications with the Russian government that has compromised the independence of the administration from Russian influence.
But close analysis of the entire series of leaks reveals something else that is equally sinister in its implications: an unprecedented campaign by Obama administration intelligence officials, relying on innuendo rather than evidence, to exert pressure on Trump to abandon any idea of ending the New Cold War and to boost the campaign to impeach Trump.
A brazen and unprecedented intervention in domestic U.S. politics by the intelligence community established the basic premise of the cascade of leaks about alleged Trump aides’ shady dealing with Russia. Led by CIA Director John Brennan, the CIA, FBI and NSA issued a 25-page assessment on Jan. 6 asserting for the first time that Russia had sought to help Trump win the election.
Brennan had circulated a CIA memo concluding that Russia had favored Trump and had told CIA staff that he had met separately with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey and that they had agreed on the “scope, nature and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.”
In the end, however, Clapper refused to associate himself with the document and the NSA, which agreed to do so, was only willing to express “moderate confidence” in the judgment that the Kremlin had sought to help Trump in the election. In intelligence community parlance, that meant that the NSA considered the idea the Kremlin was working to elect Trump was merely plausible, not actually supported by reliable evidence.
In fact, the intelligence community had not even obtained evidence that Russia was behind the publication by Wikileaks of the e-mails Democratic National Committee, much less that it had done so with the intention of electing Trump. Clapper had testified before Congress in mid-November and again in December that the intelligence community did not know who had provided the e-mails to WikiLeaks and when they were provided.
The claim – by Brennan with the support of Comey – that Russia had “aspired” to help Trump’s election prospects was not a normal intelligence community assessment but an extraordinary exercise of power by Brennan, Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers.
Brennan and his allies were not merely providing a professional assessment of the election, as was revealed by their embrace of the the dubious dossier compiled by a private intelligence firm hired by one of Trump’s Republican opponents and later by the Clinton campaign for the specific purpose of finding evidence of illicit links between Trump and the Putin regime.
When the three intelligence agencies gave the classified version of their report to senior administration officials in January they appended a two-page summary of the juiciest bits from that dossier – including claims that Russian intelligence had compromising information about Trump’s personal behavior while visiting Russia. The dossier was sent, along with the assessment that Russia was seeking to help Trump get elected, to senior administration officials as well as selected Congressional leaders.
Among the claims in the private intelligence dossier that was summarized for policymakers was the allegation of a deal between the Trump campaign and the Putin government involving full Trump knowledge of the Russian election help and a Trump pledge – months before the election – to sideline the Ukraine issue once in office. The allegation – devoid of any verifiable information – came entirely from an unidentified “Russian emigre” claiming to be a Trump insider, without any evidence provided of the source’s actual relationship to the Trump camp or of his credibility as a source.
After the story of the two-page summary leaked to the press, Clapper publicly expressed “profound dismay” about the leak and said the intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,” nor did it rely on it any way for our conclusions.”
One would expect that acknowledgment to be followed by an admission that he should not have circulated it outside the intelligence community at all. But instead Clapper then justified having passed on the summary as providing policymakers with “the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
By that time, U.S. intelligence agencies had been in possession of the material in the dossier for several months. It was their job to verify the information before bringing it to the attention of policymakers.
A former U.S. intelligence official with decades of experience dealing with the CIA as well other intelligence agencies, who insisted on anonymity because he still has dealings with U.S. government agencies, told this writer that he had never heard of the intelligence agencies making public unverified information on a U.S. citizen.
“The CIA has never played such a open political role,” he said.
The CIA has often tilted its intelligence assessment related to a potential adversary in the direction desired by the White House or the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but this is the first time that such a slanted report impinges not only on domestic politics but is directed at the President himself.
The egregious triple abuse of the power in publishing a highly partisan opinion on Russia and Trump’s election, appending raw and unverified private allegations impugning Trump’s loyalty and then leaking that fact to the media begs the question of motive. Brennan, who initiated the whole effort, was clearly determined to warn Trump not to reverse the policy toward Russia to which the CIA and other national security organizations were firmly committed.
A few days after the leak of the two-page summary, Brennan publicly warned Trump about his policy toward Russia. In an interview on Fox News, he said, “I think Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions that it’s taken in the past number of years is a road that he, I think, needs to be very, very careful about moving down.”
Graham Fuller, who was a CIA operations officer for 20 years and was also National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East for four years in the Reagan administration, observed in an e-mail, that Brennan, Clapper and Comey “might legitimately fear Trump as a loose cannon on the national scene,” but they are also “dismayed at any prospect that the official narrative against Russia could start falling apart under Trump, and want to maintain the image of constant and dangerous Russian intervention into affairs of state.”
Flynn in the Bull’s Eye
As Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn presented an easy target for a campaign to portray the Trump team as being in Putin’s pocket. He had already drawn heavy criticism not only by attending a Moscow event celebrating the Russian television RT in 2016 but sitting next to Putin and accepting a fee for speaking at the event. More importantly, however, Flynn had argued that the United States and Russia could and should cooperate in their common interest of defeating Islamic State militants.
That idea was anathema to the Pentagon and the CIA. Obama’s Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had attacked Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiating a Syrian ceasefire that included a provision for coordination of efforts against Islamic State. The official investigation of the U.S. attack on Syrian forces on Sept. 17 turned up evidence that CENTCOM had deliberately targeted the Syrian military sites with the intention of sabotaging the ceasefire agreement.
The campaign to bring down Flynn began with a leak from a “senior U.S. government official” to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius about the now-famous phone conversation between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on Dec. 29. In his column on the leak, Ignatius avoided making any explicit claim about the conversation. Instead, he asked “What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”
And referring to the Logan Act, the 1799 law forbidding a private citizen from communicating with a foreign government to influence a “dispute” with the United States, Ignatius asked, “Was its spirit violated?”
The implications of the coy revelation of the Flynn conversation with Kislyak were far-reaching. Any interception of a communication by the NSA or the FBI has always been considered one of the most highly classified secrets in the U.S. intelligence universe of secrets. And officers have long been under orders to protect the name of any American involved in any such intercepted communication at all costs.
But the senior official who leaked the story of Flynn-Kislyak conversation to Ignatius – obviously for a domestic political purpose – did not feel bound by any such rule. That leak was the first move in a concerted campaign of using such leaks to suggest that Flynn had discussed the Obama administration’s sanctions with Kislyak in an effort to undermine Obama administration policy.
The revelation brought a series of articles about denials by the Trump transition team, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence, that Flynn had, in fact, discussed sanctions with Kislyak and continued suspicions that Trump’s aides were covering up the truth. But the day after Trump was inaugurated, the Post itself reported that the FBI had begun in late December go back over all communications between Flynn and Russian officials and “had not found evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government….”
Two weeks later, however, the Post reversed its coverage of the issue, publishing a story citing “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls,” as saying that Flynn had “discussed sanctions” with Kislyak.
The story said Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak was “interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.”
The Post did not refer to its own previous reporting of the FBI’s unambiguous view contradicting that claim, which suggested strongly that the FBI was trying to head off a plan by Brennan and Clapper to target Flynn. But it did include a crucial caveat on the phrase “discussed sanctions” that few readers would have noticed. It revealed that the phrase was actually an “interpretation” of the language that Flynn had used. In other words, what Flynn actually said was not necessarily a literal reference to sanctions at all.
Only a few days later, the Post reported a new development: Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI on Jan. 24 – four days after Trump’s inauguration – and had denied that he discussed sanctions in the conversation. But prosecutors were not planning to charge Flynn with lying, according to several officials, in part because they believed he would be able to “parse the definition of the word ‘sanctions’.” That implied that the exchange was actually focused not on sanctions per se but on the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.
Just hours before his resignation on Feb. 13, Flynn claimed in an interview with the Daily Caller that he had indeed referred only to the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.
“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said. “It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”
The Russian Blackmail Ploy
Even as the story of the Flynn’s alleged transgression in the conversation with the Russian Ambassador was becoming a political crisis for Donald Trump, yet another leaked story surfaced that appeared to reveal a shocking new level of the Trump administration’s weakness toward Russia.
The Post reported on Feb. 13 that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama holdover, had decided in late January – after discussions with Brennan, Clapper and FBI Director James Comey in the last days of the Obama administration – to inform the White House Counsel Donald McGahn in late January that Flynn had lied to other Trump administration officials – including Vice President Mike Pence – in denying that he discussed sanctions with Kislyak. The Post cited “current and former officials” as the sources.
That story, repeated and amplified by many other news media, led to Flynn’s downfall later that same day. But like all of the other related leaks, the story revealed more about the aims of the leakers than about links between Trump’s team and Russia.
The centerpiece of the new leak was that the former Obama administration officials named in the story had feared that “Flynn put himself in a compromising position” in regard to his account of the conversation with Kislyak to Trump members of the Trump transition.
Yates had told the White House that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail because of the discrepancies between his conversation with the Ambassador and his story to Pence, according to the Post story.
But once again the impression created by the leak was very different from the reality behind it. The idea that Flynn had exposed himself to a potential Russian blackmail threat by failing to tell Pence exactly what had transpired in the conversation was fanciful in the extreme.
Even assuming that Flynn had flatly lied to Pence about what he had said in the meeting – which was evidently not the case – it would not have given the Russians something to hold over Flynn, first because it was already revealed publicly and second, because the Russian interest was to cooperate with the new administration.
The ex-Obama administration leakers were obviously citing that clumsy (and preposterous) argument as an excuse to intervene in the internal affairs of the new administration. The Post’s sources also claimed that “Pence had a right to know that he had been misled….” True or not, it was, of course, none of their business.
Pity for Pence
The professed concern of the Intelligence Community and Justice Department officials that Pence deserved the full story from Flynn was obviously based on political considerations, not some legal principle. Pence was a known supporter of the New Cold War with Russia, so the tender concern for Pence not being treated nicely coincided with a strategy of dividing the new administration along the lines of policy toward Russia.
All indications are that Trump and other insiders knew from the beginning exactly what Flynn had actually said in the conversation, but that Flynn had given Pence a flat denial about discussing sanctions without further details.
On Feb. 13, when Trump was still trying to save Flynn, the National Security Adviser apologized to Pence for “inadvertently” having failed to give him a complete account, including his reference to the expulsion of the Russian diplomats. But that was not enough to save Flynn’s job.
The divide-and-conquer strategy, which led to Flynn’s ouster, was made effective because the leakers had already created a political atmosphere of great suspicion about Flynn and the Trump White House as having had illicit dealings with the Russians. The normally pugnacious Trump chose not to respond to the campaign of leaks with a detailed, concerted defense. Instead, he sacrificed Flynn before the end of the very day the Flynn “blackmail” story was published.
But Trump appears to have underestimated the ambitions of the leakers. The campaign against Flynn had been calculated in part to weaken the Trump administration and ensure that the new administration would not dare to reverse the hardline policy of constant pressure on Putin’s Russia.
Many in Washington’s political elite celebrated the fall of Flynn as a turning point in the struggle to maintain the existing policy orientation toward Russia. The day after Flynn was fired the Post’s national political correspondent, James Hohmann, wrote that the Flynn “imbroglio” would now make it “politically untenable for Trump to scale back sanctions to Moscow” because the “political blowback from hawkish Republicans in Congress would be too intense….”
But the ultimate target of the campaign was Trump himself. As neoconservative journalist Eli Lake put it, “Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entree.”
Susan Hennessey, a well-connected former lawyer in the National Security Agency’s Office of General Counsel who writes the Lawfare blog at the Brookings Institution, agreed. “Trump may think Flynn is the sacrificial lamb,” she told The Guardian, “but the reality is that he is the first domino. To the extent the administration believes Flynn’s resignation will make the Russia story go away, they are mistaken.”
The Phony “Constant Contacts” Story
No sooner had Flynn’s firing been announced than the next phase of the campaign of leaks over Trump and Russia began. On Feb. 14, CNN and the New York Times published slight variants of the same apparently scandalous story of numerous contacts between multiple members of the Trump camp with the Russian at the very time the Russians were allegedly acting to influence the election.
There was little subtlety in how mainstream media outlets made their point. CNN’s headline was, “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.” The Times headline was even more sensational: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.”
But the attentive reader would soon discover that the stories did not reflect those headlines. In the very first paragraph of the CNN story, those “senior Russian officials” became “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” meaning that it included a wide range Russians who are not officials at all but known or suspected intelligence operatives in business and other sectors of society monitored by U.S. intelligence. A Trump associate dealing with such individuals would have no idea, of course, that they are working for Russian intelligence.
The Times story, on the other hand, referred to the Russians with whom Trump aides were said to be in contact last year as “senior Russian intelligence officials,” apparently glossing over a crucial distinction that sources had made to CNN between intelligence officials and Russians being monitored by U.S. intelligence.
But the Times story acknowledged that the Russian contacts also included government officials who were not intelligence officials and that the contacts had been made not only by Trump campaign officials but also associates of Trump who had done business in Russia. It further acknowledged it was “not unusual” for American business to come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwittingly in Russia and Ukraine, where “spy services are deeply embedded in society.”
Even more important, however, the Times story made it clear that the intelligence community was seeking evidence that Trump’s aides or associates were colluding with the Russians on the alleged Russian effort to influence the election, but that it had found no evidence of any such collusion. CNN failed to report that crucial element of the story.
The headlines and lead paragraphs of both stories, therefore, should have conveyed the real story: that the intelligence community had sought evidence of collusion by Trump aides with Russia but had not found it several months after reviewing the intercepted conversations and other intelligence.
Unwitting Allies of the War Complex?
Former CIA Director Brennan and other former Obama administration intelligence officials have used their power to lead a large part of the public to believe that Trump had conducted suspicious contacts with Russian officials without having the slightest evidence to support the contention that such contacts represent a serious threat to the integrity of the U.S. political process.
Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power. But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia.
Those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials.
Progressives in the anti-Trump movement are in danger of becoming an unwitting ally of those military and intelligence bureaucracies despite the fundamental conflict between their economic and political interests and the desires of people who care about peace, social justice and the environment.