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Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | May 4, 2019

George Orwell would have been in stitches Wednesday watching Attorney General William Barr and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spar on Russia-gate.  The hearing had the hallmarks of the intentionally or naively blind leading the blind with political shamelessness.

From time to time the discussion turned to the absence of a legal “predicate” to investigate President Donald Trump for colluding with Russia.  That is, of course, important; and we can expect to hear a lot more about that in coming months.

More important: what remains unacknowledged is the absence of an evidence-based major premise that should have been in place to anchor the rhetoric and accusations about Russia-gate over the past three years.  With a lack of evidence sufficient to support a major premise, any syllogism falls of its own weight.

The major premise that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and gave WikiLeaks highly embarrassing emails cannot bear close scrutiny. Yes, former CIA Director John Brennan has told Congress he does not “do evidence.” In the same odd vein, Brennan’s former FBI counterpart James Comey chose not to “do evidence” when he failed to seize and inspect the DNC computers that a contractor-of-ill-repute working for the DNC claimed were hacked by Russia.

Call us old fashioned, but we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) still “do evidence” — and, in the case at hand, forensic investigation.  For those who “can handle the truth,” the two former NSA technical directors in VIPS can readily explain how the DNC emails were not hacked — by Russia or anyone else — but rather were copied and leaked by someone with physical access to the DNC computers.

We first reported hard forensic evidence to support that judgment in a July 2017 memorandum for the president. Substantial evidence that has accumulated since then strengthens our confidence in that and in related conclusions.  Our conclusions are not based on squishy “assessments,” but rather on empirical, forensic investigations — evidence based on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method.

Bizarre, Medieval

All “serious” members of the establishment, including Barr, his Senate interrogators, and the “mainstream media” feel required to accept as dogma the evidence-free conventional wisdom that Russia hacked into the DNC.  If you question it, you are, ipso facto, a heretic — and a “conspiracy theorist,” to boot.

Again, shades of Orwell and his famous “two plus two equals five.”  Orwell’s protagonist in “1984,” Winston Smith, imagines that the State might proclaim that “two plus two equals five” is fact.  Smith wonders whether, if everybody believes it, does that make it true?

Actually, the end goal is not to get you to parrot that two plus two equals five. The end goal is to make it so you’d never even consider that two plus two could equal anything other than five.

During the entire Barr testimony Wednesday, no one departed from the safe, conventional wisdom about Russian hacking.  We in VIPS, at least, resist the notion that this makes it true.  We shall continue to insist that two and two is four, and point out the flaws in any squishy “Intelligence Community Assessment” that concludes, even “with high confidence,” that the required answer is “five.”

Doubtful Dogma

Wednesday’s Senate hearing brought a painful flashback to a similarly widely-held, but evidence-free dogma — that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. attacked that country. It gets worse: Many of the same people who promoted the spurious claims about WMD are responsible for developing and proclaiming the dogma about Russian hacking into the DNC.  The Oscar for his performance in the role of misleader goes, once again, to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose “credits” go back to the WMD fiasco in which he played a central role.

Before the war on Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put Clapper in charge of analysis of satellite imagery, the most definitive collection system for information on WMD.  In his memoir, Clapper admits, with stomach-churning nonchalance, that intelligence officers, including me, were so eager to help [spread the Cheney/Bush claim that Iraq had a ‘rogue WMD program’] that we found what wasn’t really there.” [Emphasis added]

John Brenna, left, and James Clapper. (LBJ Library via Flickr)

John Brennan, left, and James Clapper. (LBJ Library via Flickr)

Last November as Clapper was hawking his memoir at the Carnegie Endowment I had a chance during the Q and A to pursue him on that and on Russia-gate.  I began:

“You confess [in Clapper’s book] to having been shocked that no weapons of mass destruction were found. And then, to your credit, you admit, as you say here [quoting from the book], ‘the blame is due to intelligence officers, including me, who were so eager to help [the administration make war on Iraq] that we found what wasn’t really there.’”

“Now fast forward to two years ago. Your superiors were hell bent on finding ways to blame Trump’s victory on the Russians. Do you think that your efforts were guilty of the same sin here? Do you think that you found a lot of things that weren’t really there? Because that’s what our conclusion is, especially from the technical end. There was no hacking of the DNC; it was leaked, and you know that because you talked to NSA.”


Back to the Senate hearing on Wednesday: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), during a line of questioning about evidence of obstruction of justice, asked the attorney general if he personally reviewed the underlying evidence in the Mueller report.

“No,” said Barr, “We accepted the statements in the report as factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurate. We accepted it as accurate.”

Harris: You accepted the report as evidence? You did not question or look at the underlying evidence?

Barr: We accepted the statements in the report and the characterization of the evidence as true.”

Harris: “You have made it clear that you did not look at the evidence.”

It was crystal clear on Wednesday that Barr had bigger fish to fry, as well as protective nets to deflect incoming shells. He is likely to be preoccupied for weeks answering endless questions about his handling of the Mueller report. It is altogether possible, though, that in due course he plans to look into the origins of Russia-gate and the role of Clapper, Brennan and Comey in creating and promoting the evidence-free dogma that Russia hacked into the DNC — and, more broadly, that, absent Russia’s support, Trump would not be president.

For the moment, however, we shall have to live with “The Russians Still Did It, Whether Trump Colluded or Not.” There remains an outside chance, however, that the truth will emerge, perhaps even before November 2020, and that, this time, the Democrats will be shown to have shot themselves in both feet.

For further background, please see:

VIPS Fault Mueller Probe, Criticize Refusal to Interview Assange

VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was a CIA analyst for 27 years, with special expertise on Russia, and prepared The President’s Daily Brieffor Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.  He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

‘Anything is possible’: Trump talks North Korea peace after phone call with Putin

RT | May 4, 2019

President Trump took to Twitter to declare his support for peace on the Korean Peninsula, after discussing the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin. North Korea, meanwhile, test-fired short-range missiles.

“Anything in this very interesting world is possible,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “But I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”

Trump’s tweet came after he spoke with Putin by phone on Friday. The two leaders discussed a range of geopolitical issues, including nuclear arms control and the Korean peace process.

The president touted the success of the call on Saturday, heralding the “tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia, despite what you read and see in the Fake News Media.” After the phone call, certain media outlets chided Trump for not pressing Putin on supposed Russian election meddling.

Despite Trump’s insistence that a “deal will happen” with North Korea, results thus far have been lacking. A much-anticipated summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last year ended with a vague promise from Kim to work towards denuclearization, while a follow-up summit in Hanoi, Vietnam this year collapsed with no agreement when Trump found Kim’s demands untenable.

Kim has since broadened his horizons, meeting with Putin in Vladivostok last month. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also reportedly considering a meeting with Kim, according to a Friday report in the Shankei newspaper.

Diplomacy aside, Pyongyang has reportedly reversed its dismantling of missile and rocket test sites in the wake of the failed Hanoi summit, and on Saturday morning fired a salvo of short-range projectiles out to sea from the city of Wonsan, on its east coast.

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Anti-War Voices on Both Sides Warn of Coming CIA Provocation to Kill Guaidó, Blame Maduro

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | May 3, 2019

Prominent American anti-war figures from across the ideological spectrum are warning that the Trump administration may soon turn on Juan Guaidó — the man they recognize as Venezuela’s interim president — in order to justify military intervention in Venezuela.

These warnings followed Guaidó’s failed attempt to lead a military uprising on Tuesday, which analysts characterized as a desperate move, with Guaidó’s parallel government having failed to gain any significant traction in Venezuela since late January. With Guaidó now quickly losing legitimacy and momentum since Tuesday’s failed coup, it has become increasingly probable that his political patrons — the United States — may soon turn on him, as any harm done to him could be blamed on Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, which would allow the U.S. government to justify aggressive action against the Maduro-led government.

One of the first prominent anti-war voices to raise concern that the U.S. government, particularly the CIA, may now see Guaidó as more valuable dead than alive was Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and co-host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, with the former congressman, presidential candidate and well-known libertarian. During Tuesday’s edition of the Liberty Report, Paul raised concern that a provocation could be used to push for foreign (i.e., U.S.) military intervention in Venezuela:

The big danger is a hard war breaking out. I’d still bet it won’t be too bad, with thousands of troops moving. But it could be a guerrilla war or something like that. If there is a false flag or some important official on either side gets killed, you can’t tell what might happen.”

McAdams responded, pointing out that Guaidó himself could soon become such a target for a provocation:

He [Guaidó] has been a kind of a hapless figure so far. He calls for mass protests and no one shows up. I don’t think he realizes right now that he is actually now worth more dead than alive not only to the CIA, but also to his own opposition people. A shot in the crowd or something like that to take Guaidó out. It might shock you, Dr. Paul, but the CIA is pretty good at this kind of things.”

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , | 1 Comment

Russia FM Blasts US Illegal ‘Methods of Blackmail’ Against Cuba

teleSUR | May 4, 2019

Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged the international community to unite in condemning the United States’ new anti-Cuban blockade measure, which came about after President Donald Trump lifted the waiver on Title III of the once-dormant Helms-Burton Act.

“We emphasize again that the methods of blackmail and pressure used by Washington are absolutely illegal. We call on all responsible forces to defend the U.N. Charter and international law in order to jointly put an end to the anti-Cuba blockade,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also pointed out that Washington is threatening more sanctions on Cuba in the vein of the “Monroe Doctrine” in an “overt encroachment” on the sovereignty of the Latin American nation.

The new sanctions were made known when United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Title II would come into effect on May 2, permitting U.S. nationals to sue Cuban entities or foreign entities operating on the island prior to the Cuban Revolution for damages.

Moscow said the measures are excessive since Cuba has repeatedly expressed readiness to resolve existing contradictions with the United States regarding bilateral issues.

The Helms-Burton Act is a bill passed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1996. However, this is the first time that any U.S. administration has authorized its implementation.

“Through the devaluation of democratic principles and rejection of international legal norms, the U.S. neglects the values it promotes, creating obstacles for all countries leading a separate policy and refusing to follow Washington’s directions,” the Foreign Ministry noted.

Canada, the European Union as well as other countries have rejected the activation of the Helms-Burton Act, explaining that it violates the norms of international law.

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

After Venezuela coup failure, officials & mainstream media desperately spinning explanations

RT | May 4, 2019

Months of insistence in Washington that the people of Venezuela stood by the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido basically went up in smoke when his ‘Operation Liberty’ fizzled. The question now is whom to blame.

Senior US officials like National Security Advisor John Bolton and special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams expressed confidence in “regime change” in Caracas on Tuesday, named top Venezuelan officials ready to defect, and even spoke of signed documents to that effect.

Yet literally none of this happened, and by the early evening on Tuesday, the handful of Guaido’s armed supporters were seeking sanctuary in foreign embassies.

Then came the spin. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went on CNN and Fox News to claim that Maduro was getting ready to flee to Cuba, but “the Russians” talked him out of it. Bolton claimed Maduro was “hiding in a bunker” even as video evidence from Caracas showed him addressing supporters numbering in the thousands on May Day. The truth was inescapable, though: Guaido had failed.

“The opposition took a step backward with the military,” Rocio San Miguel, president of the Colombian NGO Control Ciudadano, told Bloomberg on Thursday. “Guaido appearing with [his mentor Leopoldo] Lopez at a single point in the city with a few dozen soldiers and no major firepower showed their weakness.”

So what happened? Several US media outlets have since sought to explain, citing anonymous sources allegedly privy to US government plots. These sources told Bloomberg they believe Maduro got wind of the coup on April 29, and Guaido rushed it ahead of schedule “or it would all collapse.”

Lopez was released from house arrest because the head of the Venezuelan intelligence agency SEBIN, General Manuel Christopher Figuera, had defected to Guaido, the anonymous and entirely unverifiable sources claimed, adding that it was Lopez resurfacing that might have spooked other senior officials – defense minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno, and military intelligence and presidential guard head General Ivan Hernandez.

According to these sources, Figuera’s wife left Venezuela on Sunday for the safety of the US, and the general left the country as well after he was sacked on Tuesday night, though his whereabouts are unknown.

Meanwhile, AP published a long speculative piece about missed opportunities to turn senior Venezuelan officials, from Hernandez being denied a visa in 2017 for his 3-year-old son’s brain surgery, to Padrino reaching out to the US government in early 2016, after a troubled Venezuelan election.

Padrino in particular has been seen as “a potential white knight,” being a graduate of the School of the Americas. Apparently, very little US influence in the Venezuelan army had survived what the AP described as “thorough scrubbing” by Former President Hugo Chavez.

“There’s a theory that’s gaining ground, and I think there’s some credence to it, that it was all part of a big ‘rope-a-dope’ operation, whereby the Maduro officials pretended to go along with this coup to smoke out the opposition,” Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, told RT.

“That’s one possibility, the other is that Pompeo’s lying” about Maduro’s attempted flight to Cuba, McAdams said, adding that neither reflects well on the US.

Whatever the truth, there is no escaping the fact that Washington has pushing for regime change in Caracas for months with sanctions and other forms of pressure, and openly since “recognizing” Guaido in January, to absolutely no avail. All the hot air coming from Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and other high officials pushing the regime change narrative has had far more effect in the US than in Venezuela.

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Trump Contradicts Pompeo and Bolton’s Venezuela Claims After Call With Putin

Sputnik – May 4, 2019

President Donald Trump appeared to contradict his own senior officials’ claims about Russian “involvement” in Venezuela on Friday following his telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics. And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. And I feel the same way,” Trump said, speaking to reporters in Washington on Friday during a meeting with the Slovak prime minister.

According to Trump, the US wanted to help Venezuela on a “humanitarian basis,” including with the delivery of food and water to the country’s “starving” population. “I thought it was a very positive conversation I had with President Putin on Venezuela,” Trump said.

Trump’s remarks appeared to stand at odds with earlier claims by several of his key officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, about alleged Russian “interference” in Venezuela.

On Wednesday, Pompeo had a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, telling him that Russia should “not interfere” in the Latin American country. Lavrov called the allegations of Russian involvement “rather surreal” and said that Russia’s “principled position” was to “never interfere in the affairs of others.”

Earlier, Bolton warned countries “external to the Western Hemisphere,” including Russia against deploying military forces in Venezuela, and signaled the US administration’s readiness to use the Monroe Doctrine in its policy toward Latin America. US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams similarly indicated that the US might impose sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s military assistance to Venezuela, telling reporters that “the Russians will pay a price for this” for their meddling earlier this year.

Pompeo, Bolton and acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan met at the pentagon on Friday to discuss military options in Venezuela, with Shanahan reiterating the White House’s oft-repeated claim that all options remained “on the table” in resolving the Venezuelan crisis and dismissing concerns about a lack of good intelligence on the Venezuelan country.

Later Friday, unnamed sources told CNN that President Trump had asked questions “about the reliability of US intelligence” on Venezuela, given that the expected military uprising hoped for by opposition leader Juan Guaido “and some US officials” earlier this week failed to pay off.

The long-standing crisis in Venezuela escalated on Tuesday, after Guaido announced the beginning of the “final phase” of the “Operation Freedom” campaign to topple the government, and urged members of the military to defect and join the opposition. The call to action led to clashes in the capital between security forces and the opposition, leaving dozens injured. A day later, Maduro appeared on television to announce that the coup had failed, and to say that a criminal investigation aiming to uncover its organisers had been launched.

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

MSM melts down as Trump talks Venezuela with Putin… and ‘feels same way’

RT | May 4, 2019

America’s most trusted talking heads are in meltdown mode, once again accusing Donald Trump of taking orders from Vladimir Putin, after the US leader was seemingly too soft with the Russian president in a recent phone call.

Rachel Maddow, Jake Tapper, and other spirited Russiagate promoters suffered full-on meltdowns upon learning that Trump apparently hadn’t ‘properly’ discussed the issue of “election meddling” in his first phone call with Vladimir Putin since the Mueller report’s release.

Rather, the two leaders spoke about “trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, nuclear arms control” and “the Russian hoax” during the hour-long call, according to Trump’s tweet.

Scandalously, the US president failed to press Putin about the most critical, life-and-death issue facing the United States – a massive flub-up that did not go unnoticed by the intrepid Washington press corps.

“Did you tell [Putin] not to meddle in the next election?” an unseen reporter asked the president during a Friday press conference.

“We had a good conversation about many different things,” Trump replied. “We didn’t discuss that.”

As for Venezuela, Trump had the audacity to suggest that the Russian president “is not looking to get involved at all, other than that he’d like to see something positive happen” in the South American nation. Trump then showed his true collusion colors, admitting that he “feels the same away” about the ongoing political crisis in Caracas.

His comments were received with predictable hysteria.

CNN’s Erin Burnett expertly deduced that Trump was “kowtowing” to Putin — on both “election meddling” and Venezuela.

“‘Not looking to get involved’ is just blatantly false – according to Trump’s own top team,” she sniffed, incredulous that Trump would contradict his more hawkish secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Earlier this week, Pompeo claimed that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was about to flee to Cuba and was only persuaded to remain in Caracas because Russia allegedly convinced him to stay.

Burnett’s colleague, Jake Tapper, was inconsolable as he attempted to wrap his head around the apparently unforgivable contents of a routine telephone conversation.

“He is giving Putin’s point of view, almost as if he is the spokesman for the Kremlin!” the CNN anchor fumed, referring to the Russian president as “the man who led and continues to lead cyberattacks on the US.” Not missing a beat, Tapper then proceeded to accuse Trump of “continuing to say things about the Mueller investigation that weren’t true.”

True to form, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow came close to suffering an on-air stroke over the phone call. Still reeling from her post-Russiagate ratings slump, Maddow looked at Bolton and Pompeo as similarly unmoored kindred spirits.

The MSNBC host addressed them directly during her broadcast: “Hey, John Bolton, hey, Mike Pompeo, are you guys enjoying your jobs right now?”

“How do you come to work anymore if you’re John Bolton?” she added.

Western media outlets have repeatedly expressed indignation over any attempt by the world’s two largest nuclear powers to engage in dialogue. A meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki, Finland was described as constructive by both parties, but the US president was still hounded for not excoriating Putin to the media’s liking.

Likely anticipating similar hysteria over the phone call, Trump stated on Friday morning that “as I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

May 4, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 1 Comment