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Why Bob Woodward’s ‘Rage’ is a lie built on a lie, and what Trump vs ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’ really is about

By Scott Ritter | RT | September 16, 2020

Bob Woodward’s new insider account of the Trump administration, ‘Rage’, details the multi-faceted controversies surrounding President Trump’s approach to governance – none more so than his relationship with the military.

Bob Woodward is a legendary reporter whose talent for getting insiders to speak about the most sensitive matters in government dates back to Watergate and the Nixon presidency. His most recent presidential expose, ‘Rage’, touches on a wide range of controversies, from the coronavirus pandemic to issues relating to war, and the promise of war.

It is Trump’s tortured relationship with the military that stands out the most, especially as told through the eyes of former Secretary of Defense Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, a retired marine general. It is clear that Bob Woodward spent hours speaking with Mattis – the insights, emotions and internal voice captured in the book show a level of intimacy that could only be reached through in-depth interviews, and Woodward has a well-earned reputation for getting people to speak to him.

The book makes it clear that Mattis viewed Trump as a threat to the US’ standing as the defender of a rules-based order – built on the back of decades-old alliances – that had been in place since the end of the Second World War.

It also makes it clear that Mattis and the military officers he oversaw placed defending this order above implementing the will of the American people, as expressed through the free and fair election that elevated Donald Trump to the position of commander-in-chief. In short, Mattis and his coterie of generals knew best, and when the president dared issue an order or instruction that conflicted with their vision of how the world should work, they would do their best to undermine this order, all the while confirming to the president that it was being followed.

The military is trapped in an inherited reality divorced from the present

This trend was on display in Woodward’s telling of Trump’s efforts to forge better relations with North Korea. At every turn, Mattis and his military commanders sought to isolate the president from the reality on the ground, briefing him only on what they thought he needed to know, and keeping him in the dark about what was really going on.

In a telling passage, Woodward takes us into the mind of Jim Mattis as he contemplates the horrors of a nuclear war with North Korea, and the responsibility he believed he shouldered when it came to making the hard decision as to whether nuclear weapons should be used or not. Constitutionally, the decision was the president’s alone to make, something Mattis begrudgingly acknowledges. But in Mattis’ world, he, as secretary of defense, would be the one who influenced that decision.

Mattis, along with the other general officers described by Woodward, is clearly gripped with what can only be described as the ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’.

What defines this ‘syndrome’ is perhaps best captured in the words of Emma Sky, the female peace activist-turned adviser to General Ray Odierno, the one-time commander of US forces in Iraq. In a frank give-and-take captured by Ms. Sky in her book ‘The Unravelling’, Odierno spoke of the value he placed on the military’s willingness to defend “freedom” anywhere in the world. “There is,” he said, “no one who understands more the importance of liberty and freedom in all its forms than those who travel the world to defend it.”

Ms. Sky responded in typically direct fashion: “One day, I will have you admit that the [Iraq] war was a bad idea, that the administration was led by a radical neocon program, that the US’s standing in the world has gone down greatly, and that we are far less safe than we were before 9/11.”

Odierno would have nothing of it. “It will never happen while I’m the commander of soldiers in Iraq.”

“To lead soldiers in battle,” Ms. Sky noted, “a commander had to believe in the cause.” Left unsaid was the obvious: even if the cause was morally and intellectually unsound.

This, more than anything, is the most dangerous thing about the ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’ as captured by Bob Woodward – the fact that the military is trapped in an inherited reality divorced from the present, driven by precepts which have nothing to with what is, but rather by what the military commanders believe should be. The unyielding notion that the US military is a force for good becomes little more than meaningless drivel when juxtaposed with the reality that the mission being executed is inherently wrong.

The ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’ lends itself to dishonesty and, worse, to self-delusion. It is one thing to lie; it is another altogether to believe the lie as truth.

No single general had the courage to tell Trump allegations against Syria were a hoax

The cruise missile attack on Syria in early April 2017 stands out as a case in point. The attack was ordered in response to allegations that Syria had dropped a bomb containing the sarin nerve agent on a town – Khan Shaykhun – that was controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic militants.

Trump was led to believe that the 59 cruise missiles launched against Shayrat Airbase – where the Su-22 aircraft alleged to have dropped the bombs were based – destroyed Syria’s capability to carry out a similar attack in the future. When shown post-strike imagery in which the runways were clearly untouched, Trump was outraged, lashing out at Secretary of Defense Mattis in a conference call. “I can’t believe you didn’t destroy the runway!”, Woodward reports the president shouting.

“Mr. President,” Mattis responds in the text, “they would rebuild the runway in 24 hours, and it would have little effect on their ability to deploy weapons. We destroyed the capability to deploy weapons” for months, Mattis said.

“That was the mission the president had approved,” Woodward writes, clearly channeling Mattis, “and they had succeeded.”

The problem with this passage is that it is a lie. There is no doubt that Bob Woodward has the audio tape of Jim Mattis saying these things. But none of it is true. Mattis knew it when he spoke to Woodward, and Woodward knew it when he wrote the book.

There was no confirmed use of chemical weapons by Syria at Khan Shaykhun. Indeed, the forensic evidence available about the attack points to the incident being a false flag effort – a successful one, it turns out – on the part of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists to provoke a US military strike against Syria. No targets related to either the production, storage or handling of chemical weapons were hit by the US cruise missiles, if for no other reason than no such targets could exist if Syria did not possess and/or use a chemical weapon against Khan Shaykhun.

Moreover, the US failed to produce a narrative of causality which provided some underlying logic to the targets that were struck at Khan Shaykhun – “Here is where the chemical weapons were stored, here is where the chemical weapons were filled, here is where the chemical weapons were loaded onto the aircraft.” Instead, 59 cruise missiles struck empty aircraft hangars, destroying derelict aircraft, and killing at least four Syrian soldiers and up to nine civilians.

The next morning, the same Su-22 aircraft that were alleged to have bombed Khan Shaykhun were once again taking off from Shayrat Air Base – less than 24 hours after the US cruise missiles struck that facility. President Trump had every reason to be outraged by the results.

But the President should have been outraged by the processes behind the attack, where military commanders, fully afflicted by ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’, offered up solutions that solved nothing for problems that did not exist. Not a single general (or admiral) had the courage to tell the president that the allegations against Syria were a hoax, and that a military response was not only not needed, but would be singularly counterproductive.

But that’s not how generals and admirals – or colonels and lieutenant colonels – are wired. That kind of introspective honesty cannot happen while they are in command.

Misleading the American public 

Bob Woodward knows this truth, but he chose not to give it a voice in his book, because to do so would disrupt the pre-scripted narrative that he had constructed, around which he bent and twisted the words of those he interviewed – including the president and Jim Mattis. As such, ‘Rage’ is, in effect, a lie built on a lie. It is one thing for politicians and those in power to manipulate the truth to their advantage. It’s something altogether different for journalists to report something as true that they know to be a lie.

On the back cover of ‘Rage’, the Pulitzer prize-winning historian Robert Caro is quoted from a speech he gave about Bob Woodward. “Bob Woodward,” Caro notes, “a great reporter. What is a great reporter? Someone who never stops trying to get as close to the truth as possible.”

After reading ‘Rage’, one cannot help but conclude the opposite – that Bob Woodward has written a volume which pointedly ignores the truth. Instead, he gives voice to a lie of his own construct, predicated on the flawed accounts of sources inflicted with ‘Military Messiah Syndrome’, whose words embrace a fantasy world populated by military members fulfilling missions far removed from the common good of their fellow citizens – and often at conflict with the stated intent and instruction of the civilian leadership they ostensibly serve. In doing so, Woodward is as complicit as the generals and former generals he quotes in misleading the American public about issues of fundamental importance.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

Poland accuses Russian air traffic controllers of DELIBERATELY crashing president’s plane, seeks their arrest

RT | September 16, 2020

Polish prosecutors are now seeking the arrest of three Russian air traffic controllers at the Smolensk-Severny airport, accusing them of deliberately causing the crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski in 2010.

Investigators have “applied to the district court of the Warsaw-Mokotow region with a motion for the temporary arrest” of the three men, Ewa Bialik, spokesperson for the Prosecutor General’s Office, told reporters on Wednesday.

“The charges brought against the air traffic controllers relate to the deliberate provocation of a plane crash that resulted in the death of many people,” she added.

Kaczynski and his wife were among the 96 people on board the Polish Air Force Tu-154M that crashed outside Smolensk on April 10, 2010, while attempting a landing in thick fog. Initial investigations by both Polish and Russian officials found no technical problem with the aircraft, and blamed pilot error.

However, the president’s twin brother Jaroslaw has insisted ever since that the crash was caused by some kind of Russian perfidy. His claim seems to have gained traction in Polish public opinion, as a survey published earlier this year showed 44 percent of Poles considered the plane crash the major “current issue” standing between Warsaw and Moscow.

While he holds no elected office at the moment, Jaroslaw Kaczynski chairs the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been in power since 2015. The current charges against Russian air traffic controllers are based on the claim by Polish investigators from 2018 that traces of explosives were found in the wreckage. However, no such traces were found during the original probe, nor in the soil samples collected at the time.

The Smolensk crash was a massive blow to attempts at patching up Polish-Russian relations. Kaczynski was supposed to attend a commemoration of the Soviet killing of Polish soldiers in Katyn Forest during WWII, an issue that has troubled relations between Moscow and Warsaw ever since.

Under PiS rule, Poland has repeatedly clashed with Russia on the diplomatic level, while urging fellow NATO states to permanently station troops on its territory. However, Warsaw has also fought numerous political battles with the EU, which has objected to PiS policies that conflicted with values officially embraced by Brussels.

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Is There A Flu Shot / COVID Link? – Questions For Corbett


Today on Questions For Corbett, Corbett Report member Scott asks about a potential flu vaccine / COVID link. James demonstrates how even the mainstream science shows that such a correlation does exist, although it isn’t being trumpeted in the Big Pharma-funded corporate media.

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Watch on Archive / BitChute / LBRY / / YouTube or Download the mp4

Scott’s question

The Influenza Vaccine and COVID-19

Lies, Damned Lies and Coronavirus Statistics numbers)

Official doubletalk hides serious problems with flu shot safety and effectiveness

Association of spontaneous abortion with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine containing H1N1pdm09 in 2010–11 and 2011–12

Influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference among Department of Defense personnel during the 2017–2018 influenza season

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | | 3 Comments

Bill Gates doubts FDA & CDC can be trusted on Covid & vaccines. Sure, let’s trust a non-doctor billionaire who pays media instead

By Helen Buyniski | RT | September 16, 2020

As plutocratic philanthropist Bill Gates urges Americans to reject government regulators and embrace private-sector vaccine developers – which he both funds and profits from – it’s worth asking why people still trust this man.

Gates bemoaned the decline of the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, the US’ two chief health regulatory agencies in charge of monitoring drug safety, in a pair of interviews on Tuesday, insisting they’d become politicized servants of the Trump administration. Instead, he argued, Americans should trust private-sector pharmaceutical companies – specifically Pfizer – to save the day with a Covid-19 vaccine, possibly even before the year’s end!

Like much of the advice Gates has spouted during the Covid-19 pandemic, his dismissal of the regulators was self-serving and unsupported by medical expertise or evidence. Worse, it was reported uncritically by the media establishment, many of whom neglected to disclose the money they receive from the Gates Foundation alongside their fawning coverage of its founder.

As a major investor in the pharmaceutical sector who has shoveled millions of dollars into development of seven different vaccines for the novel coronavirus alone, Gates stands to make trillions if one of “his” jabs eventually “wins.” He has made no secret of his desire to vaccinate the entire population of the earth, a mind-bogglingly expensive project that would presumably be paid for by the same hapless governments that have been bullied into assuming all the liability for the rushed jab’s side effects.

With the US and other countries already inking multiple high-dollar deals for hitherto-untested (and in a few cases, clearly unsafe) vaccines, the only potential obstacles to the biggest payday in pharmaceutical history are the regulators, which – though largely defanged and domesticated by a muscular pharmaceutical lobby – still require a few basic safety requirements to be met in order to roll out a new shot. After a patient in AstraZeneca’s vaccine trial was left with serious spinal cord damage, it was the FDA that voiced concerns about resuming the trial – even as British regulators merrily green-lighted potential further harms. Every regulatory roadblock is more money Gates has to shell out to eventually recoup his investment.

There’s good reason to be cautious. Pandemrix, the last rush-developed vaccine rolled out under the watch of the man in charge of the Trump administration’s vaccine gold rush – former GlaxoSmithKline vaccine director Moncef Slaoui – left hundreds of children ill, including brain damage, and cost the UK government millions of pounds in restitution payments.

Gates can perhaps be forgiven for his ignorance of the Pandemrix saga. After all, the Microsoft founder is not a doctor. He never even graduated college, let alone attended medical school. But his staggering financial success has been used to distract from his total lack of expertise, and especially since the pandemic began, he’s been carted out to speak on topics about which he knows next to nothing. From the utility of lockdowns (he loves ‘em) to hydroxychloroquine treatment (evil, bad, wrong) to conspiracy theorists (censor them), there’s no subject on which Gates’ word isn’t treated as gospel.

But it’s easy to see the conflicts of interest here, too. A population locked down for an extended period is much more likely to accept a vaccine as a condition for regaining their freedom, no matter how untested or unsafe. An effective, low-cost treatment for Covid-19 – which many doctors swear hydroxychloroquine is when administered alongside zinc and an antibiotic – would completely scuttle his universal vaccination plan. And given how many of those so-called conspiracy theorists are speculating about Gates’ real motivations (hint: the man who wants to surveil the entire surface of the earth from space and talks about digital “certificates” to show who’s had Covid-19 or been vaccinated is probably not doing this out of a love for humanity), he has every reason to want them silenced.

Indeed, the conflicts of interest in the vast majority of Gates’ public statements are so obvious they wouldn’t even bear mentioning –  except that not one mainstream media article worshipfully reprinting his “words of wisdom” mentions them. With so few reasons to trust Gates, why is he still trotted out as an expert on every topic?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hands out millions of dollars every year to news outlets to “inform and engage communities,” and most well-known English-language media are on their list of grantees. In addition to titles like the Guardian, Financial Times, National Public Radio, and NBCUniversal, the very entities supposedly tasked with guarding journalistic integrity are in Gates’ pocket. Groups like the Poynter Institute, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting have all benefited from the vaccine magnate’s largesse. And by donating to entities like the New Venture Fund, Gates can funnel money to other media outlets without explicitly declaring where the money is going.

While representatives of the Gates Foundation have hotly denied their donations pay for loyalty (or, in the case of the fact-checkers who reflexively defend the billionaire against any and all unsavory claims, for selective truth-telling), a recent report by the Columbia Journalism Review found Gates had basically bought the most trusted names in news. More disturbingly, it found evidence that the Gates Foundation had in at least one case gone over the heads of reporters to pressure their editors to quash stories critical of it. Money talks, especially in the perpetually cash-strapped journalism industry.

It’s easy to see, then, why the media establishment hangs on Gates’ every word. But perhaps all the other millions of people to whom he’s presented with everything short of a halo over his head should step back and re-examine whether they trust Big Brother in a sweater vest to decide their future.

Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 2 Comments

Venezuela Arrests ‘CIA Spy’ on Oil Refinery ‘Stakeout’

By Paul Dobson | Venezuelanalysis | September 14, 2020

Mérida – Venezuelan authorities have charged a US citizen with terrorism after he was arrested on a “stakeout” near the country’s largest oil refinery complex.

According to the police investigation, Matthew John Heath is a former US marine who served as a communications operator in a “secret CIA base” in Iraq between 2006 and 2016, where he was hired by Virginia-based private security contractor MVM. MVM services include offering “secret agents […] primarily to the US government.”

Heath was detained by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) on Thursday afternoon in Falcon State alongside three Venezuelans, including a GNB sergeant major and an army soldier.

The four men were reportedly collating information about the nearby Amuay and Cardon refineries, and were caught in possession of “specialised weapons,” including an AT4 84mm grenade launcher, an UZI 9mm submachine gun, four blocks of C4 explosives, large amounts of US dollars, and a satellite phone, which Heath has reportedly refused to unblock. The former marine was allegedly arrested without a passport, but in possession of photos of the refineries and Venezuelan military installations, as well as a badge which “connects him to the CIA.”

Confiscated items from US ex-marine Matthew John Heath. (Tareck William Saab)

During a press conference Monday, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tareck William Saab told reporters that Heath formed part of a “US intelligence operation” which sought to “collect strategic information regarding military, electrical and oil-based installations” in order to “infiltrate US intelligence agents” from Colombia and carry out “acts of sabotage.”

The four detainees, as well as four more Venezuelans who were subsequently arrested in Maracaibo City in connection to the operation, are to be charged with terrorism, illegal arms trafficking and criminal association.

Following the bust, President Nicolas Maduro urged oil workers to “tighten external and internal security” at the refineries to counter the “US imperialist war of vengeance which looks to stop Venezuela from producing oil derivatives.”

US agencies have not commented on the arrests so far.

Thursday’s bust comes only weeks after a Venezuelan court sentenced two former US green berets to 20 years in prison for leading a failed mercenary incursion in May. According to televised confessions from the former soldiers, ‘Operation Gedeon’ looked to kidnap Maduro and trigger a coup. US private security firm Silvercorp was hired by the Juan Guaido-led opposition to carry out the operation.

The Amuay and Cardon refineries form the world’s second largest refining complex, with a joint capacity to produce 955,000 barrels of gasoline a day, but are currently working at 10 percent capacity. With the country facing an increasingly severe nationwide fuel shortage, the government announced efforts to reactivate the refineries in June. However, production has been repeatedly halted by technical failures and queues at the gas stations have worsened since.

Venezuela’s oil output has fallen from 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2017 to 339,000 bpd in August under the weight of punishing US sanctions. In recent years, the industry also has been beset by a range of problems, including corruption, mismanagement, underinvestment and brain drain.

Apart from denouncing the US blockade, Maduro’s government has frequently pointed to acts of “sabotage” against the industry as evidence of US meddling, including the 2012 fire at the Amuay refinery which killed 55 people. US officials have also publicly admitted to targeting the country’s oil industry as part of Washington’s efforts to oust the Maduro government.

September 16, 2020 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

‘Vicious slanders’: China hits out at Australian foreign interference allegations

RT | September 16, 2020

Chinese officials in Australia have dismissed allegations of foreign interference as “vicious slanders.” The denial follows reports that a consular member had been investigated for his role in a suspected propaganda campaign.

The Chinese Consulate in Sydney said on Wednesday that it wanted to promote “friendly exchanges and pragmatic cooperation,” and that it had always abided by “international law and basic norms of international relations.”

“The accusations that the Consulate General and its official engaged in infiltration activities are totally baseless and nothing but vicious slanders.”

Relations between the two countries sunk to their lowest point in decades amid a months-long investigation into whether top Chinese diplomats, academics and journalists were involved in deliberately spreading propaganda and influencing Australian officials.

On September 15, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported it had obtained documents showing that Australian Federal Police (AFP) were investigating whether a consulate official was involved in the suspected influencing of a state politician and policy adviser.

According to the report, an AFP warrant named consulate member Sun Yantao in relation to an investigation involving New South Wales (NSW) State Parliament member Shaoquett Moselmane and one of his policy advisers, John Zhisen Zhang.

Moselmane’s home and office were raided by AFP and Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) officers in June, during which computers and other communication devices were seized. The investigation was focused on whether Moselmane’s activities as a lawmaker were influenced by members of the Chinese Communist Party, with whom he allegedly corresponded.

Gradually worsening relations between the two countries have also affected journalists from both sides. Last week, two reporters working for Australian media in China were rushed out of the country “for their safety.” Before their departure, the correspondents were questioned by China’s state security ministry in relation to the case of Cheng Lei, an Australian China-based journalist who worked for English-language channel CGTN. Cheng was detained in August and remains in custody over suspected activities that endanger China’s security.

At the same time, Beijing has repeatedly condemned the ‘harassment’ of Chinese journalists in Australia. The latest incident of this sort came on late Tuesday, when ASIO agents raided the homes of four Chinese journalists and confiscated communications items, raising questions of a tit-for-tat escalation between the sides, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

Deteriorating relations between Australia and China partially resemble those playing out between China and the US, where moves have already been made to counter alleged influence and intelligence operations by Beijing.

In July, the Chinese consulate in Houston was forced to close suddenly due to the threat of “espionage and influence activities,” according to a senior US Justice Department official.

Earlier in the year, Chinese-state media organizations operating in the US were told they would be treated as foreign government functionaries, instilling them with the same administrative requirements as embassies and consulates.

According to Washington, the moves were for the purpose of curbing undue Chinese influence from within the US; however, they were met with heavy criticism from Beijing. China has accused both the US and Australia of holding double standards in their approach to freedom of the press and free speech.

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

Germany Reportedly Offered Washington LNG Investment Worth $1.2Bln to Save Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2, a joint venture between European energy companies and Russia’s Gazprom, has battled challenges such as obtaining clearances from involved countries and US sanctions. It now faces threats from the German government to halt construction over Russia’s purported role in the yet-to-be-proven poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Germany had reportedly offered to invest up to 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States as a way of saving the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, targeted by Washington’s sanctions, according to sources cited by Die Zeit newspaper.

The non-official proposal is suggested as having been sent by the German Finance Ministry on 7 August, before Washington imposed sanctions on companies involved in the project.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, cited by Die Zeit, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz reportedly vowed to earmark close to 1 billion euros in funding for the construction of LNG terminals if Washington agreed to abandon sanctions targeting firms involved in Nord Stream 2. The LNG terminals in question were to be built at two locations on the North Sea coast.

“In return, the United States will allow the construction and operation of Nord Stream 2 to proceed unhindered. The US will not exercise its legal scope for sanctions,” Die Zeit quoted the letter as saying.

Other proposals included in the cited paper allegedly pertained to a gas transit contract for Ukraine and the financing of an alternative pipeline and a terminal that would allow Poland to use the US LNG.

A spokesman for the German Finance Ministry did not offer an official comment on the report.

Challenge-Riddled Mega-Project

The Nord Stream 2 mega-project, worth $10.5 billion, is a joint venture funded by Russia’s Gazprom and five EU energy giants, Uniper, Wintershall, OMV, Engie, and Royal Dutch Shell, that will ultimately be capable of pumping around 55 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Russia to Germany and the rest of Europe.

Despite long being defended by its participants as a purely economic venture rather than a political one, the 1,230 km pipeline project has been forced to tackle a plethora of challenges, ranging from negotiating operating terms and obtaining clearances from the involved countries, to US sanctions, imposed in December 2019 against a key contractor, Switzerland-based AllSeas.

The sanctions outlined in the 2020 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) came as the Nord Stream 2 project had just 160 km left to build.

Washington has long claimed that the Nord Stream 2 project would leave Ukraine without money from Russian gas transit, while making Europe dependent on Russian gas. The EU and Russia have denied these allegations, insisting that the project is purely an economic one.

The US has also been driven by ambitions to sell Germany and Eastern Europe its more expensive, tanker-delivered liquefied natural gas.

The pipeline envisions doubling the existing 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year capacity of the Nord Stream network once completed, and is set to make Germany a major energy hub.

Only recently, the project has been forced to deal with another threat to its existence, amid suggested sanctions against the joint venture after German authorities accused Moscow of being the culprit in the purported poisoning of political activist Alexei Navalny.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly told officials that “a final decision has not been taken” on the future of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as Washington has pressured Berlin to cancel the project, with Warsaw actively supporting the stance.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller fed into the speculations surrounding the future of Nord Stream 2, asserting that Poland was ready to offer Germany access to its Baltic Pipe gas pipeline project instead.

Baltic Pipe is a proposed 800-950 km natural gas pipeline between Poland and oil-rich Norwegian waters in the North Sea which is not yet under construction that Warsaw hopes to see completed by October 2022.

Since last week’s announcement that the Navalny case would be treated as an “attempted murder by poisoning”, the German government has faced pressure to scrap the Nord Stream 2 project, with some German lawmakers and several of Berlin’s foreign allies suggesting abandoning the nearly finished pipeline to ‘punish’ Russia, despite no proof having been provided to substantiate the allegations.

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Dark web voter database report casts new doubts on Russian election hack narrative

By Gareth Porter | Grayzone | September 13, 2020

A new report showing that US state-level voter databases were publicly available calls into question the narrative that Russian intelligence “targeted” US state election-related websites in 2016.

A September 1 report in the Moscow daily Kommersant on a “dark web” site offering a database of personal information on millions of registered American voters undermines one of the central themes of the Russia hysteria pervading US politics.

Democratic politicians and corporate media pundits have long accepted it as fact that Russian intelligence “targeted” US state election-related websites in 2016. But the Kommersant report shows that those state registered voter databases were already available to anyone in the public domain, eliminating any official Russian motive for hacking state websites.

Kommersant reported that a user on a dark web Forum known as Gorka9 offered free access to databases containing the information of 7.6 million Michigan voters, along with the state voter databases of Connecticut, Arkansas, Florida and North Carolina.

There are differences between the Michigan database described by Gorka9 and the one that the State of Michigan releases to the public upon request. Tracy Wimmer, the spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State, said in an e-mail to Grayzone that when the Michigan voter registration database is released to the public upon request, the state withholds “date of birth (year of birth is included), driver’s license number, the last four digits of someone’s social security number, email address and phone number….”  However, Gorka9’s description of the Michigan data includes driver’s license numbers, full dates of birth, social security numbers and emails.

In fact both un-redacted and redacted state voter files are obviously widely available on the dark web as well as elsewhere on the internet. Meduza, a Russian-language news site based in Riga, Latvia, published the Kommersant story along with an “anonFiles” download portal for access to the Michigan voter database and a page from it showing that it is the officially redacted version. The DHS and the FBI both acknowledged in response to the Kommersant story that “a lot of voter registration data is publicly available or easily purchased.”

Criminal hackers have been seeking to extract such personal information from online state personal databases for many years — not only from voter registration databases but from drivers license, health care and other databases. Oregon’s chief information security officer, Lisa Vasa, told the Washington Post in September 2017 that her team blocks “upwards of 14 million attempts to access our network every day.”

Ken Menzell, the legal counsel to the Illinois state Board of Elections, told this writer in a 2017 interview that the only thing new about the hack of the state’s voter database in 2016, in which personal data on 200,000 Illinois registered voters was exfiltrated, was that the hackers succeeded. Menzell recalled that hackers had been “trying constantly” to get into every Illinois personal database ever since 2006.

The motive for the hackers was simple: as observed by Andrey Arsentiev, the head of analytics and special projects at the private security partnership, Infowatch, databases can be mined for profits on the dark web, primarily by selling them to scam artists working on a mass scale. Gorka9 was offering state voter files for free because the owner had already squeezed all the potential profit out of selling them.

For the Russian government, on the other hand, such databases would be of little or no value. When FBI counterintelligence chief Bill Priestap was asked by a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 how Moscow might use personal voter registration data, the only explanation he could come up with was that the Russian government and its intelligence agencies were completely ignorant of the character of U.S. state voter databases. “They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” Priestap declared.

Priestap was obviously unaware of the absurdity of the suggestion that the Russian government had no idea what was in such databases in 2016. After all, the state voter registration databases had already been released by the states themselves into the public domain, and had been bought and sold on the dark web for many years. The FBI has steered clear of the embarrassing suggestion by Priestap ever since.

Priestap’s inability to conjure up a plausible reason for Russia to hack U.S. election sites points to the illogical and baseless nature of the claims of a Russian threat to the U.S. presidential election.

DHS creates the Russian cyber campaign against state election sites

Back in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security did its best to market the narrative of Russian infiltration of American voting systems. At the time, the DHS was seeking to increase its bureaucratic power by adding election infrastructure to its portfolio of cybersecurity responsibilities, and exploiting the Russian factor was just the ticket to supercharge their campaign.

In their prepared statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, two senior DHS officials, Samuel Liles and Jeanette Manfra, referred to an October 2016 intelligence report published by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis. They stated it had “established that Internet-connected election-related networks, including websites, in 21 states were potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors.” That “potentially targeted” language gave away the fact that DHS didn’t have anything more than suspicion to back up the charge.

In fact DHS was unable to attribute any attempted election site hack to the Russian government. On October 7, 2016, in fact, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated explicitly that they could not do so. Liles and Manfra appeared to imply such an attribution, however, by associating DHS with a joint assessment by CIA, FBI and NSA released January 7, 2017, that contained the statement, the “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards.”

But the meaning of that language was deliberately vague, and the only additional sentence related to it stated, “Since early 2014, Russian intelligence has researched US electoral processes and related technology and equipment.” That was far from any finding that Russia had scanned or hacked election-related websites.

In September 2017, under pressure from governors, DHS finally notified state governments about the cyber incidents that it had included in its October 2016 intelligence report as examples of “potential” Russian targeting. Now, it abandoned its ambiguous language and explicitly claimed Russian responsibility.

One state election official who asked not to be identified told this writer in a 2018 interview that “a couple of guys from DHS reading from a script” had informed him that his state was “targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”

DHS spokesman Scott McConnell issued a statement on September 28, 2017 that DHS “stood by” its assessment that 21 states “were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure.” But McConnell also revealed that DHS had defined “targeting” so broadly that any public website that a hacker scanned in a state could be included within that definition.

The dishonest tactics the DHS employed to demonstrate plausible evidence of “targeting” was revealed by Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan’s spokesperson Matt Roberts, who told this writer in an interview, “When we pressed DHS on what exactly was targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computer system.” Another 2016 hacking episode in Arizona, which the FBI originally believed was a Russian government job, was later found to be a common criminal hack. In that episode, a hacker had targeted a local official with a phishing scheme and managed to steal their username and password.

Ironically, DHS had speculated in its initial intelligence report “that cyber operations targeting election infrastructure could be intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes and potentially the outcome.”

That speculation, reiterated by corporate media, became a central feature of the Russiagate hysteria that electrified the Democratic Party’s base. None of the journalists and politicians who repeated the narrative stopped to consider how unsubstantiated claims by the DHS about Russian penetration of the US election infrastructure was doing just that – lowering public confidence in the democratic process.

The hysteria surrounding the supposed Russian threat to elections is far from over. The Senate Intelligence Committee report released in July 2019 sought to legitimize the contention by former Obama cyber security adviser Michael Daniel that Russia “may have” targeted all fifty states for cyber attacks on election-related sites.  In explaining his reasoning to the Senate committee’s staff, Daniel said: “My professional judgment was we have to work on the assumption [Russians] tried to go everywhere, because they’re thorough, they’re competent, they’re good.”

The New York Times eagerly played up that subjective and highly ideological judgment in the lede of a story headlined, ‘Russia Targeted Election Systems in All 50 States, Report Finds.’

As for DHS, it appeared to acknowledge by implication in an October 11, 2018 assessment excerpted in the Senate Committee report that it could not distinguish between a state-sponsored hack and a criminal hack. This August, the senior cybersecurity adviser for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Matthew Masterson, said, “We are not and have not seen specific targeting of those election systems that has been attributable to nation-state actors at this time….  We do see regular scanning, regular probing of election infrastructure as a whole, what you’d expect to see as you run IT systems.”

Despite these stunning admissions, DHS has faced no official accountability for deliberately slanting its intelligence assessment to implicate Russia for common criminal hacking activity. No matter how shoddy its origins and development have proven to be, the narrative remains too politically useful to be allowed to die.

September 16, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment