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Afghan Bounty Scandal Comes at Suspiciously Important Time for US Military Industrial Complex

By Alan MacLeod | MintPress News | July 1, 2020

Based on anonymous intelligence sources, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal released bombshell reports alleging that Russia is paying the Taliban bounties for every U.S. soldier they can kill. The story caused an uproar in the United States, dominating the news cycle and leading presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to accuse Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.” “This is beyond the pale,” the former vice-president concluded.

However, there are a number of reasons to be suspicious of the new reports. Firstly, they appear all to be based entirely on the same intelligence officials who insisted on anonymity. The official could not provide any concrete evidence, nor establish that any Americans had actually died as a result, offering only vague assertions and admitting that the information came from “interrogated” (i.e. tortured) Afghan militants. All three reports stressed the uncertainty of the claims, with the only sources who went on record — the White House, the Kremlin, and the Taliban — all vociferously denying it all.

The national security state also has a history of using anonymous officials to plant stories that lead to war. In 2003, the country was awash with stories that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, in 2011 anonymous officials warned of an impending genocide in Libya, while in 2018 officials accused Bashar al-Assad of attacking Douma with chemical weapons, setting the stage for a bombing campaign. All turned out to be untrue.

“After all we’ve been through, we’re supposed to give anonymous ‘intelligence officials’ in The New York Times the benefit of the doubt on something like this? I don’t think so,” Scott Horton, Editorial Director of Antiwar.com and author of “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” told MintPress News. “All three stories were written in language conceding they did not know if the story was true,” he said, “They are reporting the ‘fact’ that there was a rumor.”

Horton continued: “There were claims in 2017 that Russia was arming and paying the Taliban, but then the generals admitted to Congress they had no evidence of either. In a humiliating debacle, also in 2017, CNN claimed a big scoop about Putin’s support for the Taliban when furnished with some photos of Taliban fighters with old Russian weapons. The military veteran journalists at Task and Purpose quickly debunked every claim in their piece.”

Others were equally skeptical of the new scandal. “The bottom line for me is that after countless (Russiagate related) anonymous intelligence leaks, many of which were later proven false or never substantiated with real evidence, I can’t take this story seriously. The intelligence ‘community’ itself can’t agree on the credibility of this information, which is similar to the situation with a foundational Russiagate document, the January, 2017 intelligence ‘assessment,’” said Joanne Leon, host of the Around the Empire Podcast, a show which covers U.S. military actions abroad.

Suspicious timing

The timing of the leak also raised eyebrows. Peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban are ongoing, with President Trump committing to pulling all American troops out of the country. A number of key anti-weapons of mass destruction treaties between the U.S. and Russia are currently expiring, and a scandal such as this one would scupper any chance at peace, escalating a potential arms race that would endanger the world but enrich weapons manufacturers. Special Presidential Envoy in the Department of the Treasury, Marshall Billingslea, recently announced that the United States is willing to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in a new arms race, mimicking the strategy it used in the 1980s against the Soviet Union. As a result, even during the pandemic, business is booming for American weapons contractors.

“The national security state has done everything they can to keep the U.S. involved in that war,” remarked Horton, “If Trump had listened to his former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, we’d be on year three of an escalation with plans to begin talks with the Taliban next year. Instead Trump talked to them for the last year-and-a-half and has already signed a deal to have us out by the end of next May.”

“The same factions and profiteers who always oppose withdrawal of troops are enthusiastic about the ‘Bountygate’ story at a time when President Trump is trying to advance negotiations with the Taliban and when he desperately needs to deliver on 2016 campaign promises and improve his sinking electoral prospects,” said Leon.

If Russia is paying the Taliban to kill Americans they are not doing a very good job of it. From a high of 496 in 2010, U.S. losses in Afghanistan have slowed to a trickle, with only 22 total fatalities in 2019, casting further doubt on the scale of their supposed plan.

Ironically, the United States is accusing the Kremlin of precisely its own policy towards Russia in Syria. In 2016, former Acting Director of the C.I.A. Michael Morell appeared on the Charlie Rose show and said his job was to “make the Russians pay a price” for its involvement in the Middle East. When asked if he meant killing Russians by that, he replied, “Yes. Covertly. You don’t tell the world about it. You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say, ‘We did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow.”

Like RussiaGate, the new scandal has had the effect of pushing liberal opinion on foreign policy to become far more hawkish, with Biden now campaigning on being “tougher” on China and Russia than Trump would be. Considering that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently set their famous Doomsday Clock — an estimation of how close they believe the world is to nuclear armageddon — to just 100 seconds to midnight, the latest it has ever been, the Democrats could be playing with fire. The organization specifically singled out U.S.-Russia conflict as threatening the continued existence of the planet. While time will tell if Russia did indeed offer bounties to kill American troops, the efficacy of the media leak is not in question.

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.

July 2, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 4 Comments

Russia Bounty-Hunter Story Another Pulp Fiction Release

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | July 1, 2020

The main peddlers of the alleged Russian-sponsored bounty-hunter scheme in Afghanistan against US troops are the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. All three have excelled in publishing a series of pulp fiction-style stories over the past four years to discredit President Trump and demonize Russia.

From allegations of Russian meddling in elections to Putin having blackmail on “agent Trump” thanks to hookers in a Moscow hotel. And much more besides.

That dubious record of propaganda-as-journalism serves as a foghorn alert about the latest yarn without even delving into the supposed details.

The story “broke” last Friday with the Times claiming that anonymous “US officials” informed the outlet that Russian military intelligence were paying militants in Afghanistan to assassinate American troops, and that President Trump had been briefed on the matter as far back as February or even last year but didn’t do anything about it.

In “follow-up” reports, the Washington Post and CNN, among others, are reporting that the alleged Russian bounty-hunter scheme did result in American casualties. Trump is being accused of treachery for allegedly ignoring warnings on security, and that – conveniently – piles the pressure on the White House and the Congress to get tough on Moscow.

Democrat presidential rival Joe Biden has fulminated that it is a “truly shocking” dereliction of duty by Trump whose presidency, says Biden, is “a gift” to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The Democrat vows to confront Moscow if he is elected to the White House in November.

Some Republican lawmakers have also jumped on the bandwagon assailing Trump for treacherous neglect over allegedly not acting on the alleged intelligence. (Apologies to readers for the repetition of “alleged”, but it is necessary for clarity and factualness.)

As the story gathers some legs, it soon runs at breakneck speed. British media reports are quoting anonymous British security officials who “confirm” that the US intelligence claims about Russia bounty-hunting in Afghanistan. What’s more, the British “sources” are saying that the alleged Russian operation is being run by the same military intelligence team that allegedly organized the alleged poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March 2018.

Pulp fiction stories are thus being referenced supposedly as confirming precedents for the latest episode in Afghanistan. That’s like building an edifice from straws.

Denials and declined comments can be revealing. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the bounty-hunter reports “lies”. The Russia foreign ministry said it was an “unsophisticated fabrication”.

A spokesman for the Taliban militants in Afghanistan derided the US claims, saying the militants did not need any foreign help to defeat the Americans.

President Trump in his usual fashion slammed the media reports as another “Russia hoax”. He says he was never briefed on the alleged intelligence and neither was Vice President Mike Pence of White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

John Ratcliffe, the US Director of National Intelligence, has poured cold water on the reports, saying that Trump was not briefed. So too has Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

The CIA has declined to comment, while the Pentagon has stated it has seen no evidence to substantiate the reported claims.

It seems significant that the New York Times described its sources as “US officials who were briefed on the matter” and not as “US intelligence” sources. That way, the newspaper avoids any potentially embarrassing rebuttal from intelligence agencies. The choice of words “US officials” is suitably vague and uncompromising.

A second dodgy detail is the claim that the alleged “recovery of large amounts of American cash” in a raid by US special forces on some Taliban base provided the basis for the concept that Russian military intelligence was organizing the scheme for paying militants to assassinate American troops. It is also claimed that US intelligence gained information on the pay-for-kill plot from “interrogation of captured militants”.

That’s an incredible admission of how weak is the basis for the reporting and its “bombshell” claims.

Seriously, finding a suitcase of US dollars in a Taliban hideout is cited as implicating the involvement of Russian hit squads.

It is speculated that the Kremlin is waging a “shadow war” against the US in Afghanistan as “revenge” for Washington’s sponsoring of the mujahideen forerunners of the Taliban who dealt defeat to Soviet troops during the 1980s.

A propaganda wheeze always has tell-tale gas-lighting effects whereby thoughts and speculation appear to easily (too easily) flow from one to the other as desired by the orchestrator.

What Joe Biden and others should find “truly shocking” is the flimsy detail that supposedly holds up a “blockbuster” story.

It all has the hallmark of an electioneering ploy to undermine Trump’s support among rank-and-file members of the US armed forces. They are seen as a bedrock for Trump votes in the November elections. What better way to alienate the military ranks than accuse Trump of turning a blind eye to intelligence reports of Russian-assisted murder of troops in Afghanistan?

On top of that, to boot, there is also the desired bipartisan outrage among Democrats and Republican lawmakers demanding more sanctions to “punish” Russia and “hold Putin to account”. More irrelevant melodrama on the Hill of Beans.

It’s another pulp fiction release, but the signs are the sick and tired American public are not buying it. Which means even more dwindling credibility for US mainstream media propaganda outlets, and diminishing power of the Deep State to orchestrate election outcome. Neither Democrats nor Republicans can galvanize voters, which means US politics is increasingly seen to be in a profoundly futile mess.

July 2, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

US Media Date ‘Russian Bounties’ 5 Years Back, Name ‘Key Middleman’ in ‘Money Transfers’

Sputnik – 02.07.2020

The explosive reports on “Russian bounties” offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill US soldiers are slowly turning into some kind of a saga, as now US media has offered new “details” on the claims.

As reported by NYT claims described as “intelligence” on Russia offering money to the Taliban for killing US soldiers circulate through the media headlines, the story continues to develop particulars – nevermind that the very beginning of it has not been confirmed by a single official entity.

Ignoring the avalanche of scepticism and denial of the initial allegations from all sides, the US media sticks to the storytelling, moving on to reveal that the “Russian-Taliban bounties” appear to date back several years.

The Daily Beast, citing alleged ex-spokesman for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Manan Niazi, who spoke via encrypted phone call, claimed that the Taliban “have been paid by Russian intelligence for attacks on US forces in Afghanistan from 2014 up to the present”.

“The Taliban have been paid by Russian intelligence for attacks on US forces—and on ISIS forces—in Afghanistan from 2014 up to the present”, said Niazi, described as a person who used to be a “very senior figure in the Taliban”, but now a dissident, claimed to The Beast.

The story could as well be turned into an exciting movie, as it offers a wide range of dramatic parts from Russia “paying US dollars to Taliban” for several years to spy-like intrigues of undercover Taliban people who pretended to be businessmen in order to “convert Russian funds to cash” in Afghanistan.

Sometimes, however, it also has narrative flaws, for example, the two people that Niazi claimed to be “undercover businessmen who went to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan”, denied their involvement when asked by the DB.

“I don’t want to comment—I don’t even want to talk about Niazi,” said one, contacted by The Beast. “Niazi is our enemy and playing into the hands of the NDS.”

The report refers to the so-called Hawala system – an “informal way to transfer money” – based on “family relationships or regional affiliations”.

This system is brought up in another thrilling story, this time again from The New York Times, which names another Russian bounty-related “businessman” – Rahmatullah Azizi – to be a middleman “between the GRU and militants linked to the Taliban who carried out the attacks”.

Apparently striving for another Pulitzer for the story based on unconfirmed information, just like in the case of this prize-winning series of anti-Russia articles that were later debunked, the outlet conducted research impossible even for the National Intelligence and Defence Department of the US.

In a fresh “ground-breaking” article, Azizi is described as a “central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington”, who “was among those who collected the cash in Russia”. According to “Afghan officials” – who are, as usual, unnamed – “$100,000 per killed soldier were offered for American and coalition targets”. The controversial enterprise apparently made Azizi extremely wealthy, as the report describes his luxurious possessions, from cars to four-story houses.

Every story has a villain, and the Nytimes.com piece connects the dots in a way that leads, once again, to the devious Unit 29155 – a mysterious GRU intelligence branch that is traditionally held responsible by the US for “assassinations and other operations overseas” – including the famous Sergei Skripal poisoning that was “highly likely” carried out by the ominous Russian assets.

Official Positions on the Matter

The stories suggested by The Daily Beast and The New York Times ignore a recent Pentagon report which followed the initial NYT Friday report on Russian “bounties” to the Taliban for killing US troops, and found no evidence. The document only pointed at Russian “efforts in the hope that reconciliation will prevent a long-term US military presence”.

US President Donald Trump, echoed by his Director of National Intelligence and his National Security Adviser, denied that he knew anything about the matter, repeating that the unverified “intelligence” did not rise to the level where it would be reasonable to brief the president.

The Kremlin refuted the allegations as “nonsense” while not understanding why unconfirmed media reports would raise the possibility of sanctions, a move voiced by Democrats.

The Taliban itself has denied the claims, insisting that its activities are not connected with foreign countries or intelligence agencies.

July 2, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

New York Times Deploys Heavy Gun to Back ‘Intel’ on Russian Bounties

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | July 1, 2020

The New York Times is pulling out all the stops in promoting its dubious story on Russia offering bounty for dead U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Wednesday’s installment, a “news analysis” by Times veteran writers David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, treats the allegations that Russia paid Taliban or Taliban-related terrorists to kill U.S. troops as flat fact:

“Russia’s complicity in the bounty plot came into sharper focus on Tuesday as the The New York Times reported that American officials intercepted electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account.”

This is presented as “bolstering other evidence of the plot, including detainee interrogations.” The take from the Afghan-run interrogations is, ipso facto, highly dubious; and we need to know a lot more about the alleged new “electronic data.”

Sanger. (Wikimedia Commons)

Sanger and Schmitt put the “bounty” story atop a “list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rival[ing] some of the worst days of the Cold War.” They hold up to ridicule White House statements that the president wants to have only “verified” intelligence, claiming that this prompts “derision from officials who have spent years working on the daily brief and say it is most valuable when filled with dissenting interpretations and alternative explanations.”

Oh, yeah?

The President’s Daily Brief (PDB)

Granted, such dissent might have been helpful to President George W. Bush, rather than having PDB briefers like Michael Morell (later to become deputy CIA director) parroting the line of then-Director George Tenet and Vice President Dick Cheney that there were tons of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But what is wrong with preferring “verified” intelligence rather than a menu of options attempting to explain unverified reporting reeking of political agendas? (Morell later went on TV to call for the covert murder of Russians and Iranians in Syria.)

I helped prepare The President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and personally conducted the one-on-one morning briefings in the Oval Office from 1981 to 1985. In those days we did our best to corroborate reporting — especially on highly sensitive issues — and did not try to cover our derrieres by alerting the president and his top aides to highly dubious reporting, however sexy.

Later, Cheney’s fascination/fixation with the yarn about “yellowcake uranium” going to Iraq from Niger did not pass the smell test, for example, something that it took the International Atomic Energy Agency only a day or two of investigation to demolish.

‘Not Authentic’

Seymour Hersh wrote in the March 24, 2003 New Yorker, just days after the attack on Iraq:

“On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the IAEA in Vienna, told the UN Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes. ‘The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents . . . are in fact not authentic,’ ElBaradei said.

One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told [Hersh], ‘These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.’”

Sources

Dearlove.

Intelligence analysts must pay close attention, of course, to provenance. What is this or that source’s record for accuracy, for reliability. What kind of trough might this or that source be feeding from; and what agenda might she or he have? Discriminating readers of the corporate media — and especially the Times — should do the same with respect to journalists. When they see the byline of David Sanger they need to examine his record.

Those who look back to before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq will discover that Sanger was heavily promoting the existence of WMD in Iraq as a certainty. In a July 29, 2002 article co-written with Thom Shanker, for example, Iraq’s (non-existent) “weapons of mass destruction” appear no fewer than seven times as flat fact.

This Sanger/Shanker article, apparently fed by intelligence sources, came just nine days after the head of British intelligence, Sir Richard Dearlove, was briefed by CIA chief Tenet at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. Three days later, on July 23, Dearlove told then Prime Minister Tony Blair that the coming attack on Iraq was a done deal.

We did not know this until May 2005 when The Times of London was given the text of what became known as the Downing Street Memo — the minutes of the briefing that Dearlove gave Blair on July 23, 2002. No one has disputed its authenticity. Here’s an excerpt:

“C [[Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6]] reported on his recent talks in Washington [[with George Tenet, CIA director at CIA headquarters on July 20, three days earlier]].

… Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.

But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

More instructive still, in May 2005, when first-hand documentary evidence from the now-famous “Downing Street Memorandum” showed that President George W. Bush had decided by early summer 2002 to attack Iraq, The New York Times ignored it for six weeks until David Sanger rose to the occasion with a tortured report claiming just the opposite.

The title given his article of June 13 2005 was “Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn’t Made.”

Against this peculiar reporting record, I was not inclined to take at face value Sanger’s Jan. 6, 2017 report “Putin Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ Aimed at U.S. Election, Report Says.” Or the report he authored, with Michael Shear the following day, “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds.”

And Therein Lies the Rub

… or the rubbish, as the British might say. The fable of the Russian hack has now gone the way of Russia-Trump collusion. (See, for example: “Mueller’s Forensic-free Findings.”

When will New York Times readers catch on to David Sanger’s story telling? Sadly, there are plenty of Pulitzer presstitutes — particularly on Russiagate, but Sanger is the archdeacon of them all — by far the most accomplished at the art.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year CIA career, he worked on The President’s Daily Brief under Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, briefing it in person from 1981 to 1985. In retirement, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

July 2, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | 7 Comments

Russian ‘bounty killing’ forces Trump’s hands on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | July 1, 2020

As expected, the controversy over Russia’s alleged bounties for killing American and NATO troops in Afghanistan is steadily snowballing. The New York Times has come out with more leaks such as bank transfers from accounts identified with the Russian military intelligence to the Taliban, “hawala” transactions as well as the Afghan government’s assistance to the US intelligence to zero in on the Russian-Taliban nexus.

Meanwhile, the US Congress is seized of the matter, possibly triggering another “Russiagate”. The Democrats are on the warpath. Top White House aides are briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee later today.

The Times also featured today an Op-Ed on this topic by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who is widely mentioned as a possible vice-presidential running mate on the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s ticket in the November elections. Rice tore into President Trump and his key aides.

To be sure, the controversy will seriously impact the endgame in Afghanistan. The first sign of it appeared on Tuesday when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a video conference with the Taliban’s deputy head and chief negotiator at Doha, Mullah Baradar. The White House readout said Pompeo discussed with the Taliban leader the implementation of the Doha pact of February on the Afghan peace process and “made clear the (US) expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans.”

Evidently, the White House is directly warning the Taliban against any attacks on the US troops. An AP report cited the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen as tweeting that Pompeo and Baradar also “discussed ways of moving … forward” the implementation of the Doha pact.    

The White House is anxious that the intra-Afghan peace talks should take place without further delay so that the US troop withdrawal can be announced. There were reports recently that a decision to withdraw another 4,000 American troops out of the 8,600-strong contingent is under consideration.

In the light of the present controversy over alleged Russian bounty killings and given the likelihood of Congressional hearings, Trump will be keen to summarily withdraw all troops from Afghanistan. The US special representative for reconciliation with the Taliban Zalmay Khalilzad has also reached Doha for discussions with Mullah Baradar.

All in all, the series of Times reports since June 26 has compelled the White House to kickstart the intra-Afghan peace talks somehow, where a complete ceasefire tops the agenda of discussion. The Times reports significantly weaken the US’ capacity to influence the outcome of the intra-Afghan peace talks.

The US stands badly isolated in the region. The controversy over bounty killings has upset Moscow and in turn makes it impossible to carry forward any US-Russian cooperation and coordination over the intra-Afghan peace talks, as was envisaged earlier.

At the same time, the US-China tensions are spinning out of control and Washington is no longer in a position to leverage Beijing’s cooperation in the Afghan peace process. Similarly, Washington is on a collision course with Tehran following Pompeo’s appearance at the UN Security Council on Tuesday to formally table the US proposal seeking an extension of the UN embargo on arms supplies to Iran.

Russia and China have made it clear that they will veto any such US resolution, which, in turn, may lead to Pompeo pressing a claim to invoke the snapback clause of the Iran nuclear deal to kill the 2015 agreement. Heightened tensions can be expected between Washington and Tehran in the weeks and months ahead.

With Russia, China and Iran on a path of confrontation with the US, the burden falls entirely on the Trump administration to carry froward the Afghan peace process. The US’ reliance on Pakistan becomes more critical than ever before. (Khalilzad is set to travel to Islamabad this week.)

Clearly, the initiative is slipping out of the American hands to script its exit strategy in Afghanistan. To be sure, Taliban will negotiate from a position of strength. Mullah Baradar reportedly made humiliating demands to Pompeo during the videoconference yesterday.

Given the unfriendly mood in the three key regional capitals — Moscow, Tehran and Beijing — Washington may be left with no choice now but to cut loose and make its way for the exit door as quickly as possible. Trump will not risk a prolonged stay for the troops in Afghanistan.

Curiously, there is an eerie similarity to the Afghan situation around the Geneva Accords of April 1988 between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the US and the Soviet Union serving as guarantors.

The Geneva Accords had envisaged a matrix of several elements — principally, a bilateral agreement between Islamabad and Kabul on the principles of mutual good neighbourly relations; a declaration on international guarantees, signed by the Soviet Union and the US; and a Pak-Afghan agreement on the interrelationships for the settlement of the Afghan situation as such, which was witnessed by the Soviet Union and the US.

It was an impressive peace agreement but it was still-born and its only positive outcome was that Moscow faithfully (and eagerly) observed the agreement’s provisions for the timetable of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. (The Soviet contingent completed the withdrawal on 15th February 1989.)

The intra-Afghan peace talks will also be taking place in a dismal setting involving two intransigent protagonists (Afghan government and Taliban), and two “guarantors” (the US and Pakistan) pursuing different priorities. Again, the only positive outcome of the intra-Afghan peace talks might be that it will have put an end to the 2-decade old American occupation of Afghanistan.

July 1, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

‘Russian bounty’ story shifts: NYT now claims Afghan CRIMINALS & not Taliban were paid, cites anonymous sources again

RT | June 30, 2020

The New York Times is doubling down on claims that Russia offered bounties for the killing of US troops in Afghanistan, but now says local criminals and not the Taliban were the recipients, again offering no actual evidence.

The new article, published Tuesday, says that “electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account” was intercepted by US spies and “bolsters suspicions” that Russia offered bounties to militants – as claimed by the Times last week.

Once again, the Times quotes anonymous sources – “three officials familiar with the intelligence” – so the claim is impossible to verify. No evidence of the alleged electronic transfer is provided, only a third-hand hearsay that “analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program.”

The article eventually gets around to quoting several local officials from Afghanistan, who say that several people who transfer money through an Islamic banking system are suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen” between Russia and “Taliban-linked militants.”

The ‘hawala’ banking system does not actually use electronic transfers. Moreover, the article says the Afghan security forces found “a half-million dollars” – presumably in cash – in one Kabul home about six months ago. Safiullah Amiry, described as “the deputy provincial council chief” in Kunduz, “said the Afghan intelligence agency had told him the raids were related to Russian money being dispersed [sic] to militants.”

In the original article, the Times claimed President Donald Trump had been briefed on this alleged plot sometime in March. The White House, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have since denied this.

So the narrative has now shifted, with the Times citing “two officials” who say the information was included in Trump’s written presidential daily brief (PDB) “in late February,” accompanied by the – likewise unverified – claim that Trump typically doesn’t read those. The article also claims the CIA mentioned the intelligence in its World Intelligence Review newsletter, also known as The Wire, dated May 4.

The identity of the suspected recipients of the “Russian bounties” has shifted as well, from the Taliban to “criminals closely associated with the Taliban” – according to yet another anonymous US official.

Most mainstream US media outlets and the Democrats have taken the original New York Times reporting at face value, denouncing Trump as “Putin’s puppet” and a traitor for allegedly not doing anything to “punish Russia” based on the purported intelligence assessments, rather than demanding to see evidence there was anything to it.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 3 Comments

Fake story on Russians paying Afghans ‘bounty’ to kill Americans latest example of appalling media coverage of Russia

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | June 29, 2020

The Anglo-American press is difficult to understand. Anonymous sources are treated as gospel – when they suit the ideological and political biases of news outlets – and spy agencies seem to be beyond reproach.

This, of course, is how America and Britain were drawn into the Iraq War. Mainstream media was complicit in manufacturing consent by publishing stories handed down by intelligence agencies – a great many of them later proven untrue. Perhaps most notably, the New York Times went big on the bogus “weapons of mass destruction” yarn.

After the damage was done, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had died, the paper apologized. It admitted it was encouraged to report the claims by “United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.”

Almost two decades on, it has plainly learned nothing. This weekend the Times had three of its most senior journalists basically rewrite a CIA press release as part of its latest attempt to undermine President Donald Trump by playing the “Russia card.” Quite why it took so many of them is hard to understand – unless none wanted to be the sole name on the piece, preferring safety in numbers.

The story claimed that Russia is paying Afghan militants to kill American soldiers and that Trump’s team has known for months but done nothing. The US director of national intelligence quickly denied the allegations, as did the president himself. It surely wasn’t coincidental that the drop took place in the same weekend that reports emerged of Trump planning to withdraw 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.

If you know anything about Russia, the story is  obviously false. The Americans are totally bogged down in Kabul, which suits Moscow in myriad ways. In fact, the Kremlin would be only delighted if the US stayed there forever. What’s more, the Taliban hardly needs a financial incentive to attack a hated occupying force. So why would Moscow need to be handing out bounties to encourage people who already have it in for Americans?

Another interesting detail was the New York Times’ assertion that its allegations are “based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.” Given we know the US uses torture in Afghanistan that should be an immediate red-flag to any self-respecting journalist. Not to mention the fact that even if Afghan prisoners did say this, it’s likely no more than prison gossip: “Daud told Nadir that Hashem heard the Russians will pay you for killing an American.”

The Times trio even threw in a bit of casual xenophobia. “I think we had forgotten how organically ruthless the Russians could be,” they quoted Peter Zwack, a retired military intelligence officer, as saying. Imagine a report saying Asians, Africans, Mexicans or Jews are “organically ruthless.” That’s right, you can’t, because it wouldn’t happen. But Russians, being predominantly white and Christian, are considered to be fair game.

Soon after, the Washington Post said it had ‘confirmed’ the Times’ story. All this means is they were fed the same bulls**t by the same anonymous spooks. Even more hilariously, the paper managed to get a named Taliban spokesman to go on the record with his denial, while it allowed the Americans who pushed the yarn to remain in the shadows. Nevertheless, which narrative do you think was given more credence?

This carry-on is deeply unethical. Especially given it comes just a couple of months after US/UK media went big on another fake story alleging Russia was trying to poison Czech politicians with ricin. Prague eventually admitted the tale was entirely made up. This confession, of course, received about one percent of the coverage granted to the original fabrication.

Predictably, broadcast media followed up on the Times and Post’s reports. Rachel Maddow was front and center, naturally. You’ll remember she spent a few years airing false and hysterical smears about Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow and suffered no professional consequences when the Mueller Report proved her allegations to be untrue.

But it wasn’t just Maddow. On Saturday, CNN ran “breaking news” saying it had found “a European intelligence official” to corroborate the tale. It then cut to its own correspondent, one Nick Paton Walsh. He provided no named source and his comments basically amounted to “some fella told me down the pub” stuff. Honestly, in any sane media culture, Paton Walsh would be laughed at, not encouraged.

For example, at one point he said “it’s not clear when this happened” and then added, “it’s clear it has caused casualties.” But instead of asking “how is it possible to know that if you can’t say when it happened?” the anchor just sat there nodding along with that vacuous look in her eyes which seems to be mandatory for CNN presenters.

Later, Britain’s Sky News ran the same yarn, but said “British security officials have confirmed… that the reports about the plot are true.” Presumably, Sky was spoon-fed by the same spooks who exploited Paton Walsh as a ‘useful idiot’. Later, the Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner tweeted “this confirmation by closest intel allies is critical and damning: Russia paid Taliban fighters to attack British troops in Afghanistan.”

Again, the reporter expressed no doubts, because apparently the word of spooks is golden, and they would never lie.

It’s established that mainstream US/UK media operates in a self-contained pit of rumor, fear, braggadocio, bullshit, and propaganda when it comes to Russia. But what’s most bizarre is the sheer obviousness with which outlets circulate the same false stories and then use each other as corroborating sources even though they are all getting the information from the same people.

Folk who obviously have their own agendas, and are playing gormless hacks like a fiddle. The other incredible thing is a clear lack of understanding about what ‘confirmation’ even means. It obviously requires tangible evidence, on the record.

The New York Times’ coverage of Russia basically only has two tricks. They either rip-off articles from smaller Russian liberal outlets (who often can’t complain too loudly as they rely on Western funding) or they regurgitate anonymous sources in the US military-intelligence establishment looking to run scare stories about the country. None of this involves any reporting, and it cannot be considered journalism under any accepted definition of what the trade involves.

Given the New York Times is arguably the biggest, and most visible, fish in the US/UK media world, you can only imagine the even lower standards that permeate further down the food chain.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 5 Comments

Russiagate’s Last Gasp

One can read this most recent flurry of Russia, Russia, Russia paid the Taliban to kill GIs as an attempt to pre-empt the findings into Russiagate’s origins.

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | June 29, 2020

On Friday The New York Times featured a report based on anonymous intelligence officials that the Russians were paying bounties to have U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan with President Donald Trump refusing to do anything about it. The flurry of Establishment media reporting that ensued provides further proof, if such were needed, that the erstwhile “paper of record” has earned a new moniker — Gray Lady of easy virtue.

Over the weekend, the Times’ dubious allegations grabbed headlines across all media that are likely to remain indelible in the minds of credulous Americans — which seems to have been the main objective. To keep the pot boiling this morning, The New York Times’ David Leonhardt’s daily web piece, “The Morning” calls prominent attention to a banal article by a Heather Cox Richardson, described as a historian at Boston College, adding specific charges to the general indictment of Trump by showing “how the Trump administration has continued to treat Russia favorably.” The following is from Richardson’s newsletter on Friday:

— “On April 1 a Russian plane brought ventilators and other medical supplies to the United States … a propaganda coup for Russia;

— “On April 25 Trump raised eyebrows by issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops on the bridge of the Elbe River in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis;

— “On May 3, Trump called Putin and talked for an hour and a half, a discussion Trump called ‘very positive’;

— “On May 21, the U.S. sent a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to Moscow to help fight coronavirus there.  The shipment included 50 ventilators, with another 150 promised for the next week; …

— “On June 15, news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. …”

Historian Richardson added:

“All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020.  But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers. … this bad news apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.”

Hear the siren? Children, get under your desks!

The Tall Tale About Russia Paying for Dead U.S. Troops

Times print edition readers had to wait until this morning to learn of Trump’s statement last night that he was not briefed on the cockamamie tale about bounties for killing, since it was, well, cockamamie.

Late last night the president tweeted: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or the VP. …”

For those of us distrustful of the Times — with good reason — on such neuralgic issues, the bounty story had already fallen of its own weight. As Scott Ritter pointed out yesterday:

“Perhaps the biggest clue concerning the fragility of the New York Times’ report is contained in the one sentence it provides about sourcing — “The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.” That sentence contains almost everything one needs to know about the intelligence in question, including the fact that the source of the information is most likely the Afghan government as reported through CIA channels. …”

And who can forget how “successful” interrogators can be in getting desired answers.

Russia & Taliban React

The Kremlin called the Times reporting “nonsense … an unsophisticated plant,” and from Russia’s perspective the allegations make little sense; Moscow will see them for what they are — attempts to show that Trump is too “accommodating” to Russia.

A Taliban spokesman called the story “baseless,” adding with apparent pride that “we” have done “target killings” for years “on our own resources.”

Russia is no friend of the Taliban.  At the same time, it has been clear for several years that the U.S. would have to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. Think back five decades and recall how circumspect the Soviets were in Vietnam.  Giving rhetorical support to a fraternal Communist nation was de rigueur and some surface-to-air missiles gave some substance to that support.

But Moscow recognized from the start that Washington was embarked on a fool’s errand in Vietnam. There would be no percentage in getting directly involved. And so, the Soviets sat back and watched smugly as the Vietnamese Communists drove U.S. forces out on their “own resources.” As was the case with the Viet Cong, the Taliban needs no bounty inducements from abroad.

President Lyndon Johnson announces “retaliatory” strike against North Vietnam in response to the supposed attacks on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964. (LBJ Library)

Besides, the Russians knew painfully well — from their own bitter experience in Afghanistan, what the outcome of the most recent fool’s errand would be for the U.S. What point would they see in doing what The New York Times and other Establishment media are breathlessly accusing them of?

CIA Disinformation; Casey at Bat

Former CIA Director William Casey said: “We’ll know when our disinformation program is complete, when everything the American public believes is false.”

Casey made that remark at the first cabinet meeting in the White House under President Ronald Reagan in early 1981, according to Barbara Honegger, who was assistant to the chief domestic policy adviser.  Honegger was there, took notes, and told then Senior White House correspondent Sarah McClendon, who in turn made it public.

If Casey’s spirit is somehow observing the success of the disinformation program called Russiagate, one can imagine how proud he must be. But sustained propaganda success can be a serious challenge. The Russiagate canard has lasted three and a half years. This last gasp effort, spearheaded by the Times, to breathe more life into it is likely to last little more than a weekend — the redoubled efforts of Casey-dictum followers notwithstanding.

Russiagate itself has been unraveling, although one would hardly know it from the Establishment media. No collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Even the sacrosanct tenet that the Russians hacked the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks has been disproven, with the head of the DNC-hired cyber security firm CrowdStrike admitting that there is no evidence that the DNC emails were hacked — by Russia or anyone else.

How long will it take the Times to catch up with the CrowdStrike story, available since May 7?

The media is left with one sacred cow: the misnomered “Intelligence Community” Assessment of Jan. 6, 2017, claiming that President Putin himself ordered the hacking of the DNC. That “assessment” done by “hand-picked analysts” from only CIA, FBI and NSA (not all 17 intelligence agencies of the “intelligence community”) reportedly is being given close scrutiny by U. S. Attorney John Durham, appointed by the attorney general to investigate Russiagate’s origins.

If Durham finds it fraudulent (not a difficult task), the heads of senior intelligence and law enforcement officials may roll. That would also mean a still deeper dent in the credibility of Establishment media that are only too eager to drink the Kool Aid and to leave plenty to drink for the rest of us.

Do not expect the media to cease and desist, simply because Trump had a good squelch for them last night — namely, the “intelligence” on the “bounties” was not deemed good enough to present to the president.

(As a preparer and briefer of The President’s Daily Brief  to Presidents Reagan and HW Bush, I can attest to the fact that — based on what has been revealed so far — the Russian bounty story falls far short of the PDB threshold.)

Rejecting Intelligence Assessments

Nevertheless, the corporate media is likely to play up the Trump administration’s rejection of what the media is calling the “intelligence assessment” about Russia offering — as Rachel Maddow indecorously put it on Friday — “bounty for the scalps of American soldiers in Afghanistan.”

I am not a regular Maddow-watcher, but to me she seemed unhinged — actually, well over the top.

The media asks, “Why does Trump continue to disrespect the assessments of the intelligence community?”  There he goes again — not believing our “intelligence community; siding, rather, with Putin.”

In other words, we can expect no let up from the media and the national security miscreant leakers who have served as their life’s blood. As for the anchors and pundits, their level of sophistication was reflected yesterday in the sage surmise of Face the Nation’s Chuck Todd, who Aaron Mate reminds us, is a “grown adult and professional media person.” Todd asked guest John Bolton: “Do you think that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election, and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?”

“This is as bad as it gets,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, adding the aphorism she memorized several months ago: “All roads lead to Putin.” The unconscionably deceitful performance of Establishment media is as bad as it gets, though that, of course, was not what Pelosi meant.  She apparently lifted a line right out of the Times about how Trump is too “accommodating” toward Russia.

One can read this most recent flurry of Russia, Russia, Russia as a reflection of the need to pre-empt the findings likely to issue from Durham and Attorney General William Barr in the coming months — on the theory that the best defense is a pre-emptive offense. Meanwhile, we can expect the corporate media to continue to disgrace itself.

Vile

Caitlin Johnstone, typically, pulls no punches regarding the Russian bounty travesty:

“All parties involved in spreading this malignant psyop are absolutely vile, but a special disdain should be reserved for the media class who have been entrusted by the public with the essential task of creating an informed populace and holding power to account. How much of an unprincipled whore do you have to be to call yourself a journalist and uncritically parrot the completely unsubstantiated assertions of spooks while protecting their anonymity? How much work did these empire fluffers put into killing off every last shred of their dignity? It boggles the mind.

It really is funny how the most influential news outlets in the Western world will uncritically parrot whatever they’re told to say by the most powerful and depraved intelligence agencies on the planet, and then turn around and tell you without a hint of self-awareness that Russia and China are bad because they have state media.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh.”


Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  During his 27-years as a CIA analyst he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared The President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.  In retirement, he co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 4 Comments

Senator Schumer calls for ‘tough sanctions’ against Moscow amid new wave of anti-Russian hysteria… again

RT | June 28, 2020

The US Senate minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, seemingly got on his hobby-horse once more as he demanded new sanctions against Moscow amid reports about Russian agents putting ‘bounties’ on US troops in Afghanistan.

“We need, in this coming defense bill, which we are debating this week, tough sanctions against Russia,” Schumer told journalists while emphatically gesturing to apparently add more weight to his point.

The reason for the “tough sanctions” is a report by The New York Times that cites some “interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals” and accuses the Russian military intelligence, the GRU, of literally offering bounties to the Taliban for every American soldier killed in Afghanistan.

The report was dismissed by both Russia and the Taliban, which denied any such bounties ever being offered. Even the Director of the US National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, came out to say that neither President Donal Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were ever briefed on anything like this. These facts, however, left The New York Times undeterred as the paper followed up with another piece on the issue, this time citing some “officials briefed on the matter.”

Schumer, however, admitted that he does not really know anything about the situation since he “was not briefed on the Russian military intelligence,” unlike The New York Times’ mysterious sources. That did not stop him, however, from claiming that this supposedly real data “shows” new sanctions against Moscow are desperately needed.

In fact, calling for sanctions against Russia has been the senator’s favorite pastime for quite some time now. Since the start of this year, he has managed to demand new restrictions against Moscow twice – in February and March. He has also sought to press the EU into imposing some as well.

June 28, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 4 Comments

NYT takes anti-Russian hysteria to new level with report on Russian ‘bounty’ for US troops

By Scott Ritter | RT | June 28, 2020

The New York Times published an article claiming that Russia was paying out monetary bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan. There’s just one problem — none of what they reported was true.

As news reporting goes, the New York Times article alleging that a top-secret unit within Russian military intelligence, or GRU, had offered a bounty to the Taliban for every US soldier killed in Afghanistan, was dynamite. The story was quickly “confirmed” by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers, and went on to take social media by storm. Twitter was on fire with angry pundits, former officials, and anti-Trump politicians (and their respective armies of followers) denouncing President Trump as a “traitor” and demanding immediate action against Russia.

There was just one problem — nothing in the New York Times could be corroborated. Indeed, there is no difference between the original reporting conducted by the New York Times, and the “confirming” reports published by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. All of the reports contain caveats such as “if confirmed” and “if true,” while providing no analysis into the potential veracity of the information used to sustain the report — alleged debriefs of Afghan criminals and militants — or the underpinning logic, or lack thereof, of the information itself.

For its part, the Russian government has vociferously denied the allegations, noting that the report “clearly demonstrates low intellectual abilities of US intelligence propagandists who have to invent such nonsense instead of devising something more credible.” The Taliban have likewise denied receiving any bounties from the Russians for targeting American soldiers, noting that with the current peace deal, “their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

Even more telling is the fact that the current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has come out to contradict a key element of the New York Times’ report—that the president was briefed on the intelligence in question. “I have confirmed that neither the president nor the vice president were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. “The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”

And one more tiny problem: Trump confirmed there was no such briefing, too.

Perhaps the biggest clue concerning the fragility of the New York Times’ report is contained in the one sentence it provides about sourcing — “The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.” That sentence contains almost everything one needs to know about the intelligence in question, including the fact that the source of the information is most likely the Afghan government as reported through CIA channels.

There was a time when the US military handled the bulk of detainee debriefings in Afghanistan. This changed in 2014, with the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement. This agreement prohibits the US military from arresting or detaining Afghans, or to operate detention facilities in Afghanistan. As a result, the ability of the US military to interface with detainees has been virtually eliminated, making the Pentagon an unlikely source of the information used by the New York Times in its reporting.

The CIA, however, was not covered by this agreement. Indeed, the CIA, through its extensive relationship with the National Directorate of Security (NDS), is uniquely positioned to interface with the NDS through every phase of detainee operations, from initial capture to systemic debriefing.

Like any bureaucracy, the CIA is a creature of habit. Henry ‘Hank’ Crumpton, who in the aftermath of 9/11 headed up the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan, wrote that

“[t]he Directorate of Operations (DO) should not be in the business of running prisons or temporary detention facilities. The DO should focus on its core mission: clandestine intelligence operations. Accordingly, the DO should continue to hunt, capture, and render targets, and then exploit them for intelligence and ops leads once in custody. The management of their incarceration and interrogation, however, should be conducted by appropriately experienced US law enforcement officers because that is their charter and they have the training and experience.”

After 2014, the term “US law enforcement officers” is effectively replaced by “Afghan intelligence officers”— the NDS. But the CIA mission remained the same — to exploit captives for intelligence and operational leads.

The Trump administration has lobbied for an expanded mission for the CIA-backed NDS and other militia forces to serve as a counterterrorism force that would keep Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan once US and foreign troops completed their planned withdrawal in 2021. But the CIA has raised objections to such a plan, noting that the NDS and other CIA-controlled assets were completely dependent upon US military air power and other combat service support resources, and that any attempt to expand the CIA’s covert army in Afghanistan following a US military withdrawal would end in disaster. Having the NDS fabricate or exaggerate detainee reports to keep the US engaged in Afghanistan is not beyond the pale.

Which brings up the issue of Russian involvement. In September 2015, the Taliban captured the northern Afghan city of Konduz, and held it for 15 days. This sent a shockwave throughout Russia, prompting Moscow to reconsider its approach toward dealing with the Afghan insurgency. Russia began reaching out to the Taliban, engaging in talks designed to bring the conflict in Afghanistan to an end. Russia was driven by other interests as well. According to Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” in the fight against Islamic State, which in the summer of 2014 had captured huge tracts of land in Syria and Iraq, including the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest.

By 2017, Afghan and US intelligence services had assembled a narrative of Russian assistance to the Taliban which included the provision of advanced weaponry, training, and financial support. While Russia denied providing any direct military support to the Taliban, it maintained that the Taliban were the best way to deal with the growing threat of Islamic State. But even if the US reports were correct, and Russia was angling for a Taliban victory in Afghanistan, the last policy Russia would logically pursue would be one that had the US remain in Afghanistan, especially after pushing so hard for a negotiated peace. Russia’s interests in Afghanistan were — and are — best served by Afghan stability, the antithesis of the Afghan reality while the US and NATO remain engaged. Getting the US out of Afghanistan — not keeping the US in Afghanistan — is the Russian position, and any CIA officer worth his or her salt knows this.

It does not take a rocket scientist to read between the lines of the New York Times’ thinly sourced report. The NDS, with or without CIA knowledge or consent, generated detainee-based intelligence reports designed to create and sustain a narrative that would be supportive of US military forces remaining in Afghanistan past 2021. The CIA case officer(s) handling these reports dutifully submit cables back to CIA Headquarters which provide the gist of the allegations — that Russia has placed a bounty on US soldiers. But there is no corroboration, nothing that would allow this raw “intelligence” to be turned into a product worthy of the name.

This doesn’t mean that someone in the bowels of the CIA with an axe to grind against Trump’s plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, or who was opposed to Trump’s efforts to normalize relations with Russia, didn’t try to breathe life into these detainee reports. Indeed, a finished “product” may have made its way to the National Security Council staff — and elsewhere — where it would have been given the treatment it deserved, quickly discarded as unsubstantiated rumor unworthy of presidential attention.

At this point in time, frustrated by the inattention the “system” gave to the “intelligence,” some anonymous official contacted the New York Times and leaked the information, spinning it in as nefarious a way as possible. The New York Times blended the detainee reports and its own previous reporting on the GRU to produce a completely fabricated tale of Russian malfeasance designed to denigrate President Trump in the midst of a hotly contested reelection bid.

Too far-fetched? This assessment is far more fleshed out with fact and logic than anything the New York Times or its mainstream media mimics have proffered. And lest one thinks the GrayLady is above manufacturing news to sustain support for a war, the name Judith Miller, and the topic of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, should put that to rest. The reporting by the New York Times alleging the existence of a Russian bounty on the lives of US troops in Afghanistan is cut from the same piece of cloth as its pre-war Iraq drivel. As was the case with Iraq, the chattering class is pushing these new lies on an American audience pre-programmed to accept at face value any negative reporting on Russia. This is the state of what passes for journalism in America today, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. 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

June 28, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

Trump & Pence never briefed on ‘Russian bounties for Taliban’, NYT story ‘inaccurate’ – US intelligence chief

RT | June 28, 2020

The US director of national intelligence has distanced himself from a NYT report claiming Russia paid money to the Taliban for killing US soldiers in Afghanistan. He said the White House was never briefed on the matter.

The claim published by the New York Times is, like many such stories, based on anonymous intelligence sources. It says Russia paid “Taliban-linked militants” in Afghanistan to kill US military service members, and that President Donald Trump did nothing after learning about it.

The White House has denied that either Trump or Vice President Mike Pence were ever briefed on the alleged situation by US intelligence. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe backed the denial and said the original story and “all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.”

The dynamic between the US mainstream media and the Trump administration in this case follows the same pattern seen in a previous bombshell report accusing the president of inaction in the face of a foreign threat.

In April, ABC News claimed Trump had been briefed about a military intelligence report which warned that a catastrophic outbreak of a viral disease was emerging from China. The National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), the service which allegedly produced the report on what is now known the Covid-19 pandemic, denied ever writing such a document.

The Taliban bounties story was instantly picked up by the usual suspects of the #Resistance, who saw it as an opportunity to attack Trump from the right. MSNBC’s senior Russiagate peddler Rachel Maddow gushed that Vladimir Putin paid Taliban for American “scalps” and Trump knew it.

Trump-bashing vehicle the Lincoln Project has released an ad accusing the president of “standing by” Russian troops.

While the bounties twist, with its Wild West vibe, is a new one, attempts to paint Russia as being in cahoots with the Taliban are hardly unprecedented. For example, in 2017, some top US generals claimed that Moscow was running guns for the Afghan militant movement. But when the head of US defense intelligence was asked about it by lawmakers, he said no physical evidence “of weapons or money being transferred” was ever found.

Russia called the NYT story an “unsophisticated” piece of disinformation that calls into question the “intellectual abilities of the propagandists from US intelligence,” who couldn’t come up with something more plausible.

June 28, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 3 Comments

UAE conceals news about normalising ties with Israel

MEMO | June 27, 2020

Despite the official announcement, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) mass media has concealed news about medical cooperation with Israel from its people, Arab48.com reported on Friday.

The National reported the news while the Spokeswoman of the Ministry of Health Hend Al-Otaiba posted a tweet on her account.

It was noteworthy that the country’s mouthpieces, Sky News Arabic and Al-Hadath, did not make reference to this news, despite offering wide coverage of internal UAE issues and the medical assistance the country offers to the needy.

Local UAE newspapers including Al-Bayan, Al-Khaleej and Emarat Al-Youm also did not feature the news.

However, mass media covered the article of UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al-Otaiba, where he claimed that his country is moving against the Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands.

During the last two decades, Israel launched several major offensives on the Palestinians and Lebanese, and killed thousands along with settlement expansion at the expense of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Arab world, especially the UAE, continued criticising the Palestinian resistance while maintaining good relations with Israel.

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment