Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Goodbye to the Internet: Interference by Governments Is Already Here

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 21.03.2019

There is a saying attributed to the French banker Nathan Rothschild that “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.” Conservative opinion in the United States has long suspected that Rothschild was right and there have been frequent calls to audit the Federal Reserve Bank based on the presumption that it has not always acted in support of the actual interests of the American people. That such an assessment is almost certainly correct might be presumed based on the 2008 economic crash in which the government bailed out the banks, which had through their malfeasance caused the disaster, and left individual Americans who had lost everything to face the consequences.

Be that as it may, if there were a modern version of the Rothschild comment it might go something like this: “Give me control of the internet and no one will ever more know what is true.” The internet, which was originally conceived of as a platform for the free interchange of information and opinions, is instead inexorably becoming a managed medium that is increasingly controlled by corporate and government interests. Those interests are in no way answerable to the vast majority of the consumers who actually use the sites in a reasonable and non-threatening fashion to communicate and share different points of view.

The United States Congress started the regulation ball rolling when it summoned the chief executives of the leading social media sites in the wake of the 2016 election. It sought explanations regarding why and how the Russians had allegedly been able to interfere in the election through the use of fraudulent accounts to spread information that might have influenced some voters. In spite of the sound and fury, however, all Congress succeeded in doing was demonstrating that the case against Moscow was flimsy at best while at the same time creating a rationale for an increased role in censoring the internet backed by the threat of government regulation.

Given that background, the recent shootings at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and at mosques in Christchurch New Zealand have inevitably produced strident demands that something must be done about the internet, with the presumption that the media both encouraged and enabled the attacks by the gunmen, demented individuals who were immediately labeled as “white supremacists.” One critic puts it this way, “Let’s be clear, social media is the lifeblood of the far-right. The fact that a terror attack was livestreamed should tell us that this is a unique form for violence made for the digital era. The infrastructure of social media giants is not merely ancillary to the operations of terrorists — it is central to it [and] social media giants assume a huge responsibility to prevent and stop hate speech proliferating on the internet. It’s clear the internet giants cannot manage this alone; we urgently need a renewed conversation on internet regulation… It is time for counter-terrorism specialists to move into the offices of social media giants.”

It’s the wrong thing to do, in part because intelligence and police services already spend a great deal of time monitoring chat on the internet. And the premise that most terrorists who use the social media can be characterized as the enemy du jour “white supremacists” is also patently untrue. Using the national security argument to place knuckle dragging “counter-terrorism specialists” in private sector offices would be the last thing that anyone would reasonably want to do. If one were to turn the internet into a government regulated service it would mean that what comes out at the other end would be something like propaganda intended to make the public think in ways that do not challenge the authority of the bureaucrats and politicians. In the US, it might amount to nothing less than exposure to commentary approved by Mike Pompeo and John Bolton if one wished to learn what is going on in the world.

Currently I and many other internet users appreciate and rely on the alternative media to provide viewpoints that are either suppressed by government or corporate interests or even contrary to prevailing fraudulent news accounts. And the fact is that the internet is already subject to heavy handed censorship by the service providers, which one friend has described as “Soviet era” in its intensity, who are themselves implementing their increasingly disruptive actions to find false personas and to ban as “hate speech” anything that is objected to by influential constituencies.

Blocking information is also already implemented by various countries through a cooperative arrangement whereby governments can ask search engines to remove material. Google actually documents the practice in an annual Transparency Report which reveals that government requests to remove information have increased from less than 1,000 per year in 2010 to nearly 30,000 per year currently. Not surprisingly, Israel and the United States lead the pack when it comes to requests for deletions. Since 2009 the US has asked for 7,964 deletions totaling 109,936 items while Israel has sought 1,436 deletions totally 10,648 items. Roughly two thirds of Israeli and US requests were granted.

And there is more happening behind the scenes. Since 2016, Facebook representatives have also been regularly meeting with the Israeli government to delete Facebook accounts of Palestinians that the Israelis claim constitute “incitement.” Israel had threatened Facebook that non-compliance with Israeli deletion orders would “result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.” Facebook chose compliance and, since that time, Israeli officials have been “publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders.” It should be noted that Facebook postings calling for the murder of Palestinians have not been censored.

And censorship also operates as well at other levels unseen, to include deletion of millions of old postings and videos to change the historical record and rewrite the past. To alter the current narrative, Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all have been pressured to cooperate with pro-Israel private groups in the United States, to include the powerful Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL is working with social media “to engineer new solutions to stop cyberhate” by blocking “hate language,” which includes any criticism of Israel that might be construed as anti-Semitism by the new expanded definition that is being widely promoted by the US Congress and the Trump Administration.

Censorship of information also increasingly operates in the publishing world. With the demise of actual bookstores, most readers buy their books from media online giant Amazon, which had a policy of offering every book in print. On February 19, 2019, it was revealed that Amazon would no longer sell books that it considered too controversial.

Government regulation combined with corporate social media self-censorship means that the user of the service will not know what he or she is missing because it will not be there. And once the freedom to share information without restraint is gone it will never return. On balance, free speech is intrinsically far more important than any satisfaction that might come from government intrusion to make the internet less an enabler of violence. If history teaches us anything, it is that the diminishment of one basic right will rapidly lead to the loss of others and there is no freedom more fundamental than the ability to say or write whatever one chooses, wherever and whenever one seeks to do so.

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Unhinged Russophobia’: Moscow slams new barrage of US & Canada sanctions over Kerch standoff

RT | March 16, 2019

The Russian Foreign Ministry has vowed retaliation to the new portion of economic sanctions rolled out by Washington and Ottawa over the November showdown near Crimean shores.

The ministry has called “groundless” the allegations by the US and Canadian governments that Russia was the aggressor in the November 25 incident in the Black Sea, when three Ukrainian warships sailed into Russian territorial waters.

Moscow said that the Ukrainian vessels had not obtained proper permits to cross the strait and ignored repeated warnings by the Russian coast guard to stop when they entered the Russian waters near Crimea. Three Ukrainian sailors were injured in the standoff, and a total of 24 Ukrainian personnel were detained and put on trial in Russia for violating Russian state borders.

The ships were later found to be armed and were reportedly intended on crossing the waterway that separates mainland Russia from Crimea in a “stealthy” manner.

On Friday, Washington imposed sanctions on six businessmen and politicians and eight enterprises, while Ottawa slapped economic restrictions on 114 individuals and 15 entities. The ministry specifically took aim at Canada for racing to keep up with the US’ Russia-bashing.

“It seems that from a normal logic standpoint, it would be more important for [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s team to concentrate on resolving rather complex problems at home, than play its ‘Russophobia card’ in vain.”

Both US and Canada continue to follow a “perilous course” aimed at a “total destruction” of relations with Russia, already at rock bottom due to “unhinged Russophobia that has engulfed Washington and Ottawa,” the ministry said.

Moscow has vowed to mount a “practical response” to the new sanctions.

Shipyards based in St. Petersburg and Crimea and Russian officials that were responding to the incident in the Kerch Strait were among those included in Washington’s black list. Canada also targeted prominent Russian politicians and business executives, such as the head of the Russian oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, and the head of the National Guard, Victor Zolotov.

Oleg Deripaska, Russian aluminum tycoon, sanctioned by the US last year, is meanwhile taking the US government to court arguing that the restrictions were based “on false rumor and innuendo” and violated the US constitution.

Deripaska was forced to lower his stake in the aluminum giant Rusal to spare it from sanctions, but sanctions targeting him personally remain in place.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings

Consortium News | March 13, 2019

The final Mueller report should be graded “incomplete,” says VIPS, whose forensic work proves the speciousness of the story that DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking:

MEMORANDUM FOR:    The Attorney General

FROM:   Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT:   Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings

Executive Summary

Media reports are predicting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is about to give you the findings of his probe into any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. If Mueller gives you his “completed” report anytime soon, it should be graded “incomplete.” Major deficiencies include depending on a DNC-hired cybersecurity company for forensics and failure to consult with those who have done original forensic work, including us and the independent forensic investigators with whom we have examined the data. We stand ready to help.

We veteran intelligence professionals (VIPS) have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

There is an overabundance of “assessments” but a lack of hard evidence to support that prevailing narrative. We believe that there are enough people of integrity in the Department of Justice to prevent the outright manufacture or distortion of “evidence,” particularly if they become aware that experienced scientists have completed independent forensic study that yields very different conclusions. We know only too well — and did our best to expose — how our former colleagues in the intelligence community manufactured fraudulent “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We have scrutinized publicly available physical data — the “trail” that every cyber operation leaves behind. And we have had support from highly experienced independent forensic investigators who, like us, have no axes to grind. We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails-for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.

This time, with the principles of physics and forensic science to rely on, we are able to adduce solid evidence exposing mistakes and distortions in the dominant story. We offer you below — as a kind of aide-memoire— a discussion of some of the key factors related to what has become known as “Russia-gate.” And we include our most recent findings drawn from forensic work on data associated with WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC emails.

We do not claim our conclusions are “irrefutable and undeniable,” a la Colin Powell at the UN before the Iraq war. Our judgments, however, are based on the scientific method — not “assessments.” We decided to put this memorandum together in hopes of ensuring that you hear that directly from us.

If the Mueller team remains reluctant to review our work — or even to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, we fear that many of those yearning earnestly for the truth on Russia-gate will come to the corrosive conclusion that the Mueller investigation was a sham.

In sum, we are concerned that, at this point, an incomplete Mueller report will fall far short of the commitment made by then Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “to ensure a full and thorough investigation,” when he appointed Mueller in May 2017. Again, we are at your disposal.

Discussion

The centerpiece accusation of Kremlin “interference” in the 2016 presidential election was the charge that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to embarrass Secretary Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump win. The weeks following the election witnessed multiple leak-based media allegations to that effect. These culminated on January 6, 2017 in an evidence-light, rump report misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA).” Prepared by “handpicked analysts” from only three of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, and NSA), the assessment expressed “high confidence” in the Russia-hacking-to-WikiLeaks story, but lacked so much as a hint that the authors had sought access to independent forensics to support their “assessment.”

The media immediately awarded the ICA the status of Holy Writ, choosing to overlook an assortment of banal, full-disclosure-type caveats included in the assessment itself — such as:

“When Intelligence Community analysts use words such as ‘we assess’ or ‘we judge,’ they are conveying an analytic assessment or judgment. …Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. … Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary … High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong.”

To their credit, however, the authors of the ICA did make a highly germane point in introductory remarks on “cyber incident attribution.“ They noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” [Emphasis added.]

Forensics

The imperative is to get on that “trail” — and quickly, before red herrings can be swept across it. The best way to establish attribution is to apply the methodology and processes of forensic science. Intrusions into computers leave behind discernible physical data that can be examined scientifically by forensic experts. Risk to “sources and methods” is normally not a problem.

Direct access to the actual computers is the first requirement — the more so when an intrusion is termed “an act of war” and blamed on a nuclear-armed foreign government (the words used by the late Sen. John McCain and other senior officials). In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in March 2017, former FBI Director James Comey admitted that he did not insist on physical access to the DNC computers even though, as he conceded, “best practices” dictate direct access.

In June 2017, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr asked Comey whether he ever had “access to the actual hardware that was hacked.” Comey answered, “In the case of the DNC … we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity, that had done the work. …” Sen. Burr followed up: “But no content? Isn’t content an important part of the forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint?” Comey: “It is, although what was briefed to me by my folks … is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.”

The “private party/high-class entity” to which Comey refers is CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm of checkered reputation and multiple conflicts of interest, including very close ties to a number of key anti-Russian organizations. Comey indicated that the DNC hired CrowdStrike in the spring of 2016.

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – including a possible impeachment battle and greatly increased tension between Russia and the U.S. — it is difficult to understand why Comey did not move quickly to seize the computer hardware so the FBI could perform an independent examination of what quickly became the major predicate for investigating election interference by Russia. Fortunately, enough data remain on the forensic “trail” to arrive at evidence-anchored conclusions. The work we have done shows the prevailing narrative to be false. We have been suggesting this for over two years. Recent forensic work significantly strengthens that conclusion.

We Do Forensics

Recent forensic examination of the Wikileaks DNC files shows they were created on 23, 25 and 26 May 2016. (On June 12, Julian Assange announced he had them; WikiLeaks published them on July 22.) We recently discovered that the files reveal a FAT (File Allocation Table) system property. This shows that the data had been transferred to an external storage device, such as a thumb drive, before WikiLeaks posted them.

FAT is a simple file system named for its method of organization, the File Allocation Table. It is used for storage only and is not related to internet transfers like hacking. Were WikiLeaks to have received the DNC files via a hack, the last modified times on the files would be a random mixture of odd-and even-ending numbers.

Why is that important? The evidence lies in the “last modified” time stamps on the Wikileaks files. When a file is stored under the FAT file system the software rounds the time to the nearest even-numbered second. Every single one of the time stamps in the DNC files on WikiLeaks’ site ends in an even number.

We have examined 500 DNC email files stored on the Wikileaks site. All 500 files end in an even number—2, 4, 6, 8 or 0. If those files had been hacked over the Internet, there would be an equal probability of the time stamp ending in an odd number. The random probability that FAT was not used is 1 chance in 2 to the 500th power. Thus, these data show that the DNC emails posted by WikiLeaks went through a storage device, like a thumb drive, and were physically moved before Wikileaks posted the emails on the World Wide Web.

This finding alone is enough to raise reasonable doubts, for example, about Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking the DNC emails given to WikiLeaks. A defense attorney could easily use the forensics to argue that someone copied the DNC files to a storage device like a USB thumb drive and got them physically to WikiLeaks — not electronically via a hack.

Role of NSA

For more than two years, we strongly suspected that the DNC emails were copied/leaked in that way, not hacked. And we said so. We remain intrigued by the apparent failure of NSA’s dragnet, collect-it-all approach — including “cast-iron” coverage of WikiLeaks — to provide forensic evidence (as opposed to “assessments”) as to how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks and who sent them. Well before the telling evidence drawn from the use of FAT, other technical evidence led us to conclude that the DNC emails were not hacked over the network, but rather physically moved over, say, the Atlantic Ocean.

Is it possible that NSA has not yet been asked to produce the collected packets of DNC email data claimed to have been hacked by Russia? Surely, this should be done before Mueller competes his investigation. NSA has taps on all the transoceanic cables leaving the U.S. and would almost certainly have such packets if they exist. (The detailed slides released by Edward Snowden actually show the routes that trace the packets.)

The forensics we examined shed no direct light on who may have been behind the leak. The only thing we know for sure is that the person had to have direct access to the DNC computers or servers in order to copy the emails. The apparent lack of evidence from the most likely source, NSA, regarding a hack may help explain the FBI’s curious preference for forensic data from CrowdStrike. No less puzzling is why Comey would choose to call CrowdStrike a “high-class entity.”

Comey was one of the intelligence chiefs briefing President Obama on January 5, 2017 on the “Intelligence Community Assessment,” which was then briefed to President-elect Trump and published the following day. That Obama found a key part of the ICA narrative less than persuasive became clear at his last press conference (January 18), when he told the media, “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive … as to how ‘the DNC emails that were leaked’ got to WikiLeaks.

Is Guccifer 2.0 a Fraud?

There is further compelling technical evidence that undermines the claim that the DNC emails were downloaded over the internet as a result of a spearphishing attack. William Binney, one of VIPS’ two former Technical Directors at NSA, along with other former intelligence community experts, examined emails posted by Guccifer 2.0 and discovered that those emails could not have been downloaded over the internet. It is a simple matter of mathematics and physics.

There was a flurry of activity after Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016: “We have emails relating to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.” On June 14, DNC contractor CrowdStrike announced that malware was found on the DNC server and claimed there was evidence it was injected by Russians. On June 15, the Guccifer 2.0 persona emerged on the public stage, affirmed the DNC statement, claimed to be responsible for hacking the DNC, claimed to be a WikiLeaks source, and posted a document that forensics show was synthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”

Our suspicions about the Guccifer 2.0 persona grew when G-2 claimed responsibility for a “hack” of the DNC on July 5, 2016, which released DNC data that was rather bland compared to what WikiLeaks published 17 days later (showing how the DNC had tipped the primary scales against Sen. Bernie Sanders). As VIPS reported in a wrap-up Memorandum for the President on July 24, 2017 (titled “Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence),” forensic examination of the July 5, 2016 cyber intrusion into the DNC showed it NOT to be a hack by the Russians or by anyone else, but rather a copy onto an external storage device. It seemed a good guess that the July 5 intrusion was a contrivance to preemptively taint anything WikiLeaks might later publish from the DNC, by “showing” it came from a “Russian hack.” WikiLeaks published the DNC emails on July 22, three days before the Democratic convention.

As we prepared our July 24 memo for the President, we chose to begin by taking Guccifer 2.0 at face value; i. e., that the documents he posted on July 5, 2016 were obtained via a hack over the Internet. Binney conducted a forensic examination of the metadata contained in the posted documents and compared that metadata with the known capacity of Internet connection speeds at the time in the U.S. This analysis showed a transfer rate as high as 49.1 megabytes per second, which is much faster than was possible from a remote online Internet connection. The 49.1 megabytes speed coincided, though, with the rate that copying onto a thumb drive could accommodate.

Binney, assisted by colleagues with relevant technical expertise, then extended the examination and ran various forensic tests from the U.S. to the Netherlands, Albania, Belgrade and the UK. The fastest Internet rate obtained — from a data center in New Jersey to a data center in the UK — was 12 megabytes per second, which is less than a fourth of the capacity typical of a copy onto a thumb drive.

The findings from the examination of the Guccifer 2.0 data and the WikiLeaks data does not indicate who copied the information to an external storage device (probably a thumb drive). But our examination does disprove that G.2 hacked into the DNC on July 5, 2016. Forensic evidence for the Guccifer 2.0 data adds to other evidence that the DNC emails were not taken by an internet spearphishing attack. The data breach was local. The emails were copied from the network.

Presidential Interest

After VIPS’ July 24, 2017 Memorandum for the President, Binney, one of its principal authors, was invited to share his insights with Mike Pompeo, CIA Director at the time. When Binney arrived in Pompeo’s office at CIA Headquarters on October 24, 2017 for an hour-long discussion, the director made no secret of the reason for the invitation: “You are here because the President told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk with you.”

Binney warned Pompeo — to stares of incredulity — that his people should stop lying about the Russian hacking. Binney then started to explain the VIPS findings that had caught President Trump’s attention. Pompeo asked Binney if he would talk to the FBI and NSA. Binney agreed, but has not been contacted by those agencies. With that, Pompeo had done what the President asked. There was no follow-up.

Confronting James Clapper on Forensics

We, the hoi polloi, do not often get a chance to talk to people like Pompeo — and still less to the former intelligence chiefs who are the leading purveyors of the prevailing Russia-gate narrative. An exception came on November 13, when former National Intelligence Director James Clapper came to the Carnegie Endowment in Washington to hawk his memoir. Answering a question during the Q&A about Russian “hacking” and NSA, Clapper said:

“Well, I have talked with NSA a lot … And in my mind, I spent a lot of time in the SIGINT business, the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever.” [Emphasis added]

Clapper added: “… as a private citizen, understanding the magnitude of what the Russians did and the number of citizens in our country they reached and the different mechanisms that, by which they reached them, to me it stretches credulity to think they didn’t have a profound impact on election on the outcome of the election.”

(A transcript of the interesting Q&A can be found here and a commentary on Clapper’s performance at Carnegie, as well as on his longstanding lack of credibility, is here.)

Normally soft-spoken Ron Wyden, Democratic senator from Oregon, lost his patience with Clapper last week when he learned that Clapper is still denying that he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the extent of NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens. In an unusual outburst, Wyden said: “James Clapper needs to stop making excuses for lying to the American people about mass surveillance. To be clear: I sent him the question in advance. I asked him to correct the record afterward. He chose to let the lie stand.”

The materials brought out by Edward Snowden in June 2013 showed Clapper to have lied under oath to the committee on March 12, 2013; he was, nevertheless, allowed to stay on as Director of National Intelligence for three and half more years. Clapper fancies himself an expert on Russia, telling Meet the Presson May 28, 2017 that Russia’s history shows that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever.”

Clapper ought to be asked about the “forensics” he said were “overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” And that, too, before Mueller completes his investigation.

For the steering group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:

William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (ret.)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Edward Loomis, Cryptologic Computer Scientist, former Technical Director at NSA (ret.)

David MacMichael, Ph.D., former senior estimates officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Peter Van Buren, US Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (ret.); Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is made up of former intelligence officers, diplomats, military officers and congressional staffers. The organization, founded in 2002, was among the first critics of Washington’s justifications for launching a war against Iraq. VIPS advocates a US foreign and national security policy based on genuine national interests rather than contrived threats promoted for largely political reasons. An archive of VIPS memoranda is available at Consortiumnews.com.

March 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

‘Dark Money’ Group Gave Millions to Nonprofit Working on Steele Dossier – Report

Sputnik – 11.03.2019

The Daily Caller has revealed a new report on dark money flowing into an organisation with close links to Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele – key figures in the investigation into US President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election.

Fund for a Better Future (FBF), a California-based group, donated $2,065,000 to The Democracy Integrity Project (TDIP), the non-profit that contracted with private investigative firm Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, author of the Trump-Russia dossier, to probe POTUS, according to IRS filings reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF).

TDIP was founded in 2017 by Daniel Jones, a consultant who worked for Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the first female chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jones told the FBI that he had hired Fusion GPS and Steele to continue the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russia in 2016.

Jones reportedly told an associate that TDIP operated as a “shadow media organisation helping the government”, and suggested that his team had planted several articles against President Trump.

Still, little is known about the donors of the two organisations – TDIP and FBF, but according to The Daily Caller, this type of public advocacy group is most closely associated with “dark money” donations.

Scott Walter, the president of the Capital Research Centre, a conservative watchdog, said this was an example of “dark money”:

“You’ve found one ‘dark money’ outfit providing dark millions to another ‘dark money’ outfit and refusing to reveal anything to you. That’s ‘dark’ two or three times over. Ironically, ‘dark money’ is most often applied only to conservative funding”, Walter said, adding that “the Left has a vast empire of ‘dark money’ groups, including the Fund for a Better Future and The Democracy Integrity Project”.

According to FBF’s recent audit, the group has four key donors, who have not been identified. In the meantime, one renowned TDIP donor has successfully been identified and is none other than Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros.

A spokesman for Soros told The New York Times last October that the billionaire had contributed $1 million to TDIP. The revelation came only after TheDCNF reported that Jones had disclosed to his associate that Soros was one of TDIP’s donors.

A report release by the House Intelligence Committee in April 2018 suggests that Jones told the FBI a year before that his group would receive $50 million in funding from seven to ten wealthy funders from New York and California.

Jones went on to say that TDIP “planned to share the information he obtained with policymakers… and with the press”, and that his organisation “had secured the services of Steele, his associate [redacted], and Fusion GPS to continue exposing Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election”.

Fusion GPS, founded by ex-Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, hired Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, in June 2016. At the time, Fusion was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to look into Trump’s alleged links to Russia.

Simpson’s firm hired Steele to compile a disparaging dossier that contained unverified allegations that Trump took part in activities that could make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail attempts. The White House has flatly rejected the allegations, with POTUS slamming the dossier as “fake” and “discredited”.

Russia has also denied any interference in the election process, stressing that the allegations were made up to excuse the defeat of Trump’s rival.

The ongoing investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller has also failed to find any evidence that would implicate Trump directly with Russia.

March 11, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Would Britain accuse Russia of hacking without evidence? It’s ‘highly likely’

By Simon Rite | RT | March 7, 2019

Answer the following question: When Sky News asked unnamed UK government sources whether Russia hacked the Institute of Statecraft, did they reply it was: ‘somewhat likely,’ ‘highly likely,’ or ‘don’t know’?

If you said it’s ‘highly likely’ you got the answer right.

So, in an exclusive report Sky News reveals that Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) is investigating a cyber attack on “the little-known Institute for Statecraft”, and that sources, which are only named as being from “Whitehall,” say it’s ‘highly likely’ Russia’s military intelligence service was behind it.

Furthermore, “Chris Donnelly, a former senior Ministry of Defence civil servant who co-founded the Institute for Statecraft, said he has little doubt who hacked it, though he has no “forensic proof.”

Shady GRU, anonymous sources, ‘highly likely,’ no “forensic proof”, and slap an exclusive tag on it. It’s the classic formula for a Russia story.

The cyber-hacks have actually concentrated on the Integrity Initiative which is run by the Institute for Statecraft. The Integrity Initiative says it aims to combat “disinformation used by Russia and others.” It’s main tactic against what it perceives as propaganda is to use propaganda.

It’s also been caught tweeting anti-Jeremy Corbyn material, which isn’t good considering they’re partly-funded by the UK Foreign Office.

Only in a story about Russia and the GRU would it be acceptable to place your trust in anonymous sources and a former MoD employee who runs a transparently anti-Russia programme staffed by former spies.

The Integrity Initiative files that were hacked have been leaked over a number of months, by someone calling themselves Anonymous.

The Sky News article, which doesn’t want to undermine the insinuation that only Russia could be to blame, says there is no proof that this Anonymous group is linked to the worldwide group of activist hackers of the same name. Even if there’s no ‘forensic proof,’ surely it’s ‘highly likely’ they are?

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

The MSM just realised the “Integrity Initiative” is a thing

… and it turns out it was all Russia’s fault

The actual listed address for The Integrity Initiative, and a handy visual metaphor for the absolute state of the place. Image source: UKColumn
By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | March 7, 2019

For those of you who don’t know, the Integrity Initiative is (was?) a UK-government funded operation to “counter disinformation”. It was run under the auspices of the (fake) charity the Institute for Statecraft, paid for by the foreign office and intelligence agencies, and co-opted journalists to spread propaganda.

This was all revealed months ago, when internal documents were leaked online. (Moon of Alabama did great work on this, as did Kit Klarenberg).

Journalists and other influencers were collected into cells, what the Integrity Initiative’s (II) internal memos called “clusters”, usually by region. These clusters were tasked with “combating Russian disinformation”, or other polite translations of “disseminating propaganda”.

The II’s target list is short but predictable – it attacked Russia, Russian media and “Russian bots”. It attacked Scottish nationalists and the independence movement, and it attacked Jeremy Corbyn. Essentially, they turn the fire of their “clusters” on those perceived to be enemies of the status quo.

Those contributing to these clusters are then little more than attack dogs. They never call themselves that, of course, they have all sorts of mechanisms for defending themselves from the truth of their actions. That’s how the shallow have lived with the unconscionable since the beginning of time.

A good example of how this works is Scottish journalist David Leask – written about here by Craig Murrary.

We know from internal memos that Leask had a meeting with II personnel in late March of 2018. We know, from these notes, that Leask was “briefed” about how Scottish nationalism and independence played into Russia’s hands. Or the prevalence of “McBots” spreading anti-union messages on Twitter. He is “appraised of the dangers”, and then toddles off back to his computer, safe in the knowledge that – though he is doubtless writing about the government told him to write about – he’s making the world a safer, freer and better place. Somehow.

The details of the leaks are not important right now. They have been analysed and dissected in great detail already. The actual mechanics, how the different clusters worked, can be reasoned and guessed at, but never known for certain… short of more leaks.

What we DO know is that the foreign office spent millions of pounds funding an organisation which worked with journalists to spin pro-government narratives and smear the head of the opposition. This is a big deal. It should be enough to bring down the government, or least spark an investigation.

Neither happened. In fact, the content of these leaks was never reported in detail in the mainstream media. Indeed, it was barely covered at all – short of vague, snide opinion pieces about the UK “stooping to Russia’s level” and other childish nonsense. (The Guardian closed the comment section on that piece after 2 hours, when it was clear nobody was buying what they were trying to sell).

The detailed write-ups available are only on alternate media sites, or rebel academic groups. The only MP to raise the issue in Parliament was Chris Williamson… since hounded out of Labour under spurious charges of antisemitism. For the most part, the establishment simply ignored all mention if the Integrity Initiative.

Until now.

Now, months later, the media have awakened to the II’s presence. Sky reported today:

‘Highly likely’ GRU hacked UK institute countering Russian fake news

It’s a long, rambling article that contains only one important point: Chris Donnelly, head of the Institute for Statecraft, admits there is “no proof” Russia was behind the “hack”.

Everything past that point is moot. There’s no proof, there’s no evidence even (at least, none that we are shown). We have no reason to simply accept, on faith, the assertion of the NCA.

A simple analysis of motive would suggest that, of course the government are going to blame Russia. They have to shift focus from their now proven corruption. This is politics 101. Deflection and diversion. It’s old-fashioned and, unfortunately, it works. Especially when you have a small army of government-backed hacks to shovel your bullshit narrative down the public’s throat.

Exhibit A:

Note that nowhere in this story, or anywhere else, is the veracity of documents questioned. They are real. They are the truth. The mainstream media are attempting to undermine a known, proven truth by repeating – without analysis or question – a government-backed theory, for which they admit they have “no proof”.

Interestingly, both Cadwalladr and Deborah Haynes (the author of the Sky article) are named as members of the “UK Cluster” in the leaked documents.

So, essentially, we have journalists accused of working with a government propaganda office to smear Russia… who are defending themselves by spreading government propaganda which smears Russia. (It’s a very “My aunt, who I live with…” scenario). But when you only have the one card you’ve got to play it, and play it with conviction, I suppose.

All of this, of course, mirrors the leaked DNC e-mails from 2016. The e-mails proved corruption on behalf of Hillary Clinton, and yet were attacked in the media as being the result of “Russian hacking”. No evidence for Russian hacking has ever emerged, and WikiLeaks have said – dozens of times – that the e-mails were leaked by an insider.

In fact, the media’s defensive strategy is a move straight out of the DNC playbook:

“Yes I’m corrupt and malign, but you only know I’m corrupt and malign because the Russians hacked my e-mail!”

It’s not really anything like the brilliant defense they seem to think it is.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative

By Craig Murray | March 7, 2019

I still do not know what happened in the Skripal saga, which perhaps might more respectfully be termed the Sturgess saga. I cannot believe the Russian account of Borishov and Petrov, because if those were their real identities, those identities would have been firmly established and displayed by now. But that does not mean they attempted to kill the Skripals, and there are many key elements to the official British account which are also simply incredible.

Governments play dark games, and a dark game was played out in Salisbury which involved at least the British state, Russian agents (possibly on behalf of the state), Orbis Intelligence and the BBC. Anybody who believes it is simple to identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in this situation is a fool. When it comes to state actors and the intelligence services, frequently there are no “good guys”, as I personally witnessed from the inside over torture, extraordinary rendition and the illegal invasion of Iraq. But in the face of a massive media campaign to validate the British government story about the Skripals, here are ten of the things I do not believe in the official account:

1) PURE

This was the point that led me to return to the subject of the Skripals, even though it has brought me more abuse than I had received in my 15 year career as a whistleblower.

A few months ago, I was in truth demoralised by the amount of abuse I was receiving about the collapse of the Russian identity story of Borishov and Petrov. I had never claimed the poisoning, if any, was not carried out by Russians, only that there were many other possibilities. I understood the case against the Russian state is still far from established, whoever Borishov and Petrov really are, and I did not (and do not) accept Bellingcat’s conjectures and dodgy evidence as conclusive identification. But I did not enjoy at all the constant online taunts, and therefore was not inclined to take the subject further.

It is in this mood that I received more information from my original FCO source, who had told me, correctly, that Porton Down could not and would not attest that the “novichok” sample was made in Russia, and explained that the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was an agreed Whitehall line to cover this up.

She wanted to explain to me that the British government was pulling a similar trick over the use of the word “pure”. The OPCW report had concluded that the sample provided to them by the British government was “of high purity” with an “almost complete absence of impurities”. This had been spun by the British government as evidence that the novichok was “military grade” and could only be produced by a state.

But actually that is not what the OPCW technical experts were attempting to signal. The sample provided to the OPCW had allegedly been swabbed from the Skripals’ door handle. It had been on that door handle for several days before it was allegedly discovered there. In that time it had been contacted allegedly by the hands of the Skripals and of DC Bailey, and the gloves of numerous investigators. It had of course been exposed to whatever film of dirt or dust was on the door handle. It had been exposed to whatever pollution was in the rain and whatever dust and pollen was blowing around. In these circumstances, it is incredible that the sample provided “had an almost complete absence of impurities”.

A sample cannot have a complete absence of impurities after being on a used doorknob, outdoors, for several days. The sample provided was, on the contrary, straight out of a laboratory.

The government’s contention that “almost complete absence of impurities” meant “military grade” was complete nonsense. There is no such thing as “military grade” novichok. It has never been issued to any military, anywhere. The novichok programme was designed to produce an organo-phosphate poison which could quickly be knocked up from readily available commercial ingredients. It was not part of an actual defence industry manufacturing programme.

There is a final problem with the “of high purity” angle. First we had the Theresa May story that the “novichok” was extremely deadly, many times more deadly than VX, in minute traces. Then, when the Skripals did not die, it was explained to us that this was because it had degraded in the rain. This was famously put forward by Dan Kaszeta, formerly of US Intelligence and the White House and self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert – which expertise has been strenuously denied by real experts.

What we did not know then, but we do know now, is that Kaszeta was secretly being paid to produce this propaganda by the British government via the Integrity Initiative.

So the first thing I cannot believe is that the British government produced a sample with an “almost complete absence of impurities” from several days on the Skripals’ doorknob. Nor can I believe that if “extremely pure” the substance therefore was not fatal to the Skripals.

2) Raising the Roof

Three days ago Sky News had an outside broadcast from the front of the Skripals’ house in Salisbury, where they explained that the roof had been removed and replaced due to contamination with “novichok”.

I cannot believe that a gel, allegedly smeared or painted onto the doorknob, migrated upwards to get into the roof of a two storey house, in such a manner that the roof had to be destroyed, but the house inbetween did not. As the MSM never questions the official narrative, there has never been an official answer as to how the gel got from the doorknob to the roof. Remember that traces of the “novichok” were allegedly found in a hotel room in Poplar, which is still in use as a hotel room and did not have to be destroyed, and an entire bottle of it was allegedly found in Charlie Rowley’s house, which has not had to be destroyed. Novichok was found in Zizzi’s restaurant, which did not have to be destroyed.

So we are talking about novichok in threatening quantities – more than the traces allegedly found in the hotel in Poplar – being in the Skripals’ roof. How could this happen?

As I said in the onset, I do not know what happened, I only know what I do not believe. There are theories that Skripal and his daughter might themselves have been involved with novichok in some way. On the face of it, its presence in their roof might support that theory.

The second thing I do not believe is that the Skripals’ roof became contaminated by gel on their doorknob so that the roof had to be destroyed, whereas no other affected properties, nor the rest of the Skripals’ house, had to be destroyed.

3) Nursing Care

The very first person to discover the Skripals ill on a park bench in Salisbury just happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army, who chanced to be walking past them on her way back from a birthday party. How lucky was that? The odds are about the same as the chance of my vacuum cleaner breaking down just before James Dyson knocks at my door to ask for directions. There are very few people indeed in the UK trained to give nursing care to victims of chemical weapon attack, and of all the people who might have walked past, it just happened to be the most senior of them!

The government is always trying to get good publicity for its armed forces, and you would think that the heroic role of its off-duty personnel in saving random poisoned Russian double agents they just happened to chance across, would have been proclaimed as a triumph for the British military. Yet it was kept secret for ten months. We were not told about the involvement of Colonel Abigail McCourt until January of this year, when it came out by accident. Swollen with maternal pride, Col. McCourt nominated her daughter for an award from the local radio station for her role in helping give first aid to the Skripals, and young Abigail revealed her mother’s identity on local radio – and the fact her mother was there “with her” administering first aid.

Even then, the compliant MSM played along, with the Guardian and Sky News both among those running stories emphasising entirely the Enid Blyton narrative of “plucky teenager saves the Skripals”, and scarcely mentioning the Army’s Chief Nurse who was looking after the Skripals “with little Abigail”.

I want to emphasise again that Col. Alison McCourt is not the chief nurse of a particular unit or hospital, she is the Chief Nurse of the entire British Army. Her presence was kept entirely quiet by the media for ten months, when all sorts of stories were run in the MSM about who the first responders were – various doctors and police officers being mentioned.

If you believe that it is coincidence that the Chief Nurse of the British Army was the first person to discover the Skripals ill, you are a credulous fool. And why was it kept quiet?

4) Remarkable Metabolisms

This has been noted many times, but no satisfactory answer has ever been given. The official story is that the Skripals were poisoned by their door handle, but then well enough to go out to a pub, feed some ducks, and have a big lunch in Zizzi’s, before being instantly stricken and disabled, both at precisely the same time.

The Skripals were of very different ages, genders and weights. That an agent which took hours to act but then kicks in with immediate disabling effect, so they could not call for help, would affect two such entirely different metabolisms at precisely the same time, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dosage would have an effect and of course the doorknob method would give an uncontrolled dosage.

But that the two different random dosages were such that they affected each of these two very different people at just the same moment, so that neither could call for help, is an extreme coincidence. It is almost as unlikely as the person who walks by next being the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

5) 11 Days

After the poisoning of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, the Police cordoned off Charlie Rowley’s home and began a search for “Novichok”, in an attitude of extreme urgency because it was believed this poison was out amidst the public. They were specifically searching for a small phial of liquid. Yet it took 11 days of the search before they allegedly discovered the “novichok” in a perfume bottle sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter – and only after they had discovered the clue of the perfume bottle package in the bin the day before, after ten days of search.

The bottle was out of its packaging and “novichok”, of which the tiniest amount is deadly, had been squirted out of its nozzle at least twice, by both Rowley and Sturgess, and possibly more often. The exterior of the bottle/nozzle was therefore contaminated. Yet the house, unlike the Skripals’ roof space, has not had to be destroyed.

I do not believe it took the Police eleven days to find the very thing they were looking for, in plain sight as exactly the small bottle of liquid sought, on a kitchen bench. What else was happening?

6) Mark Urban/Pablo Miller

The BBC’s “Diplomatic Editor” is a regular conduit for the security services. He fronted much of the BBC’s original coverage of the Skripal story. Yet he concealed from the viewers the fact that he had been in regular contact with Sergei Skripal for months before the alleged poisoning, and had held several meetings with Skripal.

This is extraordinary behaviour. It was the biggest news story in the world, and news organisations, including the BBC, were scrambling to fill in the Skripals’ back story. Yet the journalist who had the inside info on the world’s biggest news story, and was actually reporting on it, kept that knowledge to himself. Why? Urban was not only passing up a career defining opportunity, it was unethical of him to continually report on the story without revealing to the viewers his extensive contacts with Skripal.

The British government had two immediate reactions to the Skripal incident. Within the first 48 hours, it blamed Russia, and it slapped a D(SMA) notice banning all media mention of Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. By yet another one of those extraordinary coincidences, Miller and Urban know each other well, having both been officers together in the Royal Tank Regiment, of the same rank and joining the Regiment the same year.

I have sent the following questions to Mark Urban, repeatedly. There has been no response:

To: mark.urban@bbc.co.uk

Dear Mark,

As you may know, I am a journalist working in alternative media, a member of the NUJ, as well as a former British Ambassador. I am researching the Skripal case.

I wish to ask you the following questions.

1) When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
2) You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
5) When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
9) In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Craig Murray

The lack of openness of Urban in refusing to answer these questions, and the role played by the BBC and the MSM in general in marching in unquestioning lockstep with the British government narrative, plus the “coincidence” of Urban’s relationship with Pablo Miller, give further reason for scepticism of the official narrative.

7 Four Months

The official narrative insists that Borishov and Petrov brought “novichok” into the country; that minute quantities could kill; that they disposed of the novichok that did kill Dawn Sturgess. It must therefore have been of the highest priority to inform the public of the movements of the suspects and the possible locations where deadly traces of “novichok” must be lurking.

Yet there was at least a four month gap between the police searching the Poplar hotel where Borishov and Petrov were staying, allegedly discovering traces of novichok in the hotel room, and the police informing the hotel management, let alone the public, of the discovery. That is four months in which a cleaner might have fatally stumbled across more novichok in the hotel. Four months in which another guest in the same hotel might have had something lurking in their bag which they had picked up. Four months in which there might have been a container of novichok sitting in a hedge near the hotel. Yet for four months the police did not think any of this was urgent enough to tell anybody.

The astonishing thing is that it was a full three months after the death of Dawn Sturgess before the hotel were informed, the public were informed, or the pictures of “Borishov” and “Petrov” in Salisbury released. There could be no clearer indication that the authorities did not actually believe that any threat from residual novichok was connected to the movements of Borishov and Petrov.

Similarly the metadata on the famous CCTV images of Borishov and Petrov in Salisbury, published in September by the Met Police, showed that all the stills were prepared by the Met on the morning of 9 May – a full four months before they were released to the public. But this makes no sense at all. Why wait a full four months for people’s memories to fade before issuing an appeal to the public for information? This makes no sense at all from an investigation viewpoint. It makes even less sense from a public health viewpoint.

If the authorities were genuinely worried about the possible presence of deadly noivchok, and wished to track it down, why one earth would you wait for four months before you published the images showing the faces and clothing and the whereabouts of the people you believe were distributing it?

The only possible conclusion from the amazing four month delays both in informing the hotel, and in revealing the Borishov and Petrov CCTV footage to the public, is that the Metropolitan Police did not actually believe there was a public health danger that the two had left a trail of novichok. Were the official story true, this extraordinary failure to take timely action in a public health emergency may have contributed to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

The metadata shows Police processed all the Salisbury CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov a month before Charlie Rowley picked up the perfume. The authorities claim the CCTV images show they could have been to the charity bin to dump the novichok. Which begs the question, if the Police really believed they had CCTV of the movements of the men with the novichok, why did they not subsequently exhaustively search everywhere the CCTV shows they could have been, including that charity bin?

The far more probable conclusion appears to be that the lack of urgency is explained by the fact that the link between Borishov and Petrov and “novichok” is a narrative those involved in the investigation do not take seriously.

8 The Bungling Spies

There are elements of the accepted narrative of Borishov and Petrov’s movements that do not make sense. As the excellent local Salisbury blog The BlogMire points out, the CCTV footage shows Borishov and Petrov, after they had allegedly coated the door handle with novichok, returning towards the railway station but walking straight past it, into the centre of Salisbury (and missing their first getaway train in the process). They then wander around Salisbury apparently aimlessly, famously window shopping which is caught on CCTV, and according to the official narrative disposing of the used but inexplicably still cellophane-sealed perfume/novichok in a charity donation bin, having walked past numerous potential disposal sites en route including the railway embankment and the bins at the Shell garage.

But the really interesting thing, highlighted by the blogmire, is that the closest CCTV ever caught them to the Skripals’ house is fully 500 metres, at the Shell garage, walking along the opposite side of the road from the turning to the Skripals. There is a second CCTV camera at the garage which would have caught them crossing the road and turning down towards the Skripals’ house, but no such video or still image – potentially the most important of all the CCTV footage – has ever been released.

However the 500 metres is not the closest the CCTV places the agents to the Skripals. From 13.45 to 13.48, on their saunter into town, Borishov and Petrov were caught on CCTV at Dawaulders coinshop a maximum of 200 metres away from the Skripals, who at the same time were at Avon Playground. The bin at Avon playground became, over two days in the immediate aftermath of the Skripal “attack”, the scene of extremely intensive investigation. Yet the Borishov and Petrov excursion – during their getaway from attempted murder – into Salisbury town centre has been treated as entirely pointless and unimportant by the official story.

Finally, the behaviour of Borishov and Petrov in the early hours before the attack makes no sense whatsoever. On the one hand we are told these are highly trained, experienced and senior GRU agents; on the other hand, we are told they were partying in their room all night, drawing attention to themselves with loud noise, smoking weed and entertaining a prostitute in the room in which they were storing, and perhaps creating, the “novichok”.

The idea that, before an extremely delicate murder operation involving handling a poison, a tiny accident with which would kill them, professionals would stay up all night and drink heavily and take drugs is a nonsense. Apart from the obvious effect on their own metabolisms, they were risking authorities being called because of the noise and a search being instituted because of the drugs.

That they did this while in possession of the novichok and hours before they made the attack, is something I simply do not believe.

9 The Skripals’ Movements

Until the narrative changed to Borishov and Petrov arriving in Salisbury just before lunchtime and painting the doorknob, the official story had been that the Skripals left home around 9am and had not returned. They had both switched off their mobile phones, an interesting and still unexplained point. As you would expect in a city as covered in CCTV as Salisbury, their early morning journey was easily traced and the position of their car at various times was given by the police.

Yet no evidence of their return journey has ever been offered. There is now a tiny window between Borishov and Petrov arriving, painting the doorknob apparently with the Skripals now inexplicably back inside their home, and the Skripals leaving again by car, so quickly after the doorknob painting that they catch up with Borishov and Petrov – or certainly being no more than 200 metres from them in Salisbury City Centre. There is undoubtedly a huge amount of CCTV video of the Skripals’ movements which has never been released. For example, the parents of one of the boys who Sergei was chatting with while feeding the ducks, was shown “clear” footage by the Police of the Skripals at the pond, yet this has never been released. This however is the moment at which the evidence puts Borishov and Petrov at the closest to them. What does the concealed CCTV of the Skripals with the ducks show?

Why has so little detail of the Skripals’ movements that day been released? What do all the withheld CCTV images of the Skripals in Salisbury show?

10 The Sealed Bottle

Only in the last couple of days have the police finally admitted there is a real problem with the fact that Charlie Rowley insists that the perfume bottle was fully sealed, and the cellophane difficult to remove, when he discovered it. Why the charity collection bin had not been emptied for three months has never been explained either. Rowley’s recollection is supported by the fact that the entire packaging was discovered by the police in his bin – why would Borishov and Petrov have been carrying the cellophane around with them if they had opened the package? Why – and how – would they reseal it outdoors in Salisbury before dumping it?

Furthermore, there was a gap of three months between the police finding the perfume bottle, and the police releasing details of the brand and photos of it, despite the fact the police believed there could be more out there. Again the news management agenda totally belies the official narrative of the need to protect the public in a public health emergency.

This part of the narrative is plainly nonsense.

Bonus Point – The Integrity Initiative

The Integrity Initiative specifically paid Dan Kaszeta to publish articles on the Skripal case. In the weekly collections of social media postings the Integrity Initiative sent to the FCO to show its activity, over 80% were about the Skripals.

Governments do not institute secret campaigns to put out covert propaganda in order to tell the truth. The Integrity Initiative, with secret FCO and MOD sourced subsidies to MSM figures to put out the government narrative, is very plainly a disinformation exercise. More bluntly, if the Integrity Initiative is promoting it, you know it is not true.

Most sinister of all is the Skripal Group convened by the Integrity Initiative. This group includes Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 handler, and senior representatives of Porton Down, the BBC, the CIA, the FCO and the MOD. Even if all the other ludicrously weak points in the government narrative did not exist, the Integrity Initiative activity in itself would lead me to understand the British government is concealing something important.

Conclusion

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. Plainly spy games were being played between Russia and the UK, quite likely linked to the Skripals and/or the NATO chemical weapons exercise then taking place on Salisbury Plain yet another one of those astonishing coincidences.

What I do know is that major planks of the UK government narrative simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

Plainly the Russian authorities have lied about the identity of Borishov and Petrov. What is astonishing is the alacrity with which the MSM and the political elite have rallied around the childish logical fallacy that because the Russian Government has lied, therefore the British Government must be telling the truth. It is abundantly plain to me that both governments are lying, and the spy games being played out that day were very much more complicated than a pointless revenge attack on the Skripals.

I do not believe the British Government. I have given you the key points where the official narrative completely fails to stand up. These are by no means exhaustive, and I much look forward to reading your own views.

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

REFLECTIONS ON PUTIN AS A LEADER AND ON THE WORLD SITUATION IN WHICH HE WORKS

By John Chuckman | Aletho News | March 6, 2019

There is an immense amount of criticism of Putin, especially coming from America, most of it empty criticism which ignores realities and genuine analysis. For the more thoughtful, it represents only the stink and noise of propaganda, and not honest criticism in its true sense at all.

In politics, and especially in the direction of a country’s foreign affairs, there are certain behaviors, ideas, and attitudes which mark out a person as exceptional. I think there can be no doubt, Putin is just such a person, and I am very much inclined to say, the preeminent one of our time. Frankly, compared with Putin’s skills, Donald Trump comes off as a noisy circus act, a sideshow carnival barker, and not an appealing one. He has an outsized impact in the world only because he represents the most powerful country on earth and has embraced all the prejudices and desires of its power establishment, not because of the skillfulness of his actions or the insight of his mind. Obama made a better public impression, but if you analyze his actions, you see a man of immense and unwarranted ego, a very secretive and unethical man, and a man who held no worthy ideals he promoted. He was superficial in many things. And he was completely compliant to the power establishment, leaving no mark of his own to speak of.

Putin is a man who advocates cooperation among states, who argues against exceptionalism, who wants his country to have peace so that it can grow and advance, a man lacking any frightening or tyrannical ideologies, a man who invariably refers to other countries abroad, even when they are being uncooperative, in respectful terms as “our partners,” a man who knows how to prioritize, as in defense spending, a man with a keen eye for talent who has some other exceptional people assisting him – men of the caliber of Lavrov or Shoygu, a man who supports worthy international organizations like the UN, a man who only reluctantly uses force but uses it effectively when required, a highly restrained man in almost everything he does, a man who loves his country and culture but does not try foisting them off on everyone else as we see almost continuously from American presidents, a man with a keen eye for developing trends and patterns in the world, a man with an eye, too, for the main chance, a man whose decisions are made calmly and in light of lot of understanding. That’s quite a list.

The differences between recent American leaders, all truly mediocre, and Putin probably has something to do with the two counties’ relative situations over the last few decades. After all, if the support isn’t there for someone like Putin, you won’t get him. Russia’s huge Soviet empire collapsed in humiliation in 1991. The country was put through desperate straits, literally its own great depression with people begging or selling pathetic trinkets on the streets. And America made no real effort to assist. Indeed, quite the opposite, it kicked someone who was down and tried to shake all the loose change from his pockets. Out of Russia’s desperation came a man of remarkable skills, a rather obscure figure, but one who proved extremely popular and was obviously supported by enough powerful and important people to employ his skills for the county’s recovery and advance.

Putin showed no weakness or flinching when dealing with some of the extremely wealthy men who in fact became wealthy by stripping assets from the dying Soviet Union, men who then also used their wealth to challenge the country’s much-needed new leadership. He was, of course, excoriated by the United States, but to the best of my understanding, he did what was necessary for progress. The results are to be seen in a remarkably revitalized Russia. Everywhere, important projects are underway. New highways, new airports, major new bridges, new rail lines and subways, a new spaceport, new projects and cooperative efforts with a whole list of countries, new efforts in technology and science, and Russia has become the world’s largest exporter of wheat. Putin also has committed Russia to offering the world grain crops free of all GMOs and other contaminants, a very insightful effort to lock-in what have been growing premium markets for such products, even among Americans.

The military, which badly declined after the fall of the USSR, has been receiving new and remarkable weapons, the products of focused research efforts. New high-tech tanks, artillery, ships, and planes. In strategic weapons, Russia now produces several unprecedented ones, a great achievement which was done without spending unholy amounts of money, Russia’s military budget being less than a tenth that of the United States. Putin’s caution and pragmatism dictate that Russia’s first priority is to become as healthy as possibly, so it needs peace, for decades. Few Westerners appreciate the devastating impact of the USSR’s collapse, but even before that, the Soviet empire had its own slow debilitating impact. Russia’s economic system was not efficient and competitive. The effects of that accumulated over many years. The USSR always did maintain the ability to produce big engineering projects such as dams and space flight, but it was always sorely lacking in the small and refined things of life that an efficient economy automatically sees are provided.

The new strategic weapons are an unfortunate necessity, but the United States threatens Russia as perhaps never before with the expansion of NATO membership right to the Russian border, something breaking specific American promises of years back. And it has been running tanks all over Europe and then digging them in them right at the frontier just to make a point. It has deployed multiple-use covered missile launchers not far from the border which may as easily contain offensive intermediate-range ground-to-ground nuclear missiles as the defensive anti-missile missiles claimed to be their purpose. And it has torn up one of the most important nuclear-weapons treaties we had, the INF Treaty, pertaining to intermediate-range missiles. Intermediate-range nuclear missiles based in Europe give the United States the ability to strike Russia with little warning, their ten-minute flight path compares to a roughly thirty-minute flight path for an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) coming from America. These are extremely de-stabilizing, as are the counter-measures Russia felt it must take, Russian intermediate-range nuclear missile aimed at European centers. Everyone eventually recognized that, and that’s why the treaty was successfully completed. Europeans appreciated no longer becoming the immediate battlefield in a nuclear war.

But relations with the United States have now entered a new world, and it is not a brave one. America’s power establishment has assumed new goals and priorities, and in those, Russia is not viewed well, despite its new identity as a nation ready to participate and peacefully compete with everyone, a nation without the kind of extreme ideology communism was, a kind of secular religious faith. Despite its readiness to participate in all Western organizations, forums, and discussions, it is viewed with a new hostility by America. It is arbitrarily regarded as an opponent, as an ongoing threat. As I discuss below, America, too, has been kind of in a decline, and the response of its leadership to that fact involves flexing its muscles and extracting concessions and privileges and exerting a new dominance in the world, a response not based in economic competition and diplomatic leadership, a response carrying a great deal of danger.

And, very importantly, its response is one that involves not only bypassing international organizations, but, in many cases, working hard to bend them to its purposes. There are many examples, but America’s treatment of the UN has been foremost. It has in the recent past refused for considerable periods to pay its treaty-obliged dues until it saw changes it unilaterally demanded. It has dropped out of some important agencies completely, most notably UNESCO. In general, it has intimidated an international organization into better accommodating American priorities, including very much imperial ones opposed to what the UN is supposed to be about. And it has used this intimidation and non-cooperativeness to influence the nature of leadership at the UN, the last few Secretaries-General being timid on very important matters and ineffective in general. That’s just the way America likes them to be now. A harsh Neocon like Madeleine Albright won her government-service spurs at the UN by engineering the departure of an unwanted Secretary-General.

Promoting coups is not a new activity for the United States. There is a long postwar record, including Iran’s democratic government in the 1950s, Guatemala’s democratic government in the 1950s, and Chile’s democratic government in 1973. But the recent coup in Ukraine represented something rather new, a very provocative activity right on a major Russian border. It was also against an elected government and in a country which shares with Russia a history and culture going back more than a thousand years to the predecessor state of Kievan Rus. Yes, there are resentments in Ukraine from the Soviet era, and those are what the United States exploited, but the country was democratically governed. In any event, staging a coup in a large bordering country is a very serious provocation. You can just imagine the violent American reaction to one in Mexico or Canada.

The new, post-coup government in Ukraine also made many provocative and plainly untrue statements. The ineffective, and frequently ridiculous, President Poroshenko kept telling Europeans that Russian troops and armor were invading his country. Only his brave army was holding the hordes back. He was literally that silly at times. Of course, none of it was ever true. American spy satellites would quickly detect any Russian movement, and they never did. In an effort to put the wild claims into perspective, treating them with the contempt they deserved, Putin once said that if he wanted to, he could be in Kiev in two weeks. Undoubtedly true, too. Well, the statement was taken completely out of context, treated as a threat by America’s always-faithful-to-the-narrative press. Journalism in the service of government policy – all of it, from the most elevated newspapers and broadcasters to the humblest. And I think that nicely illustrates the absurdity of events in Ukraine and the way they have been used.

The United States paid for the coup in Ukraine. We even know how much money it spent, five billion dollars, thanks to the overheard words of one of America’s most unpleasant former diplomats, Victoria Nuland. The idea was to threaten Russia with the long Ukrainian border being put into genuinely hostile hands. Never mind that the government driven from office with gunfire in the streets from paid thugs was democratically elected. Never mind that many of the groups with which the United States cooperated in this effort were right-wing extremists, a few of them resembling outright Nazis, complete with armbands, symbols, and torchlight parades. And never mind that the government America installed was incompetent, not only sending Ukraine’s economy into a tailspin but promptly igniting a completely unnecessary civil war.

The large native, Russian-speaking population (roughly 30% of the country) is completely dominant in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Those two regions partly turned the tables by seceding from Ukraine with its government which early-on worked to suppress historic Russian-language rights and carried on a lot of activities to make those with any Russian associations feel very unwelcome. It’s a deliberately provocative environment, and, as we all know from our press, not a day goes by in Washington without anti-Russian rhetoric and unsupported charges. While Washington greatly failed in this effort, it nevertheless succeeded in generating instability and hostility along a major Russian border. It also gained talking points with which to pressure NATO into some new arrangements.

In the case of Crimea, it is important to remember that it has been Russian since the time of Catherine the Great. It only was in recent history that Crimea became part of Ukraine, and that happened with the stroke of a pen, an administrative adjustment during the days of the USSR, the very USSR the people now running Ukraine so despise, rejecting almost everything ever done, except for the administrative transfer of Crimea apparently. Just one of those little ironies of history. The people who live in Crimea speak Russian, and they did not welcome the new Ukrainian government’s heavy-handed, nationalist, anti-Russian drive around Ukrainian language and culture, necessarily a narrow, claustrophobic effort since the late USSR was a multi-national and multi-lingual state, and given Crimea’s much longer-term history as part of Russia. Even during Crimea’s recent past as part of Ukraine, Russia continued to maintain, under lease, its major naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea, so the connections with Russia have been continuous.

In virtually every newspaper story you read and in places like Wikipedia on the Internet, you will see the word “annexation” used to describe Crimea’s relationship with Russia. It simply is not an accurate description, but its constant use is a very good measure of America’s ability to saturate media with its desired version of events. The people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from an unfriendly new Ukraine, and they voted to petition Russia’s admitting them as part of the country. How can you call the results of free and open votes annexation? Well, only the same way you can tell the twice-elected President of Venezuela that he is not President and that another man, who did not even run in the election and administered the oath of office to himself, is the President. This is the kind of Alice-in-Wonderland stuff that comes as part of America’s new drive for dominance. It simply paints the roses red. What is claimed to have happened in Crimea provides the only support for charges of Russian aggression, the laying on of all kinds of sanctions, and running around all over Europe tearing up road surfaces with tanks. This is the atmosphere within which Putin must work, trying to maintain as many sound relationships with Europe as he can, and he actually has been quite successful. A number of prominent European politicians, especially retired ones who aren’t under the immediate pressures of politics and relations with America, have voiced support for Russia. Some have even visited Crimea by invitation and toured. And Russia’s major new gas pipeline into Europe, Nord Stream 2, proceeds despite constant American pressure against it. It is at this writing 70% complete. The Europeans cannot just abandon their long-term ally, the United States, even though I’m sure they understand the illusions and false claims of the current situation. The United States also retains considerable capacity to hurt Europe financially, so they rush into nothing, but I believe there can be no doubt that American words and actions have significantly weakened old and important relationships. No one likes being lied to, and they like even less having to pretend lies are truth.

Putin has been more cautious in the case of the secession of another Russian-speaking portion of Ukraine, an even larger one in population and in economic importance, the Eastern portion called Donbass. The people there declared two republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, and they petitioned to be admitted as part of Russia. But Russia does not officially recognize them although it has sent large volumes of aid as they were besieged by the new Ukrainian government. The government of Ukraine started a small civil war in the region. Russia supports the Minsk Accords, which it helped to write, accords to reunite the region with Ukraine but which require Ukraine to grant a degree of constitutional autonomy to the region. This is a reasonable approach to ending the conflict, but it is not easy to implement. It is not something looked favorably upon by Ukraine’s right-wing extremists who push the government hard, having even threatened it at times. The entire business has been mired in difficulties from the start. Ukraine displayed remarkable military incompetence in this civil war against a much smaller opponent. It tried to increase the size of its forces with conscription in the West of Ukraine, but the number of no-shows and run-aways grew embarrassingly large. And, of course, none of this even needed to happen had the new government’s policies been sensible and fair in the first place. But you got no pressure from the United States over fairness. It is merely content to have caused a lot of difficulties on Russia’s border. And there is the matter of the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines’ Flight MH-17, which my study of the circumstances suggests unequivocally was an act by Ukraine, whether accidental or deliberate. The United States has pushed hard to have this blamed on Russia, so as to not discredit its installed Ukrainian government, but the facts, as we know them, simply do not support that conclusion. The United States has shamefully pressured a NATO member, Holland, not even a central party to the event, to conduct a long and tortoise-paced investigation of the crash. It has ignored key evidence, and all of its interim conclusions can readily be seen as couched in the kind of suggestive but inexact language criminal lawyers advise their clients to use in court. What we see in Ukraine, is government incompetence, almost uniformly in all its activities, and again there is no concern expressed by the United States about all the difficulties – economic, military, and social – its efforts have caused for the Ukrainian people.

Putin’s adroit handling of the coup in Ukraine, frustrating many of America’s aims without getting Russia involved in conflict, determined Washington to further stoke-up anti-Russian feeling in Europe. You must always remember that NATO does represent a vehicle for the peaceful American occupation of Europe, Europe being an important economic competitor and potentially a major world power. The obsolescence of the original arguments for NATO – the threat of the USSR and the massive Red Army, now both long passed into history – had the potential to see America eventually lose its occupying perch in Europe.

Russian-threat hype added force to recent efforts over the last decade and a half to have inconsequential new states admitted to NATO, some of them having the attraction of borders with Russia and lots of simmering old anti-Soviet hostilities. Certainly, countries like Estonia or Latvia bring neither military nor economic strength to the organization. Other small states, such as Slovenia or Slovakia or Montenegro just fill holes in the map of Europe, so NATO is a contiguous mass. The small states are in fact potentially a serious drag. But for America, they were attractive new members because they are so grateful about being asked “to play with the big boys.” Their votes as part of the organization effectively dilute the influence of the larger, older states, such as France or Germany, who sometimes disagree with the United States, and some of whom have been developing new relationships with modern Russia. The entire series of American activities in Europe after the disappearance of the USSR represents absolutely nothing constructive, indeed, quite the opposite.

As I mentioned, America, too, has been in a kind of decline, but absolutely nothing resembling what Russia experienced. America’s establishment has come to realize that over the last couple of decades it is in a relative decline. It went from producing, after WWII, about forty percent of what the world used to twenty-something percent, and all signs point to the trend continuing. America was waking-up from an extended fantasy – a period when fluffy notions like “the American Dream” were embraced as real, a period explained by the simple fact that, after the war, all of America’s serious competitors had been flattened. America was waking to a time when those competitors were coming back and a time when fierce new competitors were rising. The “Dream” part of the advertising slogan, “the American Dream,” became all too apparent.

During that period of unique prosperity and power following WWII, a good deal of America’s leadership became what people who have been given too much often tend to become, spoiled and corrupt, unable to make good decisions in many cases, indulging in god-like notions of the planet being run for their benefit, and always, steadily leaving behind their own people’s welfare for imperial concerns abroad. The entire ethic of the New Deal period evaporated, and by the 1990s, a Democratic President like Clinton could actually make a speech bragging about “ending welfare as we know it.”

The people who really run the country, its power establishment, fixed on a new strategy to address uncomfortable realities. That strategy involves using America’s still great military and financial power to dominate international affairs in a more obvious and palpable way than ever. Dominance became an openly-discussed theme, as it rarely was before, in the hope, over time, of squeezing concessions and advantages from others to regain or at least hold on to its global position. This is an openly aggressive posture that has been assumed. No more pretense of being a nice guy. And it was actively promoted by a new political faction in Washington, the Neocons, a group who share certain interests and see America’s use of power as serving those interests. They have been open advocates of using military force to get things you want, and they hold many important and influential posts. Perhaps their greatest common interest is the welfare of Israel, and they see an America perceived as aggressive best serving Israel’s security.

It is important to note that while Russia maintains excellent relations with Israel – Putin has been visited often by Israel’s Prime Minister – nevertheless, by virtue of its sheer size and geographical location and military power, Russia is seen as a barrier to America’s more unrestrained use of power. “Russia” is almost a dirty word for many of America’s Neocon faction and for many Israelis. Russia’s recent decisive assistance to Syria in fighting gangs of terrorists introduced and supported from outside was viewed about as negatively as is possible. That is a war Israel wanted President Assad to lose, and it secretly gave a great deal of assistance to the terrorists. It was hoping to secure a permanent hold on the Golan, grab even another slice of Syria as a buffer for its illegal residents in Golan, all while seeing one of the region’s leaders it most dislikes eliminated. It worked closely in the effort with Saudi Arabia’s murderous Crown Prince, and America oversaw and encouraged all aspects of a dirty war to topple a legitimate government which has remained fairly popular with its people despite years of agonizing conflict and endless dishonest American claims about such matters as chemical weapons. Assad is seen as a defender of the rights of Syria’s diverse religious groups, including its many Christians.

So, there is a built-in powerful negative towards Russia in Washington power circles for which there is no clear possible remedy or correction, and, indeed, no matter how reasonably Putin behaves, his country faces this opposition. For some American politicians, and very notably Hillary Clinton, this has proved a handy tool, Clinton long having been a close-to fanatical supporter of Israeli interests. The fact has earned her a great deal of campaign funding and other support over the years. Clinton’s ego also just could not take the fact that she lost the election to the leader of “the deplorables,” as she once called Trump’s supporters, so in dark claims of Russian interference, supported by absolutely no proof whatsoever, she protects her ego. And long before election day, Clinton had a hand in exploiting attitudes about Russia in another way. She is known to have paid, at least in part, for the fraudulent Steele Dossier commissioned from an ex-British spy. It was used to try to discredit Trump over Russian connections.

This dislike for Russia by the Neocons and other boosters of resurgent American power really is what is at the heart of America’s current Russophobia obsession, not any threatening actions by Russia. It becomes a kind of vicious circle with new accusations piled on all the time by various actors each with their own motives, and it is clearly quite dangerous.

So, these are the positions of the two countries today, Russia having risen quite impressively from the depths under a remarkably able leader, extremely popular and well-supported by powerful elements of its society, versus America, now in a much different kind of decline than what Russia experienced, led by an establishment group with rather less-than-honorable intentions and with a political system virtually designed to produce no real leaders who might interfere with establishment plans.

Putin is further supported from the outside by the rising colossus of China, one of the great miracle stories of our time. In the past, the two countries have not always been friends, and America, in the time of Nixon, actually worked at playing one off against the other. But that is no more. The American establishment’s intentions for China are too clear. It is virtually reneging on many old promises such as those around Taiwan being an integral part of China, it is treating China as an unwanted competitor, accusing it of every nefarious activity you can think of to impede its economic progress and demanding trade concessions as though China had been an unfair competitor rather than just a new, more successful one. America is now attacking in every way possible – from questioning motives and methods to trying to generate opposition by participants – China’s unprecedented and magnificent global enterprise, the Silk Road Project, a project dwarfing the great canals of the past and destined to bring new prosperity to all participants through trade. It hardly represents a positive attitude to oppose and impede it.

Putin is exactly the kind of man to quickly recognize and embrace a project like that. Russia is also rushing to help China greatly increase its supply of natural gas from Siberia’s immense reserves in order to decrease its dependence on coal. The first great new pipeline is almost finished.

So, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, both highly intelligent leaders, have a great many weighty common interests in working together as never before. America’s new policies have been a driving force in bringing them together, and there is no reason to expect any diminution in that force. Recent American international behavior requires others to accept what Putin likes to call America’s “exceptionalism,” its position first and above all other nations, its self-granted privilege of not having to play by the same rules as everyone else – its status of “the indispensable nation” as one of America’s more arrogant diplomats put it not very long ago – and it requires that from two major, proud, and ancient societies which cannot possibly grant it.

America’s dependence on its gigantic military and security establishment represents a serious long-term weakness in many ways, even though it provides the very foundation of the American establishment’s new strategy for dominance. Empires, after all, while benefiting the privileged segments of a society, are a drag on most of their citizens, depriving them of many benefits, including the simple, important benefit of good and caring national government. America spends more than ten times as much as Russia on its military. China, compared to not many years ago, has increased its military spending greatly, but for a country with such a huge economy, second only to the United States and likely to overtake it before long, it still spends less than a quarter of what the United States does. And America does not even have the money to pay for its atrociously large military. It borrows the money, and who do you think pays the stream of interest payments for those massive borrowings? You’d be right if you said all of its ordinary, tax-paying citizens without privileges. They also are “on the hook” for the ultimate negative economic consequences of all this debt and borrowing.

Of course, from a world perspective, America’s military represents an ongoing threat to peace and security, much the opposite of what is claimed for it inside the United States. Great standing armies have always represented threats, and here is the greatest standing army in history. Many historical analyses hold them largely responsible for such terrible conflicts as WWI (a war whose outcome made WWII inevitable also). When such power is at hand, the temptation to use it is constant, and its very presence distorts all attitudes and decisions. Many of America’s own Founders understood that, but it has been forgotten by the contemporary American establishment in its relentless pursuit of empire and influence.

Security expenses are hard to compare, so much is secretive, but the United States with its 17 separate national security agencies and such a vast enterprise as the NSA’s new archipelago of facilities stuffed with hi-tech gear and supercomputers which spy on and record every American plus others would put any other country out of the competition. Again, the demands of the American establishment utterly compromise the interests of the country’s own citizens at large. Indeed, now in security matters, ordinary Americans have been pretty much reduced to a herd, each with an identifying tag stapled to his ear.

Russia’s democracy may be quite imperfect, but America’s – what it had of one, it never from the beginning identified itself actually as a democracy – has been transformed into plutocracy with an elaborate window-dressing simulation of democracy, an arrangement in which the state’s resources are committed to its privileged class and the advance of empire. And, as I’ve written many times, you can have a decent country or you can have an empire, but you cannot have both.

March 6, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Fentanyl poisoned the Skripals – back to basics

johnplatinumgoss | March 5, 2019

You have to start at the beginning. In the beginning there was no military-grade nerve-agent even though Russia was being blamed for having planted it. In the beginning there was only fentanyl. Then on the second day God created the secret services and the world did not know good from evil.

Twelve months ago I had the Skripal saga’s chin tied up and was able to lay its body out stone-cold in its coffin. On 7 March 2018 I wrote on Craig Murray’s blog:

“I think . . . that is unlikely that these poor people will recover. If our spooks were involved in any way, and they are handling the investigation, then the Russian ex-spy and his daughter are hardly going to be given a chance to testify as to who did it. What really stinks is that from day one Russia was blamed by our media. That is the same media that have stopped Russian athletes from competing in sporting events with a catalogue of lies and misinformation.Just for your information, because most people do not see facts our media does not want them to see, Russia was 19th in WADA’s own list of doping offences for 2013. Other than China its athletes were tested more than any other country. The USA athletes were tested just over 7,000 times while Russian athletes were tested 12,500 times. Russia has a population of 143m while the USA has a population of 327m. This means per capita Russian athletes were tested four times more often than US athletes.

I think we know what happens next with the slagging off of Russia whoever is culpable.”

The “Blame Russia” meme has been hammered to death. Having invented the Novichok scenario there is no turning back for its inventors. You might have thought after the Christopher Steele “dodgy dossier” our former MI6 officers would have learnt something. Look at the featured image at the top of this blog-piece. Pablo Miller retweeted this in January 2017 mocking President Trump over the fake “golden showers” revelation that Miller himself probably had a hand in writing. It was a costly report that would later be shown to be, what the secret services specialise in – disinformation.

Sadly our “intelligence” services limp on from one blunder to another. It could well be that Sergey Skripal with his contacts in Russia, if he still had any, fed Steele and Miller at Orbis Business Intelligence this nonsense. Unfortunately these blunders may be the reason that we will never hear from the Skripals again.

Ten days after the Skripals ingested fentanyl Stephen Davies wrote the following letter to the Times over that newspaper’s alarmist headline, a headline which was panicking people of Salisbury into thinking they may have been poisoned by a nerve-agent and thus adding unnecessary burdens on an already overworked NHS.

“Sir, Further to your report (“Poison Exposure Leaves Almost 40 Needing Treatment”, Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department with concerns that they may have been exposed. None had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved. STEPHEN DAVIES, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust”

Every medic at the hospital, every medic in Wiltshire, every medic in the country who could access the notes knew full well what it was. It was fentanyl. Try interviewing anybody at the hospital and they will not be allowed to speak to you unless it is a designated spokesperson.

On 5 March 2018 the Clinical Services Journal put out the story Response Unit Called As Salisbury Hospital Declares “Major Incident”. It said:

“Emergency personnel arrived to the scene, wearing full-body hazardous materials protective and an incident response unit was on site.

It followed an incident hours earlier in which a man and a woman were exposed to Fentanyl in the city centre. The opoid is 10,000 times stronger than heroin.”

This remained the medical diagnosis till long after the Skripals had gained consciousness. In fact it was not until 26 April that some person or persons unknown made the journal change the second quoted paragraph to:

“It followed an incident hours earlier in which a man and a woman were exposed to a substance in the city centre.”

Wisely, for those who do not believe a word of the government narrative, there was an addendum showing editing history.

“Note: This story was updated on 26 April 2018 to remove suggestion (which was widely speculated and reported at the time of writing) that the substance found was fentanyl.”

Ask a few questions. Why can our media not talk to the Skripals? Where are they imprisoned? Why can they not be visited by relatives? Why is parliament so quiet on the subject? If a military-grade nerve agent was used in Salisbury don’t you think the city would have gone into lockdown? I should hope it would.

If the Skripals are not dead those keeping them imprisoned do not do so in my name. So I urge everyone who cares for their fellow human-beings to go back to the beginning. You will discover that the novichok evil came after the beginning.

March 6, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

The Kursk Disaster: Facts Sunk Beneath Waves of Drama

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | March 5, 2019

At the turn of the millennium a trilogy of disasters gained a high profile in the international media. First, in July of 2000 the fiery crash of Air France’s Concorde flight 4590 from Paris to New York ended not just many lives (109 persons), but also the plane’s career. Second, on August 12, 2000, there was the sinking of Russia’s Kursk submarine, with 118 sailors killed in the tragedy. Third, and probably much less memorable now, on August 27, 2000, a fire high up in Moscow’s Ostankino Tower saw its spire dangerously tilting as if ready to collapse live on camera as seen around the world; two people died in that incident. It was almost as if this would be a preview of the much more breathtaking collapses of the twin towers of the World Trade Center just a year later. Accompanying the millennium disasters were a series of blockbuster disaster movies, which included James Cameron’s 1997 movie: Titanic. Let’s not forget the pretend disaster that was supposed to have been the infamously ridiculous “Y2K Bug,” a hoax in every respect except the billions of dollars transferred to the pockets of IT consultants for unnecessary preparations.

The sinking of the Kursk is now memorialized in a European film released late in 2018, by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg. It features an all-European cast that includes Max von Sydow playing the role of “Admiral Vladimir Petrenko” (in reality this was Navy Commander-in-Chief and Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov)—this is the part of the “bad guy”; Colin Firth, playing the role of Commodore David Russell—the “good guy” in the film; also noteworthy, Matthias Schoenaerts playing the role of a fictitious Mikhail Averin who appears to have been based on the real world character of Captain-lieutenant Dmitri Kolesnikov.

Not being a Hollywood film, this is not a straightforward propaganda film (as one might suspect of a Western media production dealing with a Russian subject, in the current context). However, it is still a big-budget feature that plays loose with certain facts, more by inflating and amplifying some aspects while minimizing others. It is aimed at US and European audiences primarily. Had it been intended as a direct condemnation of Vladimir Putin—who had then been president for only a few months when the Kursk disaster happened—the filmmakers could have simply stuck to the recorded facts. Instead, the film actually removes Putin from a key incident shown in the film—a Russian navy briefing to the grief-stricken families of the sailors—and replaces him with an imaginary admiral played by Max Von Sydow.

In reality, Putin vacationed at his seaside villa for several days as the disaster unfolded, before returning to Moscow and attending that disastrous gathering with sailors’ families. At that gathering Putin was directly and loudly challenged, a shouting match ensued followed by scuffles, and one family member was famously dragged out after being surreptitiously injected with a sedative by a nurse in civilian clothes. Reality was ugly enough that there would have been no need for propaganda. On the other hand, it’s not clear that Putin himself was adequately informed by the military, who claimed to have the situation under control.

The impressions that stood out for me as one viewer watching the film, were: (a) the inhumane, obstinate refusal of encrusted military brass to accept foreign assistance, preferring to instead indulge obsolete paranoia and outdated conspiracy theories about the West; and, (b) the sheer magnitude of incompetence and degradation that makes one wonder whether Russia even deserves to have a navy. The loss of the surviving sailors is shown as preventable, a needless tragedy—if only Russian naval brass had not consisted of Jurassic-era dicks, sinister Stalinist throwbacks, and snivelling cowards. Navies are for serious, developed nations of the civilized world—not for rust-bucket states on their last legs. It’s not an accident that I thought these things: they are monumental features of the film that simply cannot be avoided, and were deliberately produced by the filmmakers.

One way to achieve these effects is by playing with the facts, in this case by maximizing what is one possible yet extreme interpretation of what transpired beneath the surface of the sea: that the sailors survived for days before finally succumbing. By stretching events out over a period of days, the filmmakers only amplify the needless tragedy of the delays caused by steadfast Russian refusals of foreign assistance—which then gave way to accepting foreign assistance (so not even that narrative is stable). In actuality, experts can find little evidence that those who survived the initial blasts lasted much longer than three to six hours.

On the other hand, I have to confess that my inner populist reacted positively to the film focusing heavily on the sailors, their heroism, courage, altruism, and self-sacrifice for their comrades. These were the workers. They did their job, even though they were not getting paid and were all struggling to survive in a climate of delayed back wages. The focus on their wives and children was also appropriate, showing where and how they lived, their apartments, the laundry hanging from tiny balconies in grim-looking residential towers overlooking the sea, neighbours huddling together over tea, consoling each other. These are the people who really mattered, and it is my main praise for the film that it maintained this emphasis.

However, going past populist appeal, what magnifies the tragedy in this film is Russian rejection of foreign assistance. Had the Russians accepted foreign help, immediately, before even trying to do things themselves, then the men who waited—allegedly for days—might have been saved.

The reality is more likely one where even if Russia immediately accepted such aid, it would have taken too long to reach the survivors, who had all died just three to six hours after the initial blasts. The film enters the territory of propaganda if—as seen in the present—it is meant to suggest that Russia is to blame for Cold War II. Russia did not start this new Cold War, and that fact should be as plain as day. It was not Russia that ended cooperation with the West, that walked out on peace treaties, that booted itself from the G8, that terminated various forms of cooperation and exchange. It is Russia that is constantly pleading for more diplomacy, and less aggression. What the film shows is the opposite of that—something that is instead like the US after Hurricane Katrina, which rejected offers of humanitarian assistance from nearby Cuba.

The questionable nature of the film then is its thematic logic, which essentially breaks down into the following points:

  1. You are inadequate.
  2. You must therefore accept foreign help, because you’re no good to yourself.
  3. Foreign help saves lives.

It is a basic “humanitarian” ethic, and in this present context where the US is trying to ram tiny bits of junk aid down the throats of the same Venezuelans whose economy the US is smashing, it is a message that will still resonate with audiences untrained in thinking critically.

But what if we instead read the events as a logical chain of events and causes, shaped by history? Then we would get something that takes us back to some “uncomfortable” roots of the problem, roots that implicate Western powers. Thus,

  1. What happened to the Kursk? The technical aspects were the subject of considerable debate, and the facts are hardly settled—even down to disputing the argument that an overheating torpedo exploded prematurely.
  2. Why was the Kursk out at sea? Given NATO’s steady expansion in what was formerly the Warsaw Pact, its move toward incorporating the Baltic republics, and its bombing campaign against Serbia (a Russia ally), the Russians clearly felt a pressing need to mount a show of force.
  3. Why was the Russian Navy in such a parlous state? Budget cuts. That is, austerity, caused by an economic meltdown, brought on by the sort of “shock therapy” that was deliberately pursued by Boris Yeltsin (Washington’s man in Moscow), and pushed by the International Monetary Fund. The Russian state, pre-Putin, had cut back on all sorts of public expenditures, basically running the state-owned sector into the ground (and into the arms of oligarchs). GDP contracted by about 40%, unemployment soared, as did food and fuel prices, and life expectancy tumbled—this was the reality of Russia under neoliberalism, as pushed by the US and Western international institutions. Russia also suffered from a financial crisis in 1998, a direct outcome of its over exposure to international capitalism.
  4. Why was Russia melting down? This would take us to the complicated sequence of events following the demise and fragmentation of the Soviet Union (USSR).
  5. Why did the USSR collapse? Not that there is anything like a consensus about the ultimate determinants of the demise of the USSR, the most common explanations advanced include as a key factor the structural fatigue brought on by the Cold War arms race, and the USSR’s international over-extension as it tried to counter the US/NATO at every move.

The fact of the matter is that we can see a similar break down transpiring in the US, not just in terms of economic destruction and social division, but also in terms of cities exposed to toxic pollution from radioactive waste dumps connected to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Thus we will soon have a review here of Atomic Homefront, much delayed already. In Russia’s case, much of the destruction of the 1990s was countered by the reforms introduced by Vladimir Putin, to great effect, depending on the observer, which no doubt accounts for his continuing high popularity rating among Russians (well past the highest ever achieved by Obama).

Had the film followed a logical and historical chain of causes and consequences, then the message of the film might have changed substantially:

Don’t threaten countries that you first subjected to stress, because such stress can literally kill.

But then that would be an anti-interventionist ethic, and that ethic is not permissible in our society, which continues to train specialists in the field of “humanitarian intervention,” just as it trains others in the arts of deception, and tries to secure the consent of audiences.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Film Review, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Integrity Initiative: The Sinister Chain of Events Leading Up to Salisbury

By Kit Klarenberg – Sputnik – March 4, 2019

In several reports to date, I’ve documented how the Integrity Initiative – the shadowy UK government-funded military intelligence front – and its assorted operatives and media assets systematically shaped news reporting on, and Whitehall’s response to, the apparent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on 4 March 2018.

Now, on the anniversary of that fateful and ever-mystifying day, I’ll attempt to track some of the activities of the Initiative’s parent, the Institute for Statecraft, and other key figures and organizations directly and indirectly connected to the body in the years immediately prior.

Troublingly, the information collected here inevitably represents but a negligible fragment of a much wider clandestine picture. The full extent of the British state’s sinister and long-running secret machinations leading up to the Salisbury incident certainly isn’t ascertainable at this time, and may well never be.

‘Peculiar Struggle’

In July 2014, Institute for Statecraft ‘senior research fellow’ Victor Madeira wrote an article for the organization’s website, Russian Subversion — Haven’t we been here before?. In it, he suggested that far from a “new type of warfare”, the West’s tussle with Russia in the wake of the Maidan coup was “actually only the latest chapter in a 100-year-old playbook the Bolsheviks called active measures”, albeit “modernised to exploit the speed and reach of 21st-century mass/social media”.

After attempting to link various tactics employed by the Soviet Union to the modern day, Madeira somewhat chillingly concludes the piece with a quote from Ronald Lindsay, UK ambassador to Germany, who in February 1927 urged Whitehall to realise they were engaged in a “new kind of war” with the then-burgeoning Soviet Union.

“Anti-subversive measures could not be gradual; they had to be part of a package of ‘economic boycott, breach of diplomatic relations’ as well as ‘propaganda and counter-propaganda, pressure on neutrals.’ He argued a diplomatic breach with Moscow would at least turn ‘the present peculiar struggle into an armed conflict of the old-fashioned sort’ that Great Britain and the West could win,” Madeira records.

A document authored by the academic — who 2010 — 2014 tutored and lectured at Cambridge under former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove — in January 2015 (Russian Federation Sanctions ) makes clear he, and presumably his Institute employers, support Lindsay’s strategy and objectives.

The file sets out a number of “potential levers” for achieving a number of “main aims”, including “peace with Ukraine”, the “return” of Crimea, “behaviour change” and/or “regime change” — for, much to Madeira’s evident chagrin, the wave of sanctions imposed upon Russian individuals and businesses the previous March weren’t having a sufficiently deleterious impact on the Kremlin, or the Russian people.

Victor Madeira’s Ruminations on the Russian People

“[Russia] is not a ‘normal’ country in most senses of the word. Crucially, Russians see life and the world very differently from us… Russians are not nearly as driven by economic and financial considerations… For most Russians, daily life has long been a struggle (not least for survival). Not having Western goods and services will not necessarily be much of an issue in the medium to long-term,” he wrote.

Moreover — and perhaps worst of all in Madeira’s mind — President Vladimir Putin — someone who “survived abysmal post-WW2 conditions” and “[believes] nothing the West can do is worse than what [he’s] already endured in life” — remains popular among the Russian public due to “the chaos” of the 1990s, and for having “restored stability, prosperity and pride”.

“Fear of renewed uncertainty and chaos… keeps Russians in check”, he writes — as a result, “driving a wedge between Russians and [their] government is key.”

The bullet-pointed “levers” that make up the bulk of the document span areas including ‘diplomacy’, ‘finance’, ‘security’, ‘technology’, ‘industry’, ‘military’, and even ‘culture’, and include; suspending or expelling Russia from “G8, WTO… and similar organisations”; “[expanding] existing sanctions regimes to anyone helping [Russia] break them”; “[arresting] every known RF agent — not least ‘agents of influence'”; “banning RF delegates” from a variety of international fora, “[advocating the] view RF [is] untrustworthy of hosting [international sporting events]; “[banning] Russian companies from launching IPOs in [the] West”‘; asset freezes and “visa bans” for the “top 100 RF government officials and [their] immediate families”; “[sanctioning] RF media”; and much, much more.

‘Potential Levers’ for Regime Change in Russia Outlined by Victor Madeira

Certain “levers” — such as suspending visits by the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets to Western countries — are baffling, while others — for instance “repatriating” the children of Russian government studying abroad, or “[increasing] scrutiny” of Russian religious organizations in Western countries — appear wanton and excessive, if not outright barbarous.

However, one of Madeira’s suggestions, about which he was apparently so enthusiastic he mentions it thrice, “simultaneously [expelling] every RF intelligence officer and air/defence/naval attache from as many countries as possible (global ‘Operation Foot’)” — is especially striking.

Operation Foot saw 105 Soviet officials deported from the UK in September 1971 at the behest of then-Prime Minister Edward Heath, the largest expulsion of foreign state personnel by any government in history. Eerily, several mainstream media outlets would reference the historic mass defenestration when Whitehall successfully corralled 26 countries into expelling over 150 Russian diplomatic in response to the Salisbury incident, 27 March 2018.

‘Something Dreadful’

On 12 October 2016, Institute for Statecraft chief Chris Donnelly met with retired senior UK military official General Richard Barrons, Joint Forces Command chief 2013 — 2016. Their discussion was incendiary.

“We have led comfortable lives since the end of the Cold War. Wars have been away matches on our terms, with resources we have chosen to apply. Our institutions are now failing to deliver or being bypassed. Our world system is being challenged, by Russia, China… the power of initiative and decision is ebbing away from the West. [The] US can no longer protect us,” the document’s introduction states.

As 50 percent of the UK’s energy, and 40 percent of the UK’s food, is “from abroad”, the country “has vital interests in having the ability to engage globally, but that engagement will no longer be on our terms alone”. However, while in recent wars “the opposition had no peer capabilities and could pose no military threat” to the UK, the conflicts “have not required the full mobilisation of the military or any motivation of civilian society” and “given us the impression we can afford war at two percent GDP”, despite the UK needing “£7 billion just to our current force up to effectiveness”.

Moreover, “mixed success” in these conflicts is also said to have “left a bad aftertaste” with “no appetite for intervention” among the British public and politicians, and UK armed forces “cannot themselves speak out and say ‘we are broken’… as that would breach the rules of democratic control”.

Record of Richard Barrons’ Meeting with Chris Donnelly

Barrons goes on to despair that the subordination of the military to civil servants and ministers in the Ministry of Defence means “the military do not do policy” — a state of affairs he believes must be radically changed, with the armed forces removed from government control and transformed into “an independent body outside politics”.

“Government is living in denial… We need discussion and debate as to how Russia can be managed and deterred. We need to deal with Russia by doing things that are serious… If no catastrophe happens to wake people up and demand a response, then we need to find a way to get the core of government to realise the problem and take [the military] out of the political space. We will need to impose changes over the heads of vested interests… [we] must either generate the debate or wait for something dreadful to happen to shock us into action. We must generate an independent debate outside government… there is not a moment to be lost,” Barrons concludes.

Serious Matters

Barrons’ fears of a loss of US military protection were no doubt widespread within the British establishment — for some time, US Presidential candidate Donald Trump had been questioning the necessity of NATO, advocating a protectionist and insular ‘America first’ agenda in respect of world affairs.

Likewise, Trump’s repeated suggestion of improved relations between Washington and Moscow should he become President were unquestionably unwelcome in many quarters — not least, of course, the offices of the Institute for Statecraft. It’s perhaps unsurprising then the organisation played a pivotal role in kickstarting ‘RussiaGate’.

The month after Donnelly’s meeting with Barrons, and mere weeks after Trump’s shock election victory, Andrew Wood — UK ambassador to Russia 1995 — 2000, and a member of the Institute’s ‘expert team’ — was a delegate at the eighth annual Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. Senator John McCain was also in attendance, and the pair would speak privately on the event’s sidelines about allegations of Trump’s collusion with the Russian state, in particular, the claims of former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, and his ‘Trump-Russia’ dossier.

Andrew Wood’s Institute for Statecraft Staff Profile

How and why McCain and Wood met, and precisely what they discussed, isn’t remotely clear — Wood has offered several wildly divergent accounts of the event since, variously suggesting the meeting was entirely chance and initiated by McCain due to the issue “being very much in the news”, that he approached McCain due to his personal concerns after being shown the dossier by Steele, and that he was actively “instructed” by Steele to relay the dossier’s contents to the Senator, without having actually seen a copy in full.

In any event, as a result of their conversation, the Senator dispatched his aide David Kramer, former assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration, to meet with Steele in London and discuss the dossier’s contents, and arrange for a copy to be sent to Washington. On 9 December, McCain met then-FBI Director James Comey and provided him with the dossier, which Comey then circulated across all US intelligence agencies. It would reach the desk of outgoing President Barack Obama and several senior members of Congress in the first week of January 2017.

This development would be reported 10 January by CNN — the article stated the dossier suggested Russian operatives possessed “compromising personal and financial information” about Trump, but the outlet refrained from publishing specific details of the dossier as they hadn’t been “independently corroborated”.

CNN breaking cover — the dossier had been an “open secret” among US journalists for some time by that point — would provide BuzzFeed News with the ‘public interest’ defense it required to justify publishing the dossier, which it did 11 January, despite acknowledging its contents were “unverified, and potentially unverifiable”, and contained “clear” factual errors.

In the days afterward, the publication was severely criticised by many other media outlets — Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan called the dossier “scurrilous allegations dressed up as an intelligence report meant to damage Donald Trump” — and the ethics of publishing unsubstantiated information offered by entirely anonymous sources was hotly debated.

However, these misgivings were quickly silenced, thanks in no small part to a number of esteemed ‘experts’ who vouched for Steele’s credibility in the media — the earliest, most enthusiastic and prominent being none other than Wood himself. He would describe Steele as “very professional and thorough in what he does”, and “a very competent, professional operator” who wouldn’t “make things up”, among other effusive plaudits.

It would take months for Wood to reveal he wasn’t merely ‘familiar’ with Steele, but the pair were in fact long-time friends — and moreover he was an “associate” of Steele’s firm (what form this relationship takes, and whether Wood receives any remuneration from Orbis Intelligence, remains uncertain). Conversely, his association with the Institute for Statecraft has never been acknowledged by the mainstream media, and would never have been known if it wasn’t for the leak of the organization’s internal files in November 2018.

The leak also revealed that in March 2017, the Integrity Initiative submitted a bid for Ministry of Defense funding — among its key performance indicators achieving a “tougher stance in government policy towards Russia”, the publication of “more information in the media on the threat of Russian active measures”, the growth of its cluster network “across Europe” and “greater awareness in all areas of society of the threat posed by Russian active measures to UK’s democratic institutions”.

Integrity Initiative Bids for MoD Funding, March 2017

Russ to Judgement

BuzzFeed would again be used as a conduit for virulently anti-Russian propaganda in June, when it published a series of articles — From Russia With Blood – documenting 14 ‘suspicious deaths’ in Britain it claimed were potential or likely assassinations carried out by Russian “security services or mafia groups”, which UK authorities somehow failed to properly investigate.

The investigation caused something of a sensation, landing BuzzFeed in the running for a variety of prestigious journalism awards, including the Pulitzer and Orwell prizes — Investigations Editor Heidi Blake, who led the series, said her team’s work had cemented the outlet as a “major force in global news”.

However, examination of the seven articles offers much reason for scepticism. First and foremost, suggestions of possible Russian involvement in the deaths hinge almost entirely on the accusations of anonymous intelligence sources, without supporting documentation of any kind. In fact, the pieces often contain information directly contradicting the notion a featured individual was even murdered, let alone by Russians.

For instance, the third installment, The Man Who Knew Too Much, delved into the case of Dr. Matthew Puncher, a UK radiation scientist who’d been conducting work at a Russian nuclear facility, and was found stabbed to death in his kitchen in February 2016.

BuzzFeed notes Puncher’s wife Kathryn told investigators her husband tried to hang himself with a computer cable the the week prior, and Detective Constable Rachel Carter, who inspected the scene, told the inquest “there was no sign of a struggle, none of the furniture had been knocked over, and all the blood belonged to Puncher”, and she was “satisfied” he’d committed suicide as “all the information told us he was very depressed and no-one in his family seemed particularly surprised he had taken his own life”.

However, BuzzFeed had other ideas, stating “four American intelligence officials… believe he was assassinated”. Alternatively, a former senior Scotland Yard counter-terror officer unconnected to the case was quoted as suggesting — also anonymously — the Russian state could have given Puncher drugs to “create depression” and precipitate his suicide.

The fourth installment — The Secrets Of The Spy In The Bag — deals with Gareth Williams, the GCHQ codebreaker seconded to MI6 who died in a Pimlico flat owned by the spying agency in August 2010 and is similarly dubious in the extreme.

Williams’ demise is unambiguously mysterious — his decomposing naked body was found in a padlocked sports bag in the bath, although no fingerprints or traces of his DNA were found on the rim of the bathtub, bag, bag’s zip, or padlock, and an inquest ruled his death to be “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”.

Ironically, much of the article’s content raises serious questions about the role of Williams’ employer’s in his death. For instance, BuzzFeed notes he’d been dead for around 10 days by the time his body was found, but astoundingly neither GCHQ nor MI6 had alerted authorities to his absence from work. It would take his sister informing GCHQ Williams was missing at 11:30 am GMT on 23 August for the agency to contact police — albeit five hours later.

The outlet also records how in the ensuing investigation police were prevented from interviewing Williams’ colleagues at MI6, or reviewing relevant documents, and instead forced to rely upon officers from national counter-terrorism force SO15, which took no formal statements from witnesses, and passed on only anonymised briefing notes to their Metropolitan force counterparts.

Conversely, BuzzFeed fails to mention coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox ruling involvement of SIS staff in Williams’ death was a legitimate line of inquiry for police — instead again relying on the unsubstantiated claims of the anonymous quartet of US intelligence officials that Williams had been tracing international money-laundering routes used by organised crime groups to blame his probable murder on the Kremlin, and/or Russian gangsters.

The eponymous investigation — focusing on the suicide of Scot Young, an associate of oligarch Boris Berezovsky — is perhaps the series’ most puzzling, for more reasons than one. Young — a corrupt tycoon with clear criminal connections — lost all his money on a failed property endeavor, spent time in prison for contempt of court, and suffered a lengthy and costly divorce battle.

Such a litany of crippling personal calamities — and doctors’ appraisal of him as “paranoid, with a manic flavour” with a “complex delusional belief system” — would surely make Young at least a potential candidate for suicide watch, and indeed police concluded he’d taken his own life by throwing himself from his apartment window.

Three of his associates, Paul Castle, Robbie Curtis, and Johnny Elichaoff likewise “experienced dramatic financial [collapses]” in which they lost all their potentially ill-gotten gains, and subsequently took their own lives — Castle and Curtis both jumped in front of oncoming trains, while Elichaoff leaped off the roof of a London shopping centre.

Yet again though, the word of anonymous US intelligence officials is sufficient to perk BuzzFeed’s suspicions about all their deaths, the unnamed operatives saying Russia could have “engineered” their suicides “through manipulation and intimidation tactics”.

The article’s discussion of Berezovsky’s death is likewise suspect and contradictory, quoting Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former counter-terror commander, as saying his department investigated the exiled Russian’s death “very thoroughly” and “hadn’t been able to find any evidence of murder”. Fascinatingly though, in seeking to construct a case for Berezovsky being unlawfully killed, BuzzFeed notes business partner, Georgian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, died from an apparent heart attack in 2008. American spy agencies are said to have intelligence suggesting he was murdered, and while predictably none is presented in the article, Patarkatsishvili was provably subject to at least one assassination plot prior to his death — and it certainly wasn’t Russian in origin.In 2007, covert recordings revealed three Georgian national security service officials had plotted to kill ‘Georgia’s Richest Man’ at the behest of then-President Mikheil Saakashvili. In one recording they debate the best means of execution, an official suggesting they use a poisonous substance which will “kill a person two hours after touching it”. “You smear [it] on the door handle,” they say — the precise method by which Sergei and Yulia were contaminated with novichok, according to UK authorities.

Whatever the meaning of that parallel, BuzzFeed’s series is highly significant, for it was fundamental to cementing the notion of frequent Kremlin-directed murders on British soil in the public consciousness in the year prior to Salisbury. Almost inevitably too, it was widely invoked in the immediate wake of the apparent poisoning as evidence, if not proof, of Russian state involvement.

A Tweet by BuzzFeed Investigations Editor Heidi Blake on Skripal, Documented by Integrity Initiative

Among those seeking to connect From Russia With Blood with the attack on the Skripals was none other than BuzzFeed’s Heidi Blake herself. Her Twitter postings on the subject would be documented by the Integrity Initiative in regular roundups of social media activity relating to the incident — and reference to the series was made in an Initiative briefing document (likely circulated to journalists), Russian Lies and the Skripal Case, which called the “evidence” presented by her team’s investigation “compelling”.

So it was on 13 March 2018, nine days after the Salisbury incident, then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced British police and MI5 would reinvestigate the numerous ‘suspicious deaths’ detailed by BuzzFeed — a development the outlet reported rather triumphally. However, a mere four months later, Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed police had determined there was “no basis on which to re-open any of the investigations”. Fittingly, in December an inquest concluded Alexander Perepilichnyy, one of the ‘BuzzFeed 14′, had died of entirely natural causes.

Whatever the truth of the matter, a month prior the Initiative invited Blake to head an hour-long ‘Investigative Masterclass’ at an event the organization convened at London’s Frontline Club — Tackling Tools of Malign Influence.

‘A Good Shepherd’

Also in June 2017, BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban somewhat miraculously began conducting a series of interviews with Sergei Skripal in the latter’s Salisbury home.

“I was intending to write a book about East-West espionage… My intention was to focus the story on a handful of people, using their stories, and the moment these narratives intersected at Vienna airport, during the swap of 2010, as the key to its structure. Skripal was to be one of the central half-dozen or so stories… I was doing this in my own time — there was no contract. The only sense in which this was a ‘book’ in June 2017 was in my own imagination,” Urban claims.

Over the course of their discussions, Skripal would disclose much about his time in the intelligence services, spell as a double-agent for MI6, incarceration in Russia after discovery, and life in Britain post-exile — although his enduring patriotism Urban found particularly notable.

“[Skripal] is… an unashamed Russian nationalist, enthusiastically adopting the Kremlin line in many matters, even while sitting in his MI6-purchased house,” Urban records, “he was adamant, for example, Putin had not surreptitiously introduced Russian troops into east Ukraine, as much of the Western press reported. If regular units had gone in, he insisted, they would have been sitting in Kiev very soon.”

“The problem with the Ukrainians is they are incapable of leadership. They need Russia for that. The Ukrainians are simply sheep who need a good shepherd,” Skripal explained.

Such sentiments may explain why Skripal seemingly remained in regular contact with the Russian embassy after his arrival in the UK. Speaking to the Independent 7 March 2018, former Kremlin official Valery Morozov, an associate of Skripal likewise exiled to the UK, claimed Skripal had meetings with Russian military intelligence officers “every month”.

Strikingly, he also rejected the notion the apparent nerve agent attack had anything to do with the Kremlin.

“Putin can’t be behind this. I know how the Kremlin works, I worked there. Who is Skripal? He is nothing for Putin. Putin doesn’t think about him. There is nobody in Kremlin talking about former intelligence officer [sic] who is nobody. There is no reason for this. It is more dangerous for them for such things to happen,” Morozov cautioned.

Urban would bizarrely fail to reveal having bagged the unprecedentedly fortuitous scoop until three months after the Salisbury incident — an extremely curious delay, perhaps partially explained by his lucrative book deal with publisher Pan Macmillan being announced mere days later.

The resultant work, The Skripal Files, was published in October — rather than a history of “East-West espionage”, the project had evolved into an extensive telling of the government’s official narrative on the Salisbury incident, buttressed by discussions of alleged Kremlin assassinations in the UK, and Skripal’s life and career.

However, while widely marketed as the “definitive account” of the affair, the name Pablo Miller doesn’t appear once in the text — an amazing oversight given Miller was Skripal’s MI6 recruiter and handler, and neighbour in Salisbury, rendered all the more perplexing by Miller and Urban once having served in the same tank regiment.

Miller’s connections to the Salisbury incident are unclear, and by design — immediately afterwards he deleted his LinkedIn account, which revealed him to be a Senior Analyst at Christopher Steele’s Orbis Intelligence, and on 7 March Whitehall issued a D-notice blocking mention of him in the mainstream media. Miller also has unclear connections to Integrity Initiative, his name appearing on a list of invitees to an event hosted by the organization, alongside representatives of the BBC, Porton Down, the FCO, the MOD and the US Embassy.

Adding to the intrigue, Initiative operative Dan Kaszeta — a “counterfeit” chemical weapons ‘expert’ who was the very first source to suggest Sergei and Yulia may have been struck by novichok, a mere four days after the Salisbury incident — noted he’d met Urban “several times over the past few years” in a glowing review of The Skripal Files (since removed from the web) he wrote for the organization in December 2018.

In what may just be an intensely spooky coincidence, as 2017 drew to a close British-American TV project Strike Back: Retribution – a spy-drama based on a novel of the same name by ex-SAS soldier Chris Ryan — began airing on Sky One in the UK. The series followed the activities of Section 20, a fictional branch of British Defence Intelligence, which conducts secretive high-risk missions throughout the globe.

‘Strike Back: Retribution’ Episode Summaries

In episode four, broadcast 21 November, it’s revealed character Ilya Zaryn — who Section 20 rescued from the clutches of a terrorist group — is, in fact, Karim Markov, a Russian scientist who murdered a number of his colleagues with novichok, and is assisting the terrorists in their nefarious schemes.In the next episode, Section 20 locate Zaryn/Markov in a laboratory in Turov, Belarus, where he’s found producing more novichok — but while they manage to destroy the facility and the nerve agent, the dastardly Russian escapes.

In the next, Section 20 track Markov to a lab in Pripyat, Ukraine — but in attempting to contain the nerve agent, Section 20 operative Natalie Reynolds is contaminated. The unit forces Markov to create an antidote, but is killed before he can concoct one — Reynolds’ fellow agent Thomas McAllister manages to improvise and save her, however.

The series would air early the next year in the US on Cinemax — the second episode featuring novichok was transmitted 2 March, two days prior to the Salisbury incident, the third 9 March, five days after.

Expecting the Unexpected

Mainstream hostility towards the Kremlin had been intense ever since 2014, but ‘RussiaGate’ pushed this antipathy into overdrive. Critical, aggressive and paranoid media reports and statements by politicians had become an essentially daily staple by the start of 2018.

CC0
UK Chief of General Staff Gen. Nick Carter (File)

Nonetheless, on 22 January General Nicholas Carter, UK Chief of General Staff, offered perhaps the most hawkish speech on Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union. Speaking at a Royal United Services Institute event, Carter described the country as the “most complex and capable state-based threat to our country since the end of the Cold War”, and warned hostilities could start “sooner than we expect”, particularly as he — ironically — claimed the Kremlin had “[convinced] ordinary Russians the West is a threat… We have been made to appear as the enemy”.

“If Russia sees itself in decline, and more able now to go to war than in the future, does this encourage them to think of war? Perhaps compare the situation today to 1912 when the Russian Imperial Cabinet assessed that it would be better to fight now, because by 1925 Russia would be too weak in comparison to a modernised Germany; and Japan, of course, drew similar conclusions in 1941. Russia worries, I think, that the West will achieve a technological offset in the next decade,” he cautioned.

Carter said the conflict — which he naturally envisaged being initiated by Russia — would “start with something we don’t expect”.

Not long after the speech, Operation Toxic Dagger was launched — a vast three week effort in which 40 Commando Royal Marines, Public Health England, the Atomic Weapons Establishment and Porton Down’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory collaborated to prepare Britain’s armed forces for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear operations by creating “realistic exercise scenarios based on the latest threat information”.

The endeavour included “company-level attacks and scenarios concerning CBRN vignettes, concluding with a full-scale exercise involving government and industry scientists and more than 300 military personnel”, with a “chemical decontamination area set up not merely to treat ‘polluted’ commandos, but also wounded prisoners”.

It was convened on Salisbury Plain — several of the Royal Marines taking part would be seconded to Operation Morlop, a multi-agency ‘clean-up’ effort launched in Salisbury in the wake of the poisoning of the Skripals, less than a fortnight after Operation Toxic Dagger was completed.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skripals Obviously Isolated, Held Against Their Will – Russian Embassy in UK

Sputnik – March 5, 2019

Britain insists that the Skripals enjoy freedom of movement and communication, but a detailed report compiled by the Russian Embassy in London appears to prove otherwise.

Precisely a year after Sergei and Yulia Skripals’ poisoning in the British town of Salisbury, the Russian Embassy to Great Britain and Northern Ireland issued a detailed report, summing up a whole range of data on Sergei and Yulia Skripals’ poisoning, but most importantly, raising questions that are still to be answered.

Sergei Out of Touch With Outer World

In the report, “Salisbury: Unanswered Questions”, Russian officials have scrupulously outlined the sequence of events starting from 4 March 2018 up to the present moment, reminding readers of the fact that although the British side claimed earlier this year that Sergei Skripal had successfully recovered from the nerve agent attack, he is hitherto not known to have interacted with the outside world.

The Embassy remarked at this point, that Yulia had had some contacts, but that they are largely limited to only four incidents, which are further discussed at length below.

Yulia’s Interactions: Next to Nothing

The first interaction is Yulia’s phone call to her cousin Viktoria Skripal, a month after the incident, which incidentally “sounded as if Yulia had seized a moment to briefly speak to her cousin when not being watched or listened to”, the report stated at length. Having informed Viktoria about her and her father’s health, she concluded by saying there is no way Viktoria could be given a visa, as “that’s the situation here”, the report cited Yulia as saying.

Two other messages from Yulia arrived through British police mediation, with them confirming in the first statement that she had woken up a week earlier. The statement was notably issued the same day Yulia called her cousin. The second statement, also made by the police on Yulia’s behalf, “curiously” claimed that “no one speaks for me” and asked Viktoria not to visit them in the UK.

The latest statement to date, with Yulia captured on video looking the picture of health, arrived on 23 May, where, as stated in the report,  Skripal’s daughter appeared to “read from a prepared text which had been obviously pre-written in English by a native English speaker” before being translated into Russian.

The documents further have it that first-hand complaints about the lack of contact with both Sergei and Yulia have been repeatedly made not only by Viktoria Skripal, but also Elena Skripal, Sergei’s 90-year-old mother, which effectively busts the UK’s assertions of the freedom of communication that the attacked pair reportedly enjoys.

In late February, days after The Sunday Times reported that Sergei Skripal’s health had deteriorated, with the former intel agent receiving medical support at home amid fears that he might never recover, the colonel’s mother appealed to the police to formally declare her son missing.

OPCW’s Report ‘Formal, Empty’

On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping mall in Salisbury. The UK authorities have blamed Russia for attempting to assassinate the Skripals with what is believed by London to be the A234 nerve agent. Russia has denied having any role in the poisoning, pointing to the lack of evidence provided by London to substantiate its accusations.

Russia requested a joint investigation, but was rejected, while the OPCW hasn’t shed light on who is behind the attack either, with Russian officials referring to their report as “formal and empty”.

Following the Salisbury incident, Russian-British ties reached a new low, with Russian diplomats being expelled from a number of EU states in the wake of the affair.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment