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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.

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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

NewsGuard: A Neoconservative Contrivance Which Promotes an Establishment View

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | January 28, 2019

There’s a new thought policeman in town. He calls himself NewsGuard and he promises to restore “Trust and Accountability” to what one reads online. His website elaborates that “NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not… Our Green-Red ratings signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda.”

One might well stop reading immediately after running into “our trained analysts” with all that implies, but that would deny the greater pleasure derived from considering news-sites that have “… a hidden agenda or knowingly [publish] falsehoods or propaganda.” Excuse me, but hidden agendas, lies and propaganda are what the mainstream media is all about, note particularly the recent feeding frenzy over the Covington school incident at the Lincoln Memorial. Catholic racist white boys vs. elderly Native American war hero was how the story was framed all over the mainstream media before it became clear that the entire chosen narrative was upside down. Only a couple of news outlets bothered to apologize when the truth became known.

NewsGuard claims to have a staff of 50 that evaluates 2,000 websites in something like real time. How exactly it does that is not clear, but The New York Times repeats company claims that “the sites it rates account for 96% of online news and information engagement in the U.S.” NewsGuard also told The Times that it intends to quadruple its vetting of sites and seeks to make its coverage “ubiquitous.”

Make no mistake, NewsGuard is a neoconservative contrivance which promotes an establishment view of what is true and what is false. Its co-founder Gordon Crovitz is an ex-editor of The Wall Street Journal, who has enthused over the project, saying that it is “a milestone in the fight to bring consumers the information they need to counter false information, misinformation and disinformation online.” Crovitz has also been associated with the leading neocon foundation The American Enterprise Institute while the NewsGuard advisory board includes Tom Ridge, who was head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, and Michael Hayden, who directed both the CIA and NSA. It is as government-establishment in orientation as it is possible to be.

In a sense seeking to establish “accuracy” in news reporting is nothing new as the social media, to include Facebook and Twitter, have had that objective for some time, but NewsGuard defines itself as having as its target the screening of the entire media in a politically impartial fashion, as “an information resource.” And the real danger is that it will soon be appearing on your computer or phone whether you want it there or not. It is already installed on local library computers in Hawaii and Ohio and is working with university and even high school libraries to include its software on all public computers. Worse still, NewsGuard is in partnership with Microsoft as part of the latter’s Defending Democracy Program. Microsoft currently has NewsGuard on its Edge browser and it intends to install the tool on its Microsoft 10 operating system as a built-in feature. Microsoft 10 is the standard operating system on nearly all computers sold in the United States.

When you go to a news site NewsGuard has a little shield that pops up in the corner of your screen that will tell you whether that site is a reliable source or not. A green tag displays for approved and red for not compliant. Similarly, if you do a search the responses that come up will feature a green or red shield as part of the results. The site for NBC news shows green, approved, with the heading “this website generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” It then uses what it calls a “nutrition label” to break down the nine specific areas that were assessed, each of which also receives and individual green check for NBC. Under “Credibility” appears “Does not repeatedly publish false content; Gathers and presents information responsibly; Regularly corrects or clarifies errors; Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly; and Avoids deceptive headlines.” Under “Accountability” appears “Website discloses ownership and financing; Clearly labels advertising; Reveals who’s in charge including any possible conflict of interest; and The site provides names of any content creators along with either contact or biographical information.”

The first thing one might observe about the system is that it is designed to favor large, well-funded establishment news sources that are staffed to go through the motions of fact checks and corrections. All of the major news networks are approved, including Fox, MSNBC and CNN, all of which editorialize heavily, almost constantly, in their news coverage. Voice of America, which is a U.S. government propaganda instrument by design, also is approved. NewsGuard also has approved all major newspapers to include The New York Times, which frequently gets the story wrong, and The Washington Post, where news stories are nearly indistinguishable from editorials through the use of evocative headlines and slanted narrative. All the U.S. media currently lead off, for example, with stories about Russia that include the assertion that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, a claim that has yet to be confirmed through actual evidence.

Russian media operating in the U.S. including RT America and Sputnik get red ratings with a warning “Proceed with caution: this website fails to basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” RT is apparently guilty of “repeatedly publishing false content,” “not gather[ing] and publish[ing] information responsibly,” “not handl[ing] the difference between news and opinion responsibly” and “not provid[ing] the names of creators.” Al-Jazeera, another news service that often criticizes the United States and its governmental policies also is rated red, suggesting that the true criterion for rejection by NewsGuard is one’s relationship to the official establishment and globalist/interventionist line being promoted by the United States.

A glaring example of NewsGuard’s political bias relates to BuzzFeed, which is an approved site. The Washington Post reported recently how a BuzzFeed story about Michael Cohen and President Trump claimed that the president had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress regarding a proposed office tower project in Moscow, which would have been both a crime and impeachable. A day later Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office intervened and described the story as untrue. The New York Times ran the first story on page one but the retraction that followed appeared on page 11.

And it was not the first major bit of fake news for BuzzFeed. The same two journalists had previously reported that Russia had financed the 2016 election.

CNN, another NewsGuard green authority, inevitably bemoaned possible consequences arising from the Cohen-Trump story by complaining that it would be used to justify “bad stereotypes about the news media,” had its own Russiagate misstep when it falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC emails before their 2016 publication.

The BBC, yet another reliable source approved by NewsGuard, reported back in September that the U.S. government had evidence that the Syrian “regime” was continuing to develop chemical weapons. It added an assessment from the completely befuddled U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey that “President Assad had ‘no future as a ruler’ in Syria… Right now [the Syrian government] is a cadaver sitting in rubble with just half the territory of Syria under regime control on a good day.”

The fact is that Jeffrey was completely wrong about developments in Syria, where the government had been extremely successful in re-asserting control over nearly all of the country, while the claims of chemical weapons use have been rebutted many times, including by actual witnesses and journalists on the ground during the alleged attack at Douma in April.

Reuters news agency, yet another NewsGuard green light, is also into the game. In November 2013 it published an article, part of a series, entitled “Khamenei controls massive financial empire based on property seizures,” which claimed that an Iranian government charitable foundation called Setad (also known as EIKO) actually exists to take control of property for the use of the government’s religious leadership.

A subsequent news report that appeared in January in the alternative media revealed that the investigative journalists who wrote the story did so from Dubai, London and New York and never visited the properties they identified, in most cases completely misrepresenting what could be seen on the ground.

Robert Fontina at Counterpunch has also rejected the depiction of Setad as anything but a charitable foundation. The truth is that Setad engages in major social projects, including rural poverty alleviation, empowering women, home and school building, and provision of healthcare. Fontina observes that American sanctions against it and similar entities hit ordinary Iranians’ lives by producing food insecurity while also restricting the supplies of needed medications. Ahmad Noroozi of the Barakat Foundation claims that numerous Iranians have already been affected by U.S.-initiated sanctions directed against his country, restricting access to cancer treatments and other pharmaceuticals.

So who gets the endorsement from NewsGuard? Those who toe the line on U.S. policy and the establishment globalist/interventionist agenda. It would be interesting to know what NewsGuard’s staff of analysts is really looking for when it researches a site or media outlet. As the examples cited above demonstrate, NewsGuard has nothing to do with taking pains to report the news accurately, nor is there any evidence of real accountability. It is all about who pays the bills and who is in charge. They give the orders and one either falls in line or goes out the door. That is the reality of today’s mainstream media.

Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

BuzzFeed CEO Has History of Writing Fake News About Political, Business Rivals

Sputnik – 24.01.2019

In the years before founding BuzzFeed, CEO Jonah Peretti masqueraded as political opponents or business rivals, creating fake websites and spreading false statements and emails pretending to be them in order to defame them, one of his victims told Sputnik Wednesday.

Peretti, whose news outlet has recently gotten into hot water after publishing and sticking with a story refuted by the Office of the Special Counsel, also has a history of knowingly spreading false information about others.

John Lott, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a specialist on civilian use of firearms, told Sputnik Wednesday that Peretti impersonated him in 2003 in the interests of whipping up support for a hotly debated gun control law.

At the time, Peretti was the director of the R&D lab at Eyebeam, a New York-based not-for-profit art and technology center.

Peretti adopted the identity of Lott, who authored the book “More Guns, Less Crime,” purporting to have had a change of heart and sending out emails urging recipients that he’d had a change of heart and to oppose the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which lawmakers intended to use to protect gun makers from lawsuits. A website Peretti created, AskJohnLott.org, carried the same message, Lott explained in a Tuesday op-ed on Fox News.

“[Peretti] set up a website using my picture and appearing to be from me, and as I described in the op-ed, he sent out emails that appeared to be from me and he emailed back and forth with people trying to convince them he was me,” Lott told Sputnik.

Peretti began receiving hundreds of angry phone calls after the faux email sender began advising recipients how to get around gun control laws. He wrote that he contacted the fake email address after being alerted to it and its messages by James K. Glassman, a former Washington Post columnist, who later served as US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy.

“I talked to [Peretti] on the phone a couple times when we finally figured out who had done it,” Lott said. “I mean, he had registered the domain name in my name and used my address in setting it up, so it took some effort. But when we finally discovered who it was — because I had emailed back to the askJohnLott.org email address and he wouldn’t respond to that — but when we finally figured out who it was, I had a few discussions with him.”

Lott said that only when he lawyered up did Peretti make any effort to indicate that the page wasn’t real, and then made a half-hearted attempt to call his identity fraud parody. “He only put down that it was a parody account after it was discovered, after I brought the lawsuit. But before I brought the lawsuit, he just wasn’t willing to do anything.”

However, Lott pressed forward with the suit, telling Sputnik, “you can’t take somebody’s identity and try to use it for your own advantage.” He included MBA student Jeff Goldblatt in the suit, another of Peretti’s victims who had suffered a similar kind of harassment and identity theft.

Lott wrote on Fox that Peretti set up a fake website and email to impersonate Goldblatt, too, after the latter set up a dating service called “Rejection Hotline” at around the time Peretti set up a similar service of his own. Lott said Peretti’s sister and co-founder of their service, called “Rejection Line,” went so far as to interview Goldblatt while posing as a real New York-based reporter and then using that information to create fake content that “contained multiple lies about me and portrayed me as an arrogant jerk who was bragging about how I stole the idea of the New York City Rejection Line,” he told Lott.

“I guess [Peretti] just thought he was competing against somebody and rather than doing the normal competition, he thought that somehow it was justifiable,” Lott told Sputnik. “I never really asked him why he would do these things, I just kind of assumed he knew that it was wrong and, you know, I tried to argue with him about it, but until I brought the suit I wasn’t able to get anywhere with him, and even then he tried to fight a little bit.”

“He basically pleaded poverty when I was suing him,” Lott said, noting that today Peretti is worth $200 million. “He had wealthy financial backers at the time and he kind of used the threat, or tried to use the threat, of having the wealthy financial backers go and cover his legal costs. It didn’t deter me from continuing the suit and forcing him to settle. I mean… it would have been costly to go to court, obviously, but I was glad we were able to settle,” which they did in 2005 for an undisclosed amount, including a formal apology to both Lott and Goldblatt.

That same year, Peretti co-founded the Huffington Post and the following year he co-founded BuzzFeed.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

MSM Begs For Trust After Buzzfeed Debacle

By Caitlin Johnstone | January 20, 2019

Following what the Washington Post has described as “the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press,” mass media representatives are now flailing desperately for an argument as to why people should continue to place their trust in mainstream news outlets.

On Thursday Buzzfeed News delivered the latest “bombshell” Russiagate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, a pattern that is now so consistent that I’ve personally made a practice of declining to comment on such stories until a day or two after their release. “BOOM!” tweets were issued by #Resistance pundits on Twitter, “If true this means X, Y and Z” bloviations were made on mass media punditry panels, and for about 20 hours Russiagaters everywhere were riding the high of their lives, giddy with the news that President Trump had committed an impeachable felony by ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump office tower in Moscow, a proposal which died within weeks and the Kremlin never touched.

There was reason enough already for any reasonable person to refrain from frenzied celebration, including the fact that the story’s two authors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, were giving the press two very different accounts of the information they’d based it on, with Cormier telling CNN that he had not personally seen the evidence underlying his report and Leopold telling MSNBC that he had. Both Leopold and Cormier, for the record, have already previously suffered a Russiagate faceplant with the clickbait viral story that Russia had financed the 2016 election, burying the fact that it was a Russian election.

Then the entire story came crashing down when Mueller’s office took the extremely rare step of issuing an unequivocal statement that the Buzzfeed story was wrong, writing simply, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.”

According to journalist and economic analyst Doug Henwood, the print New York Times covered the Buzzfeed report on its front page when the story broke, but the report on Mueller’s correction the next day was shoved back to page 11. This appalling journalistic malpractice makes it very funny that NYT’s Wajahat Ali had the gall to tweet, “Unlike the Trump administration, journalists are fact checking and willing to correct the record if the Buzzfeed story is found inaccurate. Not really the actions of a deep state and enemy of the people, right?”

This is the behavior of a media class that is interested in selling narratives, not reporting truth. And yet the mass media talking heads are all telling us today that we must continue to trust them.

“Those trying to tar all media today aren’t interested in improving journalism but protecting themselves,” tweeted NBC’s Chuck Todd. “There’s a lot more accountability in media these days than in our politics. We know we live in a glass house, we hope the folks we cover are as self aware.”

More accountability in media than in politics, Chuck? Really? Accountability to whom? Your advertisers? Your plutocratic owners? Certainly not to the people whose minds you are paid exorbitant sums to influence; there are no public elections for the leadership of the mass media.

“Mueller didn’t do the media any favors tonight, and he did do the president one,” griped the odious Chris Cuomo on CNN. “Because as you saw with Rudy Giuliani and as I’m sure you’ll see with the president himself, this allows them to say ‘You can’t believe it! You can’t believe what you read, you can’t believe what you hear! You can only believe us. Even the Special Counsel says that the media doesn’t get it right.’”

“The larger message that a lot of people are going to take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the president, and they’re willing to lie to do it, and I don’t think that’s true” said Jeffrey Toobin on a CNN panel, adding “I just think this is a bad day for us.”

“It does reinforce bad stereotypes about the news media,” said Brian Stelter on the same CNN panel. “I am desperate as a media reporter to always say to the audience, judge folks individually and judge brands individually. Don’t fall for what these politicians out there want you to do. They want you to think we’re all crooked. We’re not. But Buzzfeed now, now the onus is on Buzzfeed.”

CNN, for the record, has been guilty of an arguably even more embarrassing Russiagate flub than Buzzfeed‘s when they wrongly reported that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC email archives prior to their 2016 publication, an error that was hilariously due to to the simple misreading of an email date by multiple people.

The mass media, including pro-Trump mass media like Fox News, absolutely deserves to be distrusted. It has earned that distrust. It had earned that distrust already with its constant promotion of imperialist wars and an oligarch-friendly status quo, and it has earned it even more with its frenzied promotion of a narrative engineered to manufacture consent for a preexisting agenda to shove Russia off the world stage.

The mainstream media absolutely is the enemy of the people; just because Trump says it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The only reason people don’t rise up and use the power of their numbers to force the much-needed changes that need to happen in our world is because they are being propagandized to accept the status quo day in and day out by the mass media’s endless cultural engineering project. They are the reason why wars go unopposed, why third parties never gain traction, why people consent to money hemorrhaging upward to the wealthiest of the wealthy while everyone else struggles to survive. The sooner people wake up from the perverse narrative matrix of the plutocratic media, the better.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Buzzfeed, Question Time & the purpose of Fake News

Image source
By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | January 19, 2019

Two days ago BuzzFeed published a front page story, under a “BREAKING” banner, headlined: President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

In the article, Buzzfeed reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier claim to have been told, by two anonymous sources, that Robert Mueller’s “Russiagate” investigation had evidence Donald Trump had instructed his lawyer to lie to Congress. That would be a felony, and obviously an impeachable offence.

The reaction of the news media and associated twitterati was as quick as it was predictable. MSNCBC, CNN, the BBC, The Guardian… the usual suspects. They were all over it within hours.

But then, less than a day later, Robert Mueller’s spokesperson Peter Carr issued this statement:

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,”

Despite this, BuzzFeed is sticking to its guns. Insisting that Mueller’s statement is vague, and therefore does not undercut the heart of their story.

The rest of the mainstream media are sensing the tone though and jumping ship. The Washington Post – not known for their pro-Trump slant – ran an editorial pointing out the scarcity of Mueller’s public comment (this the first statement Mueller has ever issued concerning evidence or claims in the press), and arguing that the rush to refute the BuzzFeed article means it is probably completely false.

Nevertheless, BuzzFeed has not retracted or altered their story in any way – except for putting in one small paragraph reporting that Mueller’s office disputes their story. There is no note of the update, and the rest of the story remains unchanged.

There is a striking parallel here, with a story Luke Harding contributed to The Guardian in late November last year: “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy

The article claimed Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort had met with Julian Assange at least three times prior to the 2016 Presidential Election. No evidence was produced, save the word of “unnamed intelligence officials”, “secret Ecuadorian documents” and the like. While the predictable news outlets picked up the story and ran with it with the eagerness of a 6-month-old Golden Retriever, we in the alternative media were quick to point out the logical and factual deficiencies in the story.

Within hours, The Guardian had edited its language to be rather more circumspect, and include the denials made by both accused parties. The edits made to the article were not noted or highlighted in any way, we only know they exist because of internet archives. The next day The Guardian released a brief, terse, defensive statement. That statement was itself refuted by both Manafort and WikiLeaks. As of today, WikiLeaks is actively pursuing legal action in this case.

Later, it was revealed that a key contributor to the story had been previously been convicted of forgery.

No apology has been made, and no retraction issued, no explanation given. Both the editor, Katherine Viner, and Luke Harding have been totally silent on the topic.

So, in the last 2 months both Buzzfeed and The Guardian have issued “BREAKING NEWS” stories that made bold claims, but were not backed up with any evidence. Both these stories were shown to be untrue in less than 24 hours.

Anonymous sources are a common area here – both stories rely exclusively on the word of “unnamed sources” from either “the intelligence services” or “government agencies”. Anonymous sources are the batarangs on the propagandist’s utility belt. Flexible, simple, timeless.

Anonymity allows government agencies to leak misinformation on purpose, without hurting their credibility. It allows newspapers to control public opinion without having any actual facts on hand. It allows intelligence agencies to plant narratives they may want to revisit, or to give targets of blackmail operations a warning. And, most obviously, it allows journalists to simply make stuff up.

I don’t know which specific class these two stories fall into – but I do know it’s one or all of them.

So we come to the question of motive: BuzzFeed and The Guardian must have known there was no evidence to back up their assertions (yet, anyway). They must know the “significant minority” of the population who believe “conspiracy theories about their own government” will research and refute these claims.

So why publish them?

Well, in the Guardian’s case, every story demonising Assange discredits WikiLeaks’ future output, whilst also softening public sympathy for Assange in preparation for potential extradition of to the US. All the mainstream press have turned on WikiLeaks, but The Guardian – for some reason – has a particularly strong institutional axe to grind with WikiLeaks, and specifically Julian Assange.

Similarly, every “Russia bad!” story primes the public to accept increased defence spending, increased control of the internet by the government and increased social media censorship. It is very much the gift that keeps on giving in that regard.

In BuzzFeed’s case, it has been apparent for a while now that the Mueller investigation is likely to fizzle. Articles and interviews from various media sources have been prepping the public for a “let down” for a few weeks. At this point, there is no case for impeaching Trump. But the Deep State still needs to keep him over a barrel.

Trump has been a disappointment to his base and is yet to implement half the policies he discussed on the campaign trail, but he’s not fully and totally being controlled by the warhawking Deep State yet, either. His policy of peace with North Korea and decisions to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan show that there is a tug-of-war ongoing inside the administration. It’s probably no coincidence that this latest of many “bombshells” comes so quickly on the heels of Trump’s announcement of the Syria withdrawal.

Careful “leaks”, planted stories and social media witch-hunts remind Trump how precarious his position is, whilst simultaneously distracting the public – both pro-Trump and anti-Trump – from real issues.

The case-specific “why?” doesn’t matter so much as the general aim of this type of manipulation. The important question is: Why does the media tell lies if they know they will be revealed as such?

Clearly, the lies serve a purpose, regardless of their retraction or qualification.

Telling a lie loudly and then taking it back quietly is an old propaganda trick – it allows the paper to maintain a facade of “accountability”. The point of this practice is to propagate lies into the public consciousness. It’s a method that can be used to distract and disseminate and divide.

The accuracy of the statement is immaterial. The point is, once it has been said it cannot be unsaid. There are countless examples: “Assange was working for Russia”, “Trump ordered Cohen to lie to Congress”, “Russia hacked the US election”, “Donald Trump worked for the KGB”, “Assad gassed his own people”, “Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite”.

The list goes on and on and on. None these have been proven. All were asserted without evidence, fiercely defended as facts, and then discretely qualified.

That is the purpose of “fake news”, to forge the Empire’s “created reality”, and force us all to live in it. These are world-shaping, policy-informing, news-dominating narratives… and are nothing but feathers in the wind.

A perfect examplar of this occurred just two days ago on the BBC’s flagship Political debate show Question Time.

The (notionally impartial) host not only sided with right-wing author Isabel Oakeshott in criticising Labour’s polling, but then joined in mocking the Labour MP Diane Abbott for attempting to correct the record.

Both Oakeshott and Fiona Bruce, the host, were factually incorrect – as shown a hundred times over since. But that doesn’t matter. The lie was told, the audience laughed, the reality was created. “Labour are behind in the polls, anybody who says otherwise is a laughingstock”.

The lie goes around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.

That’s why fake news is so important to them, and so dangerous us.

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.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Tapper-Clapper Leak Proves Media, Intelligence ‘Collaborated’ to Make Russiagate

Sputnik – May 3, 2018

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper, who landed a job at CNN in August 2017 after leaving the government, leaked information to CNN’s Jake Tapper regarding the infamous Steele dossier and its salacious allegations against then-candidate Donald Trump – then denied his actions to Congress under oath.

The leak, and the cover up, shows the “collaboration between the media and the intelligence community in building up Russiagate,” Max Blumenthal, a journalist and bestselling author, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear.

​The dossier, which was first published in January by BuzzFeed, includes allegations that Russian authorities “had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for at least five years.”

In addition, the dossier states that the Kremlin “had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, for several years.” The document, which was created by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, also makes claims about sexual acts between Trump and Russian sex workers, among other things.

On Friday, the US House Intelligence Committee released a 253-page report stating that Clapper leaked details of the dossier to Tapper. Clapper initially declined discussing the dossier information with the journalist, but later admitted to it. The committee’s report also states that there was “no evidence” of collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

“When initially asked about leaks related to the International Committee Assessment in July 2017, former DNI Clapper flatly denied ‘discussing the dossier [compiled by Steele] or any other intelligence related to Russia hacking of the 2016 election with journalists,'” the report reads.

The report also states that Clapper “subsequently acknowledged discussing the dossier with CNN journalist Jake Tapper and admitted that he might have spoken with other journalists about the same topic.”

Blumenthal explained that the dossier was the catalyst for the Russiagate scandal.

“I think this should be a bigger scandal than it is,” he told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou.

“James Clapper — when he was the DNI — oversaw both the CIA and the FBI. There was a dossier going around in [January 2017] in Washington that everyone was talking about but hadn’t been reported on. It was the dossier produced by Christopher Steele, which is the basis for the Russia narrative. Clapper and the intelligence community wanted the dossier out there. On January 6, Clapper sends James Comey, who is then the FBI director, to brief Trump on the dossier. Meanwhile, Clapper leaks the story to Tapper. Tapper and his team at CNN report that Trump was the subject of a two-page dossier by an unnamed British agent,” Blumenthal said.

“The next thing you know, Buzzfeed releases the entire dossier. Trump calls it fake news and the whole blow-up with the press begins on January 9. Russiagate goes to a whole other level. Tapper is going on Twitter and talking about the veracity of the document. You can see the collaboration between the media and the intelligence community in building up Russiagate,” Blumenthal added.

On Monday, George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley said on “Fox & Friends” that there is a “serious issue here.”

“Clapper has already admitted that he did speak with CNN. Now, he is insisting he didn’t speak to any media until January 20, but he indicated he spoke to CNN in early January. CNN reported that high-level people had confirmed the information and if one of those individuals is Clapper, it is a serious problem. He could be accused, again, of perjury,” Turley said.

This is not the first time that Clapper has run into issues with Congress.

In 2013, he apologized for telling Congress that the National Security Agency does not collect data on Americans. He later said his statement was “clearly erroneous.”

See Also:

Clinton Team Was ‘Feeding’ Allegations to Trump’s Dossier Author – Released Memo

May 3, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

How Russia-gate Rationalizes Censorship

By Joe Lauria | Consortium News | December 4, 2107

At the end of October, I wrote an article for Consortium News about the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign paying for unvetted opposition research that became the basis for much of the disputed story about Russia allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The piece showed that the Democrats’ two paid-for sources that have engendered belief in Russia-gate are at best shaky. First was former British spy Christopher Steele’s largely unverified dossier of second- and third-hand opposition research portraying Donald Trump as something of a Russian Manchurian candidate.

And the second was CrowdStrike, an anti-Putin private company, examining the DNC’s computer server to dubiously claim discovery of a Russian “hack.” In a similar examination of an alleged hack of a Ukrainian artillery app, CrowdStrike also blamed Russia but used faulty data for its report that it was later forced to rewrite. CrowdStrike was hired after the DNC refused to allow the FBI to look at the server.

My piece also described the dangerous consequences of partisan Democratic faith in Russia-gate: a sharp increase in geopolitical tensions between nuclear-armed Russia and the U.S., and a New McCarthyism that is spreading fear — especially in academia, journalism and civil rights organizations — about questioning the enforced orthodoxy of Russia’s alleged guilt.

After the article appeared at Consortium News, I tried to penetrate the mainstream by then publishing a version of the article on the HuffPost, which was rebranded from the Huffington Post in April this year by new management. As a contributor to the site since February 2006, I am trusted by HuffPost editors to post my stories directly online. However, within 24 hours of publication on Nov. 4, HuffPost editors retracted the article without any explanation.

This behavior breaks with the earlier principles of journalism that the Web site claimed to uphold. For instance, in 2008, Arianna Huffington told radio host Don Debar that, “We welcome all opinions, except conspiracy theories.” She said: “Facts are sacred. That’s part of our philosophy of journalism.”

But Huffington stepped down as editor in August 2016 and has nothing to do with the site now. It is run by Lydia Polgreen, a former New York Times reporter and editor, who evidently has very different ideas. In April, she completely redesigned the site and renamed it HuffPost.

Before the management change, I had published several articles on the Huffington Post about Russia without controversy. For instance, The Huffington Post published my piece on Nov. 5, 2016, that predicted three days before the election that if Clinton lost she’d blame Russia. My point was reaffirmed by the campaign-insider book Shattered, which revealed that immediately after Clinton’s loss, senior campaign advisers decided to blame Russia for her defeat.

On Dec. 12, 2016, I published another piece, which the Huffington Post editors promoted, called, “Blaming Russia To Overturn The Election Goes Into Overdrive.” I argued that “Russia has been blamed in the U.S. for many things and though proof never seems to be supplied, it is widely believed anyway.”

After I posted an updated version of the Consortium News piece — renamed “On the Origins of Russia-gate” — I was informed 23 hours later by a Facebook friend that the piece had been retracted by HuffPost editors. As a reporter for mainstream media for more than a quarter century, I know that a newsroom rule is that before the serious decision is made to retract an article the writer is contacted to be allowed to defend the piece. This never happened. There was no due process. A HuffPost editor ignored my email asking why it was taken down.

Support from Independent Media

Like the word “fascism,” “censorship” is an over-used and mis-used accusation, and I usually avoid using it. But without any explanation, I could only conclude that the decision to retract was political, not editorial.

I am non-partisan as I oppose both major parties for failing to represent millions of Americans’ interests. I follow facts where they lead. In this case, the facts led to an understanding that the Jan. 6 FBI/NSA/CIA intelligence “assessment” on alleged Russian election interference, prepared by what then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called “hand-picked” analysts, was based substantially on unvetted opposition research and speculation, not serious intelligence work.

The assessment even made the point that the analysts were not asserting that the alleged Russian interference was a fact. The report contained the disclaimer: “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, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

Under deadline pressure on Jan. 6, Scott Shane of The New York Times instinctively wrote what many readers of the report must have been thinking: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

Yet, after the Jan. 6 report was published, leading Democrats asserted falsely that the “assessment” represented the consensus judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies – not just the views of “hand-picked” analysts from three – and much of the U.S. mainstream media began treating the allegations of Russian “hacking” as flat fact, not as an uncertain conclusion denied by both the Russian government and WikiLeaks, which insists that it did not get the two batches of Democratic emails from Russia.

(There is also dissent inside the broader U.S. intelligence community about whether an alleged “hack” over the Internet was even possible based on the download speeds of one known data extraction, which matched what was possible from direct USB access to a computer, i.e., a download onto a thumb drive presumably by a Democratic insider,)

However, because of the oft-repeated “17 intelligence agencies” canard and the mainstream media’s careless reporting, the public impression has built up that the accusations against Russia are indisputable. If you ask a Russia-gate believer today what their faith is based on, they will invariably point to the Jan. 6 assessment and mock anyone who still expresses any doubt.

For instance, an unnamed former CIA officer told The Intercept last month, “You’ve got all these intelligence agencies saying the Russians did the hack. To deny that is like coming out with the theory that the Japanese didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor.”

That the supposedly dissident Intercept would use this quote is instructive about how imbalanced the media’s reporting on Russia-gate has been. We have actual film of Japanese planes attacking Pearl Harbor and American ships burning – and we have the eyewitness accounts of thousands of U.S. soldiers and sailors. Yet, on Russia-gate, we only have the opinions of some “hand-picked” intelligence officials who themselves say that they are not claiming that their opinions are fact. No serious editor would allow a self-interested and unnamed source to equate the two in print.

In this groupthink atmosphere, it was probably easy for HuffPost editors to hear some complaints from a few readers and blithely decide to ban my story. However, before it was pulled, 125 people had shared it. Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and frequent contributor to Consortium News, then took up my cause, being the first to write about the HuffPost censorship on his blog. McGovern included a link to a .pdf file that I captured of the censored HuffPost story. It has since been republished on numerous other websites.

Journalist Max Blumenthal tweeted about it. British filmmaker and writer Tariq Ali posted it on his Facebook page. Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams interviewed me at length about the censorship on their TV program. ZeroHedge wrote a widely shared piece and someone actually took the time, 27 minutes and 13 seconds to be exact, to read the entire article on YouTube. I began a petition to HuffPost’s Polgreen to either explain the retraction or restore the article. It has gained more than 1,900 signatures so far. If a serious fact-check analysis was made of my article, it must exist and can and should be produced.

Watchdogs & Media Defending Censorship

Despite this support from independent media, a senior official at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, I learned, declined to take up my cause because he believes in the Russia-gate story. I also learned that a senior officer at the American Civil Liberties Union rejected my case because he too believes in Russia-gate. Both of these serious organizations were set up precisely to defend individuals in such situations on principle, not preference.

In terms of their responsibilities for defending journalism and protecting civil liberties, their personal opinions about whether Russia-gate is real or not should be irrelevant. The point is whether journalists should be permitted to show skepticism toward this latest dubiously based groupthink. I fear that – amid the frenzy about Russia and the animosity toward Trump – concerns about careers and funding are driving these decisions, with principles brushed aside.

One online publication decidedly took the HuffPost’s side. Steven Perlberg, a media reporter for BuzzFeed, asked the HuffPost why they retracted my article. While ignoring me, the editors issued a statement to BuzzFeed saying that “Mr. Lauria’s self-published” piece was “later flagged by readers, and after deciding that the post contained multiple factually inaccurate or misleading claims, our editors removed the post per our contributor terms of use.” Those terms include retraction for “any reason,” including, apparently, censorship.

Perlberg posted the HuffPost statement on Twitter. I asked him if he inquired of the editors what those “multiple” errors and “misleading claims” were. I asked him to contact me to get my side of the story. Perlberg totally ignored me. He wrote nothing about the matter. He apparently believed the HuffPost and that was that. In this way, he acquiesced with the censorship.

BuzzFeed, of course, is the sensationalist outlet that irresponsibly published the Steele dossier in full, even though the accusations – not just about Donald Trump but also many other individuals – weren’t verified. Then on Nov. 14, BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold wrote one of the most ludicrous of a long line of fantastic Russia-gate stories, reporting that the Russian foreign ministry had sent money to Russian consulates in the U.S. “to finance the election campaign of 2016.” The scoop generated some screaming headlines before it became clear that the money was to pay for Russian citizens in the U.S. to vote in the 2016 Duma election.

That Russia-gate has reached this point, based on faith and not fact, was further illustrated by a Facebook exchange I had with Gary Sick, an academic who served on the Ford and Carter national security staffs. When I pressed Sick for evidence of Russian interference, he eventually replied: “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…” When I told him that was a very low-bar for such serious accusations, he angrily cut off debate.

Part of this Russia-gate groupthink stems from the outrage – and even shame – that many Americans feel about Trump’s election. They want to find an explanation that doesn’t lay the blame on the U.S. citizenry or America’s current dysfunctional political/media process. It’s much more reassuring, in a way, to blame some foreign adversary while also discrediting Trump’s legitimacy as the elected president. That leaves open some hope that his election might somehow be negated.

And, so many important people and organizations seem to be verifying the Russia-gate suspicions that the theory must be true. Which is an important point. When belief in a story becomes faith-based or is driven by an intense self-interest, honest skeptics are pushed aside and trampled. That is the way groupthink works, as we saw in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq when any doubts about Iraq possessing WMD made you a “Saddam apologist.”

As the groupthink grows, the true-believers become disdainful of facts that force them to think about what they already believe. They won’t waste time making a painstaking examination of the facts or engage in a detailed debate even on something as important and dangerous as a new Cold War with Russia.

This is the most likely explanation for the HuffPost‘s censorship: a visceral reaction to having their Russia-gate faith challenged.

Why Critical News is Suppressed

But the HuffPost’s action is hardly isolated. It is part of a rapidly growing landscape of censorship of news critical of American corporate and political leaders who are trying to defend themselves from an increasingly angry population. It’s a story as old as civilization: a wealthy and powerful elite fending off popular unrest by trying to contain knowledge of how the insiders gain at the others’ expense, at home and abroad.

A lesson of the 2016 campaign was that growing numbers of Americans are fed up with three decades of neoliberal policies that have fabulously enriched the top tier of Americans and debased a huge majority of the citizenry. The population has likewise grown tired of the elite’s senseless wars to expand their own interests, which these insiders try to conflate with the entire country’s interests.

America’s bipartisan rulers are threatened by popular discontent from both left and right. They were alarmed by the Bernie Sanders insurgency and by Donald Trump’s victory, even if Trump is now betraying the discontented masses who voted for him by advancing tax and health insurance plans designed to further crush them and benefit the wealthy.

Trump’s false campaign promises will only make the rulers’ problem of a restless population worse. Americans are subjected to economic inequality greater than in the first Gilded Age. They are also subjected today to more war than in the first Gilded Age. American rulers today are engaged in multiple conflicts following decades of post-World War II invasions and coups to expand their global interests.

People with wealth and power always seem to be nervous about losing both. So plutocrats use the concentrated media they own to suppress news critical of their wars and domestic repression. For example, almost nothing was reported about militarized police forces until the story broke out into the open in the Ferguson protests and much of that discontent has been brushed aside more recently.

Careerist journalists readily acquiesce in this suppression of news to maintain their jobs, their status and their lifestyles. Meanwhile, a growing body of poorly paid freelancers compete for the few remaining decent-paying gigs for which they must report from the viewpoint of the mainstream news organizations and their wealthy owners.

To operate in this media structure, most journalists know to excise out the historical context of America’s wars of domination. They know to uncritically accept American officials’ bromides about spreading democracy, while hiding the real war aims.

Examples abound: America’s role in the Ukraine coup was denied or downplayed; a British parliamentary report exposing American lies that led to the destruction of Libya was suppressed; and most infamously, the media promoted the WMD hoax and the fable of “bringing democracy” to Iraq, leading to the illegal invasion and devastation of that country. A recent example from November is a 60 Minutes report on the Saudi destruction of Yemen, conspicuously failing to mention America’s crucial role in the carnage.

I’ve pitched numerous news stories critical of U.S. foreign policy to a major American newspaper that were rejected or changed in the editorial process. One example is the declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document of August 2012 that accurately predicted the rise of the Islamic State two years later.

The document, which I confirmed with a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. and its Turkish, European and Gulf Arab allies, were supporting the establishment of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria to put pressure on the Syrian government, but the document warned that this Salafist base could turn into an “Islamic State.”

But such a story would undermine the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism” narrative by revealing that the U.S.-backed strategy actually was risking the expansion of the jihadists’ foothold in Syria. The story was twice rejected by my editors and has received attention almost entirely — if not exclusively — on much-smaller independent news Web sites.

Another story I pitched in June 2012, just a year into the Syrian war, about Russia’s motives in Syria being guided by a desire to defeat the growing jihadist threat there, was also rejected. Corporate media wanted to keep the myth of Russia’s “imperial” aims in Syria alive. I had to publish the article outside the U.S., in a South African daily newspaper.

In September 2015 at the U.N. General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed my story about Russia’s motives in Syria to stop jihadists from taking over. Putin invited the U.S. to join this effort as Moscow was about to launch its military intervention at the invitation of the Syrian government. The Obama administration, still insisting on “regime change” in Syria, refused. And the U.S. corporate media continued promoting the myth that Russia intervened to recapture its “imperial glory.”

It was much easier to promote the “imperial” narrative and to ignore Putin’s clear explanation to French TV channel TF1, which was not picked up by American media.

“Remember what Libya or Iraq looked like before these countries and their organizations were destroyed as states by our Western partners’ forces?” Putin said. “These states showed no signs of terrorism. They were not a threat for Paris, for the Cote d’Azur, for Belgium, for Russia, or for the United States. Now, they are the source of terrorist threats. Our goal is to prevent the same from happening in Syria.”

Why Russia Is Targeted

So, where are independent-minded Western journalists to turn if their stories critical of the U.S. government and corporations are suppressed?

The imperative is to get these stories out – and Russian media has provided an opening for some. This has presented a new problem for the plutocracy. The suppression of critical news in their corporate-owned media is no longer working if it’s seeping out in Russian media (and through some dissident Western news sites on the Internet).

The solution has been to brand the content of the Russian television network, RT, as “propaganda” since it presents facts and viewpoints that most Americans have been kept from hearing. But just because these views – many coming from Americans and other Westerners – are not what you commonly hear on the U.S. mainstream media doesn’t make them “propaganda” that must be stigmatized and silenced.

As a Russian-government-financed English-language news channel, RT also gives a Russian perspective on the news, the way CNN and The New York Times give an American perspective and the BBC a British one. American mainstream journalists, from my experience, arrogantly deny suppressing news and believe they present a universal perspective, rather than a narrow American view of the world.

The viewpoints of Iranians, Palestinians, Russians, North Koreans and others are never fully reported in the Western media although the supposed mission of journalism is to help citizens understand a frighteningly complex world from multiple points of view. It’s impossible to do so without those voices included. Routinely or systematically shutting them out also dehumanizes people in those countries, making it easier to gain popular support to go to war against them.

Russia is scapegoated by charging that RT or Sputnik are sowing divisions in the U.S. by focusing on issues like homelessness, racism, or out-of-control militarized police forces, as if these divisive issues didn’t already exist. The U.S. mainstream media also seems to forget that the U.S. government has engaged in at least 70 years of interference in other countries’ elections, foreign invasions, coups, planting stories in foreign media and cyber-warfare.

Now, these American transgressions are projected onto Moscow. There’s also a measure of self-reverence in this for “successful” people with a stake in an establishment that underpins the elite, demonstrating how wonderfully democratic they are compared to those ogres in Russia.

The overriding point about the “Russian propaganda” complaint is that when America’s democratic institutions, including the press and the electoral process, are crumbling under the weight of corruption that the American elites have created or maintained, someone else needs to be blamed. Russia is both an old and a new scapegoat.

The Jan. 6 intelligence assessment on alleged Russian election meddling is a good example of how this works. A third of its content is an attack on RT for “undermining American democracy” by reporting on Occupy Wall Street, the protest over the Dakota pipeline and, of all things, holding a “third party candidate debates.”

According to the Jan. 6 assessment, RT’s offenses include reporting that “the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’” RT also “highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties.” In other words, reporting on newsworthy events and allowing third-party candidates to express their opinions undermine democracy.

The report also says all this amounts to “a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest,” but it should be noted those protests by dissatisfied Americans are against privileges of the wealthy and the well-connected, a status quo that the intelligence agencies routinely protect.

There are also deeper reasons why Russia is being targeted. The Russia-gate story fits neatly into a geopolitical strategy that long predates the 2016 election. Since Wall Street and the U.S. government lost the dominant position in Russia that existed under the pliable President Boris Yeltsin, the strategy has been to put pressure on getting rid of Putin to restore a U.S. friendly leader in Moscow. There is substance to Russia’s concerns about American designs for “regime change” in the Kremlin.

Moscow sees an aggressive America expanding NATO and putting 30,000 NATO troops on its borders; trying to overthrow a secular ally in Syria with terrorists who threaten Russia itself; backing a coup in Ukraine as a possible prelude to moves against Russia; and using American NGOs to foment unrest inside Russia before they were forced to register as foreign agents. Russia wants Americans to see this perspective.

Accelerated Censorship in the Private Sector

The Constitution prohibits government from prior-restraint, or censorship, though such tactics were  imposed, largely unchallenged, during the two world wars. American newspapers voluntarily agreed to censor themselves in the Second World War before the government dictated it.

In the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur said he didn’t “desire to reestablish wartime censorship” and instead asked the press for self-censorship. He largely got it until the papers began reporting American battlefield losses. On July 25, 1950, “the army ordered that reporters were not allowed to publish ‘unwarranted’ criticism of command decisions, and that the army would be ‘the sole judge and jury’ on what ‘unwarranted’ criticism entailed,” according to a Yale University study on military censorship.

After excellent on-the-ground reporting from Vietnam brought the war home to America, the military reacted by instituting, initially in the first Gulf War, serious control of the press by “embedding” reporters from private media companies which accepted the arrangement, much as World War II newspapers censored themselves.

It is important to realize that the First Amendment does not apply to private companies, including the media. It is not illegal for them to practice censorship. I never made a First Amendment argument against the HuffPost, for instance. However, under pressure from Washington, even in peacetime, media companies can do the government’s dirty work to censor or limit free speech for the government.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen an acceleration of attempts by corporations to inhibit Russian media in the U.S. Both Google and Facebook, which dominate the Web with more than 50 percent of ad revenue, were at first resistant to government pressure to censor “Russian propaganda.” But they are coming around.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said on Nov. 18 that Google would “derank” articles from RT and Sputnik in the Google searches, making the stories harder for readers to find. The billionaire Schmidt claimed Russian information can be “repetitive, exploitative, false, [or] likely to have been weaponized,” he said. That is how factual news critical of U.S. corporate and political leadership is seen, as a weapon.

“My own view is that these patterns can be detected, and that they can be taken down or deprioritized,” Schmidt said.

Though Google would effectively be hiding news produced by RT and Sputnik, Schmidt is sensitive to the charge of censorship, even though there’s nothing legally to stop him.

“We don’t want to ban the sites. That’s not how we operate,” Schmidt said cynically. “I am strongly not in favor of censorship. I am very strongly in favor of ranking. It’s what we do.”

But the “deranking” isn’t only aimed at Russian sites; Google algorithms also are taking aim at independent news sites that don’t follow the mainstream herd – and thus are accused of spreading Russian or other “propaganda” if they question the dominant Western narratives on, say, the Ukraine crisis or the war in Syria. A number of alternative websites have begun reporting a sharp fall-off of traffic directed to their sites from Google’s search engines.

Responding to a deadline from Congress to act, Facebook on Nov. 22 announced that it would inform users if they have been “targeted” by Russian “propaganda.” Facebook’s help center will tell users if they liked or shared ads allegedly from the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, which supposedly bought $100,000 in ads over a two-year period, with more than half these ads coming after the 2016 U.S. election and many not related to politics.

(The $100,000 sum over two years compares to Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue. Plus, Facebook only says it “believes” or it’s “likely” that the ads came from that firm, whose links to the Kremlin also have yet to be proved.)

Facebook described the move as “part of our ongoing effort to protect our platforms and the people who use them from bad actors who try to undermine our democracy.” Congress wants more from Facebook, so it will not be surprising if users will eventually be told when they’ve liked or shared an RT report in the future.

While the government can’t openly shut down a news site, the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming vote on whether to deregulate the Internet by ending net neutrality will free private Internet companies in the U.S. to further marginalize Russian and dissident websites by slowing them down and thus discouraging readers from viewing them.

Likewise, as the U.S. government doesn’t want to be openly seen shutting down RT operations, it is working around the edges to accomplish that.

After the Department of Justice forced, under threat of arrest, RT to register its employees as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nuaert said last Tuesday that “FARA does not police the content of information disseminated, does not limit the publication of information or advocacy materials, and does not restrict an organization’s ability to operate.” She’d earlier said that registering would not “impact or affect the ability of them to report news and information. We just have them register. It’s as simple as that.”

Then on Wednesday the Congressional press office stripped RT correspondents of their Capitol Hill press passes, citing the FARA registration. “The rules of the Galleries state clearly that news credentials may not be issued to any applicant employed ‘by any foreign government or representative thereof.’ Upon its registration as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), RT Network became ineligible to hold news credentials,” read the letter to RT.

Even so, Russia-gate faithful ignore these aggressive moves and issue calls for even harsher action. After forcing RT to register, Keir Giles, a Chatham House senior consulting fellow, acted as though it never happened. He said in a Council on Foreign Relations Cyber Brief on Nov. 27: “Although the Trump administration seems unlikely to pursue action against Russian information operations, there are steps the U.S. Congress and other governments should consider.”

commented on this development on RT America. It would also have been good to have the State Department’s Nuaert answer for this discrepancy about the claim that forced FARA registrations would not affect news gathering when it already has. My criticism of RT is that they should be interviewing U.S. decision-makers to hold them accountable, rather than mostly guests outside the power structure. The decision-makers could be called out on air if they refuse to appear.

Growing McCarthyite Attacks

Western rulers’ wariness about popular unrest also can be seen in the extraordinary and scurrilous attack on the Canadian website globalresearch.ca. The attack started with a chilling study by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into the relatively obscure website, followed by a vicious hit piece on Nov. 18 by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper. The headline was: “How a Canadian website is being used to amplify the Kremlin’s view of the world.”

“What once appeared to be a relatively harmless online refuge for conspiracy theorists is now seen by NATO’s information warfare specialists as a link in a concerted effort to undermine the credibility of mainstream Western media – as well as the North American and European public’s trust in government and public institutions,” the Globe and Mail reported. “Global Research is viewed by NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence – or StratCom – as playing a key accelerant role in helping popularize articles with little basis in fact that also happen to fit the narratives being pushed by the Kremlin, in particular, and the Assad regime.”

I’ve not agreed with everything I’ve read on the site. But it is a useful clearinghouse for alternative media. Numerous Consortium News articles are republished there, including a handful of mine. But the site’s typical sharing and reposting on the Internet is seen by NATO as a plot to undermine the Free World.

Drawing from the NATO report, The Globe and Mail’s denunciation of this website continued: “It uses that reach to push not only its own opinion pieces, but ‘news’ reports from little-known websites that regularly carry dubious or false information. At times, the site’s regular variety of international-affairs stories is replaced with a flurry of items that bolster dubious reportage with a series of opinion pieces, promoted on social media and retweeted and shared by active bots.”

The newspaper continued, “’That way, they increase the Google ranking of the story and create the illusion of multi-source verification,’ said Donara Barojan, who does digital forensic research for [StratCom]. But she said she did not yet have proof that Global Research is connected to any government.”

This sort of smear is nothing more than a blatant attack on free speech by the most powerful military alliance in the world, based on the unfounded conviction that Russia is a fundamental force for evil and that anyone who has contacts with Russia or shares even a part of its multilateral world view is suspect.

High-profile individuals are now also in the crosshairs of the neo-McCarthyite witchhunt. On Nov. 25 The Washington Post ran a nasty hit piece on Washington Capitals’ hockey player Alex Ovechkin, one of the most revered sports figures in the Washington area, simply because he, like 86 percent of other Russians, supports his president.

“Alex Ovechkin is one of Putin’s biggest fans. The question is, why?” ran the headline. The story insidiously implied that Ovechkin was a dupe of his own president, being used to set up a media campaign to support Putin, who is under fierce and relentless attack in the United States where Ovechkin plays professional ice hockey.

“He has given an unwavering endorsement to a man who U.S. intelligence agencies say sanctioned Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election,” write the Post reporters, once again showing their gullibility to U.S. intelligence agencies that have provided no proof for their assertions (and even admit that they are not asserting their opinion as fact).

Less prominent figures are targeted too. John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent who blew the whistle on torture and was jailed for it, was kicked off a panel in Europe on Nov. 10 by a Bernie Sanders supporter who refused to appear with Kiriakou because he co-hosts a show on Radio Sputnik.

Then last week, Reporters Without Borders, an organization supposedly devoted to press freedom, tried to kick journalist Vanessa Beeley off a panel in Geneva to prevent her from presenting evidence that the White Helmets, a group that sells itself as a rescue organization inside rebel-controlled territory in Syria, has ties to Al Qaeda. The Swiss Press Club, which hosted the event, resisted the pressure and let Beeley speak.

Russia-gate’s Hurdles

Much of this spreading global hysteria and intensifying censorship traces back to Russia-gate. Yet, it remains remarkable that the corporate media has failed so far to prove any significant Russian interference in the U.S. election at all. Nor have the intelligence agencies, Congressional investigations and special prosecutor Robert Mueller. His criminal charges so far have been for financial crimes and lying to federal authorities on topics unrelated to any “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russians to “hack” Democratic emails.

There may well be more indictments from Mueller, even perhaps a complaint about Trump committing obstruction of justice because he said on TV that he fired Comey, in part, because of the “Russia thing.” But Trump’s clumsy reaction to the “scandal,” which he calls “fake news” and a “witch hunt,” still is not proof that Putin and the Russians interfered in the U.S. election to achieve the unlikely outcome of Trump’s victory.

The Russia-gate faithful assured us to wait for the indictment of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, briefly Trump’s national security adviser. But again there was nothing about pre-election “collusion,” only charges that Flynn had lied to the FBI or omitted details about two conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding policy matters during the presidential transition, i.e., after the election.

And, one of those conversations related to trying unsuccessfully to comply with an Israeli request to get Russia to block a United Nations resolution censuring Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land.

As journalist Yasha Levine tweeted: “So the country that influenced US policy through Michael Flynn is Israel, not Russia. But Flynn did try to influence Russia, not the other way around. Ha-ha. This is the smoking gun? What a farce.”

There remain a number of key hurdles to prove the Russia-gate story. First, convincing evidence is needed that the Russian government indeed did “hack” the Democratic emails, both those of the DNC and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta – and gave them to WikiLeaks. And, further that somehow the Trump campaign was involved in aiding and abetting this operation, i.e., collusion.

There’s also the question of how significant the release of those emails was anyway. They did provide evidence that the DNC tilted the primary campaign in favor of Clinton over Sanders; they exposed the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street, which she was trying to hide from the voters; and they revealed some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation and its foreign donations.

But – even if the Russians were involved in providing that information to the American people – those issues were not considered decisive in the campaign. Clinton principally pinned her loss on FBI Director James Comey for closing and then reopening the investigation into her improper use of a private email server while Secretary of State. She also spread the blame to Russia (repeating the canard about “seventeen [U.S. intelligence] agencies, all in agreement”), Bernie Sanders, the inept DNC and other factors.

As for the vaguer concerns about some Russian group “probably” buying $100,000 in ads, mostly after Americans had voted, as a factor in swaying a $6 billion election, is too silly to contemplate.

That RT and Sputnik ran pieces critical of Hillary Clinton was their right, and they were hardly alone. RT and Sputnik‘s reach in the U.S. is minuscule compared to Fox News, which slammed Clinton throughout the campaign, or for that matter, MSNBC, CNN and other mainstream news outlets, which often expressed open disdain for Republican Donald Trump but also gave extensive coverage to issues such as the security concerns about Clinton’s private email server.

Another vague Russia-gate suspicion stemming largely from Steele’s opposition research is that somehow Russia is bribing or blackmailing Trump because Trump has done some past business with Russians. But there are evidentiary and logical problems with these theories, since some lucrative deals fell through (and presumably wouldn’t have if Trump was being paid off) — and no one, including the Russians, foresaw Trump’s highly improbable election as U.S. President years earlier.

Some have questioned how Trump could have supported detente with Russia without being beholden to Moscow in some way. But Jeffery Sommers, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin, wrote a convincing essay explaining adviser Steve Bannon’s influence on Trump’s thinking about Russia and the need for cooperation between the two powers to solve international problems.

Without convincing evidence, I remain a Russia-gate skeptic. I am not defending Russia. Russia can defend itself. However, amid the growing censorship and this dangerous new McCarthyism, I am trying to defend America — from itself.

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of How I Lost By Hillary Clinton published by OR Books in June 2017. He can be reached at joelauria@gmail.com and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

December 4, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Probes of Money Transfers for Russian Embassies Violate ‘Elementary’ Norms

Sputnik – 15.11.2017

Media reports about an FBI investigation into money transfers for Russian diplomatic missions abroad prove that the United States is violating “elementary” international norms, the Russian embassy in Washington has said.

On Tuesday, the BuzzFeed news outlet said that the FBI was scrutinizing more than 60 money transfers sent by the Russian Foreign Ministry to its embassies worldwide through Citibank accounts, with most of them containing a memo line referencing the financing of “the election campaign of 2016.”

The publication comes amid the ongoing FBI and US Congress investigations into Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 US presidential election campaign. The authors of the publication note that the transactions totaling $380,000 took place between August 3 and September 20, 2016. Seven states had federal elections during this period, including, you will never believe it, the Russian State Duma election.

“Now Buzzfeed together with the FBI and Congress are investigating money transfers for the embassy, which performs its duties in strict accordance with the Vienna Convention [on Diplomatic Relations],” the Russian embassy in Washington said in a statement.

“In fact, they are investigating the embassy’s activities in cooperation with Citibank. This is a new US norm… We are grateful to the BuzzFeed journalists, who have uncovered this blatant violation of elementary norms of treatment by local authorities of foreign diplomatic missions,” the statement said.

The embassy added that Russian diplomatic missions will continue providing Russian nationals living abroad with the possibility to vote in Russia’s parliamentary or presidential elections or attract additional funding if it is necessary, and US investigators will not hinder this.

“We have to disappoint ‘the investigators.’ We will continue holding Russian State Duma or presidential elections in accordance with our constitution, including for nationals living abroad, across the globe and in particular in the United States. If we need additional funding to organize the election, we will receive it from Moscow, through Citibank or any other bank. And it will be legal,” the embassy said.

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Suspends CNN en Espanol Due to Threat to ‘Peace, Democratic Stability’

Sputnik – 16.02.2017

cxtjjwnwgaacrsfVenezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) has suspended the operation of the CNN en Espanol news channel on the territory of the country, the commission said in a statement.

The suspension of CNN en Espanol, which allegedly generates “a climate of intolerance” and threatens “the peace and democratic stability” of the people of Venezuela is effective immediately starting on Wednesday on all “national territory,” CONATEL said on Wednesday, accusing the channel of “aggression” against Venezuela.

The commission also urged other media actors to offer the Venezuelan people timely and impartial information that corresponds to the values of the Venezuelan society and fulfills the constitutional guarantees of free communication.

The Venezuelan government reportedly launched an investigation into the work of the CNN en Espanol channel in August 2015, accusing it of spreading false reports on violence in the country.

The news comes as US President Donald Trump called CNN “fake news” and refused to give their reporter a question at a press event after the broadcaster had helped to fuel false rumors he had hired prostitutes at a Moscow hotel and engaged in lewd behavior.

The network that markets itself as centrist relief from hyper-partisan outlets Fox and MSNBC aired an uncorroborated, unverified report alleging that Russians had obtained compromising information on Trump. The report originated from a former UK intelligence operative, according to CNN and BuzzFeed, the first outlets to publicize the reports.

Following the national and global embarrassment, CNN desperately tried to distance itself from BuzzFeed. CNN claims their reporting of Russia potentially having compromising financial or personal information against Trump is part of its honorable First Amendment duty of “informing the people of the inner workings of their government.”

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Russian tech expert sues BuzzFeed over Trump dossier ‘fake news’

RT | February 5, 2017

BuzzFeed and members of its team have been sued by Russian tech expert Aleksey Gubarev over false accusations contained in an unverified story and a dossier that claimed to expose links between President Trump and the Russian government.

Two lawsuits, filed in the state of Florida and in London, UK, seek to collect financial and reputation damages over fake news reporting contained in BuzzFeed’s January 10 story that has been viewed nearly 6 million times.

The story, based on a 35-page dossier, accused XBT Holdings, owned by Russian tech wiz Aleksey Gubarev, of “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership” in 2016.

To protect his brand from these allegations, which Gubarev called “fake news” in an interview with RT, his team of lawyers filed a defamation suit against Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where XBT’s subsidiary Webzilla is headquartered.

“We were shocked to see our good name wrongly included and published in this unsubstantiated report,” a statement by XBT said. “The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla, and Gubarev. The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla, and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier.”

The Florida lawsuit has called the January 10 report “one of the most reckless and irresponsible moments in modern ‘journalism,’” because the publication failed to check the facts.

When it published the dossier, BuzzFeed itself noted that it contained errors and that its claims had not been verified. Yet the report was made public.

Buzzfeed and Smith published these allegations without having even taken the most basic step of contacting the Plaintiffs to ask if the allegations had any merit,” Florida’s court document reads.

Following the publication of the scandalous report, Donald Trump slammed BuzzFeed’s story a “failing pile of garbage.” The information in the report was “false and fake and never happened,” Trump said.

Moscow called the report a “fabrication” not even worth being discussed, with President Vladimir Putin later saying that authors behind the paper “have no moral scruples.”

On Friday, BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told McClatchy that they have issued an apology to Gubarev and that they “have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it.”

Besides going after Buzzfeed and its editor-in-chief, Gubarev also decided to sue the alleged author of the report. Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence in London were named as defendants in the UK suit.

Following the publications of Steele’s invention, Gubarev “has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters,” XBT pointed out, adding that his family’s security was compromised as well.

In an interview with RT, Gubarev who has not lived in Russia for 15 years, called the report “fake news,” saying that he still does “not understand why our names [are] there and we do not understand a reason for this report in general.” The XBT chief said he and his company “are open for any investigation” to prove the falseness of these claims, and adds that they have “nothing to hide.”

February 5, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Trump: ‘Russia Has Never Tried to Use Leverage Over Me’

Sputnik – 11.01.2017

On Tuesday, the CNN and the BuzzFeed news website reported on memos, compiled by an unnamed former intelligence officer from the United Kingdom, which allege that Trump has been groomed and supported by Russian intelligence for at least five years.

The documents, which BuzzFeed admitted were unsupported and which the CNN did not fully disclose due to lack of independent corroboration, also alleged that Russian intelligence had compromising material on Trump related to his “unorthodox behavior” during a visit to Russia.

Donald Trump denied that Russia has ever attempted to use leverage over him and reiterated that he has no business links with Russia.

Trump further pointed out that the “leak” should not have emerged in the mainstream media at all.

January 11, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Russia has no compromising info on Trump or Clinton, report is ‘total bluff’ – Kremlin

RT | January 11, 2017

Moscow says documents alleging that Russia has compromising information on Donald Trump are a fabrication and a “total bluff.” Russia has never gathered information of this kind on either the US president-elect, or his former rival, Hillary Clinton.

“The Kremlin has no compromising information on Trump. This report does not correspond to reality and is nothing but an absolute fiction,” the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Wednesday.

“This is a total bluff, an absolute fabrication, complete nonsense,” he said.

He reiterated that there is no compromising information on Hillary Clinton either, and that the Russian authorities do not accumulate this type of information.

“Of course not. The Kremlin does not collect compromising information. The Kremlin [and] the Russian president are engaged in building relationships with our foreign partners, firstly – in the interests of the Russian Federation, in the interests of the Russian people, secondly – in the interests of global peace, stability and security,” Peskov said.

On Tuesday, CNN published an article stating that US intelligence handed over a two-page synopsis of classified documents, which included claims that Russian operatives have compromising personal and financial information about Trump, to the president-elect and US President Barack Obama.

The information was included as an annex to a classified version of the report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, according to CNN.

Buzzfeed picked up the story, publishing the entire dossier purportedly “prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent.”

The most appalling part of the dossier was the claim that Donald Trump has “personal obsessions and sexual perversion,” including graphic sex acts, and a report that the president-elect once had Russian prostitutes urinate on each other in a hotel bed that the Obamas previously shared.

Apart from sex orgies, the dossier also suggests Russian officials offered the Republican real estate magnate lucrative deals in order to win influence over him ahead of the election.

The story exploded on Twitter with the hashtag #GoldenShowers shooting up the trending charts.

Later in the day, however, an anonymous member of the chatboard on 4chan posted a refutation of the now infamous “golden showers” story, calling it a hoax and “fanfiction.” He or she claimed that several months ago, the story was sent to Republican political strategist Rick Wilson, who proceeded to send it to the CIA, which then put it in their official classified intelligence report on the election.

Moscow considers the scandal a clear attempt to damage relations with Washington and the president-elect personally.

“This is an obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations,” Peskov said.

“Pulp fiction, that’s what it is called in English. Of course, probably the best way to react would be accordingly – with a certain sense of humor.”

“Although there is a downside – indeed, there are those who are stirring up the hysteria, who go out of their way to maintain this state of a witch-hunt,” he added.

January 11, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment