Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

The Real Motive Behind the FBI Plan to Investigate Trump as a Russian Agent

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | February 13, 2019

The New York Times and CNN led media coverage last month of discussions among senior FBI officials in May 2017 of a possible national security investigation of President Donald Trump himself, on the premise that he may have acted as an agent of Russia.

The episode has potentially profound political fallout, because the Times and CNN stories suggested that Trump may indeed have acted like a Russian agent. The New York Times story on Jan. 11 was headlined, “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” CNN followed three days later with: “Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia.”

By reporting that Russia may have been able to suborn the president of the United States, these stories have added an even more extreme layer to the dominant national political narrative of a serious Russian threat to destroy U.S. democracy. An analysis of the FBI’s idea of Trump as possible Russian agent reveals, moreover, that it is based on a devious concept of “unwitting” service to Russian interests that can be traced back to former CIA director John O. Brennan.

The Proposal That Fell Apart

The FBI discussions that drove these stories could have led to the first known investigation of a U.S. president as a suspected national security risk. It ended only a few days after the deliberations  among the senior FBI officials when on May 19, 2017, the Justice Department chose Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to be special counsel. That put control over the Trump-Russia investigation into the hands of Mueller rather than the FBI.

Peter Strzok, who led the bureau’s counter-espionage section, was, along with former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, one of those involved in the May 2017 discussions about investigating Trump. Strzok initially joined Mueller’s team but was fired after a couple of months when text messages that he had written came to light exposing a deep animosity towards Trump that cast doubt over his  impartiality.

The other FBI officials behind the proposed investigation of Trump have also since left the FBI; either fired or retired.

The entirety of what was said at the meetings of five or six senior FBI officials in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director on May 9, 2017, remains a mystery.

Closed-door Testimony

The CNN and Times stories were based on transcripts either obtained or, in the case of the Times, on portions read to it, of private testimony given to the House Judiciary and Government Oversight and Reform committees last October by Baker, one of the participants in the discussions of Trump as a possible Russian agent.

Excerpts of Baker’s testimony published by CNN make it clear that the group spoke about Trump’s policy toward Russia as a basis for a counter-intelligence investigation. Baker said they “discussed as [a] theoretical possibility” that Trump was “acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”

Baker went on to explain that this theoretical possibility was only “one extreme” in a range of possibilities discussed and that “the other extreme” was that “the President is completely innocent.”

He thus made it clear that there was no actual evidence for the idea that he was acting on behalf of Russia.

Baker also offered a simpler rationale for such an investigation of Trump: the president’s firing of FBI Director Comey. “Not only would [firing Comey] be an issue of obstructing an investigation,” he said, “but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.”

But the idea that Comey’s firing had triggered the FBI’s discussions had already been refuted by a text message that Strzok, who had been leading the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians, sent immediately after the firing to Lisa Page, then legal counsel to Andrew McCabe, formerly the bureau’s deputy director who was then acting director.

“We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” Strzok wrote, referring to McCabe.

As Page later confirmed to congressional investigators, according to the CNN story, Strzok’s message referred to their desire to launch an investigation into possible collusion between Trump and the Russians. Strzok’s message also makes clear he, and others intent on the investigation, were anxious to get McCabe to approve the proposed probe before Trump named someone less sympathetic to the project as the new FBI director.

Why the FBI Wanted to Investigate

The New York Times story argued that the senior FBI officials’ interest in a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump and the Russians sprang from their knowledge of the sensational charges in the opposition research dossier assembled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele (paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign) that the Putin government had “tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.”

But the Times writers must have known that Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy attorney general, had already given McCabe, Page and Strzok information about Steele and his dossier that raised fundamental questions about its reliability.

Ohr’s first contacts at FBI headquarters regarding Steele and his dossier came Aug. 3, 2016, with Page and her boss McCabe. Ohr later met with Strzok.

Ohr said he told them that Steele’s work on the dossier had been financed by the Clinton campaign through the Perkins-Cole law firm. He also told them that Steele, in a July 30, 2016 meeting, told him he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” according to Ohr’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting.

So, key figures in the discussion of Trump and Russia in May 2017 knew that Steele was acting out of both political and business motives to come up with sensational material.

Strzok and Page may have started out as true believers in the idea that the Russians were using Trump campaign officials to manipulate Trump administration policy. However, by May 2017, Strzok had evidently concluded that there was no real evidence.

In a text message to Page on May 19, 2017, Strzok said he was reluctant to join the Mueller investigation, because of his “gut sense and concern” that “there’s no big there there.”

Why, then, were Strzok, Page, McCabe and others so determined to launch an investigation of Trump at about the same time in May 2017?

A CNN article about the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and senior FBI officials “viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment of the time.”

That description by anti-Trump law enforcement officials suggests that the proposed counter-intelligence investigation of Trump served as a means to maintain some leverage over his treatment of the FBI in regard to the Russia issue.

That motivation would be consistent with the decision by McCabe on May 15, 2017 – a few days after the discussions in question among the senior FBI officials – to resume the bureau’s relationship with Steele.

The FBI had hired Steele as a paid source when it had earlier launched its investigation of Trump campaign official’s contacts with Russians in July 2016. But it had suspended and then terminated the relationship over Steele’s unauthorized disclosure of the investigation to David Corn of Mother Jones magazine in October 2016. So, the decision to resume the relationship with Steele suggests that the group behind the new investigation were thinking of seizing an opportunity to take off the gloves against Trump.

The ‘Unwitting Collaboration’ Ploy

The discussion by senior FBI officials of a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump has become part of the political struggle over Trump mainly because of the stories in the Times and CNN.

The role of the authors of those stories illustrates how corporate journalists casually embraced the ultimate conspiracy theory – that the president of the United States was acting as a Russian stooge.

The reporters of the CNN story — Jeremy Herb, Pamela Brown and Laura Jarrett — wrote that the FBI officials were “trying to understand why [Trump] was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.”

The New York Times story was more explicit. Co-authors Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos wrote that the FBI officials “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

The same day the Times story was published, the lead author on the piece, Adam Goldman, was interviewed by CNN. Goldman referred to Trump’s interview with NBC’sLester Holt in the days after the Comey firing as something that supposedly pushed the FBI officials over the edge. Goldman declared, “The FBI is watching him say this, and they say he’s telling us why he did this. He did it on behalf of Russia.”

But Trump said nothing of kind. What he actually said — as the Times itself quoted Trump, from the NBCinterview —was: “[W]hen I decided just to do it, I said to myself – I said, you know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” The Times article continued: “Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. ‘I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. ‘He’s the wrong man for that position.’”

Goldman was evidently trying to sell the idea of Trump as a suspected agent of Russia.

Goldman also gave an interview to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, in which the interviewer pressed him on the weakest point of the Trump-as-Russian-agent theory. “What would that look like if the President was an unwitting agent of a foreign power?” asked Chotiner.

The Times correspondent, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, responded: “It is hard to say what that would look like.” Goldman then reiterated the concept. “People were very careful to tell me that: ‘It is wittingly or unwittingly.’” And in answer to a follow-up question, Goldman referred to evidence he suggested might be held by the FBI that “perhaps suggests that the President himself may be acting as a foreign agent, either wittingly or unwittingly….”

The idea that American citizens were somehow at risk of being led by an agent of the Russian government “wittingly or unwittingly” did not appear spontaneously. It had been pushed aggressively by former CIA Director John O. Brennan both during and after his role in pressing for the original investigation.

When Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, he was asked whether he had intelligence indicating that anyone in the Trump campaign was “colluding with Moscow.” Instead of answering the question directly, Brennan said he knew from past experience that “the Russians try to suborn individuals, and they try get them to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” And he recalled that he had left the government with “unresolved questions” about whether the Russians had been successful in doing so in regard to unidentified individuals in the case of the 2016 elections.

Brennan’s notion of “unwitting collaboration” with Russian subversion is illogical. Although a political actor might accidentally reveal information to a foreign government that is valuable, real “collaboration” must be mutually agreeable. A policy position or action that may benefit a foreign government, but is also in the interest of one’s own government, does not constitute “unwitting collaboration.”

The real purpose of that concept is to confer on national security officials and their media allies the power to cast suspicion on individuals on the basis of undesirable policy views of Russia rather than on any evidence of actual collaboration with the Russian government.

The “witting or unwitting” ploy has its origins in the unsavory history of extreme right-wing anti-communism during the Cold War. For example, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was at its height in 1956, Chairman Francis E. Walter declared that “people who are not actually Communist Party members are witting or unwitting servants of the Communist cause.”

The same logic – without explicit reference to the phrase — has been used to impugn the independence and loyalty of people who have contacts with Russia.

It has also been used to portray some independent media as part of a supposedly all-powerful Russian media system.

The revelation that it was turned against a sitting president, however briefly, is a warning signal that national security bureaucrats and their media allies are now moving more aggressively to delegitimize any opposition to the new Cold War.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Sam Wants Your DNA: The FBI’s Diabolical Plan to Create a Nation of Suspects

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | January 22, 2019

“As more and more data flows from your body and brain to the smart machines via the biometric sensors, it will become easy for corporations and government agencies to know you, manipulate you, and make decisions on your behalf… If we want to prevent a small elite from monopolising such godlike powers, and if we want to prevent humankind from splitting into biological castes, the key question is: who owns the data? Does the data about my DNA, my brain and my life belong to me, to the government, to a corporation, or to the human collective?”―Professor Yuval Noah Harari

Uncle Sam wants you.

Correction: Uncle Sam wants your DNA.

Actually, if the government gets its hands on your DNA, they as good as have you in their clutches.

Get ready, folks, because the government—helped along by Congress (which adopted legislation allowing police to collect and test DNA immediately following arrests), President Trump (who signed the Rapid DNA Act into law), the courts (which have ruled that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime), and local police agencies (which are chomping at the bit to acquire this new crime-fighting gadget)—is embarking on a diabolical campaign to create a nation of suspects predicated on a massive national DNA database.

As the New York Times reports:

“The science-fiction future, in which police can swiftly identify robbers and murderers from discarded soda cans and cigarette butts, has arrived. In 2017, President Trump signed into law the Rapid DNA Act, which, starting this year, will enable approved police booking stations in several states to connect their Rapid DNA machines to Codis, the national DNA database. Genetic fingerprinting is set to become as routine as the old-fashioned kind.

Referred to as “magic boxes,” these Rapid DNA machines—portable, about the size of a desktop printer, highly unregulated, far from fool-proof, and so fast that they can produce DNA profiles in less than two hours—allow police to go on fishing expeditions for any hint of possible misconduct using DNA samples.

Journalist Heather Murphy explains: “As police agencies build out their local DNA databases, they are collecting DNA not only from people who have been charged with major crimes but also, increasingly, from people who are merely deemed suspicious, permanently linking their genetic identities to criminal databases.”

Suspect Society, meet the American police state.

Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.

By accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

These technologies are neither foolproof, nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias. Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The government’s questionable acquisition and use of DNA to identify individuals and “solve” crimes has come under particular scrutiny in recent years.

It’s what police like to refer to a “modern fingerprint.”

However, unlike a fingerprint, a DNA print reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.”

With such a powerful tool at their disposal, the government’s collection of DNA has become a slippery slope toward government intrusion.

All 50 states now maintain their own DNA databases, although the protocols for collection differ from state to state. Increasingly, many of the data from local databanks are being uploaded to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), the FBI’s massive DNA database, which has become a de facto way to identify and track the American people from birth to death.

Even hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s part of the government’s mandatory genetic screening of newborns. However, in many states, the DNA is stored indefinitely.

For the rest of us, it’s just a matter of time before the government gets hold of our DNA, either through mandatory programs carried out in connection with law enforcement and corporate America, by warrantlessly accessing our familial DNA shared with geneological services such as Ancestry and 23andMe, or through the collection of our “shed” or “touch” DNA.

All of those fascinating ancestral searches that allow you to trace your family tree can also be used against you and those you love. As law professor Elizabeth Joh explains, “When you upload your DNA, you’re potentially becoming a genetic informant on the rest of your family.”

While much of the public debate, legislative efforts and legal challenges in recent years have focused on the protocols surrounding when police can legally collect a suspect’s DNA (with or without a search warrant and whether upon arrest or conviction), the question of how to handle “shed” or “touch” DNA has largely slipped through without much debate or opposition.

Yet as scientist Leslie A. Pray notes:

We all shed DNA, leaving traces of our identity practically everywhere we go. Forensic scientists use DNA left behind on cigarette butts, phones, handles, keyboards, cups, and numerous other objects, not to mention the genetic content found in drops of bodily fluid, like blood and semen. In fact, the garbage you leave for curbside pickup is a potential gold mine of this sort of material. All of this shed or so-called abandoned DNA is free for the taking by local police investigators hoping to crack unsolvable cases.

What this means is that if you have the misfortune to leave your DNA traces anywhere a crime has been committed, you’ve already got a file somewhere in some state or federal database—albeit it may be a file without a name.

If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way.

Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.

No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty.

Now, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Rebranding MLK: How the Establishment Blackened His Dream and Whitewashed His Legacy

By Teodrose Fikre | The Ghion Journal | January 19, 2019

First, the ruling class kill messengers and then co-opt their messages. It’s a ploy that dates back to biblical times; Pharisees dispatch prophets and then whitewash their legacies in a concerted campaign to appropriate their movements. Truth tellers are twice victimized, once by assassins and the second time around by propaganda. Their likeness and their teachings are then cunningly marketed by the same powers they spoke against to reinforce the status quo.

This same playbook—which has been used to silence dissenters throughout the ages—was unleashed with ruthless efficiency against Martin Luther King Jr. Lost in the chorus of politicians, pundits and media personalities who are praising MLK is the core message that he was pushing before he was felled on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. King evolved in his thinking; instead of seeking Civil Rights for “African-Americans”, he made the fatal decision to fight for economic justice for all.

King realized that the infringements against “black” folks in America were interconnected to the injustices felt by marginalized people throughout the world. That awakening is the reason he traveled to Memphis, by standing up for striking sanitation workers, he was hoping to form a bridge between poor folks irrespective of their skin color. The establishment love people who lead sectional movements—those who seek exclusive justice are doing the work of the status quo—what they will not abide are those who try to unify the oppressed and inspire collective actions.

King paid with his life for having the courage to pursue inclusive justice. After he was murdered, institutions of power—from government, academia to mainstream media and beyond—kicked in, stealthily erased King’s legacy and replaced it with disinformation. What has taken place over the past fifty years is a systematic and coordinated effort to blacken his narrative and dilute the power of his message.

I must pause here and explain what I mean by blackening Martin Luther King. What MLK fought for, and ultimately died on behalf of, was for equality and fairness for all. By narrowing the scope of his cause and containing his sacrifice to only as a struggle for “black” people, opinion leaders successfully ghettoized him in an effort to lessen his appeal to a broader constituency.

This is one of the main reasons why I reject racial labels and disavow constructs that were imposed by the very racists who shattered humanity. When you see me using quote marks around “black” and “white” in describing people, it’s because I know the true intentions behind these designations. Terms that we have come to embrace are actually insidious conventions used to dehumanize people, reduce us into abstractions and induce tribalism. As I make clear in this video below, it is vital for us to understand where these epithets come from and why bigots imposed these insidious labels on us to begin with.

Labels are insidious forms of reductionism, they are so subtle that most of us don’t understand how malicious they are. Martin Luther King is described as a “black leader” or an “African-American hero”, the adjectives in front of the title being used to depreciate the worth of the people they are describing. Nobody ever says Mozart was a European pianist or that Michelangelo was an Italian painter, yet when it comes to “black” folk, that descriptor is always attached to them—like a Scarlet letter used to insinuate that we are 3/5th human. Martin Luther King is not a black hero, he is a hero who spoke on behalf of all oppressed people.

To hide this truth and marginalize King, instigators and impostors are being propagated by mainstream media and moneyed interests. The profound message behind Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is continually transmuted by opportunists who use identity politics to advance their own agendas. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” These words were eloquently spoken by King in order to free us from the shackles of imposed identities. We are creeping further and further away from MLK’s dream as we let demagogues lead us into the wasteland of sectarianism.

“One unfortunate thing about [the slogan] Black Power is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for blacks and whites alike. In this context a slogan ‘Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan ‘Black Power.’”

This was a quote from King in August of 1967, eight months before he was executed. After spearheading the Civil Rights movement from the 50’s into the early 60’s, it dawned upon King that the struggle for equality was greater than being able to sit at lunch counters and riding at the front of buses. He realized that the only way to overcome oppression was to stitch together the pains felt by the proletariat in ways that would attract anyone who felt disenfranchised.

King articulated his apprehension about the movement he organized and expressed how he might have unwittingly directed his people into a quagmire. During a conversation he shared with Harry Belafonte and his inner-circle, King detailed the flaws of fighting racism’s symptoms without addressing the system that gives rise to inequalities.

“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”

Martin Luther King was not disregarding the plight of “black” folks, nor was he giving short shrift to the struggles faced by “African-Americans”. What he recognized is that the struggles being borne by “minorities” would never be alleviated unless a majority of humanity formed a broad coalition to defend their common interests. Martin Luther King was not alone in this realization; Malcolm X came around to this same viewpoint once he visited Mecca and saw that the only way to attain justice was through mass-movements. Do you think it was an accident that both met the same gruesome fate?

Gone are the days of moral giants like Malcolm and Martin, we are firmly entrenched in the era of charlatans who profit from our disunion. What is truly sad is that so many hypocrites readily praise Martin Luther King while they get paid by the same powers that he was speaking against. Proving that treachery is truly bipartisan, on the day Martin Luther King is being celebrated, the King Center is commemorating warmonger emeritus John McCain. What better way to remember Dr. King than by praising the man who vehemently fought against honoring him and as the King Center dismantles his memory.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris, California’s junior Senator—who was one of the biggest proponents of the prison-industrial complex—is expected to announce her presidential campaign on Martin Luther King Day. This is the same Kamala Harris whose office argued against early release of inmates on the grounds that it would hurt the labor supply [slave workers] of for-profit prisons. It is truly an affront that someone who reserved draconian measures for poor and working Californians— while giving a pass to banking executives like Steven Mnuchin—is going to use Martin Luther King day to hide the fact that she made a name for herself by being a staunch advocate of penal plantations. Kamala Harris 2020: chains you can believe in!

As always, the way to unravel conspiracies is to follow the money. Martin Luther King was sent to his grave because he connected the dots between wars overseas and economic inequalities in America. The hundreds of billions of dollars that were being spent to perpetuate the Vietnam War and conflicts around the world prevented investments in programs that could have alleviated suffering and lifted millions of people out of crushing poverty. That’s why King decided to come out against the Vietnam War, this brave stance made MLK radioactive and shortly led to his assassination.

What is lost in all the pageantry and the pomp surrounding King’s holiday is the fact that he was once savagely attacked by the very establishment that is now lionizing him. Not only was his character maligned by opinion leaders, the FBI targeted him and terrorized King and his family to such an extent that they drove him into a period of deep depression. COINTELPRO was a program launched by J. Edgar Hoover to identify and neutralize, by any means necessary, the Civil Rights icons who dared speak truth to power. A generation later, the same power structure that extinguished their flames is now lighting candles on their behalf while annulling their true stories—they’ve turned a martyr into a merchandise.

As hard as the “elites” try to commandeer King’s narrative to suit their purposes, the harsh truth is that King was murdered because he threatened the hustle of capital gangsters. If this sounds very familiar, that is because currency traders have a way of exterminating anyone who speaks against their pyramid schemes. As noted earlier, those who defy profiteers are given death sentences only for their memories to be raised to further the very greed they crusaded against. King died standing against wars and economic inequalities; notice how these themes are rarely mentioned by politicians, pundits and media personalities who cry crocodile tears for him. #RebrandingMLK Click To Tweet

There is a biblical poetry to it all, the same way Jesus was sold out by his own people, crucified by imperial enforcers and had his teachings inverted to advance the evils he died fighting against, these modern day Judases are embracing King while working for the very institutions he courageously took on. Goes to show, change agents will never be found amidst supposed activists who cast their lot with the same powers they pretend to speak against. True revolutionaries are either ignored by the establishment or silenced by bullets.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and brought into the light.” ~ Luke 8:17

Teodrose Fikre is the editor and founder of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle.

January 21, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Amnesty International’s Troubling Collaboration with UK & US Intelligence

Propaganda image from the cover of AI’s report entitled, ‘Squeezing the Life Out of Yarmouk: War Crimes Against Besieged Civilians’,
one of many designed to fit hand-in-glove with the joint US and UK covert regime change operation deployed against Syria since 2011.
By Alexander Rubinstein | Mint Press News | January 17, 2019

Amnesty International, the eminent human-rights non-governmental organization, is widely known for its advocacy in that realm. It produces reports critical of the Israeli occupation in Palestine and the Saudi-led war on Yemen. But it also publishes a steady flow of indictments against countries that don’t play ball with Washington — countries like Iran, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, North Korea and more. Those reports amplify the drumbeat for a “humanitarian” intervention in those nations.

Amnesty’s stellar image as a global defender of human rights runs counter to its early days when the British Foreign Office was believed to be censoring reports critical of the British empire. Peter Benenson, the co-founder of Amnesty, had deep ties to the British Foreign Office and Colonial Office while another co-founder, Luis Kutner, informed the FBI of a gun cache at Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s home weeks before he was killed by the Bureau in a gun raid.

These troubling connections contradict Amnesty’s image as a benevolent defender of human rights and reveal key figures at the organization during its early years to be less concerned with human dignity and more concerned with the dignity of the United States and United Kingdom’s image in the world.

A conflicted beginning

Amnesty’s Benenson, an avowed anti-communist, hailed from a military intelligence background. He pledged that Amnesty would be independent of government influence and would represent prisoners in the East, West, and global South alike.

But during the 1960s the U.K. was withdrawing from its colonies and the Foreign Office and Colonial Office were hungry for information from human-rights activists about the situations on the ground. In 1963, the Foreign Office instructed its operatives abroad to provide “discreet support” for Amnesty’s campaigns.

Also that year, Benenson wrote to Colonial Office Minister Lord Lansdowne a proposal to prop up a “refugee counsellor” on the border of present-day Botswana and apartheid South Africa. That counsel was to assist refugees only, and explicitly avoid aiding anti-apartheid activists. “Communist influence should not be allowed to spread in this part of Africa, and in the present delicate situation, Amnesty International would wish to support Her Majesty’s Government in any such policy,” Benenson wrote. The next year, Amnesty ceased its support for anti-apartheid icon and the first president of a free South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

The following year, in 1964, Benenson enlisted the Foreign Office’s assistance in obtaining a visa to Haiti. The Foreign Office secured the visa and wrote to its Haiti representative Alan Elgar saying it “support[ed] the aims of Amnesty International.” There, Benenson went undercover as a painter, as Minister of State Walter Padley told him prior to his departure that “We shall have to be a little careful not to give the Haitians the impression that your visit is actually sponsored by Her Majesty’s Government.”

The New York Times exposed the ruse, leading some officials to claim ignorance; Elgar, for example, said he was “shocked by Benenson’s antics.” Benenson apologized to Minister Padley, saying “I really do not know why the New York Times, which is generally a responsible newspaper, should be doing this sort of thing over Haiti.”

Letting politics creep into mission

In 1966, an Amnesty report on the British colony of Aden, a port city in present-day Yemen, detailed the British government’s torture of detainees at the Ras Morbut interrogation center. Prisoners there were stripped naked during interrogations, were forced to sit on poles that entered their anus, had their genitals twisted, cigarettes burned on their face, and were kept in cells where feces and urine covered the floor.

The report was never released, however. Benenson said that Amnesty general secretary Robert Swann had censored it to please the Foreign Office, but Amnesty co-founder Eric Baker said Benenson and Swann had met with the Foreign Office and agreed to keep the report under wraps in exchange for reforms. At the time, Lord Chancellor Gerald Gardiner wrote to Prime Minister Harold Wilson that “Amnesty held the [report] as long as they could simply because Peter Benenson did not want to do anything to hurt a Labour government.”

Then something changed. Benenson went to Aden and was horrified by what he found, writing “I never came upon an uglier picture than that which met my eyes in Aden,” despite his “many years spent in the personal investigation of repression.”

A tangled web

As all of this was unfolding, a similar funding scandal was developing that would rock Amnesty to its core. Polly Toynbee, a 20-year-old Amnesty volunteer, was in Nigeria and Southern Rhodesia, the British colony in Zimbabwe, which was at the time ruled by the white settler minority. There, Toynbee delivered funds to prisoner families with a seemingly endless supply of cash. Toynbee said that Benenson met with her there and admitted that the money was coming from the British government.

Toynbee and others were forced to leave Rhodesia in March 1966. On her way out, she grabbed documents from an abandoned safe including letters from Benenson to senior Amnesty officials working in the country that detailed Benenson’s request to Prime Minister Wilson for money, which had been received months prior.

In 1967 it was revealed that the CIA had established and was covertly funding another human rights organization founded in the early 1960s, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) through an American affiliate, the American Fund for Free Jurists Inc.

Benenson had founded, alongside Amnesty, the U.K. branch of the ICJ, called Justice. Amnesty international secretariat, Sean MacBride, was also the secretary-general of ICJ.

Then, the “Harry letters” hit the press. Officially, Amnesty denied knowledge of the payments from Wilson’s government. But Benenson admitted that their work in Rhodesia had been funded by the government, and returned the funds out of his own pocket. He wrote to Lord Chancellor Gardiner that he did it so as not to “jeopardize the political reputation” of those involved. Benenson then returned unspent funds from his two other human-rights organizations, Justice (the U.K. branch of the CIA-founded ICJ) and the Human Rights Advisory Service.

Benenson’s behavior in the wake of the revelations about the “Harry letters” infuriated his Amnesty colleagues. Some of them would go on to claim that he suffered from mental illness. One staffer wrote:

Peter Benenson has been levelling accusations, which can only have the result of discrediting the organisation which he has founded and to which he dedicated himself. … All this began after soon after he came back from Aden, and it seems likely that the nervous shock which he felt at the brutality shown by some elements of the British army there had some unbalancing effect on his judgment.

Later that year, Benenson stepped down as president of Amnesty in protest of its London office being surveilled and infiltrated by British intelligence — at least according to him. Later that month, Sean MacBride, the Amnesty official and ICJ operative, submitted a report to an Amnesty conference that denounced Benenson’s “erratic actions.” Benenson boycotted the conference, opting to submit a resolution demanding MacBride’s resignation over the CIA funding of ICJ.

Amnesty and the British government then suspended ties. The rights group then promised to “not only be independent and impartial but must not be put into a position where anything else could even be alleged” about its collusion with governments in 1967.

Amnesty’s role in the death of Black Panther Fred Hampton

But two years later, senior Amnesty officials engaged in far more troubling coordination with Western intelligence agencies.

FBI documents, released by the Bureau in the spring of 2018 as a part of a series of disclosures of documents pertaining to the assassination of President John Kennedy, detail Amnesty International’s role in the killing of Black Panther Party (BPP) Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old up-and-coming black liberation icon — a killing that was widely believed to be an assassination but was ruled officially as a justifiable homicide.

Amnesty International co-founder Luis Kutner attended a November 23, 1969 speech of Hampton’s delivered at the University of Illinois.

During the speech, Hampton described the BPP “as a revolutionary party” and “indicated that the party has guns to be used for peace and self-defense, and these guns are at the Hampton residence as well as BPP headquarters,” according to the FBI document.

“Kutner has reached the point where he would like to take legal action to silence the BPP,” the FBI wrote. “Kutner concluded by stating that he believed speakers like Hampton were psychotic, and it is only when they are faced with a court action that they stop their “rantings and ravings.”

The FBI internal report on Kutner’s testimony cited above was issued on December 1, 1969. Two days later, the FBI, alongside the Chicago Police Department, conducted a firearms raid on Hampton’s residence. When Hampton came home for the day, FBI informant William O’Neal slipped a barbiturate sleeping pill into his drink before leaving.

At 4:00 a.m. on December 4, police and FBI stormed into the apartment, instantly shooting a BPP guard. Due to reflexive convulsions related to death, the guard convulsed and pulled the trigger on a shotgun he was carrying – the only time a Black Panther member fired a gun during the raid. Authorities then opened fire on Hampton, who was in bed sleeping with his nine-month pregnant fiancee. Hampton is believed to have survived until two shots were fired at point-blank range towards his head.

Kutner formed the “Friends of the FBI” group, an organization “formed to combat criticism of the Federal Bureau of Investigations,” according to the New York Times, after its covert campaign to disrupt leftists movements — COINTELPRO — was revealed. He also went on to operate in a number of theaters that saw heavy involvement from the CIA — including work Kutner did to undermine Congolese Prime Minister and staunch anti-imperialist Patrice Lumumba — and represented the Dalai Lama, who was provided $1.7 million a year by the CIA in the 1960s.

While Amnesty International’s shady operations in the 1960s might seem like ancient history at this point, they serve as an important reminder of the role that non-governmental organizations often play in furthering the objectives of governments of the nations where they are based.

Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased

By John Solomon | The Hill | January 16, 2019

When the annals of mistakes and abuses in the FBI’s Russia investigation are finally written, Bruce Ohr almost certainly will be the No. 1 witness, according to my sources.

The then-No. 4 Department of Justice (DOJ) official briefed both senior FBI and DOJ officials in summer 2016 about Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier, explicitly cautioning that the British intelligence operative’s work was opposition research connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and might be biased.

Ohr’s briefings, in July and August 2016, included the deputy director of the FBI, a top lawyer for then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a Justice official who later would become the top deputy to special counsel Robert Mueller.

At the time, Ohr was the associate attorney general. Yet his warnings about political bias were pointedly omitted weeks later from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant that the FBI obtained from a federal court, granting it permission to spy on whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to hijack the 2016 presidential election.

Ohr’s activities, chronicled in handwritten notes and congressional testimony I gleaned from sources, provide the most damning evidence to date that FBI and DOJ officials may have misled federal judges in October 2016 in their zeal to obtain the warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page just weeks before Election Day.

They also contradict a key argument that House Democrats have made in their formal intelligence conclusions about the Russia case.

Since it was disclosed last year that Steele’s dossier formed a central piece of evidence supporting the FISA warrant, Justice and FBI officials have been vague about exactly when they learned that Steele’s work was paid for by the law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

A redacted version of the FISA application released last year shows the FBI did not mention any connection to the DNC or Clinton. Rather, it referred to Steele as a reliable source in past criminal investigations who was hired by a person working for a U.S. law firm to conduct research on Trump and Russia.

The FBI claimed it was “unaware of any derogatory information” about Steele, that Steele was “never advised … as to the motivation behind the research” but that the FBI  “speculates” that those who hired Steele were “likely looking for information to discredit” Trump’s campaign.

Yet, in testimony last summer to congressional investigators, Ohr revealed the FBI and Justice lawyers had no need to speculate: He explicitly warned them in a series of contacts, beginning July 31, 2016, that Steele expressed biased against Trump and was working on a project connected to the Clinton campaign.Ohr had firsthand knowledge about the motive and the client: He had just met with Steele on July 30, 2016, and Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the same firm employing Steele.

“I certainly told the FBI that Fusion GPS was working with, doing opposition research on Donald Trump,” Ohr told congressional investigators, adding that he warned the FBI that Steele expressed bias during their conversations.

“I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected,” he added. “So, yes, of course I provided that to the FBI.”

When pressed why he would offer that information to the FBI, Ohr answered: “In case there might be any kind of bias or anything like that.” He added later, “So when I provided it to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information, I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware.”

Ohr went further, saying he disclosed to FBI agents that his wife and Steele were working for the same firm and that it was conducting the Trump-Russia research project at the behest of Trump’s Democratic rival, the Clinton campaign.

“These guys were hired by somebody relating to, who’s related to the Clinton campaign and be aware,” Ohr told Congress, explaining what he warned the bureau.

Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented both the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election, belatedly admitted it paid Fusion GPS for Steele’s work on behalf of the candidate and party and disguised the payments as legal bills when, in fact, it was opposition research.

When asked if he knew of any connection between the Steele dossier and the DNC, Ohr responded that he believed the project was really connected to the Clinton campaign.

“I didn’t know they were employed by the DNC but I certainly said yes that they were working for, you know, they were somehow working, associated with the Clinton campaign,” he answered.

“I also told the FBI that my wife worked for Fusion GPS or was a contractor for GPS, Fusion GPS.”

Ohr divulged his first contact with the FBI was on July 31, 2016, when he reached out to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and FBI attorney Lisa Page. He then was referred to the agents working Russia counterintelligence, including Peter Strzok, the now-fired agent who played a central role in starting the Trump collusion probe.

But Ohr’s contacts about the Steele dossier weren’t limited to the FBI. He said in August 2016 — nearly two months before the FISA warrant was issued — that he was asked to conduct a briefing for senior Justice officials.

Those he briefed included Andrew Weissmann, then the head of DOJ’s fraud section; Bruce Swartz, longtime head of DOJ’s international operations, and Zainab Ahmad, an accomplished terrorism prosecutor who, at the time, was assigned to work with Lynch as a senior counselor.

Ahmad and Weissmann would go on to work for Mueller, the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia probe.

Ohr’s extensive testimony also undercuts one argument that House Democrats sought to make last year.

When Republicans, in early 2018, first questioned Ohr’s connections to Steele, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee sought to minimize the connection, insisting he only worked as an informer for the FBI after Steele was fired by the FBI in November 2016.

The memo from Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) team claimed that Ohr’s contacts with the FBI only began “weeks after the election and more than a month after the Court approved the initial FISA application.”

But Ohr’s testimony now debunks that claim, making clear he started talking to FBI and DOJ officials well before the FISA warrant or election had occurred.

And his detailed answers provide a damning rebuttal to the FBI’s portrayal of the Steele material.

In fact, the FBI did have derogatory information on Steele: Ohr explicitly told the FBI that Steele was desperate to defeat the man he was investigating and was biased.

And the FBI knew the motive of the client and did not have to speculate: Ohr told agents the Democratic nominee’s campaign was connected to the research designed to harm Trump’s election chances.

Such omissions are, by definition, an abuse of the FISA system.

Don’t take my word for it. Fired FBI Director James Comey acknowledged it himself when he testified last month that the FISA court relies on an honor system, in which the FBI is expected to divulge exculpatory evidence to the judges.

“We certainly consider it our obligation, because of our trust relationship with federal judges, to present evidence that would paint a materially different picture of what we’re presenting,” Comey testified on Dec. 7, 2018. “You want to present to the judge reviewing your application a complete picture of the evidence, both its flaws and its strengths.”

Comey claims he didn’t know about Ohr’s contacts with Steele, even though his top deputy, McCabe, got the first contact.

But none of that absolves his FBI, or the DOJ for that matter, from failing to divulge essential and exculpatory information from Ohr to the FISA court.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Can the FBI Investigate the President?

By Andrew Napolitano • Unz Review • January 17, 2019

Last weekend, The New York Times reported that senior FBI officials were so concerned about whatever President Donald Trump’s true motivation for firing FBI Director James Comey was that they immediately initiated a counterintelligence investigation of the president himself.

The Times reported that these officials believed that Trump may have intentionally or unwittingly played into the Kremlin’s hands by firing Comey so as to impair the FBI investigation into what efforts, if any, Russian intelligence personnel undertook in attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election and what role, if any, the Trump campaign played in facilitating those efforts.

Trump gave three public reasons for firing Comey. He told Comey he was fired because he had dropped the ball in the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of private servers for her official work as secretary of state by declaring publicly that Clinton would not be prosecuted. He told his Twitter followers that he fired Comey because Comey’s a “total sleaze.”

And he told Lester Holt of NBC News that he fired Comey because he would not shut down the FBI investigation into the Russian behavior during the 2016 campaign and would not drop the prosecution of his former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. It is the reasons he gave to Holt that, according to the Times piece, impelled senior FBI officials to believe that the president himself might be a national security risk.

Can the FBI investigate the president? In a word: Yes. Here is the back story.

The FBI conducts generally two types of investigations — criminal and counterintelligence. Criminal investigations are intended to find the people who have already committed particular crimes, with agents lawfully and constitutionally gathering evidence against them under the supervision of a federal prosecutor and in conjunction with a federal grand jury.

A counterintelligence investigation is aimed at shoring up national security by looking at people who may be breaching it. This type of investigation often involves surveillance of the suspected people. A national security breach is any event — criminal or not — that may have enabled foreign enemies to acquire classified secrets or influence government decisions.

The origins of criminal and counterintelligence investigations are often murky and at times inscrutable. There are two legal standards for commencing any investigation of anyone. The first is “articulable suspicion.” That is a low standard that requires no hard proof of criminal behavior or national security breaches, but it is generally understood to mean that there are reasons that can be stated for employing government assets to investigate a person’s behavior and that the reasons are rational and consistent with similarly situated investigations.

The other requirement is that the articulable suspicion be accepted by a prosecutor, as the FBI alone cannot commence any investigation. Of course, FBI agents can chase a kidnapper without getting a prosecutor’s approval. But in a white-collar case — when the target of the investigation does not present an immediate danger to the public and the evidence of the target’s criminality or interaction with foreign governments is not generally known — FBI agents must present the reasons for the commencement of their investigation to prosecutors, who may approve and authorize or decline and reject the investigation.

In the case of any FBI-harbored articulable suspicion about the president of the United States — for criminal or counterintelligence matters — my own view is that the Times story is probably accurate. If so, only Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could have authorized this counterintelligence investigation of Trump.

Whatever this investigation was — and for whatever purposes it was commenced — it was relatively short-lived in the hands of those FBI officials who suspected Trump’s motivations. That’s because Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, and Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to conduct an independent investigation of alleged Russian influence in the campaign and any Trump campaign compliance just eight days later, on May 17, 2017.

At that moment in time, Mueller and his team assumed whatever investigation the FBI and Rosenstein had commenced of Trump and the then-1-year-old investigation of the Russians and the Trump campaign that had begun in the Obama administration.

At the same time this was going on, the FBI secured surveillance warrants of various Trump campaign officials from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — which theoretically is limited to counterintelligence investigations of foreign agents in the United States — constituted an end run around the Fourth Amendment.

Stated differently, the Fourth Amendment requires probable cause of crime in order to obtain a surveillance warrant, but FISA only requires probable cause of communicating with a foreign person in order to get the same warrant.

Why should anyone care about this? The dual purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect personal privacy in persons, houses, papers and effects, as well as to compel law enforcement to focus only on those people as to whom it has probable cause of guilt. When the feds can bypass these profound requirements, they are violating and rejecting the dual purpose of the amendment, which they have sworn to uphold.

FISA warrants are general warrants. General warrants basically authorize the bearer to search where he wishes and seize what he finds. One FISA warrant authorized surveillance of all 115 million Verizon customers. General warrants were the totalitarian practice of British officials in Colonial America, and the Fourth Amendment was enacted expressly to prevent them.

Trump is correct when he argues that FISA has corrupted and seduced some FBI officials and agents into violating the Constitution — yet they keep getting away with it. The insatiable appetite of government officials to spy in violation of the Constitution has infected the rule of law. If they can do this to the president, they can do it to anyone.

Copyright 2019 Andrew P. Napolitano. Distributed by Creators.com.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | 1 Comment

JFK, Trump, Russia, and the Deep State

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 16, 2019

Ever since I began writing on the JFK assassination, there have been those who have said to me, “What difference does it make whether this was a regime-change operation? Most everyone who engaged in it is dead by now anyway. What relevance does the assassination have for us living today?”

The answer: We are still living under the governmental structure that pulled it off, the same structure that has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation of President Trump to determine whether he is a secret agent of the Russian government and, therefore, a threat to “national security.”

While such an investigation appears absolutely ordinary to the mainstream press, it actually is a very shocking notion. After all, the president is the ostensible head of the executive branch of the federal government. Here we have people working in what are ostensibly subordinate parts of the executive branch carrying out a secret counterintelligence investigation of the man at the top.

To understand what is occurring here, it’s important to put the matter in a historical context.

The U.S. government began as a limited-government republic. That’s the type of governmental structure that the American people called into existence when they approved the Constitution.

In the beginning of the republic and for the next 100 years, there was no Pentagon, military-industrial complex, large and permanent military establishment, CIA, NSA, or FBI. There was only a relatively small sized army.

The powers that the Constitution delegated to the federal government were few and limited. The Bill of Rights expressly restricted the powers of the federal government. The foreign policy of the U.S. government was one of non-intervention – that is, not to get embroiled in alliances, wars, revolutions, civil wars, and famines in Europe and Asia.

Everything changed after World War II, when the federal government was converted into what is known as a “national-security state.”

Even though it is never emphasized in America’s public schools, that was a watershed event in American life, much more so than the conversion of America’s economic system to a welfare state and regulated economy in the 1930s. A national-security state is inherent to totalitarian regimes, vesting omnipotent power within the military-intelligence establishment to do whatever is necessary to protect “national security.” Nazi Germany was a national-security state. So was the Soviet Union. Cuba. North Korea. And many more, including post WW2 America.

Under the republic form of government, the army was in the executive branch, which was headed by the president. What happened after the conversion, however, was a completely different system, one that, as a practical matter, entailed four different branches of government, not the three branches that every schoolchild is taught in public schools. This fourth branch isn’t even located in Washington, D.C. It is based outside the District, in the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland.

That fourth branch is the national-security branch, which, owing to its extremely large power, immediately assigned itself the authority to decide matters relating to “national security.” The other three branches — executive, legislative, and judicial — quickly began deferring to the national-security branch whenever some matter would arise relating to national security.

The way to think about this is the following: The Constitution did not expressly delegate to the Supreme Court the power to declare unconstitutional the laws and actions of the other two branches. Nonetheless, the Court declared that it had the power to do that, and the other branches deferred to that judgment and that power.

The principle is similar with respect to the national-security state. Even though the Constitution doesn’t provide for a national-security state, the national-security establishment — i.e., the military, CIA, NSA, and, to a certain extent, the FBI — effectively decreed that they were the final judges on matters relating to “national security” and wielded the omnipotent power to do whatever was necessary to protect the nation from what it decided were threats to national security.

Practically from the very beginning, the other three branches deferred to the national-security branch when it came to “national security.” That’s how we ended up with a nation whose governmental officials wield such totalitarian powers as assassination, torture, indefinite detention, regime-change operations, coups, alliances with dictatorial regimes, an empire of overseas military bases, a domestic empire of military-intelligence bases, secret surveillance, a military-industrial-congressional complex, and ever-increasing military-intelligence spending.

Most of the time the president and the national-security establishment are on the same page. That’s how the CIA was able to effect regime-change operations in places like Iran, Guatemala, and Chile. The president was on board with those operations.

But the question naturally arises: What if the worst happened? What if a democratically elected president himself is deemed to be a threat to national security. With respect to a foreign democratically elected leader who is deemed a threat to U.S. national security, the answer is clear: Eliminate him, either with a coup or through assassination. That’s what the regime-change operations against Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Lumumba in Congo, Castro in Cuba, and Allende in Chile were all about.

But what if the same thing were to happen here in the United States? The answer is clear: By converting the federal government to a national-security state, the Constitution, as a practical matter, was implicitly amended by providing the national-security establishment with the omnipotent authority to investigate a president to determine whether he was a threat to national security and, equally important, to do what was necessary to resolve the issue.

That’s what President Eisenhower was alluding to in his Farewell Address, when he stated that the military-industrial complex posed a grave threat to the democratic processes of the American people. It was what his successor, John Kennedy, was alluding to when he had the novel Seven Days in May made into a movie.

As Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, points out in his FFF ebook, JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated, that is precisely what happened in the Kennedy assassination. While the deep state today is investigating whether or not Trump is operating as an agent of the Russian government, the deep state back then definitely concluded that Kennedy’s actions and policies toward Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union and the communist world posed a grave threat to U.S. national security.

Since the very beginning of America’s national-security state, its driving force was anti-communism, which revolved around a deeply seated animus toward Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam, and other communist states. The Reds were coming to get us, they said. National security was constantly under siege. This was a war to the finish.

Kennedy’s war with the national-security establishment began with the CIA’s Bay of Pigs disaster, when Kennedy fired CIA Director Allen Dulles and reputedly vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds. His war with the military evolved from what they perceived to be his weakness and cowardice toward Cuba and the Soviet Union, especially with the deal he reached to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, which left Cuba permanently under communist control.

But it was what Kennedy did after that the Cuban Missile Crisis that sealed his fate as a threat to national security. He threw the gauntlet down at American University on June 10, 1963, when he said that the entire Cold War was a crock and that he was declaring it to be over. From then on, he said, the United States and the Soviet Union and the communist world would live in peace and friendship, which the national-security establishment steadfastly maintained was an impossible fantasy.

He then entered into a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets, which the military and the CIA viewed as akin to disarming in the face of the worldwide communist threat. He then ordered a partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam and told close aides he could complete it after winning the 1964 election. He proposed a joint moon project, which would necessarily entail sharing rocket technology with the Russians. Worst of all, from the standpoint of the Pentagon and the CIA, he entered into secret personal negotiations with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, totally circumventing the U.S. national-security establishment.

They didn’t need to investigate Kennedy. They “knew” that his policies of peace and friendship toward Russia, like those of Mossadegh, Arbenz, Lamumba, Castro, and Allende, were much worse than anything Trump has supposedly done. Kennedy’s policies, they concluded, were taking America down to the road to a communist takeover.

In the war between Kennedy and the national-security establishment over Russia and the future direction of the United States, there could only be one winner. That winner did not turn out to be Kennedy. We have been living with the consequences ever since.

January 16, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go

By Thomas L. Knapp | Garrison Center | January 15, 2019

The New York Times reports that “[i]n the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

That’s an interesting way of putting it, but let’s try another:

Enraged at the firing of their director, and suspecting the firing might portend a threat to their place and power in the American political establishment, FBI officials went to war with the president of the United States. They redirected taxpayer money and government resources away from anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement mission, putting themselves instead to the task of drumming up a specious case that said president is an agent of a foreign power.

This is exactly the kind of bovine scat subsumed by the recently popularized term “Deep State” — an entrenched bureaucracy, jealous of its prerogatives and bent on the destruction of anyone and anything it perceives as dangerous to those prerogatives.

I’m far from the first writer to point out that this latest news reflects nothing new. Yes, it’s over the top, but it pretty much sums up what the FBI does, and what it has done for the entirety of its 111 years of existence. It attempts to protect “America”  — which it defines as the existing establishment in general and itself in particular — not from crime as such, but from inconvenient disruption.

That’s why the Bureau under J. Edgar Hoover surveilled (and attempted to blackmail) Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s why its COINTELPRO projects illegally infiltrated and attempted to disrupt domestic political groups in the Vietnam era. That’s why the FBI had the material that COINTELPRO operator Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”) leaked to journalists  by way of attempting to succeed Hoover as the man who brought down Nixon.

Trump is no Martin Luther King, Jr., but he’s certainly disruptive. That, not some cockamamie theory about a Russian mole in the White House, explains the FBI’s declaration of war on his presidency.

Almost exactly a year ago — after the FBI officials got caught destroying evidence in a  probe of its investigations of Trump and of Hillary Clinton — I suggested that the time has come to abolish the Bureau.  This latest news confirms that judgment. The FBI guards its own power, not our freedoms. It’s just too dangerous to keep around any longer.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , | 2 Comments

Russia-gate Evidence, Please

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 15, 2019

For those interested in evidence — or the lack of it— regarding collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, we can thank the usual Russia-gate promoters at The New York Times and CNN for inadvertently filling in some gaps in recent days.

Stooping to a new low, Friday’s Times headline screamed: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” The second paragraph noted that FBI agents “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

Trump had been calling for better relations with Russia during his presidential campaign. As journalist Michael Tracy tweeted on Sunday, the Times report made it “not a stretch to say: the FBI criminally investigating Trump on the basis of the ‘national security threat’ he allegedly poses, with the ‘threat’ being his perceived policy preferences re: Russia, could constitute literal criminalization of deviation from foreign policy consensus.”

On Monday night CNN talking heads, like former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, were expressing wistful hope that the FBI had more tangible evidence than Trump’s public statements to justify such an investigation. Meanwhile, they would withhold judgment regarding the Bureau’s highly unusual step.

Evidence?

NYT readers had to get down to paragraph 9 to read: “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.” Four paragraphs later, the Times’ writers noted that, “A vigorous debate has taken shape among former law enforcement officials … over whether FBI investigators overreacted.”

Brennan: “I don’t do evidence.” (White House photo)

That was what Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was wondering when he grilled former CIA director John Brennan on May 23, 2017 on what evidence he had provided to the FBI to catalyze its investigation of Trump-Russia collusion.

Brennan replied: “I don’t do evidence.”

The best Brennan could do was repeat the substance of a clearly well-rehearsed statement: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign … that required further investigation by the Bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”

That was it.

CNN joined the piling on Monday, quoting former FBI General Counsel James Baker in closed-door Congressional testimony to the effect that FBI officials were weighing “whether Trump was acting at the behest of [the Russians] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.” The problem is CNN also noted that Lisa Page, counsel to then FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, testified that there had been “indecision in the Bureau as to whether there was sufficient predication to open [the investigation].’ “Predication” is another word for evidence.

Within hours of Comey’s firing on May 9, 2017, Page’s boyfriend and a top FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok texted her: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy [McCabe] is acting [director].” After all, if Trump were bold enough, he could have appointed a new FBI director and who knew what might happen then. When Page appeared before Congress, she was reportedly asked what McCabe meant. She confirmed that his text was related to the Russia investigation into potential collusion.

Comey v. Trump Goes Back to Jan. 6, 2017

The Times and CNN, however unintentionally, have shed light on what ensued after Trump finally fired Comey. Apparently, it finally dawned on Trump that, on Jan. 6, 2017, Comey had treated him to the time-honored initiation-rite-for-presidents-elect — with rubrics designed by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

It seems then-FBI Director James Comey rendered a good impersonation of Hoover that day when he briefed President-elect Trump on the scurrilous “Steele dossier” that the FBI had assembled on Trump. Excerpts from an interview Trump gave to the Times (below) after the firing throw light on what Trump says was at least part of his motivation to dump Comey.

To dramatize the sensitivity of the dossier, Comey asked then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper and the heads of the CIA and NSA to depart the room at the Trump Tower, leaving Comey alone with the President-elect. The Gang of Four had already briefed Trump on the evidence-impoverished “Intelligence Community Assessment.” That “assessment” alleged that Putin himself ordered his minions to help Trump win. The dossier had been leaked to the media, which withheld it but Buzzfeed published it on Jan. 10.?

‘This Russia Thing’

Evidently, it took Trump four months to fully realize he was being played, and that he couldn’t expect the “loyalty” he is said to have asked of Comey. So Trump fired Comey on May 9. Two days later he told NBC’s Lester Holt:

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Comey: Pulled a Hoover on Trump? (Carciature by DonkeyHotey)

The mainstream media and other Russia-gater aficionados immediately seized on “this Russian thing” as proof that Trump was trying to obstruct the investigation of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. However, in the Holt interview Trump appeared to be reflecting on Comey’s J. Edgar Hoover-style, one-on-one gambit alone in the room with Trump.

Would Comey really do a thing like that? Was the former FBI director protesting too much in his June 2017 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he insisted he’d tried to make it clear to Trump that briefing him on the unverified but scurrilous information in the dossier wasn’t intended to be threatening. It took a few months but it seems Trump figured out what he thought Comey was up to.

Trump to NYT: ‘Leverage’ (aka Blackmail)

In a long Oval Office interview with the Times on July 19, 2017, Trump said he thought Comey was trying to hold the dossier over his head.

“… Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff. … the dossier … Now, that was totally made-up stuff,” Trump said. “I went there [to Moscow] for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.

“When he [James B. Comey] brought it [the dossier] to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal. … I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff.”

The dossier, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, relates a tale of Trump allegedly cavorting with prostitutes, who supposedly urinated on each other before the same bed the Obamas had slept in at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel. [On February 6, 2018, The Washington Post reported that that part of the dossier was written Cody Shearer, a long-time Clinton operative and passed it along to Steele. Shearer ignored a request for comment from Consortium News. [Shearer had been a Consortium advisory board member who was asked to resign and left the board.]

Trump told the Times: “I think [Comey] shared it so that I would — because the other three people [Clapper, Brennan, and Rogers] left, and he showed it to me. … So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there. … As leverage.

“Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, ‘You have every right to fire me,’ blah blah blah. Right? He said, ‘You have every right to fire me.’ I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.”

McGovern lays out more details during a 12-minute interview on Jan. 10 with Tyrel Ventura of “Watching the Hawks.”


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years and Washington area resident for 56 years, he has been attuned to these machinations. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Look Back at Clapper’s Jan. 2017 ‘Assessment’ on Russia-gate

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 8, 2019

The banner headline atop page one of The New York Times two years ago today, on January 7, 2017, set the tone for two years of Dick Cheney-like chicanery: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says.”

Under a edia drumbeat of anti-Russian hysteria, credulous Americans were led to believe that Donald Trump owed his election victory to the president of Russia, and that Trump, according to the Times, “colluded” in Putin’s “interference … to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

Hard evidence supporting the media and political rhetoric has been as elusive as proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003. This time, though, an alarming increase in the possibility of war with nuclear-armed Russia has ensued — whether by design, hubris, or rank stupidity. The possible consequences for the world are even more dire than 16 years of war and destruction in the Middle East.

If It Walks Like a Canard…

The CIA-friendly New York Times two years ago led the media quacking in a campaign that wobbled like a duck, canard in French.

A glance at the title of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) (which was not endorsed by the whole community) — “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” — would suffice to show that the widely respected and independently-minded State Department intelligence bureau should have been included. State intelligence had demurred on several points made in the Oct. 2002 Estimate on Iraq, and even insisted on including a footnote of dissent. James Clapper, then director of national intelligence who put together the ICA, knew that all too well. So he evidently thought it would be better not to involve troublesome dissenters, or even inform them what was afoot.

Similarly, the Defense Intelligence Agency should have been included, particularly since it has considerable expertise on the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence agency, which has been blamed for Russian hacking of the DNC emails. But DIA, too, has an independent streak and, in fact, is capable of reaching judgments Clapper would reject as anathema. Just one year before Clapper decided to do the rump “Intelligence Community Assessment,” DIA had formally blessed the following heterodox idea in its “December 2015 National Security Strategy”:

“The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine. Moscow views the United States as the critical driver behind the crisis in Ukraine and believes that the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is the latest move in a long-established pattern of U.S.-orchestrated regime change efforts.”

Any further questions as to why the Defense Intelligence Agency was kept away from the ICA drafting table?

Handpicked Analysts

With help from the Times and other mainstream media, Clapper, mostly by his silence, was able to foster the charade that the ICA was actually a bonafide product of the entire intelligence community for as long as he could get away with it. After four months it came time to fess up that the ICA had not been prepared, as Secretary Clinton and the media kept claiming, by “all 17 intelligence agencies.”

In fact, Clapper went one better, proudly asserting — with striking naiveté — that the ICA writers were “handpicked analysts” from only the FBI, CIA, and NSA. He may have thought that this would enhance the ICA’s credibility. It is a no-brainer, however, that when you want handpicked answers, you better handpick the analysts. And so he did.

Why is no one interested in the identities of the handpicked analysts and the hand-pickers? After all, we have the names of the chief analysts/managers responsible for the fraudulent NIE of October 2002 that greased the skids for the war on Iraq. Listed in the NIE itself are the principal analyst Robert D. Walpole and his chief assistants Paul Pillar, Lawrence K. Gershwin and Maj. Gen. John R. Landry.

The Overlooked Disclaimer

Buried in an inside page of the Times‘ Jan. 7, 2017 report was a cautionary paragraph by reporter Scott Shane. It seems he had read the ICA all the way through, and had taken due note of the derriere-protecting caveats included in the strangely cobbled together report. Shane had to wade through nine pages of drivel about “Russia’s Propaganda Efforts” to reach Annex B with its curious disclaimer:

“Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents. … High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong.”

Small wonder, then, that Shane noted: “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. This a significant omission.”

Since then, Shane has evidently realized what side his bread is buttered on and has joined the ranks of Russia-gate aficionados. Decades ago, he did some good reporting on such issues, so it was sad to see him decide to blend in with the likes of David Sanger and promote the NYT official Russia-gate narrative. An embarrassing feature, “The Plot to Subvert an Election: Unraveling the Russia Story So Far,” that Shane wrote with NYT colleague Mark Mazzetti in September, is full of gaping holes, picked apart in two pieces by Consortium News.

Shades of WMD

Sanger is one of the intelligence community’s favorite go-to journalists. He was second only to the disgraced Judith Miller in promoting the canard of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in March 2003. For example, in a July 29, 2002 article, “U.S. Exploring Baghdad Strike As Iraq Option,” co-written by Sanger and Thom Shanker, the existence of WMD in Iraq was stated as flat fact no fewer than seven times.

The Sanger/Shanker article appeared just a week after then-CIA Director George Tenet confided to his British counterpart that President George W. Bush had decided “to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” At that critical juncture, Clapper was in charge of the analysis of satellite imagery and hid the fact that the number of confirmed WMD sites in Iraq was zero.

Despite that fact and that his “assessment” has never been proven, Clapper continues to receive praise.

During a “briefing” I attended at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington several weeks ago, Clapper displayed master circular reasoning, saying in effect, that the assessment had to be correct because that’s what he and other intelligence directors told President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.

I got a chance to question him at the event. His disingenuous answers brought a painful flashback to one of the most shameful episodes in the annals of U.S. intelligence analysis.

Ray McGovern: My name is Ray McGovern. Thanks for this book; it’s very interesting [Ray holds up his copy of Clapper’s memoir]. I’m part of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  I’d like to refer to the Russia problem, but first there’s an analogy that I see here.  You were in charge of imagery analysis before Iraq.

James Clapper: Yes.

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

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

JC: Well, I have talked with NSA a lot, and I also know what we briefed to then-President Elect Trump on the 6th of January.  And in my mind, uh, I spent a lot of time in the SIGINT [signals intelligence] business, the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.  There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever.  The Intelligence Community Assessment that we rendered that day, that was asked, tasked to us by President Obama — and uh — in early December, made no call whatsoever on whether, to what extent the Russians influenced the outcome of the election. Uh, the administration, uh, the team then, the President-Elect’s team, wanted to say that — that we said that the Russian interference had no impact whatsoever on the election.  And I attempted, we all did, to try to correct that misapprehension as they were writing a press release before we left the room.

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

RM: That’s what the New York Times says.  But let me say this: we have two former Technical Directors from NSA in our movement here, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity; we also have forensics, okay?

Now the President himself, your President, President Obama said two days before he left town: The conclusions of the intelligence community — this is ten days after you briefed him — with respect to how WikiLeaks got the DNC emails are “inconclusive” end quote.  Now why would he say that if you had said it was conclusive?

JC: I can’t explain what he said or why.  But I can tell you we’re, we’re pretty sure we know, or knew at the time, how WikiLeaks got those emails.  I’m not going to go into the technical details about why we believe that.

RM: We are too [pretty sure we know]; and it was a leak onto a thumb drive — gotten to Julian Assange — really simple.  If you knew it, and the NSA has that information, you have a duty, you have a duty to confess to that, as well as to [Iraq].

JC: Confess to what?

RM: Confess to the fact that you’ve been distorting the evidence.

JC: I don’t confess to that.

RM: The Intelligence Community Assessment was without evidence.

JC: I do not confess to that. I simply do not agree with your conclusions.

William J. Burns (Carnegie President): Hey, Ray, I appreciate your question.  I didn’t want this to look like Jim Acosta in the White House grabbing microphones away.  Thank you for the questioning though.  Yes ma’am [Burns recognizes the next questioner].

The above exchange can be seen starting at 28:45 in this video.

Not Worth His Salt

Having supervised intelligence analysis, including chairing National Intelligence Estimates, for three-quarters of my 27-year career at CIA, my antennae are fine-tuned for canards. And so, at Carnegie, when Clapper focused on the rump analysis masquerading as an “Intelligence Community Assessment,” the scent of the duck came back strongly.

Intelligence analysts worth their salt give very close scrutiny to sources, their possible agendas, and their records for truthfulness. Clapper flunks on his own record, including his performance before the Iraq war — not to mention his giving sworn testimony to Congress that he had to admit was “clearly erroneous,” when documents released by Edward Snowden proved him a perjurer. At Carnegie, the questioner who followed me brought that up and asked, “How on earth did you keep your job, Sir?”

The next questioner, a former manager of State Department intelligence, posed another salient question: Why, he asked, was State Department intelligence excluded from the “Intelligence Community Assessment”?

Among the dubious reasons Clapper gave was the claim, “We only had a month, and so it wasn’t treated as a full-up National Intelligence Estimate where all 16 members of the intelligence community would pass judgment on it.” Clapper then tried to spread the blame around (“That was a deliberate decision that we made and that I agreed with”), but as director of national intelligence the decision was his.

Given the questioner’s experience in the State Department’s intelligence, he was painfully aware of how quickly a “full-up NIE” can be prepared. He knew all too well that the October 2002 NIE, “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction,” was ginned up in less than a month, when Cheney and Bush wanted to get Congress to vote for war on Iraq. (As head of imagery analysis, Clapper signed off on that meretricious estimate, even though he knew no WMD sites had been confirmed in Iraq.)

It’s in the Russians’ DNA

The criteria Clapper used to handpick his own assistants are not hard to divine. An Air Force general in the mold of Curtis LeMay, Clapper knows all about “the Russians.” And he does not like them, not one bit. During an interview with NBC on May 28, 2017, Clapper referred to “the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.” And just before I questioned him at Carnegie, he muttered, “It’s in their DNA.”

Even those who may accept Clapper’s bizarre views about Russian genetics still lack credible proof that (as the ICA concludes “with high confidence”) Russia’s main military intelligence unit, the G.R.U., created a “persona” called Guccifer 2.0 to release the emails of the Democratic National Committee. When those disclosures received what was seen as insufficient attention, the G.R.U. “relayed material it acquired from the D.N.C. and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks,” the assessment said.

At Carnegie, Clapper cited “forensics.” But forensics from where? To his embarrassment, then-FBI Director James Comey, for reasons best known to him, chose not to do forensics on the “Russian hack” of the DNC computers, preferring to rely on a computer outfit of tawdry reputation hired by the DNC. Moreover, there is zero indication that the drafters of the ICA had any reliable forensics to work with.

In contrast, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, working with independent forensic investigators, examined metadata from a July 5, 2016 DNC intrusion that was alleged to be a “hack.” However, the metadata showed a transfer speed far exceeding the capacity of the Internet at the time. Actually, all the speed turned out to be precisely what a thumb drive could accommodate, indicating that what was involved was a copy onto an external storage device and not a hack — by Russia or anyone else.

WikiLeaks had obtained the DNC emails earlier. On June 12, 2016 Julian Assange announced he had “emails relating to Hillary Clinton.” NSA appears to lack any evidence that those emails — the embarrassing ones showing that the DNC cards were stacked against Bernie Sanders — were hacked.

Since NSA’s dragnet coverage scoops up everything on the Internet, NSA or its partners can, and do trace all hacks. In the absence of evidence that the DNC was hacked, all available factual evidence indicates that earlier in the spring of 2016, an external storage device like a thumb drive was used in copying the DNC emails given to WikiLeaks.

Additional investigation has proved Guccifer 2.0 to be an out-and-out fabrication — and a faulty basis for indictments.

A Gaping Gap

Clapper and the directors of the CIA, FBI, and NSA briefed President Obama on the ICA on Jan. 5, 2007, the day before they briefed President-elect Trump. At Carnegie, I asked Clapper to explain why President Obama still had serious doubts.  On Jan. 18, 2017, at his final press conference, Obama saw fit to use lawyerly language to cover his own derriere, saying: “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”

So we end up with “inconclusive conclusions” on that admittedly crucial point. In other words, U.S. intelligence does not know how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks. In the absence of any evidence from NSA (or from its foreign partners) of an Internet hack of the DNC emails the claim that “the Russians gave the DNC emails to WikiLeaks” rests on thin gruel. After all, these agencies collect everything that goes over the Internet.

Clapper answered: “I cannot explain what he [Obama] said or why. But I can tell you we’re, we’re pretty sure we know, or knew at the time, how WikiLeaks got those emails.”

Really?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year CIA career he supervised intelligence analysis as Chief of Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, as editor/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief, as a member of the Production Review Staff, and as chair of National Intelligence Estimates. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

Persecution & intimidation: Fate of Russians in US prisons casts shadow on American justice system

© (top left) Viktor Bout / Reuters / Damir Sagolj; (top right) A placard with an image of Konstantin Yaroshenko / Sputnik;
(bottom left) Maria Butina / Reuters / Alexandria Sheriff’s Office; (bottom right) Family photo of Roman Seleznyov / AFP
RT | December 29, 2018

As Washington continues detentions of Russians across the world the plight of those, who have already fallen into the clutches of the US authorities, raises suspicion about the true colors of the US justice system.

In mid-December, yet another Russian citizen was detained outside of Russia’s borders – this time in Finland – at the request of the United States, marking the latest episode in what the Russian Foreign Ministry decried as a “de-facto hunt” for the Russians on a global scale.

The news about the arrest of a Russian woman in Finland, who was placed in a “male” detention center and reportedly complained of poor conditions, came just days after a long-time Russian prisoner jailed in the US revealed that he was offered various favors, including a Green Card for his family in exchange for accusing the Russian government of corruption.

These developments shed light on how the US justice works, at least when it comes to Russians. RT looks at some of the high-profile cases, involving Russian citizens who have been detained or imprisoned in the US.

1. Viktor Bout

A businessman jailed in the US on accusations of being an international arms dealer, Viktor Bout, is one of the Russians who has spent the longest period of time in a US prison in recent history. He has been in custody for a decade now, after being arrested in 2008 in Thailand during a sting operation. He was convicted in the US in 2012 on a charge of conspiring to kill American citizens, by selling weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and was handed a 25-year sentence.

The businessman himself has denied accusations. As the scandal developed he’s been in the media spotlight. While talking to reporters he spoke about life in the US high-security prison claiming that a maximum-security prison he is in spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on every prisoner from the US budget. Nevertheless, the conditions in the facility leave much to be desired and “nobody ever investigated” why the cost is so high, he said.

Bout was also highly critical of the US justice system by calling it a “cheap farce” and saying that the only reason behind his incarceration was to “intimidate other Russians”. It was also him, who said that the US offered him a deal in exchange for “telling the US authorities about corruption in the Kremlin.”

Still, he remains full of optimism and says that yoga, learning foreign languages and anecdotes keep him in good shape both physically and mentally.

2. Konstantin Yaroshenko

Other Russian citizens faced a much more ghastly fate and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot arrested in Liberia back in 2010, is one of them. Detained as a result of another US sting operation, Yaroshenko was accused of participating in a plan to smuggle drugs into the US and was handed down a 20-year sentence in 2011, which he has been serving ever since.

Yaroshenko has always insisted that he is completely innocent and that the whole process was part of a scheme by US agents to extract evidence against Bout. He also repeatedly complained about the conditions he was held in. He claimed he had been denied medical assistance despite health problems and was tortured by the prosecutors.

In May 2018, he told his wife by phone that his health problems could be due to deliberate poisoning. He also said he was put in a disciplinary cell for 30 days despite serious health issues. “He said he was tired of the torments and that 30 days in the disciplinary cell would kill him, he would not walk out of it alive,” she told reporters. His lawyer, meanwhile, assumed that it might have been punishment for talking to the Russian media.

Moscow has repeatedly urged Washington to pardon Yaroshenko but the US rejected any appeals.

3. Maria Butina

A pro-gun rights activist, Maria Butina, has become one of the latest Russian citizen jailed in the US in a high-profile case. Living in the US on a student visa, she was arrested in mid-July in the middle of the hunt for “Russian agents” and accused of secretly working for the Russian government as an unregistered lobbyist.

While being far from a dangerous criminal, Moscow said that Butina faced unnecessarily harsh treatment during her pre-trial detention. She was kept in solitary confinement for months, denied medical help and “subjected to a kind of torture,” as the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it.

While initially pleading not guilty, Butina, who faced up to 15 years in jail, then changed her mind and agreed to strike a deal with prosecutors. Lavrov then said that he had “reasons to believe” the conditions she was kept in were “intended to break her will and make her confess to something she likely didn’t do.”

4. The hunt for ‘Russian hackers’

In recent years, the US also started a real hunt for those it called the ‘Russian hackers.’ About half a dozen Russian programmers were arrested in various corners of the world upon similar US requests and were all accused of various cybercrimes.

Roman Seleznyov, the son of Russian MP Valery Seleznyov, was arrested as he was on holiday in the Maldives in 2014. He was accused of being involved in bank fraud, obtaining information from protected computerized cash registers and aggravated identity theft.

Seleznyov has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The man was held in prison even before trial despite his lawyer arguing that his client did not represent any danger to society. “This case does not involve an act of terrorism. It does not involve an act of war,” the lawyer said at that time.

Seleznyov was eventually sentenced to 27 and 14 years in two separate cases. Both sentences will run concurrently.

A similar fate befell programmer Pyotr Levashov, accused by US prosecutors of being the mastermind behind a large bot net. He was extradited to the US from Spain in February 2018 and initially pleaded not guilty to all 8 counts against him.

He also said his life would be in danger if Spanish authorities complied with the US extradition request, and afraid that he might face torture in the US “in order to extract Russian secrets.” Just seven months later, he pleaded guilty. His trial is scheduled for September 2019. Until then, he will still stay in prison.

Another Russian programmer, Stanislav Lisov, was extradited to the US from Spain in January 2018 and has been held in the Metropolitan correction center in New York.

The FBI claims that Lisov was the creator and administrator of NeverQuest, a banking trojan that has defrauded thousands of people, and cost the US some $5 million. Lisov denied all accusations and said that he just provided tech support for websites. He also said he was long kept in the dark about the real charges and was asked if he “broke into the Pentagon” or the FBI or the CIA.

His wife told RT before his extradition that she and her husband were “ninety-percent certain that the case is politically motivated.” In October, his lawyer told the Russian Izvestia daily that Lisov, 32, could get a “de-facto life sentence” even though the maximum sentence in his case could not exceed 25 years.

These are just some examples. As many as 54 Russians were held in US prisons in 2017, according to the data provided by the US Federal Bureau of prisons to RT. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has, in turn, condemned the US for “acting on the sly” and simply “abducting” the Russian citizens during their travels abroad.

Although almost all the cases against the Russians in the US do look like simple criminal proceedings, the circumstances surrounding these cases still leave many questions about whether they were solely about the pursuit of justice.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Revenge of the spies: Flynn case shows extent of anti-Trump #Resistance

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | December 19, 2018

President Donald Trump’s ill-fated first national security adviser Michael Flynn will twist in the wind for another three months or more, before he can face a sentence for getting caught in a FBI ambush while doing his job.

Flynn was supposed to be sentenced on Tuesday, ending the year-long legal saga that destroyed his reputation, nearly bankrupted him, and even endangered his family. Then, in a bizarre last-minute twist, his lawyers asked for a delay. The next status hearing will be in March, with the actual sentencing who knows when.

At one point in the hearing, Judge Emmett Sullivan urged Flynn to reconsider his guilty plea, telling him that the violation he was admitting to amounted to treason – only to walk back the comments minutes later. The media, predictably, gave far more coverage to the original statement than the retraction. It’s the perfect example of the collective hysteria that has followed Flynn’s case from the very beginning.

Despite the publication of FBI documents showing that agents interviewing Flynn in January 2017 did not think he misled them, intentionally or otherwise, about the content of his conversations with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, Flynn chose to stand by his guilty plea from a year ago. His reasons for this are a mystery. What is not a mystery, however, is how the people involved in railroading Flynn are the same ones implicated in the institutional #Resistance to the Trump administration.

In the orgy of sensationalist reporting that has gripped the US mainstream media for the past two years, Flynn’s actual transgression has been lost to the din of shouting “treason” and “RUSSIA.” What he pleaded guilty to is lying to FBI investigators about his calls with Kislyak. The contacts themselves were right and proper, mind you: it was literally his job to reach out to foreign diplomats on behalf of the president-elect. So, why was the FBI even probing them?

That is where things get interesting. Somebody from the Obama administration – we still don’t know who – “unmasked” Flynn’s name from the classified NSA intercepts of his conversations with the Russian ambassador. This somehow got to Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who testified that she reached out to the White House with concerns about Flynn being blackmailed. It also somehow got to the Washington Post. There was talk of the Logan Act, an obscure 200-year-old law never used to prosecute anyone.

Within days of Trump’s inauguration, two FBI agents came to interview Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak. They told him he didn’t need a lawyer present. One of the agents was Peter Strzok – who would later be revealed as rabidly anti-Trump, thanks to text exchanges with FBI lawyer Lisa Page uncovered by the DOJ inspector-general.

James Comey, the FBI director at the time and now a hero of the anti-Trump #Resistance, testified on Monday that he sent Strzok to the White House without informing Yates, out of political considerations. It’s not the first time Comey has broken with procedure and assumed prerogatives of his superiors, mind you – his public exoneration of Hillary Clinton comes to mind – as the DOJ IG concluded in his report.

Hounded by the media coverage of the NSA leaks and the FBI interview, Flynn resigned on February 14, 2017. That was not the end of his troubles, but only the beginning. Months later, special counsel Robert Mueller charged him with lying to Strzok and his colleague, in order to compel his cooperation with the “Russiagate” probe.

Mueller, let’s recall, was appointed by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein after Comey was fired by Trump – on the basis of Rosenstein’s memo, no less – in May 2017, because Democrats insisted that sacking the FBI chief amid an ongoing counterintelligence investigation amounted to obstruction of justice. You can’t make this stuff up!

Yet despite two years and near-infinite resources, the best both Comey and Mueller could come up with to tie Trump to Russia has been the “salacious and unverified” (in Comey’s own words) Steele Dossier – a collection of claims bought and paid for by Clinton’s campaign, using the Democratic Party and its law firm Perkins Coie as cutouts.

Christopher Steele, a former (?) British spy, recently said in a legal filing that the dossier was commissioned so Clinton could challenge the legitimacy of the 2016 election. Before you object that Clinton never brought a court challenge, ask yourself: hasn’t she? What about Flynn, or George Papadopoulos, or Paul Manafort, or Michael Cohen, or the entire “Russiagate” probe for that matter? What about the frenzied, breathless reporting over the past two years, heralding the impending end of Donald J. Trump over each and every non-development?

Back in January 2017, top Democrat in the Senate Chuck Schumer warned Trump he should not cross the US intelligence community, as “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

Sure enough, within days the spies released their infamous assessment claiming Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, providing a framework for “Russiagate” investigations. Since then, former CIA Director John Brennan has established himself as an outspoken foe of Trump, to the point where even former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper found it problematic.

Trump’s critics have routinely accused him of being a dictator, a despot and a tyrant, a threat to “our democracy,” whatever that means. Yet in what dictatorship would a despot tolerate an ongoing vendetta by the opposition against himself and his allies, and the rampant abuse of intelligence, judiciary and law enforcement? Trump must the most incompetent tyrant ever!

What’s worse, the Washington establishment claims to stand for justice, rule of law, and democracy while trampling any semblance of them into the mud – as shown by the case of General Flynn – and continuing to blame Russia, of course.

December 19, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment