FBI Never Saw CrowdStrike Unredacted or Final Report on Alleged Russian Hacking Because None was Produced

The FBI relied on CrowdStrike’s “conclusion” to blame Russia for hacking DNC servers, though the private firm never produced a final report and the FBI never asked them to, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

CrowdStrike, the controversial cybersecurity firm that the Democratic National Committee chose over the FBI in 2016 to examine its compromised computer servers, never produced an un-redacted or final forensic report for the government because the FBI never required it to, the Justice Department has admitted.

The revelation came in a court filing by the government in the pre-trial phase of Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative who had an unofficial role in the campaign of candidate Donald Trump. Stone has been charged with misleading Congress, obstructing justice and intimidating a witness.

The filing was in response to a motion by Stone’s lawyers asking for “unredacted reports” from CrowdStrike in an effort to get the government to prove that Russia hacked the DNC server. “The government … does not possess the information the defandant seeks,” the filing says.

In his motion, Stone’s lawyers said he had only been given three redacted drafts. In a startling footnote in the government’s response, the DOJ admits the drafts are all that exist. “Although the reports produced to the defendant are marked ‘draft,’ counsel for the DNC and DCCC informed the government that they are the last version of the report produced,” the footnote says.

In other words CrowdStrike, upon which the FBI relied to conclude that Russia hacked the DNC, never completed a final report and only turned over three redacted drafts to the government.

These drafts were “voluntarily” given to the FBI by DNC lawyers, the filing says. “No redacted information concerned the attribution of the attack to Russian actors,” the filing quotes DNC lawyers as saying.

In Stone’s motion his lawyers argued: “If the Russian state did not hack the DNC, DCCC, or [Clinton campaign chairman John] Podesta’s servers, then Roger Stone was prosecuted for obstructing a congressional investigation into an unproven Russian state hacking conspiracy … The issue of whether or not the DNC was hacked is central to the Defendant’s defense.”

The DOJ responded: “The government does not need to prove at the defendant’s trial that the Russians hacked the DNC in order to prove the defendant made false statements, tampered with a witness, and obstructed justice into a congressional investigation regarding election interference.”

Thousands of emails from the DNC server were published by WikiLeaks in July 2016 revealing that the DNC interfered in the Democratic primary process to favor former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s presidential nomination. The U.S. indicted 12 Russian military intelligence agents in 2018 for allegedly hacking the DNC server and giving the emails to WikiLeaks.

Comey Can’t Say Why

At a time of high tension in the 2016 presidential campaign, when the late Sen. John McCain and others were calling Russian “hacking” an “act of war,” the FBI settled for three redacted “draft reports” from CrowdStrike rather than investigate the alleged hacking itself, the court document shows.

Then FBI Director James Comey admitted in congressional testimony that he chose not to take control of the DNC’s “hacked” computers, and did not dispatch FBI computer experts to inspect them, but has had trouble explaining why.

In his testimony, he conceded that “best practices” would have dictated that forensic experts gain physical access to the computers. Nevertheless, the FBI decided to rely on forensics performed by a firm being paid for by the DNC.

Suspicions grew as Comey started referring to CrowdStrike as the “pros that they hired.” Doubts became more intense when he referred to CrowdStrike as “a high-class entity.” In fact the company had a tarnished reputation for reliability and objectivity well before it was hired by the DNC.

Dimitri Alperovitch, a CrowdStrike co-founder, is an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a senior fellow at the anti-Russian Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. CrowdStrike said it determined that Russia had hacked the DNC server because it found Cyrillic letters in the metadata, as well as the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief—clues an amateur might leave.

CrowdStrike was forced to “revise(d) and retract(ed) statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign,” Voice of America reported in March 2017. 

CrowdStrike’s Early Role

In a Memorandum for the President on July 24, 2017, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity referred prominently to this instructive time sequence:

June 12, 2016: Julian Assange announces WikiLeaks is about to publish ‘emails related to Hillary Clinton.’

June 14, 2016: DNC contractor CrowdStrike, (with a dubious professional record and multiple conflicts of interest) announces that malware has been found on the DNC server and claims there is evidence it was injected by Russians.

June 15, 2016: ‘Guccifer 2.0’ affirms the DNC statement; claims responsibility for the ‘hack;’ claims to be a WikiLeaks source; and posts a document that the forensics show was synthetically tainted with ‘Russian fingerprints.’

VIPS does not believe the June 12, 14, & 15 timing was pure coincidence. Rather, it suggests the start of a pre-emptive move to associate Russia with anything WikiLeaks might have been about to publish and to “show” that it came from a Russian hack.  

Bill Binney, a former NSA technical director and a VIPS member, filed an affidavit in Stone’s case. Binney said: “WikiLeaks did not receive stolen data from the Russian government. Intrinsic metadata in the publicly available files on WikiLeaks demonstrates that the files acquired by WikiLeaks were delivered in a medium such as a thumb drive.”

Preferring CrowdStrike; Splaining to Congress

Why did FBI Director James Comey not simply insist on access to the DNC computers? Surely he could have gotten the appropriate authorization. In early January 2017, reacting to media reports that the FBI never asked for access, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee there were “multiple requests at different levels” for access to the DNC servers.“Ultimately what was agreed to is the private company would share with us what they saw,” he said. Comey described CrowdStrike as a “highly respected” cybersecurity company.

Asked by committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) whether direct access to the servers and devices would have helped the FBI in their investigation, Comey said it would have. “Our forensics folks would always prefer to get access to the original device or server that’s involved, so it’s the best evidence,” he said.

Five months later, after Comey had been fired, Burr gave him a Mulligan in the form of a few kid-gloves, clearly well-rehearsed, questions:

BURR:And the FBI, in this case, unlike other cases that you might investigate — did you ever have access to the actual hardware that was hacked? Or did you have to rely on a third party to provide you the data that they had collected?

COMEY:In the case of the DNC, … we did not have access to the devices themselves. We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity, that had done the work. But we didn’t get direct access.

BURR:But no content?

COMEY:Correct.

BURR:Isn’t content an important part of the forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint?

COMEY:It is, although what was briefed to me by my folks — the people who were my folks at the time is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016.

More telling was earlier questioning by House Intelligence Committee member, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), who had been a CIA officer for a decade.On March 20, 2017 while he was still FBI director, Comey evidenced some considerable discomfort as he tried to explain to the committee why the FBI did not insist on getting physical access to the DNC computers and do its own forensics:

HURD:So there was about a year between the FBI’s first notification of some potential problems with the DNC network and then that information getting on — getting on Wikileaks.

COMEY:Yes, sir.

HURD:… when did the DNC provide access for — to the FBI for your technical folks to review what happened?

COMEY:Well we never got direct access to the machines themselves. The DNC in the spring of 2016 hired a firm that ultimately shared with us their forensics from their review of the system. …

HURD:… So, Director FBI notified the DNC early, before any information was put on Wikileaksand when — youhave still been — never been given access to any of the technical or the physical machines that were — that were hacked by the Russians.

COMEY: That’s correct although we got the forensics from the pros that they hired which — again, best practice is always to get access to the machines themselves, but this — my folks tell me was an appropriate substitute.

Comey Spikes Deal With Assange

Director Comey’s March 20, 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee came at the same time he was scuttling months-long negotiations between Assange and lawyers representing the DOJ and CIA to grant some limited immunity for the WikiLeaks founder. In return, Assange offered to: (1) redact “some classified CIA information he might release in the future,” and (2) “provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases.”

Investigative journalist John Solomon, quoting WikiLeaks’ intermediary with the government, broke this story, based on “interviews and a trove of internal DOJ documents turned over to Senate investigators.” It would be a safe assumption that Assange was offering to prove that Russia was not WikiLeaks’ source of the DNC emails, something Assange has repeatedly said.

That, of course, would have been the last thing Comey would have wanted.

On March 31, 2017 WikiLeaks released the most damaging disclosure up to that point from what it called “Vault 7” — a treasure trove of CIA cybertools leaked from CIA files. This disclosure featured the tool “Marble Framework,” which enabled the CIA to hack into computers, disguise who hacked in, and falsely attribute the hack to someone else by leaving so-called tell-tale signs — like Cyrillic, for example.

The CIA documents also showed that the “Marble” tool had been employed in 2016.

Two weeks later, then CIA Director Mike Pompeo branded WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” and the U.S. put pressure on Ecuador, which had given Assange asylum, to expel him from its London embassy. He was on April 11 when British police arrested him. On the same day he was convicted of skipping bail on a Swedish investigation that had since been dropped. Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in London’s max-security Belmarsh prison.

Comey, it seems a safe bet, still worries that Assange or one of his associates, will provide “technical evidence” enough to prove “who did not engage in the DNC releases.”

What Were They Thinking?

At the March 20, 2017 House Intelligence Committee hearing, Congressman Trey Gowdy heaped effusive praise on then-FBI Director Comey, calling him “incredibly respected.” At that early stage, no doubt Gowdy meant no double entendre. He might now.

As Russia-gate transmogrifies into Deep State-gate, the DOJ is launching a probe into the origins of Russia-gate and the intelligence agencies alleged role in it. It remains to be seen whether U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham, who is leading the probe, will interview Assange, unlike Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who did not. 

It is proving very difficult for some of my old FBI friends and others to believe that Comey and other justice, intelligence, and security officials at the very top could have played fast and loose with the Constitution and the law and lived a lie over the past few years.

How did they ever think they could get away with it?” they ask. The answer is deceivingly simple. Comey himself has explained it in a moment of seemingly unintentional candor in his pretentious book, “A Higher Loyalty.” He wrote, “I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president.”

There would be no problem, of course, if Mrs. Clinton had won the election. That’s what they all thought; and that probably explains their lack of care in keeping their activities off the written record and out of computers. Elementary tradecraft goes out the window with these upper-echelon, “high-class-entity” officials, when they are sure that she, and they, are going to be the inevitable winners — with promotions, not indictments in store for them.

Additional reporting by Joe Lauria

Background Reading on Deep State-Gate

https://www.investmentwatchblog.com/doj-admits-fbi-never-saw-crowdstrike-report-on-dnc-russian-hacking-claim/

https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2019/06/figures-fbi-doj-never-obtained-the-unredacted-crowdstrike-reports-on-russian-hack-of-dnc-server/

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/03/13/vips-muellers-forensics-free-findings/

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/04/16/vips-fault-mueller-probe-criticize-refusal-to-interview-assange/

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/05/03/orwellian-cloud-hovers-over-russia-gate/

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/07/24/intel-vets-challenge-russia-hack-evidence/

http://raymcgovern.com/2017/05/17/beneath-the-corporate-mediadeep-state-campaign-to-remove-trump-and-thwart-detente-with-russia/

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/06/13/ray-mcgovern-doj-bloodhounds-on-the-scent-of-john-brennan/

https://consortiumnews.com/2018/11/14/clappers-credibility-collapses/

https://raymcgovern.com/2019/01/06/transcript-when-clapper-was-asked-real-questions/

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-hacking-intelligence-20170105-story.html

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-trump-russia-phony-20170517-story.html

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 career as a CIA analyst, he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared the President’s Daily Brief for three presidents. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.




RAY McGOVERN: DOJ Bloodhounds on the Scent of John Brennan

With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story, says Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

The New York Times Thursday morning has bad news for one of its favorite anonymous sources, former CIA Director John Brennan.

The Times reports that the Justice Department plans to interview senior CIA officers to focus on the allegation that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian intelligence to intervene in the 2016 election to help Donald J. Trump. DOJ investigators will be looking for evidence to support that remarkable claim that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report failed to establish.

Despite the collusion conspiracy theory having been put to rest, many Americans, including members of Congress, right and left, continue to accept the evidence-impoverished, media-cum-“former-intelligence-officer” meme that the Kremlin interfered massively in the 2016 presidential election.

One cannot escape the analogy with the fraudulent evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. As in 2002 and 2003, when the mania for the invasion of Iraq mounted, Establishment media have simply regurgitated what intelligence sources like Brennan told them about Russia-gate.

No one batted an eye when Brennan told a House committee in May 2017, “I don’t do evidence.”

Leak Not Hack

As we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have warned numerous times over the past two plus years, there is no reliable forensic evidence to support the story that Russia hacked into the DNC. Moreover, in a piece I wrote in May, “Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russia-gate,” I again noted that accumulating forensic evidence from metadata clearly points to an inside DNC job — a leak, not a hack, by Russia or anyone else.

So Brennan and his partners, FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper were making stuff up and feeding thin but explosive gruel to the hungry stenographers that pass today for Russiagate obsessed journalists.

Is the Jig Up?

With Justice Department investigators’ noses to the ground, it should be just a matter of time before they identify Brennan conclusively as fabricator-in-chief of the Russiagate story. Evidence, real evidence in this case, abounds, since the Brennan-Comey-Clapper gang of three were sure Hillary Clinton would become president. Consequently, they did not perform due diligence to hide their tracks.

Worse still, intelligence analysts tend to hang onto instructions and terms of reference handed down to them by people like Brennan and his top lieutenants. It will not be difficult for CIA analysts to come up with documents to support the excuse: “Brennan made me do it.”

The Times article today betrays some sympathy and worry over what may be in store for Brennan, one of its favorite sons and (anonymous) sources, as well as for those he suborned into making up stuff about the Russians.

The DOJ inquiry, says the Times, “has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the C.I.A., according to former officials. Senior agency officials have questioned why the C.I.A.’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny.” Attorney General William Barr is overseeing the review but has assigned the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to conduct it.

No Holds Barred

Barr is approaching this challenge with a resoluteness and a calm candor rarely seen in Washington — particularly when it comes to challenging those who run the intelligence agencies.

The big question, once again, is whether President Donald Trump will follow his customary practice of reining in subordinates at the last minute, lest they cross the vindictive and still powerful members of the Deep State.

Happily, at least for those interested in the truth, some of the authors of the rump, misnomered “Intelligence Community Assessment” commissioned by Obama, orchestrated by Brennan-Clapper-Comey, and published on January 6, 2017 will now be interviewed. The ICA is the document still widely cited as showing that the “entire intelligence community agreed” on the Russia-gate story, but this is far from the case. As Clapper has admitted, that “assessment” was drafted by “handpicked analysts” from just three of the 17 intelligence agencies — CIA, FBI, and NSA.

U.S. Attorney Durham would do well to also check with analysts in agencies — like the Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department Intelligence, as to why they believe they were excluded. The ICA on Russian interference is as inferior an example of intelligence analysis as I have ever seen. Since virtually all of the hoi aristoi and the media swear by it, I did an assessment of the Assessment on its second anniversary. I wrote:

“Under a media drumbeat of anti-Russian hysteria, credulous Americans were led to believe that Donald Trump owed his election victory to the president of Russia, whose “influence campaign” according to theTimesquoting the intelligence report,helped “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. …

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?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he was Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




Why Didn’t Mueller Investigate Seth Rich?

The idea that the DNC email disclosures were produced by a hack — not a leak —makes less and less sense, writes Daniel Lazare.

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

After bungling every last aspect of Russia-gate since the day the pseudo-scandal broke, the corporate press is now seizing on the Mueller report to shut down debate on one of the key questions still outstanding from the 2016 presidential election: the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

No one knows who killed Rich in Washington, D.C., on July 10, 2016.  All we know is that he was found at 4:19 a.m. in the Bloomingdale neighborhood “with apparent gunshot wound(s) to the back” according to the police report.  Conscious and still breathing, he was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:57.

Police have added to the confusion by releasing information only in the tiniest dribs and drabs.  Rich’s mother, Mary, told local TV news that her son struggled with his assailants: “His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots to his back, and yet they never took anything….  They took his life for literally no reason.  They didn’t finish robbing him, they just took his life.” 

But cops said shortly after the killing that they had no immediate indication that robbery was a motive.  Despite his mother’s report of two shots in the back, all the local medical examiner would say is that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the torso.  According to Rich’s brother, Aaron, Seth “was very aware, very talkative,” when police found him lying on the pavement. Yet cops have refused to say if he described his assailant.  A month later, they put out a statement that “there is no indication that Seth Rich’s death is connected to his employment at the DNC,” but refused to elaborate.

The result is a scattering of disconnected facts that can be used to support just about any theory from a random killing to a political assassination.  Nonetheless, Robert Mueller is dead certain that the murder had nothing to do with the emails — just as he was dead certain in 2003 that Iraq was bristling with weapons of mass destruction pos[ing] a clear threat to our national security. 

Mueller’s Theory About Assange ‘Dissembling’ 

Mueller is equally positive that, merely by expressing concern that the murder may have had something to do with the release of thousands of DNC emails less than two weeks later, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was trying to protect the real source, which of course is Russia.

Here’s how the Mueller report puts it:

“Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016.  The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails.  On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter accounted posted: ‘ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.’ 

Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, ‘Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?’ and responded, ‘We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged WikiLeaks sources.’ The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, ‘I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.’ 

Assange replied, ‘If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious, circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected.  But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us’” (vol. 1, pp. 48-49).

This is what the Mueller report calls “dissembling.” The conclusion caused jubilation in corporate newsrooms where hostility to both Russia and WikiLeaks runs high. “The Seth Rich conspiracy theory needs to end now,” declared Vox.com.  “The special counsel’s report confirmed this week that Seth Rich … was not the source,” said The New York Times. “The Mueller report might not end the debate over what President Donald Trump did,” the Poynter Institute’s Politifact added, “but it has scuttled one conspiracy theory involving a murdered Democratic party staffer and WikiLeaks.”

One Conspiracy Theory for Another

But all the Mueller report did was replace one conspiracy theory with another involving the Kremlin and its minions that is equally unconvincing.

Remarkably, there’s nothing in the Mueller report indicating that the special counselor independently reviewed the forensic evidence or questioned family members and friends.  He certainly didn’t interview Assange, the person in the best position to know who supplied the data, even though Craig Murray, the ex-British diplomat who serves as an unofficial WikiLeaks spokesman, says the WikiLeaks founder would have been “very willing to give evidence to Mueller” while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, “which could have been done by video-link, by interview in the Embassy, or by written communication.” 

Murray says Mueller’s team made no effort to contact him either even though he has publicly stated that he met clandestinely with an associate of the leaker near the American University campus in Washington.

Why not?  Because Mueller didn’t want anything that might disturb his a priori assumption that Russia is the guilty party.  If he had bucked the intelligence community finding – set forth in a formal assessment in January 2017 – that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s candidacy — it would have been front-page news since an anti-Trump press had already accepted the assessment as gospel.  ButMueller is far too much of an establishmentarian to do anything so reckless. 

So he selected evidence in support of the official theory that “[t]he Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” as the report states on its very first page.  And since Assange had consistently maintained that the data was the result of an inside leak rather than internal hack and that “[o]ur source is not the Russian government,” he cherry picked evidence to show that Assange is a liar, not only about Russia but about Seth Rich.

Cryptic Exchange

It’s a self-serving myth that corporate media have swallowed whole because it serves their interests too. One problem in exposing it, however, is Assange’s pledge – intrinsic to the WikiLeaks mission – to safeguard the identities of whistleblowers who furnish it with information.  The upshot has been a good deal of beating around the bush.  A month after the murder, the WikiLeaks founder appeared on a Dutch program called “Nieuwsuur” and took part in a cryptic exchange with journalist Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal: 

Assange: Whistle blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks.  There’s a 27-year-old – works for the DNC – who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington, so…. 

Rosenthal: That was just a robbery, I believe, wasn’t it?

Assange: No, there’s no finding, so –

Rosenthal: What are you suggesting?

Assange: I’m suggesting that our sources take risks, and they become concerned to see things occurring like that. 

Rosenthal: But was he one of your sources then?  I mean –

Assange: We don’t comment about who our sources are.

Rosenthal: But why make the suggestion about a young guy being shot in the streets of Washington?

Assange: Because we have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States and that our sources, you know, face serious risks.  That’s why they come to us – so we can protect their anonymity.

Rosenthal: But it’s quite something to suggest a murder.  That’s basically what you’re doing.

This was as close as Assange could come to confirming that Rich was tied up with the leak without actually saying it. Hours later, WikiLeaks tweeted about the $20k reward. 

Four months after that, Craig Murray told the Libertarian Institute’s Scott Horton: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that he [Rich] was the source of the leaks.  What I’m saying is that it’s probably not an unfair indication to draw that WikiLeaks believe[s] that he may have been killed by someone who thought he was the source of the leaks.”  (Quote begins at 11:20.)

Thanks to such foggy rhetoric, it was all but inevitable that conspiracy theories would ignite. Two months after the killing, an ultra-conservative talk-radio host named Jack Burkman – best known for organizing a protest campaign against the Dallas Cowboys’ hiring of an openly gay football player named Michael Sam – approached members of the Rich family and offered to launch an investigation in their behalf. 

The family said yes, but then backed off when Burkman grandly announced that the murder was a Kremlin hit.  Things turned even more bizarre a year later when Kevin Doherty, an ex-Marine whom Burkman had hired to look into the case, lured his ex-boss to a Marriott hotel in Arlington, Virgina, where he shot him twice in the buttocks and then tried to run him down with a rented SUV.  Doherty received a nine-year sentence last December. 

The rightwing Washington Times meanwhile reported thatWikiLeaks had paid Seth and Aaron Rich an undisclosed sum, a story it was forced to retract, and Fox News named Seth as the source as well.  (A sympathetic judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Rich family on technical grounds.)  But still the speculation bubbled on, with conservative nuts blaming everyone from ex-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to acting DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and Bill and Hillary themselves.

All of which plays into the hands of a corporate press happy to write off any and all suspicion as a product of alt-right paranoia. 

But if speculation refuses to die, it’s for a simple reason.  If the DNC email disclosure was a hack, then Rich clearly had nothing to do with it, which means his death was no more than a robbery gone awry.  But if it was a leak, then – based on broad hints dropped by Assange and Murray – it looks like the story could well be more complicated. This proves nothing in and of itself. But it guarantees that questions will grow as long as the Washington police make zero progress in its investigation and the Mueller report continues to fall apart.

And that’s just what’s happening.  Mueller’s account of how Russian intelligence supposedly supplied WikiLeaks with stolen data makes no sense because, according to the report’s chronology, the transfer left WikiLeaks with just four days to review some 28,000 emails and other electronic documents to make sure that they were genuine and unaltered – a clear impossibility.  (See The ‘Guccifer 2.0’ Gaps in Mueller’s Full Report,” April 18.) 

The FBI assessment that Paul Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik “has ties to Russian intelligence” – which Mueller cites (vol. 1, p. 133) in order to justify holding Manafort in solitary confinement during the Russia-gate investigation – is similarly disintegrating amid reports that Kilimnik actually served as an important State Department intelligence source.

So the idea of a hack makes less and less sense and an inside leak seems more and more plausible, which is why questions about the Rich case will not go away.  Bottom line: you don’t have to be a loony rightist to suspect that there is more to the murder than Robert Mueller would like us to believe. 

Daniel Lazare is the author of “The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy” (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.  He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique and blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.




The Real Bob Mueller

Robert Mueller Wednesday implied he would have indicted Donald Trump if he could have, resurrecting his saint-like status among Democrats who will now likely go for impeachment. But who is the real Bob Mueller? Ex-FBI official Coleen Rowley explained on June 6, 2017.

By Coleen Rowley
Special to Consortium News
June 6, 2017

Mainstream commentators display amnesia when they describe former FBI Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey as stellar and credible law enforcement figures. Perhaps if they included J. Edgar Hoover, such fulsome praise could be put into proper perspective.

Although these Hoover successors, now occupying center stage in the investigation of President Trump, have been hailed for their impeccable character by much of Official Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush Administration (Mueller as FBI Director and James Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain vanilla incompetence.

TIME Magazine would probably have not called my own disclosures abombshell memo to the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry in May 2002 if it had not been for Mueller’s having so misled everyone after 9/11. Although he bore no personal responsibility for intelligence failures before the attack, since he only became FBI Director a week before, Mueller denied or downplayed the significance of warnings that had poured in yet were all ignored or mishandled during the Spring and Summer of 2001.

Bush Administration officials had circled the wagons and refused to publicly own up to what the 9/11 Commission eventually concluded, “that the system had been blinking red.” Failures to read, share or act upon important intelligence, which a FBI agent witness termed criminal negligence” in later trial testimony, were therefore not fixed in a timely manner. (Some failures were never fixed at all.)

Worse, Bush and Cheney used that post 9/11 period of obfuscation to “roll out” their misbegotten “war on terror,” which only served to exponentially increase worldwide terrorism.

Unfulfilled Promise

I wanted to believe Director Mueller when he expressed some regret in our personal meeting the night before we both testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He told me he was seeking improvements and that I should not hesitate to contact him if I ever witnessed a similar situation to what was behind the FBI’s pre 9/11 failures.

A few months later, when it appeared he was acceding to Bush-Cheney’s ginning up intelligence to launch the unjustified, counterproductive and illegal war on Iraq, I took Mueller up on his offer, emailing him my concerns in late February 2003. Mueller knew, for instance, that Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims connecting 9/11 to Iraq were bogus yet he remained quiet. He also never responded to my email.

Beyond ignoring politicized intelligence, Mueller bent to other political pressures. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mueller directed the “post 9/11 round-up” of about 1,000 immigrants who mostly happened to be in the wrong place (the New York City area) at the wrong time. FBI Headquarters encouraged more and more detentions for what seemed to be essentially P.R. purposes. Field offices were required to report daily the number of detentions in order to supply grist for FBI press releases about FBI “progress” in fighting terrorism. Consequently, some of the detainees were brutalized and jailed for up to a year despite the fact that none turned out to be terrorists.

A History of Failure

Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI-operated) Bulger gang.

Current media applause omits the fact that former FBI Director Mueller was the top official in charge of the Anthrax terror fiasco investigation into those 2001 murders, which targeted an innocent man (Steven Hatfill) whose lawsuit eventually forced the FBI to pay $5 million in compensation. Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the law improperly serving hundreds of thousands of “national security letters” to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating “terrorism.”

For his part, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, too, went along with the abuses of Bush and Cheney after 9/11 and signed off on a number of highly illegal programs including warrantless surveillance of Americans and torture of captives. Comey also defended the Bush Administration’s three-year-long detention of an American citizen without charges or right to counsel.

Up to the March 2004 night in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room, both Comey and Mueller were complicit with implementing a form of martial law, perpetrated via secret Office of Legal Counsel memos mainly written by John Yoo and predicated upon Yoo’s singular theories of absolute “imperial” or “war presidency” powers, and requiring Ashcroft every 90 days to renew certification of a “state of emergency.”

The Comey/Mueller Myth

What’s not well understood is that Comey’s and Mueller’s joint intervention to stop Bush’s men from forcing the sick Attorney General to sign the certification that night was a short-lived moment. A few days later, they all simply went back to the drawing board to draft new legal loopholes to continue the same (unconstitutional) surveillance of Americans.

The mythology of this episode, repeated endlessly throughout the press, is that Comey and Mueller did something significant and lasting in that hospital room. They didn’t. Only the legal rationale for their unconstitutional actions was tweaked.

Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities.

Neither Comey nor Mueller — who are reported to be joined at the hip” — deserve their current lionization among politicians and mainstream media. Instead of Jimmy Stewart-like “G-men” with reputations for principled integrity, the two close confidants and collaborators merely proved themselves, along with former CIA Director George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, reliably politicized sycophants, enmeshing themselves in a series of wrongful abuses of power along with official incompetence.

It seems clear that based on his history and close “partnership” with Comey, called “one of the closest working relationships the top ranks of the Justice Department have ever seen,” Mueller was chosen as Special Counsel not because he has integrity but because he will do what the powerful want him to do.

Mueller didn’t speak the truth about a war he knew to be unjustified. He didn’t speak out against torture. He didn’t speak out against unconstitutional surveillance. And he didn’t tell the truth about 9/11. He is just “their man.”

Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Her 2003 letter to Robert Mueller in opposition to launching the Iraq War is archived in full text on the NYT and her 2013 op-ed entitled “Questions for the FBI Nominee” was published on the day of James Comey’s confirmation hearing. This piece will also be cross-posted on Rowley’s Huffington Post page.)

Relevant links:

http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20020603,00.html

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Ch8.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/21/us/nationalspecial3/fbi-agent-testifies-superiors-didnt-pursue-moussaoui.html

http://www.truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/68973:the-iraq-effect-war-has-increased-terrorism-sevenfold-worldwide

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3322308/Number-people-killed-terrorists-worldwide-soars-80-just-year.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/05/politics/full-text-of-fbi-agents-letter-to-director-mueller.html

https://oig.justice.gov/special/0306/full.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/18/us/immigrants-suit-over-detention-after-9-11-is-revived.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/1970/01/19/one-lingering-question-for-fbi-director-robert-mueller/613uW0MR7czurRn7M4BG2J/story.html

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/05/21/comey-mueller-bungled-big-anthrax-case-together/

https://www.mintpressnews.com/anthrax-russiagate-muellers-special-counsel-appointment-raise-concern/228317/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/government_programs-jan-june07-patriotact_03-09/

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/DOJ/story?id=4444329

https://www.aclu.org/news/fbi-counterterrorism-unit-spies-peaceful-faith-based-protest-group

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/opinion/questions-for-the-fbi-nominee.html

https://theintercept.com/2016/02/25/fbi-director-james-comey-who-signed-off-on-waterboarding-is-now-losing-sleep-over-an-iphone/

http://www.newsweek.com/ali-soufan-breaks-his-silence-77243

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/05/19/gregg-jarrett-why-robert-mueller-should-resign-as-special-counsel.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/10/want-a-special-prosecutor-to-replace-james-comey-history-might-change-your-mind/?utm_ter4091053795m

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/03/03/the-flawed-record-of-special-prosecutors-who-create-as-much-controversy-as-they-resolve/?utm_term=.29989d7a3635




King Coal Rules in Australian Vote

It was one of the most shocking results in decades. Labor appeared poised for victory but a coal mine in Queensland played an outsized role in the Liberals maintaining power in Canberra, reports Catherine Vogan.

By Catherine Vogan
in Sydney, Australia
Special to Consortium News

Not unlike the 2016 U.S. presidential vote, there’s been another surprise election result, this time in Australia. One week down the track the post-mortems are numerous on “what happened”; or rather why it happened. Every pollster and book-maker in the country had predicted an easy win for the left-wing Australian Labor Party (ALP).

Instead it was a Blessed Day for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his incumbent conservative Liberal National Party (LNP), which has won a predicted 77 seats to Labor’s 68 after 86.5 percent of the votes have been counted. The Liberals will form a majority government by one seat.

It was one of the most shocking results in decades. Labor appeared poised for victory because it had pledged to increase health and education spending, improve welfare services and act on climate change and renewable energy.

On top of what seemed good for most Australians, confidence in a Labor victory rested on years of Liberal Party losses in public opinion polls, including 30 straight defeats in polls that asked who the nation’s favourite leaders were.

The Liberals were also wracked by factional in-fighting between its bitterly divided moderate and conservative elements, the latter of which continued to champion the fossil fuel industry.

Many Australians perceived the Liberals’ policies in government as detestable and dangerous policy.

                         (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

‘ScoMo’

Led by a devoutly religious Morrison, the “Coal-fondler in Chief”, the Liberal government appeared to be in ruins after the demise of its two previous prime ministers, Malcolm “Political Mistake” Turnbull and Tony “Coal is Good for Humanity” Abbott.

There had also been an exodus of senior members from the party – including three of the few females– so Morrison had to campaign alone. He did so as the barely credible, chummy “ScoMo”, wearing, like Trump, the mantle of a baseball cap, and a grin, while uttering his true blue, albeit de-braining, one-liner: “If you have a go you’ll get a go.” Surely not, many said, but elections move in mysterious ways.

“His only promise to reform is to cut tax for the wealthy,” said retired Australian diplomat Tony Kevin. “His rhetoric is windy and empty, an Australian mimicry of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogans of the United States. A professed evangelical Christian, his surprise victory will inspire right wing activists on causes like abortion and free speech for religious fanatics.”

Liberal’s Record

The Liberals pursued what appeared to be a widely unpopular conservative agenda. That included much of the party campaigning against marriage equality. Its former attorney general, George Brandis, declared that “people have the right to be bigots” in an attempt to remove sections of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Morrison’s relentlessly harsh treatment of refugees had contributed to former Prime Minister Turnbull losing his seat altogether in a 2018 by-election to Independent candidate Kerryn Phelps, who had promised more humane treatment of refugees and action on climate change.

The Liberals had reduced welfare spending on the Medicare health system, social security and unemployment benefits and heavily stigmatised welfare recipients, at a time when there was only one full-time job available for every 12 job-seekers.

They had introduced an “Earn or Learn” system and raised the age of eligibility for unemployment benefits from 18 to 22, forcing many young people to live with their parents and take on government loans for ‘work-ready’ courses.

The Liberals had implemented “Work for the Dole”, which forced the unemployed of all ages into unpaid labour, up to 30 hours per week. The “Newstart” allowance they received in return has been deemed seriously insufficient for assuring basic needs. University of New South Wales researchers point out that the dole hasn’t risen in two decades to match the soaring cost of housing.

As the gap has widened between rich and poor, the Liberal Government was soft on multinational tax evaders, but harsh on welfare recipients, and misleading with employment figures. During the six years of Liberal rule, 60 percent of Australians joined the “precariat,” as part of a “gig economy” workforce that lacked predictability and security.

As the neo-liberal blueprint predicts, these workers were obliged to undertake extensive unremunerated activities to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings. The Australian economy grew, but the average Joe’s slice of the pie shrunk…

                          (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

Climate Change and Big Coal

Climate change and the opening of a massive new coal mine in the state of Queensland were the pivotal issues in the election.

What worried young Australians and concerned their parents was the government’s denial of climate change. Greta Thunberg’s message at the UN Climate Change COP24 Conference had a big impact in the country as Australian children left their classrooms en masse to plead for a future they could grow up in.

The Liberal government in 2014 had repealed Labor’s carbon tax policy, instituted two years earlier when Labor was last in power. The repeal led to a rise in greenhouse emissions, despite the Liberal government’s inadequate incentive payment to polluters to pollute less.

A month before the May 18 election, the Liberal government approved a new coal and a new uranium mine in Queensland, the large state that takes in the top half of Eastern Australia and lies between Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, and the Great Artesian Basin, an unpolluted aquifer which provides water for central Australia’s desert. The assumption of environmental groups was that the coal mines and fracking will pollute and destroy both the reef and the artesian basin.

The controversial new coal mine, approved two days before the 30-day caretaker period leading into this month’s election, is the massive Adani mine in the deposits of Queensland’s Carmichael Basin, which is larger than all of Great Britain. The Adani mine alone stretches over territory comparable to either New York City or London.

The Indian multinational company Adani said it expects its Carmichael mine to produce 2.3 billion tons of coal over 60 years, which, according to the Joint Report to the Land Court of Queensland on ‘Climate Change Emissions‘” would be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.  

Although the Labor Party proposed taking strong action on climate change, its leader, Bill Shorten, would not say whether he would review this decision if elected, possibly fearing lost coal mining jobs and lost votes in conservative Queensland. 

A Far-Right Surge

A leading Australian political journalist, Bernard Keane, reported on an unexpected far-right surge in Queensland, where the election was ultimately lost for Labor. There one in eight voters chose either the openly racist party, One Nation, or the United Australia Party, led by billionaire Clive Palmer, a man who once robbed Queensland workers of AU$7 million. (People do seem to have short memories).

Keane resisted, however, blaming the shocking results entirely on targeted scare campaigns about job losses, especially at the Adani coalmine, (despite there being more jobs available in the renewable energy sector.)

He also did not blame Labor’s defeat on fake rent increase notices, fictitious mortgage revaluation notices,a false “Death Tax, Death Tax, Death Tax” alert about a non-existent Labor policy, nor on the rest of a long list of the-biggest-fibs-of-the-election-so-far.

Doing so would be too simple to explain the Australian story, says Keane:

… like U.S. progressives insisting that Trump won because of the Russians, fake news and Cambridge Analytica, attributing too much to this role obscures deeper problems with what Labor offered, even if Labor was far more engaged with the discontent of working Australians than Hillary Clinton ever was. When one in 11 Queenslanders, even now, thinks it’s OK to vote for a racist, treacherous rabble like One Nation, there’s something very crook in the political and economic system.”

Some of the deceptions and smears about Labor were initiated by Liberal candidates, but others were funded by Palmer on behalf of his party to destroy Labor’s chances in the election, win his own votes and then pass them on as party preferences to the Liberals.

“Our Shifty Shorten ads across Australia … I think have been very successful in shifting the Labor vote,” Palmer said.

There is no doubt that Morrison received the blessing of the far right parties, but to understand how that won him the election, preferential voting in Australia needs to be explained.

                          (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

Didn’t Tap Concerns

Stuart Rees, an emeritus professor of political economy at Sydney University, pointed to false advertising campaigns creating a culture of fear that prompted people to look after what they perceived to be their own interests. He also criticised Labor for too much detail about their policies, and not enough detail about how they would pay for them. That mistake may very well have opened the way for the Death Tax canard.

Shorten’s lack of charisma bothered Rees, who said the party was over-confident because of the opinion polls. Labor failed to tap into voters’ deep concerns about jobs, global warming, budget surpluses and taxes, he said.

“My verdict on this surprising and so disappointing result is that reforms, in particular regarding policies to address global warming, are unlikely to be addressed by a conservative Coalition,” he told Consortium News. “This spells significant dangers for the planet and for the lives of future generations.”

Julian Burnside, the 2019 Australian Green Party candidate for Kooyong in the State of Victoria, echoed Rees.

“At this critical time in our history, it is vital that the whole world rises to the challenge. The threat to our climate is far too great and too real to lose hope,” he tweeted. “I encourage you all to do what you can while you can… march with your kids in the climate rallies; talk to your doubtful friends about climate change; speak to your representative in the Parliament and ask them to act for the planet, for your kids, and for their kids.”

                          (Written & created by Giordano Nanni for The Juice Media)

“Despite being in the middle of the 6th Mass Extinction, neither one of the major parties is ready to truly defy the coal lobbyists or their corporate sponsors and accept Extinction Rebellion’s 1st demand: that being to tell the public the truth of their impending extinction and declare a National Climate Emergency,” Tristan Sykes, the Extinction Rebellion state coordinator in Tasmania, told Consortium News.

“An ill-informed electorate cannot possibly vote in its own interest. Extinction Rebellion will not wait another four years hoping for a better result. We must act now to save ourselves and future generations. The only choice now is extinction or rebellion,” Sykes said.

Ultimately Labor’s Own Fault

Brenda the Disobedient Penguin, a bitter cartoon character, blamed Labor for its loss.  She declared:

“A mid-level marketing manager who was as surprised as anyone that he won! Morrison had no front bench, no policies, no record to stand on, a government defined by five years of cruelty, chaos and grift and he beat the Labor Party BY HIMSELF. ONE GRINNING PENTACOSTAL IN A BASEBALL CAP AND HE BEAT THE ALP AND THE UNION MOVEMENT ALL BY HIMSELF.* 

*And the Murdoch press but people keep telling me the power of Murdoch is waning.”

Indeed it is, but few understand, including heritage media pollsters, what has taken Murdoch’s place. One possibility are political ads, which in Australia are subject to no law imposing truth in advertising. And  (thanks to mass surveillance) there is the impact of behavioural micro-targeting with segmented political messaging.

In the good old days, Australia had a media blackout of 24 hours before election day to give voters time to peruse the candidates.

Today, social media never sleeps.

Catherine Vogan is an Australian film-maker and academic at Sydney Film School. She is a contributor to Consortium News.

 




The Real Mueller-Gate Scandal

Craig Murray blasts the special counsel for naming and condemning people without ever interviewing them.  

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is either a fool, or deeply corrupt. I do not think he is a fool.

I did not comment instantly on the Mueller report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge — the leak of Democratic National Committee and John Podesta emails to WikiLeaks. On the wider question of the corrupt Russian 1 percent having business dealings with the corrupt Western 1 percent, all I have to say is that if you believe that is limited in the U.S. by party political boundaries, you are a fool.

On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney, a retired technical director at the National Security Agency, the $14 billion a year U.S. surveillance organization. He did not interview Julian Assange,  publisher of WikiLeaks. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless.

There has never been, by any U.S. law enforcement or security service body, a forensic examination of the DNC servers, despite the fact that the claim those servers were hacked is the very heart of the entire investigation. Instead, the security services simply accepted the “evidence” provided by the DNC’s own IT security consultants, Crowdstrike, a company which is politically aligned to the Clintons.

That is precisely the equivalent of the police receiving a phone call saying:

“Hello? My husband has just been murdered. He had a knife in his back with the initials of the Russian man who lives next door engraved on it in Cyrillic script. I have employed a private detective who will send you photos of the body and the knife. No, you don’t need to see either of them.”

No Honest Policeman 

There is no honest policeman in the world who would agree to that proposition, and neither would Mueller were he remotely an honest man. 

Two facts compound this failure. 

The first is the absolutely key word of Bill Binney, an acknowledged world leader in cyber surveillance who is infinitely more qualified than Crowdstrike. Binney states that the download rates for the “hack” given by Crowdstrike are at a speed — 41 megabytes per second — that could not even nearly be attained remotely at the location: thus the information must have been downloaded to a local device, eg a memory stick. Binney has further evidence regarding formatting that supports this. 

Mueller’s identification of “DC Leaks” and “Guccifer 2.0” as Russian security services is something Mueller attempts to carry off by simple assertion. Mueller shows DNC Leaks to have been the source of other, unclassified emails sent to WikiLeaks that had been obtained under a Freedom of Information request and then Mueller simply assumes, with no proof, the same route was used again for the leaked DNC material. His identification of the Guccifer 2.0 persona with Russian agents is so flimsy as to be laughable. Nor is there any evidence of the specific transfer of the leaked DNC emails from Guccifer 2.0 to WikiLleaks. Binney asserts that had this happened, the packets would have been instantly identifiable to the NSA. 

Bill Binney is not a “deplorable.” He is a former technical director of the NSA. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met him to hear his expertise on precisely this matter. Binney offered to give evidence to Mueller. Yet did Mueller call him as a witness? No. Binney’s voice is entirely unheard in the report. 

Mueller’s refusal to call Binney and consider his evidence was not the action of an honest man.

Vault 7 Release

The second vital piece of evidence we have is from WikiLeaks Vault 7 release of CIA material, in which the CIA themselves outline their capacity to “false flag” hacks, leaving behind misdirecting clues including scraps of foreign script and language. This is precisely what Crowdstrike claim to have found in the “Russian hacking” operation.

So here we have Mueller omitting the key steps of independent forensic examination of the DNC servers and hearing Bill Binney’s evidence. Yet this was not for lack of time. While deliberately omitting to take any steps to obtain evidence that might disprove the “Russian hacking” story, Mueller had boundless time and energy to waste in wild goose chases after totally non-existent links between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, including the fiasco of interviewing Roger Stone and Randy Credico. 

It is worth remembering that none of the charges against Americans arising from the Mueller inquiry have anything to do with Russian collusion or Trump-WikiLeaks collusion, which simply do not exist. The charges all relate to entirely extraneous matters dug up, under the extraordinary U.S. system of “justice,” to try to blackmail those charged with unrelated crimes turned up by the investigation, into fabricating evidence of Russian collusion. The official term for this process of blackmail is of course “plea-bargaining.”

Mueller has indicted 12 Russians he alleges are the GRU agents responsible for the “hack.” The majority of these turn out to be real people who, ostensibly, have jobs and lives which are nothing to do with the GRU. Mueller was taken aback when, rather than simply being in absentia, a number of them had representation in court to fight the charges. Mueller had to back down and ask for an immediate adjournment as soon as the case opened, while he fought to limit disclosure. His entire energies since on this case have been absorbed in submitting motions to limit disclosure, individual by individual, with the object of ensuring that the accused Russians can be convicted without ever seeing, or being able to reply to, the evidence against them. Which is precisely the same as his attitude to contrary evidence in his report.

Mueller’s failure to examine the servers or take Binney’s evidence pales into insignificance compared to his attack on Julian Assange. Based on no conclusive evidence, Mueller accuses Assange of receiving the emails from Russia. Most crucially, he did not give Assange any opportunity to answer his accusations. For somebody with Mueller’s background in law enforcement, declaring somebody in effect guilty, without giving them any opportunity to tell their side of the story, is plain evidence of malice. 

Inexplicably, for example, the Mueller report quotes a media report of Assange stating he had “physical proof” the material did not come from Russia, but Mueller simply dismisses this without having made any attempt at all to ask Assange himself. 

It is also particularly cowardly as Assange was and is held incommunicado with no opportunity to defend himself. Assange has repeatedly declared the material did not come from the Russian state or from any other state. He was very willing to give evidence to Mueller, which could have been done by video-link, by interview in the Ecuadorian embassy or by written communication. But as with Binney and as with the DNC servers, the entirely corrupt Mueller was unwilling to accept any evidence which might contradict his predetermined narrative.

‘Courier’ Ignored

Mueller’s section headed “The GRU’s Transfer of Stolen Material to Wikileaks” is a ludicrous farrago of internet contacts between WikiLeaks and persons not proven to be Russian, transferring material not proven to be the DNC leaks. It too is destroyed by Binney and so pathetic that, having pretended he had proven the case of internet transfer, Mueller then gives the game away by adding “The office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred by intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.” He names Andrew Muller-Maguhn as a possible courier. Yet again, he did not ask Muller-Maguhn to give evidence. Nor did he ask me, and I might have been able to help him on a few of these points.

To run an “investigation” with a pre-determined idea as to who are the guilty parties, and then to name and condemn those parties in a report, without hearing the testimony of those you are accusing, is a method of proceeding that puts the cowardly and corrupt Mueller beneath contempt.

Mueller gives no evidence whatsoever to back up his simple statement that Seth Rich was not the source of the DNC leak. He accuses Julian Assange of “dissembling” by referring to Seth Rich’s murder. It is an interesting fact that the U.S. security services have shown precisely the same level of interest in examining Seth Rich’s computers that they have shown in examining the DNC servers. It is also interesting that this murder features in a report of historic consequences like that of Mueller, yet has had virtually no serious resource put into finding the killer.

Mueller’s condemnation of Julian Assange for allegedly exploiting the death of Seth Rich, would be infinitely more convincing if the official answer to the question “who murdered Seth Rich?” was not “who cares?”

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. This article first appeared on his website.




How US and Foreign Intel Agencies Interfered in a US Election

The evidence is plain—there was a broad, coordinated effort by the Obama Administration, with the help of foreign governments, to target Donald Trump and paint him as a Russian stooge, writes Larry Johnson

By Larry C. Johnson
Sic Semper Tyrannis 

The preponderance of evidence makes this very simple–there was a broad, coordinated effort by the Obama Administration, with the help of foreign governments, to target Donald Trump and paint him as a stooge of Russia.

The Mueller Report provides irrefutable evidence that the so-called Russian collusion case against Donald Trump was a deliberate fabrication by intelligence and law enforcement organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom and organizations aligned with the Clinton Campaign.

The New York Times reported that a man with a long history of working with the CIA, and a female FBI informant, traveled to London in September of 2016 and tried unsuccessfully to entrap George Papadopolous. The biggest curiosity is that U.S. intelligence or law enforcement officials fully briefed British intelligence on what they were up to. Quite understandable given what we now know about British spying on the Trump Campaign.

The Mueller investigation of Trump “collusion” with Russia prior to the 2016 Presidential election focused on eight cases:

  • Proposed Trump Tower Project in Moscow
  • George Papadopolous
  • Carter Page
  • Dimitri Simes
  • Veselnetskya Meeting at Trump Tower (June 16, 2016)
  • Events at Republican Convention
  • Post-Convention Contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak
  • Paul Manafort

One simple fact emerges–of the eight cases or incidents of alleged Trump Campaign interaction with the Russians investigated by the Mueller team, the proposals to interact with the Russian Government or with Putin originated with FBI informants, MI-6 assets or people paid by Fusion GPS, and not Trump or his people.

There is not a single instance where Donald Trump or any member of his campaign team initiated contact with the Russians for the purpose of gaining derogatory information on Hillary or obtaining support to boost the Trump campaign. Not one.

Simply put, Trump and his campaign were the target of an elaborate, wide ranging covert action designed to entrap him and members of his team as an agent of Russia.

Let’s look in detail at each of the cases.

THE PROPOSED TRUMP TOWER PROJECT IN MOSCOW, according to Mueller’s report, originated with an FBI Informant–Felix Sater. Here’s what the Mueller Report states:

“In the late summer of 2015, the Trump Organization received a new inquiry about pursuing a Trump Tower project in Moscow. In approximately September 2015, Felix Sater . . . contacted Cohen (i.e., Michael Cohen) on behalf of I.C. Expert Investment Company (I.C. Expert), a Russian real-estate development corporation controlled by Andrei Vladimirovich Rozov. Sater had known Rozov since approximately 2007 and, in 2014, had served as an agent on behalf of Rozov during Rozov’s purchase of a building in New York City. Sater later contacted Rozov and proposed that I.C. Expert pursue a Trump Tower Moscow project in which I.C. Expert would license the name and brand from the Trump Organization but construct the building on its own. Sater worked on the deal with Rozov and another employee of I.C. Expert.” (see page 69 of the Mueller Report).

Mueller, as noted previously, is downright dishonest in failing to identify Sater as an FBI informant. Sater was not just a private entrepreneur looking to make some coin. He was a fully signed up FBI informant. Sater’s status as an FBI snitch was first exposed in 2012. Sater also was a boyhood chum of Michael Cohen, the target being baited in this operation. Another inconvenient fact excluded from the Mueller report is that one of Mueller’s Chief Prosecutors, Andrew Weissman, signed the deal with Felix Sater in December 1998 that put Sater into the FBI Informant business.

All suggestions for meeting with the Russian Government, including Putin, originated with Felix Sater. The use of Sater on this particular project started in September 2015.

[For more on Sater please see my previous posts, Felix Sater–The Rosetta Stone for the FBI/CIA Conspiracy Against Trump?Felix Sater and the Steele Dossier.]

GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS

Papadopolous was targeted by British and U.S. intelligence starting in late December 2015, when he is offered out of the blue a job with the London Centre of International Law and Practice Limited (LCILP)?. The LCILP has all of the hallmarks of an intelligence front company. LCILP began as an offshoot from another company?—?EN Education Group Limited?—?which describes itself as “a global education consultancy, facilitating links between students, education providers and organisations with an interest in education worldwide”.

EN Education and LCILP are owned and run by Nagi Khalid Idris, a 48-year-old British citizen of Sudanese origin. For no apparent reason Idris offers Papadopolous a job as the Director of the LCILP’s International Energy and Natural Resources Division. Then in March of 2016, Idris and Arvinder Sambei (who acted as an attorney for the FBI on a 9-11 extradition case in the UK), insist on introducing Joseph Mifsud to Papadopolous.

It is Joseph Mifsud who introduces the idea of meeting Putin following a lunch in London (from Papadopolous’s book “Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump”):

“The lunch is booked for March 24 at the Grange Holborn Hotel,. . . . “When I get there, Mifsud is waiting for me in the lobby with an attractive, fashionably dressed young woman with dirty blonde hair at his side. He introduces her as Olga Vinogradova.” (p. 76)

“Mifsud sells her hard. “Olga is going to be your inside woman to Moscow. She knows everyone.” He tells me she was a former official at the Russian Ministry of Trade. Then he waxes on about introducing me to the Russian ambassador in London.” (p. 77)

“On April 12, “Olga” writes: “I have already alerted my personal links to our conversation and your request. The embassy in London is very much aware of this. As mentioned, we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump. The Russian Federation would love to welcome him once his candidature would be officially announced.”

And it is Mifsud who raises the possibility of getting dirt on Hillary:

“Then Mifsud returns from the Valdai conference. On April 26 we meet for breakfast at the Andaz Hotel, near Liverpool Street Station, one of the busiest train stations in London. He’s in an excellent mood and claims he met with high-level Russian government officials. But once again, he’s very short on specifics. This is becoming a real pattern with Mifsud. He hasn’t offered any names besides Timofeev. Then, he leans across the table in a conspiratorial manner. The Russians have “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, he tells me. “Emails of Clinton,” he says. “They have thousands of emails.”

Here again we encounter the lying and obfuscation of the Mueller team. They falsely characterize Mifsud as an agent of Russia. In fact, he has close and longstanding ties to both British and U.S. intelligence (Disobedient Media lays out the Mifsud mystery in detail).

Mifsud was not alone. The FBI and the CIA also were in the game of trying to entrap Papadopolous. In September of 2016, Papadopolous was being wined and dined by Halper (who has longstanding ties to the U.S. intelligence community) and Azra Turk, an FBI Informant/researcher (see New York Times).

The FBI disingenuously claims they ran Azra Turk at Papadopolous because they were alarmed ostensibly by Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election. But Papadopolous was not seeking out Russian contacts. He was being baited. It was Mifsud and others tied to British and U.S. intelligence who were bringing up the “opportunity” to work with the Russians. 

CARTER PAGE

The section of the Mueller report that deals with Carter Page is a total travesty. Mueller and his team, for example, initially misrepresent Page’s status with the Trump campaign—he is described as “working” for the campaign, which implies a paid position, when he was in fact only a volunteer foreign policy advisor. Mueller also paints Page’s prior experience and work in Russia as evidence that Page was being used by Russian intelligence, but says nothing about the fact that Page was being regularly debriefed by the CIA and the FBI during the same period. In other words, Page was cooperating with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. But this fact is omitted in the Mueller report.

Mueller eventually accurately describes Page’s role in the Trump campaign as follows:

“In January 2016, Page began volunteering on an informal, unpaid basis for the Trump Campaign after Ed Cox, a state Republican Party official, introduced Page to Trump Campaign officials. Page told the Office that his goal in working on the Campaign was to help candidate Trump improve relations with Russia. To that end, Page emailed Campaign officials offering his thoughts on U.S.-Russia relations, prepared talking points and briefing memos on Russia, and proposed that candidate Trump meet with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

“In communications with Campaign officials, Page also repeatedly touted his high-level contacts in Russia and his ability to forge connections between candidate Trump and senior Russian governmental officials. For example, on January 30, 2016, Page sent an email to senior Campaign officials stating that he had “spent the past week in Europe and had been in discussions with some individuals with close ties to the Kremlin” who recognized that Trump could have a “game-changing effect . .. in bringing the end of the new Cold War. The email stated that ” [t]hrough [his] discussions with these high level contacts,” Page believed that “a direct meeting in Moscow between Mr. Trump and Putin could be arranged.”  

The Mueller presentation portrays Carter Page in a nefarious, negative light. His contacts with Russia are characterized as inappropriate and unjustified. Longstanding business experience in a particular country is not proof of wrong doing. No consideration is given at all to Page’s legitimate concerns raising about the dismal state of U.S./Russia relations following the U.S. backed coup in the Ukraine and the subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Page’s association with the Trump campaign was quite brief—he lasted seven months, being removed as a foreign policy advisor on Sept. 24. Page was not identified publicly as a Trump foreign policy advisor until March of 2016, but the evidence presented in the Mueller report clearly indicates that Page was already a target of intelligence agencies, in the U.S. and abroad, long before the FISA warrant of Oct. 2016.

While serving on the foreign policy team Page continued his business and social contacts in Russia, but was never tasked by the Trump team to pursue or promote contacts with Putin and his team. In fact, Page’s proposals, suggestions and recommendations were either ignored or directly rebuffed.

The timeline reported in the Mueller report regarding Page’s trip to Russia in early July raises questions about the intel collected on that trip and the so-called “intel” revealed in the Steele Dossier with respect to Page. Carter admits to meeting with individuals, such as Dmitry Peskov and Igor Sechin, who appear in the Steele Dossier. Page’s meetings in Moscow turned out to be innocuous and uneventful. Nothing he did resembled clandestine activity. Yet, the Steele report on that visit suggested just the opposite and used the tactic of guilt by association to imply that Page was up to something dirty. 

The bottomline for Mueller is that Page did not do anything wrong and no one in the Trump Campaign embraced his proposals for closer ties with Russia. 

DMITRI SIMES

The targeting and investigation of Dmitri Simes is disgusting and an abuse of law enforcement authority. Full disclosure. I know Dmitri. For awhile, in the 2002-2003 time period, I was a regular participant at Nixon Center events. For example, I was at a round table in December 2002 on the imminent invasion of Iraq. Colonel Pat Lang sat on one side of me and Ambassador Joe Wilson on the other. Directly across the table was Charles Krauthammer. Dmitri ran an honest seminar.

The entire section on Dmitri Simes, under other circumstances, could be viewed as something bizarre and amusing. But the mere idea that Simes was somehow an agent of Putin and a vehicle for helping Trump work with the Russians to steal the 2016 election is crazy and idiotic. Those in the FBI who were so stupid as to buy into this nonsense should have their badges and guns taken away. They are too dumb to work in law enforcement.

Dmitri’s only sin was to speak calmly, intelligently and rationally about foreign policy dealings with Russia. We now know that in this new hysteria of the 21st Century Russian scare that qualities such as reason and rationality are proof of one’s willingness to act as a puppet of Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP TOWER MEETING (JUNE 9, 2016)

This is the clearest example of a plant designed to entrap the Trump team. Mueller, once again, presents a very disingenuous account:

“On June 9, 2016, senior representatives of the Trump Campaign met in Trump Tower with a Russian attorney expecting to receive derogatory information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The meeting was proposed to Donald Trump Jr. in an email from Robert Goldstone, at the request of his then-client Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian real-estate developer Aras Agalarov. Goldstone relayed to Trump Jr. that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump Campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. immediately responded that “if it’s what you say I love it,” and arranged the meeting through a series of emails and telephone calls.” …

The Russian attorney who spoke at the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had previously worked for the Russian government and maintained a relationship with that government throughout this period oftime. She claimed that funds derived from illegal activities in Russia were provided to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Trump Jr. requested evidence to support those claims, but Veselnitskaya did not provide such information.”

Ignore for a moment that no information on Hillary was passed or provided (and doing such a thing is not illegal). The real problem is with what Mueller does not say and did not investigate. Mueller conveniently declines to mention the fact that Veselnitskaya was working closely with the firm Hillary Clinton hired to produce the Steele Dossier. NBC News reported on Veselnitskaya:

“The information that a Russian lawyer brought with her when she met Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 stemmed from research conducted by Fusion GPS, the same firm that compiled the infamous Trump dossier, according to the lawyer and a source familiar with the matter.

In an interview with NBC News, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya says she first received the supposedly incriminating information she brought to Trump Tower — describing alleged tax evasion and donations to Democrats — from Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS owner, who had been hired to conduct research in a New York federal court case.”

Even a mediocre investigator would recognize the problem of the relationship between the lawyer claiming to have dirty, damning info on Hillary with the firm Hillary hired to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. This was another botched set up and the Trump folks did not take the bait.

EVENTS AT THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

This portion of the Mueller report is a complete farce. Foreign ambassdors, including the Russian (and the Chinese) attend Republican and Democrat Conventions. Presidential candidates and their advisors speak to those ambassadors. So, where is the beef? Answer. There isn’t any. That this “event” was considered something worthy of a counter intelligence investigation is just one more piece of evidence that law enforcement and intelligence were weaponized against the Trump campaign. 

POST-CONVENTION CONTACTS WITH RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR KISLYAK

Ditto. As noted in the previous paragraph, trying to criminalize normal diplomatic contacts, especially with a country where we share important, vital national security interests, is but further evidence of the crazy anti-Russian hysteria that has infected the anti-Trumpers. Pathetic.

MANAFORT

If Paul Manafort had rebuffed Trump’s offer to run his campaign, he would be walking free today and still buying expensive suits and evading taxes along with his Clinton buddy, Greg Craig. Instead, he became another target for DOJ, the intel community and the DNC, which were desperate to portray Trump as a tool of the Kremlin. Thanks to John Solomon of The Hill, we now know the impetus to target Manafort came from the DNC:

The boomerang from the Democratic Party’s failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia’s 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow’s pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton.

In its most detailed account yet, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country’s president to help.

In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly’s office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort’s dealings inside the country, in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress.

Manafort was not colluding, but the Clinton campaign and the Obama Administration most certainly were.

Take these eight events as a whole a very clear picture emerges—U.S. and foreign intelligence (especially the UK) and U.S. law enforcement collaborated in a broad effort to bait the Trump team with ostensible Russian entreaties in order to paint Trump as a tool of the Kremlin. That effort is now being exposed and those culpable will hopefully face justice. This should sicken and alarm every American regardless of political party. Will justice be served?

Larry C. Johnson is a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism official at the State Department. This article first appeared on Sic Semper Tyrannis




Top Ten Questions About the Mueller Report

Daniel Lazare examines some of the missing pieces in the special counsel’s 448-page tome on Russian interference.

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

In January 2017, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a report about Russian interference co-signed by three other agencies — the National Security Agency, the FBI, and the CIA — that was so evidence-free that even The New York Times said it was “unlikely to change the minds of skeptics who … remember the intelligence agencies’ faulty assessments on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.”

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016,” the report stated.  “We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump. …  We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release U.S. victim data….”

That was it.  No back-up, no substantiation, no analysis other than to point out that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hillary Clinton were on bad terms and that Russia hoped for better from Trump. Moreover, the report included a bizarre seven-page attack on RT, the Moscow-backed news outlet formerly known as Russia Today, for “highlight[ing] criticism of alleged U.S. shortcomings” by asserting, among other things, “that the U.S. two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’”  If Clapper & Co. couldn’t tell the difference between a news agency from a hostile intelligence service — or between legitimate criticism and a foreign attack — then what good was their judgment regarding other Russian government activities?

But with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s 448-page tome on Russian interference, surely we’ve turned a corner, right?

Wrong.  Mueller’s door-stopper of a report may be chockfull of facts, but it’s also filled with the non sequiturs, loose threads and self-serving arguments that we’ve come to expect from official Washington.  It’s good on collusion, pointing out that reports of a Trump-Russia conspiracy remain unsubstantiated despite desperate Democratic efforts to spin it otherwise. 

But it’s lousy on interference, regurgitating the standard intelligence-community line that Russia “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” Simultaneously, it is remarkably incurious about how the scandal began, who propelled it along, and how it all snowballed into a mega-Watergate.

With that in mind, here are 10 questions that the report should answer but doesn’t.

No. 1: Was it Bernie in a Speedo?

In its discussion of the Internet Research Agency, the alleged St. Petersburg troll farm that supposedly used social media to interfere in the 2016 election, the report quotes congressional testimony by Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch stating that the company had linked the Internet Research Agency to 470 phony accounts that “collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017” that may have “reached as many as 126 million persons.”

This sounds alarming.  But that’s not all Stretch said.  He also testified that American Facebook users received a total of 33 trillion posts over the same period, a figure more than 400 million times greater.  With a typical user receiving roughly 220 posts per day, he estimated that 29 million people may have come across one IRA item over more than two years and that each recipient may have then passed along to three or four others – hence the figure of 126 million.  (See Gareth Porter, 33 Trillion More Reasons Why The New York Times Gets It Wrong on Russia-gate,” Nov. 2, 2018.)

Please Make a Donation to Our
Spring Fundraising Drive Today!

What might that item have been?  Could it have been a cartoon of a muscle-bound Bernie Sanders in a Speedo?  A picture of Jesus arm-wrestling with a pro-Hillary Satan?  Why doesn’t the report mention the strange and inept material the Internet Research Agency put out or the less sensational figures issued by Facebook?  Is it because Mueller wants to perpetuate the myth of massive Russian interference – the kind of interference, by the way, in which the U.S. engages with other countries around the clock?

No. 2: Partial Accounting?

The report says that 3,814 Twitter accounts controlled by the Internet Research Agency may also have reached 1.4 million users.  This also sounds scary.  But what the report doesn’t say is that while the Internet Research Agency allegedly posted 176,000 tweets during the 10-week presidential campaign, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the one billion election-related messages that Americans tweeted overall. Why not cite that number too?

No. 3: Just Another Clickbait Operation? 

The report notes that only 8.4 percent of IRA tweets were election-related.  If so, what does Mueller think the other 91.6 percent were about?  Could it be that IRA was not an intelligence agency after all, but, as it’s been argued, a clickbait operation aimed at drumming up business?

No. 4: Under-Cover Hoopla?

The report discusses Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Internet Research Agency, saying that “IRA employees, claiming to be U.S. social activists and administrators of Facebook groups, recruited U.S. persons to hold signs (including one in front of the white House) that read ‘Happy 55thBirthday Dear Boss,’ as an homage to Prigozhin (whose 55thbirthday was on June 1, 2016).”  What kind of intelligence operation calls attention to itself in such a flamboyant manner?  Is this yet more evidence that the Internet Research Agency was something entirely different?

No. 5: Investigation by News Clip?

Although last summer’s indictment of the Internet Research Agency was silent on the question of Russian involvement in Prigozhin’s alleged activities, the Mueller report argues that his Kremlin links are strong after all.  The evidence: a New York Times article, “Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian Oligarch Indicted by US., Is Known as ‘Putin’s Cook.’”  After nearly two years, is this all that 19 attorneys and 40 FBI agents working for Mueller could come up with – a newspaper clip?

No. 6: Another Source on GRU Hack?

“By no later than April 12, 2016,” the report continues, “the GRU gained access to the DCCC [i.e. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] computer network using the credential stolen from a DCCC employee who had been successfully spearphished the day before.”  How does team Mueller know what the GRU was up to when the Democratic National Committee refused to grant the FBI access to its computers? Does he have another source he’s not telling us about?

No. 7: More on Mifsud? 

The report’s discussion of Maltese academic Joseph Mifsud is strikingly incomplete.  After all, it was Mifsud who got Russia-gate rolling by telling President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, over breakfast at a London hotel that Russia had “dirt” on Hilary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” It was this tip, which Papadopoulos relayed to top Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, that prompted the formal FBI investigation known as “Crossfire Hurricane” when word reached Washington.

This makes Mifsud an important guy.  Yet the report says little about him other than he “maintained various Russian contacts while living in London” and that one such contact was a former employee of the Internet Research Agency.  Yet abundant evidence suggests that Mifsud in fact enjoyed extensive ties to Western intelligence. 

Stephan Roh, a Swiss-German lawyer who hired him as a consultant, writes in a self-published book that Mifsud has “only one master: the Western Political, Diplomatic, and Intelligence World, his only home, of which he is still deeply dependent.”  Photographs have surfaced of Mifsud with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and with Claire Smith, a top British intelligence official with whom he taught a course for Italian military and law-enforcement personnel at a private institute in Rome that Roh partly owns.

British and Russian intelligence agents normally do not team up in such a manner.  So why doesn’t Mueller mention such links?  The report also notes that Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to an attractive young woman named Olga Polonskaya, whom he falsely billed as Putin’s niece and who offered to help set up a meeting between Trump and the Russian president. 

But why would Mifsud go to such lengths?  Isn’t Mueller curious as to whether he was trying to lead Papadopoulos into a trap? Or is this another avenue he doesn’t want to go down in order to maintain a narrative about evil Russians targeting a hapless west?

The report doesn’t mention Downer by name and also doesn’t mention Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent whose 35-page “golden showers” dossier on Trump’s alleged Russia links created a media frenzy. It also doesn’t mention that The Washington Post reported that the “golden showers” section was written by a Clinton operative.  Since Steele is as crucial to the story as Mifsud or Downer, shouldn’t we know more about him as well – who recruited him, who provided him advice along the way, who fed him information?

No. 8: Something Missing on Millian? 

On the other hand, the report devotes two pages to Sergei Millian, the Belarus-American who may also have tried to lure Papadopoulos into a trap by offering to “share with you a disruptive technology that might be instrumental in your political work for the campaign.” But it fails to mention that Millian was simultaneously a source for the Steele Dossier. A connection like this fairly cries out for an investigation.  Yet Mueller is apparently uninterested – why?

No. 9: Failure to Inform on Sater? 

Mueller likewise neglects to mention that Felix Sater, the Russian-American mobster pushing Trump Tower Moscow, was an FBI informant and that Henry Oknyansky, a Russian expatriate who tried to interest the Trump campaign in still more dirt on Clinton, was as well.  Why the reticence?

No. 10: Eavesdropping on Next Administration? 

After President Barack Obama slapped sanctions on Russia for alleged election interference in December 2016, the report says: “Members of the intelligence community were surprised by Russia’s decision not to retaliate.  When analyzing Russia’s response, they became aware of [future National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn’s discussions of sanctions with [Russian ambassador Sergey] Kislyak.”

How did intelligence agents become aware of such discussions?  Were they listening in?  Is Mueller at all concerned that intelligence agencies were apparently eavesdropping on an incoming presidential administration?

One could go on – about the report’s dubious attempts to paint WikiLeaks as an arm of the GRU (see my story, The ‘Guccifer 2.0’ Gaps in Mueller’s Full Report,” April 18, 2019), about the thin evidence the report marshals in its effort to brand Paul Manafort’s associate Konstantin Kilimnik a Russia spy (volume one, p. 133), about the FBI’s attempt to use the defunct Logan Act — a two-century old law banning private diplomacy that has been dormant since 1852 — to launch an investigation into Flynn (volume two, p. 37), and so on.

But the point should be clear.  The Mueller report is an exercise in disinformation.  It generates more questions than answers about what may well have been an effort to sabotage U.S.-Russian relations and cripple the White House.

“I can’t do anything with Russia,” Trump complained after two months in office. “There’s things I’d like to do with Russia, with trade, with ISIS, they’re all over me with this.”   Did it occur to Mueller that this is just the sort of policy paralysis that a phony Russia-gate scandal was designed to achieve?

Daniel Lazare is the author of “The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy” (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.  He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nationto Le Monde Diplomatiqueand blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.

Please Make a Donation to Our
Spring Fundraising Drive Today!




Consortium News’ Record on Russiagate—How CN Covered the ‘Scandal’: No. 7: ‘Russiagate Is No Watergate or Iran-Contra’

Many comparisons have been made between Russiagate and the earlier scandals of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but the similarities are at best superficial, explained Robert Parry on June 28, 2017.

On CNN last week Carl Bernstein astonishingly said that the Mueller report uncovered a scandal bigger than Watergate. No one died in either Watergate or Russiagate. But they did in Iran-Contra, when the Reagan White House skirted Congress’ decision to cut off funding for the Contras, which led to many more deaths in Nicaragua. It was a scandal uncovered by CN’s founder Bob Parry for the Associated Press. Parry, who was ahead of the pack in debunking Russiagate, filed this report for CN on June 28, 2017.

Russiagate Is No Watergate or Iran-Contra

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News

Russia-gate, the sprawling investigation into whether Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election, is often compared to the two big political scandals of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Watergate and Iran-Contra. Sometimes you even hear that Russia-gate is “bigger than Watergate.”

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about those two Twentieth Century scandals is how little Official Washington really understands them – and how these earlier scandals significantly contrast, rather than compare, with what is unfolding now.

Although the historical record is still incomplete on Watergate and Iran-Contra, the available evidence indicates that both scandals originated in schemes by Republicans to draw foreign leaders into plots to undermine sitting Democratic presidents and thus pave the way for the elections of Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

As for Russia-gate, even if you accept that the Russian government hacked into Democratic emails and publicized them via WikiLeaks, there is still no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Kremlin to do so. By contrast, in the origins of Watergate and Iran-Contra, it appears the Nixon and Reagan campaigns, respectively, were the instigators of schemes to enlist foreign governments in blocking a Vietnam peace deal in 1968 and negotiations to free 52 American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Though Watergate is associated directly with the 1972 campaign – when Nixon’s team of burglars was caught inside the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate building – Nixon’s formation of that team, known as the Plumbers, was driven by his fear that he could be exposed for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 in order to secure the White House that year.

After Nixon’s narrow victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed Nixon that Johnson had a secret file, complete with wiretapped phone calls, detailing the Nixon campaign’s backchannel messages to South Vietnamese officials convincing them to boycott Johnson’s Paris peace talks. Later, Nixon learned that this incriminating file had disappeared from the White House.

So, in 1971, after the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, which recounted the lies that had been used to justify the Vietnam War through 1967, Nixon fretted that the missing file about his peace-talk gambit in 1968 might surface, too, and would destroy him politically. Thus, he organized the Plumbers to find the file, even contemplating fire-bombing the Brookings Institution to enable a search of its safe where some aides thought the missing file might be found.

In other words, Watergate wasn’t simply a break-in at the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, in pursuit of useful political intelligence and Nixon’s ensuing cover-up; the scandal had its origins in a far worse scandal, the derailing of peace talks that could have ended the Vietnam War years earlier and saved the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and possibly more than 1 million Vietnamese.

Iran-Contra Parallels

Similarly, the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986 with revelations that President Reagan had authorized secret arms sales to Iran with some of the profits going to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, but the evidence now indicates that the connections between Reagan’s team and Iran’s revolutionary regime traced back to 1980 when emissaries from Reagan’s campaign worked to stymie President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

According to multiple witnesses, including former Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Nicholas Veliotes, the pre-election contacts led to the opening of a weapons pipeline to Iran (via Israel), after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, which was the precise moment when Iran finally released the American hostages after 444 days.

Some key players in the 1980 Reagan-Iran contacts reappeared four years later at the start of direct (again secret) U.S. arms shipments to Iran in 1985, which also involved Israeli middlemen. These key players included Iranian CIA operative Cyrus Hashemi, former CIA clandestine services chief Theodore Shackley, Reagan’s campaign chief and then-CIA Director William Casey, and former CIA Director and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

In other words, the Iran-Contra weapons shipments of 1985-86 appear to have been an outgrowth of the earlier shipments dating back to 1980 and continuing under Israeli auspices until the supply line was taken over more directly by the Reagan administration in 1985-86.

 Honor the Legacy of Bob Parry with a
Donation
to Our Spring Fund Drive.

Thus, both the Watergate scandal in 1972 and the Iran-Contra Affair in 1986 could be viewed as “sequels” to the earlier machinations driven by Republican hunger to seize the enormous powers of the U.S. presidency. However, for decades, Official Washington has been hostile to these underlying explanations of how Watergate and Iran-Contra began.

For instance, The New York Times, the so-called “newspaper of record,” treated the accumulation of evidence regarding Nixon’s 1968 peace-talk gambit as nothing more than a “rumor” until earlier this year when a scholar, John A. Farrell, uncovered cryptic notes taken by Nixon’s aide H.R. Haldeman, which added another piece to the mosaic and left the Times little choice but to pronounce the historical reality finally real.

Grasping the Watergate Narrative

Still, the Times and other major news outlets have failed to factor this belated admission into the larger Watergate narrative. If you understand that Nixon did sabotage President Johnson’s Vietnam War peace talks and that Nixon was aware that Johnson’s file on what LBJ called Nixon’s “treason” had disappeared from the White House, the early “Watergate tapes” from 1971 suddenly make sense.

Nixon ordered White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to locate the missing file but their search came up empty. Yet, some Nixon aides thought the file might be hidden at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington. So, in his desperate pursuit of the file, Nixon called for a break-in at Brookings, possibly even fire-bombing the building as a cover for his team of burglars to slip in amid the confusion and rifle the safe.

The old explanation that Nixon simply wanted to find some file related to Johnson’s 1968 pre-election Vietnam bombing halt never made sense given the extreme steps that Nixon was prepared to take.

The relevant portions of Nixon’s White House tapes include an entry on June 17, 1971, coincidentally one year to the day before the Watergate burglars were caught. Nixon summoned Haldeman and Kissinger to the Oval Office and pleaded with them again to locate the file.

“Do we have it?” Nixon asked Haldeman. “I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.”

Haldeman: “We can’t find it.”

Kissinger: “We have nothing here, Mr. President.”

Nixon: “Well, damn-it, I asked for that because I need it.”

Kissinger: “But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.”

Haldeman: “We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.”

Nixon: “Where?”

Haldeman: “[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God that there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings.”

Nixon: “Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.”

Kissinger: “Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.”

Nixon: “I want it implemented. Goddamn-it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

Haldeman: “They may very well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to “

Kissinger: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.”

Haldeman: “My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.”

But Johnson did know that the file was no longer at the White House because he had ordered his national security adviser, Walt Rostow, to remove it in the final days of Johnson’s presidency.

Forming the Burglars

On June 30, 1971, Nixon again berated Haldeman about the need to break into Brookings and “take it [the file] out.” Nixon suggested using former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to conduct the Brookings break-in.

“You talk to Hunt,” Nixon told Haldeman. “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in. Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.”

Haldeman: “Make an inspection of the safe.”

Nixon: “That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, clean it up.”

For reasons that remain unclear, it appears that the Brookings break-in never took place (nor did the fire-bombing), but Nixon’s desperation to locate Johnson’s peace-talk file was an important link in the chain of events that led to the creation of Nixon’s burglary unit under Hunt’s supervision. Hunt later oversaw the two Watergate break-ins in May and June of 1972.

While it’s possible that Nixon was still searching for the file about his Vietnam-peace sabotage when the ill-fated Watergate break-ins occurred a year later, it’s generally believed that the burglary was more broadly focused, seeking any information that might have an impact on Nixon’s re-election, either defensively or offensively.

However, if you think back on 1971 when the Vietnam War was tearing the country apart and massive antiwar demonstrations were descending on Washington, Nixon’s desperation to locate the missing file suddenly doesn’t seem quite so crazy. There would have been hell to pay if the public learned that Nixon had kept the war going to gain a political advantage in 1968.

Through 1972 – and the early days of the Watergate scandal – former President Johnson had stayed silent about Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris peace talks. But the ex-President became livid when – after Nixon’s reelection in 1972 – Nixon’s men sought to pressure Johnson into helping them shut down the Watergate investigation, in part, by noting that Johnson, too, had deployed wiretaps against Nixon’s 1968 campaign to obtain evidence about the peace-talk sabotage.

While it’s not clear whether Johnson would have finally spoken out, that threat to Nixon ended two days after Nixon’s second inaugural when on Jan. 22, 1973, Johnson died of a heart attack. However, unbeknownst to Nixon, Johnson had left the missing file, called “The X-Envelope,” in the care of Rostow, who – after Johnson’s death – gave the file to the LBJ presidential library in Austin, Texas, with instructions that it be kept under wraps for at least 50 years. (Rostow’s instructions were overturned in the 1990s, and I found the now largely declassified file at the library in 2012.)

So, with the “The X-Envelope” squirreled away for more than two decades at the LBJ library and with the big newspapers treating the early sketchy reports of Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage as only “rumors,” Watergate remained a scandal limited to the 1972 campaign.

Still, Nixon’s cover-up of his campaign’s role in the Watergate break-in produced enough clear-cut evidence of obstruction of justice and other offenses that Nixon was forced to resign on Aug. 9, 1974.

A Failed Investigation

The 1979-81 hostage confrontation with Iran was not nearly as devastating a crisis as the Vietnam War but America’s humiliation during the 444-day-long ordeal became a focus of the 1980 election, too, with the first anniversary of Iran’s seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran coincidentally falling on Election Day 1980.

President Carter’s failure to gain freedom for the 52 embassy personnel turned what had been a close race into a landslide for Ronald Reagan, with Republicans also gaining control of the U.S. Senate and ousting some of the most influential Democratic senators.

In 1984, Reagan won reelection in another landslide, but two years later ran afoul of the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s secret arms sales to Iran and diversion of profits to the Contras “broke” in November 1986 but focused only on Reagan’s 1985-1986 arms sales and the diversion. Still, the scandal’s crimes included violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the so-called Boland Act’s prohibitions on arming the Contras as well as perjury and obstruction of justice. So there was the prospect of Reagan’s impeachment.

But – from the start of Iran-Contra – there was a strong pushback from Republicans who didn’t want to see another GOP president driven from office. There was also resistance to the scandal from many mainstream media executives who personally liked Reagan and feared a public backlash if the press played an aggressive role similar to Watergate.

And, moderate Democrats, such as Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana who co-chaired the congressional investigation, sought to tamp down the Iran-Contra fires and set up firebreaks to prevent the investigation from spreading to related crimes such as the Reagan administration’s protection of Contra cocaine traffickers.

“Ask about the cocaine,” pleaded one protester who was dragged from the Iran-Contra hearing room, as the congressional investigators averted their eyes from such unseemly matters, focusing instead on stilted lectures about the Congress’s constitutional prerogatives.

It was not until 1990-91 that it became clear that secret U.S.-approved arms shipments to Iran did not start in 1985 as the Iran-Contra narrative claimed but traced back to 1981 with Reagan’s approval of arms sales to Iran through Israel.

Reagan’s politically risky move of secretly arming Iran immediately after his inauguration and the hostage release was nearly exposed when one of the Israeli flights strayed into Soviet airspace on July 18, 1981, and crashed or was shot down.

In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election. “It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

 Honor the Legacy of Bob Parry with a
Donation
to Our Spring Fund Drive.

However, in 1981, Veliotes said, the State Department issued misleading press guidance to cover the administration’s tracks and the Washington media failed to follow up. Thus, the U.S.-Israeli arms pipeline to Iran stayed secret from the American people until November 1986 when — despite Reagan’s long-running insistence that he would never trade arms with a terrorist state like Iran — the operation was exposed.

When I re-interviewed Veliotes in 2012, he said he couldn’t recall who the “people on high” were who had described the informal clearance of the Israeli shipments of U.S.-manufactured weapons, but he indicated that “the new players” were the young neoconservatives who were working on the Reagan campaign, many of whom later joined the administration as senior political appointees.

Documents that I discovered at the Reagan presidential library revealed that Reagan’s neocons at the State Department, particularly Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, initiated a policy review in 1981 to allow Israel to undertake secret military shipments to Iran.

McFarlane and Wolfowitz also maneuvered to put McFarlane in charge of U.S. relations toward Iran and to establish a clandestine U.S. back-channel to the Israeli government outside the knowledge of even senior U.S. government officials.

Another Failed Investigation

In 1991, faced with the accumulating evidence of a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, Congress grudgingly agreed to take a look at these so-called “October Surprise” allegations. But Republicans, then led by President George H.W. Bush and his White House team, mounted an aggressive cover-up to “spike” the story.

And, with the congressional inquiry largely in the hands again of Rep. Hamilton, the Democrats timidly folded their tent despite a growing body of evidence that the Reagan team was indeed guilty.

Much of that evidence flowed into the House Task Force in December 1992 when President George H.W. Bush had already been defeated for reelection and the Democrats were looking forward to their renewed control of Washington. So, instead of giving a careful review to the new evidence, the House Task Force ignored, disparaged or buried it.

The late-arriving material included sworn testimony on Dec. 18, 1992, from David Andelman, the biographer of French intelligence chief Alexandre deMarenches, describing how deMarenches had confided that he had helped arrange the Republican-Iranian contacts. Andelman, an ex-New York Times and CBS News correspondent, said that while he was working on deMarenches’s autobiography, the arch-conservative spymaster admitted arranging meetings between Republicans and Iranians about the hostage issue in the summer and fall of 1980, with one meeting held in Paris in October.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meetings be kept out of his memoirs because the story could otherwise damage the reputations of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. Andelman’s testimony corroborated longstanding claims from a variety of international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush. But the Task Force report brushed this testimony aside, paradoxically terming it “credible” but then claiming it was “insufficiently probative.”

The Task Force’s report argued that Andelman could not “rule out the possibility that deMarenches had told him he was aware of and involved in the Casey meetings because he, deMarenches, could not risk telling his biographer he had no knowledge of these allegations.”

In the last weeks of the investigation, the House investigators also received a letter from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his son Ahmad over their secret dealings with the Reagan campaign. But the House investigators dismissed Bani-Sadr’s first-hand account as hearsay and thus also lacking “probative value.”

I later unearthed some of the evidence in unpublished Task Force files. However, in the meantime, Official Washington had dismissed the “October Surprise” and other Iran-Contra-connected scandals, like Contra drug trafficking, as conspiracy theories.

The Russian Report

Ironically, another piece of late-arriving evidence was a January 1993 report from a national security committee of the Russian parliament about the Kremlin’s intelligence data confirming that key Republicans, including George H.W. Bush and William Casey, had met with Iranian officials in Europe regarding the hostages during the 1980 campaign.

Hamilton had requested the Russian assistance before the U.S. election in 1992, but the report was not sent until there were only two weeks left in George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

Lawrence Barcella, who served as the Task Force chief counsel, later told me that so much incriminating evidence arrived late that he asked Hamilton to extend the inquiry for three months but that Hamilton said no (although Hamilton told me that he had no recollection of denying Barcella’s request).

The other fatal flaw of the House investigation was that it left much of the actual investigating up to President George H.W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office and the State Department, although Bush was one of the chief suspects and, in 1991-92, was running for re-election, a campaign that would have been derailed if the 1980 October Surprise allegations were confirmed.

The naivete of this decision was underscored years later when I located a memo at Bush’s presidential library stating that the State Department had informed the White House counsel’s office that Casey had traveled to Madrid in 1980, corroborating a key October Surprise allegation.

The confirmation of Casey’s trip was passed along by State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson to Associate White House Counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. in early November 1991, just as the October Surprise inquiry was taking shape, according to Beach’s “memorandum for record” dated Nov. 4, 1991.

Williamson said that among the State Department “material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown,” Beach noted.

Two days later, on Nov. 6, 1991, Beach’s boss, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, arranged an inter-agency strategy session and explained the need to contain the congressional investigation into the October Surprise case. The explicit goal was to ensure the scandal would not hurt President Bush’s reelection hopes in 1992.

In 2013, when I interviewed Hamilton about the Beach memo, he lamented that the Madrid information had not been shared with his investigation, saying “you have to rely on people” in authority to comply with information requests.

“We found no evidence to confirm Casey’s trip to Madrid,” Hamilton told me. “We couldn’t show that. The [George H.W. Bush] White House did not notify us that he did make the trip. Should they have passed that on to us? They should have because they knew we were interested in that.”

Asked if knowledge that Casey had traveled to Madrid might have changed the Task Force’s dismissive October Surprise conclusion, Hamilton said yes, because the question of the Madrid trip was key to the task force’s investigation.

Not Moving the Needle

However, the Madrid trip revelation and other post-investigation disclosures failed to move the needle on Official Washington’s disdain for the October Surprise story.

The later disclosures included a 1993 interview in Tel Aviv in which former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he had read the 1991 book, October Surprise, by Carter’s former National Security Council aide Gary Sick, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

And, there were other corroborating statements as well. In 1996, for instance, while former President Carter was meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat in Gaza City, Arafat tried to confess his role in the Republican maneuvering to block Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations.

“There is something I want to tell you,” Arafat said, addressing Carter in the presence of historian Douglas Brinkley. “You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal [for the PLO] if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the [U.S. presidential] election,” Arafat said, according to Brinkley’s article in the fall 1996 issue of Diplomatic Quarterly.

In 2013, after the movie “Argo” appeared regarding an early facet of the Iran-hostage crisis, former Iranian President Bani-Sadr elaborated on his account of Republican overtures to Iran in 1980 and how that secret initiative prevented release of the hostages.

In a Christian Science Monitor commentary, Bani-Sadr wrote, “Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation which prevented the attempts by myself and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 U.S. presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”

Then, Bani-Sadr added a new detail, that “two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, … and the Reagan administration.” [For more details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Trick or Treason and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Compare and Contrast

So how do Watergate and Iran-Contra compare and contrast with Russia-gate? One key difference is that in Watergate in 1972-73 and Iran-Contra in 1985-86, you had clear-cut crimes (even if you don’t want to believe the two “prequels” from 1968 and 1980, respectively).

In Watergate, five burglars were caught inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, as they sought to plant more bugs on Democratic phones. (An earlier break-in in May had installed two bugs, but one didn’t work.) Nixon then proceeded to mount a cover-up of his 1972 campaign’s role in funding the break-in and other abuses of power.

In Iran-Contra, Reagan secretly authorized weapons sales to Iran, which was then designated a terrorist state, without informing Congress, a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. He also kept Congress in the dark about his belated signing of a related intelligence “finding.” And the creation of slush funds to finance the Nicaraguan Contras represented an evasion of the U.S. Constitution.

There was also the attendant Iran-Contra cover-up mounted both by the Reagan White House and later the George H.W. Bush White House, which culminated in Bush’s Christmas Eve 1992 pardons of six Iran-Contra defendants as special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was zeroing in on possible indictment of Bush for withholding evidence.

By contrast, Russia-gate has been a “scandal” in search of a specific crime. President Barack Obama’s intelligence chieftains have alleged – without presenting any clear evidence – that the Russian government hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and released those emails via WikiLeaks and other Internet sites. (The Russians and WikiLeaks have both denied the accusations.)

The DNC emails revealed that senior Democrats did not maintain their required independence regarding the primaries by seeking to hurt Sen. Bernie Sanders and help Clinton. The Podesta emails pulled back the curtain on Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks and on pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

Hacking into personal computers is a crime, but the U.S. government has yet to bring any formal charges against specific individuals supposedly responsible for the hacking of the Democratic emails. There also has been no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians in the hacking.

Lacking any precise evidence of this cyber-crime or of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, Obama’s Justice Department holdovers and now special prosecutor Robert Mueller have sought to build “process crimes,” around false statements to investigators and possible obstruction of justice.

Railroading Flynn

In the case of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, acting Attorney General Sally Yates used the archaic Logan Act of 1799 to create a predicate for the FBI to interrogate Flynn about a Dec. 29, 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, i.e., after Trump’s election but before the Inauguration.

The Logan Act, which has never resulted in a prosecution in 218 years, was enacted during the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts to bar private citizens from negotiating on their own with foreign governments. It was never intended to apply to a national security adviser of an elected President, albeit before he was sworn in.

But it became the predicate for the FBI interrogation — and the FBI agents were armed with a transcript of the intercepted Kislyak-Flynn phone call so they could catch Flynn on any gaps in his recollection, which might have been made even hazier because he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when Kislyak called.

Yates also concocted a bizarre argument that the discrepancies between Flynn’s account of the call and the transcript left him open to Russian blackmail although how that would work – since the Russians surely assumed that Kislyak’s calls would be monitored by U.S. intelligence and thus offered them no leverage with Flynn – was never explained.

Still, Flynn’s failure to recount the phone call precisely and the controversy stirred up around it became the basis for an obstruction of justice investigation of Flynn and led to President Trump’s firing Flynn on Feb. 13.

Trump may have thought that tossing Flynn overboard to the circling sharks would calm down the sharks but the blood in the water only excited them more. According to then-FBI Director James Comey, Trump talked to him one-on-one the next day, Feb. 14, and said, “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump’s “hope” and the fact that he later fired Comey have reportedly led special prosecutor Mueller to look at a possible obstruction of justice case against Trump. In other words, Trump could be accused of obstructing what appears to have been a trumped-up case against Flynn.

Of course, there remains the possibility that evidence might surface of Trump or his campaign colluding with the Russians, but such evidence has so far not been presented. Or Mueller’s investigation might turn over some rock and reveal some unrelated crime, possibly financial wrongdoing by Trump or an associate.

(Something similar happened in the Republican investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, a largely fruitless inquiry except that it revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent and received official emails over a private server, which Comey decried during last year’s campaign as “extremely careless” but not criminal.)

Curb the Enthusiasm

Another contrast between the earlier scandals (Watergate and Iran-Contra) and Russia-gate is the degree of enthusiasm and excitement that the U.S. mainstream media and congressional Democrats have shown today as opposed to 1972 and 1986.

Though The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein aggressively pursued the Watergate scandal, there was much less interest elsewhere in major news outlets until Nixon’s criminality became obvious in 1973. Many national Democrats, including DNC Chairman Bob Strauss, were extremely hesitant to pursue the scandal if not outright against it.

Similarly, although Brian Barger and I at The Associated Press were pursuing aspects of Iran-Contra since early 1985, the big newspapers and networks consistently gave the Reagan administration the benefit of the doubt – at least before the scandal finally burst into view in fall 1986 (when a Contra-supply plane crashed inside Nicaragua and a Lebanese newspaper revealed U.S. arms shipments to Iran).

For several months, there was a flurry of attention to the complex Iran-Contra scandal, but the big media still ignored evidence of a White House cover-up and soon lost interest in the difficult work of unraveling the convoluted networks for arms smuggling, money laundering and cocaine trafficking.

Congressional Democrats also shied away from a constitutional confrontation with the popular Reagan and his well-connected Vice President George H.W. Bush.

After moving from AP to Newsweek in early 1987, I learned that the senior executives at Newsweek, then part of The Washington Post Company, didn’t want “another Watergate”; they felt another such scandal was not “good for the country” and wanted Iran-Contra to go away as soon as possible. I was even told not to read the congressional Iran-Contra report when it was published in October 1987 (although I ignored that order and kept trying to keep my own investigation going in defiance of the wishes of the Newsweek brass until those repeated clashes led to my departure in June 1990).

So, perhaps the biggest similarity between Russia-gate and Watergate is that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump were both highly unpopular with the Washington establishment and thus had few influential defenders, while an important contrast with Iran-Contra was that Reagan and Bush were very well liked, especially among news executives such as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who, by all accounts, did not care for the uncouth Nixon. Today, the senior executives of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major news outlets have made no secret of their disdain for the buffoonish Trump and their hostility toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In other words, what is driving Russia-gate – for both the mainstream news media and the Democrats – appears to be a political agenda, i.e., the desire to remove Trump from office while also ratcheting up a New Cold War with Russia, a priority for Washington’s neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks.

If this political drama were playing out in some other country, we would be talking about a “soft coup” in which the “oligarchy” or some other “deep state” force was using semi-constitutional means to engineer a disfavored leader’s removal.

Of course, since the ongoing campaign to remove Trump is happening in the United States, it must be presented as a principled pursuit of truth and a righteous application of the rule of law. But the comparisons to Watergate and Iran-Contra are a stretch.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry, the founder of Consortium News, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. 




Special Counsel Mueller: Disingenuous and Dishonest

Larry C. Johnson sees  real meat on the bone for Barr’s upcoming investigation of spying by law enforcement and intelligence on the Trump campaign. And Trump has tweeted about it.

 On Wednesday Donald Trump tweeted:

A spokesperson for the GCHQ, Britain’s electronic spying agency, reacted in a statement: “As we have previously stated, the allegations that GCHQ was asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then-president elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Johnson developed his theory on his blog, republished here. 

By Larry C Johnson
Sic Semper Tyrannis

While President Donald Trump is correct to celebrate the Mueller report’s conclusion that no one on Trump’s side of the ledger attempted to or succeeded in collaborating or colluding with the Russian government or Russian spies, there remains a dark cloud behind the silver lining. And I am not referring to the claims of alleged obstruction of justice.  

A careful reading of the report reveals that Mueller has issued findings that are both disingenuous and dishonest. The report is a failed hatchet job. Part of the failure can be attributed to the amount of material that Attorney General William Barr allowed to be released. It appears that Bill Barr’s light editing may have been intended to expose the bias and sloppiness of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team.

Let us start with the case of trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. If you were to believe that the Steele Dossier accurately reported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attitude towards Trump, then a Trump real estate deal in Moscow was a slam dunk. According to one of Christopher Steele’s breathless reports:

“The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. How ever, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.”

Then there is reality. The impetus, the encouragement for the Moscow project came from one man — Felix Sater. Here from page 69 of the Mueller Report:

In the late summer of 2015, the Trump Organization received a new inquiry about pursuing a Trump Tower project in Moscow. In approximately September 2015, Felix Sater . . . contacted Cohen on behalf of I.C. Expert Investment Company (I.C. Expert), a Russian real-estate development corporation controlled by Andrei Vladimirovich Rozov.J07 Sater had known Rozov since approximately 2007 and, in 2014, had served as an agent on behalf of Rozov during Rozov’s purchase of a building in New York City.30S Sater later contacted Rozov and proposed that I.C. Expert pursue a Trump Tower Moscow project in which I.C. Expert would license the name and brand from the Trump Organization but construct the building on its own. Sater worked on the deal with Rozov and another employee of I.C. Expert.

To reiterate — if the Steele Dossier were based on truthful intelligence then the Trump Organization only had to sit back, stretch out its hands and seize the moment. Instead, little Felix Sater keeps coming back to the well. In January 2016, according to the Mueller report: 

Sater then sent a draft invitation for Cohen to visit Moscow to discuss the Trump Moscow project, along with a note to “[t]ell me if the letter is good as amended by me or make whatever changes you want and send it back to me.”

After a further round of edits, on January 25, 2016, Sater sent Cohen an invitation- signed by Andrey Ryabinskiy of the company MHJ-to travel to”Moscow for a working visit” about the “prospects of development and the construction business in Russia,” “the various land plots available suited for construction of this enormous Tower,” and “the opportunity to co-ordinate a follow up visit to Moscow by Mr. Donald Trump.

This produced nothing. No deal, no trip. But Sater persisted, targeting Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer and an executive in the Trump Organization:

Beginning in late 2015, Sater repeatedly tried to arrange for Cohen and candidate Trump, as representatives of the Trump Organization, to travel to Russia to meet with Russian government officials and possible financing partners. . . .

Into the spring of 2016, Sater and Cohen continued to discuss a trip to Moscow in connection with the Trump Moscow project. On April 20, 2016, Sater wrote Cohen, ” [t)he People wanted to know when you are coming?

On May 4, 2016, Sater followed up:

“I had a chat with Moscow. ASSUMING the trip does happen the question is before or after the convention. I said I believe, but don’t know for sure, that’s it’s probably after the convention. Obviously the pre-meeting trip (you only) can happen anytime you want but he 2 big guys where [sic) the question. I said I would confirm and revert.”

On May 5, 2016, Sater wrote to Cohen:

“Peskov would like to invite you as his guest to the St. Petersburg Forum which is Russia’s Davos it’s June 16-19. He wants to meet there with you and possibly introduce you to either Putin or Medvedev, as they are not sure if 1 or both will be there. This is perfect. The entire business class of Russia will be there as well.”

On June 14, 2016, Cohen met Sater in the lobby of the Trump Tower in New York and informed him that he would not be traveling at that time.

Why was Felix Sater the one repeatedly identified pushing to arrange deals with the Russians and yet did not face any subsequent charges by the Mueller team? Sater had been working as part of the Trump team since 2003. Why is it that the proposed deals and travel to Moscow came predominantly from Felix Sater? As I noted in my previous piece — The FBI Tried and Failed to Entrap Trump — Sater was an active FBI undercover informant. He had been working with the FBI since 1998. When he agreed to start working as an undercover informant aka cooperator in December 1998 guess who signed off on the deal? Andrew Weissman, a member of Mueller’s special counsel team.You can see the deal here. It was signed Dec. 10, 1998.

An honest prosecutor would have and should have disclosed this fact. He, Sater, was the one encouraging the Trump team to cozy up to Russia. Mueller does not disclose one single instance of Trump or Cohen or any of the Trump kids calling Sater on the carpet and chewing his ass for not bringing them deals and not opening doors in Russia. Omitting this key fact goes beyond simple disingenuity. It is a conscious lie.

The circumstantial evidence indicates that Sater was doing this at the behest of FBI handlers. We do not yet know who they are.

But Sater’s behavior and status as an FBI Informant was not an isolated incident. We also have the case of Michael Caputo and Roger Stone being approached by a Russian gangster named Henry Greenberg. According to democratdossier.com:

Greenberg’s birth name is Gennady Vasilievich Vostretsov, the son of Yekatrina Vostretsova and Vasliy Vostretsov. He later adopted new names twice as a result of two different marriages and became Gennady V. Arzhanik and later Henry Oknyansky. Henry Greenberg is not a legal alias, but he uses it quite commonly in recent years.

But you would not know this from reading the Mueller report. Mr. Disingenuous strikes again:

In the spring of 2016, Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo learned through a Florida-based Russian business partner that another Florida-based Russian, Henry Oknyansky (who also went by the name Henry Greenberg), claimed to have information pertaining to Hillary Clinton . Caputo notified Roger Stone and brokered communication between Stone and Oknyansky.

Oknyansky and Stone set up a May 2016 in-person meeting.260 Oknyansky was accompanied to the meeting by Alexei Rasin, a Ukrainian associate involved in Florida real estate. At the meeting, Rasin offered to sell Stone derogatory information on Clinton that Rasin claimed to have obtained while working for Clinton. Rasin claimed to possess financial statements demonstrating Clinton’s involvement in money laundering with Rasin’s companies. According to Oknyansky, Stone asked if the amounts in question totaled millions of dollars but was told it was closer to hundreds of thousands. Stone refused the offer, stating that Trump would not pay for opposition research.

How does a guy like Vorkretsov/Greenberg, with an extensive criminal record and circumstantial ties to the Russian mob gain entrance into the United States? Very simple answer. He too was an FBI informant, according to the democrat dossier:

In an affidavit, Vostretsov explained to an immigration judge he worked for the FBI for 17 years throughout the world, including in the US, Iran and North Korea. He explained in the same paperwork the FBI granted him several temporary visas to visit the US in exchange for information about criminal activities.

Please take time to read the full dossier at democrat dossier.

This is more than an odd coincidence. This is a pattern. The FBI was targeting the Trump campaign and personnel in a deliberate effort to implicate them in wanting to work with Russians.

And there is more. George Papodopoulus, a member of the Trump campaign, was entrapped by individuals linked to British MI-6 and the CIA with offers to provide meetings with Russians and Putin. The Mueller account is a lie. Here is another section of it:

In late April 2016, Papadopoulos was told by London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, immediately after Mifsud ‘s return from a trip to Moscow, that the Russian government had obtained “dirt” on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, on May 6, 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.

Papadopoulos shared information about Russian “dirt ” with people outside of the Campaign, and the Office investigated whether he also provided it to a Campaign official. Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials with whom he interacted told the Office that they did · not recall that Papadopoulos passed them the information. Throughout the relevant period of time and for several months thereafter, Papadopoulos worked with Mifsud and two Russian nationals to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government. That meeting never came to pass.

Once again, the Mueller team treats the provocateur — i.e., Joseph Mifsud — as some simple guy with ties to Russia’s political elites. Another egregious lie. Mifsud was not working on behalf of Russia. He was deployed by MI-6. Disobedient Media has been on the forefront of exposing Mifsud’s ties to Western intelligence in general and the Brits in particular. Quoting now from Disobedient Media:  

Mifsud’s alleged links to Russian intelligence are summarily debunked by his close working relationship with Claire Smith, a major figure in the upper echelons of British intelligence. A number of Twitter users recently observed that Joseph Mifsud had been photographed standing next to Claire Smith of the U.K. Joint Intelligence Committee at Mifsud’s LINK campus in Rome. Newsman and Buzzed later reported that the professor’s name and biography had been removed from the campus website, writing that the mysterious removal took place after Mifsud had served the institution for “years.”

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange likewise noted the connection between Mifsud and Smith in a Twitter thread, additionally pointing out his connections with Saudi intelligence: “[Mifsud] and Claire Smith of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and eight-year member of the UK Security Vetting panel both trained Italian security services at the Link University in Rome and appear to both be present in this [photo].”

The photograph in question originated on Geodiplomatics.com, where it specified that Joseph Mifsud is indeed standing next to Claire Smith, who was attending a: “…Training program on International Security which was organised by Link Campus University and London Academy of Diplomacy.” The event is listed as taking place in October 2012. 

This is not a mere matter of Mueller and his team “failing” to disclose some important facts.  If they were operating honestly, they should have investigated Mifsud, Greenberg and Sater. But they did not. Two of the three alleged Russian stooges — Sater and Greenberg — have ties to the FBI. And Mifsud has been living and working in the belly of the intelligence community.

When you put these facts together it is clear that there is real meat on the bone for Barr’s upcoming investigation of the “spying” that was being done on the Trump campaign by law enforcement and intelligence. These facts must become a part of the public consciousness. The foreign country that worked feverishly to meddle in the 2016 presidential election and the subsequent rule of Donald Trump is the United Kingdom. Russia is the patsy.

Larry C. Johnson is a former CIA analyst and counterterrorism official at the State Department. This article first appeared on Sic Semper Tyrannis