The Pseudo Debate Over Jeffrey Epstein’s Suicide

Death, sex, power, intrigue, murder, suicide — these are the staples of the 19th century penny press, mass media and the CIA, writes Edward Curtin.

By Edward Curtin
edwardcurtin.com 

When phrases such as “the deep state” and “conspiracy theory” become staples of both the corporate mainstream media and the alternative press, we know the realities behind these phrases have outlasted their usefulness for the ruling elites who control the United States and for their critics, each of whom uses them refutably or corroboratively. These phrases are bandied about so often that they have become hackneyed and inane.

Everything is shallow now, in our faces, and by being in our faces the truth is taking place behind our backs. The obvious can’t be true since it’s so obvious, so let us search for other explanations, and when the searchers search, let us call them “conspiracy nuts.”  It is a mind game of extraordinary proportions, orchestrated by the perverted power elites who run the show and are abetted by their partners in the corporate mass media, even some in the alternative press who mean well but are confused, or are disinformation agents in the business of sowing confusion together with their mainstream Operation Mockingbird partners. 

It is a spectacle of open secrecy, in which the CIA, which created the “conspiracy theory” meme to ridicule critics of the Warren Commission’s absurd explanation of the Kennedy assassination, has effectively sucked everyone into a game of to and fro in which only they win.

“When I make a word do a lot of work like that,” said Humpty Dumpty, “I always pay it extra.”

Outside the Narrative Frame

Only by stepping outside this narrative frame with its vocabulary can we begin to grasp the truth here in our Wonderland of endless illusions.

Death, sex, power, intrigue, murder, suicide – these are the staples of the penny press of the 19thcentury, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, Hearst’s New York Journal, the tabloids, today’s mass media, and the CIA. People hunger for these stories, not for the real truth that impacts their lives, but for the titillation that gives a frisson to their humdrum lives. It is why post-modern detective stories are so popular, as if never solving the crime is the point.

To say “we will never know” is the mantra of a postmodern culture created to keep people running in circles. (Note the commentaries about the Jeffrey Epstein case.) Elusive and allusive indeterminacy characterizes everything in the culture of postmodernity. Robert Pfaller, a professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria, and a founding member of the Viennese psychoanalytic research group “stuzzicandenti,” put it clearly in a recent interview:

“The ruling ideology since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even earlier, is postmodernism. This is the ideological embellishment that the brutal neoliberal attack on Western societies’ welfare (that was launched in the late 1970s) required in order to attain a “human”, “liberal” and “progressive” face. This coalition between an economic policy that serves the interest of a tiny minority, and an ideology that appears to “include” everybody is what Nancy Fraser has aptly called “progressive neoliberalism”. It consists of neoliberalism, plus postmodernism as its ideological superstructure.”

The propagandists know this; they created it. They are psychologically astute, having hijacked many intelligent but soul-less people of the right and left to do their handiwork. 

Money Buys Souls

Money buys souls, and the number of those who have sold theirs is numerous, including those leftists who have been bought by the CIA, as Cord Meyer, the CIA official phrased it so sexually in the 1950s: we need to “court the compatible left.”  He knew that drawing leftists into the CIA’s orbit was the key to efficient propaganda. For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but taking the money of the super-rich, events like the JFK assassination are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did.

By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell’s crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.

The debate over whether Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide or not is a pseudo-debate meant to keep people spinning their wheels over nothing. It attracts attention and will do so for many days to come. There are even some usually astute people suggesting that he may not be dead but might have been secretly whisked off somewhere and replaced with a dead look-alike. Now who would profit from suggesting something as insane as this?  The speculation runs rampant and feeds the spectacle. Whether he was allowed to kill himself or was killed makes little difference.

Debates to Nowhere

It’s akin to asking who pulled the trigger that killed President John Kennedy.  That’s a debate that was intended to go nowhere, as it has, after it became apparent that Lee Harvey Oswald surely did not kill JFK.  Kennedy’s murder in broad daylight in public view is the paradigmatic event of modern times. It is obvious to anyone who gives minimal study to the issue that it was organized and carried out by elements within the national security state, notably the CIA. Their message was meant to be unequivocal and clear: We can kill him and we can kill you; we are in full control; beware. Then they went on to kill others, including RFK and MLK.  It takes little intelligence to see this obvious fact, unless you wish not to or are totally lost in the neighborhood of make-believe.

As it was with Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald, so it is with Epstein. There will be no trial.  Nothing is really hidden except the essential truth. Guess, debate, wonder, watch, read to your sad heart’s content.  You will have gotten nowhere unless you step outside the frame of the reigning narrative.

A corollary example of another recent national headline grabber, the Mueller investigation, is apropos here.  Douglas Valentine, expert on the CIA and author of “The CIA as Organized Crime,” said in a recent interview that in all the endless mass media discussions of the Mueller investigation, one obvious question was never asked: What is the CIA’s role in it all?  It was never asked because the job of the corporate mass media is to work for the CIA, not to expose it as a nest of organized criminals and murderers that it is.

What is important in the Epstein case is the deep back story, a tale that goes back decades and is explored by Whitney Webb in a series of fine articles for the Mint Press. Read her articles and you will see how Epstein is just the current manifestation of the sordid history of the American marriage between various factions of the American ruling elites, whose business is sexual exploitation as a fringe benefit of being willing members of the economic and military exploitation of the world. A marriage of spies, mafia, intelligence agencies, sexual perverts, foreign governments and American traitors who will stop at nothing to advance their interests.

Destroys the Fairy Tale of Democracy

It is a hard story to swallow because it destroys the fairy tale that has been constructed about American “democracy” and the decency of our leaders. Webb’s articles are not based on secret documents but on readily available information open to a diligent researcher. It’s known history that has been buried, as is most history in a country of amnesiacs and educational illiterates.  The average person doesn’t have Webb’s skill or time to pull it all together, but they can read her illuminating work. Often, however, it is the will to truth that is lacking.

While Webb places the Epstein matter in an historical context, she does not “solve” the case, since there is nothing to solve. It is another story from a long litany of sex/espionage stories openly available to anyone willing to look. They tell the same story.  Like many commentators, she draws many linkages to the Israeli Mossad’s long-standing connections to this criminal under and over world in the United States and throughout the world.  She writes:

“Ultimately, the picture painted by the evidence is not a direct tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group [a secretive group of Jewish billionaires, including Epstein’s patron Leslie Wexner], politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.”

If anything is obvious about the Epstein case, it is that he was part of a sexual blackmail operation tied to intelligence agencies.  Such blackmail has long been central to the methods of intelligence agencies worldwide and many arrows rightfully point to the Mossad.

However, while throughout Webb’s articles she draws linkages that lead to the Mossad, she only suggests CIA connections.  This is similar to but milder than a point made in an article written by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist, Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? Giraldi writes that the CIA “would have no particular motive to acquire an agent like Epstein.”  This makes no sense.  Of course, it would.  The CIA and the FBI have a long record of such activities, and to hold such a club over the heads of presidents, senators, et al to make sure they do their bidding is obviously a strong motivation.

Valentine’s point about not asking the question about the CIA’s involvement in the Mueller investigation pertains. Does Giraldi believe that the Mossad operates independently of the CIA? Or that they don’t work in tandem?  His statement is very strange.

The CIA is organized crime, and if Epstein is Mossad connected, he is CIA also, which is most likely.  Epstein could not have operated as he did for decades without being sustained and protected.  Now that he is dead there will be no trial, just as there will be no mainstream media or justice department revelations about the CIA or Mossad.  There will be a lot of gibberish about conspiracy theories and the open secret that is the spectacle of secrecy will roll on. There will, of course, be much sex talk and outrage. We will anxiously await the movie and the TV “exposés.” Most people will know, and pretend they don’t, that the country is ruled by gangsters who would pimp their mothers if it served their interests.

Those of us who oppose these criminals – and there are growing numbers all over the world – must avoid being sucked into the Establishment narratives and the counter-narratives they spawn or create. We must refuse to get involved in pseudo-debates that are meant to lead nowhere.  We must reject the language created to confuse. 

If revolutionary change is to come, we must learn to tell a new story in language so beautiful, illuminating, and heart-rending that no one will listen to the lying words of child molesters, mass murderers, and those who hate and persecute truth tellers. 

As John Berger said, “In storytelling everything depends on what follows what.  And the truest order is seldom obvious.”

Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, Ed Curtin is a former professor of sociology. His writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years.  He sees all his work as an effort to enhance human freedom.  

This article is from the author’s website edwardcurtin.com.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.

 




US Backs Xenophobia & Mob Violence in Hong Kong

The ferociously anti-Chinese network behind the demonstrations has been cultivated with the help of U.S. funding and a Washington-linked local media tycoon, reports Dan Cohen.

  By Dan Cohen 
  The Grayzone

President Donald Trump tweeted on August 13 that he “can’t imagine why” the United States has been blamed for the chaotic protests that have gripped Hong Kong. 

Trump’s befuddlement might be understandable considering the carefully managed narrative of the U.S. government and its unofficial media apparatus, which have portrayed the protests as an organic “pro-democracy” expression of grassroots youth. However, a look beneath the surface of this oversimplified, made-for-television script reveals that the ferociously anti-Chinese network behind the demonstrations has been cultivated with the help of millions of dollars from the U.S. government, as well as a Washington-linked local media tycoon. 

Since March, raucous protests have gripped Hong Kong. In July and August, these demonstrations transformed into ugly displays of xenophobia and mob violence. 

The protests ostensibly began in opposition to a proposed amendment to the extradition law between Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, and Macau, which would have allowed Taiwanese authorities to prosecute a Hong Kong man for murdering his pregnant girlfriend and dumping her body in the bushes during a vacation to Taiwan. 

Highly organized networks of anti-China protesters quickly mobilized against the law, compelling Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to withdraw the bill. 

But the protests continued even after the extradition law was taken off the table — and these demonstrations degenerated into disturbing scenes. In recent days, hundreds of masked rioters have occupied the Hong Kong airport, forcing the cancellation of inbound flights while harassing travelers and viciously assaulting journalists and police.

The protesters’ stated goals remain vague. Joshua Wong, one of the most well known figures in the movement, has put forward a call for the Chinese government to “retract the proclamation that the protests were riots,” and restated the consensus demand for universal suffrage.

Wong is a bespectacled 22-year-old who has been trumpeted in Western media as a “freedom campaigner,” promoted to the English-speaking world through his own Netflix documentary, and rewarded with the backing of the U.S. government. 

But behind telegenic spokespeople like Wong are more extreme elements such as the Hong Kong National Party, whose members have appeared at protests waving the Stars and Stripes and belting out cacophonous renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner. The leadership of this officially banned party helped popularize the call for the full independence of Hong Kong, a radical goal that is music to the ears of hardliners in Washington.

Xenophobic resentment has defined the sensibility of the protesters, who vow to “retake Hong Kong” from Chinese mainlanders they depict as a horde of locusts. The demonstrators have even adopted one of the most widely recognized symbols of the alt-right, emblazoning images of Pepe the Frog on their protest literature. While it’s unclear that Hong Kong residents see Pepe the same way American white nationalists do, members of the U.S. far-right have embraced the protest movement as their own, and even personally joined their ranks.

Among the most central influencers of the demonstrations is a local tycoon named Jimmy Lai. The self-described “head of opposition media,” Lai is widely described as the Rupert Murdoch of Asia. For the masses of protesters, Lai is a transcendent figure. They clamor for photos with him and applaud the oligarch wildly when he walks by their encampments. 

Lai established his credentials by pouring millions of dollars into the 2014 Occupy Central protest, which is known popularly as the Umbrella Movement. He has since used his massive fortune to fund local anti-China political movers and shakers while injecting the protests with a virulent brand of Sinophobia through his media empire. 

Though Western media has depicted the Hong Kong protesters as the voice of an entire people yearning for freedom, the island is deeply divided. This August, a group of protesters mobilized outside Jimmy Lai’s house, denouncing him as a “running dog” of Washington and accusing him of national betrayal by unleashing chaos on the island. 

Days earlier, Lai was in Washington, coordinating with hardline members of Trump’s national security team, including John Bolton. His ties to Washington run deep — and so do those of the front-line protest leaders. 

Millions of dollars have flowed from U.S.  regime-change outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) into civil society and political organizations that form the backbone of the anti-China mobilization. And Lai has supplemented it with his own fortune while instructing protesters on tactics through his various media organs.

With Donald Trump in the White House, Lai is convinced that his moment may be on the horizon. Trump “understands the Chinese like no president understood,” the tycoon told The Wall Street Journal. “I think he’s very good at dealing with gangsters.” 

 Born to Wealthy Mainland Parents 

Born in the mainland in 1948 to wealthy parents, whose fortune was expropriated by the Communist Party during the revolution the following year, Jimmy Lai began working at 9 years old, carrying bags for train travelers during the hard years of the Great Chinese Famine.

Inspired by the taste of a piece of chocolate gifted to him by a wealthy man, he decided to smuggle himself to Hong Kong to discover a future of wealth and luxury. There, Lai worked his way up the ranks of the garment industry, growing enamored with the libertarian theories of economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, the latter of whom became his close friend. 

Friedman is famous for developing the neoliberal shock therapy doctrine that the U.S. has imposed on numerous countries, resulting in the excess deaths of millions. For his part, Hayek is the godfather of the Austrian economic school that forms the foundation of libertarian political movements across the West.

Lai built his business empire on Giordano, a garment label that became one of Asia’s most recognizable brands. In 1989, he threw his weight behind the Tiananmen Square protests, hawking t-shirts on the streets of Beijing calling for Deng Xiaoping to “step down.” 

Lai’s actions provoked the Chinese government to ban his company from operating on the mainland. A year later, he founded Next Weekly magazine, initiating a process that would revolutionize the mediascape in Hong Kong with a blend of smutty tabloid-style journalism, celebrity gossip and a heavy dose of anti-China spin.

The vociferously anti-communist baron soon became Hong Kong’s media kingpin, worth a whopping $660 million in 2009. 

Today, Lai is the founder and majority stakeholder of Next Digital, the largest listed media company in Hong Kong, which he uses to agitate for the end of what he calls the Chinese “dictatorship.” 

His flagship outlet is the popular tabloid Apple Daily, employing the trademark mix of raunchy material with a heavy dose of xenophobic, nativist propaganda.

In 2012, Apple Daily carried a full page advertisement depicting mainland Chinese citizens as invading locusts draining Hong Kong’s resources. The advertisement called for a stop to the “unlimited invasion of mainland pregnant women in Hong Kong.” (This was a crude reference to the Chinese citizens who had flocked to the island while pregnant to ensure that their children could earn Hong Kong residency, and resembled the resentment among the U.S. right-wing of immigrant “anchor babies.”)  

The transformation of Hong Kong’s economy has provided fertile soil for Lai’s brand of demagoguery. As the country’s manufacturing base moved to mainland China after the golden years of the 1980s and ‘90s, the economy was rapidly financialized, enriching oligarchs like Lai. Left with rising debt and dimming career prospects, Hong Kong’s youth became easy prey to the demagogic politics of nativism

Many protesters have been seen waving British Union Jacks in recent weeks, expressing a yearning for an imaginary past under colonial control which they never personally experienced. 

In July, protesters vandalized the Hong Kong Liaison Office, spray-painting the word, “Shina” on its facade. This term is a xenophobic slur some in Hong Kong and Taiwan use to refer to mainland China. The anti-Chinese phenomenon was visible during the 2014 Umbrella movement protests as well, with signs plastered around the city reading, “Hong Kong for Hong Kongers.”

This month, protesters turned their fury on the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, spray-painting “rioters” on its office. The attack represented resentment of the left-wing group’s role in a violent 1967 uprising against the British colonial authorities, who are now seen as heroes among many of the anti-Chinese demonstrators.

Besides Lai, a large part of the credit for mobilizing latent xenophobia goes to the right-wing Hong Kong Indigenous party leader Edward Leung. Under the direction of the 28-year-old Leung, his pro-independence party has brandished British colonial flags and publicly harassed Chinese mainland tourists. In 2016, Leung was exposed for meeting with U.S. diplomatic officials at a local restaurant.

Though he is currently in jail for leading a 2016 riot where police were bombarded with bricks and pavement – and where he admitted to attacking an officer – Leung’s rightist politics and his slogan, “Retake Hong Kong,” have helped define the ongoing protests. 

A local legislator and protest leader described Leung to The New York Times as “the Che Guevara of Hong Kong’s revolution,” referring without a hint of irony to the Latin American communist revolutionary killed in a CIA-backed operation. According to the Times, Leung is “the closest thing Hong Kong’s tumultuous and leaderless protest movement has to a guiding light.”

The xenophobic sensibility of the protesters has provided fertile soil for Hong Kong National Party to recruit. Founded by the pro-independence activist Andy Chan, the officially banned party combines anti-Chinese resentment with calls for the U.S.  to intervene. Images and videos have surfaced of HKNP members waving the flags of the U.S. and U.K., singing the Star Spangled Banner, and carrying flags emblazoned with images of Pepe the Frog, the most recognizable symbol of the U.S.  alt-right. 

While the party lacks a wide base of popular support, it is perhaps the most outspoken within the protest ranks, and has attracted disproportionate international attention as a result. Chan has called for Trump to escalate the trade war and accused China of carrying out a “national cleansing” against Hong Kong. “We were once colonized by the Brits, and now we are by the Chinese,” he declared.

Displays of pro-American jingoism in the streets of Hong Kong have been like catnip for the international far-right.

Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson recently appeared at an anti-extradition protest in Hong Kong, livestreaming the event to his tens of thousands of followers. A month earlier, Gibson was seen roughing up antifa activists alongside ranks of club wielding fascists. In Hong Kong, the alt-right organizer marveled at the crowds. 

“They love our flag here more than they do in America!” Gibson exclaimed as marchers passed by, flashing him a thumbs up sign while he waved the Stars and Stripes.

 Xenophobic Propaganda 

 Such xenophobic propaganda is consistent with the clash of civilizations theory that Jimmy Lai has    promulgated through his media empire.

“You have to understand the Hong Kong people – a very tiny 7 million or 0.5 percent of the Chinese population – are very different from the rest of Chinese in China, because we grow up in the Western values, which was the legacy of the British colonial past, which gave us the instinct to revolt once this extradition law was threatening our freedom,” Lai told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo. “Even America has to look at the world 20 years from now, whether you want the Chinese dictatorial values to dominate this world, or you want the values that you treasure [to] continue.”

During a panel discussion at the neoconservative Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Lai told the pro-Israel lobbyist Jonathan Schanzer,

“We need to know that America is behind us. By backing us, America is also sowing to the will of their moral authority because we are the only place in China, a tiny island in China, which is sharing your values, which is fighting the same war you have with China.”

While Lai makes no attempt to conceal his political agenda, his bankrolling of central figures in the 2014 Occupy Central, or Umbrella movement protests, was not always public. 

Leaked emails revealed that Lai poured more than $1.2 million to anti-China political parties including  $637,000 to the Democratic Party and $382,000 to the Civic Party. Lai also gave $115,000 to the Hong Kong Civic Education Foundation and Hong Kong Democratic Development Network, both of which were co-founded by Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. Lai also spent $446,000 on Occupy Central’s 2014 unofficial referendum.

Lai’s U.S.  consigliere is a former Navy intelligence analyst who interned with the CIA and leveraged his intelligence connections to build his boss’s business empire. Named Mark Simon, the veteran spook arranged for former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to meet with a group in the anti-China camp during a 2009 visit to Hong Kong. Five years later, Lai paid $75,000 to neoconservative Iraq war author and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to organize a meeting with top military figures in Myanmar.

This July, as the Hong Kong protests gathered steam, Lai was junketed to Washington, D.C., for meetings with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Cory Gardner, and Rick Scott. Bloomberg News correspondent Nicholas Wadhams remarked on Lai’s visit, “Very unusual for a [non-government] visitor to get that kind of access.”

One of Lai’s closest allies, Martin Lee, was also granted an audience with Pompeo, and has held court with U.S. leaders including Rep. Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Joseph Biden.

Among the most prominent figures in Hong Kong’s pro-U.S. political parties, Lee began collaborating with Lai during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. A recipient of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy’s “Democracy Award” in 1997, Lee is the founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, now considered part of the pro-U.S.  camp’s old guard. 

While Martin Lee has long been highly visible on the pro-western Hong Kong scene, a younger generation of activists emerged during the 2014 Occupy Central protests with a new brand of localized politics.

Joshua Wong was just 17 years old when the Umbrella Movement took form in 2014. After emerging in the protest ranks as one of the more charismatic voices, he was steadily groomed as the pro-West camp’s teenage poster child. Wong received lavish praised in Time magazine, Fortune, and Foreign Policy as a “freedom campaigner,” and became the subject of an award-winning Netflix documentary called “Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.”

 

Unsurprisingly, these puff pieces have overlooked Wong’s ties to the U.S. regime-change apparatus. For instance, National Endowment for Democracy’s National Democratic Institute (NDI) maintains a close relationship with Demosisto, the political party Wong founded in 2016 with fellow Umbrella movement alumnus Nathan Law. 

In August, a candid photo surfaced of Wong and Law meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political counselor at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, raising questions about the content of the meeting and setting off a diplomatic showdown between Washington and Beijing.

The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong submitted a formal complaint with the U.S. consulate general, calling on the U.S. “to immediately make a clean break from anti-China forces who stir up trouble in Hong Kong, stop sending out wrong signals to violent offenders, refrain from meddling with Hong Kong affairs and avoid going further down the wrong path.”

The pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao published personal details about Eadeh, including the names of her children and her address. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus lashed out, accusing the Chinese government of being behind the leak but offering no evidence. “I don’t think that leaking an American diplomat’s private information, pictures, names of their children, I don’t think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do,” she said at a State Department briefing. 

But the photo underscored the close relationship between Hong Kong’s pro-West movement and the U.S. government. Since the 2014 Occupy Central protests that vaulted Wong into prominence, he and his peers have been assiduously cultivated by the elite Washington institutions to act as the faces and voices of Hong Kong’s burgeoning anti-China movement.

In September 2015, Wong, Martin Lee, and University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Lee were honored by Freedom House, a right-wing soft-power organization that is heavily funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and other arms of the U.S. government.  

Just days after Trump’s election as president in November 2016, Wong was back in Washington to appeal for more U.S. support. “Being a businessman, I hope Donald Trump could know the dynamics in Hong Kong and know that to maintain the business sector benefits in Hong Kong, it’s necessary to fully support human rights in Hong Kong to maintain the judicial independence and the rule of law,” he said.

Wong’s visit provided occasion for the Senate’s two most aggressively neoconservative members, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, to introduce the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” which would “identify those responsible for abduction, surveillance, detention and forced confessions, and the perpetrators will have their U.S. assets, if any… frozen and their entry to the country denied.”

Wong was then taken on a junket of elite U.S. institutions including the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank and the newsrooms of The New York Times and Financial Times. He then held court with Rubio, Cotton, Pelosi, and Sen. Ben Sasse

In September 2017, Rubio, Ben Cardin, Tom Cotton, Sherrod Brown, and Cory Gardner signed off on a letter to Wong, Law and fellow anti-China activist Alex Chow, praising them for their “efforts to build a genuinely autonomous Hong Kong.” The bipartisan cast of senators proclaimed that “the United States cannot stand idly by.”

A year later, Rubio and his colleagues nominated the trio of Wong, Law, and Chow for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. 

Washington’s support for the designated spokesmen of the “retake Hong Kong movement” was supplemented with untold sums of money from U.S. regime-change outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and subsidiaries like the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to civil society, media and political groups. 

As journalist Alex Rubinstein reported, the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, a key member of the coalition that organized against the now-defunct extradition law, has received more than $2 million in NED funds since 1995. And other groups in the coalition reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NED and NDI last year alone.

While U.S. lawmakers nominate Hong Kong protest leaders for peace prizes and pump their organizations with money to “promote democracy,” the demonstrations have begun to spiral out of control. 

Protests Become More Aggressive

After the extradition law was scrapped, the protests moved into a more aggressive phase, launching “hit and run attacks” against government targets, erecting roadblocks, besieging police stations, and generally embracing the extreme modalities put on display during U.S.-backed regime-change operations from Ukraine to Venezuela to Nicaragua. 

The techniques clearly reflected the training many activists have received from Western soft-power outfits. But they also bore the mark of Jimmy Lai’s media operation. 

In addition to the vast sums Lai spent on political parties directly involved in the protests, his media group created an animated video “showing how to resist police in case force was used to disperse people in a mass protest.” 

While dumping money into the Hong Kong’s pro-U.S. political camp in 2013, Lai traveled to Taiwan for a secret roundtable consultation with Shih Ming-teh, a key figure in Taiwan’s social movement that forced then-president Chen Shui-bian to resign in 2008. Shih reportedly instructed Lai on non-violent tactics to bring the government to heel, emphasizing the importance of a commitment to go to jail. 

According to journalist Peter Lee, “Shih supposedly gave Lai advice on putting students, young girls, and mothers with children in the vanguard of the street protests, in order to attract the support of the international community and press, and to sustain the movement with continual activities to keep it dynamic and fresh.” Lai reportedly turned off his recording device during multiple sections of Shih’s tutorial.

One protester explained to The New York Times how the movement attempted to embrace a strategy called, “Marginal Violence Theory:” By using “mild force” to provoke security services into attacking the protesters, the protesters aimed to shift international sympathy away from the state. 

But as the protest movement intensifies, its rank-and-file are doing away with tactical restraint and lashing out at their targets with full fury. They have thrown molotov cocktails into intersections to block traffic; attacked vehicles and their drivers for attempting to break through roadblocks; beaten opponents with truncheons; attacked a wounded man with a U.S. flag; menaced a reporter into deleting her photos; kidnapped and beat a journalist senseless; beat a mainland traveler unconscious and prevented paramedics from reaching the victim; and hurled petrol bombs at police officers.

The charged atmosphere has provided a shot in the arm to Lai’s media empire, which had been suffering heavy losses since the last round of national protests in 2014. After the mass marches against the extradition bill on June 9, which Lai’s Apple Daily aggressively promoted, his Next Digital doubled in value, according to Eji Insight. 

Meanwhile, the protest leaders show no sign of backing down. Nathan Law, the youth activist celebrated in Washington and photographed meeting with U.S.  officials in Hong Kong, took to Twitter to urge his peers to soldier on: “We have to persist and keep the faith no matter how devastated the reality seems to be,” he wrote. 

Law was tweeting from New Haven, Connecticut, where he was enrolled with a full scholarship at Yale University. While the young activist basked in the adulation of his U.S. patrons thousands of miles from the chaos he helped spark, a movement that defined itself as a “leaderless resistance” forged ahead back home.

Dan Cohen is a journalist and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, “Killing Gaza.” He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine, Latin America, the U.S.-Mexico border and Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @DanCohen3000.

This article is from The Grayzone.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




Blaming Each Other for Backing Terrorism

The two sides of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s Qatar rift are far from reconciling as both accuse the other of supporting terrorism, reports Giorgio Cafiero. 

By Giorgio Cafiero
Special to Consortium News

The Gulf Crisis between Qatar and its neighbors (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE) is no closer to being settled than when it erupted in May 2017. The differences — including displeasure by the Saudi-led faction with Qatar’s relations with Iran, its pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance and its alleged support of terrorism — have only heated after a controversial new documentary aired by Qatar government-ownedAl Jazeera Arabic last month that accuses Bahrain of coordinating with terrorists.
The 52-minute film, “Playing with Fire,” makes extremely serious accusations about the Bahraini royal family’s alleged ties with Salafist-jihadist terrorists. It claims to expose recordings and communications that prove that the Bahraini kingdom recruited Al-Qaeda terrorists to establish a cell to carry out targeted assassinations of key figures within the country’s Shi’a opposition. According to “Playing with Fire,” King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa authorized the operation, even intervening with Riyadh to release Mohammed Saleh, an Al-Qaeda commander, from a Saudi prison.

The documentary alleges that Bahraini intelligence officials and Al-Qaeda coordinated acts of terrorism in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan Baluchistan. According to Al Jazeera’s conclusions, in 2006, Bahraini intelligence officials recruited Hosham Baluchi, the ex-leader of Ansar al-Forghan, whom the Iranians later killed in 2015, for such terror operations in Iran’s restive areas near Pakistan.

Responses

Predictably, the government of Bahrain had harsh words for Qatar and its state-owned pan-Arab network. Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed said  the documentary was merely a “new episode in a series of conspiracies from a rogue state against the Kingdom of Bahrain, and against the stability of the entire region.” Packed with “lies and fallacies against the state Bahrain,” the documentary’s allegations have no basis in fact, asserted Bahrain’s chief diplomat. He went further, doubling down on the narratives that drove Manama and other Arab capitals to begin blockading Qatar in 2017, stating that Doha “has become the biggest threat to the Gulf Cooperation Council.”

Mohamed Mubarak, a Bahraini journalist based in the United Kingdom, spoke to RT and fired back against Al Jazeera Arabic’s documentary. He claimed that in 2006 Bahraini authorities instead captured a group of extremists and that the video footage of Al-Qaeda commander Saleh used in the documentary was fabricated in order to “blackmail” Bahrain’s rulers.  Mubarak claimed that “Bahrain is a spearhead in combating terrorism [which has joined] the international coalition in fighting ISIS, either in Syria or Iraq.” For Qatar to level such accusations against Bahrain was “paradoxical and ironic” given Al Jazeera’s history of providing a platform for Al-Qaeda members and sympathizers, Mubarak said.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also delivered an official response to the documentary. The terrorist group released a statement denying such links with the Bahraini state. The Al-Qaeda franchise asserted that such accusations of a secret agreement between the Al Khalifas and Al-Qaeda operatives illustrated how GCC member-states remain “keen to persuade their master Trump of who is the most loyal of his devoted workers in the war against the mujahideen.”  

War of Narratives

There have been accusations for years about the Arabian Peninsula’s monarchies making backdoor deals with Al-Qaeda and other Salafist-jihadist factions, often within the framework of utilizing these Sunni extremists to push back against Iranian/Shi’a influence in the region.

In the Yemeni civil war, numerous media sources, including the Associated Press, have alleged coordination between the Saudi/Emirati-led coalition and AQAP. This reporting from Yemen claimed that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi cut “secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash … hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.”

There are several pieces of evidence showing that both sides in the GCC dispute were seen by Western intelligence to be supporting terrorist groups in the earlier stages of the Syrian war. A leaked memo, published in October 2016 by WikiLeaks, which was sent as an attachment in an email from Hillary Clinton, said: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.”

A declassified document from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency predicted in August  2012 the rise of the Islamic State and said that the U.S. and European and Gulf Arab allies were supporting the establishment of a salafist principality in eastern Syria, which the document predicted, two years in advance, would give rise to an “Islamic State.” The document said: 

“Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts” by Syrian “opposition forces” to “control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor), adjacent to Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar)  … there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told a Harvard University audience in 2015 that, “Our biggest problem is our allies,” naming Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE. “What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, except that the people who were being supplied were [Jabhat] al-Nusra and Al-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” Biden later went on an apology tour of the region, after complaints from the UAE, and he tried to withdraw his remarks.

The Pariah

Ironically, a main justification for the 26-month blockade of Qatar, imposed by half of the Saudi-led GCC’s member-states and Egypt, has been Doha’s alleged support for Al-Qaeda and other groups, from Islamic State to Lebanese Hezbollah.

In the past, before the ongoing GCC crisis, all Arab Gulf monarchies essentially joined a collective effort to fortress each other from such accusations made by Western politicians, think tanks and media.

Notwithstanding major differences between each GCC member, these six states largely operated as one family in the sense that they defended each other in discourse surrounding such alleged ties between royal families of Arabian sheikdoms and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in which all but one of the 19 hijackers came from countries that are currently blockading Qatar (15 Saudis, two Emiratis, and one Egyptian), nearly all in the GCC had to bend over backwards to demonstrate to Washington and other Western governments that Gulf regimes were fully on board with America’s “war on terror.”

In the current era, however, there is mudslinging and finger pointing within the GCC as the war of narratives rages on. Which Gulf states maintain tacit relations with nefarious terror outfits that target the Arab monarchies’ chief ally —the U.S. — and which of these GCC members are truly committed to working with the West in this struggle against extremism?

Until or unless the Gulf dispute is resolved, these questions and their answers will continue to be framed by the blockading states in a way to portray Qatar as the pariah state, while Doha will use its media outlets such as Al Jazeera Arabic to counter such narratives and turn the accusations around against its GCC accusers. 

Giorgio Cafiero (@GiorgioCafiero) is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics (@GulfStateAnalyt), a Washington-based geopolitical risk consultancy.

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Mass Shootings in the White Noise of Anywhere USA

Phil Rockstroh muses on how the impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fits into the late-imperium scheme of things. 

By Phil Rockstroh 
The U.S.  is less of a nation than a collective, psychotic episode.
Within day-to-day life in the nation, a cultural aura exists that shifts, mingles and merges between a sense of nervous agitation and displaced rage, in combination with a sense of weightlessness. The fragmented quality of daily life imparts an insubstantial, unreal quality wherein the citizenry of the capitalist/consumer empire of hungry ghosts drift through a nadascape comprised of ad hoc, fast-buck-driven, suburban/exburban architecture and the ersatz eros of constant, consumer come-ons. 
Yet beneath the nebulous dread and nettling angst of it all, there exists the primal human imperative for connection and social communion i.e., authentic eros. The most lost among the lost in the ghostsphere of the collective mind attempt to animate the realm of shades with libations of blood. The gods of the capitalist death cult demand no less. 

Where does an impulse to possess an unlimited number of firearms fit into the scheme of things?  A firearm’s heft, for one. The weapon’s substantial feel, when held and hoisted, serves, provisionally, to mitigate a psychical sense of weightlessness. The act of engagement eases nervous agitation.  Gun reality offsets the weightless content of media reality. Focus is achieved when one aims the weapon on a target. Nebulous dread transforms into adamantine purpose. The presence of an Angel of Death will focus the mind. The ground, for the moment, feels solid beneath one’s feet. Hence, there arrives a craving, in the sense of addiction, to hoard the object that provides relief; in addition, massive quantities of ammunition must be stored as emotional ballast.

The mystifying, rankling, uncontrollable criteria of this weightless Age and the white noise of uncertainty seem to yield to the clear and decisive crack of a rifle shot. Relief is imagined in the concomitant carnage. The late British author Rebecca West captures the phenomenon in her book, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon:” 

“Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.”

Feedback Loop of Carnage

Because we, on a personal level, in most cases, choose the primary option, our hidden, shadow half will live out the latter on a collective basis. During the blood lust on display at President Donald Trump’s rallies, the mob finds a collective comfort zone in catastrophic longings. The domestic landscape of paranoia works on behalf of the profiteers of perpetual war, perpetrators of the U.S.-created deathscapes overseas, and vice versa, in a self-resonating feedback loop of carnage.

In our era, in which, the U.S. empire is in decline and the white supremacist order is giving way, Trump’s frightened legions feel as if their identity is under siege. Seal off the nation’s borders. Construct an unscalable wall. Create a cordon sanitaire to protect and preserve racial purity. A strong authority figure is craved to set the world back in order. The phenomenon could be termed, Authoritarian Simpatico Syndrome (ASS) — a pathology manifested in personality types who have been traumatized by the authoritarianism of the U.S. socio-political milieu but who seek to assuage their hurt and humiliation by identification with the very forces responsible for their torment. It’s the stuff of a cultural nervous breakdown. 

To that end, according to its own laws, the nation’s citizenry, sufferers of mental distress, should be restricted from purchasing a gun. Yet without a doubt, the most disturbed of all are the nation’s political class, those responsible for gun legislation. There is compelling evidence that they present a clear and present danger to themselves and others. The political class is a menace to society; they make decisions, more often than not, based on delusional thinking, that are responsible for harm on a massive scale. They should be subject to institutional-style restraint, within the confines of the most heavily secure, lockdown ward in an asylum for the criminally insane. 

Although the so-called mentally ill, as a rule, are not any more inclined to commit violent crimes than are the general population of capitalist dystopias. The U.S. was founded in genocidal violence and the fortunes of its ruling class’ are protected by the state sanctioned violence of the police and are bloated by the violence inherent to imperialist shakedown operations.

It comes down to this: In our emotionally brutal era, those deemed mentally ill are suffering from capitalism. The pummeling stress and boot-in-the-face, hierarchy-inflicted humiliations inherent to the system inflict trauma on large swathes of the citizenry.

Epidemic levels of middle-aged U.S. citizens are dying with needles in their arms. The inherent and internalized white supremacy of the societal order has been exacerbated by Trump’s self-serving, reckless agitprop and acts in a drug-like manner causing dopamine levels to rise in those experiencing emotional torment due to humiliation-caused despair. Demagogues such as Trump are aware and exploit the manner in which despair can be mitigated by the emotional displacement of rage.

Fascist insignias rise when the hopes and aspirations of the working class lie shattered across a capitalist economic wasteland. Hoisted torches provide the illusion that dark despair has been banished. The fascist mob becomes possessed by a belief that they, en masse, can ascend into the precincts of heaven by scaling a mountain of corpses comprised of outsider groups.

Fascism as Psychoactive Drug

Fascism acts as an anesthetic to the wounds delivered by capitalism. It is also a psychoactive drug; its incantatory rhetoric and imagist psychical material provides an intoxicating, crude allure.

Capitalism is borne on manic wings. The economic elite move from corporate skyscrapers and high-rise rooftops in order to travel by helicopter, where upon landing, they board private, luxury jets, then, whereupon landing again, they are transported by helicopter to corporate skyscrapers and high-rise rooftops. Touching the Earth is a fleeting experience. The ruling class have lost touch with ground-level verities. In a classical sense, such displays of hubris were understood as the progenitor of madness. The gods first elevate those they drive mad.

And, yes, race-based fears and animus are in play.  Racism engendered mass murder has been coming to pass since armed Europeans trudged ashore in the Americas, with their blood-sodden religion and their murderous craving for gold and land. Of course, the racist demagoguery of the Bloated Orange Tub of Nazi Goo oozing into and agitating the limbic systems of violent cretins during homegrown Nuremberg Rallies and his compulsion to blitzkrieg the pixel-sphere with Der Stürmer tweets is fomenting racist mayhem that includes bacchanals of blood. U.S. mythos is rancid with the reek of the corpses of the innocent slaughtered by white men brandishing firearms. Mass murderers have been and continue to be enshrined as heroes, from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan. 

The nation was established by gun-enabled genocide and the intimidation of African slaves held at gunpoint on capitalist plantations. The truth has never been faced e.g., the suppression of the Nixon tape in which Ronald Reagan displayed his racist mindset. 

The U.S. citizenry thanks the soldiers of its racist wars of aggression for their “service.” The origins of perpetual shooting sprees can be traced to the heart of darkness of the nation and its concomitant white supremacist creed. The killings happened long before the rise and election of the Tangerine Tweet Führer. Of course, the racist shit-heel Trump has exacerbated the situation. He deserves all scorn cast his way. It is obvious his capacity for malice does not possess a governor’s switch.

Trump is a two-legged emblem of the hypertrophy at play in late U.S. imperium. Gun-inflicted violence is steeped into the blood-stained fabric of the U.S. (sham) republic. Withal, Trump is not an anomaly; he is an emblem. Gun-strokers are no more going to shed their mythos than liberals and progressives are going to shed theirs that the U.S. is a democratic republic, governed by the rule of law, and progressive reforms will be implemented by its High Dollar owned and controlled political class that will serve to turn around the trajectory of the blood-built and maintained U.S. empire. 

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living, now, in Munich. He may be contacted: philrockstroh.scribe@gmail.com and at FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh

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JOHN KIRIAKOU: How a Suicide Watch Really Works

If Jeffrey Epstein’s death turns out to have been self-inflicted, it would represent a complete breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect him.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

A cottage industry has been spawned over the past week for the chattering classes on every network to comment on the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier charged with sex-trafficking of underage girls. 

The talking heads have also babbled on about the inner workings of federal prisons.  Nearly every word I’ve heard is either factually incorrect, out of context, or fantastical.  I spent 23 months in a federal penitentiary and served on  suicide watch over a fellow inmate.  So I can set the record straight about how suicide watches work in federal prisons, and about the conditions that led Epstein, apparently, to take his own life.  If Epstein’s death turns out to have been an actual suicide, it would be the result of a complete breakdown in the system that was supposed to protect him.

First, suicide watch in the federal prison system is a big deal.  When a prisoner is suicidal, or has attempted suicide, he is placed in a designated “suicide watch room.”  It is a physical room in the medical unit where one wall is a window.  The prisoner is stripped naked and given a paper smock to wear.  There are no sheets or pillowcases on the bed. So the prisoner doesn’t harm himself, there is nothing else inside the room other than a sink and a toilet. Outside that window wall, a rotating shift of prisoner volunteers sits 24 hours a day to watch the prisoner to make sure he doesn’t attempt suicide again.  There are also video cameras inside the room to ensure the prisoner does not try to harm himself.  Uniformed guards check on the prisoner every 30 minutes, and a nurse, physician’s assistant, or psychologist visits the prisoner at least once a day.

When the prisoner is released from suicide watch, which usually takes a week or two, one of two things happen:  Either the prisoner is returned to his cell, where he normally has between one and five cellmates, or he is sent to solitary confinement, where he can be watched more closely than he could be watched in the general population.  In most prisons, solitary confinement is not at all solitary.  Solitary confinement is usually grossly overcrowded with two or even three prisoners in each cell built for one.  One prisoner is in a bunk and the other one or two sleep on mats on the floor.  Depending on the prison, guards patrol the unit every 15 or 30 minutes to make sure than nothing untoward is taking place.  And don’t forget that there are security cameras that cover literally every inch of a prison every minute of every day.  At least, there are supposed to be.

Many Mistakes

So how did Epstein kill himself, if that’s what happened?  Every safeguard at every turn had to fail.  First, we know that Epstein was not on suicide watch.  He had been removed, despite the fact that he had only recently attempted suicide. That was a mistake. 

We know also that Epstein was returned to a two-man cell and that his cellmate had been transferred to another prison, leaving him alone there.  That was a mistake. 

We know that two of the three guards who were responsible for watching Epstein were not trained corrections officers. The prison was short staffed — most are — and two of the three guards were actually supposed to be assigned elsewhere in the prison.  (Secretaries, nurses, even the dentist and the chaplain sometimes pitch in when there aren’t enough guards.)  That was a mistake.

Two of the three guards also were exhausted. One had worked overtime five days in a row and another was working mandatory overtime.  That was a mistake.  The guards were supposed to make rounds every 30 minutes to make sure that everything was in order and no prisoners were in danger.  They didn’t do that.  That was yet another mistake.

None of these observations answers the question of whether Epstein actually committed suicide.  It appears that he did.  But, let’s not forget that in any prison in America, sex offenders — and especially those who sexually assault children — are the lowest of the low. Their lives are always in danger. I can tell you a hundred stories of assaults on pedophiles that I observed from my time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pennsylvania. 

One of the reasons that almost all pedophiles are kept in low-security prisons is that they’re so much more likely to be assaulted or even murdered in higher-security facilities and they’re not eligible to be placed in minimum-security work camps because of the gravity of their crimes.  The Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, however, where Epstein was awaiting trial, is a maximum-security facility because it’s a transportation center. Almost every prisoner there is awaiting trial and will eventually be sent somewhere else.  Epstein was likely a marked man from the minute he walked through the door.

I don’t know if Epstein committed suicide. When we have to choose between incompetence and conspiracy, I usually go with incompetence, though there are many powerful people who were in Epstein’s circle who would not have wanted facts to emerge at his trial. One cannot rule out that all these mistakes made could have been intentional to create the conditions for him to attempt suicide again—this time successfully.

One of my attorneys gave me some advice before I left for prison. “Don’t make anybody angry,” he said. “Most prisoners are attached to one gang or another — the Italians, the Aryans, the Crips and the Bloods, MS-13, the Mexican drug gangs. Every one of them has a long arm and they can reach into any prison in the country.”

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

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Epstein’s Death & the Investigation of Powerful Networks

Craig Murray delves into allegations against Jeffrey Epstein and another suspicious death that the case recalls.  

By Craig Murray
CraigMurray.org.uk

There are a number of royal palaces and grand residences of former presidents and prime ministers where the inhabitants have a little bit more spring in their step following the death of Jeffrey Epstein. The media is rushing to attach the label “conspiracy theory” to any thought that his death might not have been suicide. In my view, given that so many very powerful people will be relieved he is no longer in a position to sing, and given that he was in a maximum-security jail following another alleged “suicide attempt” a week ago, it would be a very credulous person who did not view the question of who killed him an open one.

There has been a huge amount of obfuscation and misdirection on the activities of Epstein and his set. To my mind, the article which remains the best starting point for those new to the scandal is this one from Gawker. 

A few days ago a federal court unsealed 2,000 pages of documents related to the allegations against Epstein. Of these the most important appears to be a witness statement from Virginia Giuffre alleging that while a minor she had sex at Epstein’s direction with then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, plus a variety of senior foreign politicians.

Epstein’s sexual activities and partying with young girls were carried out in full view of key friends, his domestic and office staff, his pilots and of course the participants. There is no shortage of potential witnesses. Several of these really ought to be taking great care – though if I were them I would certainly eschew any protection involving U.S. security services or law enforcement. Ghislaine Maxwell might take heed of her father’s fate and avoid swimming for a few years.

(I am probably not the only one old enough to compare the many similarities between Robert Maxwell’s asset stripping career and that of Philip Green. The progress of society after 30 years of Thatcher, New Labour and returned Tories meaning that Green by contrast got no criminal charges and much bigger yachts.)

Evidence Concerning Prince Andrew

In the U.K., Giuffre’s alleged relationship with Prince Andrew has been mentioned in the media. In fact the evidence that she had a relationship with Prince Andrew of some sort is overwhelming. Here is some of the actual evidence from the court documents.

The age of heterosexual consent in England is 16 and there is no indication that Prince Andrew is doing anything illegal in this photograph in which Giuffre is 17. Nor is the photo in itself evidence of sex, though it certainly is intimate. The notion however that Giuffre was “lent out” to Andrew may have legal implications as she was flown into the country, allegedly for the purpose.

No satisfactory alternative explanation has been offered as to what might have been happening here, as Giuffre’s lawyers noted.

No further details appear in the documents to amplify Giuffre’s claim that she was forced to have sex with a “well known prime minister,” other than to repeat the claim. But what is plain is that her tale is not entirely invention. Just how much more did Epstein know, and who might he have taken down with him?

Bill Clinton’s Epstein Connection 

The truth is that sexual abuse by the rich and famous transcends all political boundaries. Bill Clinton was very frequently on Epstein’s plane and Epstein joins the very long list of those connected to the Clintons who died in dubious circumstances.

Two coincidences – the first being the bruise marks on the neck sustained in Epstein’s first “suicide attempt” in jail – remind me of the case of John Ashe, the senior official very close to the Clintons who died with bruise marks on his neck, when he accidentally dropped his barbell on his throat while bench-pressing alone at home.

Ashe was charged and awaiting trial for receiving corrupt funds from businessman Ng Lap Seng while Ashe was serving in the USA’s turn as president of the UN General Assembly. Ng Lap Seng, a six-time visitor to the Clinton White House, had previously been accused of making very large illegal donations to Clinton campaign funds, and was subsequently arrested while entering the USA with over $4 million in cash. Unlike the Clintons, Ashe was charged with taking Seng’s money and rather like Epstein may have had an interesting song to sing while going down, had he not conveniently dropped the barbell on his throat.

I said that the first thing that jogged me to link the Epstein/Clinton and the Ashe/Clinton cases was the bruise marks on the throat. The second is that both stories have been debunked by self-proclaimed “conspiracy-busting” website Snopes – in a manner which shows that Snopes has no regard for the truth whatsoever.

In the case of John Ashe, Snopes wrote an utterly tendentious piece of “myth-busting” which stated that it was a myth that Ashe’s death occurred shortly before his trial and that he was not due to testify against the Clintons. Snopes failed to mention that Ashe, a very senior Clinton appointee, was charged with taking corrupt money from precisely the same man who had been very widely accused of giving corrupt money to the Clintons. And while it was true his trial was not imminent, his pre-trial deposition was. 

In the Epstein/Clinton case Snopes wrote a piece debunking the notion that this is a photograph of Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private jet.

Snopes sets out to prove that this is not Epstein’s private jet but that of another billionaire, and that the girl is not Rachel Chandler. For the sake of argument I am prepared to accept what they say on both counts. But is the sensible reaction to that photo to say “Oh that’s OK it’s another billionaire’s jet” or to say “Why is Bill Clinton on a billionaire’s private jet in an intimate pose with a worryingly young female?” As with the Prince Andrew photo, although it has been circulating for years, no alternative innocent explanation is on offer.

Passion for Sexual Exploitation

And the fact that this is another billionaire’s plane should open again the much wider question of networks of the rich and the powerful indulging each other’s passion for sexual exploitation of the young. It is a great shame that in the U.K., the Establishment has been able to characterize the falsifications of Carl Beech as discrediting the entire notion of historical child sexual abuse. It is as though one person making up stories about a bishop would mean there was never child exploitation in the Catholic Church.

The deeper question is why such a significant proportion of the rich and powerful have a propensity to want to assuage their sexual desires on the most vulnerable and powerless in society, as opposed to forming relationships among their peers. I suspect it is connected to the kind of sociopathy that leads somebody to seek or hoard power or wealth in the first place. 

It is not necessary to develop that idea further, to understand that the Epstein case had given us a glimpse of criminal sexual behavior which, beyond doubt, involves many powerful people. It is essential that the threads that can be grasped are now worked on assiduously to uncover the entire network. 

I am afraid to say I suspect the chances of that actually happening are very slim indeed.

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 is from CraigMurray.org.uk.

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The Epstein Case: Everyone’s a Conspiracy Theorist

The only problem with the term is the meaningless use of it as a pejorative, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Plutocratic propaganda outlet MSNBC has run a spin segment about the medical examiner’s determination of the cause of Jeffrey Epstein’s death “pending further information.”

“Our sources are still saying that it looks like suicide, and this is going to set conspiracy theorists abuzz I fear,” said NBC correspondent Ken Dilanian. “NBC News has been hearing all day long that there are no indications of foul play, and that this looks like a suicide and that he hung himself in his cell.”

Dilanian, who stumbled over the phrase “conspiracy theorists” in his haste to get it in the first soundbite, is a known asset of the Central Intelligence Agency. This is not a conspiracy theory, this is a well-documented fact. A 2014 article in The Intercept titled “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man” reveals email exchanges obtained via Freedom of Information Act request between Dilanian and CIA public affairs officers which “show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication.” There is no reason to give Dilanian the benefit of the doubt that this cozy relationship has ended, so anything he puts forward can safely be dismissed as CIA public relations.

When I mentioned Dilanian’s CIA ties on MSNBC’s Twitter video, MSNBC deleted its tweet and then re-shared it without mentioning Dilanian’s name. Here is a screenshot of the first tweet followed by an embedded link to the current one (which I’ve archived, just in case):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up until the news broke that Epstein’s autopsy has been unable to readily confirm suicide, mass media headlines everywhere have been unquestioningly blaring that that was known to have been the cause of the accused sex trafficker’s death. This despite the fact that the FBI’s investigation has been explicitly labeling it an “apparent suicide,” and despite the fact that Epstein is credibly believed to have been involved in an intelligence-tied sexual blackmail operation involving many powerful people, any number of whom stood to gain plenty from his death.

Berating by Mass Media Narrative Managers

So, things are moving in a very weird way, and people are understandably weirded out. The response to this from mass media narrative managers has, of course, been to berate everyone as “conspiracy theorists.”

Jeffrey Epstein: How conspiracy theories spread after financier’s death,” reads a BBC headline. Epstein Suicide Conspiracies Show How Our Information System Is Poisoned,” reads one from The New York Times. Conspiracy Theories Fly Online in Wake of Epstein Death,” warns The Wall Street JournalFinancier Epstein’s Death Disappoints Victims, Launches Conspiracy Theories,” reads the headline from U.S.- funded Voice of America.

These outlets generally match Dilanian’s tone in branding anyone who questions the official story about Epstein’s death as a raving lunatic. Meanwhile, normal human beings all across the political spectrum are expressing skepticism on social media about the “suicide” narrative we’re all being force-fed by the establishment narrative managers, many of them prefacing their skepticism with some variation on the phrase “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…”

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist but there are an awful lot of very powerful people who would like to see this Epstein thing go away. Is anyone investigating the guard on duty?” tweeted actor Patricia Heaton.

“I am not into conspiracy theories. But Epstein had destructive information on an extraordinary number of extraordinarily powerful people. It is not easy to commit suicide in prison. Especially after being placed on suicide watch. Especially after already allegedly trying,” tweeted public defender Scott Hechinger.

Journalist Abi Wilkinson summed up the silliness of this widespread preface very nicely, tweeting, “ ‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist’ is such a weird assertion when you think about it, the idea there’s a binary between believing all conspiracies and flat out rejecting the very concept of conspiracy in all circumstances.”

Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that we are all conspiracy theorists if we’re really honest with ourselves. Not everyone believes that the official stories about 9/11 and the JFK assassination are riddled with plot holes or what have you, but I doubt that anyone who really sat down and sincerely grappled with the question “Do powerful people conspire?” would honestly deny it. Some are just more self-aware than others about the self-evident reality that powerful people conspire all the time, and it’s only a question of how and with whom and to what extent.

Dictionary Definition

The word “conspire” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement.” No sane person would deny that this is a thing that happens, nor that this is likely a thing that happens to some extent among the powerful in their own nation. This by itself is a theory about conspiracy per definition, and it accurately applies to pretty much everyone. Since it applies to pretty much everyone, the label is essentially meaningless, either as a pejorative or as anything else.

The meaningless of the term has been clearly illustrated by Russiagate, whose adherents react with sputtering outrage whenever anyone points out that they’re engaged in a conspiracy theory, despite the self-evident fact that that’s exactly what it is: a theory about a band of powerful Russian conspirators conspiring with the highest levels of the U.S. government. Their objection is not due to a belief that they’re not theorizing about a conspiracy, their objection is due to the fact that a highly stigmatized label that they’re accustomed to applying to other people has been applied to them. The label is rejected because its actual definition is ignored to the point of meaninglessness.

The problem has never been with the actual term “conspiracy theory;” the problem has been with its deliberate and completely meaningless use as a pejorative. The best way to address this would be a populist move to de-stigmatize the label by taking ownership of it. Last month Cornell University professor Dave Callum tweeted, “I am a ‘conspiracy theorist’. I believe men and women of wealth and power conspire. If you don’t think so, then you are what is called ‘an idiot’. If you believe stuff but fear the label, you are what is called ‘a coward’.”

This is what we all must do. The debate must be forcibly moved from the absurd question of whether or not conspiracies are a thing to the important question of which conspiracy theories are valid and to what degree.

And we should probably hurry. Yahoo News reported earlier this month that the FBI recently published an intelligence bulletin describing “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” as a growing threat, and this was before the recent spate of U.S. shootings got establishment narrative-makers pushing for new domestic terrorism laws. This combined with the fact that we can’t even ask questions about extremely suspicious events like Jeffrey Epstein’s death without being tarred with this meaningless pejorative by the mass media thought police means we’re at extreme risk of being shoved into something far more Orwellian in the near future.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a  book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.




ROBERT PARRY: More Second Amendment Madness

Robert Parry, founder of this site, exposed in this Jan. 2013 article the dangerous & false idea that the Constitution Framers wrote the 2nd Amendment so an armed population could fight the government the Framers had just created.

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News
Jan. 14, 21013
The Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus has sold millions of Americans on the dangerous and false notion that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution incorporated the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights so an armed population could fight the government that the Framers had just created.

As a result of that historical lie, many right-wingers today appear to be heeding a call to arms by buying up assault weapons at a frenetic pace. A “Gun Appreciation Day” is scheduled for the Saturday before Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural, which coincidentally falls on Martin Luther King Day. Thousands of gun owners are expected to turn out waving flags and brandishing rifles.

The organizer of that effort, right-wing activist Larry Ward, wrote that “the Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people.”

In recent weeks, this bogus narrative of the Framers seeking to encourage violence to subvert the peaceful and orderly process that they had painstakingly created in Philadelphia in 1787 also has been pushed by prominent right-wingers, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano

Napolitano declared: “The historical reality of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer. It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

The suggestion is that armed Americans must confront the “tyrannical” Barack Obama the twice-elected President of the United States (and the first African-American to hold that office) if he presses ahead seeking commonsense gun restrictions in the face of the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and hundreds of other horrendous incidents of gun violence.

These “revolutionary” Americans have been persuaded that they are channeling the intent of the Framers who supposedly saw armed uprisings against the legally constituted U.S. government as an important element of “liberty.”

But that belief is not the historical reality. Indeed, the reality is almost the opposite. The Second Amendment was enacted so each state would have the specific right to form “a well-regulated militia” to maintain “security,” i.e. to put down armed rebellions.

The Framers also made clear what they thought should happen to people who took up arms against the Republic. Article IV, Section 4 committed the federal government to protect each state from not only invasion but “domestic Violence,” and treason is defined in the Constitution as “levying war against” the United States as well as giving “Aid and Comfort” to the enemy (Article III, Section 3).

Second Amendment’s History

The historical context of the Second Amendment also belies today’s right-wing mythology. At the time of the Constitutional Convention, the young nation was experiencing violent unrest, such as the Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts. That armed uprising was testing the ability of the newly independent nation to establish order within the framework of a democratic Republic, a fairly untested idea at the time. European monarchies were predicting chaos and collapse for the United States.

Among the most concerned about that possibility was General George Washington, who had sacrificed greatly for the birth of the new nation. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 and their acceptance of American independence in 1783, Washington fretted over the inability of the states-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation, then governing the country, to deal with its economic and security challenges.

Washington grew disgusted with the Articles’ recognition of 13 “independent” and “sovereign” states and the correspondingly weak central government, called not even a government, but a “league of friendship.”

As Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Washington had watched his soldiers suffer when various states reneged on their commitment to supply money and arms. After the war, Washington retired but stayed active in seeking reforms that would strengthen the central government’s ability to organize national commerce and to maintain order.

His fears deepened in 1786 when Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain, led an uprising of other veterans and farmers in western Massachusetts, taking up arms against the government for failing to address their economic grievances.

Washington received reports on the crisis from old Revolutionary War associates in Massachusetts, such as his longtime logistical chief, Gen. Henry Knox, and Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the British surrender at Yorktown as Washington’s second in command. They kept Washington apprised of the disorder, which he feared might encourage renewed interference in American affairs by the British or other European powers.

On Oct. 22, 1786, in a letter seeking more information about the rebellion from a friend in Connecticut, Washington wrote: “I am mortified beyond expression that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should by our conduct verify the predictions of our transatlantic foe, and render ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”

In another letter on Nov. 7, 1786, Washington questioned Gen. Lincoln about the unrest: “What is the cause of all these commotions? When and how will they end?” Washington was especially concerned about the possibility of a hidden British hand.

Lincoln responded: “Many of them [the rebels] appear to be absolutely so [mad] if an attempt to annihilate our present constitution and dissolve the present government can be considered as evidence of insanity.”

However, the U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation lacked the means to restore order. So wealthy Bostonians financed their own force under Gen. Lincoln to crush the uprising in February 1787. Afterwards, Washington remained concerned the rebellion might be a sign that European predictions about American chaos were coming true.

“If three years ago [at the end of the American Revolution] any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite a fit subject for a mad house,” Washington wrote to Knox on Feb. 3, 1787, adding that if the government “shrinks, or is unable to enforce its laws anarchy & confusion must prevail.”

Just weeks later, Washington’s alarm about Shays’ Rebellion was a key factor in his decision to take part in and preside over the Constitutional Convention, which was supposed to offer revisions to the Articles of Confederation but instead threw out the old structure entirely and replaced it with the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution shifted national sovereignty from the 13 states to “We the People” and dramatically enhanced the power of the central government.

The key point of the Constitution was to create a peaceful means for the United States to implement policies favored by the people but within a structure of checks and balances to prevent radical changes deemed too disruptive to the established order. For instance, the two-year terms of the House of Representatives were meant to reflect the popular will but the six-year terms of the Senate were designed to temper the passions of the moment (and senators were initially chosen by state legislatures, not the people).

Within this framework of a democratic Republic where peaceful change was possible though intentionally gradual the Framers criminalized taking up arms against the government. But it was the Constitution’s drastic expansion of federal power that prompted strong opposition from some Revolutionary War figures, such as Virginia’s Patrick Henry who spearheaded the Anti-Federalist movement.

Prospects for the Constitution’s ratification were in such doubt that its principal architect James Madison joined in a sales campaign known as the Federalist Papers in which he tried to play down how radical his changes actually were. To win over other skeptics, Madison agreed to support a Bill of Rights, which would be proposed as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was a mix of concessions, some substantive and some rhetorical, to both individual citizens and the states.

The Second Amendment was primarily a right granted to the states. It read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Madison’s political maneuvering narrowly secured approval of the Constitution in key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts. The First Congress then approved the Bill of Rights, which was ratified in 1791. [For more details on the Constitution, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Behind the Second Amendment

As the preface to the Second Amendment makes clear, the concern was about enabling states to organize militias that could maintain “security,” which fit with the Constitution’s goal of “domestic Tranquility” within the framework of a Republic.

This concept was amplified by the actions of the Second Congress amid another uprising which erupted in 1791 in western Pennsylvania. This anti-tax revolt, known as the Whiskey Rebellion, prompted Congress in 1792 to expand on the idea of “a well-regulated militia” by passing the Militia Acts which required all military-age white males to obtain their own muskets and equipment for service in militias.

At the time, Madison was in the U.S. Congress and Washington was in the presidency with both supporting the new laws so the “original intent” of the Framers could not be easily misunderstood.

The right “to keep and bear arms” was always within the context of participating in militias or today the National Guard not as the right of individuals to possess devastating weapons that could be used to violently overthrow the U.S. government or to kill its officials. (The recognition of a collective rather than individual right was only reversed in 2008 when right-wing ideologues had gained control of the U.S. Supreme Court and then overturned longstanding legal precedents.)

But if there was any doubt about how the actual Framers saw the Second Amendment, it was answered in 1794 when President Washington led a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey rebels in Pennsylvania. The revolt soon collapsed; many leaders fled; and two participants were convicted of high treason and sentenced to hanging, though Washington later pardoned them.

Beyond this clear historical record that the Framers’ intent with the Second Amendment was to create security for the new Republic, not promote armed rebellions there is also the simple logic that the Framers represented the young nation’s aristocracy. Many, like Washington, owned vast tracts of land and favored domestic tranquility to promote economic development and growth.

So, it would be counterintuitive as well as anti-historical to believe that Madison and Washington wanted to arm the population so the discontented could resist the constitutionally elected government. In reality, the Framers wanted to arm the people at least the white males to repulse uprisings, whether economic clashes like Shays’ Rebellion, anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts.

Fabricated History

However, the Right has invested heavily over the last several decades in fabricating a different national narrative, one that ignores both logic and the historical record. In this right-wing fantasy, the Framers wanted everyone to have a gun so they could violently resist their own government.

To build that narrative, a few incendiary quotes are cherry-picked, taken out of context or invented. [See, for instance, Steven Krulik’s compilation of such apocryphal references.]

This “history” has then been amplified through the Right’s powerful propaganda apparatus Fox News, talk radio, the Internet and ideological publications to persuade millions of Americans that their possession of semi-automatic assault rifles and other powerful firearms is what the Framers intended, that today’s gun owners are fulfilling some centuries-old American duty.

It should be noted, too, that Thomas Jefferson, one of the most radical-sounding (though hypocritical) leaders of the Revolutionary War, was not a Framer of the Constitution. In 1787, when the document was written, he was the U.S. representative in France.

There is also the obvious point that the Framers’ idea of a weapon was a single-shot musket that required time-consuming reloading, not a powerful semi-automatic assault rifle that could fire up to 100 bullets in a matter of seconds without the necessity to reload.

However, people like Andrew Napolitano on the Right as well as some dreamy revolutionaries on the Left still suggest that the Framers enacted the Second Amendment so the firepower of people trying to overthrow the U.S. government and kill its agents would be equal to whatever weapons the government possessed.

This crazy notion would be laughable if its consequences were not so horrible. The human price for this phony concept of “liberty” and this bogus history is the horrendous death toll that gun violence inflicts on American society, including the recent slaughter of those children in Newtown.

Yet, instead of recognizing the actual history and accepting that the Constitution was an attempt by the Framers to create a democratic process for peaceful change, today’s advocates of a violent revolution whether from the Right or the Left feed the paranoia and the ignorance of their followers.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. He founded Consortium News in 1995, considered the first online, independent news site.




WATCH: CN LIVE! The Latest on Assange; Plus America and Guns: Episode 5

The fifth episode of CN Live! discussed the latest on Julian Assange and the problem of guns in America. 

John Pilger saw Assange at Belmarsh prison on Tuesday and reports a troubling deterioration in his health. We discussed Assange and governments’ treatment of him and how the people are manipulated with Australian psychologist Lissa Johnson. Plus Mark Davis, a prominent Australian television journalist, revealed new details about WikiLeaks‘ relationship with The Guardian and The New York Times during publication of the Afghan War Logs.

And then, in the wake of the massacres last weekend in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, we got two perspectives on the crisis that has gripped the U.S. for too long: mass murder. 

First we were joined from Sydney, Australia by Rebecca Peters, who helped negotiate Australia’s gun laws enacted after a 1996 mass murder that has made a dramatic difference; and James Howard Kunstler went deep into what’s unwell about American culture that contributes to the ongoing, senseless massacres.

All on today’s episode of CN Live! with your hosts Elizabeth Vos and Joe Lauria.  

Watch the replay here!

 




PATRICK LAWRENCE: Finally Time for DNC Email Evidence

The crumbling of Russiagate focuses attention on the considerable evidence that Russian intelligence agencies charged with intrusion into DNC servers had nothing to do with it. 

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

Three years after the narrative we call Russiagate was framed and incessantly promoted, it crumbles into rubble as we speak. The mini-empire of allegations, presuppositions, fallacious syllogisms, leaps of logic, imagined connections and mis– and disinformation marshaled to support charges of Russian interference in the 2016 elections is more or less a ruin.

The total collapse of the Russiagate orthodoxy now appears within reach — this for the first time since the Democratic National Committee set the narrative in motion after its email servers were compromised during the Trump–Clinton presidential contest. There is a good chance — though this is not a certainty — that Attorney General William Barr’s just-launched investigation will fully expose the numerous charges of Russian intervention as fabrications. Evidence of these fabrications, long available but ignored in a remarkably prevalent case of willful blindness, continues to grow such that it may be difficult to obscure it much longer.

It is now officially acknowledged that there is no credible evidence that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. At this point, the demonstrably bogus assertion that Russian intelligence hacked into the DNC’s email system in mid–2016 is the one remaining feature of the Russiagate orthodoxy that is commonly considered rock solid.

The mythology on this question remains deeply embedded, the absence of any supporting evidence notwithstanding. Press and broadcast reports rarely miss an opportunity to cast Russian responsibility for the DNC email intrusion as a foregone conclusion. But this, too, is a tower built on sand. To put Russiagate decisively in the past now comes to demolishing this last, unsound edifice. The rest is already too discredited for anyone but naïve liberals, wishful-thinking “progressives” and the most committed ideologues to take seriously.
This focuses attention on the evidence — considerable and accumulating — that Russian intelligence agencies, officially charged with intrusion into the DNC’s servers, had nothing to do with it. It is now two years since technically qualified intelligence professionals of long experience reported via Consortium News that the theft of Democratic Party email in 2016 was neither a hack nor a Russian intelligence operation. In July 2017 Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity presented persuasive evidence that the DNC’s servers had been compromised by someone with direct access to them.

The email messages subsequently posted by WikiLeaks had been pilfered by an insider of unknown identity: This was the conclusion VIPS drew in VIPS50, the group’s report on the mail incident, on the basis of the evidence it had gathered while working with other independent forensic investigators. The “hack,” in short, was not a hack. It was a leak.

A cacophony of objections erupted after Consortium posted VIPS50. Much — vastly too much — has been made of a group of “dissenters” within the VIPS organization who did not endorse the report. But neither these dissenters nor the many others attempting to discredit VIPS50 have succeeded in doing so. No countervailing evidence from any quarter has been presented. Based on continuing research, VIPS subsequently altered some of its initial conclusions, as noted in this space a year ago. But its principal findings stand.

VIPS50 

This puts VIPS50, while still officially excluded from the record, among the most consequential documents to be published since the Russiagate narrative took shape three years ago. If we are to recover from the destructive, divisive nightmare Russiagate has become, VIPS50 will be key to the process. There are indications now that its findings, based on impartially conducted data analysis and forensic science, will soon get the consideration they have deserved from the first. My sources suggest Barr’s office is making use of VIPS report and subsequent findings as it begins its investigation into the genesis of the Russiagate allegations.   

Much anticipation preceded the publication in mid–April of the report on Russian interference completed in the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Contrary to prevalent expectations, however, the 448–page document failed to confirm the case for Russiagate and did much to weaken it. Not only did the report conclude that neither President Trump nor anyone in his campaign colluded with Russia as he fought the 2016 election; it also made clear that the special counsel’s office did not undertake a credible investigation of the charge that Russian intelligence hacked the DNC’s mail servers.

Mueller failed to call numerous key witnesses, among them Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and publisher, and Bill Binney, formerly a technical director at the National Security Agency and one of several technical experts in the VIPS group. He also failed to pursue alternative theories in the email-theft case; a duty of any investigator in Mueller’s position. Only the willfully blind can accept these irregularities as legitimate conduct. 

Remarkably enough, Mueller’s investigation appears to have conducted no forensic tests of its own to verify allegations of a Russian hacking operation. It relied instead on the patently faulty findings of Crowdstrike, the disreputable cyber-security firm that was working for the DNC by mid–2016. Critically, the special counsel also appears to have neglected to consult the NSA for evidence pertaining to the DNC incident. Had the intrusion been a hack conducted over the internet, by Russians or anyone else, the agency would have a fully detailed digital record of the operation and the means to trace the intervention to its perpetrators. Why, it is perfectly logical to ask, was such a record not cited prominently in the Mueller report?

Mueller’s testimony before two congressional committees on July 24 was a further blow to the Russiagate thesis. The special counsel came over as a detached, out-of-touch figurehead with a very loose grip on his own investigation and poor knowledge of the report bearing his signature. Soon afterward, even Trump’s adversaries in the Democratic camp began to give up the ghost. “In the hours and days after Mr. Mueller gave his opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee,” wrote Samuel Moyn, a Yale law professor, “it became clear how tenaciously many liberals and progressives are clinging to fantasy.” Moyn’s piece appeared in The New York Times. The headline reads, “The Mueller Fantasy Comes Crashing Down.”

Despite the stunningly anticlimactic outcome of the Mueller report and his subsequent appearance on Capitol Hill — which was intended from the first to be a matter of spectacle rather than substance — new allegations of Russian interference  continue to arrive on front pages and in news broadcasts. The latest came the day after Mueller’s testimony, when the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that Russia intruded into the election systems of all 50 states during the 2016 campaigns. The report offered no supporting evidence, per usual. It was heavily redacted at the request of the relevant intelligence agencies, again per usual.

Question of Evidence

This brings us to the question of evidence. To go back to the initial allegations of Russian interference three years ago, at no point since have any of these commonly accepted charges been accompanied by hard, legally and logically sound evidence to back them up. This astonishing lacuna, while intently papered over in the media, on Capitol Hill, at the Justice Department, in the intelligence apparatus, and among law-enforcement agencies, has rendered the Russiagate orthodoxy vulnerable from the first. It now emerges that the evidence problem is worse than even the most committed critics of the Russiagate narrative had thought.

This came to light this spring, during the pre-trial discovery phase of the case against Roger Stone, the onetime Trump aide charged with obstructing justice and misleading Congress. When Stone’s attorneys requested Crowdstrike’s final report on the DNC email theft, which they said was relevant to his defense, prosecutors returned with the stunning revelation that Crowdstrike, the DNC’s cyber-security firm, never submitted a final report. “The government does not possess the information the defendant seeks,” the Justice Department responded via a court filing.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s failure to take possession of the DNC’s email servers from Crowdstrike after the mid–2016 intrusion, a shocking case of official malfeasance, has long been dismissed as an unimportant detail. We now know that the FBI, the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation relied on nothing more than three Crowdstrike drafts — all of them redacted by Crowdstrike — to build the case for Russia’s culpability in the theft of the DNC’s email.

Not only did the FBI fail to establish a proper chain of evidentiary custody after the incident at the DNC; it is now clear the bureau knows of the email theft only what Crowdstrike chose to tell it. There is no evidence that the FBI asked the NSA for its records of the incident. Nor is there any indication that Crowdstrike has ever given the FBI or prosecutors in the Stone case the data it used to produce its never-completed report. “Crowdstrike appears to have destroyed evidence or is hiding it,” Bill Binney said in a telephone interview.  

The corporate media continue to pretend in their press reports and news broadcasts that the official investigation of the DNC email incident was conducted according to the highest standard of legitimacy. Democrats on Capitol Hill, still pursuing their own investigations, never question the validity of the officially constructed case alleging Russia’s responsibility. The revelation of negligence the Stone trial brings to light, which amounts to corruption, could hardly expose this prolonged charade more starkly.

Forensic investigators, meantime, continue to gather evidence supporting the leak-not-hack case made in VIPS50. The gap thus widens between the official story of the DNC mail incident and the case supported by forensic research done by VIPS and other independent investigators working in association with it.  

Last February these investigators discovered that email pilfered in 2016 and subsequently conveyed to WikiLeaks had been stored according to a system called File Allocation Table, or FAT. The FAT system time-stamps data according to their last modifications and, because it is less precise than other storage systems, it rounds up time stamps to the next even number. If the FAT system is used to store data, it is a strong indication that the data were stored on a memory key or another such portable device.

In the 35, 816 email messages investigators examined, the FAT system assigned even-numbered time stamps to all of them. Binney, a mathematician by training, puts the chance of this occurring without the use of a portable storage device at 1 in 2 to the 35,816thpower — meaning it is a virtual impossibility.

The FAT numbering pattern detected in the email messages tested does not indicate at what stage or where a portable device was used. It shows only that such a device was used at some point in the handling of the data; a portable device may or may not have been used to execute the initial download. But the presence of the FAT system in the metadata of the emails tested adds another layer of circumstantial evidence supporting the VIPS case that the theft of DNC mail was a leak executed locally via a portable device and not a remote hack conducted through the internet. At the very least, it is an additional line of inquiry the FBI, the intelligence agencies, and the Mueller investigation have left unexamined.

VIPS Dissenters

Among the critics of VIPS50, none has influenced public opinion as much as the dissenters within the group’s membership. The presence of these dissenters has been evident since VIPS50 went through repeated drafts over a period of nearly two weeks. This is a group of honorable, in many cases brave people. But they advanced no coherent objections to the VIPS document prior to its publication, and this remained the case for some time after Consortium News posted it on July 24, 2017. Having begun reporting on VIPS50 shortly after that date, I found — and continue to find — the dissenters’ position heavily inflected with personal animosities and political leanings having no bearing on the validity of the VIPS50 findings. 

A number of dissenters signed a contribution to a forum The Nation hosted after the magazine published a piece I wrote on VIPS50 in August 2017. This was the first time the dissenters publicly presented substantive objections to VIPS50, and they focused on the core of the VIPS case. This case continues to rest primarily on the speed at which a mail theft could be executed in mid–2016. The transfer speed, identified by an analysis of metadata found on documents stolen at that time, was considerably faster than the rate possible over the internet at the time of the intrusion, indicating a leak by someone using a portable storage device and with direct access to the DNC’s servers.

The dissenting group took specific issue with these findings. “Data-transfer speeds across networks and the Internet measured in megabits per second (or megabytes per second) can easily achieve rates that greatly exceed the cited reference in the VIPS memo,” the dissidents wrote.

It was at this point the dissenters repeated the failures of the intelligence apparatus and the Mueller investigation: They produced no evidence. There is no indication the dissenters conducted tests to support their assertion on the speed question. The VIPS memo applied scientific method to the DNC mail theft for the first time and was intended as an “evidence to date” document. This marked a transformative advance in how the DNC incident can be understood: The imperative since has been to bring countervailing evidence to the investigative process, which continues. No one —not the dissenters, not the DNC, not the “intelligence community,” not Mueller, not the press — has done so.

The dissenters have been silent since their contribution to The Nation’s forum. Members have declined invitations to work with VIPS50 signatories to develop further the evidence presented in the memo. When I queried a number of dissenters for this commentary, one replied. This person did not address the findings of forensic investigators while reproducing what VIPS50 signatories term the “emotional arguments” that have characterized the dissenters’ response to the memo since the drafting phase two summers ago. These continuing difficulties appear partly to reflect a desire not to be seen defending either Trump or the Russians.

Barr’s Investigation

The NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the Mueller investigation, the press — none has shown the slightest interest in the findings outlined in VIPS50. This can come as no surprise, given the heavy investments all of these entities have made in the Russians-did-it explanation of the DNC email incident. But this omission is nonetheless negligent when one considers the contradicting evidence VIPS and those associated with it continue to amass. A key question now arises: Will the Barr investigation into the genesis of allegations of Russian interference, begun three months ago, transcend this politically inspired ignorance to expose official accounts of the mid–2016 mail theft as fallacies?

The early signs were that Barr’s investigators would at last explode the Russiagate narrative. Trump was unmistakably determined to do so when he urged Barr to “investigate the investigators” last spring. In mid–May Barr appointed John Durham, a federal prosecutor, to direct this effort. Ten days later Trump gave Barr “full and complete authority to declassify information” related to the conduct of the intelligence agencies, the FBI, and the Justice Department.

It was clear very early that Trump was aware of VIPS50 and entertained a lively interest in its findings. In September 2017, two months after Consortium published the memo, he ordered Mike Pompeo, then director of the CIA, to interview Bill Binney, the leading technical expert within the VIPS group. Pompeo did so in October 2017, but by Binney’s account he flinched: Pompeo heard Binney out at the president’s insistence, but he never pursued the forensic findings the former NSA technical director walked him through.

This was an early sign, it is now plain, that even efforts to unearth the truth of the allegations against Russia that emanate from the White House would meet political resistance. Another came last Friday, when Trump was forced to drop John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican who pledged to support a full investigation of Russiagate, as his nominee to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. While Ratcliffe considered the orthodox Russiagate narrative bogus, Coats was vigorous in his promotion of it.

This makes political will another key question to ask of the Barr investigation: Full exposure of the travesty of Russiagate is almost certainly within Barr’s power to achieve. Will he do so?

Whether Trump will remain consistent in his backing of Barr is another such question. While Trump habitually terms Russiagate “a hoax,” he has also indicated on a number of occasions that his true objective is simply to escape the charge that he colluded with Russians to win the 2016 election. “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump tweeted earlier this year. “I said, ‘It may be Russia, or China, or another country or group, or it may be a 400–pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia—it never did!”

A president who slips and slides, an administrative state — the Deep State if you like — thoroughly committed to defending falsified accounts of the mid–2016 intrusions into the DNC’s email servers, a supine press: It is impossible to say when or whether the truth of the events of three years ago will emerge. The evidence is there, sufficient now to conclude the Russigate case. The greatest remaining obstacle is the willful ignorance that incubated the Russiagate narrative and now prolongs it. We reach a point when evidence and more evidence, along with political integrity, are the only effective replies to this cynical, foolish, and costly recalcitrance.  

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutistHis website is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. 

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