Justice Dept Likely to Slow-Walk Declassification

President Trump has ordered Russia-gate data to be declassified  but will likely be stonewalled, raising questions about whether Trump is his own man, writes Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Don’t hold your breath. While the media is breathlessly describing yesterday’s order by President Donald Trump’s “to provide for the immediate (emphasis added) declassification” of Russia-gate materials as a “showdown,” any likely showdown is months away, if it comes at all.

The word “immediate” can mean different things to different people. Had the President set a deadline, or had he given the declassification task to his own National Security Council, the word “showdown” might be closer to what to expect.

The tragic-comedy now on stage in Washington is beyond bizarre. Can President Trump be unaware that those he “ordered” to do the declassification — top officials of the Justice Department, the FBI, and the intelligence agencies — have zero incentive to comply “immediately.” And they have minus-zero incentive, as the top echelons see it, to throw their former bosses, colleagues, and co-conspirators under the bus by releasing the family jewels.

Most of today’s commentary by anonymous officials on declassification are transparently bogus. To suggest, for example, that “death could occur,” as one MSNBC pundit predicted this afternoon, is beyond ludicrous. Do not expect Establishment media, however, to stop its feeding frenzy at the Deep State trough.

Stakes High For Russia-gate Pundits

The stakes could hardly be higher not only for the Deep State, but also for the media — including erstwhile “progressive” pundits not yet recovered, after 22 months, from the virulent virus I call “HWHW” (Hillary Would Have Won). Observations by Mark Twain and, more recently, Patrick Lawrence apply in spades to the widely shared predicament of Russia-gate. Twain: “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Lawrence put it this way in Consortium News: “The most ordinary standards of evidentiary procedure are forgone. Many of our key institutions—the foreign policy apparatus, the media, key intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, the political leadership—are now extravagantly committed to a narrative none appears able to control. The risk of self-inflicted damage these institutions assume, should the truth of the Russia-gate events emerge—as one day it surely will—is nearly incalculable. … Russia-gate, in a phrase, has become too big to fail.”

Trump has now put the ball in the miscreants’ court but, with the media on their side, Deep State functionaries enjoy the equivalent of home-court advantage. House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R, CA) has pretty much warned of this. Speaking of classified passages Trump has now ordered released, Nunes in late July expressed hedged confidence “that once the American people see these 20 pages, at least for those that will get real reporting on this issue, (emphasis added) they will be shocked by what’s in that FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] application” to surveil Carter Page, an American citizen, and member of Trump’s campaign team.

Sure, Nunes is a Trump supporter. But he also has this strange — these days one might say romantic — notion that the way the U.S. Constitution set things up, he and his committee have the power — and the duty — to oversee the agencies that Congress established and funds, and to uncover any abuses. The behavior of the chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees shows they share that view.

On February 18, Nunes threw down a heavy gauntlet during an interview with journalist Sheryl Attkisson:

“FISA abuse … as it relates to the Department of Justice and the FBI, if they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial. The reason that Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created. DOJ and FBI are not above the law. Congress created them, we oversee them, and we fund them. And if they’re committing abuse for a secret court, getting warrants on American citizens, you’re darn right that we’re going to put them on trial.”

Trump Agonistes

Nunes put that on the record back in February. What can possibly explain Trump’s reluctance to order declassification of relevant FISA and other documents (with such redactions that might be truly necessary) until seven months later, and just seven weeks before the mid-term elections? And why did Trump throw down a cautious, paper-thin gauntlet, with no firm deadline — inviting Deep State stonewalling?

The need to play ball with the Deep State is normally made clear to incoming presidents before they are inaugurated, and such was the case with President-elect Trump. Just two weeks before he took office, Trump was paid an official visit by National Intelligence Director James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Michael Rogers. Trump was put on notice by none other than the Minority Leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer. Schumer has been around and knows the ropes; he is a veteran of 18 years in the House, and is in his 20th year in the Senate.

On Jan. 3, 2017 Schumer said it all, when he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, that President-elect Trump is “being really dumb” by taking on the intelligence community and its assessments on Russia’s cyber activities:

Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told Maddow. “So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.” Did Maddow ask Schumer if he was saying the President of the United States should be afraid of the intelligence community? No, she let Schumer’s theorem stand.

Three days after the Schumer-Maddow warning, at the January 6 meeting with the Deep State brass, Trump was handed an evidence-free, rump intelligence “assessment” — published the same day — that Russian President Vladimir Putin had done what he could to get Trump elected.  Adding insult to injury, after the others had left then-FBI Director Comey told the President-elect about the dubious findings of the so-called “Steele dossier,” opposition research paid for by the Democrats, with unconfirmed but scurrilous stories about Trump cavorting with prostitutes in Moscow, etc., etc.

Did Trump get the message? Is he his own man? A clue is in the almost embarrassing abundance of caution he has exercised vis-a-vis the Deep State — and the military, as well. He is likely to let himself be slow-walked on declassification past the mid-term elections, after which the scenery is likely to look very different in Congress.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army officer and a CIA presidential briefer, and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).




On the Brink with Russia in Syria Again, 5 Years Later

It’s deja-vu all over again in Syria, with the U.S. on the verge of a confrontation with Russia as Donald Trump faces his biggest decision yet as president, comments Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

The New York Times, on September 11, 2013, accommodated Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s desire “to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders” about “recent events surrounding Syria.”

Putin’s op-ed in the Times appeared under the title: “A Plea for Caution From Russia.” In it, he warned that a military “strike by the United States against Syria will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders … and unleash a new wave of terrorism. … It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”

Three weeks before Putin’s piece, on August 21, there had been a chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed. There soon emerged, however, ample evidence that the incident was a provocation to bring direct U.S. military involvement against Assad, lest Syrian government forces retain their momentum and defeat the jihadist rebels.

In a Memorandum for President Barack Obama five days before Putin’s article, on September 6, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) had warned President Barack Obama of the likelihood that the incident in Ghouta was a false-flag attack.

Despite his concern of a U.S. attack, Putin’s main message in his op-ed was positive, talking of a growing mutual trust:

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action. [Syria’s chemical weapons were in fact destroyed under UN supervision the following year.]

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive … and steer the discussion back toward negotiations. If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust … and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.”

Obama Refuses to Strike

In a lengthy interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg published in The Atlantic much later, in March 2016, Obama showed considerable pride in having refused to act according to what he called the “Washington playbook.”

He added a telling vignette that escaped appropriate attention in Establishment media. Obama confided to Goldberg that, during the crucial last week of August 2013, National Intelligence Director James Clapper paid the President an unannounced visit to caution him that the allegation that Assad was responsible for the chemical attack in Ghouta was “not a slam dunk.”

Clapper’s reference was to the very words used by former CIA Director George Tenet when he characterized, falsely, the nature of the evidence on WMD in Iraq while briefing President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in December 2002. Additional evidence that Ghouta was a false flag came in December 2016 parliamentary testimony in Turkey.

In early September 2013, around the time of Putin’s op-ed, Obama resisted the pressure of virtually all his advisers to launch cruise missiles on Syria and accepted the Russian-brokered deal for Syria give up its chemical weapons. Obama follow public opinion but had to endure public outrage from those lusting for the U.S. to get involved militarily. From neoconservatives, in particular, there was hell to pay.

Atop the CNN building in Washington, DC, on the evening of September 9, two days before Putin’s piece, I had a fortuitous up-close-and-personal opportunity to watch the bitterness and disdain with which Paul Wolfowitz and Joe Lieberman heaped abuse on Obama for being too “cowardly” to attack.

Five Years Later

In his appeal for cooperation with the U.S., Putin had written these words reportedly by himself:

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

In recent days, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has left no doubt that he is the mascot of American exceptionalism. Its corollary is Washington’s “right” to send its forces, uninvited, into countries like Syria.

We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” Bolton said on Monday. “I can say we’ve been in consultations with the British and the French who have joined us in the second strike and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response.”

As was the case in September 2013, Syrian government forces, with Russian support, have the rebels on the defensive, this time in Idlib province where most of the remaining jihadists have been driven. On Sunday began what could be the final showdown of the five-year war. Bolton’s warning of a chemical attack by Assad makes little sense as Damascus is clearly winning and the last thing Assad would do is invite U.S. retaliation.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, with remarkable prescience, has already blamed Damascus for whatever chemical attack might take place. The warnings of direct U.S. military involvement, greater than Trump’s two previous pin-prick attacks, is an invitation for the cornered jihadists to launch another false-flag attack to exactly bring that about.

Sadly, not only has the growing trust recorded by Putin five years ago evaporated, but the likelihood of a U.S.-Russian military clash in the region is as perilously high as ever.

Seven days before Putin’s piece appeared, citizen Donald Trump had tweeted: “Many Syrian ‘rebels’ are radical Jihadis. Not our friends & supporting them doesn’t serve our national interest. Stay out of Syria!”

In September 2015 Trump accused his Republican primary opponents of wanting to “start World War III over Syria. Give me a break. You know, Russia wants to get ISIS, right? We want to get ISIS. Russia is in Syria — maybe we should let them do it? Let them do it.”

Last week Trump warned Russian and Syria not to attack Idlib. Trump faces perhaps his biggest test as president: whether he can resist his neocon advisers and not massively attack Syria, as Obama chose not to, or risk the wider war he accused his Republican opponents of fomenting.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and was a Presidential briefer from 1981 to 1985.

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An Online Vigil in Defense of Julian Assange With Daniel Ellsberg, Craig Murray, Bill Binney and Ray McGovern

Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News, on Saturday helped moderate a daylong chain of interviews in defense of WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, including a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg. 

#Unity4J online vigil was held on Saturday to defend the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, whose sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London has turned into torturous solitary confinement.

Among the participants on Saturday were Craig Murray, a former U.K. ambassador; Nat Parry, son of Consortium New’s founder and first editor, Robert Parry; Bill Binney, former technical director at the National Security Agency, and Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer. Joe Lauria interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower and author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. 

The entire 11 hour and 45 minute event can be viewed here:

International media have reported that Ecuador may hand over Assange to United Kingdom authorities, with a fear that he then would be extradited to the United States. The U.K. and Ecuadorian sides are engaged in ongoing negotiations, but Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, has acknowledged that Assange’s legal team is not part of those talks.

The fate of Assange represents a threat to human rights, asylum rights, liberty and press freedoms. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights already have found in Assange’s favor.

#Unity4J originated from an unplanned but timely response to injustice when Assange’s internet access and visitation rights were taken away. The action has grown into a series of high-profile monthly online vigils. 

A dynamic new format for the monthly online vigils was introduced on Saturday.  Conceived by organizer Suzie Dawson, the concept is described as a “daisy-chain style digital relay”—which featured more than  twenty guest appearances of 30 minutes duration each. At the conclusion of each segment, the guests transitioned from interviewee to interviewer. 

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act,” Assange reminds us, “we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”

For more information about Assange and WikiLeak’s legal situation, visit iamwikileaks.org and justice4assange.com  and unity4J.com .




INTRODUCING: Consortium News on Flashpoints, Our Second Radio Show

This month Consortium News launched Consortium News Radio. Today we begin a second radio show in collaboration with Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints, a biweekly interview program with Consortium News writers.

In collaboration with Dennis Bernstein, host of Pacifica Radio’s syndicated show Flashpoints, Consortium News is today launching its second radio program, Consortium News on Flashpoints. Recorded and produced in the Berkeley, California studios of KPFA radio, Bernstein will interview three Consortium News writers about their recent articles published on this site. Each program will open with Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria discussing with Bernstein his picks of the three CN articles to be featured. The show will air twice a month on every other Friday. (We are about to launch a podcast of all our radio programming).

On the first show, Bernstein interviews Sam Husseini on his piece The Limits of Elizabeth Warren; Patrick Lawrence about his article, Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack; and Joe Lauria, on his retrospective of Kofi Annan, who died last Saturday. 

Now the first episode of Consortium News on Flashpoints.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. You can get in touch with the author at dennisjbernstein@gmail.com .

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

If you valued this original article please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.

 




Trump Strikes Back at ‘Ringleader’ Brennan

At war with current and former intelligence officials since before he was elected, Donald Trump on Wednesday moved to strip Barack Obama’s CIA chief of his security clearance, though worse may be in store for John Brennan, says Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

There’s more than meets the eye to President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearances that ex-CIA Director John Brennan enjoyed as a courtesy customarily afforded former directors. The President’s move is the second major sign that Brennan is about to be hoisted on his own petard. It is one embroidered with rhetoric charging Trump with treason and, far more important, with documents now in the hands of congressional investigators showing Brennan’s ringleader role in the so-far unsuccessful attempts to derail Trump both before and after the 2016 election.

Brennan will fight hard to avoid being put on trial but will need united support from from his Deep State co-conspirators–a dubious proposition. One of Brennan’s major concerns at this point has to be whether the “honor-among-thieves” ethos will prevail, or whether some or all of his former partners in crime will latch onto the opportunity to “confess” to investigators: “Brennan made me do it.”

Well before Monday night, when Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani let a small bomb drop on Brennan, there was strong evidence that Brennan had been quarterbacking illegal operations against Trump.  Giuliani added fuel to the fire when he told Sean Hannity of Fox news:

“I’m going to tell you who orchestrated, who was the quarterback for all this. … The guy running it is Brennan, and he should be in front of a grand jury.  Brennan took … a dossier that, unless he’s the biggest idiot intelligence agent that ever lived … it’s false; you can look at it and laugh at it. And he peddled it to [then Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, and that led to the request for the investigation. So you take a false dossier, get senators involved, and you get a couple of Republican senators, and they demand an investigation—a totally phony investigation.”

The Fix Brennan Finds Himself In

After eight years of enjoying President Barack Obama’s solid support and defense to do pretty much anything he chose—including hacking into the computers of the Senate Intelligence Committee—Brennan now lacks what, here in Washington, we refer to as a “Rabbi” with strong incentive to advance and protect you.  He expected Hillary Clinton to play that role (were it ever to be needed), and that seemed to be solidly in the cards. But, oops, she lost.

What needs to be borne in mind in all this is, as former FBI Director James Comey himself has admitted: “I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president.” Comey, Brennan, and co-conspirators, who decided—in that “environment”—to play fast and loose with the Constitution and the law, were supremely confident they would not only keep their jobs, but also receive plaudits, not indictments.

Unless one understands and remembers this, it is understandably difficult to believe that the very top U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials did what documentary evidence has now demonstrated they did.

So, unlike his predecessors, most of whom also left under a dark cloud, Brennan is bereft of anyone to protect him. He lacks even a PR person to help him avoid holding himself up to ridicule—and now retaliation—for unprecedentedly hostile tweets and other gaffes. Brennan’s mentor, ex-CIA Director George Tenet, for example, had powerful Rabbis in President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as a bizarrely empathetic establishment media, when Tenet quit in disgrace 2004.

The main question now is whether the chairs of the House oversight committees will chose to face down the Deep State. They almost never do, and the smart money says that, if they do, they will lose—largely because of the virtually total support of the establishment media for the Deep State. This often takes bizarre forms. The title of a recent column by Washington Post “liberal” commentator Eugene Robinson speaks volumes: “God Bless the Deep State.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he served under nine CIA directors and seven Presidents. He is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

 




‘Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack

One year later, the VIPS memo contending that the DNC emails were leaked and not hacked has yet to be successfully challenged. Meanwhile, the country sinks deeper into the morass of the new McCarthyism, comments Patrick Lawrence.

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

A year has passed since highly credentialed intelligence professionals produced the first hard evidence that allegations of mail theft and other crimes attributed to Russia rested on purposeful falsification and subterfuge. The initial reaction to these revelations—a firestorm of frantic denial—augured ill, and the time since has fulfilled one’s worst expectations. One year later we live within an institutionalized proscription of proven reality. Our discourse consists of a series of fence posts and taboos. By any detached measure, this lands us in deep, serious trouble. The sprawl of what we call “Russia-gate” now brings our republic and its institutions to a moment of great peril—the gravest since the McCarthy years and possibly since the Civil War. No, I do not consider this hyperbole.

Much has happened since Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published its report on intrusions into the Democratic Party’s mail servers on Consortium News on July 24 last year. Parts of the intelligence apparatus—by no means all or even most of it—have issued official “assessments” of Russian culpability. Media have produced countless multi-part “investigations,” “special reports,” and what-have-yous that amount to an orgy of faulty syllogisms. Robert Mueller’s special investigation has issued two sets of indictments that, on scrutiny, prove as wanting in evidence as the notoriously flimsy intelligence “assessment” of January 6, 2017.

Indictments are not evidence and do not need to contain evidence. That is supposed to come out at trial, which is very unlikely to ever happen. Nevertheless, the corporate media has treated the indictments as convictions.

Numerous sets of sanctions against Russia, individual Russians, and Russian entities have been imposed on the basis of this great conjuring of assumption and presumption. The latest came last week, when the Trump administration announced measures in response to the alleged attempt to murder Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former double agent and his daughter, in England last March. No evidence proving responsibility in the Skripal case has yet been produced. This amounts to our new standard. It prompted a reader with whom I am in regular contact to ask, “How far will we allow our government to escalate against others without proof of anything?”

This is a very good question.

There have been many attempts to discredit VIPS50 as the group’s document is called. There has been much amateurish journalism, false reporting, misrepresentation, distortion, misquotation, and omission. We have been treated to much shoddy science, attempts at character assassination, a great deal of base name-calling, and much else. Russia is routinely advanced as the greatest threat to democracy Americans now face. Is there any denying that we live amid an induced hysteria now comparable to the “Red under every bed” period of the 1950s?

None of this has altered the basic case. VIPS and forensic scientists working with it have continued their investigations. New facts, some of which alter conclusions drawn last year, have come to light, and these are to be addressed. But the basic evidence that Russia-gate is a false narrative concocted by various constituents of national power stands, difficult as this is to discern. Scrape back all that is ethically unacceptable and unscrupulously conveyed into the public sphere and you find that nothing has changed: No one “hacked” the Democratic party’s mail in the summer of 2016. It was leaked locally. From what one can make out, it was done to expose the party leadership’s corrupt efforts to sink Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign to win the Democratic nomination.

But in another, very profound way, more has changed since VIPS50 was published than one could have imagined a year ago. American discourse has descended to a dangerous level of irrationality. The most ordinary standards of evidentiary procedure are forgone. Many of our key institutions—the foreign policy apparatus, the media, key intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, the political leadership—are now extravagantly committed to a narrative none appears able to control. The risk of self-inflicted damage these institutions assume, should the truth of the Russia-gate events emerge—as one day it surely will—is nearly incalculable. This is what inspires my McCarthy and Civil War references. Russia-gate, in a phrase, has become too big to fail.

This column is an attack on no one. However it may be read, it is not intended as another round of vituperative argument adding to the din and fog we already suffer daily. No shred of ideology informs it. I write a lament—this for all we have done to ourselves and our institutions this past year, and to the prospect of an orderly world, and for all that must somehow be done to repair the damage once enough of us indeed recognize what has been done.

New VIPS Findings

The forensic scientists working with VIPS continued their research and experiments after VIPS50 was published. So have key members of the VIPS group, notably William Binney, the National Security Agency’s former technical director for global analysis and designer of programs the agency still uses to monitor internet traffic. Such work continues as we speak, indeed. This was always the intent: “Evidence to date” was the premise of VIPS50. Over the past year there have been confirmations of the original thesis and some surprises that alter secondary aspects of it. Let us look at the most significant of these findings.

At the time I reported on the findings of VIPS and associated forensic scientists, that the most fundamental evidence that the events of summer 2016 constituted a leak, not a hack, was the transfer rate—the speed at which data was copied. The speed proven then was an average of 22.7 megabytes per second. That speed matches what is standard when someone with physical access uses an external storage device to copy data from a computer or server and is much faster than a remote hack, reliant on communications topology available at the time, could achieve.

Binney experimented into the autumn. By mid-autumn he had tested several routes—from East Coast locations to cities in eastern Europe, from New Jersey to London. The fastest internet transfer speed achieved, during the New Jersey–to–Britain test, was 12.0 megabytes of data per second. Since this time it has emerged from G-2.0’s metadata that the detected average speed—the 22.7 megabytes per second—included peak speeds that ran as high as 49.1 megabytes per second, impossible over the internet. “You’d need a dedicated, leased, 400–megabit line all the way to Russia to achieve that result,” Binney said in a recent interview.

To my knowledge, no one with an understanding of the science involved, including various former skeptics, any longer questions the validity of the specific finding based on the observed transfer rate. That remains the bedrock evidence of the case VIPS and others advance without qualification. No one—including the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA—has come out against this finding,” Binney said Monday. “Anyone who says the speed we demonstrated can be achieved remotely, our position is ‘Let’s see it. We’ll help any way we can.’ There hasn’t been anyone yet.”

There is also the question of where and when leaks were executed. Research into this has turned out differently.

Evidence last year, based on analysis of the available metadata, showed that the copy operation date-stamped July 5, 2016, took place in the Eastern U.S. time zone. But Forensicator, one of the chief forensic investigators working on the mail-theft case anonymously, published evidence in May showing that while there was activity in the Eastern zone at the time of that copy, there was also a copy operation in the Pacific time zone, where clocks run three hours earlier that EST. In an earlier publication he had also reported activity in the Central time zone.

Plainly, more was awaiting discovery as to the when and where of the copy operations. The identity of Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker but which the latest Mueller indictment claims is a construct of the GRU, Russian military intelligence, has never been proven. The question is what G–2.0 did with or to the data in question. It turns out that both more, and less, is known about G–2.0 than was thought to have been previously demonstrated. This work has been completed only recently. It was done by Binney in collaboration with Duncan Campbell, a British journalist who has followed the Russia-gate question closely.

Peak Speed Established

Binney visited Campbell in Brighton, England, early this past spring. They examined all the metadata associated with the files G–2.0 has made public. They looked at the number of files, the size of each, and the time stamps at the end of each. It was at this time that Binney and Campbell established the peak transfer rate at 49.1 megabytes per second.

But they discovered something else of significance, too. At some point G–2.0 had merged two sets of data, one dated July 5, 2016, which had been known, and another dated the following September 1, which had not been known. In essence, Campbell reverse-engineered G–2.0’s work: He took the sets of data G–2.0 presented as two and combined them back into one. “G–2.0 used an algorithm to make a downloaded file look like two files,” Binney explained. “Those two shuffled back together like a deck of cards.”

G–2.0 then took another step. Running another algorithm, he changed all the dates on all the files. With yet another algorithm, he changed the hours stamped on each file. These are called “range changes” among the professionals. The conclusion was then obvious: G–2.0 is a fabrication and a fabricator. Forensicator had already proven that the G–2.0 entity had inserted Russian “fingerprints” into the document known as the “Trump Opposition Report,” which G-2.0 had published on June 15, 2016. It is clear that no firm conclusions can be drawn at this point as to when or where G–2.0 did what he did.

Now you need to prove everything you might think about him,” Binney told me. “We have no way of knowing anything about him or what he has done, apart from manipulating the files. We detected activity in the Eastern time zone. Now we have to ask again, ‘Which time zone?’ The West Coast copy operation [discovered by Forensicator] has to be proven. All the data has been manipulated. It’s a fabrication.”

This throws various things into question. The conclusions initially drawn on time and location in VIPS50 are now subject to these recent discoveries. “In retrospect, giving ‘equal importance’ status to data pertaining to the locale was mistaken,” Ray McGovern, a prominent VIPS member, wrote in a recent note. “The key finding on transfer speed always dwarfed it in importance.”

The indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers announced in mid–July by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney-general, also come into question. They rest in considerable part on evidence derived from G–2.0 and DCLeaks, another online persona. How credible are those indictments in view of what is now known about G–2.0?

Binney told me: “Once we proved G–2.0 is a fabrication and a manipulator, the timing and location questions couldn’t be answered but really didn’t matter. I don’t right now see a way of absolutely proving either time or location. But this doesn’t change anything. We know what we know: The intrusion into the Democratic National Committee mail was a local download—wherever ‘local’ is.” That doesn’t change. As to Rosenstein, he’ll have a lot to prove.”

What Role does Evidence Play?

Rosenstein’s predicament—and there is no indication he understands it as one—brings us to an essential problem: What is the place of evidence in American public discourse? Of rational exchange?

The questions are germane far beyond the Russia-gate phenomenon, but it is there that answers are most urgent. What is implicit in the Rosenstein indictments has been evident everywhere in our public sphere for a year or more: Make a presumption supported by circumstantial evidence or none and build other presumptions upon it until a false narrative is constructed. The press has deployed this device for as long as I have been a practitioner: “Might” or “could” or “possibly” becomes “perhaps,” “probably” and “almost certainly,” and then moves on to unqualified fact in the course of, maybe, several weeks. Now this is how our most basic institutions—not least agencies of the Justice Department—routinely operate.

This is what I mean when I refer to ours as a republic in peril.

There is the argument that certain things have been uncovered over the past year, and these are enough to conclude that Russia plots to undermine our democracy. I refer to the small number of Facebook advertisements attributed to Russians, to strings of Twitter messages, to various phishing exercises that occur thousands of times a day the world over. To be clear, I am no more satisfied with the evidence of Russian involvement in these cases than I am with the evidence in any other aspect of the Russia-gate case. But for the sake of argument, let us say it is all true.

Does this line up with the Russophobic hysteria—not too strong a term—that envelops us? Does this explain the astonishing investments our public institutions, the press, and leading political parties have made in advancing this hysteria as they did a variant of in the 1950s?

As global politics go, some serious thought should be given to a reality we have created all by ourselves: It is now likely that America has built a new Cold War division with Russia that will prove permanent for the next 20 to 30 years. All this because of some Facebook ads and Twitter threads of unproven origin? Am I the only one who sees a weird and worrisome gap between what we are intent on believing—as against thinking or knowing—and the consequences of these beliefs?

There was an orthodoxy abroad many centuries ago called Fideism. In the simplest terms, it means the privileging of faith and belief over reason. It was the enemy of individual conscience, among much else. Fideism has deep roots, but it was well around in the 16th century, when Montaigne and others had to navigate its many dangers. Closer to our time, William James landed a variant on American shores with an 1896 address called “The Will to Believe.” Bertrand Russell countered this line of thinking a couple of decades later with “Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” a lecture whose title I will let speak for itself. Twenty years ago, none other than Pope John Paul II warned of a resurgence of Fideism. It is still around, in short.

Do we suffer from it? A variant of it, I would say, if not precisely in name. There seems to be a givenness to it in the American character. I think we are staring into a 21st century rendition of it.

To doubt the hollowed-out myth of American innocence is a grave sin against the faith. It is now unpatriotic to question the Russia-gate narrative despite the absence of evidence to support it. Informal censorship of differing perspectives is perfectly routine. It is now considered treasonous to question the word of intelligence agencies and the officials who lead them despite long records of deceit. Do we forget that it was only 15 years ago that these same institutions and people deceived us into an invasion of Iraq the consequences of which still persist?

This was the question Craig Murray, the former British diplomat (who has vital information on the DNC mail theft but who has never been interviewed by American investigators) posed a few weeks ago. Eugene Robinson gave a good-enough reply in a Washington Post opinion piece shortly afterward: “God Bless the Deep State,” the headline read.

How we got here deserves a work of social psychology, and I hope someone takes up the task. Understanding our path into our self-created crisis seems to me the first step to finding our way out of it.

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 @thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us. Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist.




Senator Richard Burr: a Longtime Fan of Torture

Newly released declassified documents prove once and for all that CIA Director Gina Haspel oversaw torture in Thailand, which the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee knew all along, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Newly released official documents obtained by the National Security Archive showing that CIA Director Gina Haspel directly supervised waterboarding at the first CIA “Black Site” simply confirm what Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) already knew as he orchestrated the charade that was Haspel’s confirmation hearing.  Burr allowed her to “classify” her own direct role in waterboarding and other torture techniques so that it could be kept from the public and secure her confirmation—-further proof that this Senate oversight committee has instead become an overlook committee.

That Haspel supervised the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at the first CIA “black site” for interrogation was already clear to those who had followed Haspel’s career, but she was able to do a song and dance when Sen. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) asked her about it.  Haspel declined to reply on grounds that the information was classified. It was of course because Haspel herself had classified it. All the senators knew that only too well. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had strongly objected to this bizarre practice only minutes before. 

Witnessing this charade from the audience prompted me to stand up, excuse myself for interrupting, and suggest that the committee members were entitled to an honest answer since this was a public hearing with thousands watching on TV.  The American people were also entitled to know whether or not Haspel was directly involved in torture. As I was calmly pointing out that any Senate Intelligence Committee member who prepared for the hearing already knew the answer, I was “escorted out,” manhandled and charged with disrupting Congress and resisting arrest.

Jeremy Scahill later did a good job on Democracy Now! in putting needed context around the free pass and encouragement CIA torturers continue to enjoy at the hands of co-conspirators like Sen. Burr.

I have now had time to read through the documents obtained by the National Security Archive via Freedom of Information Act requests.  Suffice it to say they are so sad and sickening that I had to stop reading.

Corruption on Steroids

Burr was on the House Intelligence Committee, led by Porter Goss (R-FL) and later by Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), that winked at torture (not to mention blindly accepting the faux intelligence used to “justify” war on Iraq).  Might the CIA remind Burr of his condoning of torture, were he to chose not to play along with the Haspel nomination?

Burr’s record on the Senate Intelligence Committee is equally dubious. In January 2015, as soon as he took the Senate Intelligence Committee chair from Feinstein, he recalled all copies of the four-year committee study based on official CIA documents, which not only exposed unimaginably heinous forms of torture but found no evidence that any actionable intelligence was obtained from them.  To her credit, Feinstein had faced down both President Barack Obama and CIA Director John Brennan and got a long Executive Summary of the committee investigation published just before she had to relinquish the chair. 

Truth, Conscience, and Consequences

As an act of conscience, on March 2, 2006 I returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given me at retirement for “especially meritorious service,” explaining, “I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.”  I returned the medallion to Hoekstra (R, Michigan), who was then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with a statement explaining my reasons.  

Hoekstra then secretly added to the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY’07 (HR5020) a provision enabling the government to strip intelligence veterans of their government pensions. HR5020 passed the full House, but Congress opted instead for a continuing resolution.

On December 11, 2014, I had an opportunity to tell Hoekstra exactly what I thought of his underhanded, Lone-Ranger attempt (he did not inform his House Intelligence Committee colleagues) to make it possible to revoke the government pensions of people like me.  I confronted the former Congressman in person off-air, after we two were interviewed live on CCTV’s “The Heat” about the Senate Intelligence Committee findings regarding CIA torture.  It was an uncommon chance to hold Hoekstra publicly accountable for condoning torture, and the Michigan congressman rose to the occasion. (See minutes 8:15 to 10:41) 

The bottom line?  The foxes have been guarding the chicken coop for many years now.  Haspel will fit right in. O Tempora, O Mores.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and was a Presidential briefer from 1981 to 1985.




Ahed Tamimi and Her Mother are Freed from Jail

Ahed Tamimi and her mother were freed from prison on Sunday. Ray McGovern looks back on when he met the Tamimi family last year in their West Bank village and reflects on the spirit that drives them.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

When they left prison on Sunday Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman received a hard-earned heros’ welcome from Palestinians and others opposed to Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands seized in 1948 and enlarged by the Israeli army in 1967.

Ahed was 16 years old last December when an Israeli soldier shot her cousin in the face. The next day Israeli soldiers menacingly showed up at her house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. What would you do?

Ahed slapped one of the armed-to-the-teeth soldiers. While some Israeli politicians said she should be put away for life and others demanded a sentence of at least ten years, the Israeli occupiers sentenced her to eight months for the slap seen around the world. She spent her 17th birthday in prison. Her mother Nariman filmed the incident and was thrown in jail too, this time for incitement. (It was not the activist Nariman’s first time in an Israeli prison.)

The Israeli authorities are so worried about the symbol for resistance that Ahed has become internationally that on Saturday, a day before her release, they arrested two Italian artists who had painted a large portrait of her on the separation wall near Bethlehem.

Most Americans — except for the relatively few who have spent more than a few days in Israeli-occupied territories — find it hard to understand why Palestinians like Nariman and Ahed “persist.” Most people in the U.S. are blissfully unaware of the history of Palestine and of the continuing injustices inflicted on its people today. The explanation for this lies largely in the way the U.S. mass media reports the story, almost entirely from the Israelis’ point of view.

For those malnourished on Establishment media, here’s a bit of history, without which it is impossible to understand the anger and the courage-against-all-odds shown by those who continue to use what they have — even their open palms — to make clear that they will never acquiesce in Israeli occupation.

How a Homeland Gets Occupied

The Israeli attack starting the Six-Day War in early June 1967 fits snugly into the category of “war of aggression” as defined by the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal.  “Pre-emptive” attacks, when there is nothing to pre-empt, are now — post Iraq war — labeled more euphemistically as “wars of choice,” but that too fits the Nuremberg definition.

To begin to appreciate the injustices inflicted on millions of Palestinians, whose land Israel coveted for itself, one must un-learn the legend that in attacking its neighbors in 1967 Israel was acting in self-defense. None other than then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1977 – 83) undermined that piece of propaganda in a speech to the U.S. National Defense University on August 8, 1982.  (Apparently, even accomplished dissimulators get cocky on occasion and let the truth slip out.)  Here are Begin’s words:

“In June, 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [President Gamal Abdel)] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him. … The government decided unanimously: we will take the initiative and attack the enemy, drive him back, and thus assure the security of Israel and the future of the nation.”

And now, a half-century after its successful six-day war of aggression with U.S. backing, Israel has been unlawfully colonizing the occupied territories, oppressing the Palestinians still living there, and thumbing its nose at UN Security Council Resolution 242. It was approved unanimously on Nov. 22, 1967, calling on Israel to withdraw from the lands it seized in June of that year. That was then.

And This is Now …

In February—March 2017, I was part of a a small Veterans For Peace delegation in Palestine. One of our last visits was to a village named Nabi Saleh, where Ahed’s father Bassem Tamimi, his wife Nariman, and Ahed’s three siblings live when they are not in prison. Her older brother is in prison now. After two weeks of experiencing what life is like for Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, I had a chance to ask Bassem about the nonviolent, but frontal, resistance to Israeli occupation and colonization.

“Your sons have been beaten and badly wounded and one’s still in prison; your wife is in and out of prison: your brother-in-law was killed by a sniper bullet; you yourself have been tortured in prison; your house is on the list for demolition — why do you persist; why encourage such actions?” I asked.

“We have no alternative,” Bassem replied matter-of-factly, “it is our land and our life. I will not tell my children or my people to acquiesce in the Israeli occupation — ever.”

The following day we Veterans For Peace took part in a protest march to the separation Wall. Later, underneath the tear-gas and sheltered from the ensuing rifle fire, we watched the teens of Nabi Saleh dodge the Israeli soldiers chasing them through the village for two hours. When the Israeli soldiers, so heavily burdened with weaponry they could hardly run, finally went back behind their Wall, the young folk emerged shouting, “We won.” It was a privilege to be there to welcome them back to the Tamimi house and some relative peace and quiet.

Chris Smiley, our delegation videographer, created an excellent 38-minute documentary as part of a series on our experience in Nabi Saleh called: “One Day, One Village, One Family.

The Palestinian Spirit is Universal

Ahed “Didn’t Get It From the Moon”. This is the expression my Irish grandmother would use to make it clear that tribute and praise should go to the seed-sowers as well as the protagonists themselves. Other traditions use some variant of: “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” Suffice it to say that, from what I was able to witness of the attitude and behavior of Ahed and her three brothers, they are clearly determined to honor the rich legacy of courage and Palestinian patriotism they inherit from Bassem and Nariman — and not only from them.

One might say that Ahed and her siblings are honor graduates of the Bassem/Nariman Folk School, just as Rosa Parks was a graduate of The Highlander Folk School. The common curriculum has to do with courageous persistence in the pursuit of justice. Moreover, our delegation was to discover that Rosa Parks is a revered figure in the Israeli Knesset — well, at least in the modest conference room allocated to Arab members.

Hanging prominently on the main wall were pictures of Rosa Parks, as well as of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  And now I can hear Ahed Tamimi’s voice beneath that of Rosa Parks, who explained in 1992:

“I did not want to be mistreated … It was just time… there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. … But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

Nonetheless, they persisted.

Welcome home, Ahed and Nariman.

 

Miko Peled, son of an Israeli general and critic of Israel’s Palestine policy, shot this video on Sunday and sent it to McGovern. 

Miko Video

Ray McGovern works with a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  A former Army officer and CIA analyst, he was a member of the Veterans For Peace delegation visiting Palestine in early 2017.

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The Gray Lady Thinks Twice About Assange’s Prosecution

Though The New York Times itself has not reported it, it’s No. 2 lawyer told a group of judges that the prosecution of Julian Assange could have dire consequences for the Times itself, explains Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Well, lordy be. A lawyer for The New York Times has figured out that prosecuting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange might gore the ox of The Gray Lady herself.

The Times’s deputy general counsel, David McCraw, told a group of judges on the West Coast on Tuesday that such prosecution would be a gut punch to free speech, according to Maria Dinzeo, writing for the Courthouse News Service.

Curiously, as of this writing, McCraw’s words have found no mention in the Times itself. In recent years, the newspaper has shown a marked proclivity to avoid printing anything that might risk its front row seat at the government trough.

Stating the obvious, McCraw noted that the “prosecution of him [Assange] would be a very, very bad precedent for publishers … he’s sort of in a classic publisher’s position and I think the law would have a very hard time drawing a distinction between The New York Times and WikiLeaks.”

That’s because, for one thing, the Times itself published many stories based on classified information revealed by WikiLeaks and other sources. The paper decisively turned against Assange once WikiLeaks published the DNC and Podesta emails.

More broadly, no journalist in America since John Peter Zenger in Colonial days has been indicted or imprisoned for their work. Unless American prosecutors could prove that Assange personally took part in the theft of classified material or someone’s emails, rather than just receiving and publishing them, prosecuting him merely for his publications would be a first since the British Governor General of New York, William Cosby, imprisoned Zenger in 1734 for ten months for printing articles critical of Cosby. Zenger was acquitted by a jury because what he had printed was proven to be factual—a claim WikiLeaks can also make.

McCraw went on to emphasize that, “Assange should be afforded the same protections as a traditional journalist.” The Times lawyer avoided criticizing what the United Nations has branded — twice — the “arbitrary detention” of Assange and his incommunicado, solitary confinement-like situation in the Ecuador embassy in London since March. Multiple reports indicate the new government of Ecuador will evict Assange into the hands of British police.

These days we need to be thankful for small favors. It’s nice to know the Times now considers Assange a journalist, even though it did not spring to his defense when he was being widely branded a “high-tech terrorist” — as can be seen here in my very last appearance on CNN’s domestic broadcast almost eight years ago.

Mike Pompeo, when he was CIA director, called WikiLeaks a “non-state, hostile intelligence service,” and Assange’s lawyers believe there is already a sealed indictment against him in the state of Virginia. Assange fears that if he is arrested on flimsy bail skipping charges he will be extradited to the United States.

Is the Fourth Estate Dead?

Ten years ago I contended that The Gray Lady — like the rest of the Fourth Estate — was moribund. More recently, I have been saying it is dead. I now stand corrected. Rumors of its death have been exaggerated. But how does one characterize its current state?

Let me borrow a memorable phrase from philosopher Billy Crystal, playing Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride,” while trying to bring the character Wesley back to life. He is just “mostly dead,” Chrystal insisted.

And so it is with today’s corporate media, with a tiny chance, now that The New York Times, watching out for its own equities, might help Assange avoid prosecution for practicing journalism. Actually, he has been accused so far of no crime of any kind.

Eight years ago, when the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity gave Assange its annual award, the Fourth Estate was a bit more than just a distant memory. So we attempted to put his award in historical perspective. Below is the textof the citation presented to Assange, together with the traditional SAAI corner-brightener candlestick holder, by former UK Ambassador Craig Murray (himself an SAAI laureate) and Daniel Ellsberg. 

Sam Adams Associates Award

Julian Assange

It seems altogether fitting and proper that this year’s award be presented in London, where Edmund Burke coined the expression “Fourth Estate.” Comparing the function of the press to that of the three Houses then in Parliament, Burke said:
“…but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sits a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

The year was 1787—the year the U.S. Constitution was adopted. The First Amendment, approved four years later, aimed at ensuring that the press would be free of government interference. That was then.

With the Fourth Estate now on life support, there is a high premium on the fledgling Fifth Estate, which uses the ether and is not susceptible of government or corporation control. Small wonder that governments with lots to hide feel very threatened.

It has been said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” WikiLeaks is helping make that possible by publishing documents that do not lie.

Last spring, when we chose WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for this award, Julian said he would accept only “on behalf or our sources, without which WikiLeaks’ contributions are of no significance.”

We do not know if Pvt. Bradley Manning gave WikiLeaks the gun-barrel video of July 12, 2007 called “Collateral Murder.” Whoever did provide that graphic footage, showing the brutality of the celebrated “surge” in Iraq, was certainly far more a patriot than the “mainstream” journalist embedded in that same Army unit. He suppressed what happened in Baghdad that day, dismissed it as simply “one bad day in a surge that was filled with such days,” and then had the temerity to lavish praise on the unit in a book he called “The Good Soldiers.”

Julian is right to emphasize that the world is deeply indebted to patriotic truth-tellers like the sources who provided the gun-barrel footage and the many documents on Afghanistan and Iraq to WikiLeaks. We hope to have a chance to honor them in person in the future.

Today we honor WikiLeaks, and one of its leaders, Julian Assange, for their ingenuity in creating a new highway by which important documentary evidence can make its way, quickly and confidentially, through the ether and into our in-boxes. Long live the Fifth Estate!

Presented this 23rd day of October 2010 in London, England by admirers of the example set by former CIA analyst, Sam Adams

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years.  He is co-founder of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

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Moon-Strzok No More, Lisa Page Spills the Beans

The meaning of a crucial text message between two FBI officials appears to have been finally explained, and it’s not good news for the Russia-gate faithful, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Former FBI attorney Lisa Page has reportedly told a joint committee of the House of Representatives that when FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok texted her on May 19, 2017 saying there was “no big there there,” he meant there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

It was clearly a bad-luck day for Strzok, when on Friday the 13th this month Page gave her explanation of the text to the House Judiciary and Oversight/Government Reform Committees and in effect threw her lover, Strzok, under the bus.

Strzok’s apparent admission to Page about there being “no big there there” was reported on Friday by John Solomon in the Opinion section of The Hill based on multiple sources who he said were present during Page’s closed door interview.

Strzok’s text did not come out of the blue. For the previous ten months he and his FBI subordinates had been trying every-which-way to ferret out some “there” — preferably a big “there” — but had failed miserably. If Solomon’s sources are accurate, it is appearing more and more likely that there was nothing left for them to do but to make it up out of whole cloth, with the baton then passed to special counsel Robert Mueller.

The “no there there” text came just two days after former FBI Director James Comey succeeded in getting his friend Mueller appointed to investigate the alleged collusion that Strzok was all but certain wasn’t there. 

Robert Parry, the late founder and editor of Consortium News whom Solomon described to me last year as his model for journalistic courage and professionalism, was already able to discern as early as March 2017 the outlines of what is now Deep State-gate, and, typically, was the first to dare report on its implications. 

Parry’s article, written two and a half months before Strzok texted the self-incriminating comment to Page on there being “no big there there,” is a case study in professional journalism. His very first sentence entirely anticipated Strzok’s text: “The hysteria over ‘Russia-gate’ continues to grow … but at its core there may be no there there.”(Emphasis added.) 

As for “witch-hunts,” Bob and others at Consortiumnews.com, who didn’t succumb to the virulent HWHW (Hillary Would Have Won) virus, and refused to slurp the Kool-Aid offered at the deep Deep State trough, have come close to being burned at the stake — virtually. Typically, Bob stuck to his guns: he ran an organ (now vestigial in most Establishment publications) that sifted through and digested actual evidence and expelled drivel out the other end.

Those of us following the example set by Bob Parry are still taking a lot of incoming fire — including from folks on formerly serious — even progressive — websites. Nor do we expect a cease-fire now, even with Page’s statement (about which, ten days after her interview, the Establishment media keep a timorous silence). Far too much is at stake.

As Mark Twain put it, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” And, as we have seen over the past couple of years, that goes in spades for “Russia-gate.” For many of us who have looked into it objectively and written about it dispassionately, we are aware, that on this issue, we are looked upon as being in sync with President Donald Trump.

Blind hatred for the man seems to thwart any acknowledgment that he could ever be right about something—anything. This brings considerable awkwardness. Chalk it up to the price of pursuing the truth, no matter what bedfellows you end up with.

Courage at The Hill 

Solomon’s article merits a careful read, in toto. Here are the most germane paragraphs:

“It turns out that what Strzok and Lisa Page were really doing that day [May 19, 2017] was debating whether they should stay with the FBI and try to rise through the ranks to the level of an assistant director (AD) or join Mueller’s special counsel team. [Page has since left the FBI.] 

“‘Who gives a f*ck, one more AD [Assistant Director] like [redacted] or whoever?’” Strzok wrote, weighing the merits of promotion, before apparently suggesting what would be a more attractive role: ‘An investigation leading to impeachment?’ …

A few minutes later Strzok texted his own handicap of the Russia evidence: ‘You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.’

So the FBI agents who helped drive the Russia collusion narrative — as well as Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Mueller — apparently knew all along that the evidence was going to lead to ‘nothing’ and, yet, they proceeded because they thought there was still a possibility of impeachment.”

Solomon adds: “How concerned you are by this conduct is almost certainly affected by your love or hatred for Trump. But put yourself for a second in the hot seat of an investigation by the same FBI cast of characters: You are under investigation for a crime the agents don’t think occurred, but the investigation still advances because the desired outcome is to get you fired from your job. Is that an FBI you can live with?”

The Timing

As noted, Strzok’s text was written two days after Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017. The day before, on May 16, The New York Times published a story that Comey leaked to it through an intermediary that was expressly designed (as Comey admitted in Congressional testimony three weeks later) to lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Hmmmmm.

Had Strzok forgotten to tell his boss that after ten months of his best investigative efforts — legal and other—he could find no “there there”?

Comey’s leak, by the way, was about alleged pressure from Trump on Comey to go easy on Gen. Michael Flynn for lying at an impromptu interrogation led by — you guessed it — the ubiquitous, indispensable Peter Strzok.

In any event, the operation worked like a charm — at least at first. And — absent revelation of the Strzok-Page texts — it might well have continued to succeed. After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named Mueller, one of Comey’s best buddies, to be special counsel, Mueller, in turn, picked Strzok to lead the Russia-gate team, until the summer, when the Department of Justice Inspector General was given the Strzok-Page texts and refused to sit on them.

A Timeline

Here’s a timeline, which might be helpful:

2017

May 16: Comey leak to NY Times to get a special counsel appointed

May 17: Special counsel appointed — namely, Robert Mueller.

May 19: Strzok confides to girlfriend Page, “No big there there.”

July: Mueller appoints Strzok lead FBI Agent on collusion investigation.

August: Mueller removes Strzok after learning of his anti-Trump texts to Page.

Dec. 12: DOJ IG releases some, but by no means all, relevant Strzok-Page texts to Congress and the media, which first reports on Strzok’s removal in August.

2018

June 14: DOJ IG Report Published.

June 15; Strzok escorted out of FBI Headquarters.

June 21: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces Strzok has lost his security clearances.

July 12: Strzok testifies to House committees. Solomon reports he refused to answer question about the “there there” text.

July 13: Lisa Page interviewed by same committees. Answers the question.

Earlier: Bob Parry in Action

On December 12, 2017, as soon as first news broke of the Strzok-Page texts, Bob Parry and I compared notes by phone. We agreed that this was quite big and that, clearly, Russia-gate had begun to morph into something like FBI-gate. It was rare for Bob to call me before he wrote; in retrospect, it seemed to have been merely a sanity check.

The piece Bob posted early the following morning was typical Bob. Many of those who click on the link will be surprised that, last December, he already had pieced together most of the story. Sadly, it turned out to be Bob’s last substantive piece before he fell seriously ill. Earlier last year he had successfully shot down other Russia-gate-related canards on which he found Establishment media sorely lacking — “Facebook-gate,” for example.

Remarkably, it has taken another half-year for Congress and the media to address — haltingly — the significance of Deep State-gate — however easy it has become to dissect the plot, and identify the main plotters. With Bob having prepared the way with his Dec.13 article, I followed up a few weeks later with “The FBI Hand Behind Russia-gate,” in the process winning no friends among those still suffering from the highly resistant HWHW virus.

VIPS

Parry also deserves credit for his recognition and appreciation of the unique expertise and analytical integrity among Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and giving us a secure, well respected home at Consortium News.

It is almost exactly a year since Bob took a whole lot of flak for publishing what quickly became VIPS’ most controversial, and at the same time perhaps most important, Memorandum For the President; namely, “Intelligence Veterans Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence.”

Critics have landed no serious blows on the key judgments of that Memorandum, which rely largely on the type of forensic evidence that Comey failed to ensure was done by his FBI because the Bureau never seized the DNC server. Still more forensic evidence has become available over recent months soon to be revealed on Consortium News, confirming our conclusions.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and, in retirement, co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

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