2005-03-02

Russian interference in U.S. elections and politics

Several retired U.S. intelligence officers have, after their retirement,
turned their hand to blogging and commenting on U.S. affairs.
Among those are (with their primary previous experience and where they blog):













2016-12-11-SST-Lang-Craig-Murray-on-Russia-Wikileaks-connection
"The CIA’s Absence of Conviction" - Craig Murray
by Craig Murray and Patrick Lang
SST (Sic Semper Tyrannis) (Lang's blog), 2016-12-11


2016-12-13-Scheuer-clinton-and-her-party-are-the-criminals-not-the-russians
Clinton and her party are the criminals, not the Russians
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2016-12-13

...

It has long been important that the great bulk of Americans begin to become adults,
and this episode ought to give them a shot of maturity.
Where was their outrage when Hillary Clinton’s State Department
intervened in elections in Russia, Iran, Egypt, Israel, and Ukraine?
In case of the Ukraine, she and her EU counterparts
caused the downfall of the country’s pro-Russia government,
and thereby gave Putin every right — indeed, the clear patriotic duty —
to annex Crimea to protect Russia’s facilities for its Black Sea Fleet.
All of the troubles the West now has with Russia flows from
this mindless Clinton-EU intervention to change the regime in Ukraine.
In Iran, Clinton and her State Department halfwits — and probably some EU regimes —
sought to swing the election against the Mullahs,
but failed and accomplished nothing but making themselves the cause of
all the dead Iranian young people who Hillary encouraged to challenge
that murderous Iranian regime unarmed.

Part of becoming an adult, of course, is reading and understanding history,
and so learning how the always zero-sum world always works.
Today’s perpetually adolescent American citizens — had they been properly educated —
would know that history shows U.S. intelligence services,
as well as the intelligence services of all nations who have the capability to do so,
try to guide, alter, or control elections so as to serve their nation’s interests.
South America, Eastern and Western Europe, and Africa have all been places where scholars have shown that
foreign intelligence services have covertly and repeatedly intervened in elections.
There is absolutely nothing new about this practice,
it is very old hat and a time-honored tradition.

The new part of what can be called “election interventionism” lies in the invention of technologies pertinent to manipulating elections.
The makers of computers, social-media systems, mobile phones, and a thousand other kinds of communication tools have made the world an easier place to live.
Too often, however, all that most people think about is the pleasant side of the technologies,
chanting childish and patently insane words about making all the world one big, united, talkative, and happily multicultural community.
That sounds good to adolescents, but adults would know that hell lays on the other side of that coin.
In devising these technologies, their creators also have built electronic gear
which greatly advances the likelihood that invulnerable tyrannies and police states will be built by people who — like Hillary Clinton and her party —
want permanent power and no resistance thereto.
After all, if the security and intelligence services run by Hitler, Mao, and Stalin had today’s technologies,
there would be no way to even try to change the German, Chinese, or Soviet police states, or any other police state, from within.
Communications technology, in short, will inevitably pave the road to tyranny.

The bottom line, then, is that libraries are full of books showing that
elections are the targets of all intelligence services — including those of the United States — and some have more luck than others.
This is the way the game of international affairs has been played since at least 1945,
and it will be played this way for as long as we can stave off
the would-be tyrants that Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerburg have so blithely assisted.


...




2016-12-31-Schindler-the-west-must-prevent-cold-war-2
The West Must Prevent Cold War 2.0
If we don’t resist Russian political warfare, very soon, Putin will win
By John R. Schindler
Observer, 2016-12-31

...

Moreover, the political threat currently emanating from Moscow is nothing new. Indeed, the parallels with the conditions the West faced at the dawn of the last Cold War are astonishing and ought to be recalled as Westerners ponder how to get it right in 2017—which may be the last chance to prevent the complete collapse of the American-led global order which, for all its faults, has worked well at preventing all-out global war for more than 70 years.

To start, we must not seek to downplay how grave the current crisis really is. Since the end of the first Cold War in 1991, a generation of neoliberal economics has raised Western prosperity, albeit not very evenly—rising tides turn out to lift some boats much more than others—while the angry legions of those who cannot compete in the 21st century economy grow daily. Many of them seek refuge in empty lives of online escapism, drink and drugs to numb their sense of displacement. Their frustrations also include a nagging sense that, between declining native demographics and uncontrolled migration, they are literally losing their countries—in too many cases, to foreigners who plainly hate the locals and sometimes seek to kill them.

What makes all this so politically toxic is a pervasive feeling that, despite having regular elections, nothing much ever changes. Certainly, the big questions—Is our economy fundamentally just? Do we really want so much immigration?—never seem to be on the ballot. The system appears rigged by upscale mandarins in places like Brussels and Washington who make no effort to hide their distaste for the “deplorables” they seek to govern. Behind them stand the big-money-men, the super-wealthy globalists who call the real shots, and they’re not really in the shadows anymore.

To top it off, the mainstream media serves as a tool of the ruling elite, seeking to quash key questions they don’t want asked, much less answered. They flatter that elite, with whom they share a worldview: economically neoliberal, socially radical, and professionally self-absorbed. Dissenters are stifled with accusations of racism, xenophobia and “hate speech.” Guilt is customarily assumed, and in several Western countries those who step out of line wind up in jail for their heresy from the received wisdom of our ruling elites.

...

None of this is welcome news, and Western elites need to accept their share of the blame for this sad situation. By stifling legitimate feelings of anger and frustration at the neoliberal globalist order with accusations of racism and xenophobia, they have given Putin and his intelligence services a golden opportunity to exploit Westerners who feel ignored, despised, and disenfranchised. Kremlin spies in recent years have disseminated large amounts of cash to Western political parties they consider useful, on both the left and right, while passing weapons to the truly radical fringe. Putin wants a West that’s politically divided and increasingly unstable, and he’s getting what he wants.

...

For more than three years, President Obama steadfastly refused to admit that we’re in Cold War 2.0 with Russia, which Putin de facto declared with his annexation of Crimea and subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine.
...

[Here I STRONGLY disagree with Schindler,
and agree with Scheuer: see 2016-12-13-Scheuer-clinton-and-her-party-are-the-criminals-not-the-russians.
I wonder how much Schindler's opinions are influenced by the needs of his boss at the Observer, Jared Kushner?]


...


2017



2017-01-02-Lang-manufactured-hysteria-once-again
Manufactured hysteria - once again.
by Patrick Lang
SST, 2017-01-02

...

Now, we have yet another attempt to generate mass hysteria through the manipulation of public consciousness. In this case the "enemy" is Russia against which an aura of hostility is being created that is part ignorance, part hyper-nationalist aggressiveness, and part residual fear of the USSR (which has not existed for decades). This in spite of the simple truth that if such hostility proceeded to its logical conclusion in a nuclear exchange there would be many millions of dead and wounded on both sides.

As the "icing on the cake" the media now proclaim that the Intelligence Community is a vessel of integrity and patriotic self-sacrifice that, since it hints to us that "the Russians done it," must be believed without question. Well, pilgrims, those who really know the Intelligence Community know that these agencies are run be self-serving political hacks who may once have been people of integrity but who, by the time, they reach the top will say or proclaim anything that advances their personal interest.

Are we mad enough to believe such people? Perhaps Trump is not. pl



2017-01-06-Schindler-clapper-comey-brennan-rogers-trump-intelligence-briefing
Donald Trump Hosts the Premier Spy Event of the Season
Clapper, Comey, Brennan and Rogers walk into a room...
By John R. Schindler
Observer, 2017-01-06


2017-01-06-Lang-Trump-and-the-IC-consultants
Trump and the IC "consultants."
by Patrick Lang
SST (Sic Semper Tyrannis) (Lang's blog), 2017-01-06

[This is not about what the Russians might have done,
but is about Lang's views on the top-level of the IC.]


...

I [Lang] would think that the Trump Administration will go through the ranks of the SES/SIS position holders at CIA/DIA/NSA, etc. like a scythe.
These folks, of whom I was one (SES-4) are not career protected like the lower members of the federal civil service.
In return for their elevated rank (equivalent to military flag officers) they lack actual legal job security and can be much more easily removed.
They are usually highly politicized schemers and enablers for their presidential appointee bosses at the very top of the food chain.

...



2017-01-09-Lang-Giraldi-no-smoking-gun
"No Smoking Gun on Russia Hack" Giraldi
Lang reprints part of an article by Giraldi
There are many comments, including one by me.
Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2017-01-09


2017-01-10-Scheuer-the-russian-hack
The Russian hack, a matter of stuff and nonsense
by Michael Schauer
non-intervention.com, 2017-01-10

...

Putin and his boys surely hacked the DNC’s e-mails with ease, although they probably were a bit harder to hack than the e-mails that once resided residing Hillary’s home-made and treasonous server, and which Moscow, Assange, and probably dozens of other governments and individuals now have.
The point here is that the DNI’s public report does not prove that the Russians gave the documents to Julian Assange.
[Of course.
If the IC did have proof that the Russians gave the documents to Julian Assange,
it is almost certain that that proof
would be at a level of classification far above Top Secret,
and thus would have been omitted from the public report.]

What the report does is assert that there is a Russia-Assange joint operation against — not America — but Hillary Clinton.
This is the sort of sophomoric phenomenon that is often seen in the work of novice intelligence analysts,
and it is usually called “Analysis by Assertion”.
[Again, of course.
When a full intelligence analysis is sanitized for dissemination beyond those cleared for knowledge of sources and methods,
what is generally left is conclusions, not what led to those conclusions.
It is “Analysis by Assertion” because the supporting material has been omitted.
So far as I know,
no one outside of the currently indoctrinated (that's a technical term here)
knows whether there is sufficient material to support the DNI’s public report.]

Given his really quite impressive, if despicable, track record, Assange clearly is capable of getting the DNC’s e-mails off his own hook, perhaps from the DNC official who was gunned down in Washington last summer. Countless numbers of governmental and private-citizen hackers have the same ability and probably have had the same success.

...


2017-01-10-WP-intelligence-chiefs-briefed-trump-and-obama-on-unconfirmed-claims-russia-has-compromising-information-on-president-elect
Intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims Russia has compromising information on president-elect
By Greg Miller, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson
Washington Post, 2017-01-10 (Tuesday)

A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week
included a section summarizing allegations that
Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances,
U.S. officials said.

The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations
but believed that the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough
to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

...

A senior U.S. official with access to the document said that
the allegations were presented at least in part to underscore that
Russia appeared to have collected embarrassing information on both major candidates

but released only material that might harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton —
a reflection of Russian motivation that bolstered U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help Trump win.


[The excerpt above emphasized in bold
is what reasonable people should take strong objection to.
It makes an equivalence between
what the IC claims to have good evidence that Russia really did collect,
and this "dossier", whose accuracy the IC has no such confidence in.
That the "senior U.S. official" could not see that crucial distinction
makes clear, in my opinion, that
he is either incompetent or a partisan.
He is the person who needs to be identified, a clear culprit.]


The inclusion of such unsubstantiated allegations in the election report,
a development first reported Tuesday by CNN, adds a disturbing new dimension to existing concerns about Russia’s efforts to undermine American democracy.

And it adds another bizarre twist to an already strange election year, injecting new controversy over the Trump team’s relations with Russia just when the president-elect is trying to consolidate and launch his new administration.

...


2017-01-11-Politico-Chalupa-ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire
Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire
Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.
By Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern
Politico, 2017-01-11 01/11/17 05:05 AM EST

[This is an amazingly detailed article on Ukraine/Russia/US relations.]

...

Manafort’s work for Yanukovych caught the attention of a veteran Democratic operative named Alexandra Chalupa, who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration. Chalupa went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee. The DNC paid her $412,000 from 2004 to June 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records, though she also was paid by other clients during that time, including Democratic campaigns and the DNC’s arm for engaging expatriate Democrats around the world.

A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants who maintains strong ties to the Ukrainian-American diaspora and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Chalupa, a lawyer by training, in 2014 was doing pro bono work for another client interested in the Ukrainian crisis and began researching Manafort’s role in Yanukovych’s rise, as well as his ties to the pro-Russian oligarchs who funded Yanukovych’s political party.

...

In January 2016 — months before Manafort had taken any role in Trump’s campaign — Chalupa told a senior DNC official that, when it came to Trump’s campaign, “I felt there was a Russia connection,” Chalupa recalled. “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election,” said Chalupa, who at the time also was warning leaders in the Ukrainian-American community that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”

...


2017-01-11-WP-decision-to-brief-trump-on-allegations-brought-a-secret-and-unsubstantiated-dossier-into-the-public-domain
Decision to brief Trump on allegations brought a secret and unsubstantiated dossier into the public domain
By Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post, 2017-01-11 (Wednesday)


2017-01-11-Lang-Walrus-dangerous-memes-by-walrus
Dangerous Memes By Walrus.
by "Walrus", an anonymous commentator at
SST (Patrick Lang's blog), 2017-01-11

[The emphasis below is added by the author of the current blog.]

The "Birther" meme attached to President Obama
was a cleverly crafted and slimy attempt to derail his Presidential campaign.
While it developed a life of its own after his inauguration
it never was going to be a call to action by patriots.
The Trump - Russia meme in my opinion is a much more serious information operation
because it is designed to question the legitimacy of a President Trump defence and foreign policy actions.

To put that another way,
this IO is not political point scoring,
[it’s] attempting to influence U.S. foreign and defence policy in a very direct way -
precluding a whole raft of policy options related to
normalizing relations with Russia,
winding back NATO expansion
and other areas that I don't even know about.

I don't know if this is against the law or not.

CNN has just led with a story that the intelligence community presented Trump
with a dossier alleging five years work by the Russian Government
to both compromise Trump and promote his presidential prospects
and allege collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government.

"(CNN)
Classified documents presented last week
to President Obama and President-elect Trump
included allegations that Russian operatives claim to
have compromising personal and financial information
about Mr. Trump,
multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis
that was appended to
a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The allegations came, in part,
from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative

[Christopher Steele, see below],
whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible.
The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations,
which are based primarily on information from Russian sources,
but has not confirmed many essential details
in the memos about Mr. Trump...."


http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/10/politics/donald-trump-intelligence-report-russia/index.html
[I note the authors of that CNN story include
Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein.
I didn't know Carl Bernstein was at CNN.]

[This has generated A LOT of controversy and heat.
To me, the fault here is not necessarily with the IC.
They were, to me, entirely justified in making the report as described.
Where the fault, and it is a big fault, lies
is with those
multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings
who did the leaking.]


Buzzfeed obligingly then leaks all 35 pages of the alleged "Memos" on which the summary is allegedly based,
that go into scatalogical detail about Trump in Russia.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/kenbensinger/these-reports-allege-trump-has-deep-ties-to-russia

Folks, to me, it doesn't seem to me that American politics can get more surreal.
I don't think I've seen more flaky conglomerations passing as intelligence summaries, ever.....
and CNN apparently bought it,..... and the liberal media follow suit.
Trump wanted to defile the bed that President Obama slept in at a hotel in Moscow,
so he arranged a sex party???

...



2017-01-11-Lang-Bahzad-is-it-just-me-or-has-someone-decided-to-go-after-trump
Is it just me or has someone decided to go after Trump ?
By Patrick BAHZAD
SST (Patrick Lang's blog), 2017-01-11

[This is a very good summary and analysis
of the various reports on Trump and Russia that have been circulating.

Some exceedingly interesting comments;
note in particular the first one by David Habakkuk,
which includes the following:]


It seems that, with the general daffiness that seems to characterise the kind of people MI6 recruits,
people like Scarlett and Steele continued to think it a bright idea
to side with Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky
against Putin’s determined campaign to wrest control back from them.

Likewise, in all the bitter fights within the post-Soviet space,
MI6 has sided with the anti-Russian forces –
notably, with the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine,
and the insurgents in Chechnya and probably further into the Caucasus.

...




2017-01-11-WSJ-christopher-steele-ex-british-intelligence-officer-said-to-have-prepared-dossier-on-trump
Christopher Steele, Ex-British Intelligence Officer, Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump
Former spy is director of London-based Orbis Intelligence Ltd.
By Bradley Hope, Michael Rothfeld and Alan Cullison
Wall Street Journal, 2017-01-11 Updated Jan. 11, 2017 4:20 p.m. ET

...

When government intelligence agencies produce clandestine political reports,
they often include thick sections about sources,
possible motivations behind their information
and the methods used to approach them.
Such background helps decision makers determine how reliable the information is.

Andrew Wordsworth, co-founder of London-based investigations firm Raedas, who often works on Russian issues,
said the memos in the Trump dossier were “not convincing at all.”

“It’s just way too good,” he said.
“If the head of the CIA were to declare he got information of this quality,
you wouldn’t believe it.”

Mr. Wordsworth said it wouldn’t make sense
for Russian intelligence officials to expose state secrets to a former MI6 officer.
“Russians believe once you are an agent, you’re an agent forever,” he said.

2017-01-11-Heavy-Steele
Christopher Steele: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
by Tom Cleary
Heavy, 2017-01-11


2017-01-11-DNI-Clapper-statement-on-conversation-with-president-elect-trump
DNI Clapper Statement on Conversation with President-elect Trump
by James Clapper, DNI
DNI, 2017-01-11 (Wednesday)

This evening, I had the opportunity to speak with President-elect Donald Trump
to discuss recent media reports about our briefing last Friday.
I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press,
and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.

We also discussed the private security company document,
which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff
even before the IC became aware of it.
[How on earth can a document so sensational be
"widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff"
without the IC being aware of it?]

I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product
and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC.
The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,
and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.
However, part of our obligation is to ensure that
policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture
of any matters that might affect national security.

President-elect Trump again affirmed his appreciation for all the men and women serving in the Intelligence Community,
and I assured him that the IC stands ready to serve his Administration and the American people.

James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence


2017-01-11-Politico-clapper-trump
Spy chief trashes leaks, assures Trump of loyalty
James Clapper says the intelligence community 'stands ready to serve his administration.'
By Nahal Toosi
Politico, 2017-01-11 (Wednesday) | 01/11/17 10:06 PM EST | Updated 01/12/17 12:02 AM EST

The outgoing U.S. director of national intelligence
has extended an olive branch of sorts to Donald Trump —
denouncing media leaks,
casting skepticism on a report that Russia has damaging material on the president-elect,
and assuring Trump that America's spies stand ready to serve him.

In an unusual statement,
James Clapper said he had spoken Wednesday evening with Trump,
five days after the spy chief and some of his counterparts
met with the incoming president to discuss U.S. intelligence assessments
that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election, possibly to help him win.

The assessment has badly aggravated existing tensions between the intelligence community and Trump.

On Tuesday, CNN, BuzzFeed and other media outlets reported that, during Friday’s briefing,
the intelligence officials told Trump about an unsubstantiated private report
that detailed how Russia's government allegedly had salacious information about him.
In addition, BuzzFeed published the apparent dossier,
which Trump has since denounced as “fake news.”

"I expressed my profound dismay
at the leaks that have been appearing in the press,
and we both agreed that
they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security,"

Clapper said of the information that has come out since last week's intelligence briefing.

Clapper’s statement represented a dramatic turn of events only 24 hours after initial leaks about the intelligence leaders having told Trump of the dossier. And while Clapper’s statement indirectly confirmed the media reports of the briefing, it also could be viewed as a concession of sorts from an intelligence community that has come under repeated, direct fire from the president-elect.

Trump had compared the leak from his briefing to “Nazi Germany” on Twitter on Wednesday morning, writing, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

In a news conference, also held Wednesday, Trump defended the comparison and elaborated further, saying, “A thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had, and it certainly should never have been released.”

Clapper, however, said he did not believe the leaks to the press came from the intelligence community.
At the same time, he indicated that the intelligence community decided to share the material with Trump because its mere existence was important for the incoming president to know about.

[Clapper is absolutely right on that.
And Trump should agree with that.


As far as the "private security company document," Clapper said,
"I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product
and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC.
The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,
and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions."

"Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security," Clapper added.

...


2017-01-11-Lang-spy-chief-trashes-leaks-assures-trump-of-loyalty
"Spy chief trashes leaks, assures Trump of loyalty" Politico
by Patrick Lang
SST, 2017-01-11 2353

[Lang reprints the above Politico story. Many comments as usual.]


2017-01-12-Politico-trump-james-clapper-leaked-report
Spy chief's move for Trump detente is derailed, via tweet
The president-elect provides a very different readout of his call with James Clapper in a move that one former CIA official calls a ‘hardening of positions.’
By Nahal Toosi
Politico, 2017-01-12 (Thursday) 01/12/17 08:25 AM EST | Updated 01/12/17 01:41 PM EST

...

Clapper, in a conciliatory but cautious statement late Wednesday,
said he'd expressed to Trump his "profound dismay" over leaks to the media about
an unverified private dossier containing damaging material
that Russia allegedly had gathered on the president-elect.
[Good for Clapper. He is right -- the problem is not with the report,
but that it was leaked.]

Clapper insisted, however, that the intelligence community had not passed judgment on the credibility of the dossier itself.
He also said he did not believe intelligence officials were behind the leaks.
[Yes, the leakers are the malefactors, not the report itself.]

On Thursday morning, Trump offered his own readout of the call,
using his favorite medium: Twitter.
The president-elect claimed the spy chief
had dismissed the contents of the private dossier, not simply the leaks to the media.
“James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report
that was illegally circulated.
Made up, phony facts. Too bad!”
Trump wrote.

The divergent takes on the conversation will likely exacerbate
the extraordinary tensions between Trump and the intelligence community.
...


"Donald Trump and the intelligence community suffer, from among many other things,
drastically different approaches to the English language,"
said Carmen Medina, a former top CIA official, explaining that
while intelligence officials try to use language "precisely,"
Trump appears to read things "emotionally."

Aki Peritz, a former CIA analyst, said his sense was that
"we’re seeing a hardening of positions."

“What Trump should have said was,
'I had a good conversation with Clapper, and we thought that leaks in general were bad'.
But no. He had to go and say,
'I was right. They were wrong.'
It kind of shows that kind of vindictiveness of his personality,” Peritz said.

Although Clapper, in his statement, assured Trump that the intelligence community was ready to serve his administration,
he also effectively confirmed reports in CNN, BuzzFeed and elsewhere of the existence of the private dossier.
Clapper and other intelligence leaders shared the dossier with Trump during a briefing Friday on Russia's broader role in the 2016 election.
[That's news to me.
I thought the briefing covered a report,
which had a two page annex which summarized the dossier.
In particular, CNN reported
"The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis
that was appended to
a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election."]

The dossier contained unsubstantiated claims that the Kremlin has salacious information about the president-elect
and that Trump’s allies colluded with the Kremlin during the campaign.

In his statement, Clapper — who has some 50 years of experience in the intelligence world —
pointed out that the dossier "was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and congressional staff even before the [intelligence community] became aware of it,"
a suggestion others could have been behind the leaks.

Clapper added that he told Trump that
"this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that
I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC.
The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,
and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.
However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with
the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security."

...

John Sipher, another former CIA official, said
intelligence veterans are familiar with political wars
and expect Trump to be kinder to the people he appoints
than those he views as cronies of the outgoing president.

"Once he is in charge and has his own people in place,
I think that a lot of the charged statements will abate," Sipher said.
"However, if he continues his public attacks after he assumes ownership of the intelligence community,
it will create a serious rift inside the various agencies."


2017-01-12-NYT-christopher-steele-trump-russia-dossier
Christopher Steele, Ex-Spy Who Compiled Trump Dossier, Goes to Ground
By STEVEN ERLANGER
NYT, 2017-01-12



2017-01-13-SST-Bahzad-35-pages-in-january
35 pages in January
By Patrick BAHZAD
SST, 2017-01-13 (Friday)

The snow ball effect keeps on growing. Three days after Buzzfeed published the incendiary private intelligence report that had been circulating inside the Beltway for months, there is still no end in sight to the whole media frenzy.
...

The Trump "dossier" contains 17 short reports that are no less than a compendium of statements presented as facts.
Had we been in a court of law, this would largely have fallen under the category "hearsay".
More exactly, 7 primary sources – some of them possibly overlapping – as well as some 25 other individuals have made the statements mentioned in the report.
The circumstances in which these statements were obtained are neither explained nor described.
No assessment is ever made as to the reliability of any of the sources.

If you contectualize the information, or engage in interpretation of the wording in the report, you may get the feeling that this intelligence was collected through various means (face to face discussions, indirect statements obtained through intermediaries, intelligence provided by third parties, possibly intercepts), but you cannot back this up by any strong evidence.
Considering that the sources are anonymous, although some of them could possibly be identified and confronted with the claims made in the report, it is virtually impossible to prove or disprove many of the allegations other than basic facts, such as a trip to Prague, which seems to have been debunked already.

...



2017-03-12-WP-Haqqani-yes-the-russian-ambassador-met-trumps-team-so-thats-what-we-diplomats-do
Yes, the Russian ambassador met Trump’s team. So? That’s what we diplomats do.
As ambassador [in 2008], I met with aides to both major-party candidates
to establish a good relationship on behalf of my country.
By Husain Haqqan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-2011
Washington Post Outlook, 2017-03-12

At the center of many allegations swirling around the Trump administration’s relationship with Moscow is one man:
Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
As U.S. intelligence agencies contend that his country attempted,
through hacking and other efforts, to influence November’s election,
Kislyak’s discussions with Trump campaign associates — including
former national security adviser Michael Flynn (who resigned for not disclosing them)
and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who did not) —
have been the subject of intense reporting and speculation.

While it is one thing to question Russia’s efforts or the truthfulness of American officials,
this debate is threatening the time-honored tradition of
foreign ambassadors freely meeting political figures in their country of accreditation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with meeting a foreign ambassador —
even one from a rival nation;
even one from a rival superpower on which the United States has imposed sanctions.

...

After I began reading about the affairs of Kislyak,
I rummaged through my files and diaries to retrace my steps as ambassador in the fall of 2008.
I maintained relations with three teams of American officials,
politicians and professional staffers:
the Bush administration and the two major-party candidates [McCain and Obama].
I met senior members of the Republican and Democratic national committees,
more than a dozen senators and congressmen from each party,
and several individuals from both sides who were tipped to emerge in senior government positions after the election.
This is totally normal for ambassadors.

...

Americans have a legitimate interest in figuring out whether Russia tried to covertly influence U.S. politics.
Investigating officials who may have perjured themselves about their diplomatic contacts also seems reasonable.
It should not, however, create the impression that engagement between
a foreign ambassador — even one from a country with which relations are strained —
and people who might hold senior positions in a future administration
is inherently sinister.
Such engagement is essential if new presidents want to translate their foreign policy plans into reality.




2017-03-20-WP-full-transcript-fbi-director-james-comey-testifies-on-russian-interference-in-2016-election
Full transcript: FBI Director James Comey testifies on Russian interference in 2016 election
Washington Post, 2017-03-20

[A YouTube video of the five hour hearing.]

...

[A YouTube video of just this 15 minute interchange
between Trey Gowdy and Director Comey.
]



NUNES: Thank you, Ms. Sewell. We'll go back to -- I'll yield myself 15 minutes and we'll go back to Mr. Gowdy.

GOWDY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Director Comey, you and I were discussing the felonious dissemination of classified material during the last round. Is there an exception in the law for current or former U.S. officials who request anonymity?

COMEY: To release classified information?

GOWDY: Yes sir.

COMEY: No.

GOWDY: Is there an exception in the law for reporters who want to break a story?

COMEY: Well that's a harder question as to whether a reporter incurs criminal liability by publishing classified information and one probably beyond my ken. I'm not as good a lawyer as Mr. Schiff said I used to be.

GOWDY: Well, I don't know about that but the statute does use the word published, doesn't it?

COMEY: It does, but that's a question I know the Department of Justice has struggled with through administration after administration.

GOWDY: I know the department struggled with it, the 4th Circuit struggled with it, lots of people have struggled with it but you're not aware of an exception in the current dissemination of classified information statute that carves out an exception for reporters.

COMEY: No, I'm not aware of anything carved out in the statute. I don't think a reporter's been prosecuted certainly in my lifetime though.

GOWDY: Well, there've been a lot of statutes that bore on this investigation for which no one's ever been prosecuted or convicted and that does not keep people from discussing those statutes, namely the Logan Act. In theory, how would reporters know a U.S. citizen made a telephone call to an agent of a foreign power?

COMEY: How would they know legally?

GOWDY: Yes.

COMEY: If it was declassified and then discussed in a judicial proceeding or congressional hearing. Something like that.

GOWDY: And assume none of those facts are at play, how would they know?

COMEY: Someone told them who shouldn't have told them.

GOWDY: How would a reporter know about the existence of intercepted phone calls?

COMEY: Same thing. In a -- in a legitimate way, through a appropriate proceeding where there's been declassification. In any other way, in an illegitimate way.

GOWDY: How would reporters know if a transcript existed of an intercepted communication?

COMEY: Same answer. It -- it -- the only legitimate way would be through a proceeding -- appropriate proceeding, the illegitimate way would be somebody told him who shouldn't have told them.

GOWDY: What does the term mask mean in the concept of FISA and other surveillance programs?

COMEY: As Director Rogers explained, it's our practice, approved by the FISA court, of removing the names of U.S. persons to protect their privacy and their identity unless it hits certain exceptions. So masking means, as Mike Rogers said -- I'll often see a intelligence report from NSA that will say U.S. person number one, U.S. person number two, U.S. person number three and there's no further identification on the document.

GOWDY: Admiral Rogers said there are 20 people within the NSA that are part of the unmasking process. How many people within the FBI are part of the unmasking process?

COMEY: I don't know for sure. As I sit here, surely more, given the nature the FBI's work. We come into contact with U.S. persons a whole lot more than the NSA does because we may be conducting -- we only conduct our operations in the United States to collect electronic surveillance -- to conduct electronic surveillance, so I don't -- I can find out the exact number, I don't know it as I sit here.

GOWDY: Well, I think, Director Comey, given the fact that you and I agree this is critical, vital, indispensable, a similar program is coming up for reauthorization this fall with a pretty strong head wind right now. It would be nice to know the universe of people who have the power to unmask a U.S. citizen's name. Because that might provide something of a roadmap to investigate who might've actually disseminated a masked U.S. citizen's name.

COMEY: Sure. The number is relevant but what I hope the U.S. -- the American people realize is the number's important, but the culture behind it is in fact even more important. The training, the rigor, the discipline. We are obsessive about FISA in the FBI for reasons I hope make sense to this committee but we are -- everything that's FISA has to be labeled in such a way to warn people this is FISA, we treat this in a special way.

So we can get you the number, but I want to assure you the culture of the FBI and the NSA around how we treat U.S. person information is obsessive and I mean that in a good way.

GOWDY: Director Comey, I am not arguing with you and I do agree that culture is important, but if there are 100 people who have the ability to unmask and the knowledge of a previously masked name, then that's 100 different potential sources of investigation and the smaller the number is, the easier your investigation is.

So the number is relevant. I can see the culture is relevant. NSA, FBI, what other U.S. government agencies have the authority to unmask a U.S. citizen's name?

COMEY: I think all agencies that collect information pursuant to FISA have what are called standard minimization procedures, which are approved by the FISA court that govern how they will treat U.S. person information. So I know the NSA does, I know the CIA does, obviously the FBI does. I don't know for sure beyond that.

GOWDY: How about the department of -- how about Main Justice?

COMEY: Main Justice, I think does have standard minimization procedures.

GOWDY: All right, so that's four. The NSA, FBI, CIA, Main Justice. Does the White House have the authority to unmask a U.S. citizen's name?

COMEY: I think other elements of the government that are consumers of our products can ask the collectors to unmask. The unmasking resides with those who collected the information.

And so if Mike Rogers's folks collected something and they sent it to me in a report and it says U.S. person number one and it's important for the FBI to know who that is, our request will go back to them. The White House can make similar requests of the FBI or of NSA but they can't on their -- they don't own their own collect and so they can't on their own unmask. I got that about right? ROGERS: No, that's correct.

COMEY: Yeah.

GOWDY: I guess what I'm getting at, Director Comey, is you say it's vital, you say it's critical, you say it's indispensable. We both know it's a threat to the reauthorization of 702 later on this fall. And by the way, it's also a felony punishable by up to 10 years.

So how would you begin your investigation, assuming for the sake of argument that a U.S. citizen's name appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times unlawfully. Where would you begin that investigation?

COMEY: Well, I'm not gonna talk about any particular investigation...

GOWDY: That's why I said in theory.

COMEY: You would start by figuring out, so who are the suspects? Who touched the information that you've concluded ended up unlawfully in the newspaper and start with that universe and then use investigative tools and techniques to see if you can eliminate people, or include people as more serious suspects.

GOWDY: Do you know whether Director Clapper knew the name of the U.S. citizen that appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post?

COMEY: I can't say in this forum because again, I don't wanna confirm that there was classified information in the newspaper.

GOWDY: Would he have access to an unmasked name?

COMEY: In -- in some circumstances, sure, he was the director of national intelligence. But I'm not talking about the particular.

GOWDY: Would Director Brennan have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen's name?

COMEY: In some circumstances, yes.

GOWDY: Would National Security Adviser Susan Rice have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen's name?

COMEY: I think any -- yes, in general, and any other national security adviser would, I think, as a matter of their ordinary course of their business.

GOWDY: Would former White House Advisor Ben Rhodes have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen's name?

COMEY: I don't know the answer to that.

GOWDY: Would former Attorney General Loretta Lynch have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen's name? COMEY: In general, yes, as would any attorney general.

GOWDY: So that would also include Acting AG Sally Yates?

COMEY: Same answer.

GOWDY: Did you brief President Obama on -- well, I'll just ask you. Did you brief President Obama on any calls involving Michael Flynn?

COMEY: I'm not gonna get into either that particular case that matter, or any conversations I had with the president. So I can't answer that.

GOWDY: Well, Director Comey, there's been some speculation this morning on motive. I'm not all that interested in motive -- first of all, its really hard to prove.

Secondarily, you never have to prove it. But I get that people wanna know, I get the jury all wants -- always wants to know why. I think you and I can agree there are a couple of reasons that you would not have to unlawfully, feloniously, disseminate classified material. It certainly wasn't done to help an ongoing criminal investigation, because you already had the information, didn't you?

COMEY: Again, I can't answer in the context of this particular matter.

GOWDY: How about in theory? Is -- is -- is there something a reporter would have access to that the head of the FBI would not?

COMEY: It's hard for me to answer, I would hope not when it relates to the FBI...

GOWDY: I would hope not too, since its part of our surveillance programs. I would hope that you had access to everything as the head of the world's premier law-enforcement agency. I would hope that you had it all. So if you had it all, the motive couldn't have been to help you, because you already had it. And Admiral Rogers, the motive couldn't have been to help you, because you already had it.

So in the universe of possible motives for the felonious dissemination of classified material, we could rule out wanting to help the intelligence and the law enforcement communities. Those are two motives are gone now. That leaves some more nefarious motives. Is the investigation into the leak of classified information -- has it begun yet?

COMEY: I can't say because I don't want to confirm that that was classified information.

GOWDY: Well, I'm -- I don't want to quarrel with you Director Comey and I -- I do understand that you cannot ordinarily confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. But you did it this morning, citing DOJ policy given the gravity of the fact pattern. Would you not agree that surveillance programs that are critical, indispensable, vital to our national security, some of which are awful reauthorization this fall, that save American lives and prevent terrorist attacks also rises to the level of important?

COMEY: I think those programs are vital and leaks of information collected pursuant to court order under those programs are terrible. And as I said in my opening statement should be taken very, very seriously.

What I don't ever want to do is compound what bad people have done and confirm something that's in the newspaper. Because sometimes newspaper get it right, there's a whole lotta wrong information about --allegedly about classified activities that's in the newspaper. We don't call them and correct them either. That's another big challenge but we just don't go anywhere near it because we don't want to help and compound the offense that was committed.

GOWDY: I understand that Director Comey. And I'm trying really hard not to get you to discuss the facts at bar (ph). But some of the words that appeared in this public reporting, include the word transcript which has a very unique use in the matters that you and I are discussing this morning. That is a very unique use of that word, wiretap has a very specific meaning. The name of a U.S. citizen that was supposed to statutorily be protected, is no longer protected.

So some of this reporting -- let's assume 90 percent of it is inaccurate, that other 10 percent is still really, really important. And to the extent that you can rely on the dates in either the Washington Post or the New York Times, we are talking about February of this year is when the reporting first took place. So we are -- we're a month and a half or two months into something that you and I agree, is incredibly important and also happens the felony.

So I'm just simply asking you to assure the American people, you've already assured them you take it really seriously. Can you assure them that it is going to be investigated?

COMEY: I can't but I hope -- I hope people watching know how seriously we take leaks of classified information. But I don't want to confirm it by saying that were investigating it. And I'm sorry I have to draw the line, I just think that's the right way to be.

GOWDY: Well I'm not argue with you Director Comey but it is -- we're going to discuss a lot of important things today. Whether Russia attempted to influence our democratic process is incredibly important. Whether they sought to influence it as a separate analysis, incredibly important.

The motive behind that interference and influence, incredibly important. Our U.S. response, incredibly important. Some of that may rise to the level of the crime, some of it does not rise to level of a crime. One thing you and I agree on is the felonious dissemination of class -- classified material most definitely is a crime.

So I would ask you and I understand some of the procedures that you are up against. I would -- I would humbly ask you to -- to seek authority from whomever you need to seek authority from. Because I'm going to finish the same way I started. This is an agreement between the American people and its government. We are going to -- we the American people give certain powers to government to keep us safe.

And when those powers are misused and the motive is not criminal investigations or national security, then I'll bet you my fellow citizens are rethinking their side of the equation. Because that U.S. citizen could be them next time. It could be you. It could be me. It could be anyone until we start seriously investigating and prosecuting what Congress thought was serious enough to attach a 10- year felony to.

With that, I would yield back, Mr. Chairman.

COMEY: Can I -- can I just add a response to what you said? I agree with you, Mr. Gowdy. Two things folks at home should know; first, an unauthorized disclosure of FISA is an extraordinarily unusual event so be assured we're going to take it very seriously because our trust, the American people, and the federal judges that oversee our work, is vital.

And second, that this conversation has nothing to do with 702. Folks often mix them together. 702 is about targeting non-U.S. persons overseas. Pursuant to the FISA statute, the FBI can apply to collect electronic surveillance in the United States but it's a different thing from 702. The conversation you and I are just having is about this which is vital and important, but I just didn't want to leave folks confused.

GOWDY: Director Comey, you are 100 percent correct and I am 100 percent correct in saying that that is a distinction that doesn't make a difference to most of the people watching television. You are exactly correct. What we are reauthorizing this fall has nothing to do with what we are discussing other than it is another government program where the people consent to allow government to pursue certain things with the explicit promise it will be protected.

So you're right, they're different but in the eyes of people watching, it is the U.S. government officials' leaking the name of a U.S. citizen and if it can happen here, it may happen there. Trust me, you and I both want to see it reauthorized. It is in jeopardy if we don't get this resolved.

NUNES: Our time is expired

...




2017-03-23-Krieger-what-is-crowdstrike-firm-hired-by-dnc-has-ties-to-hillary-clinton-a-ukrainian-billionaire-and-google
What is CrowdStrike?
Firm Hired by DNC has Ties to Hillary Clinton, a Ukrainian Billionaire and Google

by Michael Krieger
Liberty Blitzkrieg, 2017-03-23

...

[Crowdstrike]’s CTO and co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch,
is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council,
a think tank with openly anti-Russian sentiments
that is funded by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk,
who also happened to donate at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.

...

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