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Another Special Counsel? The right way forward to investigate the real scandal of the US Presidential election

A new Special Counsel is needed to get a proper grip on an investigation which is going nowhere

Alexander Mercouris

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Sixteen months after the Russiagate investigation was started it has produced

(1) a sloppily drafted though aggressively worded indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates relating to their business dealings in Ukraine which does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations;

(2) a cynical and in my opinion oppressive indictment against George Papadopoulos – which has resulted in his guilty plea – because he mixed up the dates of his first meeting with a Maltese professor, but which also does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations;

(3) rumours of a third indictment against Michael Flynn because of his alleged failure to register properly his lobbying work for the Turkish government, but which apparently will also not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations; and

(4) relentless hounding of Carter Page, whose “crime” is that he has longstanding and openly acknowledged business contacts in Russia and that he gave a public speech during the election at Moscow’s New Economic School.

By comparison we now know:

(1) that the DNC was financially dependent on Hillary Clinton who by way of a fundraising agreement with the DNC signed in August 2015 gained control – before the US Presidential election took place – of the DNC’s finances and strategy and and a say in its senior appointments.

We know this is so because no less a person than Donna Brazile – the DNC’s former chair – has now told us as much.  In her words

The agreement — signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook with a copy to [Clinton campaign counsel] Marc Elias— specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised….

 …[Clinton’s] campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

(2) that the Hillary Clinton controlled and funded DNC paid for the Crowdstrike report into the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, whilst refusing the FBI access to those computers; and

(3) that the Hillary Clinton controlled and funded DNC paid for the Trump Dossier, which it is now confirmed provides the frame narrative followed by the Russiagate investigation.  Moreover it seems that the Hillary Clinton campaign directly provided some of the funding for the “research” that led to the Trump Dossier;

(4) that though the broad outlines of the Russiagate allegations have been around since the start of the Russiagate investigation sixteen months ago, we know about (1) and (3) only now because up to now Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign have concealed them.

The last four points are not speculations.  They are incontrovertible facts.

To understand their importance it is necessary to go the recent article by Joe Lauria – in my opinion the single most important article anyone has written about Russiagate, and one which the Huffington Post disgracefully has sought to suppress – and a further article by Mike Whitney, which goes over the same ground though in rather more detail, and which is based on (as it admits) on Joe Lauria’s article.

Many things that are actually said about investigations are simply not true.  By way of example, it is very rare for motive to be a good or reliable guide to establishing the perpetrator of a crime.

However “follow the money” is one of those things which is commonly said about investigations which in the great majority of cases is actually true.  In this case the money does not point either to Moscow or to Donald Trump; it points to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

The last four points also beg a host of other questions, but there is one overriding one.

This is whether the entirety of the Russiagate allegations – both the hacking allegations and the collusion allegations – are based on the DNC/Hillary Clinton funded Crowdstrike report and the DNC’Hillary Clinton funded Trump Dossier, or whether any other evidence exists, however flimsy, which purports to corroborate them.

Joe Lauria and Mike Whitney have looked into this question in detail and have basically concluded that there is none and that the Russiagate allegations are indeed based entirely on the Crowdstrike report and the Trump Dossier.

I have long since believed the same thing, though I have not delved into the matter as deeply as Joe Lauria and Mike Whitney have done.

There have been various hints at various times from the usual ‘anonymous sources’ that other ‘evidence’ that supposedly corroborates the Russian collusion allegations also exists.

There have for examples been rumours – never confirmed – of human agents supposedly employed by the secret services of one of the Baltic states and/or of Britain and/or of Ukraine and/or of some other NATO or US allies (the story  repeatedly changes) who supposedly have provided independent evidence confirming the Russiagate allegations.

However whenever actual ‘evidence’ purporting to prove the Russiagate allegations comes to light it invariably turns out after close study to originate either with the Crowdstrike report or (far more often) with the Trump Dossier.

My opinion is that the stories of human agents have been intentionally spread in order to conceal the extent to which the Russiagate collusion allegations depend in their entirety on the Trump Dossier.

That does not of course mean that none of these human agents exist.  However given the nature of undercover intelligence work and of the sort of people who are drawn to it, if they are asked to corroborate lurid allegations of the sort which appear in the Trump Dossier they are more likely than not to do so if for no other reason than to keep their employers happy.  The debacle of the Iraqi WMD allegations in 2002 and 2003 is a perfect case study of this.

Four facts which makes me think the Trump Dossier is indeed the original source of the Russiagate collusion allegations are

(1) that its early entries appear to be the earliest written documents to have made those allegations;

(2) that it is becoming gradually clear that the Trump Dossier was the only evidence cited to support those allegations in the classified version of the 6th January 2017 ODNI report provided to President Obama and to President elect Trump;

(3) that the contents of the Trump Dossier were used to persuade the FISA court to grant at least one FISA surveillance warrant against Carter Page (see Mike Whitney’s excellent discussion of this); and

(4) that the FBI and the US intelligence community have gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the extent to which they depend on the Trump Dossier to provide them with the frame narrative for the Russiagate investigation, even though that is something which is now confirmed.

For a good illustration of (4) see the massive Washington Post article of 23rd June 2017, which obviously derives from intelligence sources, and which – as I have pointed out previously – clearly shows that the initial “evidence” of Russian meddling in the election provided by the CIA to the Obama White House in August 2016 was the early entries of the Trump Dossier.  The article is however careful to avoid naming the Trump Dossier though a simple process of deduction shows that this is the “evidence” the article is referring to.

It is impossible to avoid the impression that the reason the FBI and the US intelligence community are concealing the fact that they depend on the Trump Dossier to provide them with their frame narrative is because they do not want to admit to the fact that the whole Russiagate investigation rests upon it and is ultimately no more than a gigantic fishing expedition to try to prove it true.

Needless to say, since the allegations in the Trump Dossier are not true, this fishing expedition is catching nothing and the Russiagate investigation is going nowhere.

In my opinion all this provides compelling reasons to broaden the scope of the Russiagate investigation to look at what is the true scandal of the 2016 election: that US citizens involved in the Trump campaign – including, it is becoming increasingly clear, Donald Trump himself – were under surveillance by the FBI and the US intelligence community during the US election because of two reports – the Crowdstrike report and the Trump Dossier – paid for by the Hillary Clinton controlled and funded DNC.

Given the evidence of extreme bias on the part of the FBI and the US intelligence community in favour of Hillary Clinton that this shows, it would also be appropriate in my opinion to look into the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s extraordinary handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private email server.

On 31st October 2016 – before the election – I touched on how extraordinarily protective of Hillary Clinton that handling appeared to be

Which brings me to the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

I am not an expert on the US law in question.  However it looks to me like a standard law for the handling of classified or confidential material, of which there are many.  As is common with such laws, it is a law of what the British call “strict liability” ie. motive is irrelevant, and a crime is automatically committed if the the terms of the law are breached. 

What that means is that it is technically irrelevant whether Hillary Clinton breached the terms of the law intentionally or carelessly (as she says).  If she breached the terms of the law then she is or should be guilty of the crime set out in it.

I think it is fair to say that most people familiar with this law agree that Hillary Clinton was very fortunate not to have been prosecuted when the FBI first investigated her over the emails.  Most of these people also agree that anyone else in the same position would almost certainly have been prosecuted if they had done the same thing.

As it happens Hillary Clinton not only failed to provide any remotely satisfactory explanation of why she used a private server in breach of the terms of the law, but she has also admitted deleting tens of thousands of emails (apparently on the grounds they were “private”) and of having destroyed hard drives to make retrieval of these emails impossible.  

Again I think it is fair to say that most people who know about these things would expect in those circumstances a prosecution for obstruction of justice; and that most of these people think that Hillary Clinton is either very privileged or very lucky that no such prosecution was brought against her. 

Hillary Clinton is by all accounts a very capable lawyer.  As a lawyer she would have been required to keep clients’ information confidential as a normal part of her work.  Hillary Clinton was also one of the lawyers involved in the hearings of the Watergate scandal, in which mishandling of confidential information was a central issue.  She cannot therefore claim to be ignorant about these sort of issues.  

Hillary Clinton has also served in the White House as a member of her husband’s administration, and was a US Senator before Obama appointed her US Secretary of State, when the scandal of the emails took place.  Again the handling of secret and confidential information would have been a normal part of her work.

We are therefore talking about someone who has been handling confidential and classified information all her working life, and who is or should be fully aware of the relevant rules and protocols involved in handling it, and of the legal consequences of not abiding by them. 

Speaking as someone who has also had experience of handling confidential information, I can say that after a time observing the proper protocols becomes second nature.  It is well-nigh incredible to me – and I suspect to many other people – that this was not so in Hillary Clinton’s case.

It is also well-nigh incredible to me that a lawyer as experienced as Hillary Clinton would not in the event of an FBI investigation immediately take steps to ensure that all the evidence – meaning of course all the emails – was tracked down, carefully preserved, and handed over immediately to the FBI.  That tens of thousands of emails were instead deleted, that hard drives were destroyed, and that emails should now be turning up months later in a laptop in the possession of the estranged husband of a senior aide who is being investigated on sex crime charges, would be quite literally beyond belief were it not actually happening.

All of these points have now been made – in far greater detail and at far greater length – in a brilliant dissection of the FBI’s and of the Justice Department’s extraordinary handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private email server by Andrew McCarthy for The National Review.

Reports are now circulating that the Justice Department is considering appointing another Special Counsel to look into these issues and conceivably also into the Uranium One issue.

I sincerely hope that this is so, though I hope that the focus of this investigation will be the actions of the DNC, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Justice Department, the US intelligence community and the FBI during the election, not the Uranium One scandal, which though a tangled affair is one which is not directly related to the election, and which should therefore be investigated separately.

I would also hope that in time the two investigations – Robert Mueller’s Russiagate investigation and whatever separate investigation by the second Special Counsel is now established – before long will be merged into one.

I understand that the politics of the situation at the moment make it very difficult to sack Mueller and to close his investigation down.  However the reality is that his investigation is going nowhere but is doing huge damage along the way, whilst – as I have previously pointed out – Mueller’s own deep and longstanding connections to the FBI make it impossible to see how he can conduct the expanded investigation which now needs to take place impartial way, making it essential that he go.

I hope that in time the logic of all this will become clear, and the absurdity of two Special Counsel carrying out investigations at cross-purposes with each other will become obvious.

There is a real scandal to investigate about the 2016 election.  That scandal is not the Russiagate conspiracy theory, which it is now becoming clear rests entirely on two tawdry DNC/Clinton paid for reports: the Crowdstrike report and the Trump Dossier.

That scandal is how the vast surveillance machinery of the US state was brought to bear on behalf one Presidential candidate and against another, and how the US intelligence community – not Russia – meddled in a US election on behalf of one candidate and against another.

Previously, when I discussed this, I expressed skepticism that such an investigation of what is the real scandal of the 2016 election would ever happen

To say all this does not unfortunately mean that this scandal is going to play out the way it should, or that people will see it for what it really is.

Many powerful people in the US political system, including in the US’s Deep State, in the media and in Congress, are deeply implicated in this scandal, and they will fight tooth and nail any attempt to hold them to account, continuing to use the bogus Russia cover story to justify and protect themselves, as they have been doing successfully up to now.

Beyond that there are a great many people who have bought into the Russia story – bogus though it is – falling for the entirely wrong and repeatedly discredited psuedo-principle that there cannot be smoke without fire (there not only can be; there usually is).

Lastly, the paranoia about Russia in the US and in western Europe is now so great that it is easy to dupe many people by conjuring it.

Nonetheless, though it is far from sure that many people will be able to see the true scandal through all the smoke, the proof of the real scandal of the Presidential election of 2016 is now finally out there.  It remains to be seen whether the highly corrupt and deeply compromised US political system retains sufficient vitality and integrity to investigate it.

All these obstacles lying in the way of a proper investigation of the real scandal of the 2016 election are still there as when I wrote those words in March.  I am sorry to say that my skepticism that we will ever see a proper investigation of the real scandal of the 2016 election remains profound.  However reports of the appointment of Special Counsel may show that I am wrong.  I hope so.

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Theresa May survives another week in ongoing Brexit fiasco (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 153.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit survival, as the UK Prime Ministers appears to be heading to Brussels so she can coordinate with EU technocrats in order to meet a November deadline to move the unpopular agreement through all channels of British government.

It is still a very fluid situation. May has made it through a tough weekend where support to oust her never materialized, but the week ahead is anything but certain. For now May’s Brexit position looks secure.

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“Brexit. A Deal That Pleases No One,” authored by Daniel Lacalle via dlacalle.com…

The agreement announced between the British government and the European Union has been received in the United Kingdom with criticism from all sides. The defenders of staying in the European Union consider it very negative, of course. However, and this is the most important part, it is unlikely that the conservative party itself will support this agreement in parliament. Jacob Rees-Mogg has called the agreement “a failure of the negotiators and a failure to deliver Brexit.” Boris Johnson has said that it turns the United Kingdom into a “vassal state” and Nigel Farage has described it as “the worst agreement in history”.

Including the entire United Kingdom in the customs union and maintaining the payment of 10 billion pounds a year to give the European Union veto rights to the most important decisions is something that most conservative members of parliament will reject and that does not satisfy the Labor Party – which is also not pro-EU, let’s be clear – nor the liberal-democrats.

That is the great problem facing the government of Theresa May. That not even the government as a whole supports this agreement. The resignations that have been registered prove it. Even if the rest of the government decides to accept this agreement as a lesser evil, it is very difficult for the parliament to approve it.

At the centre of the controversy is a negotiating process that the European Union has left as a United Kingdom issue. But by letting the United Kingdom deal with its own divisions and problems, the EU also lost the perfect opportunity to offer British citizens and the rest of Europe a refreshing, leading and exciting project. And that is the big problem. That Brexit has been seen in many circles in Brussels as an opportunity to advance in the political and interventionist project, instead of moving towards a union in freedom for global, economic and political leadership.

The problem of the UK government is that it is led by a person, Theresa May, who must present a proposal to leave the EU when she has always been an advocate of remaining (Theresa May initially campaigned for the “Remain”). Thus, it is not surprising that the parliament arithmetics in favor of this agreement is not at all clear.

The British Parliament has more members in favor of Brexit than against, but it cannot be THIS Brexit.

Boris Johnson and the pro-Brexit hardliners may see an opportunity to weaken Theresa May and force a change of leadership that will bring a new leader more committed to a better deal.

Moderate Labour, who have been terrified for months with the radical drift of the Corbyn team, may also see an opportunity to weaken the leader who tries to take Labour to the far left.

My perception is that if there were a second referendum the result would probably be the same. In the United Kingdom there are no voices with political weight and real popular support to defend the European Union project. In the United Kingdom, the debate is either seeing the European Union as an annoying partner or as an impossible danger to solve.

Citizens in Europe see Brexit with sadness, logically. In the United Kingdom, news arriving from the European Union do not encourage a remain stance. High unemployment, unresolved immigration problems, lack of global leadership, high taxes, the specter of a new debt crisis in Italy and other risks. Pro-Europe UK leaders offer no other argument to citizens than the so-called Project Fear, a massive economic risk. However, British citizens see UK unemployment at 75-year lows, while in Europe they see the slowdown of the eurozone and the budget crisis of other countries, and do not find an unquestionable reason to stay in the club.

The UK citizen who votes for Brexit does not seem convinced that the only solution is to belong to a union that demands more control but offers less growth and employment.

The reactions to the agreement have not been very euphoric in any case. It seems something that was presented to fail. The pound and stock market did not react as the EU negotiators would think once the deal was seen as unlikely to pass parliament. In the bond market, Gilts strengthened as UK bond spreads fell while eurozone peripheral yields soared. The opposite of what would be seen as an EU victory.

Reaching an agreement that benefits everyone is difficult, but not impossible

The problem in the United Kingdom is that the agreement that would satisfy the pro-Brexit is impossible, and that the agreement that would please the pro-EU is impractical. That the message of economic ruin is not bought by Brexiters and not even the Remainers see the marvels of the EU membership.

Economically, it has been a mistake to present British citizens with the idea of “either the EU or the chaos”, because it does not work when there is not a clear, exciting and global leadership project.

The United Kingdom, one of the voices that defended economic freedom and open markets in an increasingly bureaucratic European Union is an essential partner to advance in Europe. Reaching an agreement that benefits everyone is difficult, but not impossible.

I have never bought the “EU or chaos” argument. I believe that both parts can benefit from a mutually beneficial deal. I am convinced that, even if this agreement is not approved, the British government will reconsider and present a solid plan for its citizens.

 

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Rise of the Western Dissidents

The only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. He is far from alone.

The Duran

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Authored by Allum Bokhari via Breitbart:


We’re used to Russian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, Iranian dissidents, and Saudi Arabian dissidents. But those who rightly believe the west is superior to authoritarian regimes must now contend with a troubling trend — the rise of the western dissident.

Chief among them is Julian Assange, who for a half-decade has been forced to live in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has claimed political asylum since 2011. Assange claimed that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face charges over his work at WikiLeaks if he left the embassy, and was routinely mocked as paranoid for doing so.

This week, we learned that Assange was right and his critics were wrong. Thanks to a clerical error by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, reporters were able to confirm the existence of sealed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Because the charges are sealed and the evidence is unknown, it’s impossible to say if the case has merit. But it likely relates to WikiLeaks’ release of unredacted diplomatic cables in 2011, which forced the U.S. to relocate several of its foreign sources.

Some allegations are more serious. While he was alive, neoconservative Senator John McCain maintained that leaks provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, which included the diplomatic cables, caused U.S sources to be murdered.

Those who see Assange as a villain will end the story here. What is typically left out is that WikiLeaks originally released the diplomatic cables in piecemeal form, with names redacted to prevent loss of life and minimize harm.

It was only after a Guardian journalist’s error led to the full unredacted cables leaking to third parties on the web that WikiLeaks published them as well — and not before Assange attempted to warn the office of Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State.

In other words, WikiLeaks behaved precisely as any responsible publisher handling sensitive material should, redacting information that could cause harm. The redactions only stopped when they became pointless. Assange is unlikely to have won more than a dozen journalism awards if he were completely reckless in his publications.

The Pentagon later admitted under oath that they could not find any instances of individuals being killed as a result of being named in Manning’s leaks to WikiLeaks, contradicting Sen. McCain’s allegations.

At worst, Assange and WikiLeaks can be accused of negligence, not deliberate recklessness, in the way it handled sensitive material. But as Breitbart Tech reporter Lucas Nolan points out, a far stronger case can be made against Hillary Clinton for the way she handled State Department emails — yet we see no criminal charges against her.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. In that, he is far from alone.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, western governments targeted all manner of individuals associated with Assange and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, including Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, and The Guardian newspaper.

This was the early growth period of the internet, when the web had become a truly popular medium but had yet to be censored by pliant social media corporations. It was a time of profound unease at the power of the internet to undermine authority, both through the dissemination of information as in the case of WikiLeaks and Snowden, and in the new mobilization of political forces, as in the case of Occupy Wall Street and the SOPA/PIPA protests. Heavy-handed crackdowns against individuals and groups that were seen, rightly or wrongly, as symbols of the web’s early anarchic tendencies, like Kim DotcomAaron SwartzAnonymous, and LulzSec, were not uncommon.

These days, however, a new class of western dissident has emerged — the populist dissident.

Populist Dissidents

Who would have thought that the highest court in Europe, home of the enlightenment, would uphold a case in which a woman was prosecuted for blasphemy against Islam?

Who would have thought that Britain, the birthplace of liberalism and the free press, would ban an independent journalist from its shores for satirizing the same religion?

Who would have thought that Germany, whose living memory of the totalitarian Stasi is just three decades old, would put its largest opposition party under surveillance?

Just a few years ago, all three would sound far-fetched. But cases like these have become common as elites in virtually every western country mount a panicked attempt to contain the rise of populism (the goal, in the words of a Google executive, is to render it a “hiccup”in history’s march towards progress).

Look at the case of Tommy Robinson, the British critic of Islam who was dragged through Britain’s courts on fuzzy contempt-of-court charges. Sentenced to an astonishing thirteen-month imprisonment, Robinson was eventually freed after a successful appeal and now awaits a final trial before Britain’s Attorney General. Shaky charges that have been successfully appealed were exploited to persecute a British citizen who was inconvenient to the establishment. And there’s still a further trial to come.

Then again, Britain is a country that routinely bans foreign politicians and media figures from the country for being too right-wing. Michael SavageGeert WildersLauren SouthernPamela Geller, and Robert Spencer all enjoy this dubious distinction. Theresa May, who was responsible for internal affairs and immigration when Spencer and Geller were banned, is now the Prime Minister.

But it’s not just Britain. Not only has Trump’s White House, supposedly an ally of populists, failed to publicly intervene on behalf of the American citizens banned from the U.K. for expressing populist viewpoints, but it hasn’t even investigated allegations that far-left Antifa activists were able to stop conservative Rebel Media personality Jack Buckbyfrom entering the country by spreading false criminal allegations.

Julian Assange, a left-libertarian may share little ideological ground with right-wing critics of Islam. But they all share at least one thing: persecution by western states coupled with anti-establishment political speech or activities. They are also targets of the security establishment — Assange because of leaks that have exposed their secrets, and the populists because they refuse to censor themselves to avoid angering Muslims. (The UK justified its attempted ban of Geert Wilders by arguing that his presence in the country could lead to “inter-faith violence.”)

We also see attacks on free speech, with governments and politicians across the west pressuring Silicon Valley to suppress its critics. An unaccountable, unelected elite can sweep away a person’s livelihood in minutes, and cut their political message off from millions of American citizens. As I wrote in my column two weeks ago, the overarching trend is the gradual destruction or delegitimization of every tool, digital or otherwise, that non-elites use to express their preferences. Does that sound like a free society, or a controlled one?

You don’t have to agree with any of the individuals or groups listed above to see that surveilling political parties, blocking journalists from entering countries, jailing critics of religion, upholding blasphemy laws and censoring the net is the behavior of authoritarian nations, not liberal democracies. Yet this is the disturbing pattern we now see in the west.

Worse, foreign authoritarian regimes now provide safe harbor for western dissidents, in the same way that the west does for foreign dissidents. Edward Snowden, accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, has for years resided safely in Russia, a country that persecutes and even kills its own journalists. Before that, he sought refuge in Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region” of the People’s Republic of China, an even more terrifyingly totalitarian state.

Will there now be a quid pro quo, with Russia and other authoritarian regimes protecting our dissidents while the west protects theirs? Or will western countries remain true to their liberal traditions, and stop its alarming attempts to surveil, suppress, and persecute a growing number of its own citizens? On present trends, a dark and dystopian future seems to loom on the horizon.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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Zuckerberg’s “War Face” Has Driven Key Executives Away, Stoked Tension With Sandberg

About a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathered around 50 of his key executives and told them that the company was at war – more specifically, under siege from lawmakers, investors and angry users over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and Russian influence on the platform.

Zuckerberg, according to the Wall Street Journal, told his top lieutenants during that June meeting that while executives can move more slowly and methodically on key decisions during “peacetime,” he would be acting more decisively going forward, said people familiar with the remarks.

The result? Tension which has boiled over to the point where several key executives have left the country – as well as friction between Zuckerberg and longtime COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to “make progress faster” on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg also at times has expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year.

On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks. –WSJ

One Facebook employee at the Friday session asked if the company could mitigate leaks by publishing internal reports on how frequently offenders are found and fired. While Zuckerberg said that Facebook does fire leakers, the root cause is “bad morale” thanks to negative press coverage.

And while the WSJ notes Zuckerberg has taken on ambitious annual goals, such as learning Mandarin and reading 25 books, this year his biggest challenge is fixing Facebook through his tougher management style, according to a person familiar with his thinking (so says the WSJ). Perhaps the Facebook CEO hired a drill sergeant to coach him on bringing out his inner-Alpha?

According to the Journal, Zuckerberg and Sandberg have had confrontations over his new management style, after she had long been afforded considerable autonomy over the company’s teams which handle communications and policy.

This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed private data on Facebook users and used it for political research, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Ms. Sandberg later confided in friends that the exchange rattled her, and she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

Mr. Zuckerberg also has told Ms. Sandberg she should have been more aggressive in allocating resources to review troublesome content on the site, said one person familiar with the matter, a problem that the company still struggles to fix. –WSJ

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg seems to be pleased of late with internal improvements, telling reporters last week that Sandberg is a “very important partner to me, and continues to be, and will continue to be.”

Privately, Zuckerberg has told executives that some of the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal was just “hysteria,” to which Facebook simply didn’t mount an effective response.

Clash of the tech titans

Zuckerberg famously has butted heads with the co-founders of photo-sharing app Instagram, over his desire to share user location data on the main Facebook platform in order to help better target ads. The now-resigned Instagram founders strongly opposed the idea, and abruptly left the company in September.

The founders of WhatsApp similarly bailed on Facebook after disagreements over how to best extract revenue from the messaging service, according to people familiar with the matter.

And most recently, was the departure of Oculus VR co-founder Brendan Iribe, who was forced out by Zuckerberg in part due to a disagreement over the future of the virtual-reality handset, the people said. The decision to leave was reportedly “mutual.”

All told, about a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018. In May, Facebook announced a major reshuffling of top product executives in a way that helped free up Mr. Zuckerberg to oversee a broader portfolio within the company.

This turmoil at the top of Facebook has made it difficult for the company to execute on some product decisions and shore up employee morale, which has been sinking over the last year along with the stock price, which has fallen 36% since its peak. Many employees are frustrated by the bad press and constant reorganizations, including of the security team, which can disrupt their work, according to current and former employees. –WSJ

Doing whatever it takes

Facebook has come under fire recently – most notably after a New York Times report that the company used GOP operatives to smear the company’s detractors and promote negative news about competitors Google and Apple.

When the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal broke – the resultant rebukes from Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google executives sent Zuckerberg ballistic. The Facebook CEO “later ordered his management team to use only Android phones —arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s,” according to the Times.

Facebook then went on the offensive against the fellow tech giants.

On the advice of Joel Kaplan – a well-connected Republican friend, Bush administration official, and former Harvard classmate of Sandberg, Facebook began to go after Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Facebook has responded, initially saying they didn’t put out “fake news” against their competitors, and they had no idea what their marketing department was doing. On Friday, however, Sandberg said she took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.

Facebook has tried to move forward following its various scandals; spearheading efforts to reign in data harvesting, and looking for someone to oversee its corporate, external and legal affairs.

Hopefully whoever is ultimately in charge of oversight won’t be scared away by Zuckerberg’s war face.

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