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Britain’s ultimatum to Russia BACKFIRES, NATO and EU allies reject demands for action on Skripal

British diplomacy fails to unite West in strong action against Russia

Alexander Mercouris

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Donald Trump’s latest tweets saying that the US should aim for better relations with Russia underscores a crucial point about the Skripal case: the British are failing to win the support of their allies that they seem to have expected.

At this point it is necessary to say something about the British diplomatic strategy last week,

On Monday 12th March 2018 British Prime Minister Theresa May gave Russia a 36 hour ultimatum saying that unless it proved itself innocent the British government would deem it guilty of the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal

Here is what Theresa May said to the British House of Commons on 12th March 2018

It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.

This is part of a group of nerve agents known as ‘Novichok’.

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Mr. Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March.

Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country.

Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

This afternoon my Rt. Hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has summoned the Russian Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and asked him to explain which of these two possibilities it is — and therefore to account for how this Russian-produced nerve agent could have been deployed in Salisbury against Mr Skripal and his daughter.

My Rt. Hon. Friend has stated to the Ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

And he has requested the Russian government’s response by the end of tomorrow…….

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday we will consider in detail the response from the Russian State.

Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

(bold italics added)

The last highlighted words are unequivocal.  Unless the Russians admitted to the existence of its Novichok stockpile by midnight British time on 13th March 2018 and provided an explanation for the use of the Novichok chemical agent in the Skripal attack by that same deadline, the British government would conclude that it was the Russian government itself which had carried out the attack.

As I have previously pointed out, this was a transparent attempt to reverse the burden of proof, with Russia being required to prove itself innocent instead of Britain being required to prove Russia guilty.

In the event – and as was to be expected – the Russians denied Theresa May’s claims.  They pointed out that the OPCW had certified that Russia had destroyed all its stocks of chemical weapons.  They categorically denied possessing or stockpiling Novichok agents.  They demanded sight of the evidence upon which Theresa May was making her claims, and insisted on adoption of the procedure set out in Article IX(2) of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  They denied any role in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

Accordingly, and consistent with the logic of her ultimatum, Theresa May on 14th March 2018 went before the House of Commons again and declared Russia guilty of a chemical weapons attack on British territory and of the murder attempt on Sergey and Yulia Skripal

……there were only two plausible explanations.

Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country.

Or conceivably, the Russian government could have lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

Mr Speaker, it was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation.

But their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events.

They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent.

No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.

Instead they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.

So Mr Speaker, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

(bold italics added)

Britain’s subsequent actions followed this logic.

Since it was supposedly “proved” that Russia had carried out a military attack on Britain (“an unlawful use of force….against the United Kingdom”) the British took the matter to the UN Security Council, which is supposed to consider all cases where “an unlawful use of force” is used.

It was at this point that the whole British strategy unravelled.

Firstly, the Russians insisted that the UN Security Council debate be held in public and not in private as the British had originally sought.

The Russians then responded strongly to the British claims, denying them and insisting that proper procedures be followed.

To see what happened next, it is necessary to read through the UN Press Office’s summary of the debate.

Though the British got strong support from Nikki Haley (as was to be expected), the British failed to win unequivocal support for their claim that Russia is guilty from any of the other ambassadors present in the UN Security Council, even from those ambassadors who represent France, Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden, who are Britain’s closest allies.

Instead, in what looks to have been a coordinated position, the ambassadors of Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden followed the lead of the French ambassador whose comments are summarised by the UN Press Office as follows

The United Kingdom Prime Minister had stated that the Russian Federation was responsible.  He expressed full confidence in the United Kingdom investigation to shed light on the use of that chemical weapon.  The perpetrators must be identified and prosecuted, with responses provided to the United Kingdom’s legitimate questions.

(bold italics added)

The sting in the highlighted words has not been widely grasped.  The point however is that earlier on that same day – 14th March 2018 – Theresa May on the expiry of her ultimatum had already pronounced Russia guilty (see above).  Yet here was the French ambassador just a few hours later on the same day saying – along with the ambassadors of Poland, the Netherlands and Sweden – that the question of Russia’s guilt had still not been determined, with Russia being asked to answer Britain’s questions, with no deadline for those answers being demanded of Russia, in the context of an investigation which was still underway.

That this is a completely different position from the one taken earlier on the same day by Theresa May has not been generally reported, a fact which is a testament to the extraordinary and continuing power of the passionately anti-Russian English speaking media.  However it is clear if one reads carefully the words used.

In other words, though dressing up their position in supportive language, Britain’s allies were declining to echo what the British were saying: that Russia had already been proved to be guilty of the Skripal attack.

The summary of the debate provided by the UN Press Office shows that the non-aligned states were much more equivocal even than this.

None of their ambassadors said that Russia was guilty whilst Russia got support from its allies: China and Kazakhstan.

The ambassador from Peru made a comment which looks like an implied rebuke of the British.  The UN Press Office summarises his comment as saying that the incident in Salisbury should be

….investigated in the framework of the rule of law and due process, while the parties involved must fully cooperate in an investigation that would determine those responsible and any applicable sanctions.

(bold italics added)

The ambassador of Ethiopia is reported to have spoken in similar terms

He voiced hope that an independent investigation would be conducted, and vetted, on the Salisbury incident, including by holding consultations on the basis of the Chemical Weapons Convention, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.  He encouraged good-faith cooperation between United Kingdom and the Russian Federation, which was critical to ensuring that the issue did not get out of hand.  Given the United Kingdom’s justified concern, he hoped all concerned would fully cooperate and that the matter would be handled in a fair manner.

(bold italics added)

The point behind these words is that – as Russia’s formidable ambassador Vasily Nebenzia pointed out, it is Britain not Russia which is not following due process and which is acting outside the rule of law, and which is refusing Russia’s offer to cooperate with the investigation.

Here is how the UN Press Office summarises what Nebenzia said

The United Kingdom ignored the procedures in line with international commitments.  The matter was being dragged into the Council while the real experts were in The Hague, and those experts would not be convinced.  The letter stated that the Russian Federation had something to do with the use of toxic agents in Salisbury.  His country had been given 24 hours to admit that it had committed a crime.  His country did not speak the language of ultimatums, and would not be spoken to in that language….His country had nothing to do with the incident, and the ultimatum from London was something that it could not pay attention to and that he considered null and void.  He expected that the United Kingdom should act in strict adherence to the Convention on Chemical Weapons and would provide samples of the substances for joint investigation, as it was saying that it was Russian in origin.  That was not optional; it was mandatory under the Convention.

I am not privy to Britain’s diplomatic strategy, but I suspect that the British expected much stronger support in the UN Security Council than they got, and expected that their NATO allies at least would simply accept and echo their assertion of Russian guilt.

My guess is that the British plan was to follow this up by presenting a Resolution to the UN Security Council condemning Russia.

After the Russians vetoed the Resolution – as it would of course do – the British intended to call on the support of their NATO allies by invoking Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which reads as follows

Article 5

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Note how Article 5 uses essentially the same language – “an armed attack” – as Theresa May used in her statements to the House of Commons on 12th and 14th March 2018 – “an unlawful use of force” – and how it envisages an “immediate report to the Security Council” and “measures necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area” until “the Security Council has taken the necessary measures”.

In other words the British referral to the UN Security Council had the purpose of preparing the ground for an emergency NATO summit at which Britain would invoke Article 5.

My guess is that the British planned to get their NATO and EU allies at this summit to impose across the board sanctions on Russia as “necessary measures” for “collective self-defence” pursuant to Article 5 in light of the “unlawful use of force” that they all agreed Russia had carried out against one of their members ie. Britain.

If this is correct – and I am sure it is – then Britain’s allies saw through this British strategy and quietly sidestepped it.

The result is a series of ritual statements which appear to support Britain but which actually do no such thing.

Here is the first of them, a joint statement made by the US, Britain, Germany and France on 15th March 2018

We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2018. A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened. We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the United Kingdom police and emergency services for their courageous response.

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War. It is an assault on the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all.

The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack. We share the United Kingdom’s assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the United Kingdom further underlines Russia’s responsibility. We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack in Salisbury.

Russia should, in particular, provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the U.N. Security Council to uphold international peace and security.

Craig Murray has correctly pointed out the careful use in this statement of the formula “a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia” as opposed to a simple and outright statement that the “military grade nerve agent” was “made by Russia“.

However what has so far as I know has up to now gone unnoticed is that the statement actually falls well short of saying that Russia actually carried out the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

On the contrary, repeating the formula used by Britain’s Western allies in the UN Security Council on the previous day (see above), it continues to treat the question of Russia’s guilt as undecided, and continues to ask Russia to answer Britain’s questions, without setting any deadline for Russia to do so.

This despite the fact that Theresa May’s deadline for Russia to answer these questions had by then already passed, so that she had already declared Russia guilty.

On 19th March 2018 the EU issued its own statement which proved to be even weaker and more equivocal than the statement issued by the US, Britain, Germany and France on 15th March 2018.  Its full text is as follows

The European Union strongly condemns the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK on 4 March 2018, that also left a police officer seriously ill. The lives of many citizens were threatened by this reckless and illegal act. The European Union takes extremely seriously the UK Government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible.

The European Union is shocked at the offensive use of any military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, for the first time on European soil in over 70 years. The use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is completely unacceptable and constitutes a security threat to us all. Any such use is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, a breach of international law and undermines the rules-based international order. The EU welcomes the commitment of the UK to work closely with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in supporting the investigation into the attack. The Union calls on Russia to address urgently the questions raised by the UK and the international community and to provide immediate, full and complete disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW.

The European Union expresses its unqualified solidarity with the UK and its support, including for the UK’s efforts to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.

The EU will remain closely focussed on this issue and its implications.

Once again we see the formula identified by Craig Murray – “a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia” – instead of “a military-grade nerve agent, made by Russia“.

However the sting in this statement is again contained in the following words

The Union calls on Russia to address urgently the questions raised by the UK and the international community and to provide immediate, full and complete disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW

Once again Theresa May’s ultimatum of 12th March 2018 is treated as if it had never been made.

There is no statement of Russia’s guilt, despite Theresa May having already declared Russia guilty on 14th March 2018.

Instead the Russians are asked to cooperate with the OPCW – whose investigation of the type of chemical agent used in the attack the Russians were the first to insist upon – by making a full disclosure about the Novichok programme to the OPCW – something which the Russians have always said they are prepared to do.

Note that though the statement demands “immediate disclosure” it too sets no actual deadline, whilst it ignores the fact that Theresa May’s deadline has already passed.

It also speaks of a “Russia’s Novichok programme” as opposed to “Novichok stockpiles in Russia”, leaving open the possibility that – as the Russians say – no such Novichok stockpiles in Russia exist.

Britain’s Western allies have in the meantime made it absolutely clear that they do not consider that the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal is such a one as to merit Britain invoking Article 5.

Even Boris Johnson, Britain’s buffoonish Foreign Secretary who presumably devised its diplomatic strategy, now accepts – to his obvious disappointment and frustration – that Article 5 is not going to be invoked

Mr Johnson said that Russia had skilfully chosen a series of targets just beneath the level at which Nato’s Article 5 would be triggered. Article 5 commits member states to consider an armed attack on one to be against them all.

As to what Britain’s core allies really think of the whole Skripal affair, that is shown by the fulsome way they have all rushed to congratulate Vladimir Putin following his recent re-election.

This is how the Kremlin summarises the call from US President Trump

Donald Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his victory in the presidential election. The leaders spoke in favour of developing practical cooperation in various areas, including efforts to ensure strategic stability and combat international terrorism, with particular emphasis on the importance of coordinated efforts to curb an arms race.

The exchange on economic cooperation revealed an interest in bolstering it. Energy was discussed separately.

The problem of Syria was discussed, as was the internal crisis in Ukraine. There was recognition on both sides of the need to make rapid strides toward achieving settlements.

Satisfaction was expressed with the limited reduction of tensions around the Korean Peninsula. The expediency of continuing consistent efforts to resolve the situation by peaceful, diplomatic means was underscored.

It was agreed to develop further bilateral contacts in light of the changes in leadership at the US Department of State. The possibility of organising a top-level meeting received special attention.

On the whole, the conversation was constructive and businesslike, with a focus on overcoming the accumulated problems in Russian-American relations.

Note that there is no reference here to the Skripal attack here at all, a fact which echoes Donald Trump’s total silence about the Skripal attack in his twitter feed, which is the place where he expresses those things on his mind.

Instead what we have from Donald Trump on his twitter feed is more restatements of his long standing wish for good relations with Russia

More words of congratulation for Putin came from President Macron of France.  Here is how the Kremlin summarises those

Emmanuel Macron congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning the presidential election and spoke in favour of continuing joint work aimed at the further expansion of multifaceted Russian-French cooperation, in particular, between civil societies, as part of the Trianon Dialogue.

The Syrian settlement within the context of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2401 and the Ukraine crisis were discussed extensively, given the importance of complying with the Minsk agreements.

The incident in Salisbury was also touched on. Russia focused on the unsubstantiated nature of the charges brought against it and reiterated its willingness to conduct a joint investigation into the incident.

It was agreed to continue exchanging views on the issues raised during the conversation at various levels.

Here we do see a mention of the Skripal attack, with Putin however restating Russia’s position and reiterating Russia’s willingness “to conduct a joint investigation”.
We are not told what Macron said in reply.  However he apparently “agreed to continue exchanging views on the issues raised during the conversation”.
What Macron really thinks about the Skripal affair is shown by what his spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said shortly after Britain announced it was expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Skripal attacK
We don’t do fantasy politics. Once the elements are proven, then the time will come for decisions to be made.
The cruellest blow of all has however come from German Chancellor Angela Merkel – the person the British were counting on to rally European support behind them – who instead has sent a fulsome telegram congratulating Putin on his victory

Dear Mr. President, with all my heart I congratulate you on your next reelection Russian president.

Today, it is vitally important to continue dialogue and maintain relations between our countries and nations. With this in mind, we should take efforts for constructive work on major bilateral and international problems to find proper solutions. I wish you success in your work to resolve the tasks facing you

Note that there is no reference here to the Skripal attack either.

Britain’s anger at the fulsome letter of congratulation sent to Putin by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is in my opinion a mask for British dismay at the telegram sent to Putin by Merkel.

In truth Juncker’s words of congratulations to Putin were fulsome enough

However Merkel is a far more powerful and important person than Juncker.  The British dare not criticise her, so they are taking out their anger by criticising Juncker instead.

All the indications are that the same pattern will continue at the EU Council meeting today.

There will be what superficially looks like strong statement of support for the British.  When examined closely it will turn out that the statement however actually says less than it seems to, with even the BBC admitting that

EU countries were not united in “being willing to point their finger at Russia” or taking further steps, such as expelling diplomats.

As for concrete measures against Russia, already it seems that the British are scaling down their demands.

Suggestions that Nord Stream 2 be cancelled have apparently already been rebuffed.  The BBC quotes British officials saying the following

……..a senior Whitehall official said Russia had “shown itself to be a strategic enemy not a strategic partner”.

The official stressed that the UK’s response to the Salisbury attack had been carefully calibrated to remain within the law, and that the UK was “not looking for some big confrontation with Russia or regime change”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the UK’s Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “very important to stand up” to Russia over the attack, but the UK must “continue to engage” with the country.

He added: “We continue to engage with Russia because we seek a position where Russia does abide by internal rules and norms [and] where Russia is a grown-up player on the world stage abiding by the international approaches, for instance not using chemical weapons.”

That Britain is “not looking for some big confrontation with Russia” after all the fire and thunder of last week will have come as a surprise to many people.

In truth what those words show is that the “big confrontation with Russia” has already happened, and that the British have lost it.

Quite simply their allies don’t want it, and for that reason it isn’t going to happen.

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VIPS Fault Mueller Probe, Criticize Refusal to Interview Assange

The bug in Mueller’s report released on Thursday is that he accepts that the Russian government interfered in the election. Trump should challenge that, says VIPS.

Consortium News

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Via ConsortiumNews.com:


MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment

April 16, 2019

Mr. President:

The song has ended but the melody lingers on. The release Thursday of the redacted text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” nudged the American people a tad closer to the truth on so-called “Russiagate.”

But the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president. And that melody will linger on for the rest of your presidency, unless you seize the moment.

Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth, apparently in the lack of any disinterested, independent forensic work. Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC (through a cutout).

We brought the lack of independent forensics to the attention of Attorney General William Barr on March 13 in a Memorandum entitled “Mueller’s Forensic-Free Findings”, but received no reply or acknowledgement. In that Memorandum we described the results of our own independent, agenda-free forensic investigation led by two former Technical Directors of the NSA, who avoid squishy “assessments,” preferring to base their findings on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method. Our findings remain unchallenged; they reveal gaping holes in CrowdStrike’s conclusions.

We do not know if Barr shared our March 13 Memorandum with you. As for taking a public position on the forensics issue, we suspect he is being circumspect in choosing his battles carefully, perhaps deferring until later a rigorous examination of the dubious technical work upon which Mueller seems to have relied.

Barr’s Notification to Congress

As you know, the big attention-getter came on March 24 when Attorney General William Barr included in his four-page summary a quote from Mueller’s report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Understandably, that grabbed headlines — the more so, since most Americans had been convinced earlier by the media that the opposite was true.

There remains, however, a huge fly in the ointment. The Mueller report makes it clear that Mueller accepts as a given — an evidence-impoverished given — that the Russian government interfered in the election on two tracks:

Track 1 involves what Barr, echoing Mueller, claims “a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA)” did in using social media “to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.” A careful look at this allegation shows it to be without merit, despite Herculean efforts by The New York Times, for example, to put lipstick on this particular pig.  After some rudimentary research, award winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter promptly put that pig out of its misery and brought home the bacon. We do not believe “Track 1” merits further commentary.

Track 2 does need informed commentary, since it is more technical and — to most Americans — arcane. In Barr’s words: “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election.”

We are eager to see if Mueller’s report contains more persuasive forensic evidence than that which VIPS has already debunked. In Barr’s summary, the only mention of forensics refers to “forensic accountants” — a far cry from the kind of forensic investigators needed to provide convincing proof of “hacking” by the Russian government.

But They Were Indicted!

Circular reasoning is not likely to work for very long, even with a U.S. populace used to being brainwashed by the media. Many Americans had mistakenly assumed that Mueller’s indictment of Russians — whether they be posting on FaceBook or acting like intelligence officers — was proof of guilt. But, as lawyers regularly point out, “one can easily indict a ham sandwich” — easier still these days, if it comes with Russian dressing.

Chances have now increased that the gullible folks who had been assured that Mueller would find collusion between you and Putin may now be a bit more circumspect — skeptical even — regarding the rest of the story-line of the “Russian hack,” and that will be even more likely among those with some technical background. Such specialists will have a field day, IF — and it is a capital “IF” — by some miracle, word of VIPS’ forensic findings gets into the media this time around.

The evidence-impoverished, misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 6, 2017 had one saving grace. The authors noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” Forensic investigators can follow a trail of metadata and other technical properties. VIPS has done that.

A “High-Class Entity?”

If, as we strongly suspect, Mueller is relying for forensics solely on CrowdStrike, the discredited firm hired by the DNC in the spring of 2016, he is acting more in the mold of Inspector Clouseau than the crackerjack investigator he is reputed to be. It simply does not suffice for Mueller’s former colleague James Comey to tell Congress that CrowdStrike is a “high-class entity.” It is nothing of the sort and, in addition to its documented incompetence, it is riddled with conflicts of interest. Comey needs to explain why he kept the FBI away from the DNC computers after they were said to have been “hacked.”

And former National Intelligence Director James Clapper needs to explain his claim last November that “the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” What forensic evidence? From CrowdStrike? We at VIPS, in contrast, are finding more and more forensic evidence that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked by the Russians or anyone else — and that “Guccifer 2.0” is an out-and-out fraud. Yes, we can prove that from forensics too.

But the Talking Heads Say …

Again, if Mueller’s incomplete investigation is allowed to assume the status of Holy Writ, most Americans will continue to believe that — whether you colluded the Russians or not — Putin came through for you big time. In short, absent President Putin’s help, you would not be president.

Far too many Americans will still believe this because of the mainstream-media fodder — half-cooked by intelligence leaks — that they have been fed for two and a half years. The media have been playingthe central role in the effort of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex to stymie any improvement in relations with Russia. We in VIPS have repeatedly demonstrated that the core charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election are built on a house of cards. But, despite our record of accuracy on this issue — not to mention our pre-Iraq-war warnings about the fraudulent intelligence served up by our former colleagues — we have gotten no play in mainstream media.

Most of us have chalked up decades in the intelligence business and many have extensive academic and government experience focusing on Russia. We consider the issue of “Russian interference” of overriding significance not only because the allegation is mischievously bogus and easily disproven. More important, it has brought tension with nuclear-armed Russia to the kind of dangerous fever pitch not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Russian provocation was real — authentic, not synthetic.

Sober minds resolved that crisis more than a half-century ago, and we all got to live another day. These days sober minds seem few and far between and a great deal is at stake. On the intelligence/forensics side, we have proved that the evidence adduced to “prove” that the Russians hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails and gave them to WikiLeaks is spurious. For example, we have examined metadata from one key document attributed to Russian hacking and shown that it was synthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”

Who Left the Bread Crumbs?

So, if it wasn’t the Russians, who left the “Russian” bread-crumb “fingerprints?” We do not know for sure; on this question we cannot draw a conclusion based on the principles of science — at least not yet. We suspect, however, that cyber warriors closer to home were responsible for inserting the “tell-tale signs” necessary to attribute “hacks” to Russia. We tacked on our more speculative views regarding this intriguing issue onto the end of our July 24, 2017 Memorandum to you entitled “Intelligence Veterans Challenge Russia Hack Evidence.”

We recall that you were apprised of that Memorandum’s key findings because you ordered then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to talk to William Binney, one of our two former NSA Technical Directors and one of the principal authors of that Memorandum. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney by explaining the genesis of the odd invitation to CIA Headquarters: “You are here because the president told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

On the chance Pompeo has given you no report on his meeting with Binney, we can tell you that Binney, a plain-spoken, widely respected scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. Pompeo reacted with disbelief, but then talked of following up with the FBI and NSA. We have no sign, though, that he followed through. And there is good reason to believe that Pompeo himself may have been reluctant to follow up with his subordinates in the Directorate of Digital Innovation created by CIA Director John Brennan in 2015. CIA malware and hacking tools are built by the Engineering Development Group, part of that relatively new Directorate.

Obfuscation’

A leak from within the CIA, published on March 31, 2017 by WikiLeaks as part of the so-called “Vault 7” disclosures, exposed a cyber tool called “Marble,” which was used during 2016 for “obfuscation” (CIA’s word). This tool can be used to conduct a forensic attribution double game (aka a false-flag operation); it included test samples in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, and Russian. Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima, to her credit, immediately penned an informative article on the Marble cyber-tool, under the catching (and accurate) headline “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.” That was apparently before Nakashima “got the memo.” Mainstream media have otherwise avoided like the plague any mention of Marble.

Mr. President, we do not know if CIA’s Marble, or tools like it, played some kind of role in the campaign to blame Russia for hacking the DNC. Nor do we know how candid the denizens of CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation have been with the White House — or with former Director Pompeo — on this touchy issue. Since it is still quite relevant, we will repeat below a paragraph included in our July 2017 Memorandum to you under the sub-heading “Putin and the Technology:”

“We also do not know if you have discussed cyber issues in any detail with President Putin. In his interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, he seemed quite willing – perhaps even eager – to address issues related to the kind of cyber tools revealed in the Vault 7 disclosures, if only to indicate he has been briefed on them. Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack. Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”

As we told Attorney General Barr five weeks ago, we consider Mueller’s findings fundamentally flawed on the forensics side and ipso facto incomplete. We also criticized Mueller for failing to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

Political Enemies & Mainstream Media (Forgive the Redundancy)

You may be unaware that in March 2017 lawyers for Assange and the Justice Department (acting on behalf of the CIA) reportedly were very close to an agreement under which Assange would agree to discuss “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” in the leak of the DNC emails and agree to redact some classified CIA information, in exchange for limited immunity. According to the investigative reporter John Solomon of The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, learned of the incipient deal and told then-FBI Director Comey, who ordered an abrupt“stand down” and an end to the discussions with Assange.

Why did Comey and Warner put the kibosh on receiving “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” [read Russia]? We won’t insult you with the obvious answer. Assange is now in prison, to the delight of so many — including Mrs. Clinton who has said Assange must now “answer for what he has done.”

But is it too late to follow up somehow on Assange’s offer? Might he or his associates be still willing to provide “technical evidence” showing, at least, who was not the culprit?

You, Mr. President, could cause that to happen. You would have to buck strong resistance at every turn, and there all manner of ways that those with vested interests and a lot of practice in sabotage can try to thwart you — with the full cooperation of most media pundits. By now, you know all too well how that works.

But you are the president. And there may be no better time than now to face them down, show the spurious nature of the concocted “evidence” attempting to put you in “Putin’s pocket,” and — not least — lift the cloud that has prevented you from pursuing a more decent relationship with Russia.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)

Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

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Ukraine’s president-in-waiting Zelensky vows to end conflict in Donbass with ‘POWERFUL INFOWAR’

Zelensky vowed to “act within the Normandy format,” referring to the French-German-Russian-Ukrainian talks on war in Donbass, saying that “we will continue the Minsk process, we will restart it.”

RT

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Via RT…


Comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelensky, set for a landslide win in Ukraine’s presidential vote, stayed true to character at his first press conference, dropping some flashy promises but refusing to go into boring detail.

Shortly after claiming electoral victory, Zelensky held a Q&A session with reporters at his campaign HQ in a Kiev business center. While the official results of the elections have yet to be announced, multiple exit polls suggest he secured more than 72 percent of votes.

Zelensky addressed the media in an easy-going manner. He spoke in a mix of Ukrainian and Russian, switching between the two languages, sometimes in one sentence. He also talked English a bit. But if the press hoped to shed light on the policies of the incoming president and his team, the conference actually generated more questions than answers.

Bringing the civil war in eastern Ukraine to an end appears to be one of the top priorities for Zelensky.

Promising to announce some kind of a plan shortly, he asked the reporters for help in the upcoming “infowar” that he says would help end the conflict, which, since 2014, has been raging between Kiev’s troops and the rebel self-proclaimed republics.

We will launch a very powerful information war to end the war in Donbass.

He then vowed to “act within the Normandy format,” referring to the French-German-Russian-Ukrainian talks on war in Donbass, saying that “we will continue the Minsk process, we will restart it.”

Next up, Zelensky did not rule out – even if half-jokingly – that the outvoted president Petro Poroshenko could gain a government post if the public “asks so.”

Do you want me to appoint him? Then I will ask society… If they tell me that they want to see Petro Poroshenko in one post or another – maybe, I don’t know.

Zelensky added, though, that he would like to try “new people” first. But the very team of the soon-to-be president still remains a mystery, as he’s refusing to provide any names, be it the new administration, the judiciary, or the country’s military.

“We have very serious acting generals who have authority in the army, you will definitely see them. I have no right to give the names of these people now, as there is an agreement with the generals,” Zelensky said cryptically, likewise not revealing his candidate for prosecutor general.

For now, Zelensky and his Servant of the People party – notably named after his own comedy show where he played a schoolteacher-turned-president – are promising to introduce the team “in the near future.”

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The Triumph of Evil

What is going on is that American oil companies want to recover their control over the revenue streams from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:


Today (April 17) I heard a NPR “news” report that described the democratically elected president of Venezuela as “the Venezuelan dictator Maduro.” By repeating over and over that a democratically elected president is a dictator, the presstitutes create that image of Maduro in the minds of vast numbers of peoples who know nothing about Venezuela and had never heard of Maduro until he is dropped on them as “dictator.”

Nicolas Maduro Moros was elected president of Venezuela in 2013 and again in 2018. Previously he served as vice president and foreign minister, and he was elected to the National Assembly in 2000. Despite Washington’s propaganda campaign against him and Washington’s attempt to instigate violent street protests and Maduro’s overthrow by the Venezuelan military, whose leaders have been offered large sums of money, Maduro has the overwhelming support of the people, and the military has not moved against him.

What is going on is that American oil companies want to recover their control over the revenue streams from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves. Under the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez, continued by Maduro, the oil revenues instead of departing the country have been used to reduce poverty and raise literacy inside Venezuela.

The opposition to Maduro inside Venezuela comes from the elites who have been traditionally allied with Washington in the looting of the country. These corrupt elites, with the CIA’s help, temporarily overthrew Chavez, but the people and the Venezuelan military secured his release and return to the presidency.

Washington has a long record of refusing to accept any reformist governments in Latin America. Reformers get in the way of North America’s exploitation of Latin American countries and are overthrown.

With the exceptions of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, Latin America consists of Washington’s vassal states. In recent years Washington destroyed reform governments in Honduras, Argentina and Brazil and put gangsters in charge.

According to US national security adviser John Bolton, a neoconservative war monger, the governments in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua will soon be overthrown. New sanctions have now been placed on the three countries. Washington in the typical display of its pettiness targeted sanctions against the son of the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. https://www.rt.com/news/456841-bolton-russia-venezuela-threat/

Ortega has been the leader of Nicaragua since for 40 years. He was president 1985-1990 and has been elected and reelected as president since 2006.

Ortega was the opponent of Somoza, Washington’s dictator in Nicaragua. Consequently he and his movement were attacked by the neoconservative operation known as Iran-Contra during the Reagan years. Ortega was a reformer. His government focused on literacy, land reform, and nationalization, which was at the expense of the wealthy ruling class. He was labeled a “Marxist-Leninist,” and Washington attempted to discredit his reforms as controversial leftist policies.

Somehow Castro and Ortega survived Washington’s plots against them. By the skin of his teeth so did Chavez unless you believe it was the CIA that gave him cancer. Castro and Chavez are dead. Ortega is 74. Maduro is in trouble, because Washington has stolen Venezuela’s bank deposits and cut Venezuela off the international financial system, and the British have stolen Venezuela’s gold. This makes it hard for Venezuela to pay its debts.

The Trump regime has branded the democratically twice-elected Maduro an “illegitimate” president. Washington has found a willing puppet, Juan Guaido, to take Maduro’s place and has announced that the puppet is now the president of Venezuela. No one among the Western presstitutes or among the vassals of Washington’s empire finds it strange that an elected president is illegitimate but one picked by Washington is not.

Russia and China have given Maduro diplomatic support. Both have substantial investments in Venezuela that would be lost if Washington seizes the country. Russia’s support for Maduro was declared by Bolton today to be a provocation that is a threat to international peace and security. Bolton said his sanctions should be seen by Russia as a warning against providing any help for the Venezuelan government.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo and vice president Pence have added their big mouths to the propaganda against the few independent governments in Latin America. Where is the shame when the highest American government officials stand up in front of the world and openly proclaim that it is official US government policy to overthrow democratically elected governments simply because those governments don’t let Americans plunder their countries?

How is it possible that Pompeo can announce that the “days are numbered” of the elected president of Nicaragua, who has been elected president 3 or 4 times, and the world not see the US as a rogue state that must be isolated and shunned? How can Pompeo describe Washington’s overthrow of an elected government as “setting the Nicaraguan people free?”

The top officials of the US government have announced that they intend to overthrow the governments of 3 countries and this is not seen as “a threat to international peace and security?”

How much peace and security did Washington’s overthrow of governments in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and the attempted overthrow of Syria bring?

Washington is once again openly violating international law and the rest of the world has nothing to say?

There is only one way to describe this: The Triumph of Evil.

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” — William Butler Yeats

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