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Here’s why the US spreads falsehoods about Iran

Iran is not sponsoring terrorism, but the US has vested interests in perpetuating lies on the matter.

Eric Zuesse

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While I happened to be researching another subject, a central question in the investigation came to be how Iran — which supplied none of the 9/11 terrorists and no financing to them and no organizing of them, and which hasn’t been connected with nearly as many terrorist incidents globally as Saudi Arabia has — came to be officially called by the U.S. “the top state sponsor of terrorism.” The following is the portion of my resulting article that happens to concern this very question, and it’s modified slightly here, so as to focus only on this exact question:

The lie about this matter began, actually, with the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment complex in the Saudi city of Khobar, which killed 19 U.S. military, who worked at the Dharan air base three miles away.

Prior to that incident, I am not able to find any such reference as “Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism” or “Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism” or anything like it.

This incident — the Khobar Towers bombing — became the lynchpin of the accusation by the Saudi royal family, the U.S. State Department, and the CIA, that Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Both Robert Mueller and his longtime ally James Comey (the latter of whose firing as the FBI chief, by U.S. President Trump, had sparked the appointment of Mueller to become the Special Counsel investigating the U.S. President) had performed crucial roles in establishing that the Khobar Towers bombing was a Hezbollah operation run by the Iranian Government — and, starting upon this basis, in helping to develop the case that Iran “is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” However, as has been made clear by several great independent investigative journalists, on the basis of far more-solid documentation than the official account, the Khobar Towers bombing was instead entirely a fundamentalist-Sunni operation, specifically perpetrated by Al Qaeda, which hates Shia and which also hates America’s military presence in the Middle East. Osama bin Laden’s claim of the bombing’s having been done by Al Qaeda, was, in fact, entirely honest and accurate.

America’s “Deep State,” which extends to Saudi Arabia and to a number of other Governments — it’s an international network — is deeply committed to supporting the fundamentalist-Sunni war to conquer and destroy Shia Islam, and not merely to conquer the leading Shia nation, which is Iran. The U.S. Government has intensely taken a side in the Sunni-Shia religious war. That war is comparable in some respects to the 30 Years’ War (1618-1648) between Catholics and Protestants, which killed an estimated eight million Europeans; and, both the United States and Israel have clearly joined with the fundamentalist-Sunni leaders, against Iran, and against Shia generally.

The reasons behind the prevailing lies about this matter will also be documented here. Discrepancies between the official story and the solidly documented facts, need to be explained, in order for a reader to be able to understand truthfully why Mueller (who cooperated with Comey in order to rig the official account of the bombing, so as to condemn Iran and Hezbollah instead of Al Qaeda) received his appointment. This is also important in order to understand why Trump, though rabidly anti-Iranian himself, is nonetheless insufficiently anti-Iranian to satisfy the Sauds, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or the rest of the U.S.-and-allied Deep State.

Before proceeding further here, however, the statistical falseness of the allegation that Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism has to be clearly recognized as being the ultimate fact; because, if this entire question — to which Mueller and Comey contributed so importantly to answering by their identifying Iran (and Shia generally) as being precisely that (‘the foremost state sponsor of terrorism’) — can be assessed at all objectively, then the statistical answer to it would certainly be the objective one.

Wikipedia’s article on “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism” says: “According to the Global Terrorism Database, the majority of deaths, more than 94% attributed to Islamic terrorism since 2001, were perpetrated by Sunnijihadists of the Islamic Stateal-Qaeda and others.[3][4].” Only 6% were Shiites, at all — from any country. Similarly, my own independent study of 54 especially prominent global instances of Islamic terrorism was headlined (and reported that) “All Islamic Terrorism Is Perpetrated by Fundamentalist Sunnis, Except Terrorism Against Israel.” (The anti-Israel terrorist instances might constitute the “6%” which was referred to in the Wikipedia article, but that article provided no good link to its source for the “6%” figure.)

So: the basic allegation is false, that Iran is the foremost state-sponsor of terrorism; the general allegation isn’t anywhere near to being true. It’s a lie. More specifically, now, regarding the Khobar Towers incident, which triggered the start of this fraudulent generalization:

The Saudi royal family asserted, immediately after the bombing, that the attack had been perpetrated by jihadists who had returned from Afghanistan and who were now fighting to overthrow Saudi Arabia’s Government (the royal Saud family).

For example, on 15 August 1996, the New York Times headlined “Saudi Rebels Are Main Suspects In June Bombing of a U.S. Base”, and reported that, “The Government of Saudi Arabia now believes that native Saudi Islamic militants, including many veterans of the Afghan war, carried out the June 25 bombing that killed 19 American servicemen at a base in Dhahran, Saudi officials said today.” However, the “mujahideen” who had fought in Afghanistan were paid and backed both by the Sauds and by the U.S. Government. For example, as early as 1979, Zbigniew Brzezinski flew into Pakistan and exhorted the Taliban there to become mujahideen in Afghanistan because “That land over there is yours; you’ll go back to it one day, because your fight will prevail, and you will have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and God is on your side.” Then, starting in 1980, “From the Pakistani border, bin Laden raises funds and provides the mujahedeen with logistical and humanitarian aid.” So, the Sauds’ allegation that the Khobar bombers had been “veterans of the Afghan war” would have meant that they had been foot-soldiers for the U.S.-Saudi operation in Afghanistan. Both the U.S. Government and the Saud family (who own the Saudi Government) hate Shia and especially hate Iran. Hezbollah are Shia, and they are extremely pro-Iran. How likely is it that Hezbollah, anywhere, would have been fighting under the command of Al Qaeda, or of any other fundamentalist-Sunni jihadist organization that calls all Shia “infidels”? So, the Sauds’ account of the Khobar Towers bombing is fishy, at best.

Furthermore, a Google-search for the phrase “Hezbollah in Afghanistan” turns up only “6 results,” and all of them say nothing about any “Hezbollah in Afghanistan.” No report comes up about such a thing, for any year, or any period. The only countries where Hezbollah was reported to exist were Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. One of the links in that Google search was globally comprehensive for the year 2007, the Center on International Cooperation’s “Annual Review of Global Peace Operations — 2007”. It included reports on wars during that year, in 26 countries, and the chapter for Afghanistan (pages 52-58) doesn’t mention Hezbollah even once. However, a search for the phrase ”Hezbollah Afghanistan” does bring up “Syria’s Other Foreign Fighters: Iran’s Afghan and Pakistani Mercenaries”, at the neoconservative (and thus favoring not only the American aristocracy but its allied aristocracies — especially in Saudi Arabia and Israel) The National Interest, dated 20 November 2015. That article says, “The liwa’ fatimiyun (Fatimiyun Brigade) is composed exclusively of Afghans and fights under the auspices of Hezbollah Afghanistan,” based in Syria. Other supposed foreign Shiites trying to overthrow Syria’s Government are mentioned, as being supposedly “Pakistanis fighting in Syria under the Hezbollah flag.” However, if these allegations are true, then those men would be opponents of Syria’s secular government, which is headed by the secular Shiite Bashar al-Assad, who is being attacked by fundamentalist Sunnis — including both ISIS and Al Qaeda there — who are trying to kill Hezbollah in Syria, who are, in fact, defending Assad. (Such illogical ‘historical’ accounts as that, are normal in neoconservative publications — counterfactuality is entirely acceptable to them.) Either that, or else the alleged Shiite Pakistanis who are fighting in Syria to overthrow the Shiite Assad and replace him with a fundamentalist Sunni regime, would be — not actually members of Hezbollah, but instead — Shiites from Pakistan who came to Syria in order to help actually not to overthrow the Government but to defend it against its rabidly anti-Shia attackers. That’s the opposite of the assumption that The National Interest made, but it conceivably could be the case. A Pew survey scientifically randomly sampled 1,512 Pakistanis, and found that 1,450 of them declared themselves to be “Muslim,” which is 96%. It also found that 94% of Pakistanis (of any or no faith) say that religion is “very important” in their lives, and found that 81% of the Muslims said they were “Sunni,” 6% said they were “Shiite,” and 12% said they were “Just a Muslim.” So, only 6% of Pakistanis identified themselves specifically as “Shia.” That is such a small percentage of Shiites in Pakistan, as to make unlikely any significant contribution that Pakistanis would be providing to the defense of Syria, which is at least 1,800 miles or 2,900 kilometers, away — not even in the same general region. But, in any case, that neoconservative magazine’s assumptions regarding the entire matter are clearly false.

Clearly, then, the logical feasibility of the U.S. Government’s case against Iran is so tiny as to constitute almost an absolute impossibility of that case being true.

Now, then, let’s consider the specifics of the case:

The great investigative journalist Greg Palast, in his 2003 The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (pages 101-102), wrote:

True-blue Democrats may want to skip the next paragraphs. If President Bush put the kibosh on investigations of Saudi funding of terror and nuclear bomb programs, this was merely taking a policy of Bill Clinton one step further.

Following the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, Clinton hunted Osama with a passion — but a passion circumscribed by the desire to protect the sheikdom sitting atop our oil lifeline. In 1994, a Saudi diplomat defected to the United States with 14,000 pages of documents from the kingdom’s sealed file cabinets. This mother lode of intelligence included evidence of plans for the assassination of Saudi opponents living in the West and, tantalizingly, details of the $7 billion the Saudis gave to Saddam Hussein for his nuclear program — the first attempt to build an Islamic bomb. The Saudi government, according to the defector, Mohammed Al Khilewi, slipped Saddam the nuclear loot during the Reagan and Bush Sr. years when our government still thought Saddam too marvelous for words [because he was trying to slaughter Shiite Iran]. The thought was that he would only use the bomb to vaporize Iranians [which the rulers of both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — and of Israel — would love].

Clinton granted the Saudi defector asylum, but barred the FBI from looking at the documents. Al Khilewi’s New York lawyer, Michael Wildes, told me he was stunned. Wildes handles some of America’s most security-sensitive asylum cases. “We said (to the FBI), ‘Here, take the documents! Go get some bad guys with them! We’ll even pay for the photocopying!” But the agents who came to his office had been ordered not to accept evidence of Saudi criminal activity, even on U.S. soil.

In 1997, the Canadians caught and extradited to America one of the [Saudi-Government-alleged] Khobar Towers attackers. In 1999, Vernon Jordan’s law firm stepped in and — poof! — the [Saudi-alleged] killer was shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he could reveal all he knew about Al Qaeda (valuable) and the Saudis (embarrassing). I reviewed but was not permitted to take notes on, the alleged [finally, Palast is getting that right] terrorist’s debriefing by the FBI. To my admittedly inexpert eyes, there was enough on Al Qaeda to make him a source on terrorists worth holding on to. Not that he was set free — he’s in one of the kingdom’s dungeons [likelier dead soon after arriving back in Saudi Arabia] — but his info is sealed up with him. The terrorist’s extradition was “Clinton’s.” “Clinton’s parting kiss to the Saudis,” as one insider put it.

Another great investigative journalist is Seymour Hersh, who in the 22 October 2001 issue of the New Yorker, headlined “King’s Ransom” and he opened:

Since 1994 or earlier, the National Security Agency has been collecting electronic intercepts of conversations between members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, which is headed by King Fahd. The intercepts depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country’s religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channelling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it.

The intercepts have demonstrated to analysts that by 1996 Saudi money was supporting Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Central Asia, and throughout the Persian Gulf region. “Ninety-six is the key year,” one American intelligence official told me. “Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys — it’s like the Grand Alliance — and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations.” The Saudi regime, he said, had “gone to the dark side.”

Subsequently, he noted:

In 1994, Mohammed al-Khilewi, the first secretary at the Saudi Mission to the United Nations, defected and sought political asylum in the United States. He brought with him, according to his New York lawyer, Michael J. Wildes, some fourteen thousand internal government documents depicting the Saudi royal family’s corruption, human-rights abuses, and financial support for terrorists. He claimed to have evidence that the Saudis had given financial and technical support to Hamas, the extremist Islamic group whose target is Israel. There was a meeting at the lawyer’s office with two F.B.I. agents and an Assistant United States Attorney. “We gave them a sampling of the documents and put them on the table,” Wildes told me last week. “But the agents refused to accept them.” He and his client heard nothing further from federal authorities. Al-Khilewi, who was granted asylum, is now living under cover.

The Saudis were also shielded from Washington’s foreign-policy bureaucracy. A government expert on Saudi affairs told me that Prince Bandar dealt exclusively with the men at the top, and never met with desk officers and the like. “Only a tiny handful of people inside the government are familiar with U.S.-Saudi relations,” he explained. “And that is purposeful.”

Both Mueller and Comey were high enough “at the top” so as to know what the people below them needed to hide in order to succeed in their careers.

The New York Times’s report, on 15 August 1996, quoted a leading Saudi dissident in London as asserting that, “As far as I know, Prince Nayef is keeping the Americans away from all the details at this point.” This report went on: “In a statement responding to the earlier reports of confessions, Prince Nayef said Saudi Arabia would make an announcement as soon as the investigation is completed. His comments were also viewed as refuting earlier suggestions by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who had said that Saudi investigations might point to an Iranian connection.” In other words, at that time (as of August 15th), the U.S. official was suggesting “an Iranian connection” but the Saudi official wasn’t — at least, not yet — and the expectation was that “confessions” would be providing the decisive ‘evidence’. However, these ‘confessions’, in Saudi cases are typically ‘information’ extracted under torture, and, where that fails to obtain the ‘information’ that’s desired by the Government, then threats to destroy the person’s immediate family are applied; so, the Sauds famously usually do get exactly the ‘information’ that they want (regardless of whether it’s true).

The Wikipedia article “Khobar Towers bombing” summarizes the ‘findings’ by the U.S. FBI and courts, and ignores the Sauds’ ‘investigation(s)’, because nothing was ever made public from the Sauds’ Government or officials or anyone there, about what they ‘found’ (other than ‘found’ by torture). Wikipedia’s article, which is based entirely upon the U.S. Government (the first party to broach publicly the possibility of “an Iranian connection”) states flatly, right up front, “Perpetrators: Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (English: Party of God in the Hijaz).” In common parlance, that’s Hezbollah, an “Iranian connection” — exactly what the U.S. Government wanted.

Here’s what that article asserts regarding the operations of the alleged mastermind:

In June 2001, an indictment was issued in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia charging the following people with murder, conspiracy, and other charges related to the bombing:[18]

 

Al-Mughassil disappeared from the ‘news’ after the Sauds announced his capture in 2015, but Wikipedia on 6 November 2017 closed its bizarre article about him by saying, without comment, “Al-Mughassil was believed to be living in Iran.[1][2]” That footnote [1] linked to Front Page mag. in 2005, which actually said nothing of the sort; footnote [2] linked to FDD in 2006, which actually said nothing of the sort. The obvious likeliest explanation for Wikipedia’s blatant falsehoods there is Wikipedia’s being edited by the CIA, which serves the Sauds, just like the rest of America’s federal Government does.

The Wikipedia article then continued by listing the other alleged defendants:

 

  • Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser
  • Ali Saed Bin Ali El-Hoorie
  • Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub
  • Hani al-Sayegh who had been previously in U.S. custody but deported to Saudi Arabia, when charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence.
  • Eight other Saudis
  • One Lebanese man listed as “John Doe”.

In July 2001, Saudi Arabia said that eleven of the people indicted in the US were in custody in Saudi prisons, and were to be tried in Saudi court, as the country refused to extradite any of them to the United States to stand trial.[19] The government has not since made public the outcome of the trial or the whereabouts of the prisoners.[20]

All six of the named persons there were Shiites in Saudi Arabia. The respective Wikipedia articles on each provide no evidence that any of them was at all involved in the bombing. However, the article on Hani al-Sayegh, who was living in Canada, is extraordinarily honest: it indicates that he said he had had nothing whatsoever to do with any bombings, nor any terrorism at all, and that the U.S. Government tried to get him to confess to something on the basis of which he could be tried and convicted in the U.S., but that he continued to resist all plea-offers, and to maintain that they were seeking to get him to lie, which he would not do. So, since the U.S. would not torture him on U.S. soil, the U.S. deported him “to Saudi Arabia on October 10, 1999 where it was assumed he would be executed upon arrival.[3][12].” But the Saudi regime never announced anything about any of the men they were charging in the Khobar Towers bombing.

The FBI issued charges against al-Sayegh and 12 others (all allegedly Hezbollah) on 21 June 2001, for the bombing; and, since that time, the only publication of their names has been in regards to the mere presumption that they were guilty. Their indictments in the U.S. (without evidence), and (since the Saudi Government wouldn’t say anything about them — not even whether they were in prison or free there) the charges in U.S. courts that Iran had helped them to do it, were 100% based upon that ‘evidence’. Therefore, Iran was declared guilty in U.S. courts, and fined, again, and again, over $500 million in all, without any reliable evidence, at all, that Iran had anything to do with the Khobar Towers bombing. And, not a cent of those fines was paid; but the U.S. Government’s purpose was served nonetheless: getting Iran’s ‘guilt’ onto the official record, such that Wikipedia, for example could say “Perpetrators: Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (English: Party of God in the Hijaz).”

The Wikipedia article on the Khobar Towers bombing closed, however, by saying:

William Perry, who was the United States Secretary of Defense at the time that this bombing happened, said in an interview in June 2007 that “he now believes al-Qaida rather than Iran was behind a 1996 truck bombing at an American military base.”[25]

On December 22, 2006, federal judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for the attack, stating that the leading experts on Hezbollah presented “overwhelming” evidence of the group’s involvement and that six captured Hezbollah members detailed the role of Iranian officials in providing money, plans, and maps.[4] This decision was reached as a default judgment, however, in which the Iranian government was not represented in court, and had no opportunity to challenge the allegations.

People who trust the U.S. Government’s honesty will interpret the outcome as displaying legal and judicial incompetency, not as displaying political and propagandistic competency. However, any legal and judicial system that accepts, as fundamental or even any ‘evidence’ in a case, testimony that was extracted from someone who had been placed under torture in order to get that person to say those things, is profoundly incomepetent except as a tool of the dictators in order to ‘justify’ their dictates — to satisfy them so that the torture would stop.

William Perry announced his opinion that “al-Qaeda rather than Iran was behind” the Khobar Towers attack, only after the 2006 court ‘finding’ of Iran’s ‘guilt’ in the case. The UPI article on this statement from Perry opened and closed as follows:

Perry: U.S. eyed Iran attack after bombing

Published: June 6, 2007 at 4:25 PM

WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) — A former U.S. defense secretary says he now believes al-Qaida rather than Iran was behind a 1996 truck bombing at an American military base.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry said he had a contingency plan to attack Iran if the link had been proven, but evidence was not to either his nor President Bill Clinton’s satisfaction.

The attack would have struck “at a number of their military facilities that would have weakened — substantially weakened … the Iranian navy and air force,” he said in New York Tuesday during a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. …

“I believe that the Khobar Tower bombing was probably masterminded by Osama bin Laden,” Perry said. “I can’t be sure of that, but in retrospect, that’s what I believe. At the time, he was not a suspect. At the time … all of the evidence was pointing to Iran.”

He said al-Qaida did not emerge as a major threat until Clinton’s second term.

“We probably should have been more concerned about it at the time than we were but in the first term we did not see Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida as a major factor, or one that we were concerned with,” he said.

In 2001, the U.S. Justice Department announced a 46-count indictment against 13 Saudis and one Lebanese man in the bombing. All were allegedly connected to Hezbollah, a terrorist group the United States believes is linked to Iran.

Perry said the FBI strongly believed at the time the bombing was ordered by Iran, but Saudi officials tried to discourage that theory.

“They feared what action we would take. They rightly feared it. In fact, I had a contingency plan for a strike on Iran, if it had been if it had been clearly established. But it was never clearly established, and so we never did that,” Perry said.

So, although Wikipedia started by alleging “Perpetrators: Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (English: Party of God in the Hijaz)” — and in plain language, that’s Hezbollah — it ended by kiboshing that very theory of the case, which the Wikipedia article had been ‘documenting’ (with bad logic and some false ‘facts’).

Subsequently, the fine investigative journalist Gareth Porter explained how Perry had come to think that Iran and Hezbollah had been the culprit. Perry had trusted the head of the FBI, Louis Freeh. Perry didn’t know that, behind the scenes, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud (who was his family’s U.S. Ambassador) had told Freeh that Iran and Hezbollah did it. Furthermore, the Sauds had actually blocked the FBI’s own investigators from having access to the site or to any of the evidence (other than by providing Freeh himself access to the torture-extracted ‘confessions’). Initially, in fact, the Sauds even started bulldozing the site.

The first part of Porter’s five-part report was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 1: Al Qaeda Excluded from the Suspects List”. It said: “The Saudi bulldozing stopped only after Scott Erskine, the supervisory FBI special agent for international terrorism investigations, threatened that Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who happened to be in Saudi Arabia when the bomb exploded, would intervene personally on the matter.” It said there was: “a systematic effort by the Saudis to obstruct any U.S. investigation of the bombing and to deceive the United States about who was responsible for the bombing. The Saudi regime steered the FBI investigation toward Iran and its Saudi Shi’a allies with the apparent intention of keeping U.S. officials away from a trail of evidence that would have led to Osama bin Laden and a complex set of ties between the regime and the Saudi terrorist organiser.”

The second part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 2: Saudi Account of Khobar Bore Telltale Signs of Fraud”.

The third part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 3: U.S. Officials Leaked a False Story Blaming Iran”.

The fourth part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 4: FBI Ignored Compelling Evidence of bin Laden Role”. It noted that, “In October 1996, after having issued yet another fatwa calling on Muslims to drive U.S. soldiers out of the Kingdom, bin Laden was quoted in al Quds al Arabi, the Palestinian daily published in London, as saying, ‘The crusader army was shattered when we bombed Khobar.’”

The fifth part was titled “EXCLUSIVE — PART 5: Freeh Became “Defence Lawyer” for Saudis on Khobar”. This part had the most hair-raising details:

The key to the success of the Saudi deception was FBI director Louis Freeh, who took personal charge of the FBI investigation, letting it be known within the Bureau that he was the “case officer” for the probe, according to former FBI officials.

Freeh allowed Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan to convince him that Iran was involved in the bombing, and that President Bill Clinton, for whom he had formed a visceral dislike, “had no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers,” as Freeh wrote in his memoirs.

The Khobar Towers investigation soon became Freeh’s vendetta against Clinton. “Freeh was pursuing this for his own personal agenda,” says former FBI agent Jack Cloonan.

A former high-ranking FBI official recalls that Freeh “was always meeting with Bandar”. And many of the meetings were not in Freeh’s office but at Bandar’s 38-room home in McLean, Virginia.

Meanwhile, the Saudis were refusing the most basic FBI requests for cooperation. …

Freeh quickly made Iranian and Saudi Shi’a responsibility for the bombing the official premise of the investigation, excluding from the inquiry the hypothesis that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organisation had carried out the Khobar Towers bombing. …

The CIA’s bin Laden unit, which had only been established in early 1996, was also excluded by CIA leadership from that Agency’s work on the bombing.

Finally, in order to bring his exhaustive investigation up-to-date, Porter headlined on 1 September 2015, “Who Bombed Khobar Towers? Anatomy of a Crooked Terrorism Investigation”. Here’s one particularly forceful portion of it:

In order to build a legal case against Iran and Shi’a Saudis, Freeh had to get access to the Shi’a detainees who had confessed. But the Saudis never agreed to allow FBI officials to interview them. In early November 1998, Freeh sent an FBI team to observe Saudi secret police officials asking eight Shi’a detainees the FBI’s questions from behind a one-way mirror at the Riyadh detention center.

By then Saudi secret police had already had two and half years to coach the detainees on what to say, under the threat of more torture. But Freeh didn’t care. “For Louis, if they would let us in the room, that was the important thing,” a senior FBI official involved in the Khobar investigation told me. “We would have gone over there and gotten the answers even if they had been propped up.”

But the Justice Department refused to go ahead with an indictment based on the information the FBI team brought back. Department lawyers knew the Shi’a detainees had been subject to torture, so they have ruled that the confessions were not valid.

In other words: the head of the FBI believed torture-extracted ‘confessions’ as if such would meet U.S. rules of evidence — which they don’t. And coaching of witnesses is likewise prohibited — under U.S. laws. This just goes to show that at the very top of the U.S. regime there is no respect whatsoever for the U.S. Constitution or for its strictures (such as against coerced testimony) — at the top, they are all above the law, and even above the U.S. Constitution itself. They are, after all, a dictatorship.

On 30 May 2013, The Washingtonian headlined “Forged Under Fire — Bob Mueller and Jim Comey’s Unusual Friendship” and Garrett M. Graff reported:

Although they’d been aware of each other for years, sharing their similar orbits, Comey and Mueller were first brought together professionally by then-FBI director Louis Freeh in the opening days of the Bush administration. … As the Bush administration took office in 2001, Freeh asked Bob Mueller, who was acting as John Ashcroft’s deputy attorney general, to transfer the [Khobar] case to Comey.

When he finally did so, Mueller called Comey with a warning: “Wilma Lewis is going to be so pissed.” Indeed, Lewis blasted the decision, as well as both Freeh and Mueller personally, in a press release, saying the move was “ill-conceived and ill-considered.” But Freeh’s gambit paid off.

Within weeks, Comey had pulled together the indictment. During a National Security Council briefing at the White House, under the watchful gaze of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Comey presented overwhelming evidence of Iran’s involvement.

On the eve of the expiration of the statute of limitations, fourteen individuals were indicted for the attack. Freeh, who stepped down the next day, said the indictment was “a major step.”

So, Comey and Mueller were brought in by Freeh because Freeh was about to retire and he wanted successors who would be committed to the theory of the case, that Freeh had gotten from Prince Bandar. If Comey and Mueller wouldn’t go along with that torture-extracted ‘testimony’ as ‘evidence’, then their ability to become appointed to head the FBI would have been zero. Freeh, Comey, and Mueller are a team — a team that serves the Bushes and the Sauds. But not the American public.

Our continuing war against Iran is due entirely to their crucial assistance. The Deep State appoints such individuals.

And: if one has every reason to distrust the U.S. Government’s repeated allegations that Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism, then what remains of U.S. ‘justifications’ for being involved at all in hostility against Iran, and in supporting Sunnis and Jews and even many Christians and others who (for Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other U.S.-‘allied’ nations) carry on their hateful actions against Iran, and against Shia Muslims generally. Iran and Shia are not at all enemies of the American (or of its vassal nations’) public (except maybe in Israel — but that Government is an enemy of the American people anyway).

The knowledgeable expert observer on the Middle East, and former editor-in-chief of Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, Abdel Bari Atwan, headlined on November 10th at Information Clearing House, “On the Brink of War”, and summarized his discussions with other highly respected experts, regarding the convulsions within the royal Saud royal family and the imprisonment by Crown Prince Salman al-Saud, of other Saud Princes, and also of Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Saad Hariri. Atwan noted that, “any U.S./Israeli intervention in Syria is unlikely to pass without a collision with Russia. In this case, we can expect a world war.” He concluded: “Experts believe the success of this future, expected, and indeed imminent war lies in the destruction of Iran, regime-change in Qatar, and the eradication of Hezbollah. Its failure lies in the destruction of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the UAE, and Saudi Arabia’s partition into a number of states.” (Atwan gave no indication as to which of the two outcomes he preferred.) Though U.S. President Donald Trump continues to be unflinching in his support of the Saud regime — which would risk nuclear annihilation — the American and other nations’ publics must simply observe, powerless, while the aristocracies work out ‘our differences’. They own the consequences; but we, the public, suffer the consequences — whatever those will be.

After all, what George W. Bush did to Iraqis was barbarous. What Barack Obama did to Libyans was barbarous. What Bush did to Afghans was barbarous. What Obama did to Ukrainians was barbarous. A dictatorship can be a bipartisan regime imposed by two fascist Parties, as well as it can be an overtly monolithic regime imposed by one fascist Party. So: here we are.

The real enemies of the American public are, and for decades have been, in control of the U.S. Government — and they’re not communists (even if in former times some of them were); they are instead fascists, pure and simple, and they spread hatred not only against Iran and against Russia, but against Shia and against people who speak Russian as their primary language. If these lie-based hatreds do not soon stop, then the world itself soon might. Racist fascists are the most dangerous type of all, but that’s what we’ve now got at the top, in the U.S., and in its ‘allied’ nations. Brainwashers controlling the brainwashed.

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US media losing its mind over Trump-Putin summit

The media’s mania over Trump’s Helsinki performance and the so-called Russia-gate scandal reached new depths on Monday

Joe Lauria

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The media’s mania over Trump’s Helsinki performance and the so-called Russia-gate scandal reached new depths on Monday

This article was first published by Consortium News and is republished with their permission.

The reaction of the U.S. establishment media and several political leaders to President Donald Trump’s press conference after his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday has been stunning.

Writing in The Atlantic, James Fallows said:

“There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not  realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions … never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.”

As soon as the press conference ended CNN cut to its panel with these words from TV personality Anderson Cooper: “You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader, surely, that I’ve ever seen.”

David Gergen, who for years has gotten away with portraying himself on TV as an impartial political sage, then told CNN viewers:

“I’ve never heard an American President talk that way buy I think it is especially true that when he’s with someone like Putin, who is a thug, a world-class thug, that he sides with him again and again against his own country’s interests of his own institutions that he runs, that he’s in charge of the federal government , he’s in charge of these intelligence agencies, and he basically dismisses them and retreats into this, we’ve heard it before, but on the international stage to talk about Hillary Clinton’s computer server …”

“It’s embarrassing,” interjected Cooper.

“It’s embarrassing,” agreed Gergen.

Cooper: “Most disgraceful performance by a US president.”

White House correspondent Jim Acosta, ostensibly an objective reporter, then gave his opinion: “I think that sums it up nicely. This is the president of the United States essentially taking the word of the Russian president…over his own intelligence community. It was astonishing, just astonishing to be in the room with the U.S. president and the Russian president on this critical question of election interference, and to retreat back to these talking points about DNC servers and Hillary Clinton’s emails when he had a chance right there in front of the world to tell Vladimir Putin to stay the HELL out of American democracy, and he didn’t do it.”

In other words Trump should just shut up and not question a questionable indictment, which Acosta, like nearly all the media, treat as a conviction.

The Media’s Handlers

The media’s handlers were even worse than their assets. Former CIA director John Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Here’s where the Republican Patriots are, Brennan: “That’s how a press conference sounds when an Asset stands next to his Handler,” former RNC Chairman Michael Steele tweeted.

Representative Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, said on Twitter: “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s defense of Putin against the intelligence agencies of the U.S. & his suggestion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Russia poses a grave threat to our national security.”

All these were reactions to Trump expressing skepticism about the U.S. indictment on Friday of 12 Russian intelligence agents for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election while he was standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the press conference following their summit meeting in Helsinki.

“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, Trump said. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

The indictments, which are only unproven accusations, formally accused 12 members of the GRU, Russian military intelligence, of stealing Democratic Party emails in a hacking operation and giving the materials to WikiLeaks to publish in order to damage the candidacy of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. The indictments were announced on Friday, three days before the summit, with the clear intention of getting Trump to cancel it. He ignored cries from the media and Congress to do so.

Over the weekend Michael Smerconish on CNN actually said the indictments proved that Russia had committed a “terrorist attack” against the United States. This is in line with many pundits who are comparing this indictment, that will most likely never produce any evidence, to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. The danger inherent in that thinking is clear.

Putin said the allegations are “utter nonsense, just like [Trump] recently mentioned.” He added: “The final conclusion in this kind of dispute can only be delivered by a trial, by the court. Not by the executive, by the law enforcement.” He could have added not by the media.

Trump reasonably questioned why the FBI never examined the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee to see whether there was a hack and who may have done it. Instead a private company, CrowdStrike, hired by the Democratic Party studied the server and within a day blamed Russia on very dubious grounds.

“Why haven’t they taken the server?” Trump asked. “Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server and what is the server saying?”

But being a poor communicator, Trump then mentioned Clinton’s missing emails, allowing the media to conflate the two different servers, and be easily dismissed as Gergen did.

At the press conference, Putin offered to allow American investigators from the team of special counsel Robert Mueller, who put the indictment together, to travel to Russia and take part in interviews with the 12 accused Russian agents. He also offered to set up a joint cyber-security group to examine the evidence and asked that in return Russia be allowed to question persons of interest to Moscow in the United States.

“Let’s discuss the specific issues and not use the Russia and U.S. relationship as a loose change for this internal political struggle,” Putin said.

On CNN, Christiane Amanpour called Putin’s clear offer “obfuscation.”

Even if Trump agreed to this reasonable proposal it seems highly unlikely that his Justice Department will go along with it. Examination of whatever evidence they have to back up the indictment is not what the DOJ is after. As I wrote about the indictments in detail on Friday:

“The extremely remote possibility of convictions were not what Mueller was apparently after, but rather the public perception of Russia’s guilt resulting from fevered media coverage of what are after all only accusations, presented as though it is established fact. Once that impression is settled into the public consciousness, Mueller’s mission would appear to be accomplished.”

Still No ‘Collusion’

The summit begins. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The indictments did not include any members of Trump’s campaign team for “colluding” with the alleged Russian hacking effort, which has been a core allegation throughout the two years of the so-called Russia-gate scandal. Those allegations are routinely reported in U.S. media as established fact, though there is still no evidence of collusion.

Trump emphasised that point in the press conference. “There was no collusion at all,” he said forcefully. “Everybody knows it.”

On this point corporate media has been more deluded than normal as they clutch for straws to prove the collusion theory. As one example of many across the media with the same theme, a New York Times story on Friday, headlined, “Trump Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton. Were They Listening?,” said Russia may have absurdly responded to Trump’s call at 10:30 a.m. on July 27, 2016 to hack Clinton’s private email server because it was “on or about” that day that Russia allegedly first made an attempt to hack Clinton’s personal emails, according to the indictment, which makes no connection between the two events.

If Russia is indeed guilty of remotely hacking the emails it would have had no evident need of assistance from anyone on the Trump team, let alone a public call from Trump on national TV to commence the operation.

More importantly, as Twitter handle “Representative Press” pointed out: “Trump’s July 27, 2016 call to find the missing 30,000 emails could not be a ‘call to hack Clinton’s server’ because at that point it was no longer online. Long before Trump’s statement, Clinton had already turned over her email server to the U.S. Department of Justice.” Either the indictment was talking about different servers or it is being intentionally misleading when it says “on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”

This crucial fact alone, that Clinton had turned over the server in 2015 so that no hack was possible, makes it impossible that Trump’s TV call could be seen as collusion. Only a desperate person would see it otherwise.

But there is a simple explanation why establishment journalists are in unison in their dominant Russian narrative: it is career suicide to question it.

As Samuel Johnson said as far back as 1745: “The greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion …since vanity and credulity cooperate in its favour.”

Importance of US-Russia Relations

Trump said the unproven allegation of collusion “as had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”

The American president said the U.S. has been “foolish” not to attempt dialogue with Russia before, to cooperate on a range of issues.

“As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct,” Trump said. “Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia forwards the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world. I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.”

This main reason for summits between Russian and American leaders was also ignored: to use diplomacy to reduce dangerous tensions. “I really think the world wants to see us get along,” Trump said. “We are the two great nuclear powers. We have 90 percent of the nuclear. And that’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing.”

Preventing good relations between the two countries appears to be the heart of the matter for U.S. intelligence and their media assets. So Trump was vilified for even trying.

Ignoring the Rest of the Story

Obsessed as they are with the “interference” story, the media virtually ignored the other crucial issues that came up at the summit, such as the Middle East.

Trump sort of thanked Russia for its efforts to defeat ISIS. “When you look at all of the progress that’s been made in certain sections with the eradication of ISIS, about 98 percent, 99 percent there, and other things that have taken place that we have done and that, frankly, Russia has helped us with in certain respects,” he said.

Trump here is falsely taking credit, as he has before, for defeating ISIS with only some “help” from Russia. In Iraq the U.S. led the way against ISIS coordinating the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces. But in the separate war against ISIS in Syria, Russia, the Syrian Arab Army, Kurdish forces, Iranian troops and Hizbullah militias were almost entirely responsible for ISIS’ defeat.

A grand deal? (Photo: Sputnik)

Also on Syria, Trump appeared to endorse what is being reported as a deal between Russia and Israel in which Israel would accept Bashar al-Assad remaining as Syrian president, while Russia would work on Iran to get it to remove its forces away from the northern Golan Heights, which Israel illegally considers its border with Syria.

After a meeting in Moscow last week with Putin, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he accepted Assad remaining in power.

“President Putin also is helping Israel,” Trump said at the press conference. “We both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu. They would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. In that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel. Israel will be working with us. So both countries would work jointly.”

Trump also said that the U.S. and Russian militaries were coordinating in Syria, but he did not go as far as saying that they had agreed to fight together there, which has been a longstanding proposal of Putin’s dating back to September 2015, just before Moscow intervened militarily in the country.

“Our militaries have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years,” Trump said. “Our militaries do get along very well. They do coordinate in Syria and other places.”

Trump said Russia and the U.S. should cooperate in humanitarian assistance in Syria.

“If we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and on a humanitarian basis…that’s what the word was, a humanitarian basis,” he said. “I think both of us would be very interested in doing that.”

Putin said he had agreed on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron on a joint effort with Europe to deliver humanitarian aid. “On our behalf, we will provide military cargo aircraft to deliver humanitarian cargo. Today, I brought up this issue with President Trump. I think there’s plenty of things to look into,” Putin said.

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

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The biggest sign of Trump – Putin summit success is the outrage it created

US president’s remarks called anything from “fair” to “high treason and impeachable” as American Deep State gets called out more strongly than ever

Seraphim Hanisch

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US president's summit remarks called "high treason and impeachable" as American Deep State gets called out more strongly than ever

It is when the hornet’s nest gets beaten and knocked out of the tree that the hornets get really dangerous. It is when the fire ant hill gets stirred with a stick and dug up that the ground seethes with angry ants who are ready to bite anything to defend themselves. And so it is with the elements of the American Deep State, as their vaunted hopes of hanging Trump from the noose of RussiaGate got beaten to the ground and destroyed, not only by the president’s meeting with the Russian head of state, but also by the response from President Vladimir Putin himself after the summit.

The long-awaited (or long feared maybe) July 16th Helsinki Summit between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin is now being entered into the annals of history. What history will say eventually about this remains to be seen, but the reaction of the mainstream press and some political officials really resembles the angry hornets more than anything.

Fox News gave a great summary of some of the comments, which are listed here as headlines, with each a story in itself:

Trump blasts Mueller probe, Putin denies meddling as leaders tout summit as ‘success’

RECAP: Putin admits he wanted Trump to beat Hillary; both agree there was no collusion

Media slams Trump following Putin summit: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president’

Dem Senator: There’d be ‘huge uproar’ from GOP if Obama believed Putin over intel community

Kremlin critic Bill Browder fires back at Putin after press conference

‘It’s glaring hypocrisy:’ Terror expert compares reaction of Trump’s Russia efforts to Obama’s

And the UK Daily Mail gave some interesting details in one of their reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin told a room full of U.S. and Russian reporters that he wanted Donald Trump to win the presidency in 2016 – and Trump said he believed Putin’s denials of interfering in 2016 – in just two of the many revelations in a joint press conference that only fueled the spectacle of the Russia story.

And RT followed with much more on this:

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has revealed that he actually wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 US presidential election. Russia, however, did not contribute to Trump’s win by any means, he insisted.

“Yes, I wanted him to win, because he talked about the need to normalize US-Russia ties,” Putin said, answering a direct question from a journalist during the joint press conference with Donald Trump following the Helsinki summit.

“Candidate Trump was talking about the need to re-establish relations with Russia. That led to an opinion among the Russian people that he was the preferable candidate. That’s natural,” Putin said.

The Russian president left the second part of the question unanswered, however, regarding whether he “instructed” his officials to help Trump, since he had discussed the allegations of meddling earlier during the press conference.

“Russia did not interfere and is not going to interfere into American domestic affairs,” Putin stated, adding that this point had been made repeatedly. Moscow was ready to participate in a joint investigation with the US of any such allegations, however, if any real evidence was presented, the Russian leader said. Such work could be conducted by a joint Russian-US cybersecurity group, the idea of which was floated by Putin during his last meeting with Trump in Hamburg.

The hornets were extremely angry:

Not all of the hornets were Democrats. Some notable Republicans got into the fray as well.

Fox News reported this statement made by a ranking Republican:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been out of Washington for months battling brain cancer, issued a blistering statement calling the performance “disgraceful.”

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world,” McCain said, calling the president’s comments at the press conference “a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency.”

Even the House Speaker, Representative Paul Ryan, said, “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world.”

And Fox went on:

Other Republicans, while not as fierce as McCain, also criticized Trump, reminding him that Russia is not considered a “friend” of the U.S.

“Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans. Our intelligence community, including the current one, concluded this, as did the Majority House Intelligence Committee report, as did our fellow Americans who served on grand juries which returned true bills on two separate occasions,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said in a statement, urging administration officials to “communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.”

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., also stressed that Putin “is not our friend and never has been.”

And one more of these reactive folks is none other than William Browder, the Hillary donor who is accused of stealing some $238 million from Russia through tax fraud. When President Putin addressed the issue of William Browder to President Trump, this probably got Mr. Browder a bit alarmed. However, he has a lot of accolades in the US presently as a “expert” on Putin, really one who helps fuel the “Putin is a monster, choose your flavor” narrative, and he took to Fox News to fire back at President Putin:

Putin’s plan, which Trump called an “incredible offer,” was to question the 12 Russians indicted for allegedly meddling in the election, allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team to be present — if U.S. officials “reciprocate.” Putin suggested this would mean Russian agents could be present for questioning U.S. officers “of interest” to them.

“So we can bring up Mr. Browder,” Putin said during the joint press conference, accusing his associates of illicit activity in Russia.

“I’m not even an American citizen,” Browder told Fox News. “I’m a British citizen and have lived here for 29 years.”

The Duran has run a few pieces about this man, and what Mr. Browder did not tell Fox News was WHY he is a British citizen. Neither did Fox ask, apparently.

There was enough light simply blasted into the formerly murky intrigue of the US – Russia relationship to get a whole lot of people’s attention. They are not happy about it, and the fallout from this will likely continue for days and weeks to come.

President Trump was wry about this, as he knows he will never win with the mainstream press, especially about Russia, as noted in the Daily Mail:

Trump landed in Helsinki for his high-stakes summit with Putin on Sunday after ranting that no set of concessions – no matter how large the consequences – would be good enough for media critics he branded the ‘enemy of the people.’

‘Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia,’ he said, ‘over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!’

Trump sent out the missive focusing about how his actions would be perceived in the press after indicating in an interview that he had low expectations for the summit and failing to articulate what goals he had in mind for the face-to-face.

 

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Clinging to Collusion: Why Evidence Will Probably Never Be Produced in the Indictments of ‘Russian Agents’

Mueller’s indictment against 12 GRU agents who allegedly carried out the DNC hack is fact free and does not support charge of collusion against Trump campaign.

Joe Lauria

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Mueller's indictment against 12 GRU agents who allegedly carried out the DNC hack is fact free and does not support charge of collusion against Trump campaign.

This article was first published by Consortium News and is republished with permission.

The indictment of 12 Russian ‘agents,’ which included no collusion with Trump’s team, is essentially a political and not legal document because it is almost certain the U.S. government will never have to present any evidence in court, reports Joe Lauria. 

Charges against 12 Russian intelligence agents for allegedly hacking emails from the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential election were announced by the U.S. Justice Department on Friday at the very moment President Donald Trump was meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and just days before a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

A central claim of Russia-gate has been that the Russian government with help from the Trump campaign stole emails from the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign and then gave those emails to WikiLeaks for publication to damage Clinton’s quest for the White House.

Until Friday however, the investigation into the allegations had produced no formal indictment of Russian government interference in the election. Like previous U.S. government accusations against Russia for alleged election meddling, the indictment makes assertions without providing evidence. Indictments do not need to show evidence and under U.S. law, indictments are not considered evidence. And it is highly unlikely that the government will ever have to produce any evidence in court.

Friday’s indictments do not include any charges against Trump campaign members for allegedly colluding with the Russian government to carry out the hacks. That has been at the core of allegations swirling in U.S. media for two years. If the alleged co-conspirators “known” to the DOJ were on the Trump team, the indictments do not say. There is only a hint that “unknown” persons might be.

In announcing the indictments at a press conference Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said: “The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet. There’s no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.”

The indictment alleges that Russian agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, communicated on Aug. 15, 2016 with “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of the Trump campaign, mostly like advisor Roger Stone, who has spoken about communicating with Guccifer 2.0. The indictment says Guccifer offered to “help u anyhow,” apparently indicating that Stone did want Guccifer 2.0’s help.

Clinging to ‘Collusion’

The lack of evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia has never stopped Democrats and their media outlets from believing unnamed U.S. intelligence sources for two years about such collusion. “Collusion” is the title of a best-selling book about the supposed Trump-Russia conspiracy to steal the election, but such a charge is not to be found.

The indictment excluding collusion also undermines the so-called Steele dossier, a work of opposition research paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign masquerading as an intelligence document because it was compiled by a former MI6 agent. The memos falsely claimed, it turns out, that Trump’s people started colluding with Russia years before he became a candidate.

But even after Friday’s indictments failed to charge anyone from Trump’s team, the Democratic media continued to insist there was collusion. A New York Times story, headlined, “Trump Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton. Were They Listening?,” said Russia may have absurdly responded to Trump’s call at 10:30 a.m. on July 27, 2016 to hack Clinton’s private email server because it was “on or about” that day that Russia allegedly first made an attempt to hack Clinton’s personal emails, according to the indictment, which makes no connection between the two events.

If Russia is indeed guilty of remotely hacking the emails it would have had no evident need of assistance from anyone on the Trump team, let alone a public call from Trump on national TV to commence the operation.

And as Twitter handle “Representative Press” pointed out: “Trump’s July 27, 2016 call to find the missing 30,000 emails could not be a ‘call to hack Clinton’s server’ because at that point it was no longer online. Long before Trump’s statement, Clinton had already turned over her email server to the U.S. Department of Justice.” Either the indictment was talking about different servers or it is being intentionally misleading when it says “on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”

GRU HQ, Moscow.

Instead of Trump operatives, the indictments name 12 Russians, allegedly agents from the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. The agents “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury (collectively the ‘Conspirators’), to gain unauthorized access (to ‘hack’) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the 29-page indictment says.

“Starting in at least March 2016, the Conspirators used a variety of means to hack the email accounts of volunteers and employees of the U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton (the ‘Clinton Campaign’), including the email account of the Clinton Campaign’s chairman,” the indictment says.

Obvious Timing

The timing of the announcement was clearly intended to embarrass Trump as he was meeting the Queen and to undermine his upcoming meeting with Putin on July 16. The indictments may also have been meant to embarrass Russia two days before the World Cup final to be held in Moscow.

Pressure was immediately brought on Trump to cancel the summit in light of the indictments, which may have been the main goal in the timing of their announcement. “Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement less than an hour after the indictments were announced. “President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections,” Schumer said.

With no apparent irony, The New York Times reported, “The timing of the indictment … added a jolt of tension to the already freighted atmosphere surrounding Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin. It is all but certain to feed into the conspiratorial views held by the president and some of his allies that Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors are determined to undermine Mr. Trump’s designs for a rapprochement with Russia.”

Russia Denies

Meanwhile, back in Washington … (ABC screenshot)

The Russian government on Friday strongly denied the charges. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry called the indictments “a shameful farce” that was not backed up by any evidence. “Obviously, the goal of this ‘mud-slinging’ is to spoil the atmosphere before the Russian-American summit,” the statement said.

The Ministry added that the 12 named Russians were not agents of the GRU.

“When you dig into this indictment … there are huge problems, starting with how in the world did they identify 12 Russian intelligence officers with the GRU?” said former CIA analyst Larry Johnson in an interview with Consortium News. Johnson pointed out that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was not allowed to take part in the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on alleged interference by the GRU. Only hand-picked analysts from the FBI, the NSA and the CIA were involved.

“The experts in the intelligence community on the GRU … is the Defense Intelligence Agency and they were not allowed to clear on that document,” Johnson said.

“When you look at the level of detail about what [the indictment is] claiming, there is no other public source of information on this, and it was not obtained through U.S. law enforcement submitting warrants and getting affidavits to conduct research in Russia, so it’s clearly intelligence information from the NSA, most likely,” Johnson said.

CrowdStrike’s Role

The indictment makes clear any evidence of an alleged hack of the DNC and DCCC computers did not come from the FBI, which was never given access to the computers by the DNC, but instead from the private firm CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC. It is referred to as Company 1 in the indictment.

“Despite the Conspirators’ efforts to hide their activity, beginning in or around May 2016, both the DCCC and DNC became aware that they had been hacked and hired a security company (“Company 1”) to identify the extent of the intrusions,” the indictment says.

Dimitri Alperovitch, a CrowdStrike co-founder, is also a senior fellow at the anti-Russian Atlantic Council think tank.

The indictment doesn’t mention it, but within a day, CrowdStrike claimed to find Russian “fingerprints” in the metadata of a DNC opposition research document, which had been revealed by DCLeaks, showing Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief. That supposedly implicated Russia in the hack.

CrowdStrike claimed the alleged Russian intelligence operation was extremely sophisticated and skilled in concealing its external penetration of the server. But CrowdStrike’s conclusion about Russian “fingerprints” resulted from clues that would have been left behind by extremely sloppy or amateur hackers—or inserted intentionally to implicate the Russians.

One of CrowdStrike’s founders has ties to the anti-Russian Atlantic Council raising questions of political bias. And the software it used to determine Russia’s alleged involvement in the DNC hack, was later proved to be faulty in a high-profile case in Ukraine, reported by the Voice of America.

The indictment then is based at least partially on evidence produced by an interested private company, rather than the FBI.

Evidence Likely Never to be Seen

Other apparent sources for information in the indictment are intelligence agencies, which normally create hurdles in a criminal prosecution.

“In this indictment there is detail after detail whose only source could be intelligence, yet you don’t use intelligence in documents like this because if these defendants decide to challenge this in court, it opens the U.S. to having to expose sources and methods,” Johnson said.

If the U.S. invoked the states secret privilege so that classified evidence could not be revealed in court a conviction before a civilian jury would be jeopardized.

Such a trial is extremely unlikely however. That makes the indictment essentially a political and not a legal document because it is almost inconceivable that the U.S. government will have to present any evidence in court to back up its charges. This is simply because of the extreme unlikelihood that arrests of Russians living in Russia will ever be made.

In this way it is similar to the indictment earlier this year of the Internet Research Agency of St. Petersburg, Russia, a private click bait company that was alleged to have interfered in the 2016 election by buying social media ads and staging political rallies for both Clinton and Trump. It seemed that no evidence would ever have to back up the indictment because there would never be arrests in the case.

But Special Counsel Robert Mueller was stunned when lawyers for the internet company showed up in Washington demanding discovery in the case. That caused Mueller to scramble and demand a delay in the first hearing, which was rejected by a federal judge. Mueller is now battling to keep so-called sensitive material out of court.

In both the IRA case and Friday’s indictments, the extremely remote possibility of convictions were not what Mueller was apparently after, but rather the public perception of Russia’s guilt resulting from fevered media coverage of what are after all only accusations, presented as though it is established fact. Once that impression is settled into the public consciousness, Mueller’s mission would appear to be accomplished.

For instance, the Times routinely dispenses with the adjective “alleged” and reports the matter as though it is already established fact. It called Friday’s indictments, which are only unproven charges, “the most detailed accusation by the American government to date of the [not alleged] Russian government’s interference in the 2016 election, and it includes a litany of [not alleged] brazen Russian subterfuge operations meant to foment chaos in the months before Election Day.”

GRU Named as WikiLeak’s Source

The indictment claims that GRU agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, (who says he is a Romanian hacker) stole the Democratic documents and later emailed a link to them to WikiLeaks, named as “Organization 1.” No charges were brought against WikiLeaks on Friday.

Assange: Denied Russia was his source. (CNBC screenshot)

“After failed attempts to transfer the stolen documents starting in late June 2016, on or about July 14, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, sent Organization 1 an email with an attachment titled ‘wk dnc linkl.txt.gpg,’” the indictment says. “The Conspirators explained to Organization 1 that the encrypted file contained instructions on how to access an online archive of stolen DNC documents. On or about July 18, 2016, Organization 1 confirmed it had ‘the 1Gb or so archive’ and would make a release of the stolen documents’ this week.’”

WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange, who is in exile in the Ecuador embassy in London, has long denied that he got the emails from any government. Instead Assange has suggested that his source was a disgruntled Democratic Party worker, Seth Rich, whose murder on the streets of Washington in July 2016 has never been solved.

On Friday, WikiLeaks did not repeat the denial that a government was its source. Instead it tweeted: “Interesting timing choice by DoJ today (right before Trump-Putin meet), announcing indictments against 12 alleged Russian intelligence officers for allegedly releasing info through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0.”

Assange has had all communication with the outside world shut off by the Ecuadorian government two months ago.

Since the indictments were announced, WikiLeaks has not addressed the charge that GRU agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, were its source. WikiLeaks’ policy is to refuse to disclose any information about its sources. WikiLeaks’ denial that the Russian government gave them the emails could be based on its belief that Guccifer 2.0 was who he said he was, and not what the U.S. indictments allege.

Those indictments claim that the Russian military intelligence agents adopted the personas of both Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks to publish the Democratic Party documents online, before the Russian agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, allegedly supplied WikiLeaks.

The emails, which the indictment does not say are untrue, damaged the Clinton campaign. They revealed, for instance, that the campaign and the Democratic Party worked to deny the nomination to Clinton’s Democratic Party primary challenger Bernie Sanders.

The indictments also say that the Russian agents purchased the use of a computer server in Arizona, using bitcoin to hide their financial transactions. The Arizona server was used to receive the hacked emails from the servers of the Democratic Party and the chairman of Clinton’s campaign, the indictment alleges. If true it would mean the transfer of the emails took place within the United States, rather than overseas, presumably to Russia.

Some members of the Veterans’ Intelligence Professionals for Sanity argue that metadata evidence points to a local download from the Democratic computers, in other words a leak, rather than a hack. They write the NSA would have evidence of a hack and, unlike this indictment, could make the evidence public: “Given NSA’s extensive trace capability, we conclude that DNC and HRC servers alleged to have been hacked were, in fact, not hacked. The evidence that should be there is absent; otherwise, it would surely be brought forward, since this could be done without any danger to sources and methods.”

That argument was either ignored or dismissed by Mueller’s team.

The Geopolitical Context

US enabled Yeltsin’s reelection.

It is not only allies of Trump, as the Times thinks, who believe the timing of the indictments, indeed the entire Russia-gate scandal, is intended to prevent Trump from pursuing detente with nuclear-armed Russia.  Trump said of the indictments that, “I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia. I think that we would have a chance to have a very good relationship with Russia and a very good chance — a very good relationship with President Putin.”

There certainly appear to be powerful forces in the U.S. that want to stop that.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Wall Street rushed in behind Boris Yeltsin and Russian oligarchs to asset strip virtually the entire country, impoverishing the population. Amid widespread accounts of this grotesque corruption, Washington intervened in Russian politics to help get Yeltsin re-elected in 1996. The political rise of Vladimir Putin after Yeltsin resigned on New Year’s Eve 1999 reversed this course, restoring Russian sovereignty over its economy and politics.

That inflamed American hawks whose desire is to install another Yeltsin-like figure and resume U.S. exploitation of Russia’s vast natural and financial resources. To advance that cause, U.S. presidents have supported the eastward expansion of NATO and have deployed 30,000 troops on Russia’s borders.

In 2014, the Obama administration helped orchestrate a coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine and installed a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. also undertook the risky policy of aiding jihadists to overthrow a secular Russian ally in Syria. The consequences have brought the world closer to nuclear annihilation than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

In this context, the Democratic Party-led Russia-gate appears to have been used not only to explain away Clinton’s defeat but to stop Trump — possibly via impeachment or by inflicting severe political damage — because he talks about cooperation with Russia.

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

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