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More Russiagate: The New Yorker, Julian Assange and Guccifer 2.0

Massive article in New Yorker asserting Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian intelligence front and the source of the DNC and Podesta emails published by Wikileaks is riddled with unwarranted claims and assumptions and fails to convince.

Alexander Mercouris

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Every so often during the Russiagate story, whenever one senses growing doubts about some aspect of the story, a gigantic article appears in some part of the US media which appears intended to still those doubts.

The latest example a gigantic article by Raffi Khatchadourian which has recently appeared in the New Yorker, and which is purportedly about Julian Assange, but which when read carefully is actually about Russiagate.

A consistent feature of these articles is that though they present themselves as works of investigative journalism, in terms of actual new information they invariably provide little or nothing that is actually new.  This article in the New York Times is no exception, and as I will discuss what it actually does is repeat – at great length – claims about the persona known as Guccifer 2.0 which have appeared before.

The purpose of the article is to squash doubts about Russian intelligence involvement in the hacks  or alleged hacks of the computers of John Podesta and the DNC, and of Russian intelligence involvement in providing the results of those hacks or alleged hacks to Wikileaks.  It does this by giving heavy focus to the Guccifer 2.0, which it accepts as Russian, and by seeking to provide what it claims is conclusive evidence of a connection between Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0.

The article provides a case study of the danger of the subject of such an article cooperating with its author.

The subject in this case is Julian Assange, who met with the writer of the article – Raffi Khatchadourian – and who provided Khatchadourian with much of the material which is used in the article.  His reward is an article that ignores his repeated denials of Russian involvement in Wikileaks’s publication of the DNC and Podesta emails, and which is filled with not-too-subtle smears of him.  These smears deserve an article in themselves, but this article is not the place for them.

Before discussing what the article says about Guccifer 2.0 I must however comment on one paragraph that I found especially misleading

Ambassador Craig Murray, the friend to WikiLeaks, insisted that Russia was not the source of the D.N.C. e-mails; he knew firsthand, he said, because he had met Assange’s source in the woods behind a chapel at American University. Kim Dotcom, a flamboyant Internet entrepreneur and a close associate of Assange, told me in April that he had firsthand knowledge of the source: an insider who had smuggled in a USB stick with malware on it. “It’s not a Russian hack,” he insisted. Anthony Shaffer, a retired lieutenant colonel, knew firsthand, too; he told me about an intricate conspiracy of retired intelligence workers, unhappy about Clinton’s handling of her State Department e-mails, who formed a “task organization” to dig up material. When I mentioned the theories to Assange, he laughed. “They totally contradict each other!” he said.

I know little of Kim Dotcom and nothing at all of lieutenant colonel Shaffer but what they are reported to have said in private to Khatchadourian cannot be compared to what Craig Murray – a known friend of Assange, and an acknowledged whistleblower and truthsayer – has repeatedly said in public.  Moreover Kim Dotcom’s alleged comment does not actually contradict what Craig Murray has publicly, though Shaffer’s alleged comment obviously does.  Note further that Assange’s reported response to these comments – “they totally contradict each other” – is not a denial that all or any them are true.

I do not know what Assange meant by his comment.  However if one assumes Craig Murray’s public repeated claims are true, then possibly what Assange meant was that Shaffer’s alleged comment contradicts Murray’s – which it does – whilst hinting that Kim Dotcom is pretending to know more than he does – which given Kim Dotcom’s background would not be at all surprising.  More than that Assange obviously did not feel able to say because doing so would have revealed more about his source than he – as Khatchadourian must know – is prepared to say.

This paragraph is clearly intended to discredit Craig Murray’s public claim of knowledge of who the leaker was.  Not only does Craig Murray however have a very well-established reputation for truth-telling, but he has repeatedly and publicly spoken of his surprise that he has not been interviewed about his claim by the FBI.  Nothing Khatchadourian says in the article actually casts doubt on the truth of what Craig Murray is saying, Assange’s reported response certainly does not do so.

Putting this frankly unattractive sleight of hand to one side, here is what Khatchadourian has to say about the identity of Guccifer 2.0 as a Russian intelligence front

Throughout June, cybersecurity analysts built a case that it was a Russian front—a conclusion that was amplified by Democratic operatives. Forensic traces in the records on WordPress, and in the persona’s linguistic quirks, linked it to Russia. Its handlers had also provided the Smoking Gun with the password to the Clinton press aide’s e-mails posted on DCLeaks, demonstrating its unique access to the site, and, by extension, its ties to a coördinated propaganda effort.

In other words the evidence that Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian intelligence front boils down to (1) ‘cybersecurity analysts’ – ie. Crowdstrike, though Khatchadourian in this instance fails to identify them – claiming to have found metadata which suggests that it is; and (2) Guccifer 2.0’s connection to DCLeaks, which supposedly shows that it is part of “a coordinated propaganda effort”.

Claim (2) is circular and should therefore be disregarded.  As for claim (1), it is precisely the fact that metadata associated with Guccifer 2.0 altogether too obviously points to a Russian connection that other cybersecurity analysts and retired intelligence officers have their doubts.  Here for example is what Scott Ritter – a former high ranking US intelligence officer about whom I will have much more to say below – says about precisely this point

My experience with Soviet/Russian intelligence, which is considerable, has impressed me with the professionalism and dedication to operational security that were involved. The APT 28/Fancy Bear cyber-penetration of the DNC and the Guccifer 2.0 operation as a whole are the antithesis of professional.

On any question involving the professionalism and “dedication to operational security” of the Russian intelligence services I prefer the opinion of someone like Scott Ritter – a former US intelligence officer who has actually dealt with them  – to the opinions of someone like Khatchadourian, who as far as I know has not.

If Khatchadourian’s assertion that Guccifer 2.0 is a front for Russian intelligence looks frankly threadbare, what of his assertion that Guccifer 2.0 is the source of the emails that Wikileaks hacked?

Khatchadourian is dismissive of Julian Assange’s vigorous denials that Russian intelligence was the source of the leaks, and in a long passage which touches on the alleged role of Guccifer 2.0 he explains why in a way that also explains what he believes was the role of Guccifer 2.0 in the whole Russiagate scandal

In our many conversations about the election, the most striking thing was Assange’s emotion: the frustration he expressed when faced with suggestions that his material was linked to Russian intelligence, or the way he shook his fist when he insisted that he had been robbed of credit. But his protestations that there were no connections between his publications and Russia were untenable.

There are several, and they go beyond Guccifer 2.0’s insistence that it was responsible for the WikiLeaks releases. In early July, for example, Guccifer 2.0 told a Washington journalist that WikiLeaks was “playing for time.” There was no public evidence for this, but from the inside it was clear that WikiLeaks was overwhelmed. In addition to the D.N.C. archive, Assange had received e-mails from the leading political party in Turkey, which had recently experienced a coup, and he felt that he needed to rush them out. Meanwhile, a WikiLeaks team was scrambling to prepare the D.N.C. material. (A WikiLeaks staffer told me that they worked so fast that they lost track of some of the e-mails, which they quietly released later in the year.) On several occasions, and in different contexts, Assange admitted to me that he was pressed for time. “We were quite concerned about meeting the deadline,” he told me once, referring to the Democratic National Convention.

His original release date for the D.N.C. archive, he explained, was July 18th, the Monday before the Convention; his team missed the deadline by four days. “We were only ready Friday,” he said. “We had these hiccups that delayed us, and we were given a little more time—” He stopped, and then added, strangely, “to grow.” (Later, when I asked about the comment, he argued that my recording of his saying it was faulty.) It was unclear who had given him time, but whoever it was clearly had leverage over his decisions.

A few weeks before WikiLeaks published, Guccifer 2.0 appeared to demonstrate just this type of leverage. Throughout June, as WikiLeaks staff worked on the e-mails, the persona had made frequent efforts to keep the D.N.C. leaks in the news, but also appeared to leave space for Assange by refraining from publishing anything that he had. On June 17th, the editor of the Smoking Gun asked Guccifer 2.0 if Assange would publish the same material it was then doling out. “I gave WikiLeaks the greater part of the files, but saved some for myself,” it replied. “Don’t worry everything you receive is exclusive.” The claim at that time was true. None of the first forty documents posted on WordPress can be found in the WikiLeaks trove; in fact, at least half of them do not even appear to be from the D.N.C., despite the way they were advertised.

But then, on July 6th, just before Guccifer 2.0 complained that WikiLeaks was “playing for time,” this pattern of behavior abruptly reversed itself. “I have a new bunch of docs from the DNC server for you,” the persona wrote on WordPress. The files were utterly lacking in news value, and had no connection to one another—except that every item was an attachment in the D.N.C. e-mails that WikiLeaks had. The shift had the appearance of a threat. If Russian intelligence officers were inclined to indicate impatience, this was a way to do it.

On July 18th, the day Assange originally planned to publish, Guccifer 2.0 released another batch of so-called D.N.C. documents, this time to Joe Uchill, of The Hill. Four days later, after WikiLeaks began to release its D.N.C. archive, Uchill reached out to Guccifer 2.0 for comment. The reply was “At last!”

Given that Assange had barely published before the Convention, I asked if his source ever expressed impatience. “I am not describing communications with a source,” he said. “The source did not mandate a publication time.”

I asked again if his source ever expressed impatience. “Sources have leverage,” I said. “They can take a pile of e-mails and they can give those e-mails to someone else.”

“They could give them to someone else,” he said, curtly. “Sure.”

Someone close to WikiLeaks told me that before Assange published the Podesta e-mails he faced this precise scenario. In mid-August, Guccifer 2.0 expressed interest in offering a trove of Democratic e-mails to Emma Best, a journalist and a specialist in archival research, who is known for acquiring and publishing millions of declassified government documents. Assange, I was told, urged Best to decline, intimating that he was in contact with the persona’s handlers, and that the material would have greater impact if he released it first.

Whatever one thinks of Assange’s election disclosures, accepting his contention that they shared no ties with the two Russian fronts requires willful blindness. Guccifer 2.0’s handlers predicted the WikiLeaks D.N.C. release. They demonstrated inside knowledge that Assange was struggling to get it out on time. And they proved, incontrovertibly, that they had privileged access to D.N.C. documents that appeared nowhere else publicly, other than in WikiLeaks publications. The twenty thousand or so D.N.C. e-mails that WikiLeaks published were extracted from ten compromised e-mail accounts, and all but one of the people who used those accounts worked in just two departments: finance and strategic communications. (The single exception belonged to a researcher who worked extensively with communications.) All the D.N.C. documents that Guccifer 2.0 released appeared to come from those same two departments.

The Podesta e-mails only make the connections between WikiLeaks and Russia appear stronger. Nearly half of the first forty documents that Guccifer 2.0 published can be found as attachments among the Podesta e-mails that WikiLeaks later published. Moreover, all of the hacked election e-mails on DCLeaks appeared to come from Clinton staffers who used Gmail, and of course Podesta was a Clinton staffer who used Gmail. The phishing attacks that targeted all of the staffers in the spring, and that targeted Podesta, are forensically linked; they originated from a single identifiable cybermechanism, like form letters from the same typewriter. SecureWorks, a cybersecurity firm with no ties to the Democratic Party, made this assessment, and it is uncontested. Speaking with Assange, I explained that I would have to acknowledge this. He nodded, and said nothing.

This is an over-complicated way of saying that Khatchadourian thinks that because Guccifer 2.0 at various times expressed impatience with Wikileaks’s delay in publishing the emails, that must means Guccifer 2.0 not only provided the emails to Wikileaks but had “inside knowledge” of what Wikileaks was doing, and was blackmailing Wikileaks to speed up publication of the emails.

In addition because DCLeaks published some of the same material as Wikileaks that supposedly proves it was Guccifer 2.0 which provided Wikileaks with the material.

This is strange logic.

Julian Assange announced in the middle of June 2016 that Wikileaks was preparing to publish information damaging to Hillary Clinton.   When Guccifer 2.0 appeared on the scene in early July 2016 several weeks had already passed after Assange’s announcement.  If Guccifer 2.0 wanted to claim credit for a leak of the emails it actually had nothing do with, then nothing would have been easier than for it to pretend to impatience as the days without the emails appearing.

As for the claim that Guccifer 2.0 was blackmailing Wikileaks by threatening to provide the emails to others unless Wikileaks published them, there is nothing in Khatchadourian’s claim that warrants that claim.  Besides if Guccifer 2.0 wanted the emails published as quickly as possible, why would it go to the trouble of blackmailing Wikileaks rather than simply providing the emails to someone else would be less careful about publishing them?  The blackmail theory not only lacks evidence but lacks logic.

As for some of the other claims Khatchadourian makes, such as that that some of the same material published by Wikileaks was also published by DCLeaks – which Khatchadourian assumes to be connected to Guccifer 2.0 basically because he assumes that both are connected to Russia – I am entirely unable to see why that proves that Wikileaks must have got this material from Guccifer 2.0, let alone from Russia.  As I will discuss below, Scott Ritter is also unable to follow this logic, and is of the same view.

Lastly, I will frankly admit that I don’t understand the point Khatchadourian is making in this paragraph

The Podesta e-mails only make the connections between WikiLeaks and Russia appear stronger. Nearly half of the first forty documents that Guccifer 2.0 published can be found as attachments among the Podesta e-mails that WikiLeaks later published. Moreover, all of the hacked election e-mails on DCLeaks appeared to come from Clinton staffers who used Gmail, and of course Podesta was a Clinton staffer who used Gmail. The phishing attacks that targeted all of the staffers in the spring, and that targeted Podesta, are forensically linked; they originated from a single identifiable cybermechanism, like form letters from the same typewriter. SecureWorks, a cybersecurity firm with no ties to the Democratic Party, made this assessment, and it is uncontested. Speaking with Assange, I explained that I would have to acknowledge this. He nodded, and said nothing.

(bold italics added)

What “single identifiable cybermechanism” is Khatchadourian talking about?  Is he saying that because all the emails published by Wikileaks and DCLeaks were originally sent via Gmail that proves that they must both be the product of a single hack?  If so then that conclusion seems to me unwarranted, especially given the insistence of Craig Murray and others that Wikileaks obtained the emails not as the result of a hack but through a leak.

Frankly the tortuous language of this paragraph – with the parallel it draws between traces left by hacking tools and the unique traces left by mechanical typewriters – which by the way I suspect is both wrong and misleading – looks to me to be intentionally confusing, as if written to suggest that there is more there than there actually is.

 If the question Khatchadourian says he posed to Assange was expressed in anything like the language of this paragraph then I find it completely unsurprising that Assange was baffled by it, so that he failed to respond to it.  Needless to say Khatchadourian treats that as an admission.

Let us now compare Khatchadourian’s vague and convoluted reasoning, with all its unwarranted assumptions and leaps of logic, to the tough minded and fact based assessment of Guccifer 2.0 by Scott Ritter, a senior veteran intelligence officer who incidentally does not share some of the opinions recently expressed by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (“VIPS”) group of which he is a member, whose recent report I discussed previously

On Oct. 6, 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security published a joint statement that noted that the “recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails” by Guccifer 2.0 (and others) “are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” without further elaboration beyond declaring that “the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”

Rep. Schiff, the aforementioned Democratic co-chair of the House Intelligence Committee, stated in March 2017 that “a hacker who goes by the moniker, Guccifer 2.0, claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to WikiLeaks. … The U.S. intelligence community also later confirmed that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence, and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front.”

The problem is that there simply isn’t any hard data in the public domain to back up these statements of fact. What is known is that a persona using the name Guccifer 2.0 published documents said to be sourced from the DNC on several occasions starting from June 15, 2016. Guccifer 2.0 claims to have stolen these documents by perpetrating a cyber-penetration of the DNC server. However, the hacking methodology Guccifer 2.0 claims to have employed does not match the tools and techniques allegedly uncovered by the cybersecurity professionals from CrowdStrike when they investigated the DNC intrusion. Moreover, cyber-experts claim the Guccifer 2.0 “hack” could not have been executed as he described.

What CrowdStrike did claim to have discovered is that sometime in March 2016, the DNC server was infected with what is known as an X-Agent malware. According to CrowdStrike, the malware was deployed using an open-source, remote administration tool known as RemCom. The malware in question, a network tunneling tool known as X-Tunnel, was itself a repurposed open-source tool that made no effort to encrypt its source code, meaning anyone who gained access to this malware would be able to tell exactly what it was intended to do.

CrowdStrike claimed that the presence of the X-Agent malware was a clear “signature” of a hacking group—APT 28, or Fancy Bear—previously identified by German intelligence as being affiliated with the GRU, Russian military intelligence. Additional information about the command and control servers used by Fancy Bear, which CrowdStrike claims were previously involved in Russian-related hacking activity, was also reported.

The CrowdStrike data is unconvincing. First and foremost, the German intelligence report it cites does not make an ironclad claim that APT 28 is, in fact, the GRU. In fact, the Germans only “assumed” that GRU conducts cyberattacks. They made no claims that they knew for certain that any Russians, let alone the GRU, were responsible for the 2015 cyberattack on the German Parliament, which CrowdStrike cites as proof of GRU involvement. Second, the malware in question is available on the open market, making it virtually impossible to make any attribution at all simply by looking at similarities in “tools and techniques.” Virtually anyone could have acquired these tools and used them in a manner similar to how they were employed against both the German Parliament and the DNC.

The presence of open-source tools is, in itself, a clear indicator that Russian intelligence was not involved. Documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA monitored the hacking of a prominent Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, by Russian intelligence, “deploying malicious software which is not available in the public domain.” The notion that the Russians would use special tools to hack a journalist’s email account and open-source tools to hack either the DNC or the German Parliament is laughable. My experience with Soviet/Russian intelligence, which is considerable, has impressed me with the professionalism and dedication to operational security that were involved. The APT 28/Fancy Bear cyber-penetration of the DNC and the Guccifer 2.0 operation as a whole are the antithesis of professional.

Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that no one has linked the theft of the DNC documents to Guccifer 2.0. We do not know either the date or mechanism of penetration. We do not have a list of the documents accessed and exfiltrated from the DNC by APT 28, or any evidence that these documents ended up in Guccifer 2.0’s possession. It is widely assumed that the DNC penetration was perpetrated through a “spear-phishing” attack, in which a document is created that simulates a genuine communication in an effort to prompt a response by the receiver, usually by clicking a specified field, which facilitates the insertion of malware. Evidence of the Google-based documents believed to have been the culprits behind the penetration of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and John Podesta’s email servers have been identified, along with the dates of malware infection. No such information has been provided about the DNC penetration.

Which brings up perhaps the most curious aspect of this entire case: The DNC servers at the center of this controversy were never turned over to the FBI for forensic investigation. Instead, the FBI had to rely upon copies of the DNC server data provided by CrowdStrike. The fact that it was CrowdStrike, and not the FBI, that made the GRU attribution call based upon the investigation of the alleged cyber-penetration of the DNC server is disturbing. As shown here, there is good reason to doubt the viability of the CrowdStrike analysis. That the FBI, followed by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. intelligence community, and the mainstream media, has parroted this questionable assertion as fact is shocking.

The Guccifer 2.0 story is at the center of the ongoing controversy swirling around the Trump White House concerning allegations of collusion with Russia regarding meddling in the 2016 presidential election. While APT 28/Fancy Bear is not the only alleged Russian hacking operation claimed to have been targeting the DNC, it is the one that has been singled out as “weaponizing” intelligence—employing stolen documents for the express purpose of altering public opinion against Hillary Clinton. This act has been characterized as an attack against America, and was cited by President Barack Obama when he imposed sanctions on Russia in December 2016 and expelled 35 Russian diplomats. Congress has also referred to this “attack” as the principal justification for a bill seeking new and tougher sanctions targeting Russia….

To date there has been no examination worthy of the name regarding the facts that underpin the accusations at the center of the American argument against Russia—that the GRU hacked the DNC server and used Guccifer 2.0 as a conduit for the release of stolen documents in a manner designed to influence the American presidential election.

(bold italics added)

In other words it is so unlikely as to be all but impossible that Guccifer 2.0 has anything to do with Russian intelligence; there is no hard evidence that connects Guccifer 2.0 to the alleged hack of the computers of the DNC and John Podesta claimed by Crowdstrike; and there is no evidence which connects Guccifer 2.0 to Wikileaks.

I have nothing to add to Scott Ritter’s points save to say that if Guccifer 2.0 really were a Russian intelligence operation then the logic behind it escapes me.

Why if Guccifer 2.0 really were created by Russian intelligence would the Russians go out of their way through Guccifer 2.0 to claim that Wikileaks had obtained the emails because of a hack, when most people’s assumption would otherwise have been that Wikileaks obtained the emails through a leak?  Would the Russians not realise that claiming it was a hack would draw suspicion upon them? Would it not make far more sense to leave Wikileaks alone to do its job by publishing the emails?  Is that not far more consistent with the sort of covert operation a highly professional intelligence service like the Russian might be expected to carry out than the all-too public bragging of Guccifer 2.0?

As for the Russians needing to use Guccifer 2.0 to pressure Wikileaks to publish the emails, why – as I have said previously – would the Russians if they were becoming impatient with Wikileaks not have provided the emails through someone else?  Why if they wanted to blackmail Wikileaks could they not have done it privately?  Why create a whole public persona like Guccifer 2.0 to do it when again that would merely have drawn suspicion back upon them?

Needless to say, if the Russians nonetheless really did create Guccifer 2.0 in order to blackmail Wikileaks – implausible though that frankly is – would they not have taken basic precautions to ensure their identity was concealed?

Overall the whole Guccifer 2.0 persona looks just too childish and amateur to be the work of Russian intelligence, which is of course precisely the point Scott Ritter makes.

As anyone with knowledge of investigations knows, whenever some great but mysterious public crime or act takes place all sorts of narcisstic and self-aggrandising people come forward to claim responsibility, often doing so anonymously.  Sometimes – usually because of luck or coincidence – they hit on something which may make it appear that they have inside knowledge which in reality they do not have.  Examples of this are legion, starting with the infamous Jack the Ripper “Dear Boss” letter which confused the Victorian police.

The VIPS team on the basis of a forensic report whose conclusions are however questioned by Scott Ritter have hinted that Guccifer 2.0 may have been created as a ‘damage control’ tool by someone wanting to divert attention away from the publication of material by Wikileaks that might have been damaging to Hillary Clinton by casting suspicion that it originated in Russia

Another possibility must however be that Guccifer 2.0 is simply a narcissist who has no connection either to Wikileaks or to Russia to anyone else, but who wants to pretend to a role that he does not have out of a desire for self-aggrandisement.

Either of these theories about Guccifer 2.0 looks to me far more plausible that the threadbare and unconvincing claims made about Guccifer 2.0 by Raffi Khatchadourian in The New Yorker.

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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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