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US intelligence report on Clinton leaks provides no evidence of Russian involvement

The latest US intelligence report into Russian involvement in the US election fails to provide evidence of Russian involvement in the Clinton leaks but focuses obsessively on RT.

Alexander Mercouris

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A week ago, following release of Grizzly Steppe, the FBI/Homeland Security report supposedly substantiating the US intelligence community’s report that Russian intelligence was behind the hacking of the DNC and of Podesta, I said that the Russian hacking scandal is starting more and more to resemble the Iraq WMD debacle, with one dodgy dossier succeeding another.

That claim found vindication today with the release of a further 25 page report, which in the event had nothing new to say about the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and Podesta, but which focused instead on “analysing” Russian President Putin’s supposed motives, and discussing the role of RT at inordinate length.

The entirety of the case that Russia hacked the DNC and Podesta, and leaked the information it obtained to Wikileaks, is contained in the following paragraphs

Cyber Espionage Against US Political Organizations.

Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties. We assess Russian intelligence services collected against the US primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups they viewed as likely to shape future US policies.

In July 2015, Russian intelligence gained access to Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks and maintained that access until at least June 2016.

The General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) probably began cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016. We assess that the GRU operations resulted in the compromise of the personal e-mail accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures.

By May, the GRU had exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC.

Public Disclosures of Russian-Collected Data.

We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in 3 cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets.

Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be an independent Romanian hacker, made multiple contradictory statements and false claims about his likely Russian identity throughout the election. Press reporting suggests more than one person claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 interacted with journalists.

Content that we assess was taken from e-mail accounts targeted by the GRU in March 2016 appeared on DCLeaks.com starting in June. We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.

Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.

In early September, Putin said publicly it was important the DNC data was exposed to WikiLeaks, calling the search for the source of the leaks a distraction and denying Russian “state-level” involvement.

The Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks. RT’s editor-in-chief visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2013, where they discussed renewing his broadcast contract with RT, according to Russian and Western media. Russian media subsequently announced that RT had become “the only Russian media company” to partner with WikiLeaks and had received access to “new leaks of secret information.” RT routinely gives Assange sympathetic coverage and provides him a platform to denounce the United States.

No substantiating evidence is provided for these assertions, which are purely affirmative, though the references to Putin’s comments about the leaks and to RT’s supposed connections to Julian Assange and to Wikileaks, are apparently thrown in to give the impression that they are such evidence.  Needless to say they are nothing of the sort.

Nor is there anything new in these assertions save that the earlier claim that the Russian counter-intelligence the FSB was involved – previously made by the private company CrowdStrike – has been dropped, with the whole blame now being placed on the Russian military’s intelligence agency the GRU.  Possibly this is because US intelligence knows, as CrowdStrike apparently does not, that the FSB unlike the GRU is not an espionage agency.

The fact that the entirety of the blame for the Clinton leaks is now being laid at the door of the GRU presumably means that it is now alleged that both Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear work for the GRU even though CrowdStrike says they were working in ignorance and at cross-purposes with each other.

The report is a redacted version of a classified document which supposedly contains the evidence for these assertions. Whilst the report does not say what that evidence is, it does make this statement

Sourcing

Many of the key judgments in this assessment rely on a body of reporting from multiple sources that are consistent with our understanding of Russian behavior. Insights into Russian efforts—including specific cyber operations—and Russian views of key US players derive from multiple corroborating sources. Some of our judgments about Kremlin preferences and intent are drawn from the behavior of Kremlin loyal political figures, state media, and pro-Kremlin social media actors, all of whom the Kremlin either directly uses to convey messages or who are answerable to the Kremlin. The Russian leadership invests significant resources in both foreign and domestic propaganda and places a premium on transmitting what it views as consistent, self-reinforcing narratives regarding its desires and redlines, whether on Ukraine, Syria, or relations with the United States.

(bold italics added)

This paragraph strongly suggests that the case is largely inferred from the US intelligence community’s “understanding of Russian behaviour” based on its “insights” rather than from actual knowledge. Indeed the report’s extensive references to President Putin’s public statements, those of other Russian officials, of the Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, of Russian media figures, and of RT, essentially says as much, even though none of the reported statements comes remotely close to being an admission of Russian involvement in the Clinton leaks.

A Reuters report which appeared yesterday makes the following further assertion

U.S. intelligence agencies obtained what they considered to be conclusive evidence after the November election that Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking, but had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

This is incidentally an admission that earlier claims made during the election that Russia had provided the Clinton leaks to Wikileaks were at that time no more than guesses.

There is no information as to who this supposed “third party” is, or how the Russians provided this “third party” with the Clinton leaks, or how the “third party” provided the Clinton leaks to Wikileaks.

The only information that has appeared publicly since the election concerning how the Clinton leaks actually reached Wikileaks has come from Julian Assange and from Craig Murray.  Both have denied that Wikileaks obtained the Clinton leaks from Russia.

There have been some suggestions that in his recent interview with Sean Hannity Julian Assange supposedly admitted that the Clinton leaks might have originated in Russia and have reached Wikileaks through a third party, though not directly from the Russian government.  This is however a complete misrepresentation of what Assange actually said.  Once again Assange’s clear denial that Wikileaks obtained the Clinton leaks from the Russian government is being treated as an admission of something else: that Wikileaks might have obtained the Clinton leaks from the Russian government via a “third party”.

An NBC report – which has provoked the fury of Donald Trump – has also made the following claim

The U.S. has also identified Russian actors who turned over stolen Democratic material to WikiLeaks, the source told NBC News Thursday.

(bold italics added)

These words are highly ambiguous, and may not refer to the supposed “third party” at all, but rather to the Russian officials or agencies who are supposed to have been behind the release of the Clinton leaks to Wikileaks via the supposed “third party”.  However the claim that the US has identified “the Russian actors who turned over the stolen Democratic material to Wikileaks”, taken together with the reference to RT in the report directly after the discussion of the Clinton leaks (see above) may be intended to suggest that the “third party” is RT.  That might also explain the disproportionate amount of attention given to RT in the report.

If so then this flatly contradicts what both Julian Assange and Craig Murray have said.   Since RT is a Russian government funded broadcaster Assange would certainly treat RT as an agency of the Russian government.  RT is therefore covered by Assange’s assertion that Wikileaks did not receive the Clinton leaks from the Russian government.

One thing which has become very clear over the last few months is the extent of the paranoia of some people within the US intelligence community about Wikileaks and RT.  Lurid claims about RT dominate the report, whilst an article in the Huffington Post contains this extraordinary comment about Wikileaks by a former NSA official

One former National Security Agency analyst said the consensus view among U.S. intelligence holds there is no real difference between Assange and the Russians ― pointing out Assange’s role in finding NSA leaker Edward Snowden sanctuary in Moscow. “The only real debate is when the relationship began,” said John Schindler, who added that by 2013, Wikileaks essentially had become a mouthpiece for Russian intelligence. “This is not complicated.”

(bold italics added)

This is a paranoid claim, which takes Edward Snowden for a Russian agent, and assumes Wikileaks is an agency controlled by Russian intelligence because of its supposed role in spiriting Snowden to Moscow.  That Snowden never wanted to go to Moscow, and only ended up there because the US obstructed his journey to Brazil, is a fact that is apparently of no importance.

Back in October (before the  US election) a failed attempt was made to close down RT’s London branch in parallel with action to deny Julian Assange computer access.  At that time I linked these two actions together and said they were almost certainly related to the Clinton leaks

Here I am going to align myself with Adam Garrie and with those who think that it is no coincidence that this attack came on the same day as Julian Assange was denied internet access.  Moreover this clearly points to the US Presidential election, and the roles Julian Assange, Wikileaks and Russia, are taking or are supposed to be taking in the election, being the reason for the attack.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been hit by a series of leaks of emails published by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Hillary Clinton, her campaign, the Western media, and US intelligence, are all blaming Russia for these leaks, and are saying that it is Russia that is providing the hacked and stolen emails to Assange and Wikileaks.  The implication is that Assange and Wikileaks, whether consciously or not, are Russian agents. 

I have said previously why I personally doubt this is so, and I have explained why the statement US intelligence has published blaming Russia cannot be taken as proof of this

The US nonetheless publicly insists it is the case, and it has been talking openly of taking retaliatory action against Russia because of the leaks. The cutting off of Assange from the internet and the action against RT look to me like precisely the sort of retaliatory action the US has been talking about. 

To be precise they look to me like an attempt to plug the leaks by simultaneously acting against the person who is producing the leaks and the operation in Britain – the country where Assange is located and where Wikileaks is mainly based – of the Russian television channel the US believes Russia is using to disseminate news of the leaks 

The coincidence of the simultaneous actions against Assange and RT is just too strong to leave me personally in any doubt that the two events are connected.

The 25 page report US intelligence just published, with its obsessive and frankly paranoid claims about RT, bears all this out.

However it seems we have now moved a whole giant step further.  Whereas in October it appeared that the action against RT was intended to prevent RT disseminating the Clinton leaks, now it seems that US intelligence has convinced itself that RT was in some way responsible for the Clinton leaks as part of some sinister Kremlin inspired conspiracy to swing the election to Donald Trump.

If so then all I can say is that this demonstrates the paranoia involving Russia of some people within the US intelligence community and the Democratic Party, and the extent to which they have become lost in the ‘wilderness of mirrors’.

It is no secret that most people in Russia wanted Donald Trump to win the US Presidential election.  Trump has repeatedly spoken of the need to improve relations with Russia.  By contrast his opponent – Hillary Clinton – gave the impression of wanting to heighten tensions with Russia to a state not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War.  That alone is sufficient to explain why most Russians – including most Russian politicians, officials and journalists – would have wanted Trump to win.

That the Russian media – including RT – were influenced by this preference in their reporting is completely natural and unsurprising.  It is also something which is completely legitimate.

No one is alleging that the British government illegally interfered in the US Presidential election because some British politicians openly spoke out against Donald Trump, and because the BBC – a publicly funded news organisation with far greater prestige in the US than RT – together with the rest of the British media, openly favoured Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.  Why then is it wrong for Russian politicians, Russian media, and for people working at RT, to have a preference for Donald Trump?

To lump this together with the Clinton leaks, the saga of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange’s RT appearances, and the fact that the DNC and Podesta hacks may have used malware developed in Russia, in order to form a theory of a gigantic Russian conspiracy to swing the US Presidential election to Donald Trump masterminded by President Putin himself, is beyond ridiculous.  That however is the paranoid scenario we are now being asked to accept.

This preposterous affair would never have gained the traction that it has were it not for the fact of it being used by certain politicians in the Democratic Party and by US President Obama himself to try to discredit and delegitimise Donald Trump.

With President Obama about to go, and with this latest report having nothing of substance to say, that attempt has clearly failed.  My own view is that we are now passed the peak of this affair, and that it will soon be over.

Donald Trump’s generous statement about the US intelligence community today, which however conceded nothing of substance, suggests that he thinks the same.

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Judicial Watch Calls for Re-Opening of Hillary Email Investigation After More Classified Info Found

Judicial Watching is calling for a re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after finding more classified information on the former Secretary of State’s non-“state.gov” email system.

The Duran

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Authored by Joseph Jankowski via PlanetFreeWill.com,


On Thursday, the watchdog revealed that it had received two batches, 184 pages and 45 pagesof newly uncovered emails belonging to Hillary Clinton from the U.S. Department of State sent and received over her unsecured server.

The emails were uncovered by a FOIA lawsuit filed on May 6, 2015, after the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015 FOIA request seeking all emails sent or received by Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State, as well as all emails by other State Department employees to Clinton regarding her non-“state.gov” email address.

Judicial Watch broke down what they found:

  • On June 7, 2011, Clinton received classified information on her non-secure email account from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, which Blair also forwarded to Jake Sullivan, about Blair’s Middle East negotiations with Israel, the Palestinians and the French
  • On January 26, 2010, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan sent classified information via his unsecure Blackberry to Huma Abedin’s State Department email account that he’d earlier sent to Clinton’s and Abedin’s non-secure @clintonemail.com email accounts about U.K. negotiations with Northern Ireland.
  • On October 28, 2010, Clinton exchanges information with her friend Marty Torrey – a congressional aide – who asks Clinton in an email if she would advise that Torrey meet with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Clinton responds through her non-secure email account approving the meeting and notes that she is emailing him from Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • An email chain dated April 8, 2010, which contains a memo from Sid Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton related to the change of government in Kyrgyzstan, contains information classified “confidential” and is redacted as “foreign government information” and “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” Blumenthal urges Clinton to “develop relations” with the new government in Kyrgyzstan.

These emails caused Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton to call for the Department of Justice to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time in office.

“These emails were undercovered from the emails that Hillary Clinton tried to delete or otherwise hide from the American people,” Fitton said in a video posted Thursday. “These new emails once again show why the Clinton email investigation needs to be re-opened by the Justice Department.”

The batch of emails also disclosed a January 26, 2010, email to Hillary Clinton’s private server from her deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, that is classified “confidential” and contains a “call sheet” that Clinton received prior to a call with Northern Ireland political leaders.

Interesting, but not surprising, is also an email that shows a meeting scheduled between Hillary Clinton and leftwing billionaire George Soros.

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Doug Casey on Social Media: “Facebook enshrines stupidity”

“Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook.”

The Duran

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Authored by Joel Bowman via InternationalMan.com:


Joel Bowman: G’day, Doug. Thanks for speaking with us today.

Doug Casey: No problem, Joel. It’s a pleasure to hear your Australian accent come across the ether from Mexico.

Joel: Let’s dive right in. A week or two ago, Facebook registered the largest single day loss for any one company in stock market history – roughly $122 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg lost around $15 billion himself, as much as the annual GDP of several resource-rich, West African nations.

Looking back to 2000, during the go-go days of the dot.com boom, Intel and Microsoft both registered staggering single-day losses, too… $90 billion and $80 billion, respectively. And we know what happened next in that case…

So, investors want to know… is past prologue? What’s next for Silicon Valley’s tech darlings?

Doug: Talking about losing multiple billions in a single day, it’s really a sign of the times. I remember when the only billionaires in the world were Howard Hughes, John Paul Getty and John Beresford Tipton– the mythical billionaire on a 1950’s-era show called “The Millionaire.”

These days, however, it seems everyone’s a billionaire. In fact, there are several thousand billionaires roaming the planet today, with new ones being minted almost every day.

Of course, much of this so-called wealth is just paper. It’s not real. In fact, it’s pretty clear to me that we’re in a stock market bubble. Which is being driven by the bond market hyper-bubble. And that, in turn, is fueling a real estate bubble, which I believe is just now beginning to deflate in major cities around the world.

None of this augurs well for the stock market. You’ve got bubbles all over the place. Except in the resource market. That’s the one place that hasn’t inflated. In fact, it’s been going down since it’s last peak in 2011.

Getting back to Facebook, I hope it goes bankrupt. I hate it as an institution. I hate what it does. I don’t like its policies. I don’t like its management. I don’t like the fact that it’s causing people to destroy whatever privacy they have left. While turning their brains to mush sending out selfies all day.

Joel: You’ve put a lot on the table there, Doug. Let’s unpack a bit of that, starting with the general tendency toward cerebral rot…

Many younger readers may not remember this, but there actually existed a time before everybody knew everything, when people had to read books and discuss them, engage in healthy debate and rigorous dialectic in order to learn and develop intellectually.

Now that everyone apparently has plenty of time to Instagram their kale salads and “like” one and other’s cat pictures, are we to assume mankind has finally reached the End of Learning…some new Age of Enlightenment?

Or might Facebook and its (anti)social media cousins represent – in addition to the potential fallout for investors – another, hidden cost to society?

Doug: Perhaps humanity is bifurcating into the Morlocks and the Eloi at this point. It’s true that people used to go to libraries. But even the Library of Congress has only a tiny fraction the world’s data available; libraries are quaint and delightful, but they’re dinosaurs.

All the knowledge in the world is now at our fingertips on the Internet. The Internet is one of the greatest inventions in history, on a par with moveable type and the Gutenburg printing press. A few people are using it to educate and better themselves—but relatively few.

Most people just use it for trivial amusement, as you mentioned. Facebook adds very little value to the equation. In fact, I can’t see that it does much that’s productive. It’s basically a vehicle for gossip and watching cat videos.

Joel: And it’s less than that. Aside from the general degradation of public discourse, social media also represents a kind of unalterable historical record of bad jokes and regrettable moments, accessible to anyone who may wish to besmirch one’s character or skittle one’s reputation.

We’ve all said things we wish we hadn’t. To err is to be human, after all. What do you make of a world in which everyone’s worst moments are readily available to everyone else – including potential enemies – at the click of a mouse?

Doug: Facebook enshrines stupidity. A heavy Facebook user is, in effect, saying: “Look at me! I’m a thoughtless person who doesn’t have anything better to do with his time”. That’s on top of the fact that users are exposing their thoughts, actions, and whereabouts to the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and any of a hundred other nefarious agencies. In fact, there are credible allegations that Facebook, along with Google and Amazon, are willing tools of these intelligence agencies. No good can come of being a Facebookista.

But that’s about whether you should use Facebook. Whether you should own Facebook stock is a different question. Even after the recent selloff, Facebook still has a market cap of about $500 billion, which impresses me as a lot for a chat site cum advertising vehicle. Especially one where most of its growth is behind it. A lot of users are getting hip to the fact they’re not customers, they’re the product.

Facebook was a clever innovation ten years ago. But you know, there’s an old saying in the stock market: High Tech, Big Wreck!

Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook. My understanding is that kids now see Facebook as something used by old people– people over 21 years of age. So if it’s going nowhere with the younger generation, where’s it’s future? Maybe it picks up a billion new users in the Third World. Ultimately, what’s that worth?

Facebook may not be a terminal short sale, but I certainly won’t be putting any of my own money into the stock.

Joel: Assuming you’re correct and Facebook 2.0 does displace the current market leader, are you hopeful that such a platform may serve to promote a heightened level of discourse? Perhaps people might find their way into “phyles,” that is, subgroups based on commonly shared values that actually have real world meaning?

Doug: I hope that, in a year or two, International Man itself grows into a community of likeminded people with above average I.Q.s, libertarian values, and real world experience. IM might, itself, even branch off to become its own kind of Facebook. A private version.

I know there’s a lot of talk about regulating FB, or breaking it up. That’s a bad idea; the government should have zero to do with business in general—and areas related to free speech in particular. I’m disgusted by the fact FB has kicked Alex Jones and others off their platform. But they have a right to do so, as a private company. Although, on the other hand, they’re almost a creature of the State.

But that’s not an excuse for the government to “step in”. What will happen is that a newer, better Facebook lookalike—or a dozen of them—will replace them. FB will self-destruct. It’s a non-problem.

To be frank, you and I don’t really have that much in common with most of the 7.3 billion people on this planet. In fact, while I like many individual humans, I despise humanity in general. The more people you put together in a group, the more they act like chimpanzees. Big groups force down the lowest common denominator.

There’s some cause for optimism, but only on a person-to-person basis. I prefer the company of people who value free minds and free markets—and I suspect most people who are reading this now feel the same way.

Joel: That’s probably a very good note to end this conversation on, Doug. Thanks, as always, for taking the time.

Doug: Meanwhile, we’ll look for something with the potential of Facebook in 2008… and stay away from Facebook today.

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Why did Erdogan free two Greek soldiers after six months in a Turkish prison?

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 83.

Alex Christoforou

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Two Greek soldiers freed after months in a Turkish prison returned to Greece by government jet after their unexpected release by a Turkish provincial court.

Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he phoned his Turkish counterpart to express his satisfaction with the soldiers’ release and invite him to visit Greece.

Kammenos told reporters, referring to the Feast of the Dormation, which falls on August 15 and to the Italian torpedoing on a Greek warship on this day in 1940…

“This is a great day for our motherland, the day of Our Lady, the day of Tinos in 1940.”

“I hope that their release…will herald a new day in Greek-Turkish relations. We can live together peacefully, for the benefit of both our peoples.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind Erdogan’s unexpected overture to Greece, with the sudden release of two Greek soldiers held in a Turkish prison for nearly 6 months.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Ekathimerini

The soldiers – 2nd Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis – were met by Kammenos, the army chief of staff and an honor guard after their arrival at 3 a.m. at the airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

“All I want to say is thank you,” Mitretodis told reporters.

The men were arrested on March 1 for illegally entering Turkey after crossing the heavily militarized land border. Greece strongly protested their long detention in the western town of Edirne, arguing that they had strayed across during a patrol of a trail of suspected illegal immigration amid poor visibility due to bad weather.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed their release as “an act of justice,” and provided the jet he uses on official foreign journeys to bring them back.

Their release “will contribute to strengthening friendship, good neighborly relations and stability in the region,” Tsipras said in a statement. “I want to congratulate and thank (the two men) and their families for their fortitude, patience and trust in our efforts, which were finally justified.”

In Athens, the Foreign Ministry said: “We welcome the release of the two members of the Greek armed forces … following more than five months of unjustified custody in Edirne prison. This decision by the Turkish authorities is positive and will contribute to the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations and the friendship between our people.

“The constant efforts exerted by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Ministry and the diplomatic and consular missions of Greece in Turkey have borne fruit. Once again diplomacy is the biggest winner.”

The men’s arrest had considerably strained Greek-Turkish relations. Kammenos had claimed that they were being held “hostage” by Turkey, which is trying to secure the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey.

Ankara accuses its servicemen of involvement in the coup, but Greek courts have refused to extradite them, arguing they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and their lives would be in danger there.

The two Greeks were released Tuesday pending the outcome of their trial by a Turkish court. Turkey’s state Anadolu Agency said that in a court hearing to review a request for their release the two said in their defense that they had crossed the border by mistake.

Mitretodis’ father told the AP that his son had shown great strength in prison.

“My wife phoned and told me the news, and at once I called the Greek consul (in Edirne) and confirmed that the lads have been set free,” Nikos Mitretodis said. “They didn’t do anything wrong, and they spent a long time in prison. But they were strong during all that time, and remain strong, they have to be.”

“I want to thank everyone for their solidarity – the media, our political leadership, the Church and anonymous people who stood by us,” he added.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the release of the two soldiers “on the one hand constitutes a basic act of justice on the part of the Turkish authorities. On the other hand, it shows how Turkey can and should continue to fully reestablish the climate of friendship and good neighborliness with Greece”.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “The release of the two Greek officers is happy news amid the gloomy summer that our country is experiencing. All Greeks await their return with joy and emotion.”

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was delighted by news of the Greek soldiers’ imminent release. “As I said (before) … Turkey has nothing to fear from its European neighbors. We want to see a democratic, stable and prosperous Turkey,” he posted on Twitter.

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog:

On August 15, Greeks celebrate the “Dormition (or the Assumption) of the Virgin Mary (in Greek: Koimisis tis Theotokou). The holiday commemorates the “falling asleep” or death of the Theotokos (Mary, translated as “God-bearer”). August 15, one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox calendar, is celebrated across the country, and is a date when many Greeks leave the towns and cities where they live and work to return to their home villages.”

Stole that bit from the local Kathimerini paper. And I would add: while most Athenians leave for the islands, along with about 2 billion tourists. Thought I’d bring up the national holiday because in Turkey, they celebrate the same. The orthodox church is still going strong in both countries. Even if Turkey is leaning increasingly towards Islam. And even then: the House of the Virgin Mary shrine in Turkey, which the Apostle John is supposed to have built for her, on a mountain overlooking the Aegean, the place where Mary is said to have spent her last years, sees both Christian and Muslim pilgrims.

All this can’t be seen apart from some recent developments between the two countries. Turkey had been holding two Greek servicemen in jail after they crossed a border in bad weather early March.

Athens got a phone call from Ankara, probably to Kammenos, not Tsipras, that said: you come get them. Whether that call was before or after the court decision we’ll probably never know. A bit of a shame, because it could tell us a lot of where the decisions are made in Turkey. Then again, we do have an idea. A mere provincial court that could make decisions that go completely against what Erdogan desires? What are the odds? But stick around.

Here’s what’s interesting about this: the two soldiers, who had been in detention for almost half a year, were released by a provincial court, and got back home on a joint Turkish/Greek national holiday. What’s not to like?

But then this: a few hours after they arrive home on PM Tsipras’ own government jet at 3pm, another Turkish court decides that an appeal for American pastor Brunson to be released, is denied. Brunson is the guy Trump wants freed. John Bolton has said there’ll be no more talks until that is done. But if one court takes a decision that at least on the face of it goes against supreme ruler Erdogan’s demands, and another decides differently, Erdogan can claim the pastor’s fate is out of his hands: it’s the court system that decides.

That victory over Trump, concerning not freeing the pastor, is apparently worth more to him than the defeat of not exchanging the soldiers for the 8 Turkish servicemen who have gotten asylum in Greece. Something Erdogan is allegedly very angry about, because he accuses them of being party to the 2016 ‘coup’. He’s trying to play chess with Trump.

*****

And then Reuters has this just now:

Erdogan Spokesman Says Problems With US Will Be Resolved

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday he expected problems with the United States, which helped drive the lira to record lows, to be resolved but Washington must stop trying to influence Turkey’s judiciary. Ibrahim Kalin also told a news conference that Turkey would exercise its rights if the U.S. does not deliver F-35 jets to Ankara. The lira, which has rallied after hitting a record low of 7.24 to the dollar, would continue to recover, he said.

Via The Automatic Earth blog:

A masterstroke? Did Erdogan just succeed in making everyone, including Trump, believe the Turkish judiciary system is impartial, and he’s not the one keeping Brunson from leaving the country? Sure looks like he tried. “Sorry, Mr. Trump, it’s out of my hands.. A judge let the Greek soldiers go, and I didn’t want that either..”

Problem is, everyone knows Erdogan fired half the judiciary system and 90% or so of the press, accusing them of being part of the same coup plot as Gülen and the pastor Brunson. It’s almost amusing. Almost, because innocent people’s lives are being played out on some primitive chess board and sacrificed against dreams of ever more power. Only a pawn in their game.

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