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Why Vladimir Putin was not behind the DNC email leak

Leaking the DNC emails is so contrary to Russian self-interest and policy that it is very unlikely the Russian authorities were behind it.

Alexander Mercouris

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In what is an obvious exercise in diversion the Hillary Clinton campaign and the US media have sought to still the embarrassment caused by the leak of the emails from the Democratic Party’s National Committee by conjuring up a fake storm around the issue of whether the Russian authorities (“Putin”) might have been behind the leak.

Donald Trump’s bizarre but possibly effective proposal that the Russians also publish the 30,000 emails Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server has taken the hysteria to an even higher level. 

Just to clarify, Trump did not call on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s private emails.  Since the emails he was referring to have already been deleted there would be no point.  What he was doing was making a joke whilst reminding everybody that because of Hillary Clinton’s own negligence the Russians are almost certainly already in possession of these emails.

But were the Russians actually behind the leak of the DNC emails?

The short answer is that nobody outside the intelligence agencies knows.  Edward Snowden says that the NSA has the technical means to determine positively the identity of the hacker.  Stories have appeared in the US media sourced from the US intelligence agencies which suggest that the Russian intelligence agencies were the hackers. 

Certain private firms who claim expertise in this area also claim the hacker was probably located in Russia.  However all this information is hardly conclusive and does not seem to me to bear the weight some place on it. 

There is no doubt Russia’s various intelligence agencies have the skills to read both Hillary Clinton’s personal emails and those of the Democratic National Committee.  It is in fact overwhelmingly likely they have done so, just as we can be sure the NSA reads or tries to read the personal emails of Russian officials. 

After all it is know that the US has listened to the private telephone conversations of people like Angela Merkel and Kofi Annan.  It is naive to think the Russians don’t do the same, which is why it was beyond negligent – as well as horribly complacent and arrogant – for Hillary Clinton to treat her emails in such a careless way.

Was it however the Russians who passed on the DNC emails to Wikileaks, albeit it seems through an intermediary?

One of the great problems with discussions of Russian intelligence agencies is that because they are the subject of so many stories (including so much spy fiction) people assume they know more about them than they really do. 

Whilst much about how Russian intelligence agencies work is obviously obscure, it is clear from open sources that they bear little resemblance to their spy story image, and that they do not act in the way people in the West commonly suppose them to do.  There is little evidence for example that they commonly engage in “dirty tricks” or “black propaganda” or “wet jobs” or in fomenting coups or in other James Bond type work.  

Instead they seem to be overwhelmingly focused on intelligence gathering and analysis.  Moreover Russian handling of the collection and distribution of intelligence data appears to be highly structured and tightly controlled by the country’s political leadership, to a much greater extent than appears to be the case in the US. 

The chances of one of Russia’s intelligence agencies therefore doing something like the DNC leak on its own without consulting the political leadership are minimal.

Would the Russian political leadership however authorise such a leak?

From what one can tell the three key policy making officials involved in intelligence related decisions in Russia are Putin himself, Nikolay Patrushev who is the Secretary of the Security Council, Russia’s key decision making body, and Sergey Ivanov, who is Putin’s Chief of Staff.  Importantly all three of these men have backgrounds as professional intelligence officers. 

Whilst these three men are the key decision makers, it is a virtual certainty that a decision to leak intelligence material that might influence the electoral process in the US would be a decision of such importance that it would first have to be discussed by Russia’s Security Council at one of its regular meetings before it could happen. 

Would Putin and the Security Council authorise a leak of this kind?  Since doing so would be a political decision it would be political factors that would weigh most in making the decision.  I have to say that I think it extremely unlikely a decision to authorise such a leak would be made.  Doing so would be completely contrary to the well-established principles that govern Russia’s foreign policy.   Political factors also weigh heavily against doing it. 

I heard the principles set out in great detail by none other than Putin himself at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (“SPIEF”), which I attended a few weeks ago. Putin went out of his way at SPIEF to say that Russia would not interfere and was not taking sides in the US Presidential election and that this for the Russians was a matter of principle. 

When Fareed Zakaria famously misquoted a remark Putin had made about Trump to make it seem like it contradicted this, Putin not only corrected him but – as was obvious to those of us who were physically present in the hall – became very angry.  Putin tries to conceal his anger by cracking jokes, which is why when he is angry it is not so obvious on television. 

Putin then launched into a lengthy explanation of the principle, explaining how Russia – unlike the US – never interferes in the domestic political arrangements – including the elections – of other countries.  He absolutely ruled out Russia interfering in the US election, and said the same about the Brexit referendum which at that point had not yet taken place. 

He also said that if Hillary Clinton was elected President he would strive to work with her, and that he was accustomed to the fact that individuals moderated their opinions after they took office.  He also made it clear that he looked to Hillary Clinton’s husband – ex-President Bill Clinton – to act as a restraining force on her.

Over and above the things that Putin said at SPIEF, something else that was very clear to me from the things I heard at SPIEF is that the Russians expect Hillary Clinton to win the Presidential election.  In that they merely share the common view of most foreign governments.

Given all this it makes no sense for the Russians to arrange a leak which so completely contradicts the publicly declared principles of their foreign policy, and which whilst it might temporarily embarrass Hillary Clinton would be unlikely in the end to stop her.  The one thing it would however be guaranteed to do is make her very angry.  Would the Russians, already anticipating a difficult relationship with Hillary Clinton as President, do something that would make it even more difficult especially if – as Snowden says – the NSA can trace it back to them?

In order to get round these objections some people in the US are saying that Russian intelligence agencies “farm out” operations of this sort in order to preserve “plausible deniability”.  I don’t for a moment believe that.  Would intelligence agencies carrying out secret work really be willing to “farm out” a “dirty tricks” operation in that way? 

The risks of involving outsiders in an operation of that sort where the stakes are so high seem to me so enormous that I can’t imagine them doing it.  Besides they would surely know that Hillary Clinton and the NSA would be unlikely to be fooled by it.

Whilst on such a murky subject certainty is impossible, on balance I think it is very unlikely the Russian authorities were behind the leak. 

By contrast It is highly possible that a Russian private individual or group of individuals might have been behind the leak.  There is a huge pool of people in Russia who have very high mathematical and computer skills and who do not like Hillary Clinton. 

It is by no means implausible that some of them might have hacked the DNC and passed on its emails to Wikileaks.  That might explain the Russian traces that some claim to find in the hack.  However that does not mean Putin or the Russians authorities were involved and personally I doubt that they were. 

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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