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Strzok-gate and the Mueller cover-up

Peter Strzok’s sacking points to Trump Dossier and exposes the true scandal of the 2016 election

Alexander Mercouris

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Almost eighteen months after Obama’s Justice Department and the FBI launched the Russiagate investigation, and seven months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller took the investigation over, the sum total of what it has achieved is as follows:

(1) an indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates which concerns entirely their prior financial dealings, and which makes no reference to the Russiagate collusion allegations;

(2) an indictment for lying to the FBI of George Papadopoulos, the junior volunteer staffer of the Trump campaign, who during the 2016 Presidential election had certain contacts with members of a Moscow based Russian NGO, which he sought to pass off – falsely and unsuccessfully – as more important than they really were, and which also does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations; and

(3) an indictment for lying to the FBI of Michael Flynn arising from his perfectly legitimate and entirely legal contacts with the Russian ambassador after the 2016 Presidential election, which also does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations, and which looks as if it was brought about by an act of entrapment.

Of actual evidence to substantiate the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election Mueller has so far come up with nothing.

Here I wish to say something briefly about the nature of “collusion”.

There is no criminal offence of “collusion” known to US law, which has led some to make the point that Mueller is investigating a crime which does not exist.

There is some force to this point, but it is one which must be heavily qualified:

(1) Though there is no crime of “collusion” in US law, there most certainly is the crime of conspiracy to perform a criminal act.

Should it ever be established that members of the Trump campaign arranged with the Russians for the Russians to hack the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers and to steal the emails from those computers so that they could be published by Wikileaks, then since hacking and theft are serious criminal offences a criminal conspiracy would be established, and it would in that case be the right and proper thing to do to bring criminal charges against those who were involved in it.

This is the central allegation which lies behind the whole Russiagate case, and is the crime which Mueller is supposed to be investigating.

(2) The FBI is not merely a police and law enforcement agency.  It is also the US’s counter-espionage agency.

If there were secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence such as might give rise to genuine concern that the national security of the United States might be compromised – for example because they were intended to swing the US election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump – then the FBI would have a legitimate reason to investigate those contacts even if no actual crimes were committed during them.

Since impeachment is a purely political process and not a legal process, should it ever be established that there were such secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence which might have placed the national security of the United States in jeopardy, then I have no doubt that Congress would say that there were grounds for impeachment even if no criminal offences had been committed during them.

The point is however that eighteen months after the start of the Russiagate investigation no evidence either of criminal acts or of secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence which might have placed the national security of the United States in jeopardy has come to light. 

Specifically:

(1) There is no evidence of a criminal conspiracy by anyone in the Trump campaign and the Russians to hack John Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers in order to steal emails from those computers and to have them published by Wikileaks; and

(2) There is also no evidence of any secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian  intelligence during the election which might have placed the national security of the United States in jeopardy. 

Specifically there is no evidence of any concerted action between the Trump campaign and the Russians to swing the election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.  Such contacts as did take place between the Trump campaign and the Russians were limited and innocuous and had no effect on the outcome of the election.

As I have previously discussed, the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is not such evidence.

If no evidence either of a criminal conspiracy or of inappropriate secret contacts by the Trump campaign and the Russians has been found after eighteen months of intense investigation by the biggest and mightiest national security and intelligence community on the planet, then any reasonable person would conclude that that must be because no such evidence exists. 

Why then is the investigation still continuing?

Some months ago I expressed doubts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would countenance fishing expeditions

It turns out I was wrong.   On any objective assessment it is exactly such fishing expeditions that the Mueller investigation is now engaging in.

How else to explain the strange decision to subpoena Deutsche Bank for information about loans granted by Deutsche Bank to Donald Trump and his businesses?

Deutsche Bank is a German bank not a Russian bank.   To insinuate that the Russians control Deutsche Bank – one of the world’s leading international banks – because Deutsche Bank has had some previous financial dealings with various Russian banks and businesses is quite simply preposterous.  I doubt that there is a single important bank in Germany or Austria of which that could not also be said. 

Yet in the desperation to find some connection between Donald Trump and Russia it is to these absurdities that Mueller is reduced to.

Which again begs the question why?  Why are Mueller and the Justice Department resorting to these increasingly desperate actions in order to prove something which it ought to be obvious by now cannot be proved?

My colleague Alex Christoforou has recently pointed out that the recent indictment of Michael Flynn seems to have been partly intended to shield Mueller from dismissal and to keep his Russiagate investigation alive.

Some time ago I made exactly the same point about the indictments against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and about the indictment against George Papadopoulos. 

Those indictments were issued directly after the Wall Street Journal published an editorial saying that Mueller should resign. 

The indictment against Manafort and Gates looks sloppy and rushed.  Perhaps I am wrong but there has to be at least a suspicion that the indictments were issued in a hurry to still criticism of Mueller of the kind that was now appearing in the Wall Street Journal. 

Presumably the reason the indictment against Flynn was delayed was because his lawyers had just signalled Flynn’s interest in a plea bargain, and it took a few more weeks of negotiating to work that out.

It is the Wall Street Journal editorial which in fact provides the answer to Mueller’s and Rosenstein’s otherwise strange behaviour and to the way that Mueller has conducted the investigation up to now. 

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial says that Mueller’s past as the FBI’s Director means that he is too close to the FBI to take an objective view of its actions. 

In fact the Wall Street Journal was more right than it perhaps realised.  It is now becoming increasingly clear that the FBI’s actions are open to very serious criticism to say the least, and that Mueller is simply not the person who can be trusted to take an objective view of those actions.

Over the course of the 2016 election the FBI cleared Hillary Clinton over her illegal use of a private server to route classified emails whilst she was Secretary of State though it is universally agreed that she broke the law by doing so. 

The FBI does not seem to have even considered investigating Hillary Clinton for possible obstruction of justice after it also became known that she had actually destroyed thousands of her emails which passed through her private server, though that was an obvious thing to do.

It is universally agreed that the FBI’s then Director – Mueller’s friend James Comey – broke protocols by the way he announced that Hillary Clinton had been cleared.

By failing to bring charges against Hillary Clinton the FBI ensured that she would win the Democratic Party’s nomination, and that she not Bernie Sanders would face off against Donald Trump in the election in the autumn.

That is important because though the eventual – completely unexpected – election outcome was that Donald Trump won the election, which Hillary Clinton lost, every opinion poll which I have seen suggests that if the election had been between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump then Bernie Sanders would have won by a landslide.

In other words it was because of the FBI’s actions in the first half of 2016 that Bernie Sanders is not now the President of the United States.

In addition instead of independently investigating the DNC’s claims that the Russians had hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, the FBI simply accepted the opinion of an expert – Crowdstrike – paid for by the DNC, which it is now known was partly funded and was entirely controlled by the Hillary Clinton campaign, that hacks of those computers had actually taken place and that the Russians were the perpetrators. 

As a result Hillary Clinton was able to say during the election that the reason emails which had passed through those computers and which showed her and her campaign in a bad light were being published by Wikileaks was because the Russians had stolen the emails by hacking the computers in order to help Donald Trump.

It is now known that the FBI also met with Christopher Steele, the compiler of the Trump Dossier, who is now known to have been in the pay of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  The first meeting apparently took place in early July 2016, shortly before the Russiagate investigation was launched. 

Whilst there is some confusion about whether the FBI actually paid Steele for his information, it is now known that Steele was in contact with the FBI throughout the election and continued to be so after, and that the FBI gave credence to his work.

Recently it has also come to light that Steele was also directly in touch with Obama’s Justice Department, a fact which was only disclosed recently. 

The best account of this has been provided by Byron York writing for The Washington Examiner

The department’s Bruce Ohr, a career official, served as associate deputy attorney general at the time of the campaign. That placed him just below the deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, who ran the day-to-day operations of the department. In 2016, Ohr’s office was just steps away from Yates, who was later fired for defying President Trump’s initial travel ban executive order and still later became a prominent anti-Trump voice upon leaving the Justice Department.

 Unbeknownst to investigators until recently, Ohr knew Steele and had repeated contacts with Steele when Steele was working on the dossier. Ohr also met after the election with Glenn Simpson, head of Fusion GPS, the opposition research company that was paid by the Clinton campaign to compile the dossier.

Word that Ohr met with Steele and Simpson, first reported by Fox News’ James Rosen and Jake Gibson, was news to some current officials in the Justice Department. Shortly after learning it, they demoted Ohr, taking away his associate deputy attorney general title and moving him full time to another position running the department’s organized crime drug enforcement task forces.

It is also now known that over the course of the election the FBI used information in the Trump Dossier to obtain at least one warrant from the FISA court which made it possible for it to undertake surveillance of persons belonging to the campaign team of Hillary Clinton’s opponent Donald Trump.

 In response to subpoenas issued at the instigation of the Congressman Devin Nunes the FBI has recently admitted that the Trump Dossier cannot be verified

However the FBI and the Justice Department have so far failed to provide in response to these subpoenas information about the precise role of the Trump Dossier in triggering the Russiagate investigation.

 The FBI’s and the Justice Department’s failure to provide this information recently provoked an angry exchange between FBI Director Christopher Wray and Congressman Jim Jordan during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. 

During that hearing Jordan said to Wray the following

Let’s remember a couple of things about the dossier.  The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, which we now know were one and the same, paid the law firm who paid Fusion GPS who paid Christopher Steele who then paid Russians to put together a report that we call a dossier full of all kinds of fake news, National Enquirer garbage and it’s been reported that this dossier was all dressed up by the FBI, taken to the FISA court and presented as a legitimate intelligence document — that it became the basis for a warrant to spy on Americans.

In response Wray refused to say officially whether or not the Trump Dossier played any role in the FBI obtaining the FISA warrants.

This was so even though officials of the FBI – including former FBI Director James Comey – have slipped out in earlier Congressional testimony that it did. 

This is also despite the fact that this information is not classified and ought already to have been provided by the Justice Department and the FBI in response to Congressman Nunes’s subpoenas.

There is now talk of FBI Director Christopher Wray and of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein being held in contempt of Congress because of the failure of the Justice Department and the FBI to comply with Congressman Nunes’s subpoenas.

 During the exchanges between Wray and Jordan at the hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Jordan also had this to say

 Here’s what I think — I think Peter Strozk (sic)… Mr. Super Agent at the FBI, I think he’s the guy who took the application to the FISA court and if that happened, if this happened, if you have the FBI working with a campaign, the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research, dressing it all up and turning it into an intelligence document so they can take it to the FISA court so they can spy on the other campaign, if that happened, that is as wrong as it gets

Peter Strzok is the senior FBI official who is now known to have had a leading role in both the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private server and in the Russiagate investigation.  

Strzok is now also known to have been the person who changed the wording in Comey’s statement clearing Hillary Clinton for her misuse of her private email server to say that Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless'” as opposed to “grossly negligent”.

Strzok – who was the FBI’s deputy director for counter-intelligence – is now also known to have been the person who signed the document which launched the Russiagate investigation in July 2016.

Fox News has reported that Strzok was also the person who supervised the FBI’s questioning of Michael Flynn.  It is not clear whether this covers the FBI’s interview with Flynn on 24th January 2017 during which Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.  However it is likely that it does. 

If so then this is potentially important given that it was Flynn’s lying to the FBI during this interview which gave rise to the case against him to which he has now pleaded guilty.  

It is potentially even more important given the strong indications that Flynn’s interview with the FBI on 24th January 2017 was a set-up intended to entrap him by tricking him into lying to the FBI.

As the FBI’s deputy director of counter-intelligence it is also highly likely that it was Strozk who was the official within the FBI who supervised the FBI’s contacts with Christopher Steele, and who would have been the official within the FBI who was provided by Steele with the Trump Dossier and who would have made the first assessment of the Trump Dossier.

Recently it has been disclosed that Special Counsel Mueller sacked Strzok from the Russiagate investigation supposedly after it was discovered that Strzok had been sending anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton messages to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair. 

These messages were sent by Strzok to his lover during the election, but apparently only came to light in July this year, when Mueller supposedly sacked Strzok because of them.

It seems that since then Strzok has been working in the FBI’s human resources department, an astonishing demotion for the FBI’s former deputy director for counter-intelligence who was apparently previously considered the FBI’s top expert on Russia.

Some people have questioned whether the sending of the messages could possibly be the true reason why Strzok was sacked.  My colleague Alex Christoforou has reported on some of the bafflement that this extraordinary sacking and demotion has caused.

Business Insider reports the anguished comments of former FBI officials incredulous that Strzok could have been sacked for such a trivial reason.  Here is what Business Insider reports one ex FBI official Mark Rossini as having said

It would be literally impossible for one human being to have the power to change or manipulate evidence or intelligence according to their own political preferences.  FBI agents, like anyone else, are human beings. We are allowed to have our political beliefs. If anything, the overwhelming majority of agents are conservative Republicans.

This is obviously right.  Though the ex-FBI officials questioned by Business Insider are clearly supporters of Strzok and critics of Donald Trump, the same point has been made from the other side of the political divide by Congressman Jim Jordan 

If you get kicked off the Mueller team for being anti-Trump, there wouldn’t be anybody left on the Mueller team. There has to be more

Adding to the mystery about Strzok’s sacking is why the FBI took five months to confirm it. 

Mueller apparently sacked Strzok from the Russiagate investigation in July and it was apparently then that Strzok was simultaneously sacked from his previous post of deputy director for counter-espionage and transferred to human resources.  The FBI has however only disclosed his sacking now, five months later and only in response to demands for information from Congressional investigators.

There is in fact an obvious explanation for Strzok’s sacking and the strange circumstances surrounding it, and I am sure that it is the one which Congressman Jordan had in mind during his angry exchanges with FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Recently the FBI has admitted to Congress that it has failed to verify the Trump Dossier. 

I suspect that Congressman Jordan believes that the true reason why Strzok was sacked is that Strzok’s credibility had become so tied to the Trump Dossier that when its credibility finally collapsed over the course of the summer when the FBI finally realised that it could not be verified Strzok’s credibility collapsed with it. 

If so then I am sure that Congressman Jordan is right.

We now know from a variety of sources but first and foremost from the testimony to Congress of Carter Page that the Trump Dossier provided the frame narrative for the Russiagate investigation until just a few months ago.

We also know that the Trump Dossier was included in an appendix to the January ODNI report about supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 election which was shown by the US intelligence chiefs to President elect Trump during their stormy meeting with him on 8th January 2017.

The fact that the Trump Dossier was included in an appendix to the January ODNI report shows  that at the start of this year the top officials of the FBI and of the US intelligence community  – Comey, Clapper, Brennan and the rest – believed in its truth. 

The June 2017 article in the Washington Post (discussed by me here) also all but confirms that it was the Trump Dossier that provided the information which the CIA sent to President Obama in August 2016 which supposedly ‘proved’ that the Russians were interfering in the election.

As the BBC has pointed out, it was also the Trump Dossier which Congressman Adam Schiff – the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Community, who appears to be very close to some of the FBI investigators involved in the Russiagate case – as well as the FBI’s Russiagate investigators were using as the narrative frame when questioning witnesses about their supposed role in Russiagate.

These facts make it highly likely that it was indeed the Trump Dossier which provided the information which the FBI used to obtain all the surveillance warrants the FBI obtained from the FISA court during the 2016 election and afterwards.

Strzok’s position as the FBI’s deputy director for counter-intelligence makes it highly likely that he was the key official within the FBI who decided that the Trump Dossier should be given credence, whilst his known actions during the Hillary Clinton private server investigation and during the Russiagate investigation make it highly likely that it was he who was the official within the FBI who sought and obtained the FISA warrants.

Given Strzok’s central role in the Russiagate investigation going back all the way to its start in July 2016, there also has to be a possibility that it was Strzok who was behind many of the leaks coming from the investigation which so destabilised the Trump administration at the start of the year.

This once again points to the true scandal of the 2016 election. 

On the strength of a fake Dossier paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community carried out surveillance during the election of US citizens who were members of the campaign team of Hillary Clinton’s opponent Donald Trump.

Given the hugely embarrassing implications of this for the FBI, it is completely understandable why Strzok, if he was the person who was ultimately responsible for this debacle – as he very likely was – and if he was responsible for some of the leaks – as he very likely also was – was sacked and exiled to human resources when it was finally realised that the Trump Dossier upon which all the FBI’s actions were based could not be verified.

It would also explain why the FBI sought to keep Strzok’s sacking secret, so that it was only disclosed five months after it happened and then only in response to questions from Congressional investigators, with a cover story about inappropriate anti-Trump messages being spread about in order to explain it.

This surely is also the reason why in defiance both of evidence and logic the Russiagate investigation continues. 

Given the debacle the Justice Department, the FBI and the US intelligence community are facing, it is completely understandable why they should want to keep the Russiagate investigation alive in order to draw attention away from their own activities.

Put in this way it appears that it is Robert Mueller’s investigation which is the cover-up, and the surveillance which is the wrongdoing that the cover up is trying to excuse or conceal, which is what I said was the case nine months ago in March.

Congressman Jordan has again recently called for a second Special Counsel to be appointed

When the suggestion of appointing a second Special Counsel was first floated last month the suggestion was that the focus of the second Special Counsel’s investigation would be the Uranium One affair.

That always struck me as misconceived not because there may not be things to investigate in the Uranium One case but because the focus of any new investigation should be what happened during the 2016 election, not what happened during the Uranium one case.

Congressman Jordan has now correctly identified the surveillance of US citizens by the US national security bureaucracy during the election as the primary focus of the proposed investigation to be conducted by the second Special Counsel.

In truth there should be no second Special Counsel.  Since there is no Russiagate collusion to investigate the Russiagate investigation – ie. the investigation headed by Mueller – should be wound up. 

There should be only one Special Counsel tasked with looking into what is the real scandal of the 2016 election: the surveillance of US citizens carried out during the election by the US national security bureaucracy on the basis of the Trump Dossier.

I remain intensely skeptical that this will happen.  However the fact that some members of Congress such as Congressman Nunes (recently cleared of charges that he acted inappropriately by disclosing details of the surveillance back in March) and Congressman Jordan are starting to demand it is a hopeful sign.  

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Bruce Ohr Texts, Emails Reveal Steele’s Deep Ties to Obama DOJ, FBI

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application.

The Duran

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Authored by Sara Carter via SaraCarter.com:


A trove of emails and handwritten notes from Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr exposes the continuous contact and communication between the DOJ attorney and anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, according to notes and documents obtained by SaraACarter.com. The emails and notes were written between 2016 and 2017.

The notes and emails also reveal that Ohr was in communication with Glenn Simpson, the founder of the embattled research firm Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC to hire Steele.

In one of Ohr’s handwritten notes listed as “Law enforcement Sensitive” from May 10, 2017, he writes “Call with Chris,” referencing Steele. He notes that Steele is “very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed.” This call occurred months after FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee and revealed for the first time that the FBI had an open counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged collusion with Russia.

Steele is also extremely concerned about a letter sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Comey for information on his involvement with Steele. Grassley sent 12 questions to Comey regarding the bureau and Steele’s relationship and wanted all information on any agreements they had during the investigation into alleged Russia-Trump collusion. Grassley also wanted to know if the FBI ever verified any of the information in Steele’s reports.

In Ohr’s notes from May 10, 2017, he goes onto write that Steele is concerned about a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, writing:

“Asked them 3 questions:

  1. What info (information) did you give to the U.S. govt (government)?
  2. What was the scope of yr (your) investigation?
  3. Do you have any other info that would assist in our question?”

SaraACarter.com first reported this week text messages between Steele and Ohr, revealing that Steele was anxious about Comey’s testimony and was hoping that “important firewalls will hold” when Comey testified.

Those text messages in March 2017 were shared only two days before Comey testified to lawmakers.

The House Intelligence Committee revealed in their Russia report earlier this year that Steele–who was working for the FBI as a Confidential Human Source (CHS)–had shopped his dossier to numerous news outlets in the summer of 2016.  According to the report, the FBI terminated Steele after discovering that he was leaking to news outlets, breaking a cardinal rule by the bureau to not reveal ongoing investigations and information to the media.

However, there is growing concern that the FBI was well aware that Steele was in contact with media outlets about his dossier before the FBI applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its first warrant in the fall of 2016 to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign volunteer advisor, Carter Page.

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application…

“There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application and that question needs to be resolved,” said a congressional official with knowledge of the investigation.

The documents from March 2017, reveal how concerned Steele is with Grassley’s committee and the letter from the senator’s office seeking answers from Steele on the dossier.

In June 2017, Steele tells Ohr,  “We are frustrated with how long this reengagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking.  Anything you can do to accelerate the process would be much appreciated.  There are some new, perishable, operational opportunities which we do not want to miss out on.”

In October 2017, Steele notes that he is concerned about the stories in the media about the bureau delivering information to Congress “about my work and relationship with them.  Very concerned about this.  People’s lives may be endangered.”

And in November 2017, Steele, who is trying to engage with Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel, writes to Ohr saying, “we were wondering if there was any response to the questions I raised last week.”

Ohr responds by saying, “I have passed on the questions (apparently to the special counsel) but haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

Steele then says,  “I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC (special counsel) colleagues on the issues you kindly put to them from me.  We have heard nothing from them either.  To say this is disappointing would be an understatement!  Certain people have been willing to risk everything to engage with them in an effort to help them reach the truth.  Also, we remain in the dark as to what work has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work.”

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College offer courses on ‘queering’ children, the Bible

US Colleges are teaching students to “queer” Christianity and religion in general.

Campus Reform

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Authored by Celine Ryan via Campus Reform:


This school year, students across the country will attend courses on “Queering the Bible,” “Queering Childhood,” “Queering Theology,” and similar topics.

Students at Pomona College in Claremont, California, for instance, will have the opportunity to enroll in a brand new course titled “Queering Childhood,” which will examine “the figure of the Child and how this figuration is used by politics, law, and medicine to justify continued cultural investment in reproductive heteronormativity and productive ablebodiedness.”

The course description explains that students will examine the childhoods of “queer and crip children,” as well as “childhoods against which the figure of the Child is articulated,” with reference to work related to “gender studies, childhood studies, disability studies, and queer theory.”

Colleges are not only attempting to “queer” childhood, they are teaching students to “queer” Christianity and religion in general, as well.

This fall, Eugene Lang College will offer a course titled “Queering and Decolonizing Theology,” where students will explore topics such as “the sexual ethics and ritualization found in the S&M community,” and “transgender Christs.”

“Christian theology is often depicted as a violent colonial force standing in particular opposition to LGBTQI lives. However, over the last 30 years people of faith, activists, and theorists alike have rediscovered what is queer within Christianity, uncovered what is religious within secular queer communities, and used postcolonial theory to decolonize lived religious practices and theologies,” the course description asserts.

According to the college, the course “explores secular philosophies of queer and postcolonial theory as well as their critical and constructive application to religion,” focusing on topics like “the sexual ethics and ritualization found in the S&M community, transgender Christs, and the mestiza (or mixed) cultures of Latin America.”

Similarly, students at Harvard Divinity School will be able to attend a course on “Queer Theologies, Queer Religions” this fall, which will explore the “project of ‘queer theology’” and how it relates to “larger aspirations of queer religion or spirituality in America.”

In this course, students will begin by “sampling the efforts to revise traditional Christian theologies in order to accept or affirm same-sex loves.” After that, they will move on to examining “forgotten possibilities in historical engagements between advocates of homosexual rights and established religious bodies (chiefly churches and synagogues).”

“We will consider the boundaries between queer theology and queer theory or between it and other political theologies,” the course description explains.  “We will test the boundaries of ‘Christianity’ while considering the varied forms of queer religion outside familiar religious institutions—in spirituality or spiritualism, in magic or neo-paganism, in erotic asceticism.”

Swarthmore College students, meanwhile, will survey “queer and trans* readings of biblical texts” during a course titled “Queering the Bible,” which will introduce them to “the complexity of constructions of sex, gender, and identity in one of the most influential literary works produced in ancient times.”

“By reading the Bible with the methods of queer and trans* theoretical approaches,” the description promises, “this class destabilizes long held assumptions about what the [B]ible—and religion—says about gender and sexuality.”

The University of San Francisco is also getting into the act with a course on “Christian Feminist Theology” that aims to “develop an understanding of how feminist scholarship provides one fruitful means towards reappropriation of central Christian insights about God.”

The course will facilitate “critical reflection upon the experience of God, and insights from feminist thought,” according to the description.

In a similar vein, students enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s “Gender, Sexuality, and Religion” course “will read religion through a variety of feminist and queer theory lenses- exploring the key characteristics of diverse feminist analyses of religion, as well as limits of specific feminist approaches.”

“In this course we will learn about women’s and men’s rituals, social roles, and mythologies in specific religious traditions,” the course description explains. “We will also look at the central significance of gender to the field of religious studies generally, with particular attention to non-binary genders.”

To that end, the course will address questions such as “How important are the gender differences in deciding social roles, ritual activities, and spiritual vocations?” and “How does gender intersect with nationality, language, and politics?”

Campus Reform reached out to each of the schools mentioned in this report for additional comment on the courses in question, and is currently awaiting responses. This article will be updated if and when any of them provide a statement.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @celinedryan

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‘Too Big to Fail’: Russia-gate One Year After VIPS Showed a Leak, Not a Hack

One year later, the VIPS memo contending that the DNC emails were leaked and not hacked has yet to be successfully challenged. Meanwhile, the country sinks deeper into the morass of the new McCarthyism.

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Authored by Patrick Lawrence via ConsortiumNews.com:


A year has passed since highly credentialed intelligence professionals produced the first hard evidence that allegations of mail theft and other crimes attributed to Russia rested on purposeful falsification and subterfuge. The initial reaction to these revelations—a firestorm of frantic denial—augured ill, and the time since has fulfilled one’s worst expectations. One year later we live within an institutionalized proscription of proven reality. Our discourse consists of a series of fence posts and taboos. By any detached measure, this lands us in deep, serious trouble. The sprawl of what we call “Russia-gate” now brings our republic and its institutions to a moment of great peril—the gravest since the McCarthy years and possibly since the Civil War. No, I do not consider this hyperbole.

Much has happened since Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published its report on intrusions into the Democratic Party’s mail servers on Consortium News on July 24 last year. Parts of the intelligence apparatus—by no means all or even most of it—have issued official “assessments” of Russian culpability. Media have produced countless multi-part “investigations,” “special reports,” and what-have-yous that amount to an orgy of faulty syllogisms. Robert Mueller’s special investigation has issued two sets of indictments that, on scrutiny, prove as wanting in evidence as the notoriously flimsy intelligence “assessment” of January 6, 2017.

Indictments are not evidence and do not need to contain evidence. That is supposed to come out at trial, which is veryunlikely to ever happen. Nevertheless, the corporate media has treated the indictments as convictions.

Numerous sets of sanctions against Russia, individual Russians, and Russian entities have been imposed on the basis of this great conjuring of assumption and presumption. The latest came last week, when the Trump administration announced measures in response to the alleged attempt to murder Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former double agent and his daughter, in England last March. No evidence proving responsibility in the Skripal case has yet been produced. This amounts to our new standard. It prompted a reader with whom I am in regular contact to ask, “How far will we allow our government to escalate against others without proof of anything?”

This is a very good question.

There have been many attempts to discredit VIPS50 as the group’s document is called. There has been much amateurish journalism, false reporting, misrepresentation, distortion, misquotation, and omission. We have been treated to much shoddy science, attempts at character assassination, a great deal of base name-calling, and much else. Russia is routinely advanced as the greatest threat to democracy Americans now face. Is there any denying that we live amid an induced hysteria now comparable to the “Red under every bed” period of the 1950s?

None of this has altered the basic case. VIPS and forensic scientists working with it have continued their investigations. New facts, some of which alter conclusions drawn last year, have come to light, and these are to be addressed. But the basic evidence that Russia-gate is a false narrative concocted by various constituents of national power stands, difficult as this is to discern. Scrape back all that is ethically unacceptable and unscrupulously conveyed into the public sphere and you find that nothing has changed: No one “hacked” the Democratic party’s mail in the summer of 2016. It was leaked locally. From what one can make out, it was done to expose the party leadership’s corrupt efforts to sink Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign to win the Democratic nomination.

Cover of 2001 book that looks back on the earlier period of anti-Russia hysteria.

But in another, very profound way, more has changed since VIPS50 was published than one could have imagined a year ago. American discourse has descended to a dangerous level of irrationality. The most ordinary standards of evidentiary procedure are forgone. Many of our key institutions—the foreign policy apparatus, the media, key intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, the political leadership—are now extravagantly committed to a narrative none appears able to control. The risk of self-inflicted damage these institutions assume, should the truth of the Russia-gate events emerge—as one day it surely will—is nearly incalculable. This is what inspires my McCarthy and Civil War references. Russia-gate, in a phrase, has become too big to fail.

This column is an attack on no one. However it may be read, it is not intended as another round of vituperative argument adding to the din and fog we already suffer daily. No shred of ideology informs it. I write a lament—this for all we have done to ourselves and our institutions this past year, and to the prospect of an orderly world, and for all that must somehow be done to repair the damage once enough of us indeed recognize what has been done.

New VIPS Findings

Binney: Dares anyone to prove remote speeds.

The forensic scientists working with VIPS continued their research and experiments after VIPS50 was published. So have key members of the VIPS group, notably William Binney, the National Security Agency’s former technical director for global analysis and designer of programs the agency still uses to monitor internet traffic. Such work continues as we speak, indeed. This was always the intent: “Evidence to date” was the premise of VIPS50. Over the past year there have been confirmations of the original thesis and some surprises that alter secondary aspects of it. Let us look at the most significant of these findings.

At the time I reported on the findings of VIPS and associated forensic scientists, that the most fundamental evidence that the events of summer 2016 constituted a leak, not a hack, was the transfer rate—the speed at which data was copied. The speed proven then was an average of 22.7 megabytes per second. That speed matches what is standard when someone with physical access uses an external storage device to copy data from a computer or server and is much faster than a remote hack, reliant on communications topology available at the time, could achieve.

Binney experimented into the autumn. By mid-autumn he had tested several routes—from East Coast locations to cities in eastern Europe, from New Jersey to London. The fastest internet transfer speed achieved, during the New Jersey–to–Britain test, was 12.0 megabytes of data per second. Since this time it has emerged from G-2.0’s metadata that the detected average speed—the 22.7 megabytes per second—included peak speeds that ran as high as 49.1 megabytes per second, impossible over the internet. “You’d need a dedicated, leased, 400–megabit line all the way to Russia to achieve that result,” Binney said in a recent interview.

To my knowledge, no one with an understanding of the science involved, including various former skeptics, any longer questions the validity of the specific finding based on the observed transfer rate. That remains the bedrock evidence of the case VIPS and others advance without qualification. No one—including the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA—has come out against this finding,” Binney said Monday. “Anyone who says the speed we demonstrated can be achieved remotely, our position is ‘Let’s see it. We’ll help any way we can.’ There hasn’t been anyone yet.”

There is also the question of where and when leaks were executed. Research into this has turned out differently.

Evidence last year, based on analysis of the available metadata, showed that the copy operation date-stamped July 5, 2016, took place in the Eastern U.S. time zone. But Forensicator, one of the chief forensic investigators working on the mail-theft case anonymously, published evidence in May showing that while there was activity in the Eastern zone at the time of that copy, there was also a copy operation in the Pacific time zone, where clocks run three hours earlier that EST. In an earlier publication he had also reported activity in the Central time zone.

Plainly, more was awaiting discovery as to the when and where of the copy operations. The identity of Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker but which the latest Mueller indictment claims is a construct of the GRU, Russian military intelligence, has never been proven. The question is what G–2.0 did with or to the data in question. It turns out that both more, and less, is known about G–2.0 than was thought to have been previously demonstrated. This work has been completed only recently. It was done by Binney in collaboration with Duncan Campbell, a British journalist who has followed the Russia-gate question closely.

Peak Speed Established

Binney visited Campbell in Brighton, England, early this past spring. They examined all the metadata associated with the files G–2.0 has made public. They looked at the number of files, the size of each, and the time stamps at the end of each. It was at this time that Binney and Campbell established the peak transfer rate at 49.1 megabytes per second.

But they discovered something else of significance, too. At some point G–2.0 had merged two sets of data, one dated July 5, 2016, which had been known, and another dated the following September 1, which had not been known. In essence, Campbell reverse-engineered G–2.0’s work: He took the sets of data G–2.0 presented as two and combined them back into one. “G–2.0 used an algorithm to make a downloaded file look like two files,” Binney explained. “Those two shuffled back together like a deck of cards.”

G–2.0 then took another step. Running another algorithm, he changed all the dates on all the files. With yet another algorithm, he changed the hours stamped on each file. These are called “range changes” among the professionals. The conclusion was then obvious: G–2.0 is a fabrication and a fabricator. Forensicator had already proven that the G–2.0 entity had inserted Russian “fingerprints” into the document known as the “Trump Opposition Report,” which G-2.0 had published on June 15, 2016. It is clear that no firm conclusions can be drawn at this point as to when or where G–2.0 did what he did.

“Now you need to prove everything you might think about him,” Binney told me. “We have no way of knowing anything about him or what he has done, apart from manipulating the files. We detected activity in the Eastern time zone. Now we have to ask again, ‘Which time zone?’ The West Coast copy operation [discovered by Forensicator] has to be proven. All the data has been manipulated. It’s a fabrication.”

This throws various things into question. The conclusions initially drawn on time and location in VIPS50 are now subject to these recent discoveries. “In retrospect, giving ‘equal importance’ status to data pertaining to the locale was mistaken,” Ray McGovern, a prominent VIPS member, wrote in a recent note. “The key finding on transfer speed always dwarfed it in importance.”

The indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers announced in mid–July by Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney-general, also come into question. They rest in considerable part on evidence derived from G–2.0 and DCLeaks, another online persona. How credible are those indictments in view of what is now known about G–2.0?

Binney told me: “Once we proved G–2.0 is a fabrication and a manipulator, the timing and location questions couldn’t be answered but really didn’t matter. I don’t right now see a way of absolutely proving either time or location. But this doesn’t change anything. We know what we know: The intrusion into the Democratic National Committee mail was a local download—wherever ‘local’ is.” That doesn’t change. As to Rosenstein, he’ll have a lot to prove.”

What Role does Evidence Play?

Rosenstein at the Justice Department on July 13 announcing indictments against 12 GRU agents. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rosenstein’s predicament—and there is no indication he understands it as one—brings us to an essential problem: What is the place of evidence in American public discourse? Of rational exchange?

The questions are germane far beyond the Russia-gate phenomenon, but it is there that answers are most urgent. What is implicit in the Rosenstein indictments has been evident everywhere in our public sphere for a year or more: Make a presumption supported by circumstantial evidence or none and build other presumptions upon it until a false narrative is constructed. The press has deployed this device for as long as I have been a practitioner: “Might” or “could” or “possibly” becomes “perhaps,” “probably” and “almost certainly,” and then moves on to unqualified fact in the course of, maybe, several weeks. Now this is how our most basic institutions—not least agencies of the Justice Department—routinely operate.

This is what I mean when I refer to ours as a republic in peril.

There is the argument that certain things have been uncovered over the past year, and these are enough to conclude that Russia plots to undermine our democracy. I refer to the small number of Facebook advertisements attributed to Russians, to strings of Twitter messages, to various phishing exercises that occur thousands of times a day the world over. To be clear, I am no more satisfied with the evidence of Russian involvement in these cases than I am with the evidence in any other aspect of the Russia-gate case. But for the sake of argument, let us say it is all true.

Does this line up with the Russophobic hysteria—not too strong a term—that envelops us? Does this explain the astonishing investments our public institutions, the press, and leading political parties have made in advancing this hysteria as they did a variant of in the 1950s?

As global politics go, some serious thought should be given to a reality we have created all by ourselves: It is now likely that America has built a new Cold War division with Russia that will prove permanent for the next 20 to 30 years. All this because of some Facebook ads and Twitter threads of unproven origin? Am I the only one who sees a weird and worrisome gap between what we are intent on believing—as against thinking or knowing—and the consequences of these beliefs?

There was an orthodoxy abroad many centuries ago called Fideism. In the simplest terms, it means the privileging of faith and belief over reason. It was the enemy of individual conscience, among much else. Fideism has deep roots, but it was well around in the 16th century, when Montaigne and others had to navigate its many dangers. Closer to our time, William James landed a variant on American shores with an 1896 address called “The Will to Believe.” Bertrand Russell countered this line of thinking a couple of decades later with “Free Thought and Official Propaganda,” a lecture whose title I will let speak for itself. Twenty years ago, none other than Pope John Paul II warned of a resurgence of Fideism. It is still around, in short.

Do we suffer from it? A variant of it, I would say, if not precisely in name. There seems to be a givenness to it in the American character. I think we are staring into a 21st century rendition of it.

To doubt the hollowed-out myth of American innocence is a grave sin against the faith. It is now unpatriotic to question the Russia-gate narrative despite the absence of evidence to support it. Informal censorship of differing perspectives is perfectly routine. It is now considered treasonous to question the word of intelligence agencies and the officials who lead them despite long records of deceit. Do we forget that it was only 15 years ago that these same institutions and people deceived us into an invasion of Iraq the consequences of which still persist?

This was the question Craig Murray, the former British diplomat (who has vital information on the DNC mail theft but who has never been interviewed by American investigators) posed a few weeks ago. Eugene Robinson gave a good-enough reply in a Washington Post opinion piece shortly afterward: “God Bless the Deep State,” the headline read.

How we got here deserves a work of social psychology, and I hope someone takes up the task. Understanding our path into our self-created crisis seems to me the first step to finding our way out of it.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author, and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is www.patricklawrence.us. Support his work via www.patreon.com/thefloutist.

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