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The real significance of the ODNI report on “Russia’s election interfering”

I have to confess that my first reaction was to simply ignore this report as an irrelevant load of nonsense.

The Saker

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Published with the permission of the author. First appeared on The Saker

Then I listed to a Ukrainian blogger, Anatoli Sharii, making fun of this report for over 10 minutes.  Listening to him my first reaction was “can’t be – Sharii is in overkill mode”. But then Sharii began quoting the report at length and I simply could not believe my eyes (I was reading the original English text which Sharii had translated into Russian): every word Sharii said was true.

That’s when I decided to download this document and read it. Here it is embedded for you to read.  Please do read the full text.  It is absolutely amazing:

Before we go into the details, I also recommend that you go through the following two examples of how the US corporate media “helpfully” provided their readers with a “guide” to better understand/interpret this report:

CNN: 10 most damning findings from report on Russian election interference

VOX: The key findings from the US intelligence report on the Russia hack, decoded

Again, even if it is painful, I recommend that you read the full text of the “guides” provided by these media outlets.

Now let’s turn to the contents.

First, remember what the stated goal of this report was: to convince President-Elect Donald Trump that the Russians had actively interfered in the US Presidential elections.  Since Donald Trump openly and repeatedly expressed his deepest skepticism about this entire issue, this report is the best the Neocons got to try to make him change his mind.

Second, there is this key sentence in the first page of the report: “while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.”

Translated in plain English this means this: “while we cannot tell you exactly how we know what we know, lest the bad guys find out about a super-secret intelligence gathering methods, we promise you that the conclusions made public today are supported by our research.”  In other words, while “sources and methods” are kept secret, the conclusions made public do faithfully summarize our findings.

In even simpler words we could say “our conclusions are exhaustive, there are no other findings kept secret, only our methods and means have been classified”.  Basically this means that, this is all the Neocons got.

So what does the report say:

  1. The Russians were critical of the US democracy process (page ii)
  2. Putin & Co preferred Trump over Clinton (page ii)
  3. The Russian media (state and private) was critical of Clinton (page ii)
  4. The Russian military intelligence agency GRU is behind well know hackers (page ii and iii)
  5. The Russians obtained access to US electoral boards but that did not affect the vote count (page iii)
  6. The Russians will use that experience in the future against US allies (page iii)

That’s it.  Seriously.  That’s all they got.  The rest of the report is just a kind of vague discussion filled with “we assess”, “we believe” and other such “estimative language” (explained on page 13 of the report).  The most amazing thing is that in the 25 pages of the report there is not ONE SINGLE ELEMENT OF PROOF.  Absolutely nothing.

What we have are what I can only call “political complaints” (points 1 through 3 above) and totally unsubstantiated allegation of illegal monitoring of various US servers/networks/computers.  And that, my friends, is absolutely stunning.  Why? Because in the first instance the US intel agencies are complaining that the Russians are using their God given right to express their opinions and preferences and while in the second instance the US complains that Russia is doing exactly that which the biggest US intel agency – the NSA – has been officially (and secretively) created to do: monitor others.

About half the report is basically a long, paranoid rant about how effective RT and Sputnik are and how popular they have become in the West.  Seriously, they are trying to convince Trump that the Russians are bad bad bad by saying that RT has good talkshows!  This simply blows my mind.

As for whether the GRU is in any way linked to Guccifer or DCLeaks.com – this is plain laughable and they might as well claim that the Martian intelligence services are linked to Wikileaks or that Russian time-travel machines were involved in the assassination of JFK.  Frankly, this is as lame as it is pathetic.

I don’t know what Trump was thinking when he listened to this load of bovine excreta, but I know that had I been in his position I would have literally kicked the folks presenting this report down the stairs of my house and that I would have immediately fired all the persons and offices linked to the drafting of this text.  Why?

Because as somebody who wrote analytical reports himself I know that this report is so bad and vague that it would have been unacceptable even coming from a first year junior analyst, nevermind top intelligence officials.  Second, because this report contains absolutely no actionable intelligence whatsoever.  So the Russian don’t like Hillary and they say so.  What’s the big deal?

Hillary was the most incompetent and russophobic Secretary of State in US history and had she been elected the risks of thermonuclear war would have been immense.  Does it really surprise anybody that most Russians (including yours truly) absolutely hate, despise and fear her?

What is Trump suppose to do now: call Putin and tell him “Vladimir, please tell RT not to criticize US public figures?!”.  And what was Trump supposed to answer if Putin replied to him “Donald, the USA has been deeply interfering inside Russia, you ran our country in the 1990s, you rigged out elections, your snipers shot our people from the roof of your embassy in 1993 and your media has been demonizing me personally for years now – and you want me to tone down RT?!”.

The good news is that Trump did the right thing: he ridiculed this absolutely laughable report and reiterated his desire for a good relationship with Russia:

However, this should not be the end of the story.  Not only is this report a botched and pathetic attempt at serving the narrow political interests of the Neocons, it is also am immense stain on the already battered reputation of the US intelligence community. We already had Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, we already had the zig-zaging nonsense about the Iranian military nuclear program, and now we have this Kindergarten level direct interference in internal US politics.

If the USA was some kind of tiny and irrelevant country like, say, Estonia, that would be no big deal.  But when the US tax payer spends many billions to fund not one, not two or three, but 16 intelligence agencies and all they can produce is this kind of total crap, this is a problem.  A problem made worse by the fact that this kind of “intelligence” is what the President will use to have to make critical decisions, including the one to go to war or even to use nuclear weapons.

So funny as this all is, this is also scary.  It appears that the US intelligence community has been so totally politicized that it is unable to fulfill its most important task: inform US decision makers.

Yet again I come to the same conclusion: Trump needs to crack down hard, very hard, on the US intelligence community, especially the CIA.  The entire community must be reformed and dramatically reduced in size.  In intelligence matters, bigger is not better, and a bloated immense intelligence community of 16 agencies is something not a single country in history has every tried.  This is not only a total waste of resources, this is outright dangerous.

For years now the Russian have been complaining about what they politely called the “lack of professionalism” of their US colleagues.  No doubt that now they will openly begin to deplore the “lack of professionalism” of the US intelligence services.  Why?  Because Russia’s security very much depends on the US intelligence community truthfully and competently reporting about Russia to the US President.

A competent US intel community would tell the President that Russia is no threat whatsoever and that working with Russia on the basis of healthy self-interest, basic common sense and mutual respect would be in the interest of both countries.  But right now the US intel community is only making matters worse, and that harms both the USA and Russia.

Trump should appoint somebody at the head of the FBI with “a cold head, a burning heart and clean hands” (to borrow the expression of Felix Derzhinskii) and order a massive crack-down on Congress, the US media and the US intelligence community.  Just like Putin did it in Russia, and how the US dealt with the likes of Al Capone, he can probably get most of them on charges of corruption, obstruction of justice, fraud, abuse of power, criminal conspiracy to defraud, etc. Congress (which always felt above the law) and the intel community (which uses secrecy to hide corruption) should be especially vulnerable to such tactics.

For Trump and, I would argue, for the USA as a country, it is vital to purge the top levels of power from such incompetent and dishonorable clowns.  Besides, they will not leave Trump alone nor will they give him a fair chance to prove himself.  And the Neocons cannot be appeased, they always want more.  Unless Trump takes immediate action against them as soon as he enters the White House his Presidency will be doomed, as will the future of the USA.

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Trump witch hunt dots connected: CNN to Steele to John McCain (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss documents released which show that Christopher Steele admitted to using posts by ‘random individuals’ on the CNN community website ‘iReport’ in order to back up his fabricated Trump dossier.

President Trump took note of Steele’s use of CNN citizen journalist posts, in a twitter tirade that blasted the British ex-spy for running with unverified community generated content from a now now-defunct ‘iReports’ website as part of his research.

Trump the proceeded to rip into late neocon Arizona Senator John McCain, tweeting that it was “just proven in court papers” that “last in his class” McCain sent the Steele’s dossier to media outlets in the hopes that they would print it prior to the 2016 US election.

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Via The Daily Caller

A federal court unsealed 43 pages Thursday of a deposition that former British spy Christopher Steele gave as part of a lawsuit over his infamous anti-Trump dossier.

To the disappointment of many observers, the full deposition was not unsealed in Thursday’s motion. Instead, portions of Steele’s interview, which he gave in London on July 13, 2018, were unsealed in separate court filings submitted in the lawsuit.

Steele’s full deposition totaled 145 pages. The portions published Thursday focus mainly on questions about the dossier’s claims about Aleksej Gubarev, a tech executive who Steele alleges took part in the hacking of Democrats’ computer systems.

Gubarev has vehemently denied the claim and sued Steele and BuzzFeed News, which published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, who handled the lawsuit, ordered a slew of previously sealed documents to be made public Thursday. Ungaro dismissed the lawsuit on Dec. 19 but did not weigh in on whether the dossier’s claims about Gubarev were accurate.

It is unclear whether Steele’s entire deposition will be released. A source familiar with Steele’s interview tempered expectations of any bombshells in the document, saying that Steele avoided going into detail about his efforts to create the dossier and his sources.

A deposition given by former State Department official David Kramer was perhaps the most enlightening document contained in the dump.

Kramer, a longtime associate of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, was BuzzFeed’s source for the dossier. Kramer shared the dossier with at least 11 other reporters, including CNN’s Carl Bernstein. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Gave Dossier To A Dozen Reporters)

Kramer obtained the dossier in late November 2016 after visiting Steele in London. Steele acknowledged that Kramer and McCain were picked as conduits to pass the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey. McCain met with Comey on Dec. 9, 2016 and provided all of the dossier’s memos that had been written up to that point.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” Kramer said in the deposition when asked why Steele and his business partners at Fusion GPS wanted McCain to meet with Comey.

Via Washington Examiner

Former British spy Christopher Steele admitted that he relied on an unverified report on a CNN website for part of the “Trump dossier,” which was used as a basis for the FBI’s investigation into Trump.

According to deposition transcripts released this week, Steele said last year he used a 2009 report he found on CNN’s iReport website and said he wasn’t aware that submissions to that site are posted by members of the public and are not checked for accuracy.

web archive from July 29, 2009 shows that CNN described the site in this manner: “iReport.com is a user-generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked, or screened before they post.”

In the dossier, Steele, a Cambridge-educated former MI6 officer, wrote about extensive allegations against Donald Trump, associates of his campaign, various Russians and other foreign nationals, and a variety of companies — including one called Webzilla. Those allegations would become part of an FBI investigation and would be used to apply for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

During his deposition, Steele was pressed on the methods he used to verify allegations made about Webzilla, which was thought to be used by Russia to hack into Democratic emails.

When asked if he discovered “anything of relevance concerning Webzilla” during the verification process, Steele replied: “We did. It was an article I have got here which was posted on July 28, 2009, on something called CNN iReport.”

“I do not have any particular knowledge of that,” Steele said when asked what was his understanding of how the iReport website worked.

When asked if he understood that content on the site was not generated by CNN reporters, he said, “I do not.” He was then asked: “Do you understand that they have no connection to any CNN reporters?” Steele replied, “I do not.”

He was pressed on this further: “Do you understand that CNN iReports are or were nothing more than any random individuals’ assertions on the Internet?” Steele replied: “No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”

When asked about his methodology for searching for this information, Steele described it as “what we could call an open source search,” which he defined as “where you go into the Internet and you access material that is available on the Internet that is of relevance or reference to the issue at hand or the person under consideration.”

Steele said his dossier contained “raw intelligence” that he admitted could contain untrue or even “deliberately false information.”

Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS was receiving funding at the time from the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm.

The series of memos that Steele would eventually compile became known as the “Trump Dossier.” The dossier was used in FISA applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

When asked whether he warned Fusion GPS that the information in the dossier might be “Russian disinformation,” Steele admitted that “a general understanding existed between us and Fusion … that all material contained this risk.”

Steele also described his interactions with Sen. John McCain’s aide, David Kramer, whose own deposition showed that he provided BuzzFeed with a copy of the dossier and had spoken with more than a dozen journalists about it.

“I provided copies of the December memo to Fusion GPS for onward passage to David Kramer at the request of Sen. John McCain,” Steele said. “Sen. McCain nominated him as the intermediary. I did not choose him as the intermediary.”

When asked if he told Kramer that he couldn’t “vouch for everything that was produced in the memos,” Steele replied, “Yes, with an emphasis on ‘everything.'”

When asked why he believed it was so important to provide the dossier to Sen. McCain, Steele said: “Because I judged it had national security implications for the United States and the West as a whole.”

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Trudeau’s Top Bureaucrat Unexpectedly Quits Amid Growing Corruption Scandal

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

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Via Zerohedge


Since it was exposed by a report in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this month, the scandal that’s become known as the SNC-Lavalin affair has already led to the firing of several of Trudeau’s close advisors and raised serious questions about whether the prime minister was complicit in pressuring the attorney general to offer a deferred prosecution agreement with a large, Quebec-based engineering firm.

And according to the first round of polls released since the affair exploded into public view…

…it could cost Trudeau his position as prime minister and return control to the conservatives, according to the CBC.

Campaign Research showed the Conservatives ahead with 37% to 32% for the Liberals, while both Ipsos and Léger put the margin at 36% to 34% in the Conservatives’ favour.Since December, when both polling firms were last in the field, the Liberals have lost one point in Campaign Research’s polling and four percentage points in the Ipsos poll, while the party is down five points since November in the Léger poll.

Meanwhile, as the noose tightens around Trudeau, on Monday another of the key Canadian government officials at the center of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has quit his post.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, the highest-ranking position in Canada’s civil service and a key aide to Justin Trudeau, announced his retirement Monday. Trudeau named Ian Shugart, currently deputy minister of foreign affairs, to replace him.

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

“It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties,” he said, citing the need for impartiality on the issue of potential foreign interference. According to Bloomberg, the exact date of his departure is unclear.

As we reported in February, Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, quit following allegations that several key Trudeau government figures pressured her to intervene to end a criminal prosecution against Montreal-based construction giant SNC. Wernick was among those she named in saying the prime minister’s office wanted her to pursue a negotiated settlement.

Wernick has since twice spoken to a committee of lawmakers investigating the case, and during that testimony both defended his actions on the SNC file and warned about the risk of foreign election interference, as “blame Putin” has become traditional Plan B plan for most politicians seeing their careers go up in flames.

“I’m deeply concerned about my country right now, its politics and where it’s headed. I worry about foreign interference in the upcoming election,” he said in his first appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, before repeating the warning a second time this month. “If that was seen as alarmist, so be it. I was pulling the alarm. We need a public debate about foreign interference.”

Because somehow foreign interference has something to do with Wenick’s alleged corruption.

Incidentally, as we wonder what the real reason is behind Wernick’s swift departure, we are confident we will know soon enough.

Anyway, back to the now former clerk, who is meant to be non-partisan in service of the government of the day, also criticized comments by a Conservative senator and praised one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers.

Wernick’s testimony was criticized as overly cozy with the ruling Liberals. Murray Rankin, a New Democratic Party lawmaker, asked the clerk how lawmakers could “do anything but conclude that you have in fact crossed the line into partisan activity?” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said he seemed “willing to interfere in partisan fashion for whoever is in power.”

Whatever Wernick’s true motives, he is the latest but not last in what will be a long line of cabinet departures as the SNC scandal exposes even more corruption in Trudeau’s cabinet (some have ironically pointed out that Canada’s “beloved” prime minister could be gone for actual corruption long before Trump). Trudeau had already lost a top political aide, Gerald Butts, to the scandal. A second minister, Jane Philpott, followed Wilson-Raybould in quitting cabinet.

Separately, on Monday, Trudeau appointed a former deputy prime minister in a Liberal government, Anne McLellan, as a special adviser to investigate some of the legal questions raised by the controversy. They include how governments should interact with the attorney general and whether that role should continue to be held by the justice minister.

As Bloomberg notes, the increasingly shaky Liberal government hasn’t ruled out helping SNC by ordering a deferred prosecution agreement in the corruption and bribery case, which centers around the company’s work in Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya. Doing so would allow the company to pay a fine and avoid any ban on receiving government contracts. That decision is up to the current attorney general, David Lametti; of course, such an action would only raise tensions amid speculation that the government is pushing for a specific political, and favorable for Trudeau, outcome.

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