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The US Information War on Syria and beyond

In Syria and elsewhere the US government has increasingly resorted to the tools of ‘information war’ to manipulate the political narrative in order to advance its agenda. The campaign of disinformation concerning recent events in Aleppo is a case in point. That the US government is now pressing ahead with legislation to suppress critical voices is a clear indicator that its priority is to achieve total information dominance.

Rick Sterling

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Introduction

The U.S. establishment is not happy. They are not content with largely dominating media narratives on Syria and other critical foreign policy issues; they want total dominance.

Thus we now have the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act signed into law on December 24 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017. The bill will mandate the U.S.Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to “create a Global Engagement Center to fight against propaganda from foreign governments”.

The bill directs the future Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to “coordinate with allied nations”.

This bill was initiated in March 2016, before widespread allegations of “Russian hacking” began. Hillary Clinton voiced strong support for the bill:

“It’s imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy, and innocent lives.”

Irony: USA is the Major Purveyor of Propaganda

This bill is remarkable because the US government and agencies appear to be major purveyors not victims of propaganda and disinformation. 

A good recent example is the accusations of Russian hacking at the Democratic National Committee and Clinton private email servers to “influence’ the U.S. election.

Despite the widespread accusations, here is little or no no public evidence in support of this and much to contradict the claims. An analysis by veteran intelligence professionals leads to the conclusion this was a leak, NOT a “hack”, and allegations of hacking the election are “baseless”.

On top of that, there is now a credible source , a former UK Ambassador, who says he received the Clinton email data from a disgruntled DNC staffer and delivered the data to Wikileaks.

The accusation that the US election was influenced by Russian hacking appears to be an example of what they claim to oppose: fake news and disinformation for political purposes.

There is a long history U.S. disinformation and propaganda. Former CIA agents Philip Agee and John Stockwell documented how it was done decades ago. 

For the past ten years there has been increasing emphasis on using supplied, trained and paid “activists” and “independent journalists” along with social media to spread false stories and news and to undermine or discredit journalists who challenge the orthodoxy.

Disinformation, fake news and propaganda are no longer the province of the CIA; it’s managed by the State Department using staff and contractors.  The new bill to “counter foreign propaganda” will provide tax payer money and escalate this aspect of the information war.

Propaganda and Disinformation on Syria

Syria is a good case study in the modern application of information warfare. In her book “Hard Choices”,  former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote that the U.S. provided

“support for (Syrian) civilian opposition groups, including satellite -linked computers, telephones, cameras, and training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists.”

A huge amount of money has gone to “activists” and “civil society” groups in Syria as well as in the USA and west. These groups have shaped and manipulated public opinion. The fact they are recipients or contractors of one or more governments directly involved in trying to overthrow the Syrian government has generally been ignored or hidden.

In North America, representatives from the Syrian “Local Coordination Committees” (LCC) were frequent guests on popular media programs such as DemocracyNow.

The message was clear: there is a “revolution” in Syria against a “brutal regime” personified by Bashar al Assad.

It was not mentioned that the “Local Coordination Committees” have been primarily funded by the West, specifically the Office for Syrian Opposition Support which was founded by the United States Department of State and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

More recently, news and analysis about Syria has been conveyed through the filter of the White Helmets, also known as Syrian Civil Defense.

The White Helmets were stated to be neutral, non-partisan, civilian volunteers courageously carrying out rescue work in the war zone. In fact, the group is none of the above. It was initiated by the US and UK using a British military contractor and Brooklyn based marketing company. While they may have performed some genuine rescue operations, the White Helmets is primarily a media organisation with a political goal: to promote NATO intervention in Syria.

The manipulation of public opinion using the White Helmets and promoted by the NY Times and Avaaz petition for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria is documented here.

The White Helmets hoax continues to be widely believed and still receives uncritical promotion but is increasingly being exposed as the creation of a “shady PR firm”. White Helmet individuals have been used as the source for important news stories despite a track record of deception.

Recent Propaganda: Blatant Lies?

As the armed groups in east Aleppo recently lost ground and then collapsed, Western governments and allied media went into a frenzy of accusations based on reports from sources connected with the armed opposition. CNN host Wolf Blitzer described Aleppo as “falling” in a “slaughter of these women and children” while CCN host Jake Tapper referred to “genocide by another name”. The “Daily Beast” published the claims of the Aleppo Siege Media Center.  They titled it “Doomsday is held in Aleppo” and claimed the Syrian army was executing civilians, burning them alive and “20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped.” 

These sensational claims were widely broadcast without verification.

In fact, the news and reports on CNN and throughout Western media were coming from highly biased sources and many of the claims can be accurately described as propaganda and disinformation. 

As one indication, the Aleppo Media Center was created by the “Syrian Expatriates Organization” (SEO) based on K Street in Washington DC, the base of operations for Public Relations and Marketing firms. 

In sharp contrast to the wailing and dubious reports of CNN and most western media, RT and other media outlets have broadcast videos and interviews showing popular celebrations at the “liberation of Aleppo”.

Jan Oberg of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research has published a powerful photo essay describing his eye witness observations in Aleppo including the happiness of civilians from east Aleppo reaching the government controlled areas of west Aleppo.

Dr. Nabil Antaki, a medical doctor from Aleppo, describes the liberation of Aleppo in an interview titled “Aleppo is Celebrating, Free from Terrorists, the Western Media Misinformed”.

The first Christmas celebrations in Aleppo in four years are shown here, replete with marching band members in Santa Claus outfits.

Journalist Vanessa Beeley has published testimonies of civilians from East Aleppo. The happiness of civilians at their liberation is clear.

Contrary to the mythology of rebel “liberated zones” , there is persuasive evidence the armed groups were never popular in Aleppo. American journalist James Foley described the situation in 2012 like this:

“Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups.

The rebels in Aleppo are predominantly from the countryside, further alienating them from the urban crowd that once lived here peacefully, in relative economic comfort and with little interference from the authoritarian government of President Bashar al-Assad.”

The Overall Narrative on Syria

Analysis of the Syrian conflict boils down to two competing narratives.

One narrative, pervasive in the West,  is that the conflict is a fight for freedom and democracy against a brutal regime. This description has been promoted in the West and Gulf, in those countries which have been fuelling the conflict from the start. This narrative is also put forward by some self-styled “anti-imperialists” who seek a “Syrian revolution”.   

The other narrative is that the conflict is essentially a war of aggression against a sovereign state. The aggressors include western NATO countries plus Gulf monarchies, Israel and Jordan.

Censorship and domination of western media is so thorough that one rarely hears the second narrative. This is true of much of the liberal and progressive media as well as the mainstream.

For example, listeners and viewers of the generally progressive TV and radio program “DemocracyNow” have rarely if ever heard the second narrative described in any detail. DemocracyNow news has frequently broadcast the explanations of Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and others associated with the US position. They have rarely if ever broadcast the explanation and viewpoint of the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, the Syrian Foreign Minister, or countless analysts inside Syria and around the world who have written about and follow events there closely.

DemocracyNow has done repeated interviews with proponents of the “Syrian revolution” and never with analysts who say this is a war of aggression. This, despite the fact that many prominent international figures see it as such.  For example, the former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua and former President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has said,

“What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

In many areas of politics, the public affairs program DemocracyNow is excellent and challenges mainstream media. However in this area, coverage of the Syrian conflict, their broadcast is biased, one-sided and echoes the news and analysis of mainstream western corporate media. This shows the extent of domination of foreign policy news that already exists.

Suppressing and Censoring Challenges

One of the primary purposes of the new “Global Engagement Center” will be to “counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation.” 

This is another remarkable development because there is already widespread censorship and “countering” of alternative analyses of critical international issues.

In an article titled “Controlling the Narrative on Syria”, Louis Allday describes the criticisms and attacks on journalists Rania Khalek and Max Blumenthal for straying from the “approved” western narrative on Syria. Some of the bullying and abuse has come from precisely those people, such as Robin Yassin-Kassab, who have been frequent guests in liberal western media.

Recently Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett returned to North America after being in Syria and Aleppo. She conveyed a very different image and criticised biased media coverage of the Syrian conflict. She pointed to Western media broadcasting claims without credible sources or evidence. Bartlett appeared at a United Nations press conference. and then did numerous interviews across the country during a speaking tour.   During the course of her talks and presentation, Bartlett criticised the White Helmets and questioned whether it was true that Al Quds Hospital in opposition held East Aleppo was attacked and destroyed as claimed.

Snopes is a useful website which has exposed many urban legends and false rumours. Unfortunately they have many internal challenges and have become inconsistent in their investigations.

In an examination titled “White Helmet Hearsay” Snopes’ writer Bethania Palmer says claims the White Helmets are “linked to terrorists” is “unproven”. She overlooks numerous videos, photos, and other reports showing White Helmet members celebrating Nusra/Al Qaeda battle victories, picking up the bodies of civilians executed by a Nusra executioner, and alternatively being rebel/terrorist fighter with weapons but later wearing a White Helmet uniform. The “fact check” barely scrapes the surface of public evidence.

The same writer did another shallow “investigation” titled “victim blaming” regarding Bartlett’s critique of White Helmet videos and what happened at the Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo. Bartlett suggests that some White Helmet videos may be fabricated and include the same child at different times. Photographs appear to show the same girl being rescued by White Helmet workers at different places and times. While the similarity in appearance is clear, it is uncertain whether or not this is the same girl.

The Snopes writer goes on to criticise Bartlett for her comments about the reported bombing of the Al Quds Hospital in East Aleppo in April 2016.  A statement at the website of Doctors Without Borders says the building was “destroyed and reduced to rubble”. This is clearly false since photos show the building with unclear damage.

Five months later, the September 2016 report by Doctors Without Borders says the top two floors of the building were destroyed and the ground floor Emergency Room damaged yet they re-opened in two weeks.

The many inconsistencies and contradictions in the statements of Doctors Without Borders resulted in an open letter to them. In their last report Doctors Without Borders (MSF) acknowledges that

“MSF staff did not directly witness the attack and has not visited Al Quds Hospital since 2014”.

Bartlett referenced satellite images taken before and after the reported attack on the hospital. These images do not show severe damage and it is unclear whether or not there is any damage to the roof.  This was the basis for Bartlett’s statement. 

In the past week, independent journalists have visited the scene of Al Quds Hospital and report that that the top floors of the building are still there and damage is unclear.

The Snopes’ investigation about Bartlett’s statement is superficial and ignores much larger issues of accuracy and integrity.  Instead it appears to be an effort to undermine the overall eye-witness observations and analysis provided by a journalist who is challenging the mainstream narrative.

The Coming New McCarthyism?

U.S. propaganda and disinformation on Syria has been overall effective in misleading much of the population. Most Americans are unaware how many billion tax payer dollars have been spent on yet another “regime change” attempt. Many liberal and progressive news outlets have failed to challenge the propaganda and disinformation on Syria. It has been left to RT and a host of smaller media outlets to challenge the government and mainstream media.

The passage of HR5181 “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation”, suggests that the ruling powers seek to escalate suppression of news and analysis which runs counter to their narrative. 

Despite their current dominance in the media and information arena, that is not enough. They seek to further squelch opposing voices. The bill calls for “countering” and “refuting” what they deem to be propaganda and disinformation. A slush fund of $20M is provided to hire or reward “civil society groups, NGOs, journalists and private companies “ who participate in the campaign.

Progressives need to prepare for the escalation of the information war. 

Rick Sterling is an independent investigative journalist. He lives in the SF Bay Area and can be reached at [email protected]

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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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