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

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

Alexander Mercouris

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

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

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

Cyber Espionage Against US Political Organizations.

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

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

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

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

Public Disclosures of Russian-Collected Data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sourcing

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

(bold italics added)

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

A Reuters report which appeared yesterday makes the following further assertion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(bold italics added)

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

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

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

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

(bold italics added)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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