Our Man in London: The Scandal of the 35-Page ‘Intelligence

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Our Man in London: The Scandal of the 35-Page ‘Intellige

Postby admin » Sun Jan 22, 2017 5:31 am

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence's full remarks at the CIA Headquarters on Saturday.
by President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence
January 21, 2017

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Thank you to the Acting Director Meroe Park. Thank you for 27 years serving the United States of America here at CIA.

It's a great privilege for me to be with you today and to have the opportunity to introduce at his first event, on his first full day, the new President of the United States, Donald Trump. (Applause.)

As you can imagine, it's deeply humbling for my family and I to find ourselves in this role. I'm grateful to our new President for the opportunity he's given me and the opportunity the American people have given us to serve. But it's especially humbling for me to be before all of you today -- men and women of character, who have sacrificed greatly -- and to stand before this hallowed wall, this memorial wall, where we remember 117 who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

I can assure you this new President and our entire team recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices of all of the men and women of the intelligence community of the United States of America. (Applause.)

I've gotten to know our new President. We traveled a lot together. When the cameras are off and the -- lights are off, I'll tell you two things I know for sure. Number one, I've never met anyone more dedicated to the safety and security of the people of the United States of America, or anyone who is a greater strategic thinker about how we accomplish that for this nation. In fact, to understand the life of our new President is -- his whole life was strategy. He built an extraordinary success in the private sector, and I know he's going to make America safe again. (Applause.)

And lastly, I can honestly tell you, for all my years serving in the Congress, serving as governor of my home state, traveling cross-country and seeing the connection that he's made to men and women who serve and protect in every capacity in this country, I've never met anyone with a greater heart for those who every day, in diverse ways, protect the people of this nation through their character and their service and their sacrifice.

And so let me say, it is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce all of you the President of the United States. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true, this is my first stop, officially. We're not talking about the balls, or we're not talking about even the speeches -- although they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday. (Laughter.) I always call them the dishonest media, but they treated me nicely. (Laughter.)

But I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There's nobody. (Applause.)

The wall behind me is very, very special. We've been touring for quite a while, and I'll tell you what -- 29? I can't believe it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Twenty-eight.

TRUMP: Oh, 28. We got to reduce it. That's amazing. And we really appreciate what you've done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group, these are really special, amazing people. Very, very few people could do the job you people do. And I want to just let you know, I am so behind you. And I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you've wanted, and you're going to get so much backing. Maybe you're going to say, please don’t give us so much backing. (Laughter.) Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing. (Laughter.) But you're going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military and the law enforcement, generally speaking, but all of it -- but the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military. And probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. (Laughter.) But I would guarantee a big portion, because we're all on the same wavelength, folks. (Applause.) We're all on the same wavelength, right? He knows. It took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right, because we know we're on the same wavelength.

But we're going to do great things. We're going to do great things. We've been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we've ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We've been restrained. We have to get rid of ISIS. Have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. (Applause.) Radical Islamic terrorism. And I said it yesterday -- it has to be eradicated just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil. And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries, there can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody can even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And you're going to go to it, and you're going to do a phenomenal job. But we're going to end it. It's time. It's time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. For the different positions of "Secretary of This" and "Secretary of That" and all of these great positions, I'd see five, six, seven, eight people. And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent. And, by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand. What a good guy. (Applause.) And Reince and my whole group. Reince -- you know -- they don’t care about Reince. He's like this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But we did -- we had such a tremendous, tremendous success. So when I'm interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and, in this case, went so quickly -- because I would see six or seven or eight for Secretary of Agriculture, who we just named the other day, Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I'd see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and it was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said, cancel everybody else. Cancel. Now, he was approved, essentially, but they're doing little political games with me. He was one of the three. Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis, fantastic guy, and General Kelly got approved. (Applause.) And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group. It was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine all of these guys? People respect -- you know, they respect that military sense. All my political people, they're not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well but you. We're going to get them all through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally -- I had a group of -- what, we had nine different people? Now, I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But I met him and I said, he is so good. Number one in his class at West Point.

Now, I know a lot about West Point. I'm a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years who did a fantastic job in so many different ways, academically -- was an academic genius -- and then they say, is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I'm like a smart persona. (Laughter.) And I recognized immediately. So he was number one at West Point, and he was also essentially number one at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he's done has been a homerun. People like him, but much more importantly to me, everybody respects him. And when I told Paul Ryan that I wanted to do this, I would say he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled -- right, Mike? Because he said, I don’t want to lose this guy.

But you will be getting a total star. You're going to be getting a total gem. He's a gem. (Applause.) You'll see. You'll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you're going to see. And again, we have some great people going in. But this one is something -- is going to be very special, because this is one, if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be perhaps -- you know, in certain ways, you could say my most important. You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing. And the generals are wonderful, and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction, boy, does the fighting become easier. And, boy, do we lose so fewer lives, and win so quickly. And that's what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know, when I was young and when I was -- of course, I feel young. I feel like I'm 30, 35, 39. (Laughter.) Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I'm young. You know, I was stopping -- when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young.

When I was young -- and I think we're all sort of young. When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We'd win with trade. We'd win with wars. At a certain age, I remember hearing from one of my instructors, "The United States has never lost a war." And then, after that, it's like we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore. The old expression, "to the victor belong the spoils" -- you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that's where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. (Laughter.) Maybe you'll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.

I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again, toward ending all of the problems. We have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused. So I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent.

And the reason you're my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. (Laughter and applause.) And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number-one stop is exactly the opposite -- exactly. And they understand that, too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? (Applause.) I've been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was -- it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we're not going to let it rain on your speech.

In fact, when I first started, I said, oh, no. The first line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And I said, oh, this is too bad, but we'll go right through it. But the truth is that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sunny. And then I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured. But, you know, we have something that's amazing because we had -- it looked -- honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on -- and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that's not bad, but it's a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around -- you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they're going to pay a big price.

We had another one yesterday, which was interesting. In the Oval Office there's a beautiful statue of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill, Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country, but had a lot to do with it. Helped us; real ally. And, as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out -- the bust. And as you also probably have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly. And they wanted to know whether or not I'd like it back. I say, absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill.

So a reporter for Time magazine -- and I have been on there cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time Magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it's one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right? (Laughter.) I've been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that's a record, Mike, that can ever be broken. Do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that they said -- it was very interesting -- that Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr. Martin Luther King. And it was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it. (Laughter.) So Zeke -- Zeke from Time Magazine writes a story about I took down. I would never do that because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is.

Now, the big story -- the retraction was, like, where? Was it a line? Or do they even bother putting it in? So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting.

I will tell you, final time -- although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that have been trying to come in -- because I am coming back -- we're going to have to get you a larger room. (Applause.) We may have to get you a larger room. You know? And maybe, maybe, it will be built by somebody that knows how to build, and we won't have columns. (Laughter.) You understand that? (Applause.) We get rid of the columns.

No, I just wanted to really say that I love you, I respect you. There's nobody I respect more. You're going to do a fantastic job. And we're going to start winning again, and you're going to be leading the charge.

So thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you -- you're beautiful. Thank you all very much. Have a good time. I'll be back. I'll be back. Thank you.
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Re: Our Man in London: The Scandal of the 35-Page ‘Intellige

Postby admin » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:02 pm

How George W. Bush dissed the U.S. intelligence community. The likelihood is that the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove so far revealed are only the tip of the iceberg.
by Juan Cole
January 6, 2017

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Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency counter-terrorist center and FBI National Security Branch, has been on CNN maintaining that there was a big difference between how the intelligence agencies were treated by the Bush administration and how the PEOTUS is treating them. He said that he was grilled on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction by the Republican congress, but that he was treated with respect. He complains that Donald J. Trump is being disrespectful to intelligence professionals.

With all due respect to Mr. Mudd (and I sincerely mean that), what he is saying makes no sense. Everyone knows that the Bush cabinet hated the CIA for not going along with its phony allegations of Iraqi biological and nuclear weapons. (The one lapse was a hastily assembled NIE produced under pressure from then vice president and unindicted felon Richard Bruce Cheney). Iraq didn’t have such weapons and in 2002 when the press for war was made, did not even have programs.

The main point is that while Bush and his cohort had a rule that they did not trash talk people in public, they displayed the utmost disrespect for intelligence professionals who would not turn weasel and tell them (and the public) what they wanted to hear. How could you disrespect intelligence professionals more than to set aside their analysis in favor of the talking points of Neoconservative hacks or to out them, putting their lives and those of their contacts in danger? And what more dangerous course than to go to war against the grain of the analysis of the trained professionals? The difference between Trump and Bush is only a matter of rhetorical style, and Trump hasn’t had the opportunity yet to endanger America the way Bush and the Neoconservatives did.

Here are four egregious examples of the Bush-Cheney (and especially Cheney) attack on CIA professionals:

1. A fraudulent document was circulated by former Italian and French intelligence officer with a businessman cover, Rocco Martino, purporting to be a purchase statement by the Niger government regarding an alleged buy of uranium by Saddam Hussein of Iraq. It was apparently taken seriously by British intelligence, but it was an obvious fraud, since the officials who allegedly signed it were not any longer in office on the date of the document. The whole thing may have been a project of Italian military intelligence, which has strong connections to surviving fascist circles in Italy, and is also connected to Michael Ledeen, Washington poobah who is now close to the Trumpies. (H/t to Josh Marshall who researched all this). My guess is that U.S. Neoconservatives used Ledeen as a conduit to the Italian intelligence Neofascists, and put in an order for such a hoax.

American CIA analysts looked at the document and quickly concluded that it was a fraud. Despite enormous pressure from Bush-Cheney officials, the Neoconservatives, the State Department and the CIA refused to go along with Bush’s desire to include a reference to the forgery in his 2003 State of the Union Address. Bush (or David Frum?) therefore put it this way: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

This [was a] way of lying while seeming to tell the truth. What Bush really did was to disregard the State Department’s Intelligence and Research department and the CIA analysts and to find any alternative to this homegrown Washington expertise. In other words, Bush appealed to MI6 in just the way that Trump is appealing to Julian Assange. Both over-ruled their own intelligence professions.

Iraq war: the greatest intelligence failure in living memory. On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war, Panorama's Peter Taylor reveals the sources close to Saddam Hussein whose intelligence could have changed the course of history.
by Peter Taylor
18 Mar 2013

Ten years on from the invasion, Iraq remains the most divisive war in recent history and the greatest intelligence failure in living memory.

Much of the key intelligence that was used to justify the war was based on fabrication, wishful thinking and lies - and as subsequent investigations showed, it was dramatically wrong. Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

But crucially, there was intelligence that proved to be right. And, as a forensic, six-month investigation we conducted for BBC Panorama has revealed, it came from two highly-placed human sources at the very top of Saddam’s regime.

Both said that Iraq had no active WMD. Both were ignored or dismissed.

The intelligence from the first source came just a week before the government published its controversial dossier on WMD on 24 September 2002.

In the introduction to this dossier (known to some as the “dodgy” dossier) Tony Blair confidently declared, ‘the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons [and] that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.’

Yet the two sources who produced the intelligence that Iraq had no WMD were the closest to Saddam Hussein that Western intelligence had ever got.

It was a remarkable achievement to have gained access at this level given the difficulty of recruiting any human source within Saddam’s secretive, paranoid and murderous regime.

The story of the first source comes straight out of the pages of a spy thriller.

In the spring of 2002, the CIA’s head of station in Paris, Bill Murray, was told by French intelligence, whose government had good links with the Iraqi regime, that a senior member of Saddam’s cabinet might want to defect with his family and had a great deal of intelligence that he might wish to share.

For the White House, such a defection offered the salivating prospect of a senior member of Saddam’s cabinet recanting on prime time television.

The source, Murray was informed, hated Saddam who had murdered his brother, and now seemed prepared to do business.

What made him even more attractive to Murray and the White House was that he had no blood on his hands and had never been accused of any involvement in murders or criminal activity. Compared with other members of Saddam’s blood-stained regime, the source was ‘Mr Clean’.

Murray was enthused: ‘He looked like a person of real interest, somebody who we should really be talking to.’ But a face-to-face meeting between a CIA agent and one of Saddam’s inner circle was out of the question as it was too risky.

The French suggested an intermediary, an Arab former journalist living in Paris, who had known the source for many years. They told Murray that he had worked with them for a number of years.

In the early summer of 2002, the financial bargaining began. The intermediary did not come cheap. His starting price was a staggering one million dollars. Murray, familiar with the ways of the Arab bazaar, haggled and finally got the price down to $200,000 which he handed over in cash in a paper bag. Murray explained it was to be used ‘to pay his expenses, to show that we were serious and also to provide some personal items for the source.’ He said it was never clear how much the intermediary wanted for himself and how much he was trying to stake out for the source.

However excessive the down payment might have seemed, it would have been worth every cent if the source came up with the goods on Saddam’s WMD. The source was none other than Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri.

With the down payment agreed, Murray submitted a detailed list of questions for the intermediary to put to him. WMD were top of the list. Naji Sabri was then to report back to Murray. That was the deal.

Through the summer months, there was radar silence. The intermediary had to pick his moment to meet the minister without arousing suspicion.

The opportunity came in mid-September 2002 when Naji Sabri was visiting New York to address the United Nations.

Again it was too risky for Murray to meet Naji Sabri face to face as most of the time the minister was being watched by a team of Saddam’s minders.

But the intermediary met him at the Iraqi Ambassador’s residence in New York. A secret sign was agreed to confirm to Murray that the meeting had taken place and that the minister was prepared to offer information.

The intermediary had arranged for a couple of hand-made suits to be made for the minister, presumably out of Murray’s $200,000 seed money ‘to pay his expenses’. Naji Sabri was to wear one of them when he addressed the UN General Assembly as a sign that he was on side. “It was part of the agreement to confirm the relationship between the intermediary and the source,” Murray explained,

The following day, Murray met the intermediary for a debriefing in a hotel room in New York. He was given the substance of the intelligence: ‘Saddam had intentions to have WMD, chemical, biological and nuclear, but the report was very clear about what he actually had at that point in time and he had virtually nothing.’

It was not what the White House wanted to hear. ‘I was told they were not happy.’

Murray made notes of the debriefing on a yellow pad and then, as he had to catch a plane back to Washington, sent them to the office in New York to be typed up as a formal report.
It was when he got to the airport that he saw Naji Sabri on a television screen addressing the UN, wearing his expensive, brand new suit. Murray was satisfied: ‘It was my new suit. It told me they were telling me the truth.’ Someone close to the story told me that President Bush had allegedly also seen the minister on television and pointed out that was the suit that he had paid for.

Murray says that he subsequently discovered that his account had been modified with a new introductory paragraph with which he was not happy. A Senate inquiry has since said it could find no documentary evidence of Murray’s account. What happened to his original text remains a mystery.

On 5 February 2004, after the fall of Saddam, CIA Director, George Tenet, delivered a speech at Georgetown University in which he referred to ‘what was going on in the fall of 2002’ - when Murray passed on his intelligence.

Tenet spoke of a source ‘with direct access to Saddam and his inner circle’ who had talked of Iraq “stockpiling chemical weapons” and “aggressively and covertly” developing a nuclear weapon that could be ready in 18 to 24 months. Tenet added that he could not have ignored or dismissed such reports. He stands by what he said. Murray maintains this did not reflect what he had written and passed on to New York. His report had referred to Saddam giving “stocks” of chemical weapons, left over from the early nineties, to friendly tribes and of Saddam’s scientists saying nuclear weapons could be ready in 18 to 24 months after they obtained the necessary material.

Murray says his key message was that Saddam did not have any serious, active current WMD stockpile or programmes.

Murray believes his report had been used selectively. By whom and at what level he does not know, but he thinks he knows why. He says the intelligence was cherry picked. ‘Very bad intelligence got to the leadership very quickly but other intelligence just didn’t make it.’


In the end Naji Sabri did not defect and give President Bush his moment of triumph in the glare of the cameras but he did manage to get out of Iraq. He went to teach communication studies at a university in the Gulf.

We tracked him down and asked him to comment. He dismissed Bill Murray’s story as ‘a complete fabrication’ and whilst admitting he met ‘an Arab ex-journalist living in France’ in New York, he says the meeting only lasted “a few minutes”.

I asked Bill Murray if MI6 got the intelligence from Naji Sabri. He assumed that it did. ‘Britain is a strategic ally and we share this kind of information with them regularly and rapidly and so it would have been soon after we acquired it.’

I wondered if Lord Butler, who chaired the original government Inquiry into the use of intelligence on WMD in the lead up to the Iraq war, was aware of what Iraq’s Foreign Minister was reported to have said? ‘No,’ he told me... If SIS (MI6) was aware of it, we should have been informed.’

He added by way of explanation that perhaps MI6 was not permitted to share intelligence that came from the CIA as it was not MI6’s to give.

Four months after Bill Murray debriefed the intermediary, another piece of dramatic intelligence came in, this time to MI6. In January 2003, now only three months before the war, a senior MI6 officer met another high-ranking member of Saddam’s inner circle, the head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Habbush Al Tikriti. After the invasion he became the Jack of Diamonds on America’s “Most Wanted” notorious Deck of Cards, with a reward of one million US dollars thought to be on offer. It appears the meeting took place on Habbush’s initiative. It was in Amman, Jordan.

It seems that the likely reason was an attempt by the regime to reach some kind of face-saving compromise that might avert the imminent invasion, perhaps by negotiating safe passage for Saddam out of Iraq. In the course of the discussion, Habbush told the MI6 officer that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.


I asked Lord Butler if his Inquiry had been aware of the meeting and of what Habbush had said. ‘This was something which our review did miss.’ he said. ‘[There was] a mass of information, I think fifty thousand intelligence reports alone on Iraq. We were told [by MI6] that it was something designed by Saddam to mislead.”

Habbush is now thought to be living somewhere outside of Iraq, his escape allegedly organised by a Western intelligence agency.

Bill Murray gained no satisfaction when it emerged that the intelligence from Iraq’s Foreign Minister and Saddam’s Head of Intelligence turned out to be right. He felt let down and disappointed.

‘I thought we’d produced probably the best intelligence that anybody produced in the pre-war period, all of which came out in the long run to be accurate and the information was discarded and not used.’


Murray’s feelings about the use of misleading intelligence to justify the war reflect the way many in the UK probably still feel, that they were misled by their Prime Minister. Lord Butler agrees. “They’ve every right to feel that,” he said.


2. In late 2005, Bush closed the Alec Station, the unit within the CIA that was tasked with finding Bin Laden. Bush directed intelligence resources instead toward Iraq, which he had illegally invaded and occupied under false pretenses. The CIA was not happy. The former head of the unit reacted, “This will clearly denigrate our operations against Al Qaeda . . . These days at the agency, bin Laden and Al Qaeda appear to be treated merely as first among equals.” And of course al-Qaeda did experience a resurgence. Indeed, the Iraq al-Qaeda affiliate morphed into Daesh (ISIS, ISIL).

3. In late 2005, someone on the Bush National Security Agency attempted to enlist the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA in violating the Agency’s charter by having them investigate and smear a U.S. citizen on American soil (me). A group of analysts who objected to the whole episode later blew the whistle on it, including Glenn L. Carle, the bravest man in Washington. They went public because they knew that what had been done, having the agency tasked to operate on U.S. soil with regard to an innocent American, could have deeply damaged it. The irony is that in those days I was trying to help destroy al-Qaeda and frequently gave briefings and presentations to inter-agency audiences that included CIA analysts (and no, I was never an agent), attempting to help get them up to speed on the particulars of the challenge. And the Bushies stabbed us all in the back the same way they did Valerie Plame (see #4).

Meet Professor Juan Cole, Consultant to the CIA
by John V. Walsh
August 30, 2011

Juan Cole is a brand name that is no longer trusted. And that has been the case for some time for the Professor from Michigan. After warning of the “difficulties” with the Iraq War, Cole swung over to ply it with burning kisses on the day of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. His fervor was not based on Saddam Hussein’s fictional possession of weapons of mass destruction but on the virtues of “humanitarian imperialism.”

Thus on March 19, 2003, as the imperial invasion commenced, Cole enthused on his blog: “I remain (Emphasis mine.) convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides.” Now, with over 1 million Iraqis dead, 4 million displaced and the country’s infrastructure destroyed, might Cole still echo Madeline Albright that the price was “worth it”? Cole has called the Afghan War “the right war at the right time” and has emerged as a cheerleader for Obama’s unconstitutional war on Libya and for Obama himself.

Cole claims to be a man of the left and he appears with painful frequency on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now as the reigning “expert” on the war on Libya. This is deeply troubling – on at least two counts. First, can one be a member of the “left” and also an advocate for the brutal intervention by the Great Western Powers in the affairs of a small, relatively poor country? Apparently so, at least in Democracy Now’s version of the “left.” Second, it appears that Cole’s essential function these days is to convince wavering progressives that the war on Libya has been fine and dandy. But how can such damaged goods as Cole credibly perform this marketing mission so vital to Obama’s war?

Miraculously, Cole got just the rehabilitation he needed to continue with this vital propaganda function when it was disclosed by the New York Times on June 15 that he was the object of a White House inquiry way back in 2005 in Bush time.
The source and reason for this leak and the publication of it by the NYT at this time, so many years later, should be of great interest, but they are unknown. Within a week of the Times piece Cole was accorded a hero’s welcome on Democracy Now, as he appeared with retired CIA agent Glenn Carle who had served 23 years in the clandestine services of the CIA in part as an “interrogator.” Carl had just retired from the CIA at the time of the White House request and was at the time employed at the National Intelligence Council, which authors the National Intelligence Estimate.

It hit this listener like a ton of bricks when it was disclosed in Goodman’s interview that Cole was a long time “consultant” for the CIA, the National Intelligence Council and other agencies. Here is what nearly caused me to keel over when I heard it (From the Democracy Now transcript.):

AMY GOODMAN: So, did you know Professor Cole or know of him at the time you were asked? And can you go on from there? What happened when you said you wouldn’t do this? And who was it who demanded this information from you, said that you should get information?

GLENN CARLE: Well, I did know Professor Cole. He was one of a large number of experts of diverse views that the National Intelligence Council and my office and the CIA respectively consult with to challenge our assumptions and understand the trends and issues on our various portfolios. So I knew him that way. And it was sensible, in that sense, that the White House turned to my office to inquire about him, because we were the ones, at least one of the ones—I don’t know all of Mr. Cole’s work—who had consulted with him. (Emphases mine.)


That seems like strange toil for a man of the “left.” But were the consultations long drawn out and the association with the CIA a deep one? It would appear so. Again from the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, the way James Risen (the NYT reporter) writes it, he says, “Mr. Carle said [that] sometime that year, he was approached by his supervisor, David Low, about Professor Cole. [Mr.] Low and [Mr.] Carle have starkly different recollections of what happened. According to Mr. Carle, [Mr.] Low returned from a White House meeting one day and inquired who Juan Cole was, making clear [that] he wanted [Mr.] Carle to gather information on him. Mr. Carle recalled [his] boss saying, ‘The White House wants to get him.'”

GLENN CARLE: Well, that’s substantially correct. The one nuance, perhaps, I would point out is there’s a difference between collecting information actively, going out and running an operation, say, to find out things about Mr. Cole, or providing information known through interactions. (Emphasis mine.) I would characterize it more as the latter.


And later in the interview Carle continues:

On the whole, Professor Cole and I are in agreement. The distinction I make is it wasn’t publicly known information that was requested; it was information that officers knew of a personal nature about Professor Cole, which is much more disturbing. There was no direct request that I’m aware, in the two instances of which I have knowledge, for the officers actively to seek and obtain, to conduct—for me to go out and follow Professor Cole. But if I knew lifestyle questions or so on, to pass those along. (Emphasis mine.)That’s how I—which is totally unacceptable.


It would seem then that the interaction between the CIA operatives and Cole was long standing and sufficiently intimate that the CIA spooks could be expected to know things about Cole’s lifestyle and personal life. It is not that anyone should give two figs about Cole’s personal life which is more than likely is every bit as boring as he claims. But his relationship with the CIA is of interest since he is an unreconstructed hawk. What was remarkable to me at the time is that Goodman did not pick up on any of this. Did she know before of Cole’s connections? Was not this the wrong man to have as a “frequent guest,” in Goodman’s words, on the situation in the Middle East?

This is not to claim that Cole is on a mission for the CIA to convince the left to support the imperial wars, most notably at the moment the war on Libya. Nor is this a claim that the revelation about the White House seeking information on Cole was a contrived psyops effort to rehabilitate Cole so that he could continue such a mission. That cannot be claimed, because there is as yet no evidence for it. But information flows two ways in any consultation, and it is even possible that Cole was being loaded with war-friendly information in hopes he would transmit it.

Cole is anxious to promote himself as a man of the left as he spins out his rationale for the war on Libya. At one point he says to Goodman (3/29), “We are people of the left. We care about the ordinary people. We care about workers.” It is strange that a man who claims such views dismisses as irrelevant the progress that has come to the people of Libya under Gaddafi, dictator or not. (Indeed what brought Gaddafi down was not that he was a dictator but that he was not our dictator.) In fact Libya has the highest score of all African countries on the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) and with Tunisia and Morocco the second highest level of literacy. The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide.

Whither the Left on the Question of Intervention?

None of this is all too surprising given Cole’s status as a “humanitarian” hawk. But it is outrageous that he is so often called on by Democracy Now for his opinion. One of his appearances there was in a debate on the unconstitutional war in Libya, with CounterPunch’s estimable Vijay Prashad taking the antiwar side and Cole prowar. It would seem strange for the left to have to debate the worth of an imperial intervention. Certainly if one goes back to the days of the Vietnam War there were teach-ins to inform the public of the lies of the U.S. government and the truth about what was going on in Vietnam. But let us give Democracy Now the benefit of the doubt and say that the debate was some sort of consciousness raising effort. Why later on invite as a frequent guest a man who was the pro-war voice in the debate? That is a strange choice indeed.

This writer does not get to listen to Democracy Now every day. But I have not heard a full-throated denunciation of the war on Libya from host or guests. Certainly according to a search on the DN web site, Cynthia McKinney did not appear as a guest nor Ramsey Clark after their courageous fact finding tour to Libya. There was only one all out denunciation of the war – on the day when the guests were Rev. Jesse Jackson and Vincent Harding who was King’s speechwriter on the famous speech “Beyond Vietnam” in 1967 in which King condemned the U.S. war on Vietnam. Jackson and the wise and keenly intelligent Harding were there not to discuss Libya but to discuss the MLK Jr. monument. Nonetheless Jackson and Harding made clear that they did not like the U.S. war in Libya one bit, nor the militarism it entails.

If one reads CounterPunch.org, Antiwar.com or The American Conservative, one knows that one is reading those who are anti-interventionist on the basis of principle. With Democracy Now and kindred progressive outlets, it’s all too clear where a big chunk of the so-called “left” stands, especially since the advent of Obama. In his superb little book Humanitarian Imperialism Jean Bricmont criticizes much of the left for falling prey to advocacy of wars, supposedly based on good intentions. And Alexander Cockburn has often pointed out that many progressives are actually quite fond of “humanitarian” interventionism. Both here and in Europe this fondness seems to be especially true of Obama’s latest war, the war on Libya. It is little wonder that the “progressives” are losing their antiwar following to Ron Paul and the Libertarians who are consistent and principled on the issue of anti-interventionism.

Democracy Now, quo vadis? Wherever you are heading, you would do well to travel without Juan Cole and his friends.

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com After wading through Cole’s loose prose and dubious logic to write this essay, the author suspects that the rejection of Cole by the Yale faculty was the result of considerations that had little to do with neocon Bush/Cheney operatives.


4. Bush-Cheney even went so far as to deliberately out a serving CIA field officer with a non-official cover (a NOC, who would be disavowed if captured by the enemy; unfortunately she was captured by Bush-Cheney). Younger readers may not know the Valerie Plame story, so here is a reprint edition from February 10, 2006, of it. [Valerie’s later thrillers are well worth reading.]

Cheney Authorized Libby to Disclose Classified Documents

Once upon a time, a former agent of Italian military intelligence named Rocco Martino, who had had some experience in the African country of Niger, came into possession of some forged, fraudulent documents.

These alleged Iraqi purchases of yellowcake uranium in 1999. In fact, the signatures were of Nigerian officials who had been in power a decade earlier, in the late 1980s.


So they were clumsy forgeries. Martino passed them on to the Italian magazine Panorama, which passed them to the U.S. embassy.

Tantalizingly, President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, has an indirect connection to Italian intelligence.

Rove’s chief adviser on Iran policy is Neoconservative wildman and notorious warmonger Michael Ledeen, who has a longstanding connection to the darker corners of Italian intelligence.

Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney heard of the alleged uranium purchase.

Cheney asked George Tenet to look into the allegation.

The issue went to the Directorate of Operations secret unit on counter-proliferation. Among the field officers there was Valerie Plame Wilson, who had spent her life fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction under cover of a dummy corporation.

Valerie Plame Wilson was married to former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, who had served bravely as acting ambassador in Iraq in 1990, and when threatened by Saddam he showed up to a press conference wearing a hanging noose instead of a necktie. President George H. W. Bush highly praised him.

Joe Wilson had not only served in Iraq, he also had been ambassador to the West African countries of Gabon and Sao Tome, and spoke fluent French. When Plame Wilson’s superiors brought up the possibility of sending him as a private citizen to look into the plausibility of the report that Saddam had bought Nigerian uranium, she was consulted and agreed (she was not part of the decision loop).

He went, and soon saw that the uranium industry in Niger was actually under the control of French companies and was strictly monitored.

There was no possibility of corrupt Nigerian officials selling it off under the table.

A separate military mission led by Marine General Carlton Fulford, Jr, deputy commander of the United States European Command (EUCOM), went to Niger the same month, February 2002.

Fulford quickly came to the same conclusion as Wilson, that it was implausible that al-Qaeda or anyone else could secretly buy uranium from Niger.

Wilson came back and was orally debriefed by people who wrote a report for Tenet, expecting that Tenet would pass it on to the high officials of the Bush administration.

Wilson was amazed when the Niger uranium story was put into Bush’s State of the Union address.


Then Libby wanted Secretary of State Colin Powell to make allegations about Saddam and al-Qaeda before the United Nations Security Council. Powell was also pressed by someone to bring up the Niger uranium story.

Powell is said to have exclaimed, “I’m not reading this bullshit!”

Libby appears to have been a big influence on the speech Powell gave, almost every detail of which was inaccurate, and at which United Nations officials who heard it openly laughed.

After the war, Wilson wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he revealed his mission and again called into question the Bush administration assertion that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program.

Cheney was extremely upset by Wilson’s op-ed. He saw it as an allegation that he had personally sent Wilson and then ignored Wilson’s report. Or at least that was the spin. But Wilson had said no such thing in the article. He simply said that Cheney had asked Tenet to look into the story, which Cheney probably did.

Cheney was afraid that if the American public became convinced that there had been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war effort would collapse, along with all those billions of no-bid uncompetitive contracts for Halliburton.

Cheney, it has now come out, then authorized Libby to leak the classified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to the press.

The NIE, which may have been produced under pressure from Cheney himself, had incorrectly suggested that Iraq was only a few years from having a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iraq did not have an active weapons program at all after the early 1990s when it was dismantled by the UN inspectors. The pre-war NIE in any case was just old bad intelligence, which was contradicted by David Kay’s team on the ground in post-war Iraq, which just wasn’t finding much.


10/4/02: Asked by Sen. Graham to make gist of NIE public, Tenet produces 25-page document titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." It says Saddam has them and omits dissenting views contained in the classified NIE....

12/21/02: Asked by Bush if there's any reason to doubt existence of WMD, Tenet says: "It's a slam-dunk case." [Date the public knew: 4/17/04]

2/4/03: Powell asks Tenet to personally assure intel for speech is good. Tenet does. [Date the public knew: 6/25/06]


-- Lie by Lie: How Our Leaders Used Fear and Falsehood To Dupe Us Into a Mideast Quaqmire: A Timeline , by Tim Dickinson & Jonathan Stein


Aftermath - After the completion of the National Intelligence Estimate, the Bush administration will continue to make allegations concerning Iraq’s weapons capabilities and ties to militant Islamic groups, but will include none of the qualifications and nuances that are present in the classified NIE. After excerpts from the classified version of the NIE are published in the press in July of 2003 (see 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003), administration officials will claim that neither Bush, Rice, nor other top officials were informed about the alternative views expressed by the DOE, INR, and the Air Force intelligence agency. They will also assert that the dissenting views did not significantly undermine the overall conclusion of the NIE that Iraq was continuing its banned weapons program despite UN resolutions. [WASHINGTON POST, 7/19/2003; NEW YORK TIMES, 7/19/2003; WASHINGTON POST, 7/27/2003]

-- Context of 'January 2003: Classified Intelligence Assessments Warn of Dire Consequences to Iraq Invasion', by History Commons


Libby now began telling reporters that Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative, itself classified information, since she was an undercover operative.

Karl Rove engaged in the same routine. Apparently Cheney, Rove and Libby (and Bush?) believed that Wilson’s credibility would be undermined if the Washington press corps could have it intimated to them that his story was a CIA plant.

Robert Novak used the information given him by the White House staff to out Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover operative. Her career was ruined. All her contacts in the global South were burned, and their lives put in danger. The CIA’s careful project combating weapons of mass destruction collapsed.

The same administration that alleges it should be able to listen to our phone calls at will for national security purposes deliberately undermined U.S. security for petty political purposes, making us all much less safe.

The likelihood is that the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove so far revealed are only the tip of the iceberg.
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Re: Our Man in London: The Scandal of the 35-Page ‘Intellige

Postby admin » Mon Jan 30, 2017 5:03 am

The Democratic Party line that could torch civil liberties … and maybe help blow up the world. We should reject the guidance of politicians and commentators who are all too willing to throw basic tenets of civil liberties overboard.
by Norman Solomon
January 4, 2017

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Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat.

Of course, partisan spinners aren’t big on self-examination, especially if they’re aligned with the Democratic Party’s dominant corporate wing. And the option of continually fingering the Kremlin as the main villain of a 2016 morality play is clearly too juicy for functionary Democrats to pass up – even if that means scorching civil liberties and escalating a new cold war that could turn radioactively hot.

Much of the current fuel for the blame-Russia blaze has to do with the horrifying reality that Donald Trump will soon become president. Big media outlets are blowing oxygen into the inferno. But the flames are also being fanned by people who should know better.

Consider the Boston Globe article that John Shattuck – a former Washington legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union – wrote in mid-December. “A specter of treason hovers over Donald Trump,” the civil libertarian wrote. “He has brought it on himself by dismissing a bipartisan call for an investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee as a ‘ridiculous’ political attack on the legitimacy of his election as president.”

As quickly pointed out by Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University, raising the specter of treason “is simply wrong” – and “its wrongness matters, not just because hyperbole always weakens argument, but because the carefully restricted definition of the crime of treason is essential to protecting free speech and the freedom of association.”

Is Shattuck’s piece a mere outlier? Sadly, no. Although full of gaping holes, it reflects a substantial portion of the current liberal zeitgeist. And so the argument that Shattuck made was carried forward into the new year by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect, who approvingly quoted Shattuck’s article in a Jan. 1 piece that flatly declared: “In his dalliance with Vladimir Putin, Trump’s actions are skirting treason.”

The momentum of fully justified loathing for Trump has drawn some normally level-headed people into untenable – and dangerous – positions. (The “treason” approach that Shattuck and Kuttner have embraced is particularly ironic and misplaced, given that Trump’s current course will soon make him legally deserving of impeachment due to extreme conflicts of interest that are set to violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.)

Among the admirable progressives who supported Bernie’s presidential campaign but have succumbed to Russia-baiting of Trump are former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Congressman Keith Ellison, who is a candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Last week, in a widely circulated post on his Facebook page, Reich wrote: “Evidence continues to mount that Trump is on Putin’s side.” But Reich’s list of “evidence” hardly made the case that Trump “is on Putin’s side,” whatever that means.

A day later, when Trump tweeted a favorable comment about Putin, Rep. Ellison quickly echoed Democratic Party orthodoxy with a tweet: “Praising a foreign leader for undermining our democracy is a slap in the face to all who have served our country.”

Some of Putin’s policies are abhorrent, and criticizing his regime should be fair game as much as criticizing any other. At the same time, “do as we say, not as we do” isn’t apt to put the United States on high moral ground. The U.S. government has used a wide repertoire of regime change tactics including direct meddling in elections, and Uncle Sam has led the world in cyberattacks.

Intervention in the election of another country is categorically wrong. It’s also true that – contrary to conventional U.S. wisdom at this point – we don’t know much about a Russian role in last year’s election. We should not forget the long history of claims from agencies such as the CIA that turned out to be misleading or downright false.

Late last week, when the Obama administration released a drum-rolled report on the alleged Russian hacking, Democratic partisans and mainline journalists took it as something akin to gospel. But the editor of ConsortiumNews.com, former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter Robert Parry, wrote an assessment concluding that the latest report “again failed to demonstrate that there is any proof behind U.S. allegations that Russia both hacked into Democratic emails and distributed them via WikiLeaks to the American people.”

Even if the Russian government did intervene in the U.S. election by hacking emails and publicizing them, key questions remain. Such as:

Do we really want to escalate a new cold war with a country that has thousands of nuclear weapons?

Do we really want a witch-hunting environment here at home, targeting people with views that have some overlap with Kremlin positions?

Can the president of Russia truly “undermine our democracy” – or aren’t the deficits of democracy in the United States overwhelmingly self-inflicted from within the U.S. borders?

It’s so much easier to fixate on Putin as a villainous plotter against our democracy instead of directly taking on our country’s racist and class biases, its structural mechanisms that relentlessly favor white and affluent voters, its subservience to obscene wealth and corporate power.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about refusing to normalize the Trump presidency. And that’s crucial. Yet we should also push back against normalizing the deflection of outrage at the U.S. political system’s chronic injustices and horrendous results – deflection that situates the crux of the problem in a foreign capital instead of our own.

We should reject the guidance of politicians and commentators who are all too willing to throw basic tenets of civil liberties overboard, while heightening the risks of brinkmanship that could end with the two biggest nuclear powers blowing up the world.
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Re: Our Man in London: The Scandal of the 35-Page ‘Intellige

Postby admin » Thu Mar 30, 2017 6:09 am

Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not To Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion
By Glenn Greenwald
March 16, 2017

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Image

FROM MSNBC POLITICS shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election — a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

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Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.

The latest official to throw cold water on the MSNBC-led circus is President Obama’s former acting CIA chief Michael Morell. What makes him particularly notable in this context is that Morell was one of Clinton’s most vocal CIA surrogates. In August, he not only endorsed Clinton in the pages of the New York Times but also became the first high official to explicitly accuse Trump of disloyalty, claiming, “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But on Wednesday night, Morell appeared at an intelligence community forum to “cast doubt” on “allegations that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.” “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire at all,” he said, adding, “There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it.”

Obama’s former CIA chief also cast serious doubt on the credibility of the infamous, explosive “dossier” originally published by BuzzFeed, saying that its author, Christopher Steele, paid intermediaries to talk to the sources for it. The dossier, he said, “doesn’t take you anywhere, I don’t think.”

Morell’s comments echo the categorical remarks by Obama’s top national security official, James Clapper, who told Meet the Press last week that during the time he was Obama’s DNI, he saw no evidence to support claims of a Trump/Russia conspiracy. “We had no evidence of such collusion,” Clapper stated unequivocally. Unlike Morell, who left his official CIA position in 2013 but remains very integrated into the intelligence community, Clapper was Obama’s DNI until just seven weeks ago, leaving on January 20.

Perhaps most revealing of all are the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — charged with investigating these matters — who recently told BuzzFeed how petrified they are of what the Democratic base will do if they do not find evidence of collusion, as they now suspect will likely be the case. “There’s a tangible frustration over what one official called ‘wildly inflated’ expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation,” BuzzFeed’s Ali Watkins wrote.

Moreover, “several committee sources grudgingly say, it feels as though the investigation will be seen as a sham if the Senate doesn’t find a silver bullet connecting Trump and Russian intelligence operatives.” One member told Watkins: “I don’t think the conclusions are going to meet people’s expectations.”

What makes all of this most significant is that officials like Clapper and Morell are trained disinformation agents; Clapper in particular has proven he will lie to advance his interests. Yet even with all the incentive to do so, they are refusing to claim there is evidence of such collusion; in fact, they are expressly urging people to stop thinking it exists. As even the law recognizes, statements that otherwise lack credibility become more believable when they are ones made “against interest.”

Media figures have similarly begun trying to tamp down expectations. Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, which published the Steele dossier, published an article yesterday warning that the Democratic base’s expectation of a smoking gun “is so strong that Twitter and cable news are full of the theories of what my colleague Charlie Warzel calls the Blue Detectives — the left’s new version of Glenn Beck, digital blackboards full of lines and arrows.” Smith added: “It is also a simple fact that while news of Russian actions on Trump’s behalf is clear, hard details of coordination between his aides and Putin’s haven’t emerged.” And Smith’s core warning is this:

Trump’s critics last year were horrified at the rise of “fake news” and the specter of a politics shaped by alternative facts, predominantly on the right. They need to be careful now not to succumb to the same delusional temptations as their political adversaries, and not to sink into a filter bubble which, after all, draws its strength not from conservative or progressive politics but from human nature.

And those of us covering the story and the stew of real information, fantasy, and — now — forgery around it need to continue to report and think clearly about what we know and what we don’t, and to resist the sugar high that comes with telling people exactly what they want to hear.


For so long, Democrats demonized and smeared anyone trying to inject basic reason, rationality, and skepticism into this Trump/Russia discourse by labeling them all Kremlin agents and Putin lovers. Just this week, the Center for American Progress released a report using the language of treason to announce the existence of a “Fifth Column” in the U.S. that serves Russia (similar to Andrew Sullivan’s notorious 2001 decree that anyone opposing the war on terror composed an anti-American “Fifth Column”), while John McCain listened to Rand Paul express doubts about the wisdom of NATO further expanding to include Montenegro and then promptly announced: “Paul is working for Vladimir Putin.”

But with serious doubts — and fears — now emerging about what the Democratic base has been led to believe by self-interested carnival barkers and partisan hacks, there is a sudden, concerted effort to rein in the excesses of this story. With so many people now doing this, it will be increasingly difficult to smear them all as traitors and Russian loyalists, but it may be far too little, too late, given the pitched hysteria that has been deliberately cultivated around these issues for months. Many Democrats have reached the classic stage of deranged conspiracists where evidence that disproves the theory is viewed as further proof of its existence, and those pointing to it are instantly deemed suspect.

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A formal, credible investigation into all these questions, where the evidence is publicly disclosed, is still urgently needed. That’s true primarily so that conspiracies no longer linger and these questions are resolved by facts rather than agenda-driven anonymous leaks from the CIA and cable news hosts required to feed a partisan mob.

It’s certainly possible to envision an indictment of a low-level operative like Carter Page, or the prosecution of someone like Paul Manafort on matters unrelated to hacking, but the silver bullet that Democrats have been led to expect will sink Trump appears further away than ever.

But given the way these Russia conspiracies have drowned out other critical issues being virtually ignored under the Trump presidency, it’s vital that everything be done now to make clear what is based in evidence and what is based in partisan delusions. And most of what the Democratic base has been fed for the last six months by their unhinged stable of media, online, and party leaders has decisively fallen into the latter category, as even their own officials are now desperately trying to warn.
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