Category Archives: Russia

“THE MEMO”

Memo

The release of the memo from the House Intelligence Committee is coming.  To start I have no idea what is in “The Memo.” Like all of you I know its four pages long and is an executive summary of the committee hearings on the investigation of alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election and collusion by the Trump campaign. Some say it is devastating and will expose corruption and criminal activity in the highest reaches of the FBI and the Obama administration writ large. Others say it is cherry pick information without context designed to destroy the FBI and attack the news media. The Democrats on committee wrote their own memo which is not going to be released with the majority memo. It will however be released to the House members for review, so we can be sure it will be leaked.
What facts do we then have to guess what is in the memo, none. We can only infer from actions taken and what has been leaked as well as rumors, what we may see in the memo. Many on both sides of the aisle are concerned it will contain classified information. I hope this is not the case and that it will be a summation like the report released by the Intelligence Community detailing what they knew of Russian activities in the 2016 election. While based on classified information it was a summation with sources and methods redacted.
What we do know is it will cause a major debate across the country. It will not likely destroy the FBI as an institution but will cause a shakeup in senior management. Will it cause a disruption of the ongoing special investigation by Robert Mueller, we don’t know but suspect it will have an impact based on the reaction the news of the release has caused on the left. Will it have context, probable not, it’s a summation of a year long investigation.
What is the one thing we know? After going to the committee vault and reviewing the memo, as well its hoped at least some of the underlying documents, FBI Director Wray retuned to the FBI and the next day Deputy Director McCabe was gone. Beyond the memo is talk of a devastating report from the FBI’s own Inspector General on the handling of the Clinton email investigation. This all follows on the heals of revelations of two FBI agents text messages who were involved in both the Clinton and the current Mueller investigation, being biased against Trump and pro Hillary. While it is OK for people to have opinions, it is not OK for investigators to text about attempts to direct the outcome of their investigation to a foregone conclusion.
The questions to be answered by this memo should be, was the FBI weaponized by the Obama administration, did the bias of the investigators influence their ability to conduct the investigation. Has the investigation into Russian interference been tainted to the point that it must be ended? The last question, is the memo based on political bias and should it be disregarded.
When you read this memo, it should be with some skepticism since it is coming from only one side, but it should be read without prejudice. It will likely contain enough truth to decide if the actors named have hurt the country. It will be bad for the nation if the FBI was politicized but it will not have been the first time. During the red scare of the ‘50s and the civil rights movement of the ‘60s the FBI was weaponized against our citizens. These revelations will not destroy the nation but hopefully make it stronger.
So PLEASE THINK when the memo comes out. Use your sense of reason and not emotion.

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The New Cold War

Cold War

Recent international activities are beginning to remind me of the cold war, and its heating up. Over the weekend the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 ground attack aircraft, after it had attack US supported Syrian and Kurdish forces who were in combat with ISIS. This action in and of itself is significant and indicates a sea change in US policy. But it is not an isolated incident and is a continuing march toward a new cold war that has been in development since the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those who do not remember, the cold war lasted from the end of the second world war in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet Union on 1991. During this time, there were both political and military confrontations between the West and the East. To correct the wrong impression while the term is “Cold War” there were some very hot spots during this time. From the Korean War through Vietnam and smaller conflicts in Africa and South and Central America, the west faced off against the agents of the Soviet Union in many ways. The main difference is that while the West (US) would engage directly with military force the East (Soviet Union) used proxy fighters.

Today we are seeing a rise in tension and a return to many of the same patterns we saw in the past. Both Russia and China have begun to once again challenge our military by close encounters at sea and in the air and by testing our ability to detect and react to air and submarine incursions.  The subs have mostly been in Scandinavian seas, we have not heard of others. Like the last time however this could lead to unforeseen problems. From the proxy side, we see Russia fermenting a civil war in Ukraine and a direct annexation of Chimera. They have also returned to the Middle East by propping up the regime of Assad in Syrian and this time they have committed their own forces.  China is challenging us in the south china sea by the expansion of territorial claims and an increase in military presence.

It may be assumed we won the last time and we will win this time. This time however there is a major change. The United States is seen by many as a paper tiger. Regardless of what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan it is greatly assumed we will not commit to a major defense of the west. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the current administration for its talk about NATO and the need for Europe to be more proactive in its own defense. But for the most part, on a macro level, we have over the past few years reduced our own military and shown a reluctance to engage in any meaningful way with the growing threat from Russia or China.

During the last cold war, we stayed out of direct confrontation with Russia through something called Mutual Assured Destruction, (MAD).  The concept of MAD was that in the event of a major war both sides had the capability to destroy the other. In a true sense, it was not the fear of mutual destruction that held back the missiles it was the fact that retaliation was assured. Neither side doubted the other would retaliate. In diplomacy, much the same concept is valid. Why would one side bother to negotiate with another if there is no fear of a military response that could be devastating.

Why has Russia run roughshod over the west, in the last few years presidents from both parties did little to react to Russian military adventures other than wag a finger and level ineffective sanctions. The danger today with the sea change I discussed is that it may take a lot more convincing to reign in Russia and China. This will mean there will be violence and death. Should this however work, as history has taught, then if we are still in time it will be less violent that if nothing is done. If we are not in time then nothing will reduce the carnage.

I hope I am right and we are in time. We must however present a more united front to the world then the fighting and inexcusable rhetoric that is coming out of Washington. It is a dangerous time and it will take a strong front to deflect the carnage and save civilization. PLEASE THINK before you get all bent out of shape over some mundane action of a politician, your child could have been Otto Warnbier. I am not sure if we had a better reputation for protecting our citizens there would have been a different outcome, or if he would have been arrested at all. But we need to try. We need to be that country that other would rather talk to then fight.

 

 

 

The Reality of Keeping Secrets

TS

 

The Reality of protecting the nations secrets is becoming more difficult by the day. The recent release of an NSA report by a government contractor, Reality Winner, has brought to light, once again, the difficulty in maintaining security. There is a lot of coverage of her being a contractor, now the discloser I was once employed by the same contractor, Pluribus International, and mention of her past six years as a linguist with the Air Force, but little about her apparent extreme political views. This is where we need to begin the discussion.

A review of the social media sites of Reality Winner shows a very activist person who bought into every anti-Trump campaign, as well as other progressive programs. After the fact, many have asked why a deeper background check was not done considering her apparent hatred of Trump and support for the Iranian government. If her Facebook page had been viewed what could have been done. Can a person be denied employment for political views? The answer of course is a resounding maybe. The problem of course is not opposing political views but lack of self-control and any sense of individual responsibility. Many have said that the release of classified material is an act of courage and proved individual integrity. I have read both the article by “The Intercept” and the redacted NSA report. What we have is a young lady who has ruined her life and the reputation of a company that did nothing more than give her a job after her service to her county, for nothing. The information provided was nothing that was not suspected, but confirmed the details. The details by the way would not indicate any influence on the election, it looked like a test run. The hacking was aimed at voter registration rolls and not at the actual election machines. While it may have affected individual voters by raising questions as to their legitimate registration it is doubtful it had any impact on the results.

Regardless of the impact, it is an attack on the integrity of the United States and must be handled as such and with caution. The leak and leakers are also an attack on the integrity of the United States and must be dealt with. Reality Winners is a product of her time and one of many leakers who probably feel that they are doing a service to their country. They are wrong. Releasing intelligence, even finished product without the raw data, can cause great national harm even death. There are reasons some information is classified and they are good reasons. Many people with many years of experience work to insure the security of this information and a 25-year-old with 6 years of experience in the Air Force is not experienced enough to override this process. By releasing this information Winner has let the Russians know what we discovered and reduced the effectiveness of any countermeasures.

The extremism and virulence of the attacks on the current administration have opened a process of uncontrolled anger and given people like Winner the excuse to put the country in danger in the name of resistance to a President they did not vote for. This is just a furthering of what has been happening across society to include colleges shutting down free expression and segments of society segregating themselves from the rest. It needs to stop.

It must stop. I feel for both Reality Winner and her family. Her uncontrolled anger, feed by an out of control media (I hesitate to call it News Media) resulted in a very unwise choice. She is the first to be caught and will likely suffer greatly for her transgression. Unlike Edward Snowden, protected by Russia, or Bradly Manning, pardoned by President Obama, she is in a time and administration that will not be kind to her.

 A recent article in the Wall Street Journal spoke to the fact that colleges are not teaching our children how to make a cohesive argument and they leave school with no greater critical thinking skills then when they entered. Add this to politicians and pundits on television constantly yelling and refusing to listen to any opposition arguments and you have an up and coming community that feels no remorse in deciding on their own what should go public.  

There are many ways that a person can get information to the right hands if they truly feel it is necessary. They are long and cumbersome by design. There are even shortcuts that can be taken that do not require public disclosure. Today however we seem to need instant gratification of our passions. We have raised a generation, or two, that glory’s in its independence but in fact has fallen into the trap of groupthink.

I am sorry Reality, but you need to be strongly and publicly punished to stop those who follow from making the same mistake, or at least give them pause before they make a move.  To all who would defend Reality PLEASE THINK of the consequences of your actions.   

McCarthyism or Clintonism

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In a recent post, I spoke about the term witch hunt and how it applies to the current House and Senate committee hearings into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. One example used was the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s into communist activity in the US. I began to wonder how closely these two paralleled and what impact the current hearings will have on America.

First a little history. Joseph McCarthy was a little know circuit court judge from Wisconsin when he was elected in 1946, to the Senate in an upset victory over a more established Republican. While at first remaining quite he was propelled to prominence in a 1950 speech in which he claimed 205 communists had infiltrated the State Department. When asked to testify in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations he was unable to name a single person. Undaunted and after winning reelection in 1952 he was given the chairmanship of the Committee on Government Operations of the Senate and the permanent sub-committee on investigations. From this point McCarthy carried on a 2-year witch-hunt that destroyed lives and altered life in the US for years after. The atmosphere of fear and intimidation that resulted in the continuous hearings and interrogations had an impact on society

  Quantification aside, it may be helpful to look at the specific sectors of American society that McCarthyism touched. Such an appraisal, tentative though it must be, may offer some insight into the extent of the damage and into the ways in which the anti-Communist crusade influenced American society, politics, and culture. We should keep in mind, however, that McCarthyism’s main impact may well have been in what did not happen rather than in what did the social reforms that were never adopted, the diplomatic initiatives that were not pursued, the workers who were not organized into unions, the books that were not written, and the movies that were never filmed.” Schrecker, Ellen. The Age of McCarthyism. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Marvin’s Press, 1994.

  Could the current round of investigations, congressional hearings and unquestioned interrogations lead to a similar intimation of American government and society? It is not widely known today but McCarthy spread a wide net to include President Eisenhower and both Democratic and Republican leaders. Today the greatest claim to fame for this period is to give us something to call that time.

“McCarthyism, name given to the period of time in American history that saw Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s in an effort to expose supposed communist infiltration of various areas of the U.S.  government. The term has since become a byname for defamation of character or reputation by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations, especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/McCarthyism

Jumping forward 60+ years the question is, are we looking for an actually crime committed by the now sitting President and his campaign or are we entering the period of time that will be known as Clintonism?  

When McCarthy started down the road to capture communist and save the USA, there was some truth to what set him off. The cold war was just starting and there was fear of communist aggression because of the Korean war. Communist in the US under the direction of Moscow were indeed trying to infiltrate the government as evidenced by Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss. It was never as widespread or successful as many have made it out to be. Just like today we can look at actually activities that point to a Russian attempt to do something. But as McCarthy blow out of all proportion the Red Threat in the ‘50s so has Hillary Clinton and the democratic party with the impact of Russian activities.

 The facts that we know today are that the Democratic National Committees emails were hacked. The most likely perpetrator was the Russian government, which evidence by the way would not likely stand up in court. We also know that members of the Trump campaign and transition team met with Russians, in what is likely legitimate and legal activities. We also have illegal actions in this time period, most notable is the unmasking of us citizens based on electronic intercepts. Electronic intercepts would most likely be called wiretaps by the general public. Unmasking of US citizens, except under extraordinary conditions, caught up in this surveillance is illegal. The driving force to much of this is the initial discovery of classified information on a private unsecured server in Sec. Clintons home. This became critical when then FBI Director James Comey had to admit that Clinton’s actions did in fact violate the law but used a legal excuse, Mens Rea, that said she did not intend to break the law so she is excused.

The Clinton campaign then beat the drum of Russian hacking vice her violation of law as the most damaging activity. While there are some suggestions that Russia was using released emails and propaganda like fake news releases to swing the election toward Trump, the intelligence reports and exit polls show the Russian activity had little to no impact on the election results.  

Like the McCarthy hearings of the ‘50s there was some basis in fact to raise concern. Like the McCarthy era the hearings of today are out of proportion to the actions and the net is being spread far and wide beyond the scope of the problem. Normal activity is being cast as suspicious, reputations are being ruined and the level of hysteria and paranoia is outsized to the facts.

The driving issues for the election were economic, static wages and a very slow economy. Clinton represented the failed policies of the government and Trump was an unknown who appeared to understand how to get the economy moving. Clinton was expected to win and Russia was likely more interested in disrupting her administration then actually winning the election for Trump. The current hearings to date have discovered nothing that shows collusion between the Trump campaign, according to the Democrats on the committees, but they continue to work hard. There hard work is beginning to look like the McCarthy hearing however. No evidence is being given just rumor, innuendo and supposition.

What effect this will have on the governing of the country or impact this will have on future elections, is hard to tell. It is time for everyone to PLEASE THINK of what they are doing and remember what happened in the past.     

 

Back Channels and Back to the Bad Old Days

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The recent reporting on Jared Kushner and the alleged attempt to set up a back channel to the Russians is reading less like news and more an attempt to develop a plotline for an Ian Fleming novel. To put things in perspective we must first define back channel communications. We have two definitions first from the online Business Dictionary:

            “’Grapevine’ or informal communication that travels parallel to (and sometimes ahead of) official channels in an organization or society.”

Next from Dictionary.com:

 “noun 1.a secret, unofficial, or informal channel of communication as used in politics or diplomacy: sensitive information passed on through a back channel.” 

The term “Back Channel” was coined in the 1950’s, during the cold war, by government and foreign policy officials and intelligence operatives to refer to alternative methods for communicating across borders by using lines of communication not available to traditional official governmental and diplomatic entities or to covert international intelligence agents.

This last come from a Wikipedia Synopsis of the film “Back Door Channel: The Price of Peace.” A film documenting the process that made the 1979 Israeli/Egypt peace treaty posable. To put a point to all of this, back channels are not unheard of or unusual in either business or government.

So why all the hubbub, because its Trump, and the Russians are involved. Why are the Russians such bogymen in all things Trump, well, let us see! Toward the end of the book “Shattered,” by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, there is a passage that is not getting a lot of press:

 “Within 24 hours of her concession speech,” the authors report, campaign manager Robby Mook and campaign chair John Podesta “assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.” -Published on Monday, May 01, 2017 by Common Dreams “How the Russia Spin Got So Much Torque”  by Norman Solomon-

It was the Russians who had engineered the defeat, and the new talking points and all arguments from this point forward would paint a Trump/Russia connection, and facts be damned. It is understandable that democratic politicians took up the call, after all the orders came from on high, but the mainstream media as well reported all as fact without checking sources. Now we have sources that are plentiful, many not even able to know what they are reporting on. By this last I mean the “former government officials” that report the happenings of private meetings. But worst are the leakers, revealing reports that should never leave the confines of the government. This brings us back to Kushner.

The report apparently came from an intelligence intercept of a diplomatic message sent by the Russian Ambassador to Moscow describing the meeting. This means one of two things, we just told the Russians we have broken their diplomatic code, or the message was sent in the clear. From what I can gather it was sent in the clear. Which makes it likely a disinformation campaign, as the Ambassador knows that all his messages are read by the US. That is not to say that there was no discussion of a back channel, but that it was not nefarious or to be designed in the way the message was sent. As we have seen above back channel communications is standard stuff. In fact one of the best examples of how this works was when the Kennedy White House used ABC reporter John A. Scali was used as a go between for the Executive Committee (excomm) and the Soviet Union.

“Scali was contacted by Soviet embassy official (and KGB Station Chief) Fomin about a proposed settlement to the crisis, and subsequently he acted as a contact between Fomin and the Executive Committee. However, it was without government direction that Scali responded to new Soviet conditions with a warning that a U.S. invasion was only hours away, prompting the Soviets to settle the crisis quickly.”

This back channel likely helped prevent a nuclear war. This is the kind of unofficial line of communication that was likely discussed with the ambassador. This is not a conspiracy or any type of collusion, this is statecraft 101. When you read these stories PLEASE THINK about the democratic party made up narrative and how the world really works.  If you have the time research “Disinformation Campaign.” I will be writing on this in the future.