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In response to ~57. Apologies for bad proofreading. I wrote 'Nikolai Struve', when I meant 'Nikolai Berdyaev.' The work that Putin recommended to regional governors in 2014, which is - misleadingly - entitled 'The Philosophy of Inequality', represents Berdyaev's most grief-stricken, and unequivocally hostile, response to the Revolution. (When it was published in Berlin in 1923, Berdyaev made it clear he thought the work unbalanced.) Likewise, I wrote 'Dzerzinsky', rather than 'Dzherzinsky.'
Patrick Bahzad, Thanks for that. Very good to have you back posting. A lot of food for thought. One comes back to the basic point that unless one gets the military technicalities right, one’s political analysis is liable to end up completely off the mark. And the reverse is obviously also true – that military analysis without grasp of the relevant politics is liable to come unstuck. People should read Clausewitz more. The inability of almost everyone in the West to grasp that the Russians were in a position to have a reasonable prospect of success in finessing objectives in tension – preventing the fall of Assad, while avoiding an Afghanistan-style quagmire – would seem to illustrate what happens when people lack the intellectual equipment to do the relevant political and military analysis, and integrate them. A further paradoxical result of all this is that Putin, who has always been concerned to maintain good relations with Israel, ended up in a position where he had to do everything possible to make the ‘Syrian Arab Army’ capable of fighting modern warfare: which one would have thought is not exactly what the Israelis want. How well the Russians can continue to finesse these objectives successfully, of course, is an interesting question.
F.B.Ali, In response to #26. As so often, I completely agree with you. A few points may be worth adding in to the debate. With regard to the January 2017 ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’, I would recommend to anyone seriously interested in evaluating the evidence a post entitled ‘Fact and Comment’ put up the time by Professor Paul Robinson of Ottawa. (See .) Its author was a contemporary, at Eton and Oxford, of our embarrassment of a Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. But while Johnson went into a London media ‘bubble’, Robinson joined the Army, and spent five years in Army Intelligence. So, having explained how the document looks to a competent intelligence professional, he concludes by remarking that none of what he says proves the claims are false, simply that ‘the assessments are not supported by the information which the report provides.’ There are however larger issues here, to which remarks made by Ambassador Chas Freeman in his recent speech ‘The United States and China: Game of Superpowers’ are relevant: ‘China seeks affirmation by foreigners of its self-image as a virtuous society, but, for the most part, Chinese are indifferent to how we non-Chinese govern ourselves. By contrast, Americans are convinced that only constitutional democracy on the U.S. model can confer legitimacy, that other systems of government are inherently unjust, and that it is therefore appropriate to insist on their reform or overthrow. This difference manifests itself in US-China interaction both internationally and bilaterally.’ (See .) When Paul Robinson returned to academic life, he chose a thesis subject apparently totally irrelevant to the present day – what had become of the defeated White Army in exile. One of the consequences was that acquired a very good understanding of the complexities of the politics of anti-communist Russians. As he brought out in a 2004 article which was headlined ‘Putin’s Might is White’ in ‘The Spectator’ – it was then edited by Boris Johnson – some of the leading thinkers of the emigration, such as Ivan Ilyin and Petr Struve, had no principled hostility to ‘constitutional democracy.’ (See .) What they thought was that so many of their educated compatriots, convinced that the Tsarist system was ‘inherently unjust’ had insisted on its ‘reform or overthrow’, without thinking through what were the actual possibilities of the situation, given the legacies of Russian history. And in so doing, they had unleashed a measureless catastrophe: ‘Both men [Robinson wrote] understood that the intelligentsia’s obsession with liberating the people was unleashing forces which would eventually destroy all liberty in Russia. Only an authoritarian government, they decided, could protect individual freedoms in the absence of a political culture that accepted basic ideas such as property rights. A society whose people understood legal rights and duties could successfully govern itself. One that did not must be ruled by a powerful individual, who would educate the people in its legal consciousness until such time as it was fit for self-rule.’ So, ironically, the irrelevant subject that Robinson had chosen turned out very relevant. In the 2004 article, he described Putin as a ‘typical Soviet radish – red on the outside and white at the core.’ As he was pointing out, in the arguments that had been going on beneath the surface as the bankruptcy of Marxist-Leninist ideology became clearly apparent, it was not at all unnatural that, as it were, a ‘grandchild of the Revolution’ could come to see some of its opponents as vindicated, and look to them for guidance. Likewise, Putin had come to agree with figures like Struve and Ilyin, and also the religious philosophers Nikolai Struve and Vladimir Solovyov, that the characteristic hostility of the ‘intelligentsia’ to religion, and determination to uproot the traditional beliefs of Russian society, had been a disaster. Just as Russians have abandoned a messianic universalism, the West has decided to embrace it: we have become ‘neo-Bolshevik.’ As no lessons whatsoever were learnt from the failure of the ‘liberal’ project in Russia after 1989, the United States and Britain have gone on spreading chaos: witness Irag, Libya, Syria. As ‘plantman’ noted, the first of the ‘key judgements’ in the ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’ is that: ‘Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.’ This is a projection onto Putin of a hostility to the ‘liberal-democratic order’ which is based on a total inability to understand the ideological tradition from which he comes. He is no more hostile to liberalism as such than Struve or Ilyin. His hostility, which has been consistent, is to any kind of messianic universalism which refuses to examine the concrete possibilities of actual situations. And he is right. Over the years, I have found it a useful ‘rule of thumb’ that if people involved with ‘covert intelligence’ make claims about other societies whose politics, culture and history they have made no serious attempt to understand, and clearly hold absurd ideological convictions, then it is very unwise to take what they say they know from secret sources on trust. A further point about the kind of universalistic projects embraced by the contemporary West is that often – as with the projects once embraced by Marxist-Leninists – one has reason to suspect that the ostensible idealistic agendas veil less savoury ones. Moreover, those involved not uncommonly come to believe that, because their virtue is self-evident, they cannot be expected to be bound by any kind of moral scruples. As with the Bolsheviks, the end of the road, by no means always but quite commonly, is rascality pure and simple. Among the many people involved in ‘Russiagate’, two seem to merit comment in this regard. As you say, to advance John Brennan as a credible source is ‘to taint the story irredeemably.’ It may be worth supplying some supporting evidence, in particularly because it bears upon another key figure, the former GCHQ head Robert Hannigan. Over the past few years, I have spent a good deal of time following up leads which originally arose out of a memorandum sent to Obama on 6 September 2013 by the ‘Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Group’ entitled ‘Is Syria a Trap?’ (See .) It opened: ‘We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this.’ According to CIA officers working on the issue, the group reported, ‘CIA Director John Brennan is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public and perhaps even you.’ (See .) As to Hannigan, he was appointed in 2007 to the newly created post of Security Adviser to the Prime Minister. In March 2010, he moved to the FCO as Director General, Defence and Intelligence, before being appointed to head GCHQ in April 2014. As was made clear on his appointment, he had been a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee ‘for many years.’ (See .) It seemed overwhelming probable that, if the claims in the VIPS memorandum were correct, and British intelligence officials knew that Assad was not to blame, when on 29 August 2013 the JIC provided David Cameron with a document to take to Parliament alleging that his responsibility for Ghouta was a ‘slam dunk’ – although they did not use the phrase – they must have been lying. It turned out, as I explained on SST back in April last year, that there was a very strong ‘prima facie case’ that they were in fact lying – in so doing, committing ‘contempt of Parliament’, a very serious offence in the British system. If so, Hannigan must have been involved up to the hilt. (See .) From the testimony of Glenn Simpson to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, it has also been clear that Semyon Mogilevich and the ‘Solntsevskaya Bratva’ have been central to the ‘information operations’ against Trump. As I have made clear in two posts on SST, and a large number of comments, these were earlier employed in ‘information operations’ which were central to the projects of ‘régime change’ in Ukraine and Russia. These involved, among other things, the use of a mixture of accurate information and pure fabrication to implicate the FSB and Putin in attempting to supply a ‘suitcase nuke’ to Al Qaeda. (See ; .) When the ‘covert operations’ contests ran out of control, Steele clearly played a major role in orchestrating a cover-up of what was happened by making total bogus accusations against two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, and also the FSB and Putin, of responsibility for the deliberate murder of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium. Again, it would seem Hannigan must have been involved up to the hilt. For reasons I have given in the posts, I think it extremely likely that elements in American intelligence were intimately involved with Steele both in the original ‘régime change’ projects and the cover-up. Accordingly, I fully agree that nobody can take claims by Brennan as credible and expect to be regarded as credible himself. And when I discover that a ‘twerp’, formerly employed at GCHQ, whose consultancy turns out never to have traded, has proclaimed that the name and patronymic of Dzerzinky in the metadata of a document implicate the GRU, I do not think the most plausible explanation is that this was a ‘rather shoddy Guccifer 2.0’ improvisation on the part of that organisation. It seems to me rather more likely that we are dealing with people who have been impelled to subvert the constitutional order, in part because they have a lot to lose by having an outsider coming in, who might conceivably expose what they have done.
PT and all, Another lead from ‘sundance’ has led in some interesting directions. Both he and a lot of other people have suggested for some time that Bill Priestap, the F.B.I. Assistant Director in charge of counterintelligence operations, has been, as it were, ‘singing sweetly.’ Only more recently, if my memory serves me right, has ‘sundance’ been suggesting that Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Baker and Bruce Ohr have also been co-operating with the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. It is I think interesting to look at the career of Priestap’s wife, Sabina Menschel. Last December, it was announced that she had been appointed as President of Nardello & Co, which advertises itself as ‘the premiere global investigations firm’ – as well as continuing as Chief Operating Officer. (See .) Her bio on the firm’s site makes clear that she is a graduate both of Harvard and Harvard Business School. Further material: ‘Sabina began her investigative career as a research analyst at Kroll, and rose to Director of Research for the New York office and then to Global Head of Training for the Business Intelligence and Investigations practice. ‘Earlier in her career, Sabina served as a Special Advisor in the Directorate of Intelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters in Washington, DC. In that capacity, she worked with senior management to refine and strengthen the FBI’s intelligence gathering capabilities and implement its intelligence transformation efforts in response to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.’ Her father Richard Menschel and her uncle Robert became senior directors at Goldman Sachs. Both have been honoured with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. (See .) The latter figures in a report in the ‘WSJ’ back in 2009 about a group called the ‘Wednesday 10.’ Apparently, it was formed as a ‘networking’ eating club by a group of young Jews in different professions in New York back in the ‘Fifties, with William Safire, who became a highly influential columnist for the ‘New York Times’, in the leading role. Many of these were sons of immigrants, they started from zero, and they made it. (See .) As to William Safire, the following from his ‘Wikipedia’ entry is of interest: ‘Safire was one of several voices who called for war with Iraq, and predicted a “quick war” and wrote: “Iraqis, cheering their liberators, will lead the Arab world toward democracy.” He consistently brought up the point in his Times columns that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 attackers, in Prague, which he called an “undisputed fact”, a theory which was disputed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Safire insisted that the theory was true and used it to make a case for war against Iraq. He also incorrectly predicted that “freed scientists” would lead coalition forces to “caches [of weapons of mass destruction] no inspectors could find”.' Actually, I remembered reading Safire at the time of the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking.’ Refreshing my memory with the help of ‘Google’, I came across a response to a column by Safire from Georgiy Arbatov, one of its key architects, from December 1987 – which would have been shortly after I started working on the subject. In it, Arbatov reiterated the suggestion he was frequently making at the time: that ‘we have a “secret weapon” that will work almost regardless of the American response – we would deprive America of The Enemy.’ (See .) Over the following months, Gorbachev did in fact proceed to liquidate the whole security policy inherited from the Stalinist era. This made little impression on Safire. In the wake of the failed August 1991 coup, and two weeks before Gorbachev resigned as President of the Soviet Union, he would write: ‘Revealing the true colors of a tyrant, Mikhail Gorbachev now seeks to thwart the democratic will of the independent republics of his former empire by bidding for the support of the veteran Red Army generals.’ (See .) I am well aware of the danger of ‘connecting the dots’, and reaching conclusions which appear to be cogent, but turn out to be quite wrong. However, it seems to me relevant to ask whether in fact the views of Sabina Menchel’s father and uncle on critical questions relevant to American foreign policy have been as divorced from reality as those of their long-time dining partner, and, if so, whether this has influenced her, and whether this may have relevance to the views of her husband. In 2015, she published a book entitled ‘Investigative Due Diligence: Beyond Google’, of which there is a summary on the Nardello site. From the discussion of investigative methodology: ‘It is also important to consider how information found online is exchanged and disseminated. In countries with high degrees of government censorship, such as Myanmar, the independent press may be run from abroad or through blogs and chat forums. The media in those countries may be pushing a hidden political or business agenda or have critical information scrubbed by government censors.’ (See .) If she actually believes that the media in Western countries is not pushing various kinds of ‘agenda’ – often not very hidden – or that critical information is not in effect ‘scrubbed’, then Ms. Menschel is living in never-never-land. What also frightens me is what looks like an implicit assumption that in countries with high degrees of censorship the ‘opposition’ media is necessarily ‘independent.’ It is the assumption – explicit or implicit – that those who oppose ‘dictators’ can be assumed to be honest, virtuous people who tell the truth which has been responsible for very much of the mess into which we have got ourselves over the past few years. People with their own agendas had every reason to exploit the inanity of Safire and his like to persuade them that the result of toppling Saddam would be a ‘democracy’ friendly to the United States and Israel.
PT and all, Some of what ‘sundance’ has been publishing on ‘The Conservative Treehouse’ site brings us back to the British input into the conspiracy, and the way the transnational nature of the ‘Borg’ is used to enable its members to hide their traces. Specifically, it brings one to the significant – and neglected – role played by the former GCHQ employee Matt Tait. It was on 14 June 2016 that the claim that the DNC had been hacked by the Russians originally appeared, in the ‘Washington Post’. The allegations were buttressed with interviews with two people from ‘CrowdStrike’: the company’s President, Shawn Henry, who is apparently a former Executive Assistant Director at the FBI, and its co-founder and chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, who as the paper notes is also a senior fellow with the ‘Atlantic Council.’ (See .) The following day, in a detailed defence of the claims, having linked the group referred to as ‘Cozy Bear’ with the FSB and that referred to as ‘Fancy Bear’ with the GRU, Alperovitch went on to say, of both, that ‘their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none’. (See .) The day after that, a post appeared on a site called ‘Ars Technica’ entitled ‘“Guccifer” leak of DNC Trump research has a Russian’s fingerprints on it; Evidence left behind shows leaker spoke Russian and had affinity for Soviet era.’ (See .) A key part of this ‘evidence’ was the fact that one of the documents released by ‘Guccifer 2.0’ was last edited by someone using, in cyrillic, the name and patronymic ‘Felix Edmundovich’, a clear reference to Dzerzhinsky, described by ‘Ars Technica’ as ‘the 20th Century Russian statesman who is best known for founding the Soviet secret police.’ Already we have a howler. Like very many of the original Bolsheviks, the founder of the Cheka was a man of the ‘borderlands’, and also had nothing ‘proletarian’ about him – his family were Polonised Lithuanian nobility. Moreover, either ‘Fancy Bear’ have ‘superb’ tradecraft, or they are dolts leaving the most obvious of clues: it is difficult to have it both ways. It would seem relevant that the GRU comes under the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General Valery Gerasimov, who does not show any visible signs of being a blithering idiot (mild irony alert.) And then, one really does not have to know much history to be aware that it is less than totally obvious that the successor to Tukhachevsky, Zhukov, and Vasilevsky, and indeed Aleksandr Svechin would naturally regard Dzerzhinsky as his kind of person. This kind of inanity is much more what one would expect from, say, Christopher Steele or Mike Pompeo – or indeed John Brennan. According to ‘Ars Technica’, this and other supposed ‘smoking gun’ pieces of evidence were ‘teased out of the documents and noted on Twitter by an independent security researcher who goes by the handle PwnAllTheThings.’ Currently, this ‘Twitter’ account identifies its proprietor as Matt Tait, ‘Now @StraussCenter, @UTAustin. Formerly @GCHQ, @Google etc. Views mine.’ However, if one looks back at articles – by himself and others – in which his claims were discussed at the time, one finds him referred to as ‘CEO and founder of Capital Alpha Security, a UK based security consultancy which focuses on research into software vulnerabilities, exploit mitigations and applied cryptography.’ The online records from Companies House show that ‘Capital Alpha Security’ was incorporated in February 2016, with Tait as sole shareholder, and last November 2017 filed ‘dormant accounts’ for the year to February 2017. So, the company never did any business that year, and the notion that Tait was running a consultancy was a fiction. How, one asks, was he keeping alive and funding his relentless exposés of Russian malignity – busking on the Tube perhaps? Clues to what was going on may lie in the site on which he published his own account of how he – supposedly – came to identify the ‘smoking gun’ of the name and patronymic of Dzerzhinsky. This came in a post entitled ‘On the Need for Official Attribution of Russia’s DNC Hack’ published on the ‘Lawfare’ blog, to which Tait had started contributing that April, on 28 July 2016. (See .) As it happens, one of the founders of this site, Benjamin Wittes, has been in the news recently, and has been another focus of the investigations of ‘sundance.’ A former editorial writer for the ‘Washington Post’, he co-founded ‘Lawfare’ in September 2010, and is now its editor in chief, as well as a ‘Senior Fellow in Governance Studies’ at Brookings. In a piece in the March 2018 issue of ‘The Atlantic’ Wittes and Jonathan Rauch claim that Trump is a menace to the Republic because of ‘his attempt to erode the independence of the justice system’ and his ‘encouragement of a foreign adversary’s interference in U.S. electoral processes.’ They further argue that the Republican party is enabling this threat. Accordingly, they contend, citizens should ‘vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes’ – regardless of their views on issues such as guns, taxes, and abortion. (See .) Relevant background comes in a recent piece by ‘sundance’ entitled ‘October 2016: James Comey Friend Benjamin Wittes Discusses “The Insurance Policy” Against Trump…’ As he notes, on 24 October 2016 – which appears to be three days after the FBI secured the FISA “Title-1” surveillance authority over former Trump campaign official Carter Page, using the Steele dossier, Wittes produced a post on ‘Lawfare’, entitled: ‘A Coalition of All Democratic Forces, Part III: What if Trump Wins?’ (See .) In this he argued that ‘our democracy needs a health insurance policy’, using arguments, and wording, very close to those used by the then Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the FBI to his mistress Lisa Page that August. And ‘sundance’ also notes that Wittes has himself made plain that he is a personal friend of James Comey, and has acted as a conduit for leaks from the former FBI to the media, and specifically the ‘New York Times.’ As its name implies, the ‘Lawfare’ blog has to do with the relationship of ‘law’ and ‘warfare.’ It then becomes interesting to look at the opening post which Wittes published on that site in September 2010. (See .) It seems that the term was popularised by Air Force General Charles Dunlap, in the wake of the 1999 Kosovo campaign. The initial concern behind its coining, apparently, was largely with the possibility that international law might be used by weak states to stop interventions such as that in Yugoslavia. As it happens, that intervention was the first instance of a pattern which has become recurrent since. Time and again, military intervention, and ‘régime change’ more generally, are advocated on the basis of the central ‘borgist’ premise, that somehow the problems of complex and bitterly fractured societies can be interpreted in terms of some wicked ‘dictator’ repressing the natural aspirations of his subjects to some harmonious, multicultural, ‘freedom.’ First it was Milosevic, then Saddam, then Assad, then Yanukovych, and Putin is clearly targeted for ‘régime change’ on the same basis. This premise is intimately involved with the ideology of ‘COIN’, in that this is intimately linked to the belief that Western countries have it in their power to remodel other societies on the basis of their own values and institutions. Unsurprisingly, another theme of the introductory post by Wittes is the potential for using law to do this in Afghanistan. That this dotty – and commonly corrupt – utopian project has produced disaster after disaster, from the total economic collapse produced by ‘shock therapy’ in the former Soviet Union, to the shambles we have created in Iraq, Libya and Syria, does not worry its advocates. The backlash it has produced, both on the right and left of the political spectrum, may however have created a situation in which its proponents have felt they have little option but to resort to extreme measures. So it is perhaps perfectly natural to find that when compromising DNC material is clearly going to be provided to ‘WikiLeaks’, one has a – rather incompetent – cover-up being mounted by former FBI, MI6 and GCHQ people in collusion, probably also with a strong CIA involvement. It appears likely that ‘Lawfare’ may indeed be an important part of the networks involved in the conspiracy to subvert the constitution. A co-founder with Wittes, Robert Chesney, is a Law Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and directs the ‘Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law.’ In 30 May last year an item appeared on a university website, entitled ‘Chesney’s Lawfare Blog Makes Headlines, Reaches 10 Million People a Year.’ This tells us that, having started as a three-man operation, ‘the masthead now features over 60 names, including a who’s who of top national security media analysts and law professors.’ It also notes that ‘Matt Tait, a British hacker who formerly worked for GCHQ (the British NSA) and Google, and who will arrive in Austin this fall to teach cybersecurity courses at Texas Law.’ Perhaps that was how Tait made his living – by hacking. But, however he was funded until then, from last autumn Tait had a steady income from the ‘Strauss Center.’ (See .) A critical question then becomes whether his involvement can be seen as another indication that the former GCHQ head Robert Hannigan, who resigned in January last year in mysterious circumstances, was intimately involved with this whole process of corruption. As it happens, his history turns out to be very interesting. But that is a matter for another comment.
In reply to Alex #120. Actually, the affidavit was not produced in evidence when Michael Cotlick appeared at the Inquiry on 16 March 2015. Unfortunately, for some reason if one reproduces the link from the Inquiry website, it seems not to work. So the best thing to do is often to Google ‘The Litvinenko Inquiry’ and then trace the material on the relevant page. Where one has the reference number of a document, putting that into Google will find it. On the ‘Hearings’ page, the testimony of Cotlick is indeed on 16 March 2015, Day 25 of the proceedings. In the list of items produced on the right hand side, you will see INQ020347, ‘AL documents’, which lists the affidavit which Litvinenko gave in Tel Aviv in April 2006, but the document itself is not produced. It however you search for it in the Report, you will find that 4.82 explains that ‘There is also in evidence an Affidavit sworn by Mr Litvinenko in 2006 that provides an outline account of his dealings with the Mitrokhin Commission.’ It is specifically referenced again in 4.83(f), where Owen writes that: ‘Mr Litvinenko assisted Mr Scaramella by providing him with information. Their first meeting took place in Naples in January 2004 and lasted about five days. Mr Scaramella told me that they had a number of subsequent meetings at which Mr Litvinenko provided him with information. He thought that they met on three or four occasions in Italy and also on three or four occasions in London.’ What Scaramella told Owen is in the transcript for 18 March 2015, Day 27 of the hearing. A relevant excerpt: ‘Once we organised a formal meeting at the 17 International Maritime Organisation with him and other 18 people, from ECPP and from – so other senior discussant, so Oleg Gordievsky, Vladimir Bukovsky, so 20 staff at International Maritime Organisation, Mr Cohen and some senior expert of the ECPP. ‘So once it was just a meeting in London, just aimed to analyse Litvinenko’s statements, and other times it was just me and him, yes.’ Following this meeting, which was held on 26 July 2004, a dossier largely composed of material provided to it by the ‘Environmental Crime Prevention Programme’, Scaramella’s largely non-existent organisation, was sent from the Italian Embassy in London to the ‘Mitrokhin’ Commission, for which he worked. This kind of circular reporting is a rather familiar ‘information operations’ technique. It would fool some people. Unfortunately, the link I provided in #88 got a full stop added to it, but if you follow the correct link – – you will find Scaramella refers to this document in his wiretapped conversations with Senator Guzzanti. The full dossier was obtained by David Loepp in the ‘Historical Archives of the Senate of the Italian Republic, Mitrokhin Commission Archives’, where it is Document 341.2. It was attached by me in September 2012 to the first of a series of commentaries and submissions I sent to the Solicitor to the Inquest, Martin Smith, through until Owen’s conduct of the Hearings made it clear the proceedings were completely corrupt. From the description of the ‘threat hypothesis’ in Scaramella’s presentation at the meeting, reproduced from the dossier: ‘At the end of the cold war nuclear devices were allocated by USSR in several coastal areas or dumped at sea. Also big ammount (sic) of waste to be used as weapons of mass destruction were released. Only in the Mediterranean sea more than 50 billions Curie of High Level Radioactive materials were dumped, in particular in the Sicily Street and in the Sicily Channel. Evidences confirms that telemines were dumped inside the waste material.’ And much of the rest is quite as ludicrous. Just as Scaramella had suggested in his intercepted conversations with Senator Guzzanti, this garbage was endorsed by the much-lauded ‘dissident’, Vladimir Bukovsky, the KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, the GRU defector Vladimir Rezun aka ‘Viktor Suvorov’, and the former CIA operative Louis Palumbo. The presence of the second and third of these is further evidence that MI6 was in this exercise up to the hilt, that of the last-named brings us back to the question of how far elements in the CIA were also. The ‘statements’ which were to be ‘analyzed’ at this meeting are also included in the dossier. Although they are in Italian translation, the titles are given in English. They include – with authors: ‘From KGB to FSB’ (Litvinenko); ‘Organized Crime in Moskow’ (Litvinenko); ‘Red Brigades’ (Bukovsky); ‘Environmental Terrorism in Italy' (Litvinenko); ‘Russian Training of Al Qaida Members’ (Limarev) and ‘A Nuclear Suitcase from Moskow to Zurich’ (Litvinenko).’ It is against this background that one needs to look at the affidavit given by Litvinenko in April 2006. The central subject of this is, quite clearly, the same dossier which Karon von Gerhke referred to in the faxes to John Rizzo I quoted in #88, which were sent in October-December 2005. A difference is that according to her faxes, the dossier was originally disseminated by the FSB to the CIA, who then send it on to British, French, Italian and Israeli agencies. According to the affidavit, it was sent to Italian, German, French and Israeli agencies, and had triggered an exchange of information between the last and the Russians. Both agree that it accused Berezovsky of supplying Chechen insurgents with arms, but the affidavit is more specific about the mafia links supposed to be involved, pointing to Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov, nicknamed ‘Taiwanchik.’ The faxes from Karon von Gerhke were also submitted by me as evidence, and suppressed. As to the reasons why such an affidavit was given in Israel, a crucial point is that there have long been disagreements both in Western intelligence agencies and in the Israeli about the wisdom of using jihadists as an instrument. In December 2015 – ironically, just before Owen published his report – the former head of the Israeli National Security Council, Giora Eiland, published an article in the ‘Guardian’ entitled ‘Russia is right: fighting Isis is the priority for us all.’ At the start, he recalled: ‘About a dozen years ago, the head of a Russian thinktank visited Israel. As head of the National Security Council, I met him, along with several other senior defence officials, and we heard him say that the greatest threat to world peace was Islamic State. True, the name “Isis” wasn’t mentioned then, but the phenomenon that it represents was predicted with astounding accuracy. The Russian official warned about the formation of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq, which was in the process of disintegrating; he warned that this caliphate would try to take control of the Middle East and, from there, would send its long arms northward, via the Islamic former Soviet republics. At the same time, it would try to take advantage of the weakness of the west and would turn its attention to Europe. His conclusion was that Russia, the western powers and Israel shared a common enemy and it was in their utmost interests to join forces to defeat it. I heard similar messages when I met other Russian officials over the years. They also criticised the US’s war in Iraq – which they described as “imbecilic” – and which they said would only accelerate the arrival of a caliphate.’ (See .) It was in January 2004, the same month that Litvinenko provided his material to Scaramella, that the Hutton Report, which effectively exonerated both Blair and the intelligence services in relation to that ‘imbecilic’ war, was published. In so doing, it ensured that one of the figures most responsible, Sir Richard Dearlove, would be succeeded as head of MI6 by another, Sir John Scarlett. It was following this that, at some point that year, Christopher Steele, who had worked under Scarlett at the start of the ‘Nineties in Moscow, was appointed to head the Russia Desk. Whether it was before or after the July 2004 meeting I do not know. Be that as it may a central preoccupation of Steele, and very likely Scarlett, was clearly with countering Russian ‘information operations’ which pointed towards the kind of radically different geopolitical strategy implicit in Eiland’s remarks. This was the background to the exchanges of accusations which went on both in public and in covert communications, alike in the United States and Western Europe and in Israel. Obviously, Owen had to suppress the evidence as to what Scaramella, Litvinenko and Shvets had actually been up to, because had it been produced it might have occurred even to the ‘retards’ in the Anglo-American MSM that there was a more likely explanation for the smuggling of polonium into London than to use it to assassinate Litvinenko. From the evidence I have presented in this thread, it is clear that the use of dubious claims about Mogilevich and the ‘Solntsevskaya Bratva’ which has now become central to the attempted ‘coup’ against Trump goes back a long way. Earlier, as I have brought out, both figured centre stage in the attempt to implicate Putin in WMD proliferation to jihadists – and the linked attempt to smear Romano Prodi as KGB/FSB agent. To both of these, Steele was clearly central. In relation to his American collaborators, who seem to include most of the top leadership of the FBI, the question is what kind of ‘retard’ are they. It is possible that they are simply ‘useful idiots’, and really do believe everything he has told them. It is also however possible that many of them actually know a good deal of the truth about the Litvinenko mystery and other matters which Owen, with the help of Martin Smith, who had previously been solicitor to the Hutton Inquiry, covered up. If they do, of course, this could provide them, as it clearly does their British counterparts, powerful reasons to consolidate their respective polities as what one might call ‘spookocracies.’
JohnB, In response to #68. The decline in the ability of the MSM to do serious investigative journalism over the past decades has been astounding. However, there are exceptions. For instance, there was a good BBC Radio ‘File on 4’ on ‘Chemical Weapons’ in January 2014, in which the reporter Alan Urry and the producer Paul Grant interviewed Hugh Gregg, who is Head of Laboratory at the OPCW, and he made clear that they had the technical capability to establish responsibility for incidents like Ghouta, and the obstacles to doing so were simply a question of mandate. This is the crucial point, which has never been adequately pursued. (See ) However, a lot of serious investigation is now done by informal groups collaborating on the internet, mining the wealth of ‘open source’ material there is available. Some of the participants involved turn out to have curious histories. So since the appearance of a site called ‘Rootclaim’ back in 2016, it now appears overwhelming probable that the ‘sasa wawa’ who masterminded the highly successful ‘Who Attacked Ghouta?’ investigation is the Israeli high-technology entrepreneur and former Unit 8200 employee Saar Wilf. However, as Colonel Lang has repeatedly stressed, one has to judge the source and the information provided separately. Because of the ‘crowdsourced’ nature of the venture, he was able to mine much more information than anyone could have done on his own – while there was no visible attempt to censor rational objections to the analysis. (See https://www.rootclaim.com ; .) The ‘Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media’ can build on a lot of work, notably that done on the ‘A Closer Look at Syria’ site. A great deal of material has already been assembled on the ‘Talk: British involvement in Syria’ page, which also provides a lot of leads which can be pursued further. (See .) The third originating member of the group, along with Paul McKeigue and Tim Hayward, is Piers Robinson, whose chair, at Sheffield, is in Politics, Society and Political Journalism. His research group has two research students who are already working on this material. I have seen some of the material produced by one of them, Jake Mason, and he really is working at the detail, which is what you need to do in this kind of research. Ironically, this is what some academics who were conspicuously successful in Second World War intelligence did. Both the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, who ran the collation and analysis of the material on German from Bletchley Park and other sources, and also Enoch Powell, who was a pivotal figure in military intelligence first in the Middle East and then South Asia, worked very hard at the detail. So there is reason to hope that the site may be a magnet for academics who are interested in, as it were, doing investigative journalism. This has the potential very materially to help fill the gap left by the decline of the requisite interests and skills in the MSM. It also may have the potential to make certain kinds of challenge to absurd conventional wisdoms acceptable. The powers-that-be can easily ignore the kind of material produced on ‘Who Attacked Ghouta?’ and ‘ACLOS’, however cogent it is, or indeed anything I write. A group of academics at respected universities may not be quite so easy to disregard.
In response to #63. Colonel Lang, My apologies – it was sloppy of me to use the term. I was using it interchangeably with ‘propaganda.’ One reason for this is that I have been looking at the website of the ‘Department of War Studies’ at King’s College London. This has a ‘Centre for Strategic Communications’, which ‘aims to be the leading global centre of expertise on strategic communications.’ (See .) An ‘Associate Fellow’ is my sometime BBC Radio colleague Mark Laity, who, according to his bio on the site, ‘is the Chief Strategic Communications at SHAPE, the first post holder, and as such he has been a leading figure in developing StratCom within NATO.’ In this capacity, he produces presentations with titles like ‘ “Bocca della veritas” or “Perception becomes Reality.” (See .) The same ethos penetrates other parts of the War Studies Department – Eliot Higgins is involved, as also Thomas Rid, who backed up the claims made by Dmitri Alperovitch of ‘CrowdStrike’, along with the former GCHQ person Matt Tait. (It appears that Rid, who has now moved to SAIS at Johns Hopkins, is a German who has earlier worked at IFRI in Paris, RAND, and in Israel.) What ‘StratCom’ means in practical terms is propaganda, usually involving the creation of a ‘narrative’ – in which the complexities of the world are elided in favour of a simplistic picture of ‘good guys’ versus ‘bad guys.’ Commonly it is difficult to know how far the people doing this are deliberately dishonest, how far they have simply succumbed to ‘double think’ and ‘crimestop.’ It has become amply apparent that with MI6, and other intelligence and indeed law enforcement agencies, the activity of attempting to understand the world has become inextricably involved with that of trying to shape it by covert action and ‘perception management', or 'StratCom.' The structures involved, moreover, are inextricably linked with ostensibly non-governmental institutions, like King’s College and the Atlantic Council, and related organisations in a range of countries, as Rid’s career strongly suggests. It has also however become amply apparent that these structures create ample opportunities for ‘information operations’ groups such as those which were associated with the late Boris Berezovsky and the Menatep oligarchs. So in describing what these people got up to I sloppily used ‘StratCom’, when I should have said propaganda.
IZ, In response to 6. Thanks for your kind words. I fully agree that stupid Zionists are a major cause of the mess we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, one of the effects of the way that they were successfully suckered into clamouring for the toppling of Saddam, whose inevitable result was the creation of the ‘Shia Crescent’ is that we now have both the Zionist and Saudi ‘tails’ wagging the ‘dogs’ in the same direction, both in the United States and Britain. Unfortunately, alike in the United States and Britain today there appears to be an inverse correlation among Jews between genuine intelligence and influence. It is symptomatic that Stephen F. Cohen, is now treated as a pariah for questioning the ‘Borgist’ line on Russia, while Julia Ioffe, who really is a silly girl, is invited to pontificate on that country at the Aspen Security Forum. Also, the subsuming of Jewish identity in Zionism is something new. The opposition in Cabinet to the Balfour Declaration was led by Edwin Montagu, who had then just been appointed Secretary of State for India. He thought Zionism inherently antisemitic, and entitled the document in which he set out his case ‘Memorandum of Edwin Montagu on the Anti-Semitism of the Present (British) Government.’ (See .) In 1922, Montagu would wreck his political career when he authorised the publication of a message from the Viceroy, Sir Rufus Isaacs, Marquis of Reading, also Jewish, advocating the revision of the harsh terms of the Treaty of Sevres which had been imposed on Turkey in 1920 – both men being concerned about the effects on Indian Muslim opinion.
All, A number of points. 1. Not only large elements of the American and British intelligence services, but the ‘Borgistas’ in both countries, now including large elements of the academic/research apparatus and most of the MSM, really are joined at the hip. It is thus an open question how far it is useful to speak of British intelligence intervening in the American election, rather than the American section of the ‘Borg’ and their partners in crime ‘across the pond’ colluding in an attempt to mount such an intervention with a greater appearance of ‘plausible deniability.’ 2. A relevant element of such collusion has to do with the creation of the Yeltsin-era Russian oligarchy. On this, a crucial source are interviews given by Christian Michel and Christopher Samuelson, who used to run a company called ‘Valmet’, to Catherine Belton, then with the ‘Moscow Times’, later with the ‘Financial Times’, in the days leading up to the conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in May 2005. (See .) This describes the education in ‘Western banking practices’ given to him and his Menatep associates by Michel and Samuelson, starting as early as 1989, and also their crucial involvement with Berezovsky. We are told by Belton that: ‘With the help of British government connections, Valmet had already built up a wealthy clientele that included the ruling family of Dubai.’ As to large ambitions which Michel and Samuelson had, she tells us: ‘Used to dealing with the riches of Arab leaders, they found Menatep, by comparison still relatively small fry. By 1994, however, Menatep had started moving into all kinds of industries, from chemicals to textiles to metallurgy. But for Valmet, which by that time had already partnered up with one of the oldest banks in the United States, Riggs Bank, and for Menatep, the real prize was oil.’ Try Googling ‘Riggs Bank’ – a lot of interesting information emerges, on matters such as their involvement with Prince Bandar. So, what we are dealing with is a joint Anglo-American attempt to create a ‘comprador’ oligarchy who could loot Russia’s raw materials resources. 3. On the subject of the competence of MI6, what seems to me a total apposite judgement was provided by the man whom Steele and his associates framed over the death of Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoi. In the press conference in May 2007 where he responded to the request for his extradition submitted by the Crown Prosecution Service, he claimed that: ‘Litvinenko used to say: They are total retards in the UK, they believe everything we are telling them about Russia.’ (See .) It seems to me quite likely, although obviously not certain, that this did indeed represent the view of many of the ‘StratCom’ operators around Berezovsky of people like Steele. Throughout life, I have repeatedly come across a game played on certain kinds of élite Westerners, which, in honour of Kipling, who gave brilliant depictions of it, I call ‘fool the stupid Sahib.’ Both people from other societies, and their own, often play this game, and the underlying mentality not infrequently involves a combination of a sense of inferiority and contempt for the gullibility of people who are thought of – commonly with justice – as not knowing how the world really works, and thus being open to manipulation if one tells them what they want to hear. Some fragments of a mass of evidence that this was precisely what Litvinenko did were presented by me in a previous post. Irrespective of whether Lugovoi was accurately reporting what Litvinenko said, however, a mass of ‘open source’ evidence testifies to the extreme credulity with which officials and journalists on both sides of the Atlantic treat claims made by members of the ‘StratCom’ groups created by the oligarchs whose initial training was done by Valmet. (One good example is provided by the way that Sir Robert Owen and his team took what the surviving members of the Berezovsky group told them on trust. Another is the extraordinary way MSM figures continue to claim made by Khodorkovsky and his associates seriously.) Accordingly, when I read of anyone treating practically anything that Steele claims as plausible, I try to work out how much of a ‘retard’ they must be, starting with a baseline of about 50%. 4. In the light of the way that the reliance on the dossier in the FISA applications absent meaningful corroboration is being defended by Comey and others on the basis that Steele was ‘considered reliable due to his past work with the Bureau’, the question is how many people in the FBI must be considered to have a ‘retard’ rating somewhere over 90%. When I discover that John Sipher is a ‘former member of the CIA’s Clandestine Service’, who also worked ‘on Russian espionage issues overseas, and in support of FBI counterintelligence investigations domestically,’ then his apologetics for Steele seem not only to suggest he may be another ‘total retard’ – but to point towards how the Anglo-American collaboration actually worked. (See .) 5. Another characteristic of these ‘retards’ is that they seem unable to get their story straight. In his piece last September defending the dossier, Sipher wrote that ‘While in London he worked as the personal handler of the Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko.’ Apparently he didn’t know that the ‘party line’ had changed – that when Steele emerged from hiding in May, his mouthpiece, Luke Harding of the ‘Guardian’, had explained: ‘As head of MI6’s Russia desk, Steele led the inquiry into Litvinenko’s polonium poisoning, quickly concluding that this was a Russian state plot. He did not meet Litvinenko and was not his case officer, friends said.’ (See ; .) 6. In his attempts to defend the credibility of the dossier, Sipher also explains that its – supposed – author was President of the Cambridge Union. Here, two profiles of Steele on the ‘MailOnline’ site are of interest. In one a contemporary is quoted: “‘When you took part in politics at the Cambridge Union, it was very spiteful and full of people spreading rumours,” he said. “Steele fitted right in. He was very ambitious, ruthless and frankly not a very nice guy.” The other tells us that he born in Aden in 1964, and that his father was in the military, before going on to say that contemporaries recall an ‘avowedly Left-wing student with CND credentials’, while a book on the Union’s history says he was a ‘confirmed socialist’. (See ; .) From my own – undistinguished and mildly irreverent – Cambridge career, I can testify that there was indeed a certain kind of student politician, whom, if I may mix metaphors, fellow-students were perfectly well aware were going to arse-lick their way up some greasy pole or other in later life. It was a world with which I came back in contact when, after living abroad and a protracted apprenticeship in print journalism, I accidentally found employment with what was then one of the principal television current affairs programmes in Britain. In the early ‘Eighties I overlapped with Peter – now Lord – Mandelson, who became one of the principal architects of ‘New Labour.’ 7. Given that at this time British intelligence agencies were somewhat paranoid about CND, there is a small puzzle as to why on his graduation in 1986 Steele should have been recruited by MI6. In more paranoid moments I wonder whether he did not already have intelligence contacts through his father, and served as a ‘stool pigeon’ as a student. But then, people like Sir John Scarlett and Sir Richard Dearlove may simply have concluded that someone with ‘form’ in smearing rivals at the Union was ideally suited for the kind of organisation they wanted to run. 8. From experience with Mandelson, and others, there are however other relevant things about this type. One is that they commonly love Machiavellian intrigue, and are very good at it, within the worlds they know and understand. If however they have to try to cope with alien environments, where they do not know the people and where such intrigues are played much more ruthlessly, they are liable to find themselves hopelessly outclassed. (This can happen not simply with the politics of the post-Soviet space and the Middle East, but with some of the murkier undergrowths of local politics in London.) Another limitation on their understanding is that the last thing they are interested in his how the world outside the bubbles they prefer to inhabit operates, and they commonly have absolutely contempt for ‘deplorables’, be they Russian, British or American. This can lead to political misjudgements. 9. So it is not really so surprising that, when Berezovsky’s ‘StratCom’ people told them that the Putin ‘sistema’ really was the ‘return of Karla’, people like Steele believed everything they said, precisely as Lugovoi brought out. There is I think every reason to believe that, from first to last, the intrigues in which he has been involved have involved close collusion between them and elements in American intelligence – including the FBI. As a result, a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic have repeatedly got into complex undercover contests in the post-Soviet space which ran right out of control, creating a desperate need for cover-ups. A similar pattern applies in relation to the activities of such people in the Middle East.
Babak Makkinejad, You are wrong about this. That the ‘chain of custody’ principle has been flagrantly violated in the reports of the ‘Fact-Finding Mission’ and the ‘Joint Investigative Mechanism’ is patently the case, and in itself reason why the almost unanimous acceptance of these in the MSM is scandalous. But that is a separate issue. (See – the whole document is well worth reading.) The reasons why the test results from the various laboratories were critical were set out last April in my ‘“Sentence First – Verdict Afterwards”?’ piece, and the two ‘open letters’ to the members of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees pointing out the need for clarification as to what was being claimed about the test results. Let me recap, and update. An example of the kind of ‘chemical forensics’ one needs in incidents like this was provided by the analysis of test results on ‘shell and soil’ samples purporting to derive from the Khan Al-Asal incident on 19 March 2013 which formed part of the document from the Russian OPCW-certified laboratory which was submitted to the UN Secretary-General on 9 July that year. On 4 September, as part of the attempt to stop the visible attempt to use Ghouta to create an unstoppable momentum towards the destruction of the Syrian government, more details of what looks like an expanded version of the original document were made public by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In it they claimed that: ‘shell and soil samples contained nerve agents – sarin gas and diisopropylfluorophosphate – not synthesized in an industrial environment, which was used by Western states for producing chemical weapons during World War II.’ It was also made clear that the conclusions rested upon precisely the kind of very complex analysis Bethany Halford is describing: ‘We highlight that the Russian report is extremely specific. It is a scientific and technical document containing about 100 pages with many tables and diagrams of spectral analysis of the samples. We expect that it will significantly assist in the investigation into this incident by the UN. Unfortunately, it has in fact not started yet.’ (See .) Unfortunately, the detailed ‘spectra’ have not been released, but they have certainly been analysed by experts at the OPCW and that organisation’s ‘Designated Laboratories’ in the West, including Porton Down. We know that the results from the materials tested on the ‘Cape Ray’ will show a sarin precursor ‘manufactured in an industrial environment.’ To prove what Mattis and others want to claim it is necessary that the ‘spectra’ from none of the other tests match those in the Russian report, and the ‘markers’ from the ‘Cape Ray’ materials are the same as those from Khan Sheikhoun, Ghouta, and Khan Al-Asal. If there are serious ‘chain of custody’ problems, the ‘markers’ from the four sets of tests might not be sufficient to establish Syrian government culpability – a lack of a match would be quite sufficient to establish that the indictment cannot be accepted as it stands. As I brought out in my post last April, the publicly available evidence – of which Hersh’s ‘Red Line and Rat Line’ article and subsequent interviews form an important part – strongly suggests the Russian claims that the toxin used in both Khan Al-Asal and also Ghouta was ‘cottage industry’, as they put it, or ‘kitchen sarin’, as he put it, are correct. It is simply not a refutation of these claims to treat one compound supposed to validate the ‘hexamine hypothesis’, and an unspecified fluorophosphate, which could be the diisopropylfluorophosphate reported by the Russians, or hexafluorophosphate, as conclusive evidence. (The implications, or lack of them, would be quite different, depending on which compound it was.) And all this hush-hush whisper-whisper from ‘diplomats and scientists’ who are not prepared to be identified, as well as assurances from that supposedly ‘independent’ expert Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, only add to the grounds for scepticism. As I brought out in my post, he is under the strongest possible suspicion of having been involved in covering up, and quite possibly colluding in, the ‘false flags.’ If they have evidence to support the case, then let Western governments produce the ‘spectra’ – as also should the Russians. We do not need complete reports, which may need to be kept secret for perfectly good reasons – simply the ‘many tables and diagrams’ which must exist. Once these were out in the open, then it would be much easier to have an informed argument. Most of this ground I covered last April. However, there is some crucial new context. Part of this is provided by a report in ‘The Intercept’ last October, entitled ‘NSA Document Says Saudi Prince Directly Ordered Coordinated Attack By Syrian Rebels On Damascus.’ As it explains: ‘According to a top-secret National Security Agency document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the March 2013 rocket attacks were directly ordered by a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Salman bin Sultan, to help mark the second anniversary of the Syrian revolution. Salman had provided 120 tons of explosives and other weaponry to opposition forces, giving them instructions to “light up Damascus” and “flatten” the airport, the document, produced by U.S. government surveillance on Syrian opposition factions, shows.’ (See .) This was on 18 March – the day before Khan Al-Asal. Further relevant context is provided by a piece in February 2017 on the ‘Monitor on Massacre Marketing’ site by Adam Larson, entitled ‘What happened on March 19, 2013?’ which is subtitled ‘The First Bodies Tossed Across Obama’s “Red Line” in Syria.’ (See .) This starts by reviewing the – ample – evidence that the Khan Al-Asal attack came at a point where there was very visible enthusiasm on the part of a lot of people in the United States and Western Europe for intervention in support of the ‘Assad must go’ agenda, so that he had every incentive to avoid chemical weapons use, and the insurgents every incentive to produce a ‘false flag.’ And Larson goes on to note that ‘Ironically, the first solid news of the feared chemical attack came in the form of a Syrian government announcement on March 19 that their forces had been gassed by “terrorists" in a town just west of Aleppo” – that is, the Shi’ite town of Khan Al-Asal. There follow detailed reviews of the evidence of another incident on the same day, in which the victims appeared to be insurgents, at the Damascus suburb variously transliterated as Otaybah and Uteibah, and more fragmentary and puzzling evidence about events at Homs. And Larson goes on to suggest that a three-pronged ‘false flag’ was planned for 19 March, in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs – the country’s three largest cities. This would obviously fit very well with the NSA intercept, in that it would suggest that the intent was to portray these as Assad’s savage response to the attacks in Damascus, thus, hopefully, generating unstoppable momentum for American military intervention. This seems to me eminently plausible, but it leaves open two possible interpretations of Khan Al-Asal. When insurgents who are difficult to control are given access to weapons like sarin, there is an obvious possibility of matters developing in unexpected directions, either as the result of their bungling an attack, or succumbing to the temptation to use it against government forces. However, a different set of unintended consequences is also possible. It could be that Syrian intelligence, perhaps with the assistance of Russian and/or Iranian, and with a combination of ‘SIGINT’ and ‘HUMINT’ methods quite possibly being deployed, knew precisely what was going on – and had double agents inside the groups preparing the ‘false flags.’ Rather than wait until the inevitable chorus calling for all-out air strikes began, it could well have made sense to turn one of the incidents into a ‘false flag’ within a ‘false flag.’ The anti-Assad camp would then have been effectively ‘snookered.’ They would have faced a situation where they would know that, if they acceded to the calls from the Syrians and Russians for a proper UN/OPCW investigation, making a rigorous use of ‘chemical forensics’, these would implicate the insurgents. And if the evidence suggested that it was these who had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’, it would have been game and set, and probably match, to the Syrian and Russian governments. Irrespective of people’s views on what interpretation is plausible in relation to Khan Al-Asal, the important point is that strategies which rely strongly on convert action – as the ‘régime change’ projects I outlined in the current post do – are inherently liable to run out of control. The uncontrollability of their instruments, and the possibility of covert action meeting covert action in return, are always liable to generate unintended consequences which can escalate. As soon as the possible that an impartial investigation would implicate the insurgents was real, in relation to Khan Al-Asal, irrespective of whether the imputation would have been justified, the alternative to facing a complete collapse of their projects in Syria, for Western governments, was inherently likely to be at best covering up, at worst colluding in, further ‘false flags.’ Moreover, intense pressure had to be mounted, to ensure that what were supposed to be sources of independent expertise supported their cover-ups. This pattern, I am suggesting is common both to history of the ‘StratCom’ in which Christopher Steele has been involved, and that relating to chemical weapons use in Syria. Particularly when the ‘Fourth Estate’ ceases to do its job, a likely result is the progressive systematic corruption of institutions.
blowback, In response to 36. Thanks for the link. But what Mattis has said relates to the latest accusations, not early ones. Key paragraphs: ‘A deadly sarin attack on another rebel-held area in April 2017 prompted President Donald Trump to order a U.S. missile strike on the Shayrat airbase, from which the Syrian operation is said to have been launched. ‘“We are on the record and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical (weapons) convention,” Mattis said.’ So he is not repudiating the conventional wisdom according to which sarin was used at Khan Sheikhoun, and the possibility of a military response to a fresh ‘false flag’ is left open. Unless he is basing his accusation on credible evidence, this to be blunt, comes close to inciting jihadists to atrocity. The extent – and unscrupulousness – of the mounting propaganda campaign in relation to the recently claims is well brought out in a piece by Rick Sterling in ‘Consortium News’ on Sunday. Whether those involved are still hoping to precipitate a serious American military intervention, and whether those hopes might be realistic, I cannot say. (See .) This makes the detailed demonstration by Professor McKeigue of the frankly farcical nature of the ‘Joint Investigative Mechanism’ report into Khan Sheikhoun, to which I linked, all the more important. In addition to exposing the total dependence of its analysis on a completely incredible claim about the aircraft which is supposed to have delivered the chemical weapon, and discussing much other evidence, he brings out a key point about developments in ‘chemical forensics’ over the past years. As well as the 1995 sarin attacks, the 2001 anthrax letter attacks led to an enormous investment of money and intellectual energy in the development of analytical techniques making it possible to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons incidents. A fascinating article entitled ‘Tracing a Threat’ by Bethany Halford in ‘Chemistry & Engineering News World’ in February 2012 provides a good picture of what the state of play was at that time. (See .) She quotes an expert called Joseph Chipuk, from a consultancy called ‘Signature Science’ in Austin, explaining how the ‘spectra’ – different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation associated with different ‘impurities’ in samples, including ‘environmental’ ones, such as soil, fragments of weapons, and clothing – can be matched with reconstructions of possible ‘synthetic pathways’. The levels of sophistication of which this kind of analysis was already capable, he made clear, are close to breathtaking: ‘To figure out signatures based on various synthetic routes and conditions, Chipuk says that the synthetic chemists on his team will make the same chemical threat agent as many as 2,000 times in an “almost robotic manner,” following a database that tells them exactly what conditions to use. They then hand off the product to the analytical chemists, who look at all the tiny impurities that turn up along with the toxic chemical – “the stuff that’s down in the weeds,” as Chipuk describes it. From there, the hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of spectra that are collected go to statisticians and computer scientists who work their magic to tease out the unique attribution signatures.’ At the end of the article, Halford quotes Chipuk again making clear that improvement is continuous in a way that is making it quite extraordinarily difficult to fool analysts who are genuinely looking for the truth – as not only Dan Kaszeta but, very regrettably, key figures at the OPCW and some of its ‘Designated Laboratories’ do not appear to be: ‘“The fact is that technology continues to improve, instrumentation continues to improve, and computers continue to improve. The chances of someone being able to slip by undetected are getting smaller and smaller,” says Signature Science’s Chipuk. “If you were to choose to do something like this, the science is going to catch up to you.”’ In relation to the claims now being made, what is initially at issue is simply the question of whether the ‘impurities’ identified by the ‘spectra’ in samples from the incidents at Khan Sheikhoun, Ghouta, Saraqeb, and Khan Al-Asal match. What characterised the ‘hexamine hypothesis’ as put forward by Kaszeta was the – close to surreal – suggestion that a single substance, hexamine, was a ‘smoking gun’. To anyone who had taken the trouble to read easily accessible discussions of the methodology, such as Halford’s piece, it would be apparent that it is simply ludicrous to base a claim on a single substance – particularly given that hexamine is also used in explosives. In the ‘Reuters’ report on 30 January, we were told: ‘Two compounds in the Ghouta sample matched those also found in Khan Sheikhoun, one formed from sarin and the stabilizer hexamine and another specific fluorophosphate that appears during sarin production, the tests showed.’ (See .) So we have an – unidentified – compound which supposedly establishes that the hexamine did indeed form part of the sarin production process, rather than of the explosive charge. And we are then told of the presence of another compound, which are told is ‘another specific fluorophosphate’: why not tell us which? To anyone interested in actually making sense of the evidence, to have a mere two compounds mentioned, and those not adequately identified, suggests an alternative possibility: that people who knew details of the ‘synthetic pathway’ by which Syrian government sarin had been synthesised leaked them to those who were producing the substance for a ‘false flag.’ It would have been beyond the capabilities of a relatively primitive operation to produce any kind of close fit – to get a couple of compounds to match would probably not have been difficult at all. If this suspicious interpretation if false, there is a very simple way to refute it – and General Mattis is in a perfect position to do this. The close links between the American and British ‘intelligence communities’ have been stressed in comments on this thread. It is clear that in relation to Syrian chemical weapons, there was a division of labour. Analysis of ‘environmental’ samples was concentrated at the British OPCW-certified facility, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire. Meanwhile, preparations for the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal were the made at one of the two American OPCW-certified laboratories, the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland. The destruction of the 581 tonnes of the sarin precursor methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF, aboard the specially kitted out vessel ‘M.V. Cape Ray’ in the Mediterranean was announced in August 2014. In the extensive reporting on the preparations for this, it was made absolutely clear that – as one would expect – the vessel was equipped with a proper analytical laboratory, with OPCW scientists involved as well as those from the Edgewood Center. (See .) In a post entitled ‘Sentence First – Verdict Afterwards?’ shortly after the Khan Sheikhoun attack, and then in two ‘open letters’ to the members of our Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees, I pointed to the mass of evidence suggesting that the test results from different incidents did not match each other or those from the stocks destroyed on the ‘Cape Ray.’ (See .) The publicly available evidence, I argued, provided strong reason to believe that results from Porton Down and the OPCW confirmed the claim made by the Russians, supposedly on the basis of tests from their own OPCW-certified laboratory, that the sarin used at Khan Al-Asal and Ghouta was a ‘cottage industry’ product. This was also what Seymour Hersh claimed that tests carried out at Porton Down had revealed about the sarin used at Ghouta - he used the term 'kitchen sarin.' What the Reuters report has – perhaps inadvertently – confirmed is that Porton Down had in fact tested ‘environmental’ samples from the Khan Al-Asal incident on 19 March 2013, the first where sarin was used in Syria, by suggesting that tests from that incident as well as those at Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun matched the results from the stocks on the ‘Cape Ray’: ‘Laboratories working for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons compared samples taken by a U.N. mission in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta after the Aug. 21, 2013 attack, when hundreds of civilians died of sarin gas poisoning, to chemicals handed over by Damascus for destruction in 2014. ‘The tests found “markers” in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib governorate on April 4, 2017 and Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, in March 2013, two people involved in the process said. ‘“We compared Khan Sheikhoun, Khan al-Assal, Ghouta,” said one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the findings. “There were signatures in all three of them that matched.”’ Can anyone seriously believe that if the tests we know to have been done on at Porton Down had established what this ‘source’ who does not have the guts to the identify himself claims, this fact would not have been trumpeted to the skies – first when the results from Ghouta matched those from Khan Al-Asal, and then when both matched those from the ‘Cape Ray’? Allright – sometimes the practically incredible turns out to be true. But if he has any evidence on which to base his claims, General Mattis should have the courage of his convictions, and order the disclosure of the relevant ‘spectra.’
catherine, In response to comment 5. I think it likely that what Meier produces is only a ‘limited hangout’, and am hoping that when the book arrives it will contain more pointers. It is important to be clear that one is often dealing with people playing very complicated double games. An interesting document is the ‘Petition for Writ of Habeus Corpus’ made on behalf of Khodorkovsky’s close associate Alexander Konanykhin back in 1997,when the Immigration and Naturalization Service were – apparently at least – cooperating with Russian attempts to get hold of him. An extract: ‘During the immigration hearing FBI SA Robert Levinson, an INS witness, confirmed that in 1992 Petitioner was kidnapped and afterwards pursued by assassins of the Solntsevskaya organized criminal group. This organized criminal group is reportedly the largest and the most influential organized criminal group in Russia, and operates internationally.’ (See .) Note the similarities between the ‘StratCom’ that Khonanykin and his associates were producing in the ‘Nineties, and that which Simpson and his associates have been producing two decades later. Another useful example is provided by a 2004 item in the ‘New American Magazine’, reproduced on Konanykhin’s website: ‘One of those who testified on behalf of Konanykhine was KGB defector Yuri Shvets, who declared: “I have a firsthand knowledge on similar operations conducted by the KGB.” Konanykhine had brought trouble on himself, Shvets continued, when he “started bringing charges against people who were involved with him in setting up and running commercial enterprises. They were KGB people … secretly smuggling from Russia hundreds of millions of dollars…. This is [a] serious case, and I know that KGB ... desperately wants to win this case, and everybody who won't step to their side would face problems.”’ (See .) So – ‘first hand knowledge’, from a Ukrainian nationalist – look at what the Chalupas have been doing, it seems not much has changed. For a rather different perspective on what Konanykhin had actually been up to, from someone in whose honesty – if not always judgement – I have complete confidence, see the testimony of Karon von Gerhke-Thompson to the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services hearings on Russian Money Laundering. In this, she described how she had been approached by him in 1993: ‘“Konanykhine alleged that Menatep Bank controlled $1.7bn [£1bn] in assets and investment portfolios of Russia’s most prominent political and social elite,” she recalled. She said he wanted to move the bank’s assets off shore and asked her to help buy foreign passports for its “very, very special clients”. ‘In her testimony to the committee Ms Von Gerhke-Thompson said she informed the CIA of the deal, and the agency told her that it believed Mr Konanykhine and Mr Khodorkovsky “were engaged in an elaborate money laundering scheme to launder billions of dollars stolen by members of the KGB and high-level government officials”. (For a ‘Guardian report, see ; for the actual testimony, see .) Coming back to Steele’s ‘StratCom’, in July 2008, an item appeared on the ‘Newnight’ programme of the BBC – which some of us think should by then have been rechristened the ‘Berezovsky Broadcasting Corporation’ – in which the introduction by the presenter, Jeremy Paxman, read as follows: ‘Good evening. The New Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, was all smiles and warm words when he met Gordon Brown today. He said he was keen to resolve all outstanding difficulties between the two countries. Yada yada yada. Gordon Brown smiled, but he must know what Newsnight can now reveal: that MI5 believes the Russian state was involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive poisoning. They also believe that without their intervention another London-based Russian, Boris Berezovsky, would have been murdered. Our diplomatic editor, Mark Urban, has this exclusive report.’ (For the transcript presented in evidence to Owen’s Inquiry, see ) When Urban repeated the claims on his blog, there was a positive eruption from someone using the name ‘timelythoughts’, about the activities of someone she referred to as ‘Berezovsky’s disinformation specialist’ – when I came across this later, it was immediately clear to me that she was Karon von Gerhke, and he was Shvets. (For the first part of the exchanges of comments, the second apparently having become unavailable, see ) She then described a visit by Scaramella to Washington, details of which had already been unearthed by my Italian collaborator, David Loepp. Her claim to have e-mails from Shvets, from the time immediately prior to Litvinenko’s death, directly contradicting the testimony he had given, fitted with other evidence I had already unearthed. Later, we exchanged e-mails over a quite protracted period, and a large amount of material that came into my possession as a result was submitted by me to the Inquest team, with some of it being used in posts on the ‘European Tribune’ site. What I never used publicly, because I could only partially corroborate it from the material she provided, was an extraordinary claim about Shvets: ‘He was responsible for bringing in a Kremlin initiative that was walked Vice President Cheney's office on a US government quid pro quo with the Kremlin FSB SVR involving the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky – a cease and desist on allegations of a politically motivated arrest of Khodorkovsky, violations of rules of law and calls from Russia’s expulsion from the G 8 in exchange for favorable posturing of U.S. oil companies on Gazprom's Shtokman project and intelligence on weapon sales during the Yeltsin era to Iraq, Iran and Syria, all documented in reports I submitted to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and MI6. ‘Berezovsky's DS could not be on both sides on that isle. His Kremlin FSB SVR sources had been vetted by the CIA and by the National Security Council. They proved to be as represented. As we would later learn, however, he was on Berezovsky’s payroll at same time. The FSB SVR general he was coordinating the Kremlin initiative through was S. R. Subbotin, the same FSB SVR general who was investigating Berezovsky’s money laundering operations in Switzerland during the same timeframe. His FSB SVR sources surrounding Putin were higher than any Lugovoy could have ever hoped to affiliate with. ‘R. James Woolsey (former CIA DCI), Marshall Miller (former law partner of the late CIA DCI William Colby), who I coordinated the Kremlin initiative through that Berezovsky’s DS had brought in were shocked to learn that he was affiliated with Berezovsky and Litvinenko. He was in Berezovsky's inner circle and engaged in vetting Russian business with Litvinenko. He operated Berezovsky’s Ukraine website, editing and dubbing the now infamous Kuchma tapes throughout the lead up to the elections in the Ukraine. Berezovsky contributed $41 million to Viktor Yushchenko's campaign, which he used in an attempt to force Yushchenko to reunite with Julia Tymoschenko. It failed but would succeed later after Berezovsky orchestrated a public relations initiative through Alan Goldfarb in the U.S. on behalf of Tymoschenko.’ Having got to know Karon von Gerhke quite well, and also been able to corroborate a great deal of what she told me about many things, and discussed these matters with her, it is absolutely clear to me that she was neither fabricating nor fantasising. What later became apparent, both to her and to me, was that in the ‘double game’ that Shvets was playing, he had succeeded in fooling her as to the side for which he was working. It seems likely however that the reason Shvets could do what he did was that quite precisely that many high-up people in the Kremlin and elsewhere were playing a ‘double game.’ In this, Karon von Gerhke’s propensity for indiscretion – of which I, like others, was both beneficiary and victim – could be useful. An exercise in ‘positioning’, which could be used to disguise the fact that Shvets was indeed ‘Berezovsky’s disinformation specialist’, could be used to make it appear that ‘intelligence on weapon sales during the Yeltsin era to Iraq, Iran and Syria’ was actually credible. This could have been used to try to rescue Cheney, Bush and their associates from the mess they had got into as a result of the failure of the invasion to provide any evidence whatsoever supporting the case which had been made for it. It could also have been used to provide the kind of materials justifying military action against Iran for which Levinson and Jablonski were looking, and for similar action against Syria. Among reasons for bringing this up now is that we need to make sense of the paradox that Simpson – clearly in collusion with Steele – was using Mogilevich and the ‘Solnsetskaya Bratva’ both against Manafort and Trump and against Browder. There are various possible explanations for this. I do not want to succumb to my instinctive prejudice that this may have been another piece of ‘positioning’, similar to what I think was being done with Shvets, but the hypothesis needs to be considered. A more general point is that people in Washington and London need to ‘wise up’ to the kind of world with which they are dealing. This could be done quite enjoyably: reading some of Dashiell Hammett’s fictions of the United States in the Prohibition era, or indeed buying DVDs of some of the classics of ‘film noir’, like ‘Out of the Past’ (in its British release, ‘Build My Gallows High’) might be a start. Very much of the coverage of affairs in the post-Soviet space since 1991 has read rather as though a Dashiell Hammett story had been rewritten by someone specialising in sentimental children’s, or romantic, fiction (although, come to think of it, that is really what Brigid O’Shaughnessy does in ‘The Maltese Falcon.’) The testimony of Glenn Simpson seems a case in point. The sickly sentimentality of these people does, rather often, make one feel as though one wanted to throw up.
JohnB, In response to comment 2. If you are interested in Higgins and ‘Bellingcat’, you might want be interested in a ‘Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media’ which has recently been set up by a group of British academics. (See .) At the moment, work which has already been done is being prepared for publication on the site. However, some of it has already appeared on the blog of one of the members, Tim Hayward. This includes a detailed discussion of the report of the ‘Joint Investigative Mechanism’ on the Khan Sheikhoun attack by Paul McKeigue. His professorship, at Edinburgh, is in Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics. This means that, unlike most of us interested in these matters, with the obvious exception of Theodore Postol, he has a grasp of a lot of relevant science. (See .) A basic tool of his trade is a technique called ‘Bayesian analysis’, one of whose many applications is to separate out genetic factors in disease from others. His use of it in the piece may make bits of it somewhat hard going for those of us whose scientific education stopped at school. But if you are interested in a demonstration of the way that the kind of pure charlatanry propagated by Higgins and Kaszeta has come to be accepted uncritically by supposed impartial international bodies, you should read the piece. Also on Hayward’s blog is an article which was submitted to the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ page, in response to a piece by Olivia Solon smearing those who have had the temerity to suggest that the ‘White Helmets’ may be something less than a band of disinterested charity workers, and an account of the attempts of the ‘Working Group’ to get a response from the paper. (See .) This has links to material on that organisation already published. A lot more work will be appearing on the ‘Working Group’ site.
All, In the light of the suggestion in the Nunes memo that Steele was ‘a longtime FBI source’ it seems worth sketching out some background, which may also make it easier to see some possible reasons why he ‘was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.’. There is reason to suspect that some former and very likely current employees of the FBI have been colluding with elements in other American and British intelligence agencies, in particular the CIA and MI6, in support of an extremely ambitious foreign policy agenda for a very long time. It also seems clear that influential journalists such as Glenn Simpson was before founding Fusion GPS have been strongly involved in this. This agenda has involved hopes for ‘régime change’ in Russia, where as the result of an oligarchic coup, a popular revolt, or some combination of both. It also involved the further ‘rollback’ of Russia influence in the former post-Soviet space, both in countries now independent, such as Ukraine, and also ones still part of the Russian Federation, notably Chechnya. And, crucially, it involved exploiting the retreat of Russian power from the Middle East for ‘régime change’ projects which it was hoped would provide a definitive solution to the – inherently intractable – security problems of a Jewish settler state in the area. Important support for these strategies was provided by the ‘StratCom’ network centred around the late Boris Berezovsky, which clearly collaborated closely with MI6. As was apparent from the witness list at Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, which was essentially a recycling of claims made by the network’s members, key players were on your side of the Atlantic – notably Alex Goldfarb, Yuri Shvets, and Yuri Felshtinsky. One key figure was missing at the Inquiry – the former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared on the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007. Unfortunately, I only recently came across a book on Levinson published back in 2016 by the ‘New York Times’ journalist Barry Meier, which is now hopefully winging its way across the Atlantic. From the accounts of the book I have seen, such as one by Jeff Stein in ‘Newsweek’, it seems likely that its author did not look at any of the evidence presented at Owen’s Inquiry. (See .) Had he done so, Meier might have discovered that his subject had been, as it were, ‘top supporting actor’ in the first fumbling attempt by Christopher Steele et al to produce a plausible-sounding scenario as to the background to Litvinenko’s death. A Radio 4 programme on 16 December 2006 had been wholly devoted to an account by Shvets, backed up by Levinson – both of them, like Litvinenko, supposed to be impartial ‘due diligence’ operatives (connections with intelligence agencies – perish the thought!) (See .) This has become particularly relevant now, given that Simpson has placed the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich and the ‘Solntsevskaya Bratva’ mafia group centre stage in his accounts not simply of Trump and Manafort, but also of William Browder. For most of the ‘Nineties, Levinson had been a, if not the, lead FBI investigator on Mogilevich. In the months leading up to Levinson’s disappearance, a key priority for the advocates of the strategy I have described was to prevent it being totally derailed by the patently catastrophic outcome of the Iraqi adventure. Compounding the problem was the fact that this had created the ‘Shia Crescent’, which in turn exacerbated the potential ‘existential threat’ to Israel posed by the steadily increasing range, accuracy and numbers of missiles available to Hizbullah in hardened positions north of the Litani. One requirement, in consequence, was to counter suggestions from the Russian side that going around smashing up ‘régimes’ that one might not like sometimes blew up in one’s face, that it was foolish to think one could use jihadists without risking ‘blowback’, and that Russia and the West had an overwhelming common interest in combating Islamic extremism. Another priority was to counter the pushback in the American ‘intelligence community’ and military, which was to produce the drastic downgrading of the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear programme in the November 2007 NIE and then the resignation of Admiral Fallon as head of ‘Centcom’ the following March. So in 2005 Shvets came to London. Selections from the famous tapes of conversations involving the former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma supposedly recorded by Major Melnychenko were edited under his supervision, so that material that did in fact establish that both the SBU and FSB had collaborated with Mogilevich could be employed to make it seem that Putin had a close personal relationship with the mobster. (See .) In a letter sent in December that year by Litvinenko to the ‘Mitrokhin Commission’, for which his Italian associate Mario Scaramella was a consultant, this was used in an attempt to demonstrate that Mogilevich, while acting as an agent for the FSB and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’, had attempted to supply a ‘mini atomic bomb’ – aka ‘suitcase nuke’ – to Al Qaeda. Shortly after the letter was sent Scaramella departed on a trip to Washington, where he appears to have got access to Aldrich Ames. (See .) At precisely this time, as Meier explains, Levinson was in the process of being recruited by a lady called Anne Jablonski who then worked as a CIA analyst. It appears that she was furious at the failure of the operational side at the Agency to produce evidence which would have established that Iran did have an ongoing nuclear programme, and she may well have hoped would implicate Russia in supplying materials. There are grounds to suspect that one of the things that Berezovsky and Shvets were doing was fabricating such ‘evidence.’ Whether Levinson was involved in such attempts, or genuinely looking for evidence he was convinced must be there, I cannot say. It appears that he fell for a rather elementary entrapment operation – which could well have been organised with the collaboration of Russian intelligence. (People do get fed up with being framed, particular if ‘régime change’ is the goal.) It also seems likely that, quite possibly in a different but related entrapment operation, related to propaganda wars in which claims and counter claims about a polonium-beryllium ‘initiator’ as the crucial missing part which might make a ‘suitcase nuke’ functional, Litvinenko accidentally ingested fatal quantities of polonium. A good deal of evidence suggests that this may have been at Berezovsky’s offices on the night before he was supposedly assassinated. It was, obviously, important for Steele et al to ensure that nobody looked at the ‘StratCom’ wars about ‘suitcase nukes.’ Here, a figure who has played a key role in such wars in relation to Syria plays an interesting minor one in the story. Some time following the destruction of the case for an immediate war by the November 2007 NIE, a chemical weapons specialist called Dan Kaszeta, who had worked in the White House for twelve years, moved to London. In 2011, in addition to founding a consultancy called ‘Strongpoint Security’, he began a writing career with articles in ‘CBRNe World.’ Later, he would become the conduit through which the notorious ‘hexamine hypothesis’, supposedly clinching proof that the Syrian government was responsible for the sarin incidents at Khan Sheikhoun, Ghouta, Saraqeb, and Khan Al-Asal, was disseminated. Having been forced by the threat of a case being opened against them under human rights law into resuming the inquest into Litvinenko’s death, in August 2012 that Sir Robert Owen was appointed to conduct it. That same month, a piece appeared in ‘CBRNe World’ with the the strapline: ‘Dan Kaszeta looks into the ultimate press story: Suitcase nukes’, and the main title ‘Carry on or checked bags?’ Among the grounds he gives for playing down the scare: ‘Some components rely on materials with shelf life. Tritium, for example, is used in many nuclear weapon designs and has a twelve year half-life. Polonium, used in neutron initiators in some earlier types of weapon designs, has a very short halflife. US documents state that every nuclear weapon has “limited life components” that require periodic replacement (do an internet search for nuclear limited life components and you can read for weeks).’ (For this and other articles by Kaszeta, as also his bio, see ‘) What Kaszeta has actually described are the reasons why polonium is a perfect ‘StratCom’ instrument. In terms of scientific plausibility, in fact there were no ‘suitcase nukes’, and in any case ‘initiators’ using polonium had been abandoned very early on, in favour of ones which lasted longer. For ‘StratCom’ scenarios, as experience with the ‘hexamine hypothesis’ has proved, scientific plausibility can be irrelevant. What polonium provides is a means of suggesting that Al Qaeda have in fact got hold of a nuclear device which they could easily smuggle into, say, Rome or New York, or indeed Moscow, but there is a crucial missing component which the FSB is trying to provide to them – or Berezovsky and Litvinenko to the Chechen insurgents. In addition, the sole known source of global supply is the Avangard plant at Sarov in Russia. As it is not clear why Kaszeta introduced it into an article which was concerned with scientific plausibility, one is left with an interesting question as to whether he cut his teeth on ‘StratCom’ attempting to ensure that nobody seriously interested in CBRN science followed an obvious lead. In relation to the question of whether current FBI personnel had been involved in the kind of ‘StratCom’ exercises, I have been describing, a critical issue is the involvement of Shvets and Levinson in the Alexander Khonanykhine affair back in the ‘Nineties, and the latter’s use of claims about the Solntsevskaya to prevent the key figure’s extradition. But this comment has already gone on quite long enough.
TTG, I asked you a question, to which I have not had an answer. Since it seems to me critical to assessing the credibility of any claims you make in relation to matters to do with Russia, I will repeat it. You wrote: ‘What they do care about is ensuring that the US is rife with doubt and internal discord so that we are unable to confront Russia in any meaningful way.’ I asked: ‘Do you have credible evidence to support this analysis of Putin’s objectives?’ In the light of your quotation from Clapper, I will ask a supplementary. You wrote: ‘Once again, Clapper’s being too clever by half.’ Do you think anything the former DNI says about anything deserves to be taken seriously at all?
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2018 on INCONCEIVABLE! - TTG at Sic Semper Tyrannis
TTG, ‘What they do care about is ensuring that the US is rife with doubt and internal discord so that we are unable to confront Russia in any meaningful way.’ Do you have credible evidence to support this analysis of Putin’s objectives? The consequences of a ‘rush to judgement’ on a matter like this might turn somewhat serious, as Philip Giraldi brought out yesterday, in a discussion of the recently released declassified summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy report, and the prepared remarks by the Secretary of Defense about that document: ‘At times Mattis’ supplementary “remarks” were more bombastic than reassuring, as when he warned “…those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: if you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.” He did not exactly go into what the military response to hacking a politician’s emails might be and one can only speculate, which is precisely the problem.’ (See .)
Toggle Commented Jan 27, 2018 on INCONCEIVABLE! - TTG at Sic Semper Tyrannis
IZ, ‘Does she have a consistent, well-articulated, realistic goal?’ Of course she doesn’t. What one has to face up to is quite how stupid the people running things are, both in the United States and Britain – I won’t attempt to speak for the rest of Europe. For me, the saga of the dossier and Christopher Steele has been rather like the moment in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ when the figure behind the curtain appears. There is a type about which I know quite a lot, some of it from my own direct experience and that of other family members: superannuated Oxford and Cambridge student politicians. (Another example is our embarrassment of a Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.) Well, I can assure everyone here that anyone in American intelligence or law enforcement who has taken or takes anything produced by Steele seriously has either to be a complete cretin, a crook, or – commonly the most economical explanation – some combination of both. On both sides of the Atlantic, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2018 on Afrin Update - TTG at Sic Semper Tyrannis
All, Re Dugin: There has never been an iota of evidence presented that Dugin has any influence on Putin whatsoever. Actually, I would recommend to anyone interested an interview with Dugin by Paul Robinson – sometime British Army Intelligence officer, now a professor in Ottawa – posted on the latter’s invaluable ‘Irrussianality’ blog last September. (See .) When Robinson put to him the very different views of his influence, or lack of it, Dugin responded: ‘Those who think that I stand on the periphery of power are correct. I have no influence. I don’t know anybody, have never seen anyone, I just write my books, and am a Russian thinker, nothing more. I write books, somebody reads them.’ To my surprise, having been very sceptical indeed about Dugin, he said something to Robinson which exactly corresponds to my own experience: ‘I think that the West is becoming stupid in front of our eyes. It can’t even deal with itself, can’t describe itself correctly, and its attempts to describe others are even more comic. Western people weren’t always like that. I have researched very carefully when it was that the mental collapse of Western society began. Europe and the West weren’t always as idiotic as they are now. This idiocy grew very gradually in the 70s, and the 1980s were the turning point.’ I might quibble about the precise chronology, but the basic argument seems to me rather hard to dispute.
Sylvia 1, In both the United States and Britain, a great deal of very good analysis of the Soviet Union, and subsequently of the post-Soviet space, has been done by ‘open source’ organisations associated with the military. On your side, what was originally the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth became the Foreign Military Studies Office. On our, the Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst became the Conflict Studies Research Centre. It was incorporated into an organisation called the Advance Research and Assessment Group in 2006 – which was then however disbanded in 2010. (At the risk of going OT, the history of the destruction of the ARAG is a case study in the corruption and contempt for genuine expertise – in particular for expertise that might tell power holders what they did not want to hear – that was a defining feature of ‘New Labour.’ See .) Much CSRC and ARAG work was published openly. It included a paper entitled ‘Vladimir Putin & Russia’s Special Services’, published in August 2002 by a very fine analyst called Henry Plater-Zyberk, under the pseudonym ‘Gordon Bennett.’ (See .) At the outset of his discussion, Plater-Zyberk complained about the propensity of Western journalists and commentators to listen to what the ‘chattering classes in Moscow and St. Petersburg’ said, rather than looking at the evidence. And he went on to argue that a more open-minded approach might have led to a very different evaluation of Putin at the outset. Further, Plater-Zyberk argued: ‘It might also have argued that Russia run by a group of ex-KGB officers could be much better off than Russia run by former CPSU apparatchiks or ideological free-marketers tinkering with the country’s economy, and that the KGB employed intelligent, well trained, highly motivated and competitive people, many of whom would have been successful in any political system.’ Unfortunately, successive British governments have preferred to take seriously the kind of ‘return of Karla’ view adopted by MI6. It is fascinating now to see how, trying to wriggle out of the rather awkward questions raised by the crucial role of the dossier supposedly authored by Christopher Steele, people are trying to claim that he swallowed cunning disinformation from the FSB. In relation to the final memorandum in the dossier, which is the subject of the post by ‘Publius Tacitus’ which follows this one, I think there may be something in this. However, if people like Dokuchaev were feeding disinformation, it would have been far more likely that it would have been through the FBI, with whom FSB cyber people had regular and quite proper contact, than through Steele. The claims now being made by Konstantin Koslovsky are obviously crucial to making sense of this whole history. My – admittedly preliminary – reading of them is that they are most naturally explained as a desperate attempt to rescue the preposterous ‘narrative’ according to which the DNC materials came to WikiLeaks through a hack, rather than a leak. In so doing, I suspect, they are exploiting the fact that the Russian security services have attempted to up their actual role in the history by accusing the people who exploited the gullibility of idiots like the Ohrs, Strzok and his ‘bit on the side’, Steele et al, of treason. What however slightly irks me is that people who now attempt to rescue the ‘Russiagate’ story by claiming that Steele was a ‘patsy’ do not draw the obvious conclusion: that an organisation who appoints one of nature’s ‘useful idiots’ to be head of its Russia Desk is clearly completely dysfunctional. But if one draws this conclusion, a further one logically follows: that everybody in the American ‘intelligence community’ who took any product by Christopher Steele at any point seriously has to be under suspicion of being as incompetent as him. A really bizarre part of the whole situation is the automatic assumption that because someone was former KGB he was necessarily anti-Western. For the reasons that Plater-Zyberk gave, it was precisely among people in that organisation that the awareness that the 1917 revolution had led Russia into a dead end was very strong. A question this raised, however, was whether Western policies towards the Soviet Union essentially reflected hostility towards communism (in which case the West was essentially in the right), or whether underneath the ideological professions there were other emotions and agendas. On this point, the view of Putin – as of many others in Russia – has clearly moved from the first position towards the second. A concomitant, of course, is that he has moved from looking for a viable role for Russia in the ‘Pax Americana’, to trying to think of ways of undermining it.
A wonderful sight. Merry Christmas to all.
EO, Any intelligence organisation which is afflicted by systematic misreadings of the history of a target country is liable to be a danger to its own. This is all the more so, if it is primarily engaged in espionage – as the consequence is liable to be that it will listen to the ‘humint’ which confirms its preconceptions. Accordingly, it will will either listen to people from the target country who genuinely share its misconceptions, or people who – for a variety of possible reasons – find it convenient to pretend to do so. (If you want to be fooled, there are many in the former Soviet space who can, as it were, ‘do Chalabi.’) It is a matter of some moment that when the ‘Henry Jackson Society’, a central organisation of British neo-conservatism, was formed back in 2005, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, was among the signatories of its ‘Statement of Principles.’ (See .) To anyone who is reasonably familiar with the history of arguments about Soviet military strategy, and the rather conclusive way in which they were resolved through evidence emerging in the wake of the retreat and collapse of Soviet power, this is rather as though a former head of Counter Terrorism Command signed the ‘Statement of Principles’ of a ‘Jacques Clouseau Society.’ Also relevant is the fact that the ‘Henry Jackson Society’ had its origins at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, among acolytes of a peculiarly seedy and disreputable historian called Maurice Cowling. He is, I think, best seen as a Gollum dreaming of being a Grima Wormtongue: in which ambition h has been, vicariously, extraordinarily successful. The scale of his inanity is well brought out in a review by Neal Ascherson of a biography of the historian and sometime MI6 officer Hugh Trevor-Roper published in 2010 by Adam Sisman. ‘The fogeyish camorra [that’s Cowling and his cronies – DH] who ran Peterhouse in the 1980s chose him as master because they assumed he was a semi-Fascist ultra like themselves. But, as the Cambridge historian Michael Postan put it, “They are such fools: they thought they were electing a Tory and never realised that they were electing a Whig.”’ (See .) As it happens, during the ‘Thirties Peterhouse had been a nest of the worst kind of ‘appeaser’ – and a central thread in Cowling’s historical work was an attempt to defend their delusions. By contrast, Trevor-Roper and Postan were among those who, while having no shred of sympathy for communism, believed that the most serious threat to European civilisation came from Nazi Germany, and that on ‘realpolitik’ grounds it was necessary to ally with the lesser evil against the greater. An ironic contrast, perhaps: Postan came from Bender, down the road from Kishinev, from which the ancestors of Jeffrey Goldberg came. Clearly, more of the Jews with brains came here, many of those with plenty of grievances and not much in the way of brains made it to the United States. (Or perhaps – to indulge a fantasy – they confiscated their brains on Ellis Island, and let all the grievances through.) As so often, Sir Robert Owen’s travesty of an inquiry into the life and death of Alexander Litvinenko opens up interesting and disturbing questions. Of particular interest is paragraph 4.83, concerning Litvinenko’s collaboration with the ‘Mitrokhin Commission.’ It was this collaboration which involved the fabrication of ‘evidence’ designed to implicate Putin in employing Mogilevich in attempts to supply Al Qaeda with a ‘mini nuclear bomb.’ The fact that this evidence was fabricated at a time when Litvinenko was an agent of MI6, and Steele, depending on which contradictory version you choose to believe, either head of that organisation’s Russia Desk, or not, has been obscured by systematic lying by ‘official sources’ in the UK and the US. It is really difficult to ascertain the actual truth, because these rascals change their stories from one minute to the next – and their ‘useful idiots’, like TTG, continue to take what the ‘stenographers’ in the MSM write seriously. Included in paragraph 4.83 is the following statement: ‘Mr Scaramella was introduced to Mr Litvinenko in late 2003 by a mutual acquaintance, Victor Rezun, also known as Victor Suvorov. Mr Scaramella asked for Mr Litvinenko’s help in the enquiries that he was conducting for the Mitrokhin Commission, and Mr Litvinenko agreed.’ This may be an awful warning in the dangers of paying heed to people who agree with one. In 1985, Vladimir (not ‘Victor’, Owen is sloppy once again) Rezun, who used the pen-name ‘Viktor Suvorov’, and who had defected from the GRU, had published a piece in the journal of the ‘Royal United Services Institute’, which attempted to portray Stalin as having prime responsibility for the outbreak of the Second World War. The following year, the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky published a rebuttal in the same journal. The opening page – with the link to the ‘Suvorov’ piece – is at . In 1990, Rezun/ ‘Suvorov’ elaborated his argument in the book length study ‘Icebreaker’, which was translated into Russian in I think 1992 – and in the then pervasive atmosphere of disillusionment with all things communist, had a very considerable impact. This prompted Gorodetsky to develop his criticism in a Russian-language study published in 1995, whose translation, in English, is ‘The Icebreaker Myth.’ The argument was further developed in his 1999 English-language study, ‘Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia.’ The implications of these arguments are quite fundamental, and too complex for me to go into, even in another of my characteristically prolix comments. A critical point is that the situation which the Western powers confronted in 1945 was, in crucial respects, precisely that which intelligent supporters of ‘appeasement’ had feared. And yes, not all of those who argued for seeking accommodation with Hitler were Obama-style pompous assess like Chamberlain, or people with ‘semi-fascist ultra’ tendencies like some of the ‘Peterhouse right’ and Leo Strauss. That said, a lot other refugees from Central and Eastern Europe, lusting to ‘get their own back’, and, frankly, having no more understanding of the principles of constitutional government than Thomas Jefferson thought such people were likely to have, are clearly of the same kind, and are no more capable of rational assessment of evidence than Dearlove. When I hear a name like ‘Strzok’, I try to stop myself simply taking the ‘worst case scenario’ for granted. In 1945, Russian power was further into Europe than at any time since 1815, with the economic and social systems of the major European countries destroyed, and communist parties in powerful positions in key countries, in particular France and Italy. At the same time, the old colonial powers were patently no longer in a position to sustain their empires, while, once again, there seemed ample reason to fear that the likely beneficiaries of the disintegration of these would be communist. The great countervailing factor, of course, was that American power was mobilised for global involvement, in a way which simply could not have been factored into the calculations of the ‘appeasers’ prior to 1941. Central interpretative questions, from that day to this, have had to do with two, interrelated, issues. One has to do with whether or not this outcome was something which emerged in large measure by ‘happenstance’, or whether it was the result of a cunning Stalinist strategy aimed at what TTG refers to as ‘reflexive control.’ Related to this is the question of whether there were strategies available to the Western powers which might, conceivably, have secured a better outcome. It may here be of interest that the time when ‘Icebreaker’ was being translated into Russian was precisely that at which Christopher Steele was ‘cutting his teeth’ on Russian affairs, with John – now Sir John Scarlett – as MI6 ‘station chief’ in Moscow: and he was central to the ‘exfiltration’ of Mitrokhin. What Rezun/ ‘Suvorov’ was attempting to defend is, first, a well-rehearsed piece of German neo-fascist apologetics – that Hitler only pre-empted a plan by Stalin to attack – and second, the view that MI6 held at the time: that Stalin had a cunning long-term strategy aimed at finessing Germany and the Western powers into a rerun of the 1914-18 war. These arguments have always, as it were, ‘cut across’ other divisions, in strange ways. So, in essence, Gorodetsky’s ‘Grand Delusion’ study is a restatement of the view of Stalin’s policy held by the diplomats of the interwar German Moscow Embassy. Among the many ‘threads’ in the complex story he tells is that of the long, patient, but ultimately unavailingly struggle that Friedrich Werner, Count von der Schulenberg, the German Ambassador to Moscow in the period leading up to ‘Barbarossa’, waged to prevent what he correctly saw would mean ‘Finis Germaniae.’ It ended with his being strung up with piano wire at the Plötzensee prison. (See .) If one attempts to understand this history, it becomes possible to grasp that the notion that the interwar American Foreign Service experts on the Soviet Union had a single position is the product of simple ignorance. So Kennan, the supposed architect of ‘containment’, paid lip-service to Schulenberg’s view, but ultimately disregarded it. By contrast, Charles (‘Chip’) Bohlen, who was Roosevelt’s translator and advisor, learnt most of his Sovietology from his German colleagues. Later, the people who came to realise that Senator Jackson was little more than a ‘village idiot’ – Commander Michael MccGwire in the UK, Ambassador Raymond Garthoff in the US –, were, fundamentally, adherents of the ‘Schulenberg line.’ (I had this discussion, briefly, when I met MccGwire in the loo at a ‘Pugwash’ meeting addressed by Robert McNamara and Sir Rudolph Peierls, shortly before the latter’s death.) The historiographical argument however is now clearly ended. Why Gorodetsky in important respects misread Hitler, his refutation of the Suvorov/Kennan/MI6 view is not longer contested by serious historians.
TTG, It is not clear that Steele used any sources at all. As you will have seen, the view taken by Dr Patrick Armstrong - who was a long-serving Canadian government analyst of Soviet and Russian affairs - is that the whole dossier was essentially fabricated. As it happens, I have followed Dr Armstrong's writings for more than a decade,and he has a pretty good track record. As regards Steele, as I have pointed out repeatedly here on SST, he has 'form' in fabricating evidence and corrupting law enforcement procedures, and I am in a position to prove this. If people like Steele, or Luke Harding, or Sir Robert Owen, or a great many others, want to get into an argument with me, rather than continuing to attempt to suppress the evidence I have in my possession, there is nothing I would like better. However, my respect for Dr Armstrong does not mean I always agree with him. As I have already argued here on SST, I think it possible that Dokuchaev and Mikhailov were used to feed Western intelligence agencies with the crap about FSB hacking which has led to the lawsuits from Gubarev. But if you do a little elementary - 'Tidewater' used the term 'dogged', which I take as a compliment - research, you will see that if Dokuchaev and Mikhailov were conduits, the channels are far more likely to have been through the FBI. As you clearly have no knowledge whatsoever of how British intelligence, or British society, works, explaining the kind of appalling creature Steele is is liable to be a bit difficult. Suffice it, for the moment, to say that MI6 never seems to have done 'dogged', any more than Luke Harding's kind of journalist does. Some of us have done, both in intelligence and journalism.
Colonel Lang, Ever since the breaking of the story of Steele's involvement in the dossier was followed by Robert Hannigan's resignation, and Philip Giraldi first speculated that this might be related to the use of GCHQ to make possible surveillance of Flynn, some kind of conspiracy involving top-level intelligence figures in the US and UK fans has seemed the most likely hypothesis. In the light of the Strzok/Page exchanges, and other recent disclosures, I have difficulty seeing how any other interpretation is possible. It may also be material here that Hannigan is not a GCHQ professional. Before being appointed to head that organisation, he held top-level intelligence co-ordination posts in the FCO and Cabinet Office. So he will certainly know where a lot of skeletons are buried. What one then comes back to are a range of versions of the question Fred raised about Obama. In relation not simply to the conspiracy against Trump but many other matters, we want to know how much the political leadership knew, and when they knew it. How far have people like Blair, Brown, Cameron and May been the 'useful idiots' of corrupt and incompetent intelligence chiefs like Dearlove, Scarlett, Sawers and Younger, how far their willing co-conspirators?
A possibility is that the British intelligence world is a total shambles, and that key figures knew exactly what Steele was doing. Note that the 'Vanity Fair' piece has him becoming head of the MI6 Russia Desk in 2004 - which would among other things raise the question of his involvement in Litvinenko's disinformation designed to establish that Putin had employed Mogilevich in an attempt to supply a 'mini nuclear bomb' to Al Qaeda. In the 'Guardian' piece to which 'blowback' linked however it is said that Steele took 'a senior post on MI6's Russia desk in 2006.' Likewise, it was originally claimed that he was Litvinenko's 'case officer' - and then that he never even met him. Clearly, the question of whether those of us who suspect that the initial memorandum was simply another of Steele's fabrications designed to facilitate the obtaining of the FISA warrant cannot be definitively settled with the current available evidence, The obvious next step is for people who do not have an interest in a cover-up to see the documentation relating to the application.