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David Habakkuk
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Jack, Many thanks – also to walrus and IZ. What has been coming out about Peter Stryok and Lisa Page, and also Bruce and Nellie Ohr, is clearly explosive. There are, however, a lot of matters that need clarification. Yesterday, someone using the name ‘sundance’ at a site called ‘The Conservative Tree House’ or ‘The Last Refuge’ posted a piece entitled: ‘Wife of DOJ Deputy Was Fusion GPS Employee, CIA Research Aide, and Applied for HAM Radio License Month After Contracting MI6 Agent Christopher Steele…’ (See .) The licence, which appears to be authentic, is dated 23 May 2016. However, the date which had been given for the contracting of Steele was June, not April. The suggestion in the report is that Nellie Ohr and Steele were conspiring to ensure that their communications with ‘parties external to the U.S.’ could not be intercepted by American monitoring facilities. I do not know enough about the technology to be clear about the uses to which it could, and could not, be put. If anyone does and, can enlighten us, that would I think help. My hunch about the initial memorandum is that it was a forgery pure and simple, with the likely purpose of supporting what was apparently an initial – unsuccessful – attempt to secure a FISA warrant which it has been reported would have been directed against Trump as well as associates of his. The forgery could have been done by Steele, but it is equally possible that it was done by others – most probably with Fusion the centre of operations – and his name was brought in to give it credibility. Of course, my judgement is influenced by the fact that I know – and can prove – that Steele has ‘form’ in organising the fabrication of evidence and corrupting law enforcement processes. But other elements are relevant. Much of the material in the subsequent memoranda looks as though it was related to the renewed efforts to get the FISA warrant, which I think, subject to correction, were successful, although it was more tightly drawn, and did not include Trump personally, in October 2016. Again, however, it seems to me an open question whether Steele was actually responsible for the material, or whether he was brought in to make it seem more authoritative than it was, and perhaps to disguise the actual production process. Although my estimate of the professional competence of MI6 is low, it would still surprise me if its former head had not been able to produce the correct transliteration of the name of the Alfa Group. (A critical question then becomes – who would, and who would not?) One point about the dossier is that, if any of the information had got into the hands of the Russian security services, it could have been expected to produce one of two reactions – or a combination. It could have been that it would simply have been discounted as fabrication (these god-for-saken MI6 people, they all want to be the new Le Carré, but they can’t even produce credible fictions.) But, if it was not discounted in this way, the Steele dossier would have been likely to produce a serious counter-intelligence investigation, and to provide a good deal of crucial material which would make it possible to wind-up Western intelligence networks. In turn, this brings one back to the question of what kind of organisation Fusion was. Taken at face value, the involvement in ‘information operations’ against Browder would suggest that we were dealing with, as it were ‘guns for hire.’ In that case, it might be a perfectly rational strategy for the Russian security services, or people linked with them, to hire a company which had been involved in working against them. (And after all, people in such a ‘mercenary’ organisation might become lax about client confidentiality, if the incentives were good enough. ‘We know, your CIA contacts were a bit over-fond-of-drink, and of course, you would prefer not to tell us what they told you, but would an extra $200,000 be useful in paying for your children’s education?) If that was so, however, for Steele and others to be providing information to Fusion would be the height of irresponsibility and folly. Often, there are tensions between ‘moral’ and ‘Machiavellian’ considerations. To give the kind of clues which allows a foreign intelligence to liquidate one’s networks makes no kind of sense, from either point of view. An alternative possibility is that the work for Prevezon was part of an elaborate disinformation ploy, designed to obscure the fact that Fusion was, essentially, an ‘asteroid’ of Western intelligence services, of particular usefulness in activities directed against Russia. The revelations about Strzok, Page, and the Ohrs make this seem more and more likely, as also does what has emerged about the involvement of the latter pair and Glenn Simpson with the June 2010 report of the Expert Working Group on International Organized Crime. This would, of course, have implications for how one interpreted the 9 June 2016 meeting at Trump tower in which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort were involved. One then however comes to one area where the dossier definitely reads to me as though it was likely to have been based on actual sources – report 2016/086 dated 26 July 2015 on Russian cyber operations. Again, one can see clear indications of material produced in a panicked hurry, as 2015 is clearly a misprint for 2016. In the past few days, a couple of reports on English-language sites have picked up material on a Russian-language site using the English name ‘The Bell’ (an allusion to a famous nineteenth century publication run by the Russian émigré Alexander Herzen), which is described as independent but seems to me quite clearly to producing ‘Borgist’ propaganda. (See ) I am still in the process of trying to put different strands of evidence together. However, the bizarre nature of the reports in ‘The Bell’ are making me more and more inclined to contemplate an apparently not very probable hypothesis. It may be that more plausible evidence than that which is being provided at the moment will convince me that Major Dmitri Dokuchaev was indeed at one and the same time engaged in organising the hacks of the DNC servers and betraying the fact to American intelligence. It may also be that the reports that he is in ‘durance vile’ in Lefortovo prison, along with his erstwhile superior Sergei Mikhailov, will be vindicated by compelling evidence. An alternative hypothesis might be something along the lines of the following: that Dokuchaev and Mikhailov are ‘imprisoned’, say, in comfortable accommodation overlooking the sea at Yalta, where the former keeps his hand in doing a little light hacking into whatever targets seem appropriate, while both give briefings on the art of diddling stupid people from the FBI. A great puzzle remains the final memorandum in the dossier, which includes the claims about Gubarov and Kapsugovich – both slight misspellings – in relation to claims which, for different reasons, are wildly implausible. My views on this memoranda are conditioned by having been involved, many years ago, in a prolonged libel action in relation to a programme I had produced (successfully, I hasten to add.) The whole basis of Fusion was supposed to be that the partners in it were supposed to be top-class investigative journalists, who by virtue of that fact could market their skills in the ‘private sector’, for very much larger sums of money than they could make as MSM reporters. In journalism, as in other matters, there are very many bubble reputations, and it is wise to hold off judgement, unless one is familiar with people’s work. In relation to Glenn Simpson, I am not, and simply do not know whether he was a first-class journalist or a rubbish hack like Luke Harding. But my assessment of Thomas Catan – based on pieces of his about matters I know about – is that he really was pretty good. To reckon with possible libel suits is an investigative journalist’s ‘bread-and-butter.’ And it is simply elementary tradecraft to take competent legal advice, if there is any possibility that a story one produces will result in legal action. In my day, the jargon was whether publication was ‘a fair business risk.’ Involved were questions to do with the law, and also the likelihood of people suing, and what could realistically be expected to happen, if they did. I have been wracking my brains as to how anyone involved could have thought that publishing that final December memorandum, in the form it was published, was a ‘fair business risk.’ And this is all the more so, given that all that would have been necessary to avoid risk of legal action would have been to ‘redact’ the names of Gubarev and Kaptsugovich (correct spellings, I hope.) The most economical explanation I can come up with, at the moment, is that the Ohrs, and the Fusion people, and Steele and his associates, are all complete dimwits, and were played, like trout, by people in Russian security services who they thought were playing a double game on their side, but weren’t. In relation to the Litvinenko case, the corruption, incompetence, and sheer boring stupidity of the MSM in Britain and the United States had meant that the ‘snooker’ the relevant elements in the Russian security services thought they had against Berezovsky and MI6 had been successfully turned, by Steele and his associates against them. What I think may have happened was that people like Strzok, Page, and the Ohrs were so desperate to destroy Trump that their ‘fishing expedition’ backfired. This time, the ‘snooker’ was successfully played against them.
All, The Colonel writes, of Robin Wright’s article in David Remnick’s magazine: ‘IMO it reflects the Borg’s bitter resignation to the reality of its defeat in Syria where it sought to affect its greatest stunt in fostering the dream of a westernized Middle East that would accept the presence and domination of Israel, the Borg’s most beloved tool in the region.’ For that – rather substantial – part of the ‘Borg’ which is Jewish, Israel was always very much more than a ‘tool.’ Involved here is a ludicrous fantasy of empowerment, in which it seemed that access to the ‘controlling levers’ of the massive power of the United States was supposed to make possible the realisation of inherently contradictory utopian visions. A secularisation of a – millenarian – vision of exile and return, given immense force by the way that, in Germany and elsewhere, a resolution of the ambiguities of ‘modernisation’ which was anti-semitic on racial grounds had triumphed, came together with another quite different vision. In this, which one finds in the original Bolshevik movement, and also in ‘Lennonism’ – a very useful notion which Steve Sailer took from Michael Barone – all the antagonisms which have characterised human history, racial, religious, cultural, can be transcended in some kind of future utopia of togetherness. This vision has been particularly attractive to members of what I am tempted to call – not having as yet a better term – a ‘narcissistic pseudo-meritocracy.’ A bitter irony is that, in such a system, the Jews who end up having influence are people who are good at passing examinations, making money, and practising law. In terms of the intellectual capabilities required for statecraft – understanding of culture, history and religion, military matters, practical experience of having to act in situation where if one gets it wrong things blow up in one’s face – they are beyond belief useless. A very great tragedy is that so many people who are, ethnically, either wholly or partly Jewish have had so much to contribute to the understanding to these matters – and still do. A good example comes from two Jews with whom I had some contact thirty years ago. Both had East European immigrant origins. One, Sir Lawrence Freedman KCMG, CBE, PC, FBA, played a non-trivial role in getting us involved in the catastrophic venture in Iraq and is, as I came to realise, an utter dolt. Another, Stephen Shenfield, was the conduit through which the first intimations of what became the Gorbachev era ‘new thinking’ appeared in Britain. At the outset, I paid attention to Freedman, and distrusted Shenfield, because he was, and remains, a socialist. He is also an anti-Zionist Jew, in a tradition which was actually very strong among left-wing – which included very many strongly anti-Marxist – Jews in places like Lithuania (thereafter massacred by the Nazis, with the enthusiastic collaboration of Lithuanian nationalists.) Some time back, I came across an account by Shenfield of those years, dealing with his contacts with Fyodor Burlatsky and Colonel Viktor Girshfeld, whose views he published, under the alias ‘Colonel X.’ Both were very interesting men – the latter, in particular, provides a fascinating insight into the manifold complexities of the relations between Jewish identity and Soviet history.) (See ; .) Ironically, when I came across Shenfield’s site, I still thought that, on important issues, he was flat out wrong and indeed a silly ass – just as I did thirty years ago. There were, however, critically important ways in which it turned out that the boot was on the other foot – he has been right, and I quite wrong. Not simply moral, but simple prudential, calculations, dictate that it is critical to actually understand how people think – not how they would think, if they were totally objective and impartial, still less how they might think, if they thought one was a wonderful as one would like to think oneself. Ironically, precisely because of his background, when people like TTG were saying that Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ was all about ‘reflexive control’, Shenfield could see that what Colonel Girshfeld was telling him was nothing of the kind. Among Shenfield’s virtues is good manners. At one point in his account of Girshfeld, however, these obscure what is clearly a deep, and utterly justified, contempt. Referring to one of the – innumerable – pieces by Western analysts who suggested that he was a ‘useful idiot’, Shenfield wrote: ‘According to Harry Gelman, “Colonel X” did exist but he was not a former army officer as he “alleged.” He was “presumably in fact a representative of a Soviet intelligence service" whose mission was to plant "rumors and private suggestions” about possible unilateral Soviet reductions in order “to increase domestic popular pressures on Western governments to adopt a more forthcoming negotiating posture regarding Western reductions, and more generally to inhibit Western defense expenditures” (The Soviet Military Leadership and the Question of Soviet Deployment Retreats, RAND Report R-3664-AF, 1988). I cannot disprove this hypothesis, but it is surely implausible in the extreme. Gelman and many others with the same mentality were able to perceive Soviet people only as programmed robots rather than as thinking and feeling individuals pursuing their own goals within the constraints of a specific political environment. They were able to sustain this perception because their real contact with Soviet people was very limited.’ In the event, Jews like Shenfield, who thought, got marginalised, and Jews like Freedman, who didn’t were accepted into Western ‘establishments.’ The – not entirely unpredictable – result has been one catastrophic foreign policy mistake after another, and a revival of anti-semitism.
blue peacock, The history of the coverage of the Litvinenko mystery, on both sides of the Atlantic, from the time the story broke through until the Owen cover-up and subsequently, illustrates the collapse alike in standards of integrity and of basic journalistic competence in the MSM. The only honourable exception among British journalists is Mary Dejevsky. Given the way that Mogilevich, having been used in ‘information operations’ against Kuchma, Putin and Romano Prodi, is now being used against Trump, some of the history deserves to be better known. As I noted, according to Luke Harding, Glenn Simpson met Steele in 2009. Meanwhile, in his attempts to wriggle out from the libel case brought by Aleksej Gubarev, the latter has referred to a confidentiality agreement supposedly made in January 2010, in relation to work carried out for him by Fusion – not the other way round. From what I know about the Litvinenko mystery, it seems to me that the work that Simpson et al were doing at that time could have involved a number of matters. One is asset tracing to do with Mogilevich. More likely however, is asset tracing in relation to issues to do with the Tambov Gang, a St Petersburg mafia outfit with links to Colombian drug cartels – Fusion has Latin American involvement and expertise. Another possible candidate has to do with the lawsuits about the estate of Berezovsky’s erstwhile partner Arkadi ‘Badri’ Patarkatsishvili, who died, probably of a heart attack, in February 2008. His close relationship with Lugovoi is central to understanding the Litvinenko mystery, and the lawsuits were intimately involved with the covert struggles between Berezovsky and MI6 on the one hand, and Putin and the Russian security services on the other. Here, there was a strong American angle, because Patarkatsishvili’s American lawyer, Emanuel Zeltser, was a crucial figure. A third possibility is that Fusion were already being used as an instrument of media manipulation – which of course takes us back to the question of why the company was making payments to journalists. What is important both in relation to claims about Mogilevich and these other matters is that anything coming from Steele or Fusion, separately or jointly, was always likely to be a mixture of truth and the most outrageous falsehood. This is where the ability of such people to manipulate the MSM, as demonstrated by the history of the Litvinenko cove-up, becomes critically important. A pathbreaking investigation which did appear in the MSM was a piece entitled ‘The Specter that Haunts the Death of Litvinenko’ which the veteran American investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein published in the ‘New York Sun’ in March 2008. (See .) What Epstein did was go to take the trouble to go to Moscow and interview the Russian investigators. Curiously, however, while his account suggested that the Italian angle to the story might be crucial, he did not probe it. Describing the crucial meeting with Mario Scaramella on the day Litvinenko was, supposedly, poisoned, Epstein wrote that that the Italian ‘had been involved with Litvinenko in, among other things, a Byzantine plot to penetrate the operations of a suspected trafficker in prostitutes, arms, and enriched uranium.’ This is Mogilevich. The supposed operation had been central to a piece which appeared in the ‘Guardian’ the previous January, an article entitled ‘Why a spy was killed’ by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. This was inept – the authors simply swallowed wholesale wildly implausible claims by associates of Litvinenko. (See .) Concluding his article, Epstein wrote: ‘After considering all the evidence, my hypothesis is that Litvinenko came in contact with a Polonium-210 smuggling operation and was, either wittingly or unwittingly, exposed to it.’ In May that year, the ‘Guardian’ published an interview with Lugovoi by Luke Harding, entitled ‘Prime suspect.’ A key paragraph: ‘Recently, Lugovoi’s claim that he is the victim has been gaining some ground. In an article in the New York Sun, the veteran US investigative journalist Edward Epstein claimed that Britain's evidence against Lugovoi was weak – and said that British prosecutors had failed to submit Litvinenko’s autopsy report. Litvinenko was an international polonium smuggler, Epstein speculated. The Independent’s Mary Dejevsky wrote a similarly revisionist piece, raising doubt about the British case against Lugovoi.’ (See .) What Harding was doing here was smearing Epstein, by attributing to him a suggestion that Russian sources had indeed made, but he had not. Moreover, any competent editorial team would have done the obvious, and asked British sources whether it was true that the autopsy report had not been submitted, and if not, why not. A more appropriate subject for a book called ‘Collusion’ would be the way in which the current ‘régime’ at the ‘Guardian’ has turned what was once a great liberal paper into stenographers for corrupt spooks, policemen, and judges. As it happened, some rather elementary Google checks had a good while before alerted me to some very good coverage of the Italian angle which had appeared a site called ‘European Tribune’, after the story initially broke, from a blogger using the name ‘de Gondi’, who I already knew because of his work at the Italian end of the transnational Niger uranium forgeries investigation. Based in Rome, his actual name is David Loepp, and his ‘day job’ is as an artisan jeweller specialising in ancient and traditional goldsmith techniques. It seemed to me time that rather than dead-beat MSM journalists, it was time that someone of proven investigative competence took a fresh look at the Italian angle, so I posted a long piece on ‘European Tribune’, setting out what I thought was the state of the evidence. Among the materials David Loepp produced in response was the translation of an excerpt from the request by Italian prosecutors to use intercepts of conversations involving Scaramella in connection with their case against him for ‘aggravated calumny.’ The request was unsuccessful, but it was ‘hiding in plain sight’ on the website of the Italian Senate, complete with detailed summaries of the conversations. The passage David translated read: ‘3) - 4) - 5) - 6) - 7) - 8) - 9) conversations that took place on number [omissis] on December 1st, 2005, at 16:10:08 # 833, 16:43:40 # 848, 17:13:02 # 856, 17:56:45 # 860, 18:15:48 # 861, 19:56:22 # 867, 20:20:50 # 873, containing precise references to the campaign organized by Scaramella and Litvinenko to support the thesis of a conspiracy to assassinate Guzzanti, attributing the responsibility to TALIK and elements of the Russian mafia, the camorra and Russian and Ukrainian secret services, with the indication of relevant documents acquired by Scaramenlla and sent to Senator Guzzanti, or to be acquired and transmitted. The conversations are of particular relevance if confronted with intercepted conversations in the acts between Litvinenko and Ganchev on one part and between TALIK and his wife on the other, having as their object the same facts albeit their reconstruction appears quite different, as noted in the motivations behind the arrest warrant emitted against Scaramella (Scaramella calls Guzzanti and tells him that at least ten different press agencies in Ukraine have mentioned the assassination attempt against Guzzanti, including the declarations of Litvinenko as referred by him. Litvinenko received dozens of calls from Ukranian reporters and Litvinenko mentioned Talik's name. Guzzanti tells Scaramella that he received a letter in Russian from Litvinenko; Scaramella will send the translation which corresponds to the registration but omitting all references to Mario Scaramella. Guzzanti notes that there is a problem since in the letter Litvinenko asserts that he works for the Commission; Scaramella says that Litvinenko had in precedence undertaken activity concerning nuclear [?] in Italy that they [the commission] had acquired; at the London meeting, official missions, documents countersigned by Bukowsky, Gordievsky, Svorov and Palombo. Conversations intercepted between CUCHMA (he lost the elections against Yushenko) and MOGILEVICH/FSB. SHVEZ, ex-president of the KGB took the material [?] to the USA. Scaramella tells Guzzanti that in Ukraine there is an agency, "the fifth element," probably close to Berezovsky, that follows the work of a commission similar to the Mitrokhin Commission that investigates facts of Soviet Union espionage. This agency had interviewed Litvinenko, and Scaramella sent the article to Guzzanti. In the interview Litvinenko talks about the Ukrainian aspects and also mentions Guzzanti (indicated as Paolo Guzzante), Talik, etc. They study the article together even if it is in Russian or Ukrainian. A passage on Simon Moghilevic and an agreement between the camorra to search for nuclear weapons lost during the Cold War to be consigned to Bin Laden, a revelation made by the Israeli. According to Scaramella the circle closes: camorra, Moghilevic- Russian mafia- services- nuclear bombs in Naples.)’ The ‘letter in Russian from Litvinenko’ is that I already cited, which attempted to establish that Putin had been involved in using Mogilevich to try to equip Al Qaeda with nukes. That and the remainder of the intercept gives you rather a vivid picture of the kind of utter garbage which Litvinenko, then an agent of MI6, whose Russia Desk was run by Steele, was fabricating, and how it was disseminated. From the intercepts, it was clearly that shortly after this conversation Scaramella left on a trip to the United States. A mass of material gathered by myself and David Loepp, with crucial input from an American lady called Karon von Gerhke who was a long-term contact of Yuri Shvets – the ‘SHVEZ’ referred to in the passage – was drawn by me to the attention of Owen’s team. It included the full text of the ‘documents countersigned by Bukowsky, Gordievsky, Svorov and Palombo’ (Vladimir Bukovsky, Oleg Gordievsky, ‘Viktor Suvorov’ aka Vladimir Rezun, and Louis Palumbo – the last three all connected to British/American intelligence agencies.) This contains a collection of garbage allegations even more ridiculous than those I already discussed. Almost all the crucial evidence was suppressed by Owen and his team. The piece I originally posted on 'European Tribune', together with further pieces I posted on that site in 2008-9 containing a lot of material still currently relevant, together with some mistakes, is at Other relevant material is included in three pieces which David Loepp and I wrote jointly following Scaramella’s conviction in the second ‘aggravated calumny’ case against him in November 2012 are on his page at the site, at .
blue peacock, On the Litvinenko mystery, my initial responses to Owen’s report were posted here on SST back in January 2016. There is a great deal more material in the exchanges of comments that followed. Some further material relating to patent fabrications in the evidence presented to the Inquiry, and the fact it now seems clear Owen himself must have been consciously colluding in fabrication, was presented in comments of mine in a discussion last month. (See .) As to the background, there are a number of matters to do with ‘perception management’ or ‘StratCom’ operations about which it is important to be clear. One is that attempting to combine these with intelligence analysis is fraught with pitfalls. This was done rather successfully in the Second World War disinformation operations, which repeatedly blinded the Germans to the actual places where the Allies intended to land. But the conditions – including a large degree of separation between the conduits in which intelligence was coming in and those through which disinformation was channelled – were I think distinctly atypical. The problem is compounded when ‘perception management’ depends upon painting the world in black and white terms. It is most of the time true, to hark back to the aphorism of the novelist Graham Greene, that the world is not black and white, but black and grey. Last but hardly least, a common ‘perception management’ strategy is, as it were, to attempt to achieve a ‘snooker’ – to put the adversary in a situation where he or she has no effective counter-move. One way of doing this is illustrated by the passages I quoted. Because some of the material relating to Mogilevich is likely to be true, Litvinenko and his associates could embroider it with a whole mass of falsehood, countering on the inability of their targets effectively to counter the falsehood without admitting some of the truth. What is clear about the events of October-November 2006 in London is that when the story of Litvinenko’s poisoning was first made public, those in the know in the Russian security services believed that Counter Terrorism Command would have to identify a timeline of his movements on the day he was supposedly poisoned that would incriminate him in trafficking polonium. So, they thought that they had managed a ‘snooker’ against Berezovsky and MI6. To avoid this, these colluded – with Steele clearly playing a key role – in massive fabrication of evidence. It is likely that they thought they had escaped the ‘snooker’, and achieved one of their own. What then seems to have happened is that Lugovoi consulted lawyers in London, who worked out a means of bringing a case, probably under human rights law, on the basis that he had been accused without the evidence against him being released. This, in essence, forced the British into resuming the inquest. Once again the group around Berezovsky – the names mentioned in the letter to the Mitrokhin Commission from which I quoted – were placed centre stage, and there had to be industrial scale fabrication of evidence. Of course, as Steele was no longer running the MI6 Russia Desk, one cannot be absolutely certain that he was at the centre of things, but it seems overwhelmingly likely. Be that as it may however, what is important is that Americans realise that he is a serial fabricator – the forging of evidence, and the corruption of judicial processes, are parts of his stock in trade. He is, to put it bluntly, a 'sewer rat.' As to the claims about Manafort, Firtash, Mogilevich et al. These are a natural product of ‘perception management’ run riot. The whole history of the intermediary companies in the gas trade through Ukraine is a complex one, on which I am currently engaged in trying to get ‘up to speed.’ However, it is not a simple story of ‘black’ and ‘white’, and attempting to reduce it to one produces nonsense. So, for example, back in 2010 there were allegations and counter-allegations about involvement with Mogilevich, with its being claimed that the supporters of Timoshenko had destroyed a dossier which would incriminate her. In 2008, she and Putin had reached an agreement to eliminate the intermediary company RusUkrEnergo, with which it has been very credibly argued that the mobster was involved, and which has indeed subsequently been wound up. Its key role, it has plausibly been argued, derived from the fact that Ukraine, having a strangehold on the pipeline network connecting supplies from the former Soviet Union to Europe, exploited this to avoid paying for gas. The intermediary allowed Gazprom to get paid, and also by dealing directly with end using companies to produce differential pricing which stopped important ones going bankrupt. It also, critically, provided a means of ‘greasing palms’ on both sides, and as well as Yanukovich, this included Yushchenko. So Timoshenko’s supporter Oleksandr Turchinov charged that the accusations against about the destruction of the material incriminating her in relation was an ‘elaborate ruse’ by Yushchenko and his circle to divert attention from their plans to preserve RosUkrEnergo as an intermediary. (See ; for background, see ; ) As to the notion that Yanukovich is ‘Putin’s man’, it is nonsense. He is Yanukovich’s man, pure and simple, out for his own ends, and would have signed the Association Agreement with the EU had the terms not been patently unacceptable. On this, see . A crucial question which needs to be sorted out is for whom Glenn Simpson and his associates at Fusion GPS are working. What Harding calls ‘asset tracing’ has been a critical activity, and here, it is relevant that Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky were given their first lessons in Western ‘business practices’ as early as 1989 by Christopher Samuelson and Christian Michel of Valmet, a company with clear links to some of the more dubious elements in Western intelligence. They were experts in creating elaborate structures to hide the real ownership and control of assets. (See .) What has to be explained is the apparent paradox that Simpson et al were collaborating with Steele, and at the same time, supposedly, working against Browder. This could indicate that they were indeed simply ‘hired guns’, or alternatively, it could point to an elaborate deception, designed to disguise the fact that they were really working for Western intelligence. Here, there is a further paradox, in that one of the few good pieces of reporting on the mysterious death of the Menatep lawyer Stephen Curtis, who had been part of the circles involving Samuelson and Michel, in a helicopter accident in March 2004, was done by Thomas Catan, now a partner in Fusion. What this demonstrated was that, if as seems likely Curtis was murdered, Putin and the Russian security services were among the least plausible suspects. At that time, Catan demonstrated, Curtis had started ‘singing sweetly’ to what was then the National Criminal Intelligence Service – and what he was telling them would have been music to Putin’s ears. (See .) As part of their attempt to wriggle out of the mess into which they had got themselves with the lawsuits provoked by the dossier, ‘BuzzFeed’ produced some melodramatic pieces claiming that all kinds of people had been assassinated by the Russian security services. (See .) One of those included is Curtis. That this is nonsense is something that Catan, it seems to me, must know. Unlike Harding, who is a clown, he was a very good investigative journalist indeed. Perhaps he has simply gone over to the dark side. The large sums of money to be made by doing so are, unfortunately, very tempting. But then, sometimes, ‘devil’s bargains’ blow up in people’s faces.
Apologies, I left out out the link to the transcript of the tape on which the claims by Litvinenko that Putin had been involved in attempting to equip Al Qaeda with nukes relies. It is INQ015726, at What I really love is the clear implication that the ‘dachas’ have ‘good relations with Putin.’ This is pretty crude editing – like that which Shvets used earlier, in order to turn a brief except which started with it having to be explained to Kuchma what the Kolchuga passive detection system was, so that it ended with him approving its sale to Saddam. This was certified to have been unedited by the former FBI audiotape expert Bruce Koenig. (See .)
All, I think the Peter Stryok/Lisa Page connection adds very greatly to the grounds for suspicion about Mueller’s investigation. From a report on the investigation in the ‘Guardian’ in June: ‘One of the more recent recruits is reported to be Lisa Page, a justice department trial attorney with a substantial record of investigating Russian and former Soviet organised crime and in particular its reputed godfather, Semion Mogilevich. ‘Mogilevich associates are reported to have owned condos in Trump Tower in New York, and the father of Trump’s business partner in the Trump Soho hotel, Felix Sater, was a Mogilevich lieutenant. ‘Vladimir Putin is known to use oligarchs and organised crime bosses as instruments of Kremlin influence abroad.’ (See .) From an excerpt from Luke Harding’s ‘Collusion’ book published by ‘Morning Joe Staff’ on MNSBC, explaining how Christopher Steele met up with Glenn Simpson of Fusion, apparently as early as 2009: ‘One of Simpson’s subjects was Semion Mogilevich, a Ukrainian-Russian mafia don and one of the FBI’s ten most wanted individuals. Mogilevich, it was alleged, was behind a mysterious intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo (RUE), that imported Siberian natural gas into Ukraine. The profits were measured in billions of dollars. ‘Mogilevich wasn’t someone a reporter might meet; he was more myth than man. He lived in Moscow – or was it Budapest? Seemingly, the Russian state and FSB harbored him. Simpson talked to U.S. investigators. Over years, he built up a portfolio of contacts in Hungary, Israel, Cyprus. At home he knew individuals inside the Department of Justice – in particular its Organized Crime and Racketeering Section – the U.S. Treasury, and elsewhere. ‘By 2009 Simpson decided to quit journalism, at a time when the media industry was in all sorts of financial trouble. He cofounded his own commercial research and political intelligence firm, based in Washington, D.C. Its name was Fusion GPS. Its website gave little away. It didn’t even list an address or the downtown loft from where a team of analysts worked. ‘Fusion’s research would be similar to what he had done before. That meant investigating difficult corruption cases or the business activities of post-Soviet figures. There would still be a public interest dimension, only this time private clients would pay. Fusion was very good at what it did and— Simpson admitted – expensive. ‘In 2009 Simpson met Steele. They knew some of the same FBI people and shared expertise on Russia. Fusion and Orbis began a professional partnership. The Washington- and London-based firms worked for oligarchs litigating against other oligarchs. This might involve asset tracing—identifying large sums concealed behind layers of offshore companies.’ (See .) Admitted into evidence in Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry, as INQ018922, are two pages from a letter faxed from Litvinenko to the ‘Mitrokhin Commission’, for which his Italian associate Mario Scaramella worked, on 1 December 2005 – which happened to be immediately before the latter set out on a visit to Washington. It may well have been included because a garrulous contact had told Counter Terrorism Command that I had the Italian version back in, I think, 2010. As the following extract makes clear, a central purpose of the letter was to claim that Mogilevich, while acting as an agent of the FSB, and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’, had attempted to obtain a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ for Al Qaeda. ‘I would also like to add as a fact linked to this case that about three weeks ago from Yuri Shvets; friend of mine who used to work in KGB intelligence as an undercover reporter stationed in Washington USA, I learned that well-known criminal terrorist Mogilevich Semion, one of the most wanted by the FBI, is in a good relationship with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and most senior officials of the Russian Federation. Yuri Shvets now is decoding the tapes recorded in Kuchma’s office. This was recorded by the Ukrainian President’s bodyguard Melnichenko Nikolai, who later sold it to Yuri Felshtinski, Boris Berezovski and Alik Goldfarb of Berezovski’s foundation. At the present Yuri Shvets is decoding these tapes. And Yuri Shvets found that in 2002 ex SBU (Security Services of Ukraine) boss Derkach is reporting to President Kuchma that they found Semion Mogilevich who at present is residing in Russia and that Semion Mogilevich met with SBU officers on Derkach’s, Kuchma’s request and that Semion Mogilevich said he purchased a house from ex head of the Georgian special services Georgadze who is hiding in Russia as he is wanted for terrorism. Semion Mogilevich currently residing in that “dacha” (summerhouse interpreter’s note) not far from Moscow. This house is next door to Zuganov’s house – head of the communist party of Russia. He and Zuganov see each other every day. When Kuchma asked what sort of place is it and why Mogilevich is residing alongside with such high ranked people, Derkach said this is a particularly safeguarded place were high ranking Russian officials are residing. Semion Mogilevich managed to get a residence there as he is in a very close relationship with Russian president Putin whom he knows since Putin was working in St. Petersburg and they had a common cause, in my understanding a criminal cause. At the present Putin is Mogilevich’s “krisha” (protection in criminal jargon – interpreter’s note). This is Putin who protects Mogilevich. And this is the reason that FBI can not arrest Mogilevich. It is obvious from this conversation that Putin is in fact hiding Mogilevich. Earlier I had information that Mogilevich was arm dealer and particularly was selling weapons to the Al-Qaeda leaders. There is information that on Al-Qaeda’s request Mogilevich tried to get a mini nuclear bomb. I know beyond the doubt that Mogilevich is FSB’s long-standing agent and all his actions including the contacts with Al-Qaeda are controlled FSB – the Russian special services. For this very reason FSB is hiding Mogilevich from FBI.’ (The evidence is .) What we are dealing with is a familiar pattern in ‘StratCom.’ One starts from information that is both accurate and embarrassing for one’s targets – Mogilevich almost certainly was used as an agent both by the FSB and the SBU, and is also extremely likely to have been involved in the peculiarly opaque companies involved in the gas transit trade, Eural Trans Gas and RosUkrEnergo, in the shadows behind Dmitri Firtash. One then adds in some complete hogwash, in this case by ‘doctoring’ the relevant tapes, and – hey presto! – one can disregard all those warnings from Putin about the dangers of cooperating with jihadists, because, what do you know, he was trying to hand over nuclear weapons to them. And we really would not want these arguments to get in the way of our support for ‘moderate Islamists’ like Ibn al-Khattab in Chechnya, or Zahran Alloush in Syria. And of course, now that all those comforting assumptions – that Bandar could keep these people under control, that the attack on the World Trade Center was just the product of an unfortunate lapse, and that, really, ‘Islamic State’ only want to butcher Shiites – are looking just a bit threadbare, we really do need to cover our traces, don’t we? In the description by the ‘Guardian’ of Lisa Page’s expertise we were told: ‘Vladimir Putin is known to use oligarchs and organised crime bosses as instruments of Kremlin influence abroad.’ If people working for that paper were journalists, rather than stenographers for corrupt spooks, we might know that much of what is supposedly ‘known’ about his Putin’s use of ‘organised crime bosses’ is fabrication by sleazy disinformation peddlers. There are I think very strong reasons to suspect that very similar sleazy tactics to those which were employed against Putin, Kuchma, and others – including notably Romano Prodi, who was a prime target of the ‘Mitrokhin Commission’ – have been, and are continuing to be, applied in the campaign against Trump. Note also that precisely the figures referred to in the extract above were employed when Steele et al were attempting to cover up what had happened to Litvinenko. Also in the ‘evidence’, as HMG000513, one will a transcript issued from the Cabinet Office of a BBC Radio 4 programme which went out on 16 December 2006. This was presented by Tom Mangold, a leading conduit for the 2001 anthrax scare stories, which Comey and Mueller failed to investigate properly. (See .) It was wholly devoted to a collection of palpable lies and half-truths from Shvets, helped out by the former FBI agent Robert ‘Bobby’ Levinson, who had earlier, like Lisa Page, been intimately involved in investigating Mogilevich. The tragic story told was of how Litvinenko, forced by penury into ‘due diligence’ work, had in collaboration with these other impartial ‘due diligence’ investigators – people like Glenn Simpson – had unearthed terrible truths about the links of a figure close to Putin to organised crime. Supposedly, this figure had sent Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun to pour polonium into Litvinenko’s green tea in retaliation. Unfortunately, Shvets had a contact, Karon von Gerhke, to whom he had sent e-mails, at the time, directly contradicting what he claimed to Mangold. So, when the BBC ‘Panorama’ programme turned to the subject the following month, in place of lies by Shvets we were given lies by Scaramella. (A transcript, again sent out from the Cabinet Office, was presented as evidence as HMG00507, and is at .) As it happened, the following March Levinson would disappear off the Iranian island of Kish, on what – after years of mendacious denials – was admitted to be a covert CIA mission. A quite likely hypothesis, I think, is that he was engaged in one frame-up attempt too many, and Russian intelligence and Iranian both agreed that he should be taken out of circulation. People do sometimes get a tiny bit ‘peeved’, when people go on producing lies to justify ‘regime change’ projects. A central question, I think, is whether those in the British Government who sent out and received the transcripts to which I have linked were the ‘useful idiots’ of people like Steele, or co-conspirators of them, or some mixture of both. Does Theresa May have any idea as to what really happened?
Colonel Lang, An enormous strength of what was originally the Soviet Army Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, and became the Foreign Army Studies Office, has been the long historical view. So your fellow VMI alumnus Colonel David Glantz was a critical figure in emancipating the historiography of the Eastern Front from overdependence on German sources. Among much else, Bruce Menning and Jacob W. Kipp produced invaluable material on the history of ‘operational art’. To my lasting regret, when not long after the organisation was founded in 1986 I began to realise that the consensus that radical change in the Soviet Union was unlikely was questionable, I had not heard of it. But I had not come across the remarkable group which the late John Steinbruner assembled at Brookings – a different place then from now – when he was in charge of their foreign policy programme. Among others, Ambassador Raymond Garthoff had pioneered the academic study of Soviet military strategy at RAND in the ‘Fifties, before being recruited into the Office of National Estimates which William Langer and Sherman Kent created at the CIA when Walter Bedell Smith ran the organisation. Meanwhile, Michael MccGwire had been the Royal Navy’s leading expert on its Soviet counterpart. A particular bugbear of MccGwire’s was the maxim ‘judge capabilities not intentions.’ The problem was not that it was simply false, but rather that it was what is often that most dangerous of things – a half truth. In his view, there was a propensity in the West to conflate two different kinds of analysis, both necessary, but distinct. Confronted by a powerful adversary with clearly offensively-oriented military planning, there really is no need to make specific assumptions about intentions to think that prudent contingency planning for war is appropriate. At this level of analysis, it is commonly perfectly proper to treat intentions as a secondary variable, and focus on capabilities. However, there is no way one can duck out of the attempt to get the best estimate one can of intentions, unless one is happy to be ‘blindsided’ by unexpected actions from other powers, and in particular, unexpected responses to one’s own actions. In both MccGwire’s case and that of Garthoff their views had evolved over time, partly because they had realised that early estimates of Soviet capabilities had had been inflated, with knock-on implications for assessments of intentions. So, by 1960, Garthoff had established that, of the 175 Soviet divisions, one third were at full strength, one third partial strength, and one third cadre. By 1959, meanwhile, MccGwire had realised that the armament and deployment characteristics of the major part of the vast fleet of submarines the Soviets had started building at the start of the decade were suited not to attacking NATO’s transatlantic lines of communication but to countering possible D-Day style operations in the Baltic or Black Sea. As a 17-year-old midshipman on the battleship HMS Rodney, fresh out of the Darmouth naval college, MccGwire had, like your uncle, been present at the North African landings in November 1942. So it was not so difficult for him to contemplate the possibility that what might be in the mind of a Soviet planner was the fact it took less than a year from Pearl Harbour for Americans to be engaged in major amphibious operations in Africa, having meanwhile essentially defanged the Japanese naval challenge at Midway. So, critical parts of the truth turned out to lie on the surface. In the Marxist-Leninist worldview, the risk of war in the international system came from ‘imperialist’ powers attempting to resist the ineluctable dynamics of history, by resorting to military action. A critical case where MccGwire thought that misunderstandings of Soviet intentions had led to unintended and understood consequences was the introduction of ‘flexible response.’ Intended to boost the ‘credibility’ of ‘deterrence’, its actual effect had been – after a delay – to precipitate a change in Soviet planning assumptions, from the belief that escalation to nuclear war was inevitable, to the belief that it might be possible to avoid it. Ironically, however, the initial effect was to increase the perceived need for capabilities for a conventional ‘blitzkrieg’ into Western Europe, and for naval forces. On top of this, in the course of the late ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies Soviet planners were concluding that they could not give any operational meaning to the notion of ‘victory’ in a nuclear war. So when in 1977 Richard Pipes produced his famous article explaining ‘Why the Soviet Union Thinks It Could Fight & Win a Nuclear War’ he was simply wrong. And because the conventional and naval build-ups were, incorrectly, interpreted as a complement to a nuclear war-fighting strategy, rather than a replacement for it, the effect was to consolidate a long-standing mistaken view of Soviet military strategy as in large measure political, aimed at ‘escalation dominance.’ Moreover, Soviet professions of interest in nuclear arms limitation, and the whole of Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’, were interpreted as attempts at ‘reflexive control.’ By contrast, from the summer of 1987 onwards, both Garthoff and MccGwire were arguing that changes in Soviet negotiating positions on conventional arms control very strongly suggested that a radical revision of the whole Soviet security posture was likely. Had I been aware of the Soviet Army Studies Office at the time, I might have had a better understanding of what we were being told when in February 1989 we interviewed General-Mayor Valentin Larionov, then about to retire as a Professor at the General Staff Academy in Moscow for a couple of BBC Radio documentaries. He was a scholarly man with steel teeth – a vivid reminder of how poor the country was – and an almost exact contemporary of MccGwire’s, having as I learnt later also gone to war in 1942, and seen action at Kursk, Warsaw, Prague and Berlin. It was clear that his secretary – a very beautiful Russian girl – disapproved of us. He himself was evidently slightly bemused at the unaccustomed experience of being interviewed by the BBC, but, if people wanted to ask him to explain, he would do his best to do so. To understand the roots of the ‘new thinking’, he told us, one had to go back to the realisation of Soviet planners back in the ‘Seventies that it was not possible to win a nuclear war. He then talked about a Soviet strategist of the ‘Twenties, Aleksandr Svechin, who he said had been ‘repressed’ under Stalin. And he discussed the 1986 study ‘Game Plan’ by Brzezinski, whom he described as ‘nash drug (our friend) a Pole.’ What I learnt later after I discovered Kipp’s work was that Larionov had compiled and co-authored the classic Soviet statement of the strategy of winning a nuclear war by pre-emption, the initial 1962 edition of the study of ‘Military Strategy’ published under the name of Marshal Sokolovskiy. As to Svechin, I discovered that he had been at heart of arguments that had played a crucial role both in the histories of Germany and Russia. In the former country, the decisive victory against France in 1870-1 had reinforced the tendency of the General Staff to focus on the ‘Napoleonic’ side of Clausewitz. The most incisive sceptic was a veteran of that war who had become a great (civilian) pioneer of military history, Hans Delbrück. In his analyses of past wars, he insisted on the importance of grasping both the ‘Napoleonic’ side in Clausewitz and the insistence on the strengths of the defence, distinguishing between wars of ‘destruction’ and ‘attrition’, and emphasising the importance of grasping what was appropriate when and where. Quite rightly, Delbrück thought that the General Staff’s determination to go for ‘destruction’ alike in East and West in 1914 and subsequently was a hideous gamble, condemning Germany to a fight to the finish with Russia and Britain at the same time. Rather than 1870-71, Svechin had started out reflecting on the lessons of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5, which had brutally exposed his country’s backwardness. It was this which led to the focus on the ‘operational’ level of war, between tactics and strategy. Following and building on Delbrück, Svechin was consistently sceptical of those in Russia who thought that successful ‘Napoleonic’ strategies of ‘destruction’ could avoid the need for a war of ‘attrition.’ However, in the arguments of the ‘Twenties, he lost out to Tukhachevsky. As Kipp brought out, this was part of the background to Stalin’s determination to transform a backward peasant society overnight into one capable of producing the weaponry required to fight modern industrial war. In 1941 rival ‘Napoleonic’ conceptions clashed. What resulted were quite unnecessarily catastrophic initial defeats at the ‘operational’ level for the Red Army, but in the end it was Hitler and Germany who came most decisively unstuck as a result of the failure to see that if the capabilities for ‘operational’ success can force victory at the strategic level then confidence in them can be a snare and a delusion. One then however comes to several ironies. Actually, it is precisely nuclear weapons which, at the outset of the Cold War, made it natural to see a hot war as likely to involve strategies of ‘destruction.’ Absent such weapons, the best the Soviets could hope for would be that such strategies might achieve ‘operational’ successes which could eliminate the bridgeheads on which the vastly superior American military-industrial potential, once remobilised, could be deployed. This was not a gamble which had worked out well for the Germans and Japanese. Another is that, with Soviet leaders after 1945, as with German after 1871, dramatic success lead to ‘hubris.’ In particular, by attempting to realise what were in essence the agendas of radical Pan-Slavs of the pre-1914, and also pushing towards Turkey and Iran, Stalin scored a catastrophic ‘own goal.’ Doing so was inherently likely to do precisely what he had not anticipated – produce a united front of the ‘imperialist’ powers preparing for possible war against him. It also – as Larionov’s remark implied – trapped Russia into trying to control populations it could not realistically expect to subordinate in the long term, in a situation were retreat was liable to trigger destabilisation within the Soviet Union itself (as it did.) Last but hardly least, it mean that refugees from these states would, very naturally, attempt to enlist the power of the United States against the Soviet Union. It is hardly surprising that those who have been its victims are inclined to see Soviet and Russian power in the worst light. But it not infrequently made for dubious judgements in the Cold War, and at the moment old traumas are intensifying the propensity to interpret the Putin ‘sistema’ as some kind of ‘return of Karla’, which in turn has facilitated the ludicrous attempts of Western élites to escape facing up to their own follies by scapegoating the Russians.
Jack, That is a critical issue, which deserves a more considered response than I have time to give it this afternoon. As regards the British end, it is linked to a question which ‘different clue’ put to me about Mrs Thatcher’s attitude to trade unions, which is also quite difficult to answer. Part of the answer to both questions has to do with the fact that what became the general response of American, and British, élites to the retreat and collapse of Soviet power was a euphoria about the – actually unexpected – general global acceptance of the fact that the Bolshevik Revolution had led into a ‘dead end.’ This then led to the view that the whole socialist tradition had been irretrievably compromised. This view – with much of which I am actually in sympathy – then led, not unnaturally, but disastrously, to the belief that the appropriate strategy was to attempt to maintain a global order based essentially on a unilateral American hegemony (with we Brits as ‘junior partners.’) Involved with this was a continuation of the strategy of using anti-Russian elements within the former Soviet Union – both in parts which were now independent, like Georgia and Ukraine, and in parts that were not, like Chechnya – to further weaken Russian power. Also involved was the idea of creating an order in the Middle East that would be friendly to Israel by projects of ‘régime change.’ Implicit in both agendas was a need for ‘perception management’ and ‘StratCom’ – applied both to the targeted areas, and to overcome resistance at home to projects which often seemed to have little to do with the concerns of most people. Implicit also was the familiar problem – that religious and ethno-nationalist fervour are strong motivations for people to fight, while ‘moderate’ political aspirations are not. In my previous comment, I should have brought out that Yuri Shvets was crucial to processing the tapes of conversations involving the former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma supposedly recorded by Major Melnichenko. An interesting discovery from the Inquiry – see para 4.51 of Owen’s report – was that in 2002 and 2005 the transcription work was done in London with Shvets coming over here from Alexandria. On the first occasion, key material related to the Kolchuga ‘passive detector’ system – which had been devised in Soviet times to make it possible to identify Western planes without sending out a radar signal targeting the facilities doing so for destruction. What Shvets and co did was to take an excerpt in which Kuchma discussed a possible sale to Iraq, and ‘doctor’ it so as to suggest that a sale had been concluded. The – preposterous – claim that the very brief segment was unedited was then validated by the former FBI audiotape expert Bruce Koenig, who ran a private security company called BEK-TEK. (For an example of the credulity of even rather good journalists, see .) As a ‘StratCom’ move, this was brilliant, as it both generated support for the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine, and for the toppling of Saddam. What happened in 2005 was that excerpts which did in fact reflect the fact that the intelligence apparatus created by Mogilevich was used by both Russian and Ukrainian intelligence were edited, so as to validate a preposterous scenario according to which this notorious mobster, while an agent of the FSB and under Putin’s personal ‘krysha’ had been attempting got supply a ‘mini atomic bomb’ to Al Qaeda. Again, the whole strategy was to link ignorant preconceptions about what was happening in the former Soviet space to fears relating to the Middle East and jihadism. A crucial further purpose was to distract attention from the – catastrophic – role of elements in both the British and American ‘intelligence communities’ in magicking up the jihadist ‘genie’. (See ) Actually, if you look at the material produced in evidence to the Inquiry closely, one can see a definite ‘edit’ and a likely one without much trouble. Also relevant is the fact that there is that ‘page 5 Text in Italian’, and the name of the translator – Olena Maherovska. A quick Google check will establish that her ‘Police Clearance’ and ‘Counter Terrorist Check’ in relation to her work as an interpreter date from 14 February 2014, and that she is an enthusiastic Ukrainian (‘Galician’) nationalist. (See .) To cut a long story short, these materials were originally intended to be used by Steele and his associates in support of the attempts to blacken Romano Prodi as a KGB/FSB agent, to install ‘Galician’ nationalists in power in Ukraine, in support of people of the aspirations of people like Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky to reinstate the ‘semibankirshchina’ in Moscow, and to install people like Ibn al-Khattab in power in Chechnya. A – not entirely unpredictable – result of all this is that the supposed pliable instruments ran out of control all over the place, and this has had to be covered up. Given however that the conspiracies behind this clearly involved leading elements in the CIA and MI6, and also the NSA and GCHQ, and the FBI, MI5, and Counter Terrorism Command, most of them have to rally round and do their utmost to subvert the constitutional order in the United States. And, much of the time, they can rely upon traumatised East Europeans to help them destroy all that was best in America. Meanwhile, what has also been destroyed in a widespread willingness, among educated Russians, to accept that the Cold War was, in essence, a Russian ‘own goal.’ In place of this ‘narrative’ – which was very common indeed in the late ‘Eighties, although it was beyond the capacity of American and British intelligence to notice the fact – we now have ‘narratives’ based upon the premise that the Cold War had little to do with communism, but with a fundamental hatred of Russia which had nothing to with ideology.
PT, It has become common practice, unfortunately, for disingenous claims about ‘SIGINT’ to be used in ‘perception management’ or ‘StratCom’ operations.’ Immediately prior to the opening of Sir Robert Owen’s farce of an inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a report appeared in the ‘Telegraph’ which opened: ‘American spies secretly intercepted communications between those involved in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and provided the key evidence that he was killed in a Russian-backed “state execution”, The Telegraph can disclose. ‘The National Security Agency (NSA) obtained electronic communications between key individuals in London and Moscow from the time that the former spy was poisoned with radioactive material in central London. The evidence was passed to the British authorities. ‘A source familiar with the investigation confirmed the existence of American “intelligence material”. They said it would have been “inadmissible” in court, but that the British authorities were “confident that this was a state execution”.’ (See .) What this report – one of a number which appeared in the British MSM saying essentially the same thing – actually tells us is that the leadership of the NSA must have been complicit in covering up the truth about how Litvinenko lived and died, a fact which becomes of very considerable interest given the crucial role that Christopher Steele is playing in ‘Russiagate.’ When key elements in the leadership of the American and British ‘intelligence communities’ were colluding in attempting to use the Ghouta ‘false flag’ as a pretext to destroy the Syrian government and hand the country – together with its CW arsenal – over to jihadists, bogus claims about ‘SIGINT’ were once again central. I cannot confirm the claim in Ken Timmerman’s piece in the ‘Daily Caller’ on 29 August 2013 that the ‘loops of lies’ began with an actual intercept by the Unit 8200, the Israeli ‘SIGINT’ operation, that exonerated the Syrian government, and had its meaning twisted to suggest that it was ‘slam dunk’ evidence incriminating it. (See .) However, Timmerman’s claim that ‘The doctored report was picked up on Israel’s Channel 2 TV on Aug. 24, then by Focus magazine in Germany, the Times of Israel, and eventually by The Cable in Washington, DC’ can be partially corroborated by the – publicly available – reports referred to, all of which fit with his account. Also interesting is the fact that after the former British Ambassador Craig Murray pointed out on 31 August 2013 that if the material was real, it could have been expected to have been picked up by the RAF/GCHQ station on Troodos, and to have featured in the Joint Intelligence Committee ‘assessment’ claiming Assad’s responsibility was close a ‘slam dunk’, a piece of fiction appeared in the ‘Sunday Express.’ Headlined ‘Senior Syrian military chiefs tell captain: fire chemicals or be shot’, this ‘penny dreadful’-style nonsense, worthy of Christopher Steele, claimed that the British had had intercepts from Troodos and other sources in our own ‘SIGINT’ operations establishing Syrian government responsibility. It also provided a patently preposterous answer to the obvious question as to why the material had not appeared previously. (See ; .) In relation to the attempt to cover up the leaks of material from the DNC to ‘WikiLeaks’, once again GCHQ have been wheeled in, and again with a patently preposterous account. This seems to have broken surface in a ‘New York Times’ story on the unclassified report released to the public on 6 January by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, entitled ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.’ Its conclusion is I think worth quoting at length: ‘Yet the attacks, the report said, began long before anyone could have known that Mr. Trump, considered a dark horse, would win the Republican nomination. It said the attacks began as early as July 2015, when Russian intelligence operatives first gained access to the Democratic National Committee’s networks. Russia maintained that access for 11 months, until “at least June 2016,” the report concludes, leaving open the possibility that Russian cyberattackers may have had access even after the firm CrowdStrike believed that it had kicked them off the networks. ‘Intelligence officials who prepared the classified report on Russian hacking activity have concluded that British intelligence was among the first to raise an alarm that Moscow had hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, and alerted their American counterparts, according to two people familiar with the conclusions. ‘Mr. Trump was briefed by senior intelligence officials for nearly two hours on Friday, describing the briefing in a statement as “a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community.” ‘It is unclear whether they highlighted the British role, which has been closely held, in the briefing. But it is a critical part of the timeline, because it suggests that some of the first tipoffs, in fall 2015, came from voice intercepts, computer traffic or human sources outside the United States, as emails and other data from the D.N.C. flowed out of the country. ‘“The British picked it up, and we may have had it at about the same time,” said one cyberexpert who has been briefed on the findings. British intelligence – especially the signals intelligence unit, GCHQ – has a major role in tracking Russian activity.’ (See .) The version as set out in a convenient diagram has the FSB starting hacking the DNC in June 2015, and the GRU starting in March 2016. If one goes back to the original breaking of the story, in the ‘Washington Post’ on 14 June 2016, it is claimed that DNC leaders ‘were tipped to the hack in late April’ – not by any outsiders, but because their own ‘information technology team had noticed some unusual network activity.’ Supposedly, ‘within 24 hours’ of the same evening, ‘CrowdStrike’ had installed software on the computers, and identified the FSB-sponsored hackers, who had broken in the previous summer, and the GRU-sponsored ones, who had done so in ‘late April’ – it was, supposedly, this breach that ‘set off the alarm.’ So, apparently, Admiral Rogers had been given the vital tip-off by the then head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, months earlier. If there was any truth in this story, obviously, the former would have to be among the most incompetent and negligent intelligence chiefs in modern history. (It is rather comparable to the suggestion that Litvinenko thought he was likely to have been the victim of a Russian assassination attempt on 1 November 2006 and Steele et al had to be told by the police almost three weeks later.) The evidential value of this ‘NYT’ account is actually that it is clear evidence of the complicity of GCHQ in the conspiracy to subvert the constitutional order in the United States. So it makes more credible, rather than less, the suggestions that the organisation was used to circumvent constitutional restraints on surveillance by its co-conspirators on your side. On top of this, we already knew that a if not the crucial figure both in the investigations of the Clinton e-mails and into the supposed Russian interference in your election was Peter Strzok – note the Polish surname. And we now learn that he was taken off the latter job this summer, after it was discovered that he and the FBI lawyer with whom he was having an extra-marital affair had exchanged – to quote the ‘Washington Post’ – ‘politically charged texts disparaging President Trump and supporting Hillary Clinton’. A long, sycophantic, ‘NYT’ piece on Comey back in April produces some – almost certainly mendacious – material on the involvement of Strzok with the dossier produced by Steele. (See .) But here, one comes back to the fundamental point about Steele. It can easily be demonstrated that he is a ‘perception management’ artist who forges evidence, and corrupts supposedly impartial judicial investigations. On this, I gave chapter and verse in comments in an earlier thread. (See .) As it happens, much of the dossier again reads like the kind of ‘penny dreadful’ fabrication in which Steele specialises – although that does not mean that he actually wrote all or indeed any of the material, and a couple of pieces do sound as though they may have had a genuine source (which does not mean a reliable one.) A question then arises, as to whether Strzok is a gullible dupe, or a co-conspirator with Steele and others. Is this simply another traumatised East European who cannot be trusted impartially to assess evidence relating to the country which oppressed his forbears – or is he deliberately and consciously disseminating falsehoods? That is the kind of question to which a genuinely impartial investigation ought to address itself. The likelihood of Mueller doing so would not seem to me very good. However, it is possible that he sees the writing on the wall, in which case, to mix metaphors, the rat may find an ingenious way to ensure that the ship sinks without him on board.
All, As you may have seen, ABC News yesterday evening had to correct a report by Brian Ross claiming that Donald Trump, as candidate for president, had asked Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians. From the CNN report: ‘During “World News Tonight,” ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross said the source who had provided the initial information for his story later told him that it was as president-elect, not as a candidate, that Trump asked Flynn to contact the Russians. ‘The initial report, based on one anonymous source, prompted a dramatic reaction in the financial markets, and the Dow fell more than 350 points. ‘Stocks largely recovered later in the day.’ (See .) It is worth bearing in mind that Ross has ‘form’ as a conduit for ‘Borgist’ disinformation, which links him to other leading players in ‘Russiagate.’ The original of the report he co-authored on 26 January 2007 entitled ‘Murder in a Teapot’ appears to have disappeared from the ABC site, quite recently I think, but the key paragraphs are still there on ‘Free Republic’: ‘British officials say police have cracked the murder-by-poison case of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, including the discovery of a “hot” teapot at London's Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for Polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing. ‘A senior official tells ABC News the “hot” teapot remained in use at the hotel for several weeks after Litvinenko’s death before being tested in the second week of December. The official said investigators were embarrassed at the oversight.’ (See .) According to the ‘evidence’ presented to Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry, Litvinenko suspected the teapot on the day he drank from it, 1 November 2006. It was not until 18 November however, that e was first interviewed by Scotland Yard, by Detective Inspector Brent Hyatt of Counter Terrorism Command – and as for Steele and MI6, they did not know anything was up with their agent until 20 November. Apparently, although test results showed the toxin he had ingested was polonium by the time Litvinenko died on 23 November, Hyatt, Steele et al did not organise the testing of the teapots for more than another fortnight – with the result that specimen sufficiently ‘red hot’ to have an ‘off-the-charts’ reading after repeated cleanings in the dishwasher was putting other visitors to the Pine Bar at risk during this time. Moreover, somehow this decisive piece of evidence was not mentioned in public for another six-odd weeks even after the dramatic test results were obtained. It was Ross who first mentioned it. In the BBC ‘Panorama’ programme ‘How to poison a spy’, which went out on 22 January, four days before his piece, there is no mention of any teapot. (See .) How anyone can uncritically recycle what is patent disinformation, and claim to be an ‘investigative journalist’ as Ross does, believes me. The actual truth is that Christopher Steele, who we now know as in charge of the ‘investigation’, was engaged in an industrial-scale forging of evidence. Sorting out the crucial item – the teapot – took time, and it seems to have been judged prudent to try it out first with an American ‘stenographer’, before launching it on this side.. The description ‘stenographer’ seems apt. Back in 2001, Ross, together with the BBC journalist Tom Mangold, played crucial roles in disseminating the disinformation which was supposed to link the notorious letters containing anthrax spores to Saddam Hussein, and played a significant role in making possible the disastrous invasion of Iraq. On both men’s role, see and . On the dismal performance of Robert Mueller and James Comey in bungling the anthrax investigation, see . Another important stage in the clumsy attempts by Steele et al to cover up the truth about how Litvinenko died was a BBC Radio 4 programme presented by Mangold under the title ‘The Litvinenko Mystery’ on 16 December 2006. This told a pathetic tale of how Litvinenko, forced into ‘due diligence’ worked by penury, in collaboration with a former KGB major called Yuri Shvets and a former FBI officer called Robert Levinson, unearthed terrible truths about the links between a figure close to Putin and organised crime, and was murdered in retaliation. (See .) In the event, Levinson would disappear in March 2007 on the Iranian island of Kish, while on a covert CIA mission. His work at the FBI had been prominently concerned with investigating the notorious Ukrainian mobster Semyon Mogilevich. For a transcript of a 1999 BBC ‘Panorama’ programme on that figure, presented by Mangold, with Levinson, see . A mixture of accurate and inaccurate information from the notorious ‘Kuchma tapes’ had been used by Litvinenko, then a MI6 agent, to implicate the FSB and Putin personally in supposed attempts to supply a ‘mini nuclear bomb’ to Al Qaeda. I dealt with much of this in a preliminary response to Owen’s report here on SST, and the subsequent exchanges of comments, back in January 2016. A great deal more evidence was drawn by me to the attention to Owen’s team, and not used by them. (See .) More recently, claims about Mogilevich have surfaced in the ‘information operations’ against Trump. See, for example, . A familiar technique, practised by Litvinenko and his associates against Kuchma, Putin, Prodi and others, is to take some accurate information and mix it up with pure fabrication. In relation to the memoranda published by BuzzFeed, the ratio of fabrication does seem inordinately high. It does however seem that it fulfilled what was its likely original purpose, to provide grounds for surveillance operations. Frankly, in this affair we are not dealing with ‘round up the usual suspects’, to quote the immortal phrase of Captain Renault from ‘Casablanca.’ The same familiar bunch of people – a mixture of dirty disinformation peddlars, outside and inside the intelligence services, journalists prepared to act as ‘stenographers’ for them, and law enforcement people who don’t really seem all that keen on enforcing the law in anything resembling an impartial manner, seem to push themselves to the front, time and again.
EO, Thanks for that response. In an earlier discussion I mentioned an historian called Patrick Wormald. More years ago than I care to remember, in the course of an irreverent and undistinguished student career, I heard his father, Brian Wormald, lecture on the Commonwealth and Protectorate. Ironically, the Cambridge college of which he was a fellow – Peterhouse – was also home to a very different historian, Maurice Cowling, whose disciples have played a key role in creating the ‘Henry Jackson Society’, a central institution of the British version of ‘neoconservatism.’ I thought he was a Gollum dreaming of being a Grima Wormtongue – an ambition in which he has been, vicariously, extraordinarily successful. Although both men could have been classed as ‘High Tories’, Wormald was quite different from Cowling. While his own instinctive sympathies were clearly royalist, what he set out to show were the ways in an unfolding chain of events were perceived by the different protagonists. In particular, he argued that, to understand the key role of millenarian ideas in the 1650s, you had to, as it were, dismantle a lot of intellectual baggage about the Civil War. In particular, you had to get rid of the notion that there was anything predetermined about the Parliamentary victory. It was in substantial measure because Cromwell had not thought this that he was so convinced that he could see the hand of God in what was happening. As to the notion that the Civil War was in some way inevitable, Wormald argued that this was simply wrong. When Charles was forced to recall Parliament, there was actually a very large element of consensus in the ‘political nation’ that he had violated the unwritten understandings on which the political system depended. What changed the situation was that the radicals in the Parliamentary leadership had got themselves into negotiations with the Scots which could have been deemed treasonable – so they were pushed into radicalising their demands. At that point, enough of the ‘political nation’ rallied to Charles to make it possible for him to mount a military challenge. On Filmer, incidentally, an interesting American perspective came in an essay by a famous historian of the South, C. Vann Woodward, on the maverick Confederate political theorist George Fitzhugh. As he notes, the society of the Kent gentry, in which Filmer’s ‘patriarchalism’ was rooted, was in essence reproduced in the area of the James River in Virginia. (See .) What interested Fitzhugh in Filmer was not the ‘absolutist’ element – and indeed, seen in a broader context, it may distract attention from more interesting issues raised by his thought. As regards a basic premise of the ‘social contract’ tradition – that people were born as individuals, and government was formed by some kind of contractual agreement – it is far from clear that Locke’s polemic against him can be defended. Whether one can provide good grounds why people should obey political authorities on this basis remains a moot point, and as regards history Filmer’s instincts have turned out closer to the mark than those of his critics. It is here important that ‘absolutism’ is a resurrection of classical ideas in the context of the dilemmas of the Renaissance and Reformation periods. In her study of ‘Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300’, the revised edition of which was published in 1997, the Oxford medievalist Susan Reynolds pointed to the contrast between the generally accepted hierarchical conceptions of society in the period she was studying, and ‘absolutism.’ Also, she pointed to the origins of later ‘nationalisms’ in notions of ‘regnal solidarity’ in medieval Europe, linked to myths of common descent. In concluding remarks summarising where her comparative studies of different nations had led, she argued that, up until 1300, what is striking is how similar patterns in different parts of Europe were: ‘What happened thereafter is another story, but in so far as it starts from the beginning of the fourteenth century it must start from the values and ideas that were then current. In most of Western Europe lay people then believed that government depended on consultation and consent, and that the object was to achieve a harmonious consensus in accordance with the custom and law of the whole community.’ Against this background, it is unsurprising that, in the Civil War, divisions were not simply between people but within them. So Sir Thomas Fairfax, who became Lord General of the New Model Army, had learnt soldiering under Sir Horace Vere, a noted commander on the Protestant side in the Netherlands and Palatinate, and married Vere’s daughter Anne. It was she who, when the court called to try the King called the her husband, is said to have exclaimed that ‘he had more wit than to be there; and when the court said they were acting for ‘all the good people of England’, shouted ‘No, nor the hundredth part of them!’ After Fairfax retired to his Yorkshire estates, his and Anne’s daughter Mary would be tutored by the poet Andrew Marvell who, shortly before taking up the post, had written ‘An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.’ (This was after the successful ‘COIN’ operation against the Irish, and prior to the ‘preventive war’ against the Scots.) It is a deeply ambivalent poem, in that the portrayal of Cromwell is in the shadow of Horace’s portrait of Augustus – bringer of civil peace at home and the defeat of foreign enemies, but also in that of the portrait of Julius Caesar in the great ‘republican’ poem, Lucan’s ‘Pharsalia’. Decades before, this terrifying figure had been transmuted into English literature in the portrayals of ‘overreachers’ like Tamburlaine in the plays of Christopher Marlowe – and has frequently been seen as a kind of prototype of the ‘totalitarian’ ruler. In the event’, of course, the English ‘republican’ experiment petered out, and Fairfax would collaborate with another estwhile pupil of his father-in-law’s George Monck, in facilitating the Restoration. The arguments however echo onwards, on both sides of the Atlantic. For one thing, precisely because Soshana Bryen has patently not followed recent discussions about British and European history, she cannot grasp that there was no need whatsoever to defend the American Revolution on the basis of the abstract universalism that Jefferson introduced into the Declaration of Independence. It could perfectly well be justified in terms of a specific English tradition of the mutual obligations of ruler and ruled. Unsurprisingly, one now finds a revival of ‘Southern’ traditions which were shaped by the concern that the abstract universalism introduced by Jefferson could very easily justify both a radical assault on their whole way of life – and also reckless adventures abroad. So if you look at the ‘Occidental Dissent’ site, you see Hunter Wallace discussing Fitzhugh – and also one ‘Palmetto Patriot’ quoting from an 1852 address by William Porcher Miles, whose design became part of the basis for the Confederate flag: ‘Miles stressed that “Political Liberty… is not an Inalienable Right, but an Acquired Privilege” and condemned Thomas Jefferson’s assertion to the contrary as a “monstrous and dangerous fallacy” that “has, even among us, by thinking men been long detected and abandoned.”’ (See ; Ironically, this is very close to fundamental tenets of the Russian ‘liberal conservative’ tradition with which Putin has identified himself. Contrary to what imbeciles like David Brooks contend, figures like Berdyaev and Ivan Ilyin were not ‘messianic nationalists’ – they were anti-universalists. Moreover, the very visible turn in parts of the ‘alt right’ towards anti-semitism, very visible on ‘Occidental Dissent’, simply cannot be dismissed as no more than the revival of some kind of irrational atavistic prejudice, or scapegoating. It is quite clearly related to the way that Jewish identity has been tied to Zionism, and, increasingly, to the ‘invade the world, invite the world’ agenda. The simple historical fact that, prior to the Holocaust, Jews never constituted any kind of ‘people’ has been consigned to a kind of ‘memory hole.’ It then becomes bitterly ironic to recall that a key text of Russian ‘liberal conservatism’, the 1909 symposium ‘Vekhi’, was the brainchild of the Jewish literary scholar Mikhail Gershenzohn – who accurately predicted that an attempt to introduce ‘political liberty’ overnight into Russia would be a catastrophe. Back in 2014, on his ‘Mondoweiss’ site, Philip Weiss discussed a letter from the historian Trevor-Roper – whose election as Master of Peterhouse Cowling, in a characteristically Grima-Wormtongue style intrigue – had helped engineer, to the distinguished scientist Max Perutz, a Jewish refugee from Vienna (baptised a Catholic.) In it, Trevor-Roper said that he thought that similar circumstances were leading Israeli nationalism to assume some of the least desirable features of Prussian. In a comment, Stephen Shenfield – who I recall as the conduit through which the ideas which became Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ were first publicised in Britain – noted that Gershenzon had anticipated that this would be the case. (See .) Reverting to American complexities, the Secretary of War and then Secretary of State of the Confederacy was the lawyer Judah Benjamin. There is a vivid portrayal of him close to the start of the first volume of Colonel Lang’s civil war trilogy, which deals with the Confederate secret service, which he supervised. Unfortunately, Benjamin burnt all the records before escaping to London – perhaps if someone looked, they would find revealing material in British records. Over here, he resurrected his legal career, and wrote a classic text, ‘Benjamin on Sales’, which, having been successively amended over the years, is still a basic reference text for the case law and legislation relating sale of goods in the UK and globally.
Babak Makkinejad, That was precisely what ultimately did for him. For a considerable time, Tsar Alexander I attempted to find a place for Russia within the European order that Napoleon had created. It was also relevant here that some very intelligent people in his country’s élite were inclined to think that British sea power posed a much greater long-term danger to their country than French land power. (A view with which I have a great deal of sympathy.) When it became clear that Napoleon was not prepared to accept anything other than something close to unconditional subordination, Alexander and his advisors prepared seriously for war. As part of the process, the Minister of Defence, Barclay de Tolly, created Russian military intelligence – and with its aid, he and others worked out what kind of war Napoleon wanted to fight, and how to make sure he was not able to fight it. Doing this may sound easy in retrospect, but it was not at the time. In 1812, it involved making an army whose whole culture was offensive avoid taking offensive action, and retreat without breaking. For Barclay – the Baltic German bourgeois – it also meant that his determined pursuit of the one strategy that held out prospects of victory led to accusations of disloyalty. After he was replaced by the old Russian noble Kutuzov, Barclay commanded the right flank at Borodino. I do not know whether the claim on the RT site ‘Russapedia’ that he had four horses shot under him is accurate, but he was clearly in the thick of the fighting, and it is good to see one of Russia’s greatest commanders given the honour he deserves, after his shabby treatment by Tolstoy in ‘War and Peace.’ (See .) When it became clear clear that Napoleon had been decisively repulsed, the old division resurfaced. So Kutuzov, and the former Foreign Minister Rumyantsev, were inclined to think it made better sense to let a weakened Napoleon survive – on the basis that his total destruction would play into the hands of the British. The view taken by Alexander was, quite precisely, that Napoleon would never be ‘satisfied’ – that, of his nature, he was an ‘overreacher’, and that no stable peace was possible in Europe until he had been completely destroyed. The 2009 study ‘Russia Against Napoleon’ by Dominic Lieven, a descendant of a Baltic German family who served Alexander and his successors with distinction, is an exposition of the strategy which the Tsar and Barclay de Tolly developed, and a defence of the decision to destroy Napoleon, even at the risk of empowering the British. (Among other things, it is a kind of ‘settling of scores’ with Tolstoy.) Its conclusions were summarised in a lecture Lieven gave at the London School of Economics following the book’s publication, available at . At this year’s Valdai Group meeting, Lieven presented the conclusions of his subsequent study of the origins of the First World War and the 1917 Revolution. Also on the Valdai website is an encomium by a contemporary Russian scholar, Alexei Miller, who clearly concludes that Lieven had put Tolstoy in his place: his title is ‘Dominic Lieven Outmatched Leo Tolstoy.’ (See ; )
EO, Good god man – are you really an enthusiast for the rule of the Major-Generals? And this history really does matter, given that people like Rabbi Sacks and Soshana Bryen are trying to suggest a fundamental harmony between Israel and the United States on the basis of common origin of their political ideas in the Hebrew Bible. So Sacks writes: ‘Covenant is central to the Mayflower Compact of 1620. It is central to the speech of John Winthrop aboard the Arbela in 1630.’ A less sympathetic view, from the time, of the mentality of the kind of people who, at the time to which Sacks is going back, ‘internalized the Hebrew Bible’ in the way he appears to find congenial was brilliantly itemised in the great doggerel poem ‘Hudibras’ by the – very drunk – royalist poet Samuel Butler. His description of the religion of his protagonist, a colonel in the Parliamentary Army, begins: ‘For his Religion, it was fit/ To match his learning and his wit;/ ‘Twas Presbyterian true blue;/ For he was of that stubborn crew/ Of errant saints, whom all men grant/ To be the true Church Militant ...’ It concludes: ‘All piety consists therein/ In them, in other men all sin’. (See ) Clearly, Butler’s view is not the whole truth, by any means. But to see that it has substance – and was in tune with the feelings of very many of his fellow-countrymen, both then and later – one needs only to read a review by Ronald Hutton of the 2001 study ‘Cromwell’s Major-Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution’ by Christopher Durston. An excerpt: ‘One of the biggest factors in the failure of the Major-Generals consists of their lack of popularity, manifested in their own reports concerning their reception and their decisive rejection by the electorate, despite all their efforts to pack a Parliament. Dr Durston considers two traditional explanations, that they were hated either as soldiers or as agents of a legally dubious governmental centralisation, and while admitting some force to them rejects them in favour of a third. This is to emphasise their status as the allies and patrons of local cadres of godly Protestant fundamentalists; in common parlance radical puritans. In this reading, it was the inherent anti-puritanism of the English and Welsh, as powerful at times if less celebrated than their anti-Catholicism, which made the generals most obnoxious to them. There is nothing that can be faulted in such a suggestion; but nor is it actually demonstrated, and it probably cannot be. The great problem in evaluating public responses to the Major-Generals is that the latter possessed so many qualities likely to give widespread offence, consisting of all those mentioned above, that together they made up a package of irredeemable unacceptability.’ (See ) What Bryen, channelling Sacks, have accurately described are the ideological roots of a self-image of ‘exceptionalism’ which is actually the fundamental problem with American foreign policy today. And indeed, the spirit of ‘neoconservative’ Middle East policies seem very close indeed that of those Puritans who, to quote Butler again: ‘Call fire and sword and desolation,/ A godly thorough reformation,/ Which always must be carried on, And still be doing, never done’.
The Beaver, Thanks for that, which I found instructive and enjoyable. There are however critical ways in which the world has changed, which I think are not appreciated by Friedman, JINSA, and their like. A fundamental premise of British, and American, policy has been that we could co-operate with the Saudis against those deemed our common enemies, without risking serious ‘blowback.’ We have had now had repeated terrorist attacks in the West from jihadists – and it has not escaped people’s attention that those responsible are not Alawites from Syria, Hibzullah, or Iranians. So the emptiness of the endless charade of promises that the Saudis will suddenly become part of Friedman’s ‘flat world’ is now increasingly noticed and regarded as important, in a way it was not in the past. Also relevant is the fact that the Israelis appear to be able to imagine no solution to any of their security problems other than bombing people and inveigling others in doing this. The fact that this has quite patently done much to exacerbate the jihadist problem, and the migration crisis, both of which pose very major threats to European countries, does not appear to worry them. Historical ‘narratives’ can mutate in strange ways – and do so rapidly. The King David Hotel bombing, to which Colonel Lang referred in his post, is no more forgotten in Britain than is the attempt to sink the USS Liberty in the United States. On a site called ‘British Forces in Palestine’ you will find, among much other material, a page entitled ‘Kidnap, Torture and Murder of Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice.’ Ironically, according to ‘Haaretz’, the former was ‘the circumcised, Hebrew-speaking son of a Jewish mother.’ (See ; ,) If they go on the way they are going, people like Shoshana Bryen could wake up one morning to discover that, far from being ‘our other best friend in the world’, the British are a people with very decidedly mixed feelings about Zionists – and indeed, that many here are inclined to write Israelis off as little more than a bunch of thugs.
Larry Kart, From an article entitled ‘Is Israel Good for the Jews?’ published by the sociologist Norman Birnbaum in the ‘Nation’ back in 2006: ‘Domestically, the chief allies of American Jewry were once the liberal Protestants; the modern Catholics, whose great achievement was the Second Vatican Council; and progressive secularists. Now organized Jewry has an alliance with those who were not so long ago embittered anti-Semites. The Protestant fundamentalists think the founding of the Jewish state means that the conversion of the Jews is imminent. Suppose the fundamentalists demand that US Jewry anticipate the end of time by beginning their conversion now? Some have welcomed the Lebanon crisis as the initiation of Armageddon. In the meantime, they combat the pluralism of the public sphere, which is indispensable to enduring rights for Jews in the United States. America is in serious danger of becoming a nation defined not by citizenship but by bargains among struggling ethnic and religious communities, united in an impossible project of global domination. Will Nobel prizes and business acumen, and seventeenth-century biblical imagery of America as a New Israel, protect the Jewish minority as our imperial project disintegrates? Its end could generate the domestic deprivation and tension conducive to renewed anti-Semitism.’ (See .)
All, The notes from the recent speech given by Shoshana Bryen at the American Zionist Conference which were published under the title ‘The U.S. Military as a Zionist Organisation’ are I think very interesting – thanks to ‘b’ for the link. (See .) I am not in a position to gauge whether the confidence she expresses in the continued enthusiasm of the American military for Israel is well-founded. What makes me slightly sceptical is her description of ‘the British’ as ‘our other best friend in the world’. This may still be largely true, if one looks solely at the élite level, but in pursuing ‘neoconservative’ and ‘neoliberal’ policies the leaderships of both major parties have drastically undermined their own legitimacy. To an extent the resulting backlash is already turning antisemitic, and may become much more so. It was also interesting that Ms Bryen relied extensively on the views of our former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, given that he has little understanding of the attitudes of people in this country outside the narrow circles in which it appears he moves. In September 2016, he gave a speech to the European Parliament entitled ‘The Mutating Virus: Understanding Antisemitism’, in which it was claimed that: ‘Antisemitism is not about Jews. It is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and have instead to blame someone else.’ (See .) A short answer to this is that ‘anti-semitism’ is not a single thing, and to use the experience of the Shoah as establishing that it is never, at any place and time, related to what Jews themselves do is not only stupid but reckless. If one has decided in advance that any resentment purportedly provoked by one’s actions and attitudes has nothing to do with them, one will have no means of avoiding doing things that may provoke resentment. As a matter of fact, Rabbi Sachs habitually talks in ways that raise the hackles of many people who have no predisposition whatsoever to scapegoat Jews. In the conclusion to a piece he published in May 2015, under the title ‘We never forget Jerusalem’, we read: ‘We have had the privilege to be born in a generation that has seen Jerusalem reunited and rebuilt. We have seen the Jewish people come home. ‘Today God is calling on us all to be Guardians of Zion. Never has this been more important. We must all stand up for the one home our people has ever known and the one city our people has loved more than any other. We are all shagrirey medinat Yisrael (ambassadors for the State of Israel) and we must all make Israel’s case in a world that sometimes fails to see the beauty we know is here. Let us all take on that task. With Hashem’s help, we will succeed and we pray may the world make its peace with Israel so that Israel and Israel’s God can bring peace to the world.’ (See .) In a couple of paragraphs, Rabbi Sachs has done a number of things: 1. He has raised a rather large question as to whether, in his Zionist conception, most of the Jews I have admired and learned from are really Jews at all. Take Osip Mandelstam, one of the greatest of Russian Christian poets, whose ode denouncing Stalin cost him his life (apparently, Yagoda – a rather different kind of Jew – knew it by heart.) In another poem, Mandelstam wrote ‘We shall meet again, in Petersburg, as though we had buried the sun there’. I was reminded of those lines when visiting a schoolfriend of my late mother’s, and seeing the walls of the house her father – a secular Jew who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution – still covered with prints of St. Petersburg. And then there was the great French historian Marc Bloch, who shouted ‘Vive la France!’ as he and his Resistance comrades faced a Gestapo firing squad in June 1944, having told the teenage boy next to him it wouldn’t hurt. From his classic study ‘Strange Defeat’: ‘I was born in France, I have drunk the waters of her culture. I have made her past my own. I breathe freely only in her climate, and I have done my best, with others, to defend her interests.’ It would be easy to multiply examples among Jews, from many countries – in particular Germany – including some refugees and their children I have known personally. But it is not really clear whether, in the view of Rabbi Sachs, such people can be classed as Jews. 2. If indeed a Jew living outside Israel follows the Chief Rabbi, sees that country as home, and loves Jerusalem with the passion evident in the passage I have quoted, then it is simply silly to suggest that questions raised about his or her loyalty to the country in which he or she lives can be dismissed as scapegoating. In fact, multiple and complex loyalties are perfectly natural and normal, and as long as the different loyalties are not perceived as being in conflict, can be completely unproblematic. When they are so perceived, the results can be tragic. Where the compatibility of different loyalties is in question, however, it is peculiarly foolish to dismiss those who believe there are real tensions as simply engaged in scapegoating – and if anything even worse to define the interests of both countries in ways that suggest they are identical, when the wish may be becoming father of the thought. (Doing this has led ‘neoconservatives’ to produce dubious definitions of Israeli interests, as well as American.) To suggest that the grounds on which I and many others have opposed British policy over Iraq and Syria – and also Ukraine and Russia – have anything whatsoever to do with a dislike of Jews is complete BS, and makes people angry. While some of the most cogent critics of those policies have been Jewish, it is a fact that very many of the most influential champions of them have been, and this championship has in many cases quite clearly reflected both Zionist commitment and Jewish trauma. Simply to suggest that Israel and its lobbies in Britain and the United States have sought peace, and others have caused war, as Rabbi Sachs implies, is infantile. So if you ask me candidly whether I regard Rabbi Sachs as unequivocally loyal to this country – or indeed, journalists like Jonathan Freedland, Gideon Rachman, Martin Wolf, or David Aaronovitch, to take a few among many – then of course I do not. The whole tenor of Rabbi Sachs’s speech to the European Parliament is premised upon the assumption that people like me would regard Jews leaving as tragic. If however things continue along present lines, he may have the shock of his life, when people finally shrug their shoulders, and say: ‘If you want to go, what’s stopping you?’ 3. The reason why the world ‘sometimes fails to see the beauty we know is here’ in Israel is, to be blunt, that many people cannot see any beauty whatsoever in Benjamin Netanyahu. And it goes far beyond that. Take a look, for example, at the annual lists of the 50 most influential Jews produced by the ‘Jerusalem Post’ – the criterion, apparently, relating to ‘the power to shape his or her community and surrounding communities.’ This year’s top three: Jared Kushner/Ivanka, Gail Gadot, Benjamin Netanyahu; last year’s, Haim Saban, Benjamin Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson; for 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu, Janet Yellen, Jack Lew. See There does seem here to be both a Jewish and American tragedy – that there is commonly an inverse correlation among Jews in the United States, and also increasingly in Britain, between genuine ability and influence. So, for example, Stephen F. Cohen, whose book on Bukharin was actually an event in Russian history, and who has a record of being right about developments in the post-Soviet space, is widely reviled as a ‘Putin apologist.’ Meanwhile, Julia Ioffe, who is stupid and nasty, is treated as an expert on Russia at the Aspen Security Forum. In this situation, to dismiss the convictions of people who think that Jews have too much influence as scapegoating is, again, simply silly. The wrong Jews do. 4. Particularly counter-productive is a form of sleazy dishonesty which is well exemplified by the conclusion to the passage from Rabbi Sachs which Shoshana Bryen quotes. He argues that the notion of covenant is presupposed by the line in the Declaration of Independence that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” And he then goes on to say that: ‘They are self-evident only to people who have internalized the Hebrew Bible.’ A great deal more could be said about this. A salient point, however, is that a key part of the backlash on both sides of the Atlantic relates a radicalisation of the individualism expressed in the Declaration. This abstract universalism now often expresses itself in hostility to whites and to the traditional cultures of many ‘old settler’ Americans – and there are similar processes visible on this side of the Atlantic. A central manifestation of this is enthusiasm for unrestricted immigration, which is, to my mind, lunatic. Leaving that aside, however, there is a growing perception – and a justified one – that many influential Jews are happy to side with those who attack what one might call traditional white Christian ‘tribal’ identities, while assuming that the ‘Shoah’ gives Jews an indefinite right to the preservation of a Jewish tribal identity. This ‘having your cake and eating it too’ performance is not sustainable. More and more of us, I think, are looking forward to the moment when, say, Bret Stephens and David Brooks pen a thundering editorial in the ‘New York Times’, saying ‘Mr Prime Minister – Tear Down that Wall.’
All, Yesterday, Philip Weiss posted a piece on his ‘Mondoweiss’ site entitled ‘The Clinton scandals entailed violent threats against people who knew about his sex life.’ (See .)
All, One useful thing to have out of Sir Robert Owen’s farce of an ‘Inquiry’ into the Litvinenko affair is that one is provided with transcripts of much of the output of what at times I came to think could have been renamed the ‘Berezovsky Broadcasting Corporation.’ The degree of credulity with which claims by that appalling figure and his associates were accepted in Britain, and to a somewhat lesser extent the United States, were received, beggars belief. And it now seems likely that a great deal of the ‘narrative’ in these was shaped by Christopher Steele, in collaboration with associates of Berezovsky, in particular the U.S.-based Alex Goldfarb, a particularly creepy person who was I think the brains behind the operation, insofar as there were any. Here, the April 2007 study ‘The Litvinenko File’ by the former BBC Moscow Correspondent Martin Sixsmith is particularly interesting. It tells us that Goldfarb’s grandfather had been KGB station chief in San Francisco from 1941 to 1945, and had been shocked to find that – as a reward for his attempts to subvert the constitutional order in the United States – when he returned to Russia he had been arrested by the NKVD as part of the ‘Doctor’s Plot’ hysteria. If one scratches beneath the surface, one can see that a transnational ‘information operations’ network was always involved, acting in support of a range of different projects for ‘régime change.’ A particularly interesting item is a transcript sent out from the Cabinet Office of a 16 December 2006 BBC Radio 4 programme entitled ‘The Litvinenko Mystery’, presented by Tom Mangold. The ‘subject’ is described by the official responsible as ‘Investigation in to the Death of Alexander Litvinenko – Major Yuri Shvets & Bobby Levinson.’ (See ) This tells a pathetic story of how Litvinenko was forced to turn an honest penny by ‘due diligence’ work because, alone and without means of subsistence in a strange country, he was faced by ht e appalling prospect of having himself and his wife and young son completely without means of support. Supposedly, the extremism of his allegations against Putin had been too much even for Berezovsky, and he had been largely cut loose by his erstwhile oligarch patron. That he was at the time being paid a steady baseline salary by Steele et al was of course not admitted, any more than the possibility that the private security companies for whom he worked were actually in greater or lesser extent ‘fronts’, as Goldfarb’s grandfather might have said: with one hell of a lot of money to pay out to those who served the ‘agendas’ of those funding them. The notion that Litvinenko's supposed impecuniousness explains anything is patently, the product of the kind of ‘information operations’ – which always relied upon a large element of ‘kitsch’ – in which people like Goldbarb’s grandfather specialised, and in which Steele and his like have been all too happy to join them. This was part of a ‘narrative’ in which Steele, Goldfarb and those who swallowed their disinformation in the ‘MSM’, collaborated. In shaping this, Litvinenko worked with the former KGB operative Shvets (the name, my Galician friends have told me, means ‘tailor’ in Ukrainian) and the former FBI operative Levinson – neither of whom, of course, had any involvement with Western intelligence agencies – in unearthing devastating information about the links of a figure close to Putin to organised crime. The figure in question then, supposedly, commissioned Lugovoi and Kovtun to put polonium in Litvinenko’s tea. To see who the figures involved the Mangold programme really were, and discover some linkages worth investigating, all one needs to do are a few basic Google checks, such as ‘Yuri Shvets Melnichenko’, ‘Robert Levinson CIA’, ‘Robert Levinson Mogilevich’, ‘Trump Mogilevich’, ‘Mangold Mogilevich’, ‘Mangold anthrax’, ‘Mangold David Kelly’, ‘Mueller Comey anthrax’. As to the targets of the ‘dossiers’ produced by Litvinenko, Shvets and al, they were, unsurprisingly, those of Putin’s associates who had been put in charge when major industries of Russia were wrested out of the control of Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky: Viktor Ivanov and Igor Sechin. How people in MI6 were stupid enough to get involved in a kind of ‘bare knuckles fight’ between Putin and his ‘siloviki’ associates, and the oligarchs who would not accept the – actually very attractive – terms he offered them – has long baffled me. When however it was revealed that Christopher Steele was actually a superannuated Cambridge University students’ union politician, much fell into place. But, to explain these people, and the utter contempt which not just Steele, but Sir Alex Younger, Sir Richard Dearlove, and Sir John Scarlett inspire in me, is difficult.
Sylvia, In fact, since I wrote to Harding, I have realised that the police evidence contradicts itself. The ‘Chronology’ on which the whole of Owen’s argument depends is presented as ‘Appendix 4’, starting on page 271 of his report. The events of 1 November 2006 are covered on pages 278-80. (The report is at .) A key part about this chronology is that in it, supposedly, the only visit by Litvinenko to Berezovsky’s offices occurred after the meeting with Lugovoi and Kovtun in the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, which is timed at 4.00-4.30pm, following his meeting with Mario Scaramella at the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly, timed at 3.10-3.40pm. According to this version, ‘12.29-1.34pm. AL travelled by bus and tube to Oxford Circus’. This chronology sustains the claim that Litvinenko and Berezovsky had no conscious contact with polonium, and that the former was not contaminated, until Andrei Lugovoi and/or Dmitri Kovtun poured the substance into the teapot containing his green tea in the Pine Bar. The whole version presented in Owen’s report depends on the premise that the contamination on the photocopier in Berezovsky’s office can be explained as a result of Litvinenko having been poisoned immediately before in the Pine Bar. If however you scroll down to page 315, in ‘Appendix 8: Key documents’, you will find ‘INQ018243 Maps showing the movements of Alexander Litvinenko on November 2006.’ The link does not work, but the document can be accessed in the ‘Evidence’ section at In addition to a range of puzzling discrepancies with Owen’s chronology, which could conceivably be the result of sloppiness, one finds the following, which I think clearly is not: ‘SECURITY GUARD AT 7 DOWN STREET OFFICES OF BORIS BEREZOVSKY STATES LITVINENKO VISITED BETWEEN 1PM AND 2.30PM.’ The evidence credited is ‘Statement S82 Stephen Brown’, and the estimated date/time given is ‘13.40 approximate.’ A plausible explanation is as follows. When Litvinenko made it impossible for Steele & Co to suppress what had happened by pointing the finger at the meeting with Scaramella on Zakayev’s website, they first attempted to suggest he had been poisoned there, then at a meeting prior to it in an upstairs hotel room at the Millennium involving Lugovoi – which now everyone wants to suppress. It was only when it became evident that the scale of contamination at the Pine Bar could not be suppressed that the focus was shifted there. As is clear from the witness statements from the time by Berezovsky, which Owen distorted in his report, this meant that at earlier times the visit by Litvinenko was placed either shortly before or shortly after the meeting with Scaramella, while it then had to be shifted again so that, supposedly, it came after the Pine Bar meeting. Someone, I think deliberately, alluded to a statement by the security guard which would have ‘meshed’ with the version of an earlier poisoning in the maps document. The death of Berezovsky, in what could have been suicide but might have been murder, occurred on 23 March 2013. The deadline for his new witness statement, in which he would have had to choose what account to stick by, and which was never found, was 22 March. If anyone had an interest in seeing him removed from circulation at this point, it wasn’t Putin or Patrushev. As to the changes in the accounts given of the journey and how it was established that Litvinenko was clear of contamination when he arrived in central London. It helps to understand some things about travelling in to the centre from the suburbs – Litvinenko lived in Muswell Hill, some way out to the north, as did his close collaborator and neighbour the Chechen insurgent leader Akhmed Zakayev, who drove a Mercedes, and is known to have done so on 1 November 2006. If one was using public transport, one might either take a double-decker no 134 the whole way into Tottenham Road, or take either that bus or a single-decker local no 234 to get to an appropriate tube station. How one travelled would depend on precisely where one was going. Back in November 2006, it was still possible to buy single tickets for journeys, but anybody who regularly used public transport bought an electronic ‘Oyster Card’ – which leaves a record of one’s journey. Actually, the version presented by Counter Terrorism Command to the Inquiry is quite as preposterous as the BuzzFeed dossier. If the interviews supposedly recorded with Litvinenko by Detective Inspector Brent Hyatt are to be believed, the strange nature of what went on at the Pine Bar meeting on 1 November – centering on the teapot – immediately made him suspect that a poisoning attempt might be at issue. Although one of his agents was soon displaying the most serious symptoms, and suspected the Russians, we are given to believe that the then head of the MI6 Russia Desk, Steele, knew nothing until 20 November. Moreover, it was only on 18 November that DI Hyatt began interviewing Litvinenko, and elicited among other things his account of his journey into central London. The description of his journey into central London supposedly given by Litvinenko to DI Hyatt, including the crucial reference to the Oyster Card, can be accessed in the ‘Evidence’ through the link INQ016528, with the relevant pages being INQ01536/7. The supposed print-out from the Card record is INQ006491. The witness statement supposedly identifying the no 234 bus, dated 26 November 2006, is INQ019248. The police witness statement describing the supposed testing of that bus by scientists from the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston on 27 November 2006, establishing that it was clear of contamination, is INQ007670. Let us then look at the claims that were made earlier by journalists who would have been briefed by Counter Terrorism Command, MI6, or both. Added to these are my guesses as to why Steele and his merry men chose to change the story. The first major attempt by these people to produce a coherent account was in a ‘Sunday Times’ investigation published on 3 December 2006 entitled ‘Focus: Cracking the code of the nuclear assassin’. (See .) Although, supposedly, the evidence about the no 234 was available almost a week earlier, the ‘Sunday Times’ authors wrote: ‘On the morning of November 1 Litvinenko was given a lift into the centre of London by car. No trace of polonium has been found in that vehicle – an indicator that Litvinenko had not yet been poisoned.’ However this version depended upon the argument that Litvinenko was given a lift home in Zakayev’s Merc, which was found to be contaminated. If he was given a lift in by car, it was likely to be the Merc – and it couldn’t both be contaminated and not contaminated. So Steele and his merry men tried, again, with a report in the ‘Daily Mirror’ on 11 December, which opened: ‘A £1.50 bus ticket proves that murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in a London hotel. The ticket for a No 134 London bus was found in Litvinenko's coat pocket after he was dosed with deadly polonium 210.’ (See .) This version was restated in a 22 January BBC ‘Panorama’ programme, which unlike the other articles I am citing was admitted into the ‘Evidence’, as HMG000467: ‘Litvinenko caught the 134 on November the 1st; no trace of polonium on his ticket or the bus; he was clean.’ It probably occurred to Steele & co, however, that nobody who travels regularly on public transport uses single tickets. So on page 216 of the study ‘The Litvinenko File’ published by the former BBC Moscow Correspondent Martin Sixsmith in April 2016, one finds the following: ‘The first measurement for 1 November was taken from the Oyster card Litvinenko had used to pay for the journey into central London … In the case of Litvinenko’s ride on the number 134 bus the card allowed detectives to trace which vehicle he had travelled on and who was driving it. They tested both Litvinenko’s card and the bus itself, and found no radioactivity on either. This was a strong indication that Litvinenko had not been poisoned before the time his bus journey ended, at 11.30a.m. on 1 November.’ To access this one needs either to search in ‘Google Books’ or spend $2 plus postage on a second-hand version of the book. However, the relevant section of the August 2008 study ‘The Terminal Spy’ by the ‘New York Times’ correspondent Alan Cowell was published by ‘USA Today.’ It reads: ‘He took a bus to start his journey, then the subway, using an electronic blue plastic ticket the size of a credit card called an Oyster card. For most Londoners, the cards were a commonplace, a device for discounted travel on the public systems, linked to a central computer through terminals on buses and in subway stations. For Litvinenko, the card would offer a vital clue to the timing of a murder. ‘The 134 bus route burrowed through the palimpsest of bleak and cosmopolitan modernity that time has spread over the Gothic frame of Victorian London ...’ (See (See .) Apart from the account by Cowell, all the others have been pointed out to me reportedly to Owen’s team, in memos which I was assured have been read in e-mails which I have safely stored. If anyone can provide me with an explanation of this evidence which does generate a strong ‘prima facie’ case that ‘perversion of the course of justice’ is at issue I will be glad to hear it. Of course, I cannot be sure that Steele was directly involved in producing the final version, as he stood down as head of the MI6 Russia Desk the year after the Cowell study was published. But, given his intimate involvement in the earlier efforts to obscure the truth, it seems likely he had a good deal to do with the later ones.
TTG, I regret to have to say this, but I no longer trust you. It seems to me you are a naturally decent, honourable and courageous man, but I also think you are a traumatised Lithuanian – for very understandable reasons – and my confidence in your ability impartially to assess any evidence regarding matters to do with Russia is zilch. Just a brief excursus to clarify. Last year, my wife and I met up in Vienna with the lady who was my mother’s au pair when I was a small child. (She was in Munster when it was bombed, my parents met in South-East London during the blitz. We talked about it.) Her son’s second wife, like my sister in law, is from Galicia. After his disastrous first marriage, she has made him really happy. Her father was deported to Russia for ten years after Galicia was reincorporated into Soviet Ukraine. I really like her. But I know that there is no point in expecting that she will have any understanding whatsoever of the ways in which very many people in Crimea and the Donbass feel, any more than there is of expecting that many people there would have any understanding of how she feels. In the same way, your comments on the NATO production about the ‘Forest Brothers’ made it absolutely clear to me that your views on any matters to do with Russia are not reliable. The point is not that the – patently visceral – responses from people like Zahkarova, Rogozhin, and – in particular – Joseph Kobzon to the video are necessarily any more guides to any kind of absolute truth than yours. (You might listen to Kobzon performing ‘Zhuravli’ at the 2015 ‘Victory Day’ concert.) It is simply that some people can escape from the traumas of the past, and others can’t. From what I can see – and I do not like saying this – I do not think you can.
EO, The Harding book clearly marks another escalation at the British end of the campaign by corrupt elements in the leadership of the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic to subvert the constitutional order in the United States. Christopher Steele is a dirty disinformation peddler, and serial fabricator of evidence, who has now got into bad trouble because the more absurd claims with which he attempted to support his portrayal of Trump as a ‘Siberian candidate’ have provoked lawsuits from Aleksej Gubarev and the Alfa oligarchs. This makes it necessary to corrupt legal processes, which in turn requires that everyone is operating in ‘full McCarthy mode.’ Only by fuelling hysteria so it completely distorts the capacity of people to assess evidence – and we are long way to getting there, not simply over ‘Russiagate’ but many other matters – may it may prove possible to save both Steele himself and BuzzFeed from being torn to pieces in the courts and – hopefully – made to pay really serious damages. And if this happened, of course, then some very awkward questions not just about the activities of MI6 but also their collaborators in your country might become much harder to avoid. Among the most contemptible of the MSM journalists who have been happy to act as stenographers for Steele and others who orchestrated the cover-up over Litvinenko is Luke Harding. To demonstrate this, I am attaching the text of an e-mail I wrote him on 20 January 2016. This was then copied, with further comments, to the ‘readers’ editor’ of the ‘Guardian’, Chris Elliot, their diplomatic correspondent, Patrick Wintour, their Moscow correspondent, Shaun Walker, and Jonathan Freedland, then executive editor of the opinion part of the paper. The only response I received was from Wintour. As I had reminded him that the disgraced former LibDem Cabinet Minister Minister Chris Huhne was once a mutual friend, he clearly felt he had to produce some kind of reply. It was: ‘I think this is for Luke.’ Given that I had produced evidence suggesting that the investigation by Counter Terrorism Command into the death of Litvinenko, and Sir Robert Owen’s ‘inquiry’, were both completely corrupt, this was a somewhat remarkable abnegation of responsibility: a bit like the FBI leaving the investigation of the DNC servers to ‘CrowdStrike’, perhaps. As it now seems clear that Steele must have involved up to the hilt in this corruption of the processes of British justice, and he has been trying to corrupt democratic processes in your country, and seemingly still is, these matters seem rather relevant to Americans. Particularly given that it appears that leading figures in your ‘intelligence community’ have treated the ludicrous dossier Steele produced seriously, it is important that people on your side of the Atlantic realise how quite how squalid and contemptible he is. If anyone wants the links to the articles and books mentioned in it, I am happy to post them. And if, having looked at them, someone – TTG perhaps – can refute my argument that the contradictions involved point to systematic corruption, I am happy to ‘eat humble pie.’ The original e-mail read: Dear Luke Harding, In the Guardian report published yesterday under the title ‘Alexander Litvinenko: the man who solved his own murder’ you wrote: ‘Scotland Yard would later precisely fix Litvinenko's movements on the afternoon of 1 November: a bus from his home in Muswell Hill in north London; the tube to Piccadilly Circus;’ Actually, according to the version presented to the inquiry, he arrived at Oxford Circus, not Piccadilly Circus. The more salient point is that this account of Litvinenko’s journey into central London on the day he was supposedly deliberately poisoned with polonium, and how it was established that he was clear of contamination when he arrived there, appears to be quite new. I had never seen it presented in public prior to the inquiry, and it contracts all the versions I can trace which had been provided previously, most of which in turn contradict each other. First, Litvinenko was supposed to have travelled by car, then a number 134 bus identified by a £1.50 ticket, then a 134 bus identified by an Oyster Card, then a 134 bus and an unspecified tube. The combination of the 234 bus and tube which has been presented to the inquiry is, as far as I can see, wholly original. At the outset, the journey was supposed to have been completed by midday. According to the – vivid – description provided by the former BBC Moscow Correspondent Martin Sixsmith in his April 2007 study ‘The Litvinenko File’, the 134 bus brought Litvinenko in to Tottenham Court Road at 11.30am. Now we are told that, right at the outset of their investigation, Scotland Yard had established, from an Oyster Card – of which there appears to be no mention prior to the Sixsmith study – that he did not board the 234 bus until 12.29 pm, and left the tube at Oxford Circus at 13.34 pm. I am forwarding an e-mail I sent on this subject in August last year to David Leppard, who with his colleagues at the ‘Sunday Times’ produced the first of these many contradictory versions, that according to which Litvinenko travelled into central London by car. Attached to this is e-mail is a PDF which goes through the various versions in detail, and speculates on the implications of the positively Orwellian transformations in the claims made about the nature of the evidence which is supposed decisively to refute claims that Litvinenko had been contaminated prior to the morning of 1 November 2006. This PDF was also sent to other individuals and organisations who had been involved in disseminating the various mutually contradictory reports discussed. In all cases, as with Leppard, I was concerned to give them the opportunity to clarify matters, if in fact they had misreported what their SO15 sources had told them. In no case have they done so. Most of the information in this PDF has been repeatedly presented by me to the team in charge of the inquiry, starting with an initial memorandum sent in September 2012. They have chosen to ignore the flagrant contradictions I have identified in the accounts given of how and why Litvinenko travelled into central London on 1 November 2006, and simply proceed on the basis that the integrity of the police investigation can be taken for granted. I am happy to forward to you copies of the relevant memoranda, which were sent to, and acknowledged by, the Solicitor to the Inquest/Inquiry, Martin Smith. Unless the contradictions I have identified can be explained away in a convincing fashion, a strong prima facie case exists that the account of how and when Litvinenko travelled into central London presented to the inquiry is a fabrication. Anyone seeking to discount this possibility, I submit, needs to provide a cogent explanation as to why the current version was not presented at the outset, and of the various changes in the versions that were presented. If in fact the current version is a fabrication, then it follows that all the evidence that has been adduced to support it has to be under suspicion of being unreliable. It also follows that the crucial contention that Litvinenko had not knowingly had contact with polonium prior to his poisoning by Lugovoi and Kovtun in the Pine Bar of the Millennium has not been validated by credible evidence. And if repeated attempts are made to validate an argument by evidence which will not withstand serious examination, then a question has to arise as to whether that argument is false. Kind regards, David Habakkuk
blue peacock, Thanks, As to where it may lead, I shudder to think. It has absolutely staggered me to see the way that Western élites have resorted to what are, in effect, a kind of soft neo-Stalinist method of handling dissent. It simply becomes impossible to respond at all effectively to problems, if you have silly scapegoating like that involved in the preposterous claim that the materials provided to the DNC were provided by hacks orchestrated by the GRU – and those who dissent from the ‘narrative’ on one issue are another are treated as disseminating ‘fake news’, if not indeed Russian propaganda. The late Soviet Union was not – like that of Stalin’s day – a society dependent on massive and frequently extraordinarily random and capricious violence. It was largely run on what has aptly been called ‘bullshit’ – ‘Ishmail Zechariah’ provided some more relevant links in a recent comment. And it did not end well. As to why people in the United States and Britain have decided to, as it were, ‘go Brezhnevite’, I have theories, but I still find myself racking my brains to explain the sheer scale of the disintegration of the political intelligence of élites in Britain in my lifetime. Nothing is commonsensical, nothing down-to-earth, and actual expertise born of experience and/or serious empirical study is not valued.
All, The history of the common law of England, on which the American legal system was based, was rewritten by the late Patrick Wormald. An obituary in the ‘Telegraph’ following his premature death in 2004 summarises very briefly the conclusions of his 1999 study ‘The Making of English Law’: ‘In itself, this is a masterpiece. It lays the palaeographical foundations for a more interpretative second volume, most of which exists in polished draft. Nevertheless, its bold conclusion is already clear: that English common law was, in effect, founded by King Alfred of Wessex. The conventionally vaunted 12th-century legal reforms of Henry II's reign did no more than build on the strengths of a system which had already been created in the ninth century. ‘Wormald showed elsewhere how King Alfred had capitalised on Bede's earlier presentation of the English as a new chosen people, forged from the Angle and Saxon invaders of post-Roman Britain. Alfred conceived of his role as their king in providential terms. It sometimes seemed as if Wormald implicitly endorsed this view.’ Of the revolution in Anglo-Saxon studies of which his work was part, the obituary writes: ‘Thirty years ago, English medieval history for undergraduate historians often began in 1066; only specialists attempted to peer back into the earlier gloom. It is inconceivable that this could happen today. ‘The band of historians of which Wormald was one has brought Anglo-Saxon England out of the shadows, and presented a compelling case for the precocity of its civilisation in general and of its governmental institutions in particular. If England before the Norman Conquest was precocious, it was also, by definition, already exceptional, even unique. ‘The implications of this argument in the final quarter of the 20th century were clear, although Wormald was never a historical Little Englander: he was keen to demonstrate cross-Channel links in the early Middle Ages, and wrote extensively on continental history.’ So elements in American history may indeed go back a long way, and have complex roots, in which Christianity was always central. (See .) Himself a devout Roman Catholic, Patrick Wormald was also a depressive and a drunk. God rest his soul.
PT, Thanks for the kind words. On the previous thread, I attempted to point out to TTG what I think is crucial – the links between what Alperovitch initially claimed, the intervention of the former GCHQ operative Matt Tait, who introduced ‘Felix Edmundovich’, and the dating given for the first memorandum in the dossier attributed to Christopher Steele. The response from TTG was ‘I think you are far too fixated on Alperovich as a reason to discount the idea of a Russian hack of the DNC servers.’ This did not address the questions I raised. It reminded me of trying to argue with Marxists when I was young. Mostly, the only interest was in ascertaining the reasons why they were so determined to cling to patently absurd beliefs. It was clear that TTG had absolutely no interest in the unresolved problems relating to the role of GCHQ and MI6. As it happens, some of these seem to have passed more intellectually curious observers by. For example, in his defence against the lawsuit brought by Aleksej Gubarev, Steele has tried to ‘wriggle out’ by claiming that there was a duty of confidentiality on the part of Fusion GPS which they violated. When probed on this claim by Gubarev’s lawyers, he responded by claiming that a ‘written non-disclosure agreement’ had been concluded in January 2010. It is interesting that a single agreement is supposed to have had force continuing for years. It is also interesting that it was said to relate to work conducted by Fusion for Steele, not the other way around. There are a whole series of puzzles about Fusion, which in turn bring one back to the puzzles around Browder and the Magnitsky affair.
J, I really would not believe everything you read in the ‘Moscow Times’ – still less, claims by Masha Gessen. If you want to understand why Russian ‘liberals’ have minimal support among their fellow-countrymen, I would recommend a piece she wrote in the ‘New York Times’ in July 2015, entitled ‘What the Russians Crave: Cheese’: it gives the phrase ‘cheese-eating surrender monkey’ a wholly new meaning. (See .) This is actually a key reason why Western élites consistently misread Russia: that they take a tiny minority of ‘Westernised’ people who despise their fellow-countrymen and are generally distrusted if not loathed by them as representative. (So Julia Ioffe, who is as silly as Gessen, was treated as an authority at the Aspen Security Forum.) As to the KGB, the notion that by the end of the Soviet period it represented some kind of unitary cohesive force is patent nonsense. The erosion of the system’s traditional ideological foundations meant that the whole Soviet ‘counterintelligence state’ was by then a weird combination of very different kinds of people and very different kinds of ideas – ranging from some of the most despicable human types to some rather admirable ones. Following Gorbachev’s January 1986 nuclear abolition proposal, Anatoly Chernyaev – who not long after, at the instigation of Georgiy Arbatov, would become foreign adviser to the General Secretary – wrote the following in his diary: ‘Gorbachev’s statement. It seems he really decided to end the arms race at all costs. He is going for that very “risk,” in which he has boldly recognized the absence of risk, because no one will attack us even if we disarm totally. And in order to revive the country and set it on a steady track, it is necessary to free it from the burden of the arms race, which is depleting more than just economics. My God! How lucky we are that in the PB there was a man – Andropov – who showed some truly “authoritative” wisdom, who discovered Gorbachev and pulled him out of the provinces! ... And him personally: while there are, I think, 95 regions and oblasts in the USSR. And then he stuck him to Brezhnev!’ (See .) So, a frontal attack on the institutions and assumptions of the ‘Brezhnevite’ Soviet Union was actually in the process of being mounted by a Communist Party ‘apparatchik’ who had been plucked out of obscurity by the former head of the KGB. One really could not make sense of this process within the familiar categories of Western interpretation – from which, I add, I myself started. Attempting to do so meant that, as the whole process of ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’ unfolded, the intelligence bureaucracies in the United States and Britain were totally convinced that this was simply an exercise in ‘reflexive control’ – to use TTG’s phrase. In relation to Putin’s rise to power, by the time he was appointed Prime Minister by Yeltsin in August 1999, people of with Masha Gessen’s views and mentality had successfully reduced the former Soviet Union to a state where a disintegration of a larger part of Eurasia into criminalised anarchy, from which recovery would have been very difficult, was extremely likely. This would have been a disaster not just for the people involved, but for ourselves. As recent history in the Middle East has amply demonstrated, chaos in apparently distant parts can feed back into our own more comfortable parts of the world in very dangerous ways. What however this also meant was that a group of former KGB people could emerge as a kind of ‘third force’. In essence, they could broker a ramshackle kind of ‘social contract’, in which the oligarchs could retain their ill-gotten gains (obtained courtesy of Larry Summers, et al) in return for surrendering political power, while the mass of people would have some kind of protection against the oligarchs. Ideologically, Putin moved towards a Russian tradition of ‘liberal conservatism.’ Adherents of this tradition were not necessarily in any way hostile to democracy as such. They simply believed – as Western ‘republican’ thinkers have traditionally done – that there were preconditions for its successful realisation, and that they were absent in Russia. Clearly, Putin started out as an admirer of American democracy. If his view has changed, this is in large measure because of the patent inability of Western élites to cope intelligently with the problems facing them. A political system which puts Vladimir Putin, Sergei Lavrov, Michael Fallon and Nikolai Patrushev in charge is hardly self-evidently a worse bet than one which puts, for instance, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Michael and Alex Younger at the helm. It is a mark of the intellectual, and moral, bankruptcy of our élites that, rather than trying to comprehend the backlash which their own actions have done so much to provoke, they prefer – in good Stalinist-style – to blame it on malign external influences: in this case, Russian ‘reflexive control.’ Unfortunately, in the United States very many of those ‘making the running’ are former victims of the Russian and Soviet states and their descendants, who appear largely incapable of seeing contemporary Russia except through a distorting lens of apparently ineradicable trauma. In Britain we have some of this, but a lot more good old-fashioned indigenous Russophobia.