by William Skink
While Trump pressed flesh with Putin today for like so much longer than scheduled, which was like totally suspicious all by itself–I mean, like, hours, not minutes, which might be treason and maybe we should unfriend anyone on Facebook who doesn’t think so–you feel me?
Sorry, I’ll stop that. I think the heat and Russophobic paranoia may have short-circuited me for a second.
An example of that politically weaponized paranoia was on display today as Jon Tester, a CIA analyst and a law professor peddled their snake oil in Missoula this morning.
Someone has to have a good joke about a politician, a spy and a professor walking into a bar. Maybe something like the spy showed the bar tender a fake ID, while the professor used big words to confuse the bartender, and while that was happening the politician was shoving cash from till into his pocket.
Not funny, I know. It’s like House of Cards: too close to reality to be entertaining anymore.
Anyway, back to Russia meddling in our elections:
Tester said Russia’s efforts to interfere in U.S elections has emerged as the latest threat, and a very real one at that. While the FBI, CIA and NSA have all agreed that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump this week raised the prospect that “it could well have been other countries.”
“It’s no secret that foreign entities have an interest in disturbing our democracy,” Tester said. “According to the intelligence agencies, the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. It’s not a partisan matter, it’s a patriotic one. We cannot allow foreign entities – foreign governments – to influence our elections.”
Tester said he was confident the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee would get to the bottom of what transpired during the last election. He was also hopeful the investigation would conclude before the end of the year.
The only thing about this investigation I’m hopeful for is that it’s broad enough to include the corruption in both parties. If Tester is honest in saying it’s a not a partisan matter, he won’t mind if investigators dig into what Democrats and the Obama administration did in the lead up to the election. Did Loretta Lynch lie about having no contact with the Clinton campaign? How about the unmasking of Trump associates by Susan Rice? And let’s not forget the rigging of the primary and the subsequent lawsuit brought against the DNC.
With Trump’s recent tweet about Podesta and the DNC server, the questions about why the DNC initially refused to give the FBI access won’t be treated seriously. Trump’s tweet’s are amazingly functional on multiple fronts. Not only can he distract from other issues by controlling the news cycle, he can also inoculate issues from serious scrutiny.
But with the server, there are legitimate questions about why the DNC behaved the way it did. Here is an old WIRED article from all the way back in January:
In a statement to WIRED, a senior FBI law enforcement official wrote in an email Thursday that “The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated.” This contrasts with what DNC deputy communications director Eric Walker told Buzzfeed in an email: “The DNC had several meetings with representatives of the FBI’s Cyber Division and its Washington (DC) Field Office, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and it responded to a variety of requests for cooperation, but the FBI never requested access to the DNC’s computer servers.”
In its statement, the FBI agreed with the DNC’s implication that it had instead relied on data from Crowdstrike. But the Bureau points the finger for its lack of independent evaluation squarely at the DNC. According to the FBI official, “This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information. These actions caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.”
When Jon Tester claims the Russia-hacked-our-election conspiracy theories are not partisan, I imagine him back at the farm, shoveling horse shit.
And that’s not just because I think that’s what his rhetoric amounts to, horse shit. It’s because the farm is where I think Jon will be after he loses his reelection.
I’m not the only one preparing to be vocal about not voting for Jon Tester, there are some environmentalists with good memories already getting vocal about not supporting Tester:
We 30,000 strong Montana environmentalists are looking for our champion, and it is not U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. He denies us our needs: Wildlife (especially grizzly bears and wolves) saved under the Endangered Species Act; more appropriate designated wilderness for wildlife habitat and their survival; and elimination of Montana “dirty coal” mining and the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands oil transmission pipeline causing severe climate change issues. He refers to us as the “lunatic fringe” enviros.
He is a DINO and behaves like a moderate Republican. We will abandon him on this next go-round, since we supported him the last two elections and he betrayed us. Do the math. We will organize ourselves. Without our support, he loses. So if he continues to ignore our needs, he loses.
Does Tester think he can replace these lost votes by continuing to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton’s spectacular failures? I don’t think so, because that would mean Tester is stupid, and I don’t think he’s stupid. Keeping the focus on Russia is just a convenient way to ensure the focus doesn’t go elsewhere, like Tester’s pro-Pharma, anti-environmentalist record.
Or maybe Tester is laying the groundwork to blame Russia for his defeat. By that time, will the MSM have been thoroughly discredited for its propaganda-fueled, anti-Russia hysteria?
On June 25th the New York Times was finally forced to retract its assertion that all 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russia hacked our election. Here is Robert Parry’s take:
In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”
However, on Thursday, the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”
The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.
The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.
Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.
So, when the MSM plays itself as the helpless little victim of big, bad political bullies, don’t believe them. They are not victims, they are willing participants in an information war being waged by the Deep State with the ultimate aim of delegitimizing and bringing down the president of the United States of America.
I don’t see much honest criticism of media in the Montana blogosphere, but I have to say Dan Brooks earned his best writer award (from the paper he works at) with this post taking CNN to task for bullying HanAssholeSolo into submission:
A news organization should not threaten to make one person infamous in order to avenge its brand. The news, like the government, should not settle personal scores. It only took that one sentence to push the network’s decision out of decency and into blackmail, and it’s a shame they included it. The online right will cherish #CNNBlackmail, as they cherish any evidence they have been unjustly maligned. HanAssholeSolo will watch what he says about corporate media. The whole, awful argument that the news is fake will seem incrementally more appealing to people who weren’t following the news anyway, and everyone will get a little bit dumber. Then it will be tomorrow.
Wrapped up in this concluding paragraph is the assumption that CNN’s bullying is bad because it will seem like evidence to the online right that they have been “unjustly maligned”. This just bolsters those people (the online right) in the “awful” argument the news is fake, which can’t be true because the NYT and Washington Post are infallible.
Referring to “people who weren’t following the news anyway…” is where the smugness seeps in. And the blindness. Because I have news for Dan Brooks: corporate media will lie, distort and omit when it serves the corporate agenda.
When, for example, another alleged gas attack in Syria was blasted by corporate media as being the result of a deliberate, intentional attack by the Assad regime, those of us who do follow the news with skepticism went to the non-corporate media and, once again, were better informed than the consumers of corporate propaganda. Vindication came recently when Sy Hersch reported on a much more plausible scenario by doing the kind of journalism CNN refuses to do because they are paid not to.
When Trump reacted militarily to what he saw on television after the alleged gas attack in Syria, the MSM media acted like the slobbering lapdogs of power that they are. Here’s Hersch’s recollection of that time (only 3 months ago):
After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:
– The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public that Russia had chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.
– Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.
– Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.
The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.
The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a “summary based on declassified information about the attacks,” as the briefer referred to it.
Fake news is a loaded term. So is propaganda. But I’m not sure how else to describe the role of the MSM when they so brazenly exploit the misery in Syria in order to further America’s geopolitical agenda.
I know Trump and Breitbart news are alarming to smart people who vote the right way and still believe newspapers like the New York Times are credible producers of objective, journalistic content, but what I find more alarming is how easily well-intentioned members of the resistance are being played by equally duplicitous forces who would rather risk war with Russia than allow any alternative to their failed leadership to emerge.