By Ray McGovern
Source: Consortium News
The fresh orgy of anti-Russian invective in the lickspittle media (LSM) has the feel of fin de siècle. The last four reality-impaired years do seem as though they add up to a century. And no definitive fin is in sight, as long as most people don’t know what’s going on.
The LSM should be confronted: “At long last have you left no sense of decency?” But who would hear the question — much less any answer? The corporate media have a lock on what Americans are permitted or not permitted to hear. Checking the truth, once routine in journalism, is a thing of the past.
Thus the reckless abandon with which The New York Times is leading the current full-court press to improve on what it regards as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s weak-kneed effort to blame the Russians for giving us Donald Trump. The press is on, and there are no referees to call the fouls.
The recent release of a 1,000-page, sans bombshells and already out-of-date report by the Senate Intelligence Committee has provided the occasion to “catapult the propaganda,” as President George W. Bush once put it.
As the the Times‘s Mark Mazzetti put it in his article Wednesday:
“Releasing the report less than 100 days before Election Day, Republican-majority senators hoped it would refocus attention on the interference by Russia and other hostile foreign powers in the American political process, which has continued unabated.”
Mazzetti is telling his readers, soto voce: regarding that interference four years ago, and the “continued-unabated” part, you just have to trust us and our intelligence community sources who would never lie to you. And if, nevertheless, you persist in asking for actual evidence, you are clearly in Putin’s pocket.
Incidentally, Mueller’s report apparently was insufficient, only two years in the making, and just 448 pages. The Senate committee’s magnum opus took three years, is almost 1,000 pages — and fortified. So there.
Recall how disappointed the LSM and the rest of the Establishment were with Mueller’s anemic findings in spring 2019. His report claimed that the Russian government “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion” via a social media campaign run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and by “hacking” Democratic emails. But the evidence behind those charges could not bear close scrutiny.
You would hardly know it from the LSM, but the accusation against the IRA was thrown out of court when the U.S. government admitted it could not prove that the IRA was working for the Russian government. Mueller’s ipse dixit did not suffice, as we explained a year ago in “Sic Transit Gloria Mueller.”
The Best Defense …
… is a good offense, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of its study — call it “Mueller (Enhanced)” — and the propaganda fanfare — come at a key point in the Russiagate/Spygate imbroglio. It also came, curiously, as the Democratic Convention was beginning, as if the Republican-controlled Senate was sending Trump a message.
One chief worry, of course, derives from the uncertainty as to whether John Durham, the US Attorney investigating those FBI and other officials who launched the Trump-Russia investigation will let some heavy shoes drop before the election. Barr has said he expects “developments in Durham’s investigation hopefully before the end of the summer.”
FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith already has decided to plead guilty to the felony of falsifying evidence used to support a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to surveillance to spy on Trump associate Carter Page. It is abundantly clear that Clinesmith was just a small cog in the deep-state machine in action against candidate and then President Trump. And those running the machine are well known. The president has named names, and Barr has made no bones about his disdain for what he calls spying on the president.
The cognoscenti and the big fish themselves may be guessing that Trump/Barr/Durham will not throw out heavier lines for former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for example. But how can they be sure? What has become clear is that the certainty they all shared that Hillary Clinton would be the next president prompted them not only to take serious liberties with the Constitution and the law, but also to do so without taking rudimentary steps to hide their tracks.
The incriminating evidence is there. And as Trump becomes more and more vulnerable and defensive about his ineptness — particularly with regard to Covid-19 — he may summon the courage to order Barr and Durham to hook the big fish, not just minnows like Clinesmith. The neuralgic reality is that no one knows at this point how far Trump will go. To say that this kind of uncertainty is unsettling to all concerned is to say the obvious.
So, the stakes are high — for the Democrats, as well — and, not least, the LSM. In these circumstances it would seem imperative not just to circle the wagons but to mount the best offense/defense possible, despite the fact that virtually all the ammunition (as in the Senate report) is familiar and stale (“enhanced” or not).
Black eyes might well be in store for the very top former law enforcement and intelligence officials, the Democrats, and the LSM — and in the key pre-election period. So, the calculation: launch “Mueller Report (Enhanced)” and catapult the truth now with propaganda, before it is too late.
No Evidence of Hacking
The “hacking of the DNC” charge suffered a fatal blow three months ago when it became known that Shawn Henry, president of the DNC-hired cyber-security firm CrowdStrike, admitted under oath that his firm had no evidence that the DNC emails were hacked — by Russia or anyone else.
Henry gave his testimony on Dec. 5, 2017, but House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff was able to keep it hidden until May 7, 2020.
Here’s a brief taste of how Henry’s testimony went: Asked by Schiff for “the date on which the Russians exfiltrated the data”, Henry replied, “We just don’t have the evidence that says it actually left.”
You did not know that? You may be forgiven — up until now — if your information diet is limited to the LSM and you believe The New York Times still publishes “all the news that’s fit to print.” I am taking bets on how much longer the NYT will be able to keep Henry’s testimony hidden; Schiff’s record of 29 months will be hard to beat.
Putting Lipstick on the Pig of Russian ‘Tampering’
Worse still for the LSM and other Russiagate diehards, Mueller’s findings last year enabled Trump to shout “No Collusion” with Russia. What seems clear at this point is that a key objective of the current catapulting of the truth is to apply lipstick to Mueller’s findings.
After all, he was supposed to find treacherous plotting between the Trump campaign and the Russians and failed miserably. Most LSM-suffused Americans remain blissfully unaware of this, and the likes of Pulitzer Prize winner Mazzetti have been commissioned to keep it that way.
In Wednesday’s article, for example, Mazzetti puts it somewhat plaintively:
“Like the special counsel … the Senate report did not conclude that the Trump campaign engaged in a coordinated conspiracy with the Russian government — a fact that the Republicans seized on to argue that there was ‘no collusion’.”
How could they!
Mazzetti is playing with words. “Collusion,” however one defines it, is not a crime; conspiracy is.
‘Breathtaking’ Contacts: Mueller (Enhanced)
Mazzetti emphasizes that the Senate report “showed extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin,” and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the intelligence committee’s vice chairman, said the committee report details “a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections.”
None of that takes us much beyond the Mueller report and other things generally well known — even in the LSM. Nor does the drivel about people like Paul Manafort “sharing polling data with Russians” who might be intelligence officers. That data was “mostly public” the Times itself reported, and the paper had to correct a story that the data was intended for Russian oligarchs, when it was meant for Ukrainian oligarchs instead. That Manafort was working to turn Ukraine towards the West and not Russia is rarely mentioned.
Recent revelations regarding the false data given the FISA court by an FBI lawyer to “justify” eavesdropping on Trump associate Carter Page show the Senate report to be not up to date and misguided in endorsing the FBI’s decision to investigate Page. The committee may wish to revisit that endorsement — at least.
On the Steele Dossier, the committee also missed a ruling by a British judge against Christopher Steele, labeling his dossier an attempt to help Hillary Clinton get elected. Consortium News explained back in October 2017 that both CrowdStrike and Steele were paid for by the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign to push Russiagate.
Also missed by the intelligence committee was a document released by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that revealed that Steele’s “Primary Subsource and his friends peddled warmed-over rumors and laughable gossip that Steele dressed up as formal intelligence memos.”
The Intelligence Committee report also repeats thoroughly debunked myths about WikiLeaks and, like Mueller, the committee made no effort to interview Julian Assange before launching its smears. Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who partnered with WikiLeaks in the publication of the Podesta emails, described the report’s treatment of WikiLeaks in this Twitter thread:
2. the description of #WikiLeaks‘ publishing activities by this #SenateIntelligenceCommittee‘s Report appears a true #EdgarHoover‘s disinformation campaign to make a legitimate media org completely radioactive
3. Clearly, to describe #WikiLeaks and its publishing activities the #SenateIntelligenceCommittee’s Report completely rely on #US intelligence community+ #MikePompeo’s characterisation of #WikiLeaks. There is not even any pretense of an independent approach
4. there are also unsubstantiated claims like:
– “[WikiLeaks’] disclosures have jeopardized the safety of individual Americans and foreign allies” (p.200)
– “WikiLeaks has passed information to U.S. adversaries” (p.201)
5. it’s completely false that “#WikiLeaks does not seem to weigh whether its disclosures add any public interest value” (p.200) and any longtime media partner like me could provide you dozens of examples on how wrong this characterisation [is].
Mazzetti did add some spice to the version of his article that dominated the two top right columns of Wednesday’s Times with the blaring headline: “Senate Panel Ties Russian Officials to Trump’s Aides: G.O.P.-Led Committee Echoes Mueller’s Findings on Election Tampering.”
Those who make it to the end of Mazzetti’s piece will learn that the Senate committee report “did not establish” that the Russian government obtained any compromising material on Mr. Trump or that they tried to use such materials [that they didn’t have] as leverage against him.” However, Mazzetti adds,
“According to the report, Mr. Trump met a former Miss Moscow at a party during one trip in 1996. After the party, a Trump associate told others he had seen Mr. Trump with the woman on multiple occasions and that they ‘might have had a brief romantic relationship.’
“The report also raised the possibility that, during that trip, Mr. Trump spent the night with two young women who joined him the next morning at a business meeting with the mayor of Moscow.”
This is journalism?
Another Pulitzer in Store?
The Times appends a note reminding us that Mazzetti was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on Donald Trump’s advisers and their connections to Russia.
And that’s not the half of it. In September 2018, Mazzetti and his NYT colleague Scott Shane wrote a 10,000-word feature, “The Plot to Subvert an Election,” trying to convince readers that the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) had successfully swayed U.S. opinion during the 2016 election with 80,000 Facebook posts that they said had reached 126 million Americans.
That turned out to be a grotesquely deceptive claim. Mazzetti and Shane failed to mention the fact that those 80,000 IRA posts (from early 2015 through 2017, meaning about half came after the election), had been engulfed in a vast ocean of more than 33 trillion Facebook posts in people’s news feeds – 413 million times more than the IRA posts. Not to mention the lack of evidence that the IRA was the Russian government, as Mueller claimed.
In exposing that chicanery, prize-winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter commented:
“The descent of The New York Times into this unprecedented level of propagandizing for the narrative of Russia’s threat to U.S. democracy is dramatic evidence of a broader problem of abuses by corporate media … Greater awareness of the dishonesty at the heart of the Times’ coverage of that issue is a key to leveraging media reform and political change.”
Nothingburgers With Russian Dressing: the Backstory
“It’s too much; it’s just too much, too much”, a sedated, semi-conscious Robert Parry kept telling me from his hospital bed in late January 2018 a couple of days before he died. Bob was founder of Consortium News.
It was already clear what Bob meant; he had taken care to see to that. On Dec. 31, 2017 the reason for saying that came in what he titled “An Apology & Explanation” for “spotty production in recent days.” A stroke on Christmas Eve had left Bob with impaired vision, but he was able to summon enough strength to write an Apologia — his vision for honest journalism and his dismay at what had happened to his profession before he died on Jan. 27, 2018. The dichotomy was “just too much”.
Parry rued the role that journalism was playing in the “unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington. … Facts and logic no longer mattered. It was a case of using whatever you had to diminish and destroy your opponent … this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media.”
What bothered Bob most was the needless, dishonest tweaking of the Russian bear. “The U.S. media’s approach to Russia,” he wrote, “is now virtually 100 percent propaganda. Does any sentient human being read The New York Times’ or The Washington Post’s coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts? … Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia.”
Parry, who was no conservative, continued:
“Liberals are embracing every negative claim about Russia just because elements of the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency produced a report last Jan. 6 that blamed Russia for ‘hacking’ Democratic emails and releasing them to WikiLeaks.”
Bob noted that the ‘hand-picked’ authors “evinced no evidence and even admitted that they weren’t asserting any of this as fact.”
It was just too much.
Robert Parry’s Last Article
Bob posted his last substantive article on Dec. 13, 2017, the day after text exchanges between senior FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were made public. (Typically, readers of The New York Times the following day would altogether miss the importance of the text-exchanges.)
Bob Parry rarely felt any need for a “sanity check.” Dec. 12, 2017 was an exception. He called me about the Strzok-Page texts; we agreed they were explosive. FBI Agent Peter Strzok was on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff investigating alleged Russian interference, until Mueller removed him.
Strzok reportedly was a “hand-picked” FBI agent taking part in the Jan 2017 evidence-impoverished, rump, misnomered “intelligence community” assessment that blamed Russia for hacking and other election meddling. And he had helped lead the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her computer servers. Page was Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s right-hand lawyer.
His Dec. 13, 2017 piece would be his fourth related article in less than two weeks; it turned out to be his last substantive article. All three of the earlier ones are worth a re-read as examples of fearless, unbiased, perceptive journalism. Here are the links.
Bob began his article on the Strzok-Page bombshell:
“The disclosure of fiercely anti-Trump text messages between two romantically involved senior FBI officials who played key roles in the early Russia-gate inquiry has turned the supposed Russian-election-meddling “scandal” into its own scandal, by providing evidence that some government investigators saw it as their duty to block or destroy Donald Trump’s presidency.?
“As much as the U.S. mainstream media has mocked the idea that an American ‘deep state’ exists and that it has maneuvered to remove Trump from office, the text messages between senior FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page reveal how two high-ranking members of the government’s intelligence/legal bureaucracy saw their role as protecting the United States from an election that might elevate to the presidency someone as unfit as Trump.”
Not a fragment of Bob’s or other Consortium News analysis made any impact on what Bob used to call the Establishment media. As a matter of fact, eight months later during a talk in Seattle that I titled “Russia-gate: Can You Handle the Truth?”, only three out of a very progressive audience of some 150 had ever heard of Strzok and Page.
And so it goes.
Lest I am accused of being “in Putin’s pocket,” let me add the explanatory note that we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity included in our most explosive Memorandum for President Trump, on “Russian hacking.”
Full Disclosure: Over recent decades the ethos of our intelligence profession has eroded in the public mind to the point that agenda-free analysis is deemed well nigh impossible. Thus, we add this disclaimer, which applies to everything we in VIPS say and do: We have no political agenda; our sole purpose is to spread truth around and, when necessary, hold to account our former intelligence colleagues.
We speak and write without fear or favor. Consequently, any resemblance between what we say and what presidents, politicians and pundits say is purely coincidental. The fact we find it is necessary to include that reminder speaks volumes about these highly politicized times.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years, he served as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and as a downtown morning briefer of the President’s Daily Brief.