Archive for the ‘Media and Russia’ category

Iran will leave Syria, Iraq only if Baghdad, Damascus want it, aide to Khamenei says

July 13, 2018

Reuters Staff July 13, 2018 Writing by Parisa Hafezi, editing by Larry King

Source Link: Iran will leave Syria, Iraq only if Baghdad, Damascus want it, aide to Khamenei says

Bonus Link: After a week of Russian propaganda, I was questioning everything

{I think the USA and Israel might have something to say about that. Besides, anyone smell the Russian propaganda? – LS}

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A top aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that Iran would immediately withdraw its “military advisers” from Syria and Iraq only if their governments wanted it to.

“Iran and Russia’s presence in Syria will continue to protect the country against terrorist groups and America’s aggression … We will immediately leave if Iraqi and Syrian governments want it, not because of Israel and America’s pressure,” said Ali Akbar Velayati in a conference in Moscow.

Iran and Russia back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war.

{Back Syria in civil war?  How about helping Assad murder more of his own people while displacing millions more.  Put that in your morality pipe and smoke it. – LS}

Fusion GPS and How the News Gets Made

July 23, 2017

Fusion GPS and How the News Gets Made, The Point (Front Page Magazine), Daniel Greenfield, July 23, 2017

(Please see also, FBI relies on discredited dossier in Russia investigation. A co-founder of Fusion Fusion GPS, which wrote the “Trump dossier,” has refused to testify before the Congress.– DM)

The Fusion GPS scandal is a shocking example of how the media sausage really gets made

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Lee Smith has an extensive hardhitting piece at the Tablet on Fusion GPS and what the media has become. I’m going to excerpt a few relevant sections. Not necessarily in order.

On Wednesday, three major news organization published variations of the same story—about the line of succession to the Saudi throne. It seems that in June the son of King Salman, Mohammed Bin Salman, muscled his cousin Mohammed Bin Nayef out of the way to become the Crown Prince and next in line.

It’s a juicy narrative with lots of insider-y details about Saudi power politics, drug addiction, and the ambitions of a large and very wealthy family, but the most salient fact is that the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Reuters published what was essentially the same story, with minor variations, on the same day—not a breaking news story, but an investigative feature.

In other words, these media organizations were used as part of an information campaign targeting Riyadh, for as yet unknown reasons. Who’s behind it? Maybe an opposition research shop like Fusion GPS, or a less formal gathering of interests, like Saudi opponents foreign and domestic, as well as American intelligence officials.

The same likely goes for the flurry of media pieces claiming that the crisis with Qatar was caused by UAE hacking. That nonsense piece of Qatari propoaganda is seemingly even being promoted in paid Google ads.

Smith’s larger point is that the news is increasingly a series of hit pieces. While that’s obvious to most conservatives and independents, he discusses how organizations like Fusion GPS create them.

Fusion GPS was founded in 2009—before the social media wave destroyed most of the remaining structures of 20th-century American journalism—by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. They picked up former colleagues from the Journal, Tom Catan, and Neil King, Jr., who were also well-respected by their peers. When the social media wave hit two years later, print media’s last hopes for profitability vanished, and Facebook became the actual publisher of most of the news that Americans consumed. Opposition research and comms shops like Fusion GPS became the news-rooms—with investigative teams and foreign bureaus—that newspapers could no longer afford….

Fusion GPS, according to the company’s website, offers “a cross-disciplinary approach with expertise in media, politics, regulation, national security, and global markets.” What does that mean, exactly? “They were hired by a sheikh in the UAE after he was toppled in a coup and waged an information war against his brother,” one well-respected reporter who has had dealings with the company told me. “I believe they seeded the New Yorker story about the Trump Hotel in Azerbaijan with alleged connections to the IRGC. They may have been hired to look into Carlos Slim. It’s amazing how much copy they generate. They’re really effective.”

Yet it is rare to read stories about comms shops like Fusion GPS because traditional news organizations are reluctant to bite the hands that feed them. But they are the news behind the news—well known to every D.C. beat reporter as the sources who set the table and provide the sources for their big “scoops.”

The garbage media story you’re reading wasn’t even created by the reporters whose byline is on it. It was quite possibly created and hand fed by outside experts. Obviously this isn’t a new phenomenon. But the scale and the scope of it is. None other than Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Goebbels, bragged how little reporters [k]now and how easy it’s become to feed them material.

Something like Fusion GPS takes the White House operation that Ben Rhodes ran and makes it acceptable to countries and various interests.

Essentially we have what amounts to PR firms writing major media stories. And driving the narrative.

There is no accurate accounting of how many of the stories you read in the news are the fruit of opposition research, because no journalist wants to admit how many of their top “sources” are just information packagers—which is why the blinding success of Fusion GPS is the least-covered media story in America right now.

This is something to remember as the media throws another fit about how any criticism of it is a threat to the First Amendment. What the media increasingly is, is a space for assorted activists, for profit and non-profit, to run their narratives.

Much of the media’s new blood know nothing except how to tweet sarcastic animated GIFs and to have the right left-wing politics. The media isn’t a free press. It’s a monopoly run for the benefit of special interests.

The Fusion GPS scandal is a shocking example of how the media sausage really gets made.

Assess This

July 15, 2017

Assess This, Power LineScott Johnson, July 15, 2017

Even this “eyes only” document must have left ambiguity about Putin’s “audacious objectives.” There is a rather big difference between the objective of damaging Hillary Clinton and the objective of defeating her. Given the unidentified sources of the leaks behind this revelation, however, one would have to be a fool to take the contents of the report or the validity of its assessments on faith.

One should think that the credibility of former government officials who betray their oaths to leak such information would be in question. Color me cynical. For whatever reason, however, the Post expresses no reservations regarding the credibility of these officials.

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Did Putin prefer Trump in the presidential election of 2016? According to the intelligence report dated January 6, 2017, Putin not only preferred Trump to Clinton. He mounted a so-called influence campaign to put him over. The report is posted online here.

Issued under the auspices of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the report is based on the intelligence and assessments of the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The report as released constitutes the “declassified version of a highly classified assessment that has been provided to the President and to recipients approved by the President.”

The authors of the declassified version of the report state that their conclusions “are all reflected in the classified assessment,” although “the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.” Our own ability to evaluate the report is necessarily limited by what has been disclosed to the public.

The report conforms to the line put out by Hillary Clinton’s communications team in the immediate aftermath of Clinton’s shocking loss. Perhaps that is a coincidence, or perhaps the Clintonistas were on to something.

The report also comports with the line peddled by former Obama administration officials who frequently retailed politicized “narratives” manufactured to support counterintuitive administration policies. See, for example, the long Washington Post article “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault.”

The former Obama administration officials feeding the Post feel free to blow such highly classified information as the administration’s putative cyber efforts against Russia. Trump administration officials decried the leaks to Adam Kredo for his Washington Free Beacon article on the subject.

The Washington Post article contains hints of the “highly classified” information that was omitted from the declassified version of the report. According to the Post, in August 2016 the CIA hand delivered an “eyes only” report “drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.”

The Post continued: “The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump” (emphasis added).

Even this “eyes only” document must have left ambiguity about Putin’s “audacious objectives.” There is a rather big difference between the objective of damaging Hillary Clinton and the objective of defeating her. Given the unidentified sources of the leaks behind this revelation, however, one would have to be a fool to take the contents of the report or the validity of its assessments on faith.

One should think that the credibility of former government officials who betray their oaths to leak such information would be in question. Color me cynical. For whatever reason, however, the Post expresses no reservations regarding the credibility of these officials.

The Post’s long article reminded me of the dialogue Woody Allen wrote for his voiceover spy parody What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? at the point where one character shows spy hero Phil Moscowitz a printed floor plan and explains: “This is Shepherd Wong’s home.” Moscowitz asks: “He lives in that piece of paper?” In the Post story, the lowdown on Putin lives in the piece of paper stuffed into the envelope transmitted by courier from the CIA to President Obama under extraordinary handling restrictions.

If we turn back to the declassified report to arrive at our own conclusions, we are underwhelmed by the presentation. It is, shall we say, thin.

Referring to the agencies’ finding that Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Trump win the election — a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence” — the Russian American journalist Masha Gessen (no friend of Trump) put it this way in her hilariously derisive account posted on January 9 at the site of the New York Review of Books:

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports.

But the real problems come with the findings themselves….

The report is so poorly written that it makes for painful reading. Gessen makes this point and advances her analysis as well:

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. Take, for example, this phrase: “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.” I think, though I cannot be sure, that the authors of the report are speculating that Moscow gave the products of its hacking operation to WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is known as a reliable source. The next line, however, makes this speculation unnecessary: “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

Or consider this: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.” Did Putin’s desire to discredit Clinton stem from his own public statements, or are the intelligence agencies basing their appraisal of Putin’s motives on his public statements? Logic suggests the latter, but grammar indicates the former. The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

Gessen observes at one point: “That is the entirety of the evidence the report offers to support its estimation of Putin’s motives for allegedly working to elect Trump: conjecture based on other politicians in other periods, on other continents—and also on misreported or mistranslated public statements.”

Along with disparaging comments on Trump, Gessen concludes that the report “suggests that the US intelligence agencies’ Russia expertise is weak and throws into question their ability to process and present information[.]” I won’t try to summarize Gessen’s devastating assessment of the report. You really have to read the whole thing.

Power Line readers are probably already familiar with Andy McCarthy’s invaluable assessment of the report in his NRO column “Missing from the intelligence report: The word ‘Podesta.’” It too is necessary reading.

Oh No! Trump Jr., Jared Kushner Met With Russian Lawyer!

July 9, 2017

Oh No! Trump Jr., Jared Kushner Met With Russian Lawyer!, PJ MediaMichael Van Der Galien, July 9, 2017

(It appears that the meeting may have been set up by Democrat operatives to create an impression of improper collusion.

The president’s legal team said Saturday they believe the entire meeting may have been part of a larger election-year opposition effort aimed at creating the appearance of improper connections between Trump family members and Russia that also included a now-discredited intelligence dossier produced by a former British intelligence agent named Christopher Steele who worked for a U.S. political firm known as Fusion GPS.

Oh well.  — DM)

Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of The Trump Organization, discusses the expansion of Trump hotels, Monday, June 5, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of US President Donald Trump, along with Paul Manafort, Trump’s presidential campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, met with a Russian lawyer to discuss the suspended program of adoption of children from Russia by US citizens during 2016 election campaign, local media reported Saturday.

Look at those danged traitors! Trying to revive an adoption program for poor Russian children! How dare they bring those future KGBFSB-officers to the grand U.S. of A?

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The left is convinced that they finally have their smoking gun.

Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.

According to the New York Times, this is the first confirmed private meeting between members of Trump’s inner circle and the Russians. And, of course, the truly big news is that both his son Donald Trump Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were involved.

Oh, my. Lock them up! Lock them up!

Well, wait. Not so fast:

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of US President Donald Trump, along with Paul Manafort, Trump’s presidential campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, met with a Russian lawyer to discuss the suspended program of adoption of children from Russia by US citizens during 2016 election campaign, local media reported Saturday.

Donald Trump Jr. explains:

It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up.

Look at those danged traitors! Trying to revive an adoption program for poor Russian children! How dare they bring those future KGBFSB-officers to the grand U.S. of A?

All kidding aside, though, this is yet another example of a nothing-burger in RussiaGate. The left continues to desperately search for smoking guns, for evidence that Team Trump and the Kremlin worked together, somehow, to beat Hillary Clinton. The only reason they do so is that they can’t accept what’s obvious to everybody else: that Hillary lost because she was a terrible candidate. Russia obviously interfered in the election in an attempt to sow chaos and mistrust, yes, but Hillary ended up losing because of who she is. Somehow, this fact — that’s rather obvious to any reasonable human being — is lost on the left. There must have been hacks. Trump must have worked with Russia. There has to be a smoking gun. And so they continue their obvious search for anything barely resembling evidence.

 

Kushner Added to Russian Conspiracy Theory

May 30, 2017

Kushner Added to Russian Conspiracy Theory, Front Page MagazineMatthew Vadum, May 30, 2017

News consumers are now suffering through the practiced, hyperbolic, omnipresent outrage that follows revelations that presidential adviser Jared Kushner allegedly tried to create what the New York Times is calling “a secret channel between his father-in-law’s transition team and Moscow to discuss the war in Syria and other issues.”

According to the leaders of the ongoing witch hunt against the Trump administration, Kushner even had the temerity during the presidential transition process to exchange words with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

This supposedly important news about Kushner put the White House in panic mode, we are told by our betters in the media, forcing Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus to return prematurely from a presidential trip overseas to control the public relations damage.

The fateful conversation took place on Trump’s home turf, according to the Old Gray Lady:

The discussion took place at Trump Tower at a meeting that also included Michael T. Flynn, who served briefly as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser until being forced out when it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about a separate telephone conversation he had with Mr. Kislyak. It was unclear who first proposed the secret communications channel, but the idea was for Mr. Flynn to speak directly with a Russian military official. The channel was never set up.

And that’s all of it. There was a meeting. No deals came out of this Russian round table. No evidence exists of nefarious activities. No quid pro quo. Nothing. It is yet another nothing burger in a long series of nothing burgers.

A late-breaking Fox News story Monday night absolves Kushner of responsibility for the back channel proposal, indicating the idea came from the Russians.

The December meeting between Kushner and Kislyak “focused on Syria,” an unidentified source said.

During the meeting the Russians broached the idea of using a secure line between the Trump administration and Russia, not Kushner, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News. […] The idea of a permanent back channel was never discussed, according to the source. Instead, only a one-off for a call about Syria was raised in the conversation. In addition, the source told Fox News the December meeting focused on Russia’s contention that the Obama administration’s policy on Syria was deeply flawed.

NBC reports that Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter and fellow presidential adviser Ivanka, is reportedly being investigated by the FBI as part of the fanciful, politicized probe into supposed collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The Fox account continues:

Kushner suggested the use of Russian diplomatic facilities as a way to shield pre-inauguration discussions with Kislyak from monitoring, according to The [Washington] Post.

Kislyak allegedly then relayed the suggestion to his superiors in Moscow. That was based on intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials, although neither the meeting nor the communications of the Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials told the Post.

The source has told Fox News that Kushner is eager to tell Congress about the meeting and any others of interest.

While the investigation moves forward and the manufactured mass hysteria continues to build in Congress and the media, Americans need to be reminded that merely communicating with an unfriendly foreign power in peacetime is not an inherently seditious or even suspicious behavior. It’s the content of the discussions that matters, not the mere fact that Americans and foreign officials broke bread.

Russian envoys and other pro-Russia special pleaders routinely meet with American officials, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill and administration officials regardless of which party controls the White House.

Never mind that the virtue-signaling Barack Obama routinely reached out to hostile foreign governments –swapping five Taliban generals for a single American traitor, to provide just one notorious example of the fruit of Obama’s plotting– when he was president. Obama even wore such illicit cloak-and-dagger communications with head-cutting barbarians as a badge of honor. Democrats and their Deep State allies didn’t give a farthing’s cuss at the time.

But that was when Democrats controlled the apparatus of the American state. Now that a Republican is president the rules have been changed.

Sunday on “Meet the Press,” the Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel tried to inject some sanity into the debate, saying the current discussion is “astonishing” and “absolutely divorced from reality.”

“Let me set the scene for you,” she explained.

It’s 2008, we are having an election and candidate Obama, he’s not even president elect, sends William Miller over to Iran to establish a back channel, and let the Iranians know should he win the election they will have friendlier terms. Okay? So this is a private citizen going to foreign soil, obviously in order to evade U.S. intelligence monitoring and establishing a back channel with a sworn enemy of the United States who was actively disrupting our efforts in the military in the Middle East.

So, is that bad judgment? Is that a bad thing that happened? Back channels are completely normal, they happen all the time. Reagan did them. Obama did them. Everyone did. So, I am not quite sure why, supposedly having at least the president [who] is now elected setting up a back channel with the Russians, it is somehow out of bounds.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster had previously said much the same thing.

We have back channel communications with any number of countries, so, generally speaking, about back channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner. It doesn’t predispose you to any kind of content in that conversation.

Strassel and McMaster are right, of course.

And it was President Obama himself who openly encouraged keeping in touch with governments not aligned with the United States.

Recall the answer then-Sen. Obama gave to a question during a July 23, 2007, debate. He was asked if he would be “willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?”

Obama famously replied in the affirmative. “I would, and the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”

He added that “Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire.”

And no one colluded with Russia more than Obama when he became president.

Obama worked “behind the scenes for months to forge a new working relationship with Russia, despite the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little interest in repairing relations with Washington or halting his aggression in neighboring Ukraine,” Bloomberg News reported in 2014.

Obama advanced Russia’s interests in so many ways.

In 2009 Obama killed President Bush’s missile defense program for the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Then he renegotiated the New START nuclear arms agreement, which curbed the U.S. missile defense arsenal while letting the Russians add to theirs. In March 2012 Obama was caught on an open microphone telling then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to wait until after the upcoming election when he would be able to make even more concessions on missile defense. As Russia engaged in what one expert called the largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Obama flipped off Mitt Romney during a presidential debate. After Romney on the campaign trail referred to Russia as “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” Obama mocked him, saying “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” And Obama did virtually nothing but talk when Putin invaded Ukraine.

Obama was the most pro-Russian U.S. president of all time, which makes the Left’s conspiracy theory about Trump’s collusion with Russia seem especially far-fetched.

The claim that “Russia ‘hacked’ the American election –to the extent that it changed the outcome– never made any sense,” observes Michael Walsh, who previously described the outlandish theory as the driving force behind a “rolling coup attempt” by the Left.

This “fever dream” was “cooked up by Sore Loser Hillary and her malignant consigliere, John Podesta … [and] began its demonic life as a way to explain Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton’s astonishment and anger at losing an election all her media buddies told her was in the bag, and for which she felt sure the fix was in.”

Those of us who habitually smell rats knew right off that there was nothing to it. But from that night forward, the Clintons, the Leftist media and the Democrats have been pounding the notion that, somehow, the Russians affected the election and that Trump is corrupt, morally unfit, an imbecile and an embarrassment to America. Take a good look at their reaction, ladies and gentlemen, for not since Linda Blair rotated 360 and spewed puke on a priest have we seen such deracinated contempt.

Democrats have much to fear from the congressional investigation into the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory, he adds.

Before last November Democrats “never met a communist they didn’t like or a Russian they didn’t want to embrace.” They have “overplayed their hand” and in so doing have placed themselves in jeopardy.

“They’re so fully invested in this fairy tale that when it blows up in their faces, and another underlying reason for its concoction becomes clear, years of lamentation and wandering in the electoral wilderness should follow.”

This, of course, assumes Republicans will stand up for President Trump.

It is a risky assumption.

Leakers and Journalists Are Destroying Our Republic

May 26, 2017

Leakers and Journalists Are Destroying Our Republic, PJ MediaRoger L. Simon, May 25, 2017

(Please see also, Alan Dershowitz: Civil Liberties Threatened With Kushner Probe. Is there a “probe,” if so, what is it about and is Kushner a target? –DM)

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Points of focus that pertain to Kushner include: the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation; his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn; and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians, according to US officials [ i. e. leakers] briefed on the probe.
There is no indication Kushner is currently a target of the probe and there are no allegations he committed any wrongdoing. [bolds mine]

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Leakers and journalists are tied together like drug dealers and junkies.

Unfair analogy?  Maybe a bit, but people who live “respectable middle-class lives” can be just as dangerous, more dangerous, ultimately, than the murderous El Chapos of the world and that’s pretty bad. Only the other day some U.S. intel people or person leaked to the New York Times about the Manchester terrorist, causing news to be reported that could have instigated more Islamist child murders.

We have an epidemic of leaking in our society unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime. It’s approaching Plague level — but with no vaccine in sight.

The latest, at this typing, is that Jared Kushner is under investigation by the FBI.  Here’s the headline at CNN of an article signed by no less than four authors (it takes a village) –Evan Perez, Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz and Gloria Borger: “FBI Russia investigation looking at Kushner role.”

Uh-oh.

Who leaked that and what did they tell them about the president’s son-in-law? Has Jared been selling us out to Putin?  It certainly sounds that way.

Well, not really. Look no further than the second and third paragraph and you discover:

Points of focus that pertain to Kushner include: the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation; his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn; and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians, according to US officials [ i. e. leakers] briefed on the probe.

There is no indication Kushner is currently a target of the probe and there are no allegations he committed any wrongdoing. [bolds mine]

In other words, there’s no there there other than leaks that continue to pour out, even after the installation of the supposedly confidential investigation by Special Counsel Mueller. How repellent and, frankly, illegal is that? Has Mueller launched a leak probe of his own? He should.

For its part, CNN (as a kind of low-rent, ineffectual  Pravda)  is just cooperating in a smear job that was apparently instigated by their colleagues at frequent leak conduit NBC.  They are joined by The Hill, which, almost simultaneously, tweeted: “Jared under FBI scrutiny in Trump-Russia investigation: report.”  Note the weasel word —  report.

How would you describe these denizens of the Fourth Estate capable of this sort of sleazy behavior? ” Schmucks with Underwoods,” as was said of screenwriters in the old days of Warner Brothers? In this case, of course, the schmucks have laptops. (In those old Warner days, writers like Faulkner and Fitzgerald populated the studios.  Haven’t seen anywhere near that level of talent at  The Hill and CNN or anywhere in our media of late. But perhaps I missed something.)

So these great literary geniuses — the scions of Woodward and Bernstein (aka people who can pick up the phone) — and the leakers have a co-dependent relationship, both convincing themselves that what they are doing is for the betterment of humanity. (That’s what Hans Vaihinger called the Philosophy of As If.)  Of course, the leakers, assuming they are from our intelligence agencies, have all signed contracts swearing up and down  not to do the very thing they have done, in some cases, in all probability, multiple times. Moreover — in their putative attempt to “save the republic” (or their own jobs or get vengeance) — we have no idea whether they are telling the truth, a half-truth or no truth at all about what they are leaking. Or whether the journalists are reporting those leaks with even a modicum of accuracy.  That’s how thoroughly these symbiotic morally narcissistic partners believe in their own “goodness” and how little they really care about what the American people think or do.

So what do we do about this state of affairs in a democratic republic, assuming we are serious about having one?

Quite simply, the leakers need to go to jail with the proverbial key thrown away.  That is the only way this leaking will stop and it must stop. Prosecutions should have started months ago.  It’s hard to understand why it’s taken so long. Let’s hope we have indictments soon.  Like tomorrow.

Regarding journalists, they need an entirely new code of ethics. Unfortunately, any reader of Evelyn Waugh (not to mention anybody with a pulse) knows just how unlikely that is. It’s high time for the consumers of news to fight back tooth and nail. Anytime we see or hear the term “anonymous source” or someone “authorized to speak” only confidentially, something so common now there’s almost no reporting without it, often six or seven instances within one article or broadcast, we should simply turn off the television or throw the newspaper into the garbage, never to buy another copy.  If you’re reading it on the Internet, just click off.  You could say that’s propaganda, not journalism.  But it’s not even good propaganda.  It’s junk, information pollution, worse than 1970s smog. It also lowers your IQ five points every time you’re exposed.  You don’t need it.

And if you ever see or hear the word “Russia” again,  feel free to run screaming from the room like the subject in an Edvard Munch painting.<

The Hysteria Over Russia Is Causing Serious Foreign Policy Problems

March 8, 2017

The Hysteria Over Russia Is Causing Serious Foreign Policy Problems, The Federalist, March 8, 2017

The fifth season of “The Americans,” the FX series about two Soviet spies posing as an American couple living near Washington DC in the 1980s, began airing this week. The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus tweeted:

So excited to be watching The Americans, throwback to a simpler time when everyone considered Russia the enemy. Even the president.

It’s a funny line, but when it comes to U.S.-Russia relations, the 1980s weren’t really a simpler time, and returning to the costly threats and risks of the height of the Cold War are almost certainly not in the interests of the United States.

Yet that’s precisely what the current conspiracy theories swirling around the media-political complex could lead to. At the Center for National Interest on Tuesday, a panel of national security and Russia analysts sounded the alarm about the domestic political situation in the United States leading to a rapid deterioration of the already fragile relationship with Russia. They said the damage caused by hysteria surrounding Russia could harm potential U.S. interests in Syria, Ukraine, arms agreements, and the economy.

“There are consequences if we don’t get the relationship right,” said Paul Saunders, the executive director of CTNI. “Anyone who thinks we’re in a hostile relationship now, I would suggest there are a number of things that could be worse than they are now.”

Russian Hacking Leads to Russia Hysteria

The latest problems with Russia stem from U.S. intelligence agencies’ report, widely accepted by those who have seen the classified intelligence undergirding it, that state-involved hackers successfully spearfished John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president, and obtained documents from the Democratic National Committee. The information they gleaned was released publicly via WikiLeaks. The information was deemed “boring,” “honest and boring,” and “a damp squib” by many in the media before the election. After the surprise victory of Trump, the release of information was deemed a national security threat of the highest order.

Various media and political interests (on both sides of the aisle) are pushing for more than the current investigations against Russia. Further, despite no evidence or allegations from named sources to substantiate claims of wrongdoing, various media outlets have been suggesting illegal ties of President Trump’s foreign policy with Russia. This after months of asserting that Russia “hacked” not just Democratic political operatives but the very election itself.

A general air of hysteria has enveloped Washington’s political and media class. CNN.com’s front page on Sunday and Monday featured a large red-washed image of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square. In front of St. Basil’s were a photoshopped Mike Flynn, Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Vladimir Putin, and Ambassador Kislyak. Subtle!

The large type at the top of the page read “Russia mystery threatens to consume DC.” Other top headlines included:

  • White House can’t seem to shake off the Russian drama
  • Trump and Russia: What fallout could be
  • Trump’s hidden taxes fuel Russia rumors
  • President’s own actions reignite a Russian obsession
  • What the massive fallout could be politically and legally
  • CNN/ORC poll: Most back special prosecutor to investigate Russia
  • Russian glee over Trump’s election gives way to frustration
  • Is Trump’s new conspiracy theory a tactic to divert attention from Russia?

Media outlets are now writing up stories about Americans having ever met with Russians. One media outlet reported that while one Russian businessman and Donald Trump didn’t meet in October, their planes did. Yes, their planes did.

When then-Sen. Jeff Sessions was asked, in his confirmation hearing to be attorney general, about investigating claims of Russian attempts to compromise the Trump campaign, he noted that he was considered a Trump surrogate and he hadn’t had such meetings. When it turned out that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his capacity as a U.S. senator on the Armed Forces Committee, media outlets and Democratic politicians pounced, calling Kislyak a spy and demanding Sessions resign. Really.

We are in the midst of a full-blown Red Scare conspiracy theory. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the real problems caused by Russian hacking and releasing of real emails — sent by Democrats and media figures to each other — are being exacerbated for political reasons. But the consequences are not minor.

The Kislyak Slur

At the Center for the National Interest event, analysts and experts who worked for both Democrats and Republicans, and at think tanks and strategic analysis firms across the spectrum, were upset at the treatment Kislyak has been subjected to.

In a front-page story at CNN.com last week, reporters Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz, and Eli Watkins alleged that Kislyak, who has been the ambassador to the United States since 2008, is “one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington.” The reporters sourced the claim to anonymous “current and former senior US government officials.”

The claim and presentation of Kislyak was at odds with the view of those who knew him and worked with him. CTNI’s president Dimitri Simes discussed the need for a full investigation of Russian meddling as well as the problems with a leak campaign that is undermining diplomacy itself. But he strongly objected to the smears of any and all diplomatic engagement with the Russian ambassador.

“Is this an indication that the U.S. will not be capable of conducting any meaningful diplomacy?” he asked regarding the attacks on Kislyak. “Any attempt to have a meaningful conversation with nuances, if leaked to the press next morning and leaked in a very selective way, it’s very difficult to conduct meaningful diplomacy.” He warned that further demonization of Kislyak could have significant fallout for U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft. Russia could decide to shut down the access Tefft has if the media and political opponents of Trump succeed in making diplomacy with the Russian ambassador impossible.

“The job of diplomats is to facilitate as many meetings as possible with a wide spectrum of the host country’s domestic political establishment on a wide range of issues,” wrote Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, in his essay “Damage Done: How Russia Hysteria Has Hurt U.S.-Russia Relations.” In fact, while the media frets about Trump officials talking to foreign officials, the bigger problem is not enough such meetings during the transition from the Obama presidency to the early days of the Trump presidency. Foreign ministers and bureaucrats in other countries have been complaining about not knowing who their new contacts are or will be, leading to confusion and delays in productive discussions.”

Michael Haltzel, a senior fellow at at the Center for Transatlantic Relations of Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, harshly criticized Sessions for his handling of the question about contacts with Russia, but he agreed that attacks on Kislyak were unfortunate.

Wayne Merry, a veteran of the Foreign Service who was stationed in Moscow in 1993, said “
I have known Sergei Kislyak, I totally agree that what he has been exposed to is demonization. It’s total garbage. He’s a first-class professional. He’s being treated very shabbily.”

Even John Beyrle and the excitable Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassadors to Russia during Obama’s time in office, have warned that “America’s long-term interests are not served by attempting to suggest that contacts between American officials and Russian diplomats constitutes a treasonous or criminal act.”

I should mention that I also pushed back on the claim in a CNN appearance here. In any case, far from what the anonymous sources allegedly told CNN, Kislyak is widely regarded by those who have dealt with him as a top-notch diplomat who serves his country’s interests well. His post in Washington is expected to be his last, and his treatment in his remaining time here is considered an insult by both Americans and Russians. His rumored successor Anatoly Antonov will be “a force to be reckoned with,” as Matthew Rojansky, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, has put it. Rojansky has also defended Kislyak in the media, and says he has “no indication” that Kislyak is a spy.

To What Effect?

Just as the treatment of Kislyak could result in the U.S. ambassador to Russia’s diminished standing and ability to accomplish his goals in Moscow, the general hysteria surrounding Russia might harm the United State’s serious foreign policy goals.

Syria/ISIS

While part of problem with the U.S.’ Syria policy during the previous administration was an inability to articulate U.S. interest in the region, there is some consensus about destroying ISIS and enabling refugees from the Syrian conflict to return home. Both the United States and Europe have an interest in the successful return of refugees. If the United States therefore wants a say in Syria, it will have to work with Russians to facilitate those objectives. Russia has a strong military presence, has brokered some management in the region, and has a willingness to work with partners. That means the country has to keep lines of communication and room for negotiation open. It also needs to clarify its position on Iran, since Russia views Iran as a key partner.

“If Russia and the U.S. can habituate themselves to cooperation in Syria, that can rebuild habits of cooperation that can spill over into other areas where you could see beneficial results occur,” said Gvosdev. But, he added, “that window is not going to stay open on this forever.” If the United States doesn’t make meaningful moves soon, there may not be many more opportunities before Russia, Turkey, and Iran move forward without the United States.

Ukraine

Russian aggression in Ukraine has unsettled the region for several years, both in the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass region. The United States and Europe imposed sanctions on Russia and Russians, but there is no resolution in sight. Russia is willing to keep fighting and has not buckled under the sanctions. Ukraine’s economy is suffering from lack of access to Russian markets. If the United States isn’t interested in brokering a peace, is it willing to arm Ukrainian forces and subsidize the country’s faltering economy? Is there an appetite on either the Left or Right for such intervention?

Not Going To War

The 1980s were fun, as Ruth Marcus noted above, but threat of nuclear annihilation was not so fun. Russia is not a superpower on par with the United States, but it is the only country that can take out the United States in short order. The United States needs to broker arms deals as well as encourage Russia not to get too cozy with China, forming alliances that could put U.S. interests at risk.

Economic Growth

Trade is one of the best ways to improve political relationships bilaterally. But not only is trade becoming quite difficult between Russia and the United States, on account of the sanctions, it was never a particularly deep relationship. Now there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding sanctions and how they will or won’t be enforced, a climate not conducive to business investment. Many people have argued that the “U.S. and Russia need to work on that to provide ballast and strengthen links in that relationship, creating incentives for a relationship that’s more of a practical relationship and less of a highly variable political relationship,” said Saunders, adding that the political climate is not very good for movement in that direction.

The bottom line is that the United States is embroiled in a hysterical reaction to Russian meddling in the Democratic Party that could spill over into far more serious consequences for the United States. Unless politicians and the media want the United States to have little to no leverage against ISIS or on behalf of Syrian refugees, want the United States to provide significant military and economic subsidies for Ukraine to fight Russia, are willing to risk war or proxy war with a nuclear power, and want to avoid peaceful means of improved relationships, they should think about whether pushing conspiracy theories for short-term domestic political gain is such a great idea.