24 July, 2020

RUSSIA: How Spies deceive other Spies and You!

The UK is about to change the main focus of its intelligence surveillance operations.
Was Russia involved in the Brexit referendum? Did it influence the Scottish independence referendum?
How can governments know where the main threat is? Intelligence is about deception. The agencies are not only in the business of collecting information on others, foes and friends, but of deceiving enemies.
Sometimes they are so good at deception that they fool themselves. And the Public is at the end of the whole business. It gets deception information from all sides.
So should we be surprised if governments feel the main threat comes from a smaller State while ignoring a powerful foe with a population of 1.3 billion and an economy second only to America’s? And significantly Communist countries set a premium on propaganda to subvert and undermine those they consider their strongest enemies.
So shouldn’t we be a little leery of pat answers based on old prejudices?
Science not Prejudice
Who is in charge of the Intelligence agencies? It is the public in the shape of bureaucrats and politicians. If politicians cannot always be trusted, can the top spies they place in position to run the intelligence services always be trusted? Are they always honest? Politicians come and go. bureaucrats remain. If they are not honest, what can be done?
Thus Democracies often end up being run by deceived politicians trying to control the deceiving machines of the spy community.
Take the case of the recent report on Russia by the UK Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee. This has hit the headlines because Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the publication till after the election that brought him a large majority of seats in Parliament (although a minority of popular votes.)
The politicians enquiry was conducted in the years of Prime Minister May and draws on interviews of the time and published material dating even further back.
Much information has come out since then that throws the evidence into a critical light.
The Concluding Decision.
The report has led politicians to the conclusion that the intelligence services underestimated the role of Russia in the two referendums. They say that the services did not take the danger seriously. They did not investigate thoroughly or properly.
So what must be done? In the future Russia must be analysed with more care and more money.
Is this the correct conclusion? Let us turn to the key paragraphs that leads the parliamentary rapporteurs to come to this decision.
The main sources of Russian propaganda are:
  • Broadcaster RT and Sputnik,
  • Trolls and bots on the internet,
  • Hack and Leak of important documents, as exampled in the US elections,
  • Real life interference such as giving bank loans to the French National Front party.
If this is the evidence then it is pretty thin except for one point.
  • In a footnote the Report admits that only 1300 people on average watch the Russian broadcaster, RT. Hardly enough to swing a referendum of 46 million voters.
  • Trolls and bots might increase FaceBook traffic etc but what influence do these have?
  • Did the Russians actually turn the US elections to their favour by getting the American public to vote for Donald Trump? His opponent, Hillary Clinton and her husband, seemed to have intimate relations with the Russian government.
  • As for one Russian bank making a loan to a French nationalist party, it was refused loans from all Western banks. What was it to do? What loans do other parties get from foreign-owned banks or foreign millionaires such as the oil-States?
One could contrast this with China’s success in its Unrestricted Warfare policy:
  • taking over British Steel Ltd (after massive Chinese steel dumping destroyed the viability of EU’s steel sector).
  • taking over a major sector of the UK nuclear power industry as constructors.
  • implementing of Chinese Huawei connectors into the UK communications networks. This has made the new 5G upgrade seem inevitable. But this could lay the whole network susceptible to infiltration. What better potential for spying?
Thus the Chinese have a grip on UK construction and defence materials, the energy sector and communications. How can a State build battleships and canons if the steel is controlled by foreigners? How can you compete if the lights go out? Who needs spies on the ground when you can tap into their communications?
Russian hack is ‘evidence-free’
This UK conclusion also contrast with a group of US intelligence veterans who say that when certain politicians claim a Russian hack changed the US election results, it is 'evidence-free'.
So what is the key triumph of the Russians that shows their guilt and proves they are the main foe of the West? Surely having swung the US elections in favour Donald Trump. But did they? What is the evidence?
The UK report says:
42. It was only when Russia completed a ‘hack and leak’ operation against the Democratic National Committee in the US – with the stolen emails being made public a month after the EU referendum – that it appears that the Government belatedly realised the level of threat which Russia could pose in this area, given that the risk thresholds in the Kremlin had clearly shifted, describing the US ‘hack and leak’ as a “game changer”, and admitting that “prior to what we saw in the States, [Russian interference] wasn’t generally understood as a big threat to [electoral] processes”.
43. It appears that the Intelligence Community did learn lessons from the US experience, and HMG recognised the Russian threat to the UK’s democratic processes and political discourse.
Let’s examine the ‘Game Changer‘ as it is the main ground for the report’s conclusion. The report admits here that this was an allegation in a far different league than bank loans, trolls or propaganda TV with no audiences.

FBI hierarchy fired under Trump

It was clear from the US election campaign and later events of 2017 involving the US intelligence service that corruption ran deep in the State system. Three and a half years on, we find that almost the entire intelligence superstructure has been fired.
Spying on the President
A notable exception was Admiral Rogers head of the NSA, the National Surveillance Agency. On 17 November 2016, he revealed to President-elect Trump that his staff’s communications were under illegal surveillance by both the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and the FBI (the Federal Bureau of Investigation). This is not only highly illegal but treasonous as it undermined the newly elected president.
So who is in the right, the top FBI agents or the president? The FBI mandate is to investigate US-based criminal personalities. The CIA is the external agency for intelligence. But the CIA works with friendly intelligence agencies such as the British and Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand services in the Five Eyes collaboration. These other agencies can, if the CIA requests it, tap into US citizens in the USA. Hence the CIA has track on whomsoever it wishes.
Corruption and Big Money
Where does the corruption come in? Money and power. The US spends as much on Defence and intelligence as most of the rest of the world combined. A candidate who promises to clean up the Swamp is suspect and to be eliminated.
An early manifestation of the efforts of the intelligence community to oust President Trump was the ‘Dirty Dossier‘. This, according to FBI chief Comey, alleged that Trump had been caught with prostitutes and framed by the Russians when in Moscow.
This utterly untenable tale was soon proved false. Who had fabricated this fraudulent file? Who paid for it and spread it abroad?
It was a former British spy now open for hire as an independent adviser. His name: Christopher Steele. He was found to be paid by the lawyers who worked for the Democrat National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton.
Steele’s rewriting of unsubstantiated material in the dossier were so outrageous that even the supposed subsource of the information is suing him for deformation. Steele’s defence: The material should not have been divulged as it was secret.
What else do we know about Steele? He was known as virulently anti-Trump. And he is one of the contributors to the UK Parliament’s report on Russia! Mr Christopher Steele, director of Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd, is listed as one of the five ‘external expert witnesses.’
In the US his Dirty Dossier was mischievously introduced as grounds, countersigned by FBI chiefs, to further surveille president Trump and his colleagues. Hundreds of documents have now been released showing how this fake document was used time after time in the FISA court to sustain a criminal and treasonous activity against the president. (FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that requires a court to agree to any surveillance.)
The intelligence chiefs knew the key dossier was fraudulent!
It was also used to initiate the Mueller enquiry. Over several years of investigation and multiple millions of dollars, it could not find any case for Trump being involved in illegal activity with the Russians. Some 2800 subpoenas were issued by Mueller, 500 witnesses called and 500 search warrants were executed.
The Democrats then turned to an attempted impeachment based on supposed mishandling of anti-corruption matters in Ukraine. That too failed. Why the Ukraine? A cover-up is the most obvious motive as Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden has now been declared to be a criminal suspect in what the Ukrainian president Zelensky declared may involve treason there.
So what about the key factor in the UK parliamentary report that is the real ‘game changer‘ for intelligence work to refocus on Russia? The allegation is that Russian hackers were able to penetrate the computers at the DNC and download files of Democrat leaders. These Russian hackers then allegedly passed them on to WikiLeaks who published them.
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange denied the information came from a State actor, that is, Russia. He hinted broadly that he received the data from a disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporter and DNC employee. He was later assassinated in unusual circumstances.
UK report’s main evidence
This ‘cyber hacking‘ is the key to how UK may spend its intelligence budget, so what have later investigations shown?

William Binney

One man should know. That is Wlliam Binney the former technical director at the NSA, the top surveillance agency in the world. He broke with NSA as a whistleblower, because it was taking and storing all data of Americans contrary to its statute. This is the spy-on-everyone, Stasi version of intelligence. Besides his career, his integrity cost him dear.
He examined the metadata of the supposed downloaded files. It was not hacked, he concluded. It was downloaded locally. The internet would not support the speed stamps that the data recorded. The files could not have been downloaded and transmitted over the internet, and certainly not across the Atlantic. The speed of the download was so fast it could only have been accomplished by attaching a drive into the DNC computer itself. It was an inside job.
This view was confirmed by a group of former Intelligence community experts who wrote a memo to President Donald Trump, emphasizing that the data was taken locally.
They wrote:
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Executive Summary
Forensic studies of “Russian hacking” into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computer. After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016 intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device.
Something smelt foul. The intelligence community in charge refused to make any scientific evidence to back up their political assertions. They said that no evidence had been adduced that Russians were involved. Any attempt to analyse the evidence was resisted!
Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original “Guccifer 2.0” material remains a mystery – as does the lack of any sign that the “hand-picked analysts” from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the “Intelligence Community Assessment” dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics.

They concluded:
From the information available, we conclude that the same inside-DNC, copy/leak process was used at two different times, by two different entities, for two distinctly different purposes:
-(1) an inside leak to WikiLeaks before Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, that he had DNC documents and planned to publish them (which he did on July 22) – the presumed objective being to expose strong DNC bias toward the Clinton candidacy; and
-(2) a separate leak on July 5, 2016, to pre-emptively taint anything WikiLeaks might later publish by “showing” it came from a “Russian hack.”
The second leak by ‘Guccifer 2.0’ was alleged to be a Russian or he may have been dressed up to be one using the CIA tool box. CIA Director Brennon was sacked by President Trump and his security clearance removed.
Thus it is highly unlikely that any Russians were involved at all. The FBI management refused to make a direct investigation of the DNC computers. They were never confiscated and examined by forensically. Instead, they contented themselves to have a contracted company, Crowdstrike, who worked for the DNC issue a report that was never finalised.
Secretary of State Pompeo has discussed this conclusion with Binney, as far back as 24 October 2017 when Pompeo was the new CIA Director. Is the UK parliamentary committee on Intelligence not familiar with this? Is the EU?
Given the importance of the issue it is appalling that the key ‘game changer’ issue has not been properly investigated in open Court.
The European Commission seems also to hold to the, as yet uncertain and probably untenable, idea that Russians cyber-hacked the DNC computer across the Atlantic internet. On June 2019 the Security Union Commissioner Julian King still repeated the Russian hack story as if it were a fact.
Are the UK, the EU and millions in the USA and across the world being fooled by what is easily testable Fake News?

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