TBR News August 14, 2017

Aug 14 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 14, 2017:”Here is an email from a reader who is living in Charlottesville, Virginia, site of a recent right-left confrontation. It is a first-hand comment that one would never see in the controlled American press:

’ I saw a VDO of a woman who was also present for the whole show.  She said that while the march was forming & underway, there was a police presence and they were disruptive.  Then, when the anitifa (the left wing ed.) took to the streets,  the police vanished.

She confirmed it was totally the leftists who started the shit and the permitted protesters who were defending themselves.  What are you supposed to do when some jerk is spraying mace in your face and the police are standing down?

Not react?

But that isn’t the way it will be portrayed in the left wing press.

The assholes are releasing the mob.’”


Table of Contents

  • Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You
  • A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack
  • Russia-gate’s Fatally Flawed Logic
  • China suspends North Korean iron, seafood imports over missile tests
  • ‘Brink of civil war’? American divide reaches boiling point under Trump
  • Iraq’s Kurds stick to independence vote despite U.S. request to postpone it

 Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Antiwar.com has a sterling record of being right

August 14, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


One of the most gratifying – and, simultaneously, frustrating – aspects of my job is the rapidity with which I’m proven right. Yes, I know how that sounds, and yet it’s true. The latest example is my Friday column, in which I challenged the veracity of reports that North Korea has the capacity to strike US targets with a nuclearized ICBM. Based on a “leak” from the intelligence community, we were told by the Washington Post that a miniaturized nuclear warhead could be landing on American soil at any moment. So I asked the question that almost no one was asking: How do we know this is true? After all, the Post story was based on a single sentence from an intelligence “assessment” that was read to a reporter over the phone! The answer, I concluded, is that we don’t know, and can’t know. We’re left in the dark.

The next day Newsweek revealed that the vaunted ICBMs supposedly developed by North Korea are a “hoax” – their word. Reporter Nine Burleigh writes:

“As President Donald Trump escalates his war of words against North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, a team of independent rocket experts has asserted that the two rockets the rogue regime launched in July and described as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are incapable of delivering a nuclear payload to the continental United States, and probably not even to Anchorage, Alaska.

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology rocket expert Ted Postol and two German experts, Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Schmucker Technologie, published their findings Friday in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a paper they titled “North Korea’s ‘Not Quite’ ICBM Can’t Hit the Lower 48 States.”

According to Postol, Schiller, and Schmucker, it’s highly doubtful that the North Korean Hwasong-14 missile could reach Alaska, but even if the miniaturized warhead is a reality – another highly doubtful proposition – Kim Jong-un “will, with certainty, not be able to deliver such an atomic bomb to the lower 48 states of the United States with the rocket tested on July 3 and July 28.”

Furthermore, these three experts aver, “The flight tests on July 4 and 28 were a carefully choreographed deception by North Korea to create a false impression that the Hwasong-14 is a near-ICBM that poses a nuclear threat to the continental US.”

And we fell for it – or, at least, the mainstream media did. They did so because they’re indebted to their sources, because they invariably align themselves with the War Party, and because fear-mongering sells papers and generates clicks. They fell for it, in short, because they are natural servitors of power.

This is scary for many reasons, but especially because, as I said in my Friday column, this keeps us pretty much in the dark. With the “mainstream” media pushing its own agenda, collaborating with its Deep State sources – who have their own political agenda – we really are running blind. We can’t separate truth from fiction because the distinction has disappeared.

Nothing illustrates this more dramatically than the “Russia-gate” fantasy at the center of the mainstream media’s coverage for the past year. This, too, is a hoax, albeit one that has been harder to debunk on account of its sheer vagueness. We’re told that the Russians stole the election from Hillary Clinton and handed it to Trump – but where’s the evidence? We’ve been treated to a couple of rather sketchy “reports” from the misnamed intelligence community, but these are thin gruel indeed, merely a reiteration of how RT, the Russian state-owned station, said mean things about Hillary, and how Russian “bots” supposedly swarmed our collective consciousness to mysteriously tilt the election in Trump’s favor.

This is transparently nonsensical, and yet it is the foundational myth upon which multiple investigations rest. And of course anyone who challenges this narrative is accused of “defending Trump,” even if you’re Glenn Greenwald, or Michael Tracey, or some other left-leaning writer with the old-fashioned habit of demanding evidence for the bald assertions of government officials.

We here at Antiwar.com have been in the forefront of the skeptics, citing the dissents of cyber-warfare experts and others who have documented the gaping holes in the conspiracy theory constructed by the Putin-did-it crowd. And now the evidence for an alternative theory – that the “hacking” of the Democratic National Committee was an inside job – is piling up to the point where it can no longer be ignored.

A recent article in The Nation – hardly a pro-Trump publication – summarizes the results of an investigation by a group of independent researchers, who, in coordination with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), have examined the forensics of the alleged “hack.”

The researchers, most of them former intelligence officials, have concluded


“There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year – not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak – a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.

“Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source – claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.”

What’s the evidence for this? First of all, the download time. The amount of time it would have taken to transfer the allegedly “hacked” material to a remote location – Romania – simply did not match the forensic record, which the researchers managed to unlock. As The Nation puts it:

“The metadata established several facts in this regard with granular precision: On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

“These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.”

Yet more forensic evidence, the time stamps on the data, prove that the material was obtained from the DNC server at 6:45 pm, Eastern Daylight Time: the deed was done on the east coast of the United States, not in Romania, not in Russia, with the material being transferred to a thumb drive, not remotely over the Internet. Here is yet more evidence that it was done by someone with direct physical access to the DNC’s facilities: in short, by an insider.

To top it off, Guccifer ran the material through “a Russianified [W]ord document with Russian language settings and style headings,” as one researcher put it. Just to give it that “Putin-did-it” look.

So once again our skepticism of the groupthink emanating from Washington and the “mainstream” media has been confirmed. And this time, it looks like the massive Russia-gate propaganda campaign is faltering in the face of strong conflicting evidence: it’s too credible to be ignored. The truth is getting out there, however slowly and haltingly.

Speaking of the truth, we here at Antiwar.com have been speaking truth to power since 1995, challenging and debunking the War Party’s lies. We did it in the run up to the Iraq war, when we – almost alone – said that the rationale for the invasion was bunk, and that the results would be just what they are today – a horrific disaster on an immense scale.

We said the Afghan invasion would turn into a quagmire – and remember that back then this was being said by exactly no one. I was viciously attacked by neoconservative enforcer David Frum in the pages of National Review for making what turned out to be an entirely accurate prediction. “The real quagmire awaits us,”I wrote:

“When the history books are written, Operation Enduring Freedom will be hailed as a great success – provided it doesn’t endure much more than a few weeks longer.”

According to Frum, this made me a traitor who had turned his back on his country and was siding with terrorists. I didn’t mind – because I knew I’d be proved right in the end.

Unfortunately, thousands had to die and trillions in taxpayers dollars had to be flushed down the toilet before I was vindicated – but, hey, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

That was many years ago, and the situation is much different today – in part, I believe, due to Antiwar.com. Of course we don’t take credit for the shift in public opinion as far as foreign wars are concerned – but it’s safe to say we’ve had a not insignificant effect on the national dialogue. I think we popularized the term “neocon” almost single-handedly, and our exposure of the Niger uranium forgery – remember that? – was another coup.


A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack

Former NSA experts say it wasn’t a hack at all, but a leak—an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system.

August 9, 2017

by Patrick Lawrence

The Nation

It is now a year since the Democratic National Committee’s mail system was compromised—a year since events in the spring and early summer of 2016 were identified as remote hacks and, in short order, attributed to Russians acting in behalf of Donald Trump. A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters. Last week news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury, which issued its first subpoenas on August 3. Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment.

The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice, Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget. In retaliation, Moscow has announced that the United States must cut its embassy staff by roughly two-thirds. All sides agree that relations between the United States and Russia are now as fragile as they were during some of the Cold War’s worst moments. To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole.

All this was set in motion when the DNC’s mail server was first violated in the spring of 2016 and by subsequent assertions that Russians were behind that “hack” and another such operation, also described as a Russian hack, on July 5. These are the foundation stones of the edifice just outlined. The evolution of public discourse in the year since is worthy of scholarly study: Possibilities became allegations, and these became probabilities. Then the probabilities turned into certainties, and these evolved into what are now taken to be established truths. By my reckoning, it required a few days to a few weeks to advance from each of these stages to the next. This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.

We are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception.

Lost in a year that often appeared to veer into our peculiarly American kind of hysteria is the absence of any credible evidence of what happened last year and who was responsible for it. It is tiresome to note, but none has been made available. Instead, we are urged to accept the word of institutions and senior officials with long records of deception. These officials profess “high confidence” in their “assessment” as to what happened in the spring and summer of last year—this standing as their authoritative judgment. Few have noticed since these evasive terms first appeared that an assessment is an opinion, nothing more, and to express high confidence is an upside-down way of admitting the absence of certain knowledge. This is how officials avoid putting their names on the assertions we are so strongly urged to accept—as the record shows many of them have done.

We come now to a moment of great gravity.

There has been a long effort to counter the official narrative we now call “Russiagate.” This effort has so far focused on the key events noted above, leaving numerous others still to be addressed. Until recently, researchers undertaking this work faced critical shortcomings, and these are to be explained. But they have achieved significant new momentum in the past several weeks, and what they have done now yields very consequential fruit. Forensic investigators, intelligence analysts, system designers, program architects, and computer scientists of long experience and strongly credentialed are now producing evidence disproving the official version of key events last year. Their work is intricate and continues at a kinetic pace as we speak. But its certain results so far are two, simply stated, and freighted with implications:

  • There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year—not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak—a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.
  • Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source—claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.

This article is based on an examination of the documents these forensic experts and intelligence analysts have produced, notably the key papers written over the past several weeks, as well as detailed interviews with many of those conducting investigations and now drawing conclusions from them. Before proceeding into this material, several points bear noting.

One, there are many other allegations implicating Russians in the 2016 political process. The work I will now report upon does not purport to prove or disprove any of them. Who delivered documents to WikiLeaks? Who was responsible for the “phishing” operation penetrating John Podesta’s e-mail in March 2016? We do not know the answers to such questions. It is entirely possible, indeed, that the answers we deserve and must demand could turn out to be multiple: One thing happened in one case, another thing in another. The new work done on the mid-June and July 5 events bears upon all else in only one respect. We are now on notice: Given that we now stand face to face with very considerable cases of duplicity, it is imperative that all official accounts of these many events be subject to rigorously skeptical questioning. Do we even know that John Podesta’s e-mail address was in fact “phished”? What evidence of this has been produced? Such rock-bottom questions as these must now be posed in all other cases.

Two, houses built on sand and made of cards are bound to collapse, and there can be no surprise that the one resting atop the “hack theory,” as we can call the prevailing wisdom on the DNC events, appears to be in the process of doing so. Neither is there anything far-fetched in a reversal of the truth of this magnitude. American history is replete with similar cases. The Spanish sank the Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898. Iran’s Mossadegh was a Communist. Guatemala’s Árbenz represented a Communist threat to the United States. Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh was a Soviet puppet. The Sandinistas were Communists. The truth of the Maine, a war and a revolution in between, took a century to find the light of day, whereupon the official story disintegrated. We can do better now. It is an odd sensation to live through one of these episodes, especially one as big as Russiagate. But its place atop a long line of precedents can no longer be disputed.

Forensic investigators, prominent among them people with decades’ experience at high levels in our national-security institutions, have put a body of evidence on a table previously left empty.

Three, regardless of what one may think about the investigations and conclusions I will now outline—and, as noted, these investigations continue—there is a bottom line attaching to them. We can even call it a red line. Under no circumstance can it be acceptable that the relevant authorities—the National Security Agency, the Justice Department (via the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and the Central Intelligence Agency—leave these new findings without reply. Not credibly, in any case. Forensic investigators, prominent among them people with decades’ experience at high levels in these very institutions, have put a body of evidence on a table previously left empty. Silence now, should it ensue, cannot be written down as an admission of duplicity, but it will come very close to one.

It requires no elaboration to apply the above point to the corporate media, which have been flaccidly satisfied with official explanations of the DNC matter from the start.

Qualified experts working independently of one another began to examine the DNC case immediately after the July 2016 events. Prominent among these is a group comprising former intelligence officers, almost all of whom previously occupied senior positions. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), founded in 2003, now has 30 members, including a few associates with backgrounds in national-security fields other than intelligence. The chief researchers active on the DNC case are four: William Binney, formerly the NSA’s technical director for world geopolitical and military analysis and designer of many agency programs now in use; Kirk Wiebe, formerly a senior analyst at the NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center; Edward Loomis, formerly technical director in the NSA’s Office of Signal Processing; and Ray McGovern, an intelligence analyst for nearly three decades and formerly chief of the CIA’s Soviet Foreign Policy Branch. Most of these men have decades of experience in matters concerning Russian intelligence and the related technologies. This article reflects numerous interviews with all of them conducted in person, via Skype, or by telephone.

The customary VIPS format is an open letter, typically addressed to the president. The group has written three such letters on the DNC incident, all of which were first published by Robert Parry at www.consortiumnews.com. Here is the latest, dated July 24; it blueprints the forensic work this article explores in detail. They have all argued that the hack theory is wrong and that a locally executed leak is the far more likely explanation. In a letter to Barack Obama dated January 17, three days before he left office, the group explained that the NSA’s known programs are fully capable of capturing all electronic transfers of data. “We strongly suggest that you ask NSA for any evidence it may have indicating that the results of Russian hacking were given to WikiLeaks,” the letter said. “If NSA cannot produce such evidence—and quickly—this would probably mean it does not have any.”

The day after Parry published this letter, Obama gave his last press conference as president, at which he delivered one of the great gems among the official statements on the DNC e-mail question. “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking,” the legacy-minded Obama said, “were not conclusive.” There is little to suggest the VIPS letter prompted this remark, but it is typical of the linguistic tap-dancing many officials connected to the case have indulged so as to avoid putting their names on the hack theory and all that derives from it.

Until recently there was a serious hindrance to the VIPS’s work, and I have just suggested it. The group lacked access to positive data. It had no lump of cyber-material to place on its lab table and analyze, because no official agency had provided any.

Donald Rumsfeld famously argued with regard to the WMD question in Iraq, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” In essence, Binney and others at VIPS say this logic turns upside down in the DNC case: Based on the knowledge of former officials such as Binney, the group knew that (1) if there was a hack and (2) if Russia was responsible for it, the NSA would have to have evidence of both. Binney and others surmised that the agency and associated institutions were hiding the absence of evidence behind the claim that they had to maintain secrecy to protect NSA programs. “Everything that they say must remain classified is already well-known,” Binney said in an interview. “They’re playing the Wizard of Oz game.”

New findings indicate this is perfectly true, but until recently the VIPS experts could produce only “negative evidence,” as they put it: The absence of evidence supporting the hack theory demonstrates that it cannot be so. That is all VIPS had. They could allege and assert, but they could not conclude: They were stuck demanding evidence they did not have—if only to prove there was none.

Research into the DNC case took a fateful turn in early July, when forensic investigators who had been working independently began to share findings and form loose collaborations.

Research into the DNC case took a fateful turn in early July, when forensic investigators who had been working independently began to share findings and form loose collaborations wherein each could build on the work of others. In this a small, new website called www.disobedientmedia.com proved an important catalyst. Two independent researchers selected it, Snowden-like, as the medium through which to disclose their findings. One of these is known as Forensicator and the other as Adam Carter. On July 9, Adam Carter sent Elizabeth Vos, a co-founder of Disobedient Media, a paper by the Forensicator that split the DNC case open like a coconut.

By this time Binney and the other technical-side people at VIPS had begun working with a man named Skip Folden. Folden was an IT executive at IBM for 33 years, serving 25 years as the IT program manager in the United States. He has also consulted for Pentagon officials, the FBI, and the Justice Department. Folden is effectively the VIPS group’s liaison to Forensicator, Adam Carter, and other investigators, but neither Folden nor anyone else knows the identity of either Forensicator or Adam Carter. This bears brief explanation.

The Forensicator’s July 9 document indicates he lives in the Pacific Time Zone, which puts him on the West Coast. His notes describing his investigative procedures support this. But little else is known of him. Adam Carter, in turn, is located in England, but the name is a coy pseudonym: It derives from a character in a BBC espionage series called Spooks. It is protocol in this community, Elizabeth Vos told me in a telephone conversation this week, to respect this degree of anonymity. Kirk Wiebe, the former SIGINT analyst at the NSA, thinks Forensicator could be “someone very good with the FBI,” but there is no certainty. Unanimously, however, all the analysts and forensics investigators interviewed for this column say Forensicator’s advanced expertise, evident in the work he has done, is unassailable. They hold a similarly high opinion of Adam Carter’s work.

Forensicator is working with the documents published by Guccifer 2.0, focusing for now on the July 5 intrusion into the DNC server. The contents of Guccifer’s files are known—they were published last September—and are not Forensicator’s concern. His work is with the metadata on those files. These data did not come to him via any clandestine means. Forensicator simply has access to them that others did not have. It is this access that prompts Kirk Wiebe and others to suggest that Forensicator may be someone with exceptional talent and training inside an agency such as the FBI. “Forensicator unlocked and then analyzed what had been the locked files Guccifer supposedly took from the DNC server,” Skip Folden explained in an interview. “To do this he would have to have ‘access privilege,’ meaning a key.”

What has Forensicator proven since he turned his key? How? What has work done atop Forensicator’s findings proven? How?

Forensicator’s first decisive findings, made public on July 9, concerned the volume of the supposedly hacked material and what is called the transfer rate.

Forensicator’s first decisive findings, made public in the paper dated July 9, concerned the volume of the supposedly hacked material and what is called the transfer rate—the time a remote hack would require. The metadata established several facts in this regard with granular precision: On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.

Time stamps in the metadata indicate the download occurred somewhere on the East Coast of the United States—not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone.

What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second—half what the DNC operation would need were it a hack. Other investigators have built on this finding. Folden and Edward Loomis say a survey published August 3, 2016, by www.speedtest.net/reports is highly reliable and use it as their thumbnail index. It indicated that the highest average ISP speeds of first-half 2016 were achieved by Xfinity and Cox Communications. These speeds averaged 15.6 megabytes per second and 14.7 megabytes per second, respectively. Peak speeds at higher rates were recorded intermittently but still did not reach the required 22.7 megabytes per second.

“A speed of 22.7 megabytes is simply unobtainable, especially if we are talking about a transoceanic data transfer,” Folden said. “Based on the data we now have, what we’ve been calling a hack is impossible.” Last week Forensicator reported on a speed test he conducted more recently. It tightens the case considerably. “Transfer rates of 23 MB/s (Mega Bytes per second) are not just highly unlikely, but effectively impossible to accomplish when communicating over the Internet at any significant distance,” he wrote. “Further, local copy speeds are measured, demonstrating that 23 MB/s is a typical transfer rate when using a USB–2 flash device (thumb drive).”

Time stamps in the metadata provide further evidence of what happened on July 5. The stamps recording the download indicate that it occurred in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone at approximately 6:45 pm. This confirms that the person entering the DNC system was working somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. In theory the operation could have been conducted from Bangor or Miami or anywhere in between—but not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone. Combined with Forensicator’s findings on the transfer rate, the time stamps constitute more evidence that the download was conducted locally, since delivery overheads—conversion of data into packets, addressing, sequencing times, error checks, and the like—degrade all data transfers conducted via the Internet, more or less according to the distance involved.

“It’s clear,” another forensics investigator wrote, “that metadata was deliberately altered and documents were deliberately pasted into a Russianified [W]ord document with Russian language settings and style headings.”

In addition, there is the adulteration of the documents Guccifer 2.0 posted on June 15, when he made his first appearance. This came to light when researchers penetrated what Folden calls Guccifer’s top layer of metadata and analyzed what was in the layers beneath. They found that the first five files Guccifer made public had each been run, via ordinary cut-and-paste, through a single template that effectively immersed them in what could plausibly be cast as Russian fingerprints. They were not: The Russian markings were artificially inserted prior to posting. “It’s clear,” another forensics investigator self-identified as HET, wrote in a report on this question, “that metadata was deliberately altered and documents were deliberately pasted into a Russianified [W]ord document with Russian language settings and style headings.”

To be noted in this connection: The list of the CIA’s cyber-tools WikiLeaks began to release in March and labeled Vault 7 includes one called Marble that is capable of obfuscating the origin of documents in false-flag operations and leaving markings that point to whatever the CIA wants to point to. (The tool can also “de-obfuscate” what it has obfuscated.) It is not known whether this tool was deployed in the Guccifer case, but it is there for such a use.

It is not yet clear whether documents now shown to have been leaked locally on July 5 were tainted to suggest Russian hacking in the same way the June 15 Guccifer release was. This is among several outstanding questions awaiting answers, and the forensic scientists active on the DNC case are now investigating it. In a note Adam Carter sent to Folden and McGovern last week and copied to me, he reconfirmed the corruption of the June 15 documents, while indicating that his initial work on the July 5 documents—of which much more is to be done—had not yet turned up evidence of doctoring.

In the meantime, VIPS has assembled a chronology that imposes a persuasive logic on the complex succession of events just reviewed. It is this:

  • On June 12 last year, Julian Assange announced that WikiLeaks had and would publish documents pertinent to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
  • On June 14, CrowdStrike, a cyber-security firm hired by the DNC, announced, without providing evidence, that it had found malware on DNC servers and had evidence that Russians were responsible for planting it.
  • On June 15, Guccifer 2.0 first appeared, took responsibility for the “hack” reported on June 14 and claimed to be a WikiLeaks source. It then posted the adulterated documents just described.
  • On July 5, Guccifer again claimed he had remotely hacked DNC servers, and the operation was instantly described as another intrusion attributable to Russia. Virtually no media questioned this account.

It does not require too much thought to read into this sequence. With his June 12 announcement, Assange effectively put the DNC on notice that it had a little time, probably not much, to act preemptively against the imminent publication of damaging documents. Did the DNC quickly conjure Guccifer from thin air to create a cyber-saboteur whose fingers point to Russia? There is no evidence of this one way or the other, but emphatically it is legitimate to pose the question in the context of the VIPS chronology. WikiLeaks began publishing on July 22. By that time, the case alleging Russian interference in the 2016 elections process was taking firm root. In short order Assange would be written down as a “Russian agent.”

By any balanced reckoning, the official case purporting to assign a systematic hacking effort to Russia, the events of mid-June and July 5 last year being the foundation of this case, is shabby to the point taxpayers should ask for their money back. The Intelligence Community Assessment, the supposedly definitive report featuring the “high confidence” dodge, was greeted as farcically flimsy when issued January 6. Ray McGovern calls it a disgrace to the intelligence profession. It is spotlessly free of evidence, front to back, pertaining to any events in which Russia is implicated. James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, admitted in May that “hand-picked” analysts from three agencies (not the 17 previously reported) drafted the ICA. There is a way to understand “hand-picked” that is less obvious than meets the eye: The report was sequestered from rigorous agency-wide reviews. This is the way these people have spoken to us for the past year.

Behind the ICA lie other indefensible realities. The FBI has never examined the DNC’s computer servers—an omission that is beyond preposterous. It has instead relied on the reports produced by Crowdstrike, a firm that drips with conflicting interests well beyond the fact that it is in the DNC’s employ. Dmitri Alperovitch, its co-founder and chief technology officer, is on the record as vigorously anti-Russian. He is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, which suffers the same prejudice. Problems such as this are many.

“We continue to stand by our report,” CrowdStrike said, upon seeing the VIPS blueprint of the investigation. CrowdStrike argues that by July 5 all malware had been removed from the DNC’s computers. But the presence or absence of malware by that time is entirely immaterial, because the event of July 5 is proven to have been a leak and not a hack. Given that malware has nothing to do with leaks, CrowdStrike’s logic appears to be circular.

In effect, the new forensic evidence considered here lands in a vacuum. We now enter a period when an official reply should be forthcoming. What the forensic people are now producing constitutes evidence, however one may view it, and it is the first scientifically derived evidence we have into any of the events in which Russia has been implicated. The investigators deserve a response, the betrayed professionals who formed VIPS as the WMD scandal unfolded in 2003 deserve it, and so do the rest of us. The cost of duplicity has rarely been so high.

I concluded each of the interviews conducted for this column by asking for a degree of confidence in the new findings. These are careful, exacting people as a matter of professional training and standards, and I got careful, exacting replies.

All those interviewed came in between 90 percent and 100 percent certain that the forensics prove out. I have already quoted Skip Folden’s answer: impossible based on the data. “The laws of physics don’t lie,” Ray McGovern volunteered at one point. “It’s QED, theorem demonstrated,” William Binney said in response to my question. “There’s no evidence out there to get me to change my mind.” When I asked Edward Loomis, a 90 percent man, about the 10 percent he held out, he replied, “I’ve looked at the work and it shows there was no Russian hack. But I didn’t do the work. That’s the 10 percent. I’m a scientist.”

Editor’s note: In its chronology, VIPS mistakenly gave the wrong date for CrowdStrike’s announcement of its claim to have found malware on DNC servers. It said June 15, when it should have said June 14. VIPS has acknowledged the error, and we have made the correction.

Editor’s note: After publication, the Democratic National Committee contacted The Nation with a response, writing, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration. It’s unfortunate that The Nation has decided to join the conspiracy theorists to push this narrative.”


Russia-gate’s Fatally Flawed Logic

By pushing the Russia-gate “scandal” and neutering President Trump’s ability to conduct diplomacy, Democrats and Congress have encouraged his war-making side on North Korea

August 12, 2017

by Robert Parry

consortium news

There was always a logical flaw in pushing Russia-gate as an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s defeat – besides the fact that it was based on a dubious “assessment” by a small team of “hand-picked” U.S. intelligence analysts. The flaw was that it poked the thin-skinned Donald Trump over one of his few inclinations toward diplomacy.

We’re now seeing the results play out in a very dangerous way in Trump’s bluster about North Korea, which was included in an aggressive economic sanctions bill – along with Russia and Iran – that Congress passed nearly unanimously, without a single Democratic no vote.

Democrats and Official Washington’s dominant neocons celebrated the bill as a vote of no-confidence in Trump’s presidency but it only constrained him in possible peacemaking, not war-making.

The legislation, which Trump signed under protest, escalated tensions with those three countries while limiting Trump’s power over lifting sanctions. After signing the bill into law, Trump denounced the bill as “seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate.”

As his “signing statements” made clear, Trump felt belittled by the congressional action. His response has been to ratchet up bellicose rhetoric about North Korea, bluster appearing to be his natural default position when under pressure.

Remember, in April, as the Russia-gate hysteria mounted, Trump changed the subject, briefly, by rushing to judgment on an alleged chemical-weapons incident in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, and firing off 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military base.

He immediately won acclaim from Official Washington, although Hillary Clinton and other hawks argued that he should have gone further with a much larger U.S. invasion of Syria, i.e., establishing a “no-fly zone” even if that risked nuclear war with Russia.

What Trump learned from that experience is that even when he is going off half-cocked, he is rewarded for taking the military option. (More careful analysis of the Khan Sheikhoun evidence later raised serious doubts that the Syrian military was responsible.)

Schoolyard Taunts

So, we now have President Trump in a bizarre exchange of schoolyard taunts with the leadership of North Korea, with Trump’s “fire and fury like the world has never seen” rhetoric possibly plunging the United States into a confrontation that could have devastating consequences for the Korean peninsula, Japan and indeed the whole world.

Given the fact that the world has already seen the U.S. nuclear destruction of two Japanese cities at the end of World War II, Trump’s loose phrasing seems to suggest that the United States is prepared to use nuclear weapons against North Korea (although he may be referring to “just” carpet-bombing with conventional ordnance).

If nuclear weapons are brought into play, it is hard to fathom what the long-term consequences might be. It’s unlikely that Trump – not known for his deep thinking – has even contemplated that future.

However, even a “limited” war with conventional weapons and confined to the Korean peninsula could kill hundreds of thousands of people and severely shake the world’s economy. If North Korea manages to deliver retaliatory damage on Japan, a human catastrophe and a financial panic could follow.

Many thoughtful people are now expressing alarm at Trump’s erratic behavior, but many of those same people cheered the promotion of Russia-gate as a way to corner Trump politically. They didn’t seem to care that the “scandal” was built on a foundation of flimsy or phony evidence and that a key argument – that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred in the Russian-hacking conclusion – was false.

Once that fake “consensus” claim disappeared – after President Obama’s intelligence chiefs acknowledged that the Jan. 6 “assessment” was the work of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies – there should have been a stepping back from the Russia-gate groupthink. There should have been demands for a reassessment of the underlying assumptions.

However, by then, too many Important People, including editors and executives at major news organizations, had accepted Russia’s guilt as flat fact, meaning that their reputations were at risk. To protect their estimable careers, all doubts about Russia’s guilt had to be crushed and the conventional wisdom enforced.

That self-serving defensiveness became the backdrop to the Russia-Iran-North Korean sanctions bill. Not only could no rethinking be allowed on Russia-gate but Trump’s resistance to the groupthink had to be broken by neutering him along with his presidential powers to conduct diplomacy.

Still eager to please the Democratic #Resistance which sees Russia-gate as the pathway to Trump’s impeachment, Democrats – from neocons like Sen. Ben Cardin to anti-interventionists such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – joined in the stampede for the sanctions bill.

In their rush, the Democrats even endangered Obama’s signature diplomatic accomplishment, the international agreement blocking an Iranian nuclear weapon. Obama had promised Iran sanctions relief, not more sanctions. Now, the prospects for the accord’s collapse are increased and the neocon dream to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran revived.

And, by tossing North Korea into the mix, the Democrats left Trump few options other than to unleash his warmongering side and plunge the world toward a potential cataclysm.

So, this is what the Russia-gate opportunism has wrought. The logical flaw in Russia-gate may turn out to be a fatal one.


China suspends North Korean iron, seafood imports over missile tests

China has announced a ban on imports of coal, iron ore, lead and seafood from North Korea. The measures are part of new UN sanctions aimed to punish Pyongyang after it tested two intercontinental missiles.

August 14, 2017


China’s Commerce Ministry said on its website that all imports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead concentrates, lead and seafood from North Korea would be “completely prohibited” from Tuesday.

The announcement came after Beijing pledged to fully enforce the latest round of sanctions against its neighbor. US President Donald Trump has accused China of not doing enough – as the North’s most important trading partner and ally – to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had vowed after the UN sanctions were given the green light that his country “will for sure implement that new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly.”

The sanctions, approved in a Security Council vote on August 6, could cost North Korea up to $1 billion (850 million euros) a year.

Missiles and mounting tension

The UN resolution came after Kim Jong-un’s regime carried out two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month. Experts warn the rogue state may now be close to achieving its goal of striking the United States mainland with a nuclear weapon.

Escalating tensions between the US and North Korea, including threats of military action by both countries, have also led to mounting international concern.

Pyongyang says it is developing plans to strike the US territory of Guam, while Trump warned the North would face “fire and fury” if it attacked the United States.

Meanwhile, US Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford told his South Korean counterparts during a visit to the country on Monday that the US was willing to use the “full range” of its military capabilities to defend itself and its allies from North Korea if economic sanctions failed.

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged calm on both sides in a phone call with Trump over the weekend. South Korean President Moon Jae-In also appealed for restraint, calling for an end to “all provocations and hostile rhetoric immediately, instead of worsening the situation any further.”

China maintains that it prefers diplomacy and a return to dialogue, rather than sanctions, as a way to resolve tensions with North Korea. Six-party talks involving China, the two Koreas, Russia, Japan and the United States collapsed in 2008.

‘Brink of civil war’? American divide reaches boiling point under Trump

August 14, 2017


The divide in America existed long before Trump took office, but he’s the one who will have to deal with the aftermath of the largest gathering of white nationalists in a decade, which resulted in clashes and a car attack called an “act of terrorism.”

In recent years, America has witnessed the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which started in Ferguson, Missouri after an unarmed black teen was shot by a white police officer. Occupy Wall Street, which began in New York City in 2011, also transformed into a nationwide mass protest movement, with the aim of drawing attention to economic injustice and political corruption.

Trump’s own inauguration was marked by nationwide protests, revealing deep divisions in the US on a range of issues, such as health care, gun control, immigration, and climate change.

This week in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ‘Unite the Right’ rally saw white supremacists clashing with counter-protesters, resulting in at least three deaths. A woman was killed and dozens were injured in a car ramming attack at a counter-protest. Two police officers were also killed as a helicopter monitoring the protests crashed in the woods near Charlottesville.

There are deeply conflicting opinions regarding what is taking place with the protest movements and related violence in the country, and who is responsible for it. RT looks at a variety of voices across the political spectrum.

US far-right: emboldened or on the defensive?

A common idea among the political left is that the election of President Donald Trump and his ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign have “emboldened” far-right groups in the US. This is also seen as a general trend in the Western world, with right-wing parties becoming more prominent than they have been in decades.

Author and historian Gerald Horne says “there has been a mushrooming and skyrocketing of the number of white supremacist organizations and incidents spearheaded by white supremacists” since Donald Trump was elected.

“When they look across the Atlantic, they see the credible effort by Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France to claim the presidency, they look to Germany and see the rise of the Alternative for Germany party which has ultra-right tendencies to put it mildly, they look at Norway and see the rise of right-wing populists throughout Scandinavia. This is putting wind in the sails of right-wing populists here in the US, who have one of their own, Donald J. Trump, now occupying the Oval Office,” Horne said.

Horne believes that “the heart of the Trump electoral base still has hatred for black people,” and that white nationalists in America are now “flexing their muscles.”

However, the position of the nationalist groups is clearly not as comfortable as it may sound, with radical left groups such as Antifa staging mass counter-protests and clashing with far-right protesters, whether they identify as ‘neo-Nazi’ or ‘alt-right.’ The right-wing camp believes the clashes are not spontaneous, and that they often stem from well-organized provocations.

Earlier this year, anti-fascists clashed with alt-right activists in Berkeley, California in series of violent protests over the planned appearances of high-profile conservative figures like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, which were eventually cancelled. Lawyer and filmmaker Mike Cernovich spoke to RT about the wave of protests in the US.

“What we saw [in Charlottesville] is a part of a broader trend which actually started in what they call in America the ‘Battle of Berkeley.’ There were some of these alt-right events, they went to a park and then there were left-wing groups called Antifa – antifascists – but really were not distinguishable from Nazis. They got in huge street fights in the middle of Berkeley like nothing I have even seen,” Cernovich said.

Many conservatives believe that what started as the left simply venting frustration over Trump’s victory in the presidential election has now grown into a full-fledged political movement aimed at obstructing freedom of speech.

Cernovich, who says he is no fan of the nationalists behind the Charlottesville protest, believes that the threat of far-right groups in the US is overblown, and that the corporate media is using them for their own political agenda.

“Last night they had a torch night, maybe 500 people showed up, if the American media did not show up and say, ‘hey, we will make you all famous, we will put you on the front page of a newspaper, we will promote you…’ if the counter-demonstrators and Antifa did not show up looking for a fight, you would have had a couple hundred showing up, having a little event, nobody would have noticed, and they would go away,” Cernovich says, arguing that “the media and people like George Soros are feeding this.”

Trump’s goal: flirting with nationalists or fighting the establishment?

Trump is presumed to be a favorite among far-right voters, and this notion has often been used to associate the 45th US president to racists, bigots, and white supremacists, and to suggest that he is championing their cause.

Trump’s stated goals, however, were to “drain the swamp” and fight the current US establishment to improve the life of Americans and revitalize America’s shaky economy.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer lashed out at Trump following the violent events on Saturday, saying that the president made a “regrettable” choice in his campaign by “courting” nationalist groups and giving them “a reason to come into the light.”

“Look at the campaign he ran. Look at the intentional courting… of all these white supremacists, white nationalist groups like that, anti-Semitic groups,” Signer said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’

He then told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’: “When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change, the devil changes you.”

Many Trump supporters believe that this type of labeling is one of the establishment’s ways of discrediting and attacking Trump.

“I think there are elements inside of Washington, also inclusive of the White House, that are not necessarily abetting the president’s interests or his agenda,” former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Scaramucci said that “the president is not a representative of the political establishment class, so for whatever reason the people have made a decision that they want to eject him.”

Scaramucci, however, criticized Trump for not calling out the white supremacists strongly enough, saying that “whether it’s domestic or international terrorism, with the moral authority of the presidency, you have to call that stuff out.”

The White House on Sunday was forced to clarify that “the president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

Following the events in Charlottesville, Trump condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

‘Brink of civil war’ or the left pitted against the right?

The recent escalation has been interpreted as both a reflection of long-standing divides in America, as well as a deliberate rocking of the boat by “opportunists” on both sides.

“This sort of feels like the first major confrontation of left vs. right directly against one another in the streets of an American city since Donald Trump became president, so there is a lot at stake,” political cartoonist, Ted Rall told RT. “This is really embarrassing, as an American I can only look at Charlottesville and say this does not make us look good, and it is really a very bad day for our country.”

According to Rall, Trump may be “playing into the hands” of the opportunists “by trying to play the egalitarian card and saying that all sides need to be peaceful.”

Mike Cernovich believes the opposite, saying that “since the inauguration,” America has been “on the brink of civil war,” and “there has been a lot of violence on both sides,” which is becoming “more extreme and more violent.”

The recent events are not “spontaneous,” some experts say, suggesting that it might have been a well-prepared development to further polarize people in the US.

“I walked about a mile [this weekend] through places in New York, where there are already protests. They don’t look very spontaneous to me. There are printed flags, placards. I think people on both sides are spurring a fight,” political analyst and writer Charles Ortel told RT.

Speaking about Charlottesville, he said that “on the one hand, I think that the organizers of the event certainly were looking to instigate trouble. I think we’re going to find in due course of time that the other side, the Antifa people, who were so active months ago out at Berkeley, denying a forum to a conservative speaker, we’re going to find out that they also are guilty.”


Iraq’s Kurds stick to independence vote despite U.S. request to postpone it

August 12, 2017

by Maher Chmaytelli


ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraq’s Kurds are sticking to a plan to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, despite a U.S. request to postpone it, a high-ranking Kurdish official told Reuters on Saturday.

The United States and other Western nations are worried that the vote could ignite a fresh conflict with Baghdad and turn into another regional flashpoint. Turkey, Iran and Syria, which together with Iraq have sizeable Kurdish populations, all oppose an independent Kurdistan.

“The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change,” said Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked Barzani to postpone the referendum.

Tillerson made the request in a phone call with Barzani on Thursday, Zebari said.

“On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the President (Barzani) stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future,” said a statement issued on Friday by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) presidency, after Tillerson’s call.

The U.S. State Department said in June it was concerned that the referendum will distract from “more urgent priorities” such as the defeat of Islamic State militants.

Islamic State’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” effectively collapsed last month, when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces completed the takeover of the militants’ capital in Iraq, Mosul, after a nine-month campaign in which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took part.

The hardline Sunni militants remain however in control of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. The United States has pledged to maintain its backing to allied forces in both countries until the militants’ total defeat.

The Kurds have been seeking an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East, but their territory ended up split between modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Barzani, whose father led struggles against Baghdad in the 1960s and 1970s, told Reuters in July the Kurds would take responsibility for the expected ‘yes’ outcome of the referendum, and pursue its implementation through dialogue with Baghdad and regional powers to avoid conflict.”We have to rectify the history of mistreatment of our people and those who are saying that independence is not good, our question to them is, ‘if it’s not good for us, why is it good for you?’,” he said in an interview in the KRG capital, Erbil.

Iraq has been led by Shi’ites since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, by the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

The country’s majority Shi’ite community mainly lives in the south while the Kurds and Sunni Arabs inhabit two corners of the north. The center around Baghdad is mixed.

Kurdish officials have said disputed areas, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region, will be covered by the referendum, to determine whether they would want to remain or not in Kurdistan.

The Kurdish Peshmerga in 2014 prevented Islamic State from capturing Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, after the Iraqi army fled in the face of the militants. They are effectively running the region, also claimed by Turkmen and Arabs.

Hardline Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias have threatened to expel the Kurds by force from this region and three other disputed areas – Sinjar, Makhmour and Khanaqin.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Adrian Croft




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