TBR News February 1, 2016

Feb 01 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 1, 2016: ”I have been given, by a reader, a thick manuscript dealing with Edward Snowden, his activities and why the Russians got their hands on him. Snowden is a very intelligent and capable computer system expert but eventually found himself in strong disagreement with some of the activities of the CIA, for whom he was then working. When the Russians got their hands on his material, it is considered by insiders as the biggest intelligence coup in history. Of course no one in Moscow or Washington wants to discuss any of this and the propaganda put out by both sides is highly entertaining. This will be covered soon enough but insofar as Snowden is concerned, there is nothing of a negative nature to say against him. He did the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 4

Date: Wednesday, March 20, 1996

Commenced: 9:32 AM (CST)

Concluded: 10:08 AM (CST)


RTC: Hello, Gregory. Sorry I was out the last time you called but we were off on family business. My son’s family. By the way, I have some information for you that might interest you. You know, there are a number of people here who are not happy with you and they are certainly not pleased that I am talking with you. Not at all. This morning I had a call from some shit at Justice who wanted to warn me, being a friendly and caring person of course, that you were a very bad person and I would ruin my reputation by telling you anything. He had a similar talk with Corson yesterday. Bill called me last night about this and we both laughed about it. This is a sure sign that you must be right. Both of us know you were friends with Müller and the thought of him loose in America is something the Company, and now Justice, does not want talked about. First off, they don’t know what name he used while he was here.

GD: Are you serious, Robert? RTC: Oh yes, very. You see, the CIA and don’t forget the Army, used high-level Nazis after the Cold War broke out. We especially went after the Gestapo and SD1 people because they had the most to do with fighting the Communists, both in Germany in the ‘30s and then during the war.

GD: I knew Gehlen very well and met some of them. I agree. His top recruiter was old Willi Krichbaum who was a Colonel in the SS and a top Gestapo person. I talked many times with Willi who had been in the Freikorps after the first war and he was quite a fellow. He was Müller’s top deputy in the Gestapo and in charge of the border guards at one time. And, don’t forget, Willi was head of the Wehrmacht’s Geheime Feldpolizei who had a terrible reputation with the troops. Hanging deserters at the end of the war. Yes, Gehlen told me the SS intelligence men were his best people.

RTC: You have a grasp of this from the time, don’t you? So, of course no one now wants to infuriate the rah-rah patriotic idiots and most especially the Jews by letting anyone know about this. You see, they brought Müller and others over here and gave them new names and identities. The higher they had been, the more they concealed them. Now your friend Müller’s name was known to Truman, Beetle Smith, Critchfield, Gehlen and about three others. Now that everyone is dead and you are tearing open old caskets, they are absolutely frantic to find out what name Mueller was here under and actually so they can run around the files and burn anything with that name on it. Then they can say, like the pious frauds they are, that Oh no, we never heard of that person. We searched our records, sir, and believe us, there was no such person anywhere. That’s what they want. Smith is dead, Truman is ditto, Critchfield will never talk because he ran Müller and still has his pension to consider. I know the name but they have never brought the subject up to me. They think you’re a loose cannon, Gregory, with no loyalty to the system and they think I am getting daft in my old age and marginalize me.

GD: Think they’ll shoot me? A boating accident? Something like that?

RTC: When I was in harness, yes, they would. A bungled robbery or a rape like Kennedy’s lady friend but not now. Besides, they don’t know what you have on them and if you were crushed to death by an elephant falling out of a plane, who knows what might come out? I have to send you some documentation which you then have to let them know you have. But in a safe place, not in a local storage locker under your name or in your attic or garage. A gentle hint of joys to come. I have hinted at that and very strongly. The Justice oaf today got an earful from me and when I told him I would tell you about this, he got scared and hung up on me. Now, I can expect Tom Kimmel to call me and try to find out if I’ve told you or given you anything. You know, you got some rare documents that were very helpful to his case to clear the Admiral but now he’s a torn person. The family wants desperately to accept these as genuine but are furious that you, a terrible person in their eyes, had them. No gratitude. I suppose if that awful Wolfe had found them and passed them along, he would be a great hero to the Kimmel family but you are one whose name is never to be mentioned. You know, Gregory, I find this very entertaining. And Kimmel is horrified that Bill and I like you and talk to you. Both of us have been warned, I by people from the Company I haven’t seen since I retired and Bill by the fringe wannabees like Trento and others. I think it’s time we nailed Critchfield, don’t you?

GD: I’m game, Robert. If he ran Müller, he must be scared.

RTC: Will be scared shitless. In the old days, he’d have had you killed at once but those days are no more. You knew Gehlen and that will be my approach. You are quick enough with in house terms so that I can convince Jimmy that you were once part of his operation. You’ll have to play it by ear but you are about ten times smarter than him so you should have fun. I want you to convince him that you were really there and knew some his people. And most important, convince him you knew Mueller. Oddly enough, Jimmy never met Mueller because he operated him out of Switzerland through Willi and later, Müller moved up the ladder to the point where Jimmy had no access to him. Let’s keep his bowels open, Gregory, what do you say?

GD: I have no problem. Should I tape him?

RTC: Why not get him on a speaker phone with both a tape recorder going and a reputable witness? That way, if something comes of this and they get to the witness, you have a backup.

GD: I have a retired colonel acquaintance who was with your people in ‘Nam. He’d be perfect as a witness. Just let me know. Is Justice going to do something nasty to me?

RTC: God no. They just want to scare me off of you, that’s all. They’re all such pinheads, Gregory. They chatter like old whores at a tea party and I can remind you that gossip is king here. Everyone inside the Beltway runs around like the little self-important toads that they are, pretending to be really important. They see a Senator in a restaurant, wave at him and get waved at back. This impresses their client who does not realize that the Senator will always wave back on the assumption that the waver might be someone important he might have forgotten. And they tell you that the President, or the Secretary of this or that said this to them when no one knows them at the White House or anywhere else. This jerk from Justice is a small, malformed cog in a big and brainless machine. Typical. I had to deal with these punks for years and I have more respect for a black tart, believe me. At least they don’t try to hide the fact that they fuck for money.

GD: (Laughter)

RTC: It really isn’t funny. If the public was aware of the crooked, lying sacks of shit that run this country, they would be boiling the tar and preparing the chicken feathers.

GD: You know, speaking of Gehlen, he told me in ’51 that his famous ’48 report about the Russians being poised to invade Europe was made up at the Army’s specific request. Gehlen told me that far from moving hundreds of armored units into the east zone, the Russians had torn up all the railroad tracks after the war and shipped them back to Russia. And most of the armored divisions were only cadre.

RTC: But it did work, didn’t it? Big business got to gear up for a fictional coming war and the military got a huge boost.

GD: Ever heard of General Trudeau?

RTC: Oh yes, I knew him personally. What about him?

GD: He found out about Gehlen and bitched like hell about what he called a bunch of Nazis working for the CIA and inventing stories about fake invasion threats.

RTC: Now that’s something I didn’t know. You know they shipped him out of the European command and sent him to the Far East? Yes, and I met him when I was in Hawaii. I’m surprised they didn’t do to him what they did to George Patton. A convenient truck ran into his car and shut him up.

GD: Why?

RTC: George found out that the top brass was stealing gold from the salt mine and many generals and colonels were getting very rich. And then the accident and with George dead, they just went on stealing.

GD: I can use that.

RTC: I can get you some paper on that out of my files. Patton was strange but one of our better generals. Lying thieves. Gold has a great attraction for people, I guess.

GD: A few years ago, one of your boys, Jimmy Atwood and I went down into Austria to dig up some Nazi gold. Atwood is a terrible asshole but very useful. I think he viewed me the same way. Anyway, we had a former SS officer and a Ukrainian camp guard along. What a wonderful adventure, Robert.

RTC: Were you successful? Treasure hunts rarely are.

GD: Oh, very. And we brought most of it back with us.

RTC: How ever did you get it through customs?

GD: Boat. Brought it in by boat. I’ll tell you about this some time. Did you ever hear about it? RTC: No, I didn’t. Should I have?

GD: Probably a rogue operation. Two Limeys got knocked on the head and put over the side on the way to the Panama Canal but other than that, it was an uneventful trip.

RTC: Well, someday, I’ll discuss the Kennedy assassination and you can tell me about the gold hunt. Sounds fair?

GD: Oh yes, why not?

RTC: I remember the time we had to fly the KMT general out of Burma with an Air America transport full of gold. He was our boy out there but he had a hankering to make more money so he began to raise opium and used our weapons to kill off the locals. Thirteen million in gold and twelve trunks full of opium. Quite a problem getting it all into Switzerland and into a bank. But he performed and we kept our word. That fucking Colby was into drugs as well.

GD: William?

RTC: Yes, our beloved DCI. A nasty piece of work, Gregory. Was working in SEA doing the drug business when he was tapped for PHOENIX. And just kept on going when he got to Saigon. PHOENIX2 got to be a really nasty business and Bill set up torture centers all over our part of the country. Regional Intelligence Centers they called them. Well, Church got his hands on some of the goings on and guess what? Colby snitched on all his co-workers. I know for a fact from some of the old ones that they’re going to kill him for that. I remember he has some kind of a telephone device hidden in his glasses. Princeton man. You can always tell a Princeton man, Gregory, but you can’t tell him very much. Watch the papers pretty soon.

GD: How will they nail him? Run down in a crosswalk? A stampede of elephants flatten him in his garden?

RTC: You have an overheated imagination. I don’t know the how but I do know the why. Give it six months and the Dictator of Dent Place will be another stone in the cemetery.

GD: What about the one who killed himself by tying weights to his legs and shooting himself in the back of the head before jumping off his boat?

RTC: John Arthur Paisley. He used to be the deputy director of the Office of Strategic Research. Paisley. Tragic. Shouldn’t have sold out to the Russians. He was such a rotten mess when they found him that it took weeks to do an ID on him. There’ve been more.

GD: I have a packet coming in from overseas and the mail truck is at the end of the block. Let me ring off now, Robert and I can call you back later today.

RTC: Make it tomorrow. OK? Things to do.


(Concluded at 10:08 AM CST)


Death toll rises among Kurds trapped in Turkey’s southeastern Cizre district amid govt crackdown

Febbuary 1, 2016


Over 20 injured people have been trapped in a basement for over a week in the Cizre district of Turkey’s Sirnak Province, where the Turkish military is fighting Kurdish militants. Reports say ambulances have been denied access and six people have died.

Faysal Sariyildiz, Sirnak deputy of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third biggest in the Turkish parliament, told the Cihan news agency on Saturday that 31 people had been trapped in a basement of a building in the Kurdish town of Cizre for over a week, with 6 already succumbing to their injuries.

On Friday, Sariyildiz told the German dpa news agency that the death toll was rising almost daily, as ambulances dispatched to help those trapped had been denied access on 11 separate occasions.

The wounded are confined in a tight space along with those who have died,” Sariyildiz told the agency.

Nedim Turfent, English news editor for the Dicle News Agency, told RT that seven of the wounded have died and 15 others are suffering from injuries, “some in critical condition.”

No news has been received from the basement since yesterday afternoon. Dozens of people including women and children remain trapped,” he said. “The wounded are waiting to die without any available means,” he said, adding that there is lack of water or other “basic means to survive.”

HDP’s Sariyildiz has been in contact with the people in basement via text and has been updating his Twitter with the names of the trapped Kurds and posting photos of the injured.

As of Friday, the bodies of the dead had not been removed, Leyla Birlik, HDP legislator for Sirnak province, told dpa.

Dicle News Agency has posted photos allegedly showing the injured and the dead in the basement.

Some HDP members went on a hunger strike on Thursday to protest the actions of the Turkish government, which has imposed curfews and cut off passage to medics. Cizre has been under curfew for the past six weeks.

On Sunday, a group of volunteer medical workers from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services (SES) were denied entry to the district.

A physician from the group told the media that the volunteers had been denied entry to the area because they lacked an official document.

We were denied entry despite explaining to them that the prevention was in violation of the Geneva Conventions, of which Turkey is a signatory, and that vehicles and volunteer personnel carrying the symbol of the Red Cross need to be allowed into conflict zones,” Dr. Vahhac Alp said, as quoted by the Hurriyet Daily.

Our ambulances have been sent to the closest [safe] location and have asked for any wounded people to be brought to this location. But despite all our efforts our call has been ignored,” the Sirnak Governor’s Office stated on Thursday.

This is a desperate situation: injured individuals, some of whom are apparently bleeding heavily, are at grave risk of dying if they do not urgently receive medical care,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, on Thursday.

According to the human rights group, an estimated 23 people are stranded in the basement.

Speaking to those trapped on Thursday, Amnesty was able to confirm that four had died and another 12 were seriously injured. Communications have since been cut off due to shelling, but it is believed that six people have now died, said the human rights group. 

The refusal of the Turkish authorities to ensure access to medical care is indefensible. While it is perfectly legitimate for them to take measures to ensure security and arrest suspects, this operation shows a callous disregard for human life,” said Gardner.

On Friday, the Constitutional Court confirmed that it had issued an order to halt ambulance crews on grounds that it was too dangerous to reach the injured. In its decision, the court cited ongoing “ambiguity over whether the people in Cizre are injured or not, whether they are in critical condition, why they were injured, whether they are armed or not and where they actually are,” Today’s Zaman reported.

The decision came after the injured appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on January 23, asking it to impose interim measures requiring Ankara to make every possible effort to provide medical care. On Tuesday, the ECHR urged the Turkish government to take appropriate measures to protect the lives of the applicants.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the allegations claiming that the state has denied medical workers access to the area, calling them “all lies.”

They are deliberately not bringing the wounded out,” he said. He also blamed the hunger striking MPs for supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, who are considered to be terrorists by Erdogan and his government.

The Kurds have long been campaigning for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy in Turkey, where they are the largest ethnic minority. 

Ankara has been stepping up its military operations in the predominantly Kurdish areas located near Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq since December. Erdogan has vowed to continue the military campaign until the area is cleansed of PKK militants.

On Monday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated region. At the same time, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn added that the EU has an “imminent interest on that because it can affect the security in the region, and in the broader sense, the EU.”


Cheap oil won’t juice the U.S. economy this time: Reuters poll

February 1, 2016

by Jason Lange and Lindsay Dunsmuir


Washington-U.S. consumers are cautious about spending their windfall from cheap gasoline and are saving more, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll and official data, suggesting low oil prices are less of a boon for the U.S. economy than in the past.

Commerce Department data shows that the crude’s 70 percent drop since mid-2014 cut households’ annual spending on gasoline and other energy products by $115 billion, equivalent to roughly 0.5 percent of gross domestic product.

At the same time, however, savings increased by $121 billion and while the data gives no indication where the money has come from, the survey suggests the windfall accounted for a significant part of the sum.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 75 percent of 3,068 Americans who answered questions on gasoline savings said the extra money helped them cover basic needs and the majority have not used their windfall to buy big ticket items. Over 40 percent of respondents said the savings had helped them pay down debts, according to the Jan. 15-27 online poll, which had a credibility interval of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

“It obviously hurts less when I go to the grocery store,” said Karen Joines, a recruiting firm product manager from Peachtree City, Georgia. Joines, who participated in the survey, estimates she saves $30 a week thanks to cheaper gasoline but has no plans for big purchases, in part because she worries low prices will not last.

Some economists say such doubts and the still-fresh scars of the 2007-2009 recession could explain the muted effect of cheap gas on consumption. For example, the economy only in mid-2014 recovered the more than 7 million jobs lost during the downturn.

“We don’t seem to be getting the benefits from cheaper gasoline that we did when the economy was healthier,” said veteran oil economist and independent consultant Phil Verleger.

Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said another reason Americans appeared wary of spending what they saved at the pump could be that more and more of them were approaching retirement.

“They are conscious of that (and) they need to save more,” Kaplan told Reuters in an interview.


The Dallas Fed, whose area includes the oil patches of Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico, estimates that a 50 percent fall in oil prices now adds around 0.5 percentage points to economic growth over a year, half of the impact seen before America’s oil boom.

One reason is that the oil sector has grown over the past decade, so spending and job cuts there weigh more on the whole economy. Cheaper oil also helps less because cars and machinery have become more fuel efficient, according to the Dallas Fed.

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing and shale drilling boom that made the United States the world’s top oil producer in 2014, the nation also imports less oil than ever.

That goes to explain why in the public eye the modest benefits of cheap energy enjoyed by all get overshadowed by the havoc the oil slump wreaked in the energy sector and the nation’s oil patches.

Tumbling prices forced producers and oilfield services companies to slash budgets, driving some into bankruptcy and many deep into the red. Markets have grown so bearish about the sector that when oil producer Hess (HES.N) reported a fourth quarter loss of over $1.8 billion, its shares have risen because investors had braced for even more damage.

Yet even as job losses and lost tax revenues hit oil-producing states such as Texas or Alaska, the drag on the U.S. economy as a whole has been limited.

The oil-dominated mining sector accounted for just 1.6 percent of GDP in the third quarter and jobs in oil and gas extraction and services account for 0.3 percent of U.S. employment, down from 0.4 percent during the boom years. (tmsnrt.rs/1JZSj7d)

The investment in U.S. mining structures, which is dominated by oil and gas exploration and well drilling, has fallen at a $70 billion annual rate since the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Commerce Department data. Yet as Goldman Sachs estimates the overall drop in energy investment subtracted only about 0.3 percentage points from 2015 economic growth.

Barclays economist Michael Gapen forecasts that a further decline in energy investment could knock another 0.2 percent from this year’s U.S. economic output.

The U.S. job market also appears robust enough to absorb job losses in the energy sector and related industries. Goldman Sachs estimates such losses at 30,000 to 35,000 a month, but that compares with 292,000 jobs U.S. economy as a whole added last month.

(Reporting by Jason Lange and Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by David Chance and Tomasz Janowski)


UN rights chief urges Turkey to ‘promptly investigate’ shooting of unarmed people in Cizre

February 1, 2016


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged Turkey to investigate the shooting of unarmed people, footage of which emerged last week. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the video “shocking” and urged Turkey to rein in its security forces.

“Today I am urging the Turkish authorities to respect the fundamental rights of civilians in its security operations and to promptly investigate the alleged shooting of a group of unarmed people in the southeastern town of Cizre after shocking video footage emerged last week,” Zeid told reporters on Monday.

He was referring to a January 20 incident in Cizre, in which 10 people were wounded as their group – which included two opposition politicians – came under fire while rescuing people injured in earlier clashes.

Footage that emerged last week appears to show a man and a woman holding white flags and pushing a cart – possibly carrying bodies – across a street while being watched by an armored military vehicle, Zeid said.

“As they reach the other side, they are apparently cut down in a hail of gunfire,” Zeid said in a statement. He expressed concern that the cameraman, who was wounded in the shooting, may also face arrest under a “clampdown on media.”

Footage that emerged last week appears to show a man and a woman holding white flags and pushing a cart – possibly carrying bodies – across a street while being watched by an armored military vehicle, Zeid said.

“As they reach the other side, they are apparently cut down in a hail of gunfire,” Zeid said in a statement. He expressed concern that the cameraman, who was wounded in the shooting, may also face arrest under a “clampdown on media.”

“Filming an atrocity is not a crime, but shooting unarmed civilians most certainly is,” he said

Since the July collapse of a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire with militants from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), southwestern Turkey has experienced its worst violence in two decades, as Kurdish militants fight for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy. Forty thousand people have been killed in the conflict between the two sides since 1984.

The shooting is not the first incident to take place in Cizre, which has been under curfew for the past six weeks amid intense fighting.

It was reported over the weekend that more than 20 injured people have been trapped in a basement in the town for over a week. Reports said that ambulances had been denied access to the area and that several people had died.

Amnesty International said last week that the Turkish government is “failing to respond to the desperate pleas” of the residents.

This is a desperate situation: injured individuals, some of whom are apparently bleeding heavily, are at grave risk of dying if they do not urgently receive medical care,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court confirmed on Friday that it had issued an order to halt ambulance crews in the area, on the grounds that it was too dangerous to reach the injured, according to Today’s Zaman. However, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has rejected allegations that medical workers have been denied access, calling them “all lies.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have fled the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, after 23 people were killed in street battles – including three Turkish soldiers and 20 Kurdish fighters. Diyarbakir is also under a curfew, which bans residents from leaving their homes and forbids observers and reporters from entering areas where clashes are taking place.

Amnesty International has criticized the Turkish government’s security operations in the mainly Kurdish southeast, saying they have risked the lives of some 200,000 people by placing residents in the crossfire and depriving them of water and electricity.

The Turkish army denies accusations that it has killed large numbers of civilians, but says that more than 600 militants have been killed since security operations began in Cizre in December.

According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV), at least 198 civilians – including 39 children – have died in combat areas under curfew since August.


Democracy of the Billionaires

The Most Expensive Election Ever Is A Billionaire’s Playground (Except for Bernie Sanders)

January 31, 2016

by Nomi Prins

Tom Dispatch

Speaking of the need for citizen participation in our national politics in his final State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” A more accurate characterization might have been: “Our brand of democracy is cold hard cash.”

Cash, mountains of it, is increasingly the necessary tool for presidential candidates. Several Powerball jackpots could already be fueled from the billions of dollars in contributions in play in election 2016. When considering the present donation season, however, the devil lies in the details, which is why the details follow.

With three 2016 debates down and six more scheduled, the two fundraisers with the most surprising amount in common are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Neither has billionaire-infused super PACs, but for vastly different reasons. Bernie has made it clear billionaires won’t ever hold sway in his court. While Trump… well, you know, he’s not only a billionaire but has the knack for getting the sort of attention that even billions can’t buy.Regarding the rest of the field, each candidate is counting on the reliability of his or her own arsenal of billionaire sponsors and corporate nabobs when the you-know-what hits the fan. And at this point, believe it or not, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and the super PACs that arose from it, all the billionaires aren’t even nailed down or faintly tapped out yet.  In fact, some of them are already preparing to jump ship on their initial candidate of choice or reserving the really big bucks for closer to game time, when only two nominees will be duking it out for the White House.

Capturing this drama of the billionaires in new ways are TV networks eager to profit from the latest eyeball-gluing version of election politicking and the billions of dollars in ads that will flood onto screens nationwide between now and November 8th. As super PACs, billionaires, and behemoth companies press their influence on what used to be called “our democracy,” the modern debate system, now a 16-month food fight, has become the political equivalent of the NFL playoffs. In turn, soaring ratings numbers, scads of ads, and the party infighting that helps generate them now translate into billions of new dollars for media moguls.

For your amusement and mine, this being an all-fun-all-the-time election campaign, let’s examine the relationships between our twenty-first-century plutocrats and the contenders who have raised $5 million or more in individual contributions or through super PACs and are at 5% or more in composite national polls. I’ll refrain from using the politically correct phrases that feed into the illusion of distance between super PACs that allegedly support candidates’ causes and the candidates themselves, because in practice there is no distinction.

On the Republican Side:

1. Ted Cruz: Most “God-Fearing” Billionaires

Yes, it’s true the Texas senator “goofed” in neglecting to disclose to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a tiny six-figure loan from Goldman Sachs for his successful 2012 Senate campaign. (After all, what’s half-a-million dollars between friends, especially when the investment bank that offered it also employed your wife as well as your finance chairman?) As The Donald recently told a crowd in Iowa, when it comes to Ted Cruz, “Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that, folks. They own him.”

That aside, with a slew of wealthy Christians in his camp, Cruz has raised the second largest pile of money among the GOP candidates. His total of individual and PAC contributions so far disclosed is a striking $65.2 million. Of that, $14.28 million has already been spent. Individual contributors kicked in about a third of that total, or $26.57 million, as of the end of November 2015 — $11 million from small donors and $15.2 million from larger ones. His five top donor groups are retirees, lawyers and law firms, health professionals, miscellaneous businesses, and securities and investment firms (including, of course, Goldman Sachs to the tune of $43,575).

Cruz’s Keep the Promise super PAC continues to grow like an action movie franchise. It includes his original Keep the Promise PAC augmented by Keep the Promise I, II, and III. Collectively, the Keep the Promise super PACs amassed $37.83 million. In terms of deploying funds against his adversaries, they have spent more than 10 times as much fighting Marco Rubio as battling Hillary Clinton.

His super PAC money divides along family factions reminiscent of Game of Thrones. A $15 million chunk comes from the billionaire Texas evangelical fracking moguls, the Wilks Brothers, and $10 million comes from Toby Neugebauer, who is also listed as the principal officer of the public charity, Matthew 6:20 Foundation; its motto is “Support the purposes of the Christian Community.”

Cruz’s super PACs also received  $11 million from billionaire Robert Mercer, co-CEO of the New York-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. His contribution is, however, peanuts compared to the $6.8 billion a Senate subcommittee accused Renaissance of shielding from the Internal Revenue Service (an allegation Mercer is still fighting). How’s that for “New York values”?  No wonder Cruz wants to abolish the IRS.

Another of Cruz’s contributors is Bob McNair, the real estate mogul, billionaire owner of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, and self-described “Christian steward.”

2. Marco Rubio: Most Diverse Billionaires

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has raised $32.8 million from individual and PAC contributions and spent about $9 million. Despite the personal economic struggles he’s experienced and loves to talk about, he’s not exactly resonating with the nation’s downtrodden, hence his weak polling figures among the little people. Billionaires of all sorts, however, seem to love him.

The bulk of his money comes from super PACs and large contributors. Small individual contributors donated only $3.3 million to his coffers; larger individual contributions provided $11.3 million. Goldman Sachs leads his pack of corporate donors with $79,600.

His main super PAC, Conservative Solutions, has raised $16.6 million, making it the third largest cash cow behind those of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. It holds $5 million from Braman Motorcars, $3 million from the Oracle Corporation, and $2.5 million from Benjamin Leon, Jr., of Besilu Stables. (Those horses are evidently betting on Rubio.)

He has also amassed a healthy roster of billionaires including the hedge-fund “vulture of Argentina” Paul Singer who was the third-ranked conservative donor for the 2014 election cycle. Last October, in a mass email to supporters about a pre-Iowa caucus event, Singer promised, “Anyone who raises $10,800 in new, primary money will receive 5 VIP tickets to a rally and 5 tickets to a private reception with Marco.”

Another of Rubio’s Billionaire Boys is Norman Braman, the Florida auto dealer and his mentor. These days he’s been forking over the real money, but back in 2008, he gave Florida International University $100,000 to fund a Rubio post-Florida statehouse teaching job. What makes Braman’s relationship particularly intriguing is his “intense distaste for Jeb Bush,” Rubio’s former political mentor and now political punching bag. Hatred, in other words, is paying dividends for Rubio.

Rounding out his top three billionaires is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who ranks third on Forbes’s billionaire list.  Last summer, he threw a $2,700 per person fundraiser in his Woodside, California, compound for the candidate, complete with a special dinner for couples that raised $27,000. If Rubio somehow pulls it out, you can bet he will be the Republican poster boy for Silicon Valley.

3. Jeb Bush: Most Disappointed Billionaires

Although the one-time Republican front-runner’s star now looks more like a black hole, the coffers of “Jeb!” are still the ones to beat. He had raised a total of $128 million by late November and spent just $19.9 million of it.  Essentially none of Jeb’s money came from the little people (that is, us). Barely 4% of his contributions were from donations of $200 or less.

In terms of corporate donors, eight of his top 10 contributors are banks or from the financial industry (including all of the Big Six banks). Goldman Sachs (which is nothing if not generous to just about every candidate in sight — except of course, Bernie) tops his corporate donor chart with $192,500. His super PACs still kick ass compared to those of the other GOP contenders. His Right to Rise super PAC raised a hefty $103.2 million and, despite his disappearing act in the polls, it remains by far the largest in the field.

Corporate donors to Jeb’s Right to Rise PAC include MBF Healthcare Partners founder and chairman Mike Fernandez, who has financed a slew of anti-Trump ads, with $3.02 million, and Rooney Holdings with $2.2 million. Its CEO, L. Francis Rooney III, was the man George W. Bush appointed ambassador to the Vatican. Former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg’s current company, CV Starr (and not, as he has made pains to clarify, he himself), gave $10 million to Jeb’s super PAC. In the same Fox Business interview where he stressed that distinction, he also noted, “I’m sorry he is not living up to expectations, but that’s the reality of it.” AIG, by the way, received $182 billion in bailout money under Jeb’s brother, W.

4. Ben Carson: No Love For Billionaires

Ben Carson is running a pretty expensive campaign, which doesn’t reflect well on his possible future handling of the economy (though, as he sinks toward irrelevance in the polls, it seems as if his moment to handle anything may have passed). Having raised $38.7 million, he’s spent $26.4 million of it. His campaign received 63% of its contributions from small donors, which leaves it third behind Bernie and Trump on that score, according to FEC filings from October 2015.

His main super PACs, grouped under the title “the 2016 Committee,” raised just $3.8 million, with rich retired people providing the bulk of it.  Another PAC, Our Children’s Future, didn’t collect anything, despite its pledge to turn “Carson’s outside militia into an organized army.”

But billionaires aren’t Carson’s cup of tea. As he said last October, “I have not gone out licking the boots of billionaires and special-interest groups. I’m not getting into bed with them.”

Carson recently dropped into fourth place in the RealClearPolitics composite poll for election 2016 with his team in chaos. His campaign manager, Barry Bennett, quit. His finance chairman, Dean Parke, resigned amid escalating criticism over his spending practices and his $20,000 a month salary. As the rising outsider candidate, Carson once had an opportunity to offer a fresh voice on campaign finance reform. Instead, his campaign learned the hard way that being in the Republican hot seat without a Rolodex of billionaires can be hell on Earth.

5. Chris Christie: Most Sketchy Billionaires

For someone polling so low, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has amassed startling amounts of dosh. His campaign contributions stand at $18.6 million, of which he has spent $5.7 million. Real people don’t care for him. Christie has received the least number of small contributions in either party, a bargain basement 3% of his total.

On the other hand, his super PAC, America Leads, raised $11 million, including $4.3 million from the securities and investment industry. His top corporate donors at $1 million each include Point 72 Asset Management, the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, and Winnecup Gamble Ranch, run by billionaire Paul Fireman, chairman of Fireman Capital Partners and founder and former chairman of Reebok International Ltd.

Steven Cohen, worth about $12 billion and on the Christie campaign’s national finance team, founded Point 72 Asset Management after being forced to shut down SAC Capital, his former hedge-fund company, due to insider-trading charges. SAC had to pay $1.2 billion to settle.

Christie’s other helpful billionaire is Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. But Langone, as he told the National Journal, is not writing a $10 million check. Instead, he says, his preferred method of subsidizing politicians is getting “a lot of people to write checks, and get them to get people to write checks, and hopefully result in a helluva lot more than $10 million.” In other words, Langone offers his ultra-wealthy network, not himself.

6. Donald Trump: I Am A Billionaire

Trump’s campaign has received approximately $5.8 million in individual contributions and spent about the same amount. Though not much compared to the other Republican contenders, it’s noteworthy that 70% of Trump’s contributions come from small individual donors (the highest percentage among GOP candidates). It’s a figure that suggests it might not pay to underestimate Trump’s grassroots support, especially since he’s getting significant amounts of money from people who know he doesn’t need it.

Last July, a Make America Great Again super PAC emerged, but it shut down in October to honor Trump’s no super PAC claim.  For Trump, dealing with super PAC agendas would be a hassle unworthy of his time and ego. (He is, after all, the best billionaire: trust him.) Besides, with endorsements from luminaries like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and a command of TV ratings that’s beyond compare, who needs a super PAC or even his own money, of which he’s so far spent remarkably little?

On The Democratic Side:

1. Hillary Clinton: A Dynasty of Billionaires

Hillary and Bill Clinton earned a phenomenal $139 million for themselves between 2007 and 2014, chiefly from writing books and speaking to various high-paying Wall Street and international corporations. Between 2013 and 2015, Hillary Clinton gave 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, pocketing a whopping $2,935,000. And she’s used that obvious money-raising skill to turn her campaign into a fundraising machine.

As of October 16, 2015, she had pocketed $97.87 million from individual and PAC contributions.  And she sure knows how to spend it, too. Nearly half of that sum, or $49.8 million — more than triple the amount of any other candidate — has already gone to campaign expenses.

Small individual contributions made up only 17% of Hillary’s total; 81% came from large individual contributions. Much like her forced folksiness in the early days of her campaign when she was snapped eating a burrito bowl at a Chipotle in her first major meet-the-folks venture in Ohio, those figures reveal a certain lack of savoir faire when it comes to the struggling classes.

Still, despite her speaking tour up and down Wall Street and the fact that four of the top six Wall Street banks feature among her top 10 career contributors, they’ve been holding back so far in this election cycle (or perhaps donating to the GOP instead).  After all, campaign 2008 was a bust for her and nobody likes to be on the losing side twice.

Her largest super PAC, Priorities USA Action, nonetheless raised $15.7 million, including $4.6 million from the entertainment industry and $3.1 million from securities and investment. The Saban Capital Group and DreamWorks kicked in $2 million each.

Hillary has recently tried to distance herself from a well-deserved reputation for being close to Wall Street, despite the mega-speaking fees she’s garnered from Goldman Sachs among others, not to speak of the fact that five of the Big Six banks gave money to the Clinton Foundation. She now claims that her “Wall Street plan” is stricter than Bernie Sanders’s. (It isn’t. He’s advocating to break up the big banks via a twenty-first-century version of the Glass-Steagall Act that Bill Clinton buried in his presidency.) To top it off, she scheduled an elite fundraiser at the $17 billion “alternative investment” firm Franklin Square Capital Partners four days before the Iowa Caucus. So much for leopards changing spots.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Hillary has billionaires galore in her corner, all of whom backed her hubby through the years.  Chief among them is media magnate Haim Saban who gave her super PAC $2 million. George Soros, the hedge-fund mogul, contributed $2.02 million. DreamWorks Animation chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg gave $1 million. And the list goes on.

2. Bernie Sanders: No Billionaires Allowed

Bernie Sanders has stuck to his word, running a campaign sans billionaires. As of October 2015, he had raised an impressive $41.5 million and spent about $14.5 million of it.

None of his top corporate donors are Wall Street banks. What’s more, a record 77% of his contributions came from small individual donors, a number that seems only destined to grow as his legions of enthusiasts vote with their personal checkbooks.

According to a Sanders campaign press release as the year began, another $33 million came in during the last three months of 2015: “The tally for the year-end quarter pushed his total raised last year to $73 million from more than 1 million individuals who made a record 2.5 million donations.” That number broke the 2011 record set by President Obama’s reelection committee by 300,000 donations, and evidence suggests Sanders’s individual contributors aren’t faintly tapped out. After recent attacks on his single-payer healthcare plan by the Clinton camp, he raised $1.4 million in a single day.

It would, of course, be an irony of ironies if what has been a billionaire’s playground since the Citizens United decision became, in November, a billionaire’s graveyard with literally billions of plutocratic dollars interred in a grave marked: here lies campaign 2016.

The Media and Debates

And talking about billions, in some sense the true political and financial playground of this era has clearly become the television set with a record $6 billion in political ads slated to flood America’s screen lives before next November 8th. Add to that the staggering rates that media companies have been getting for ad slots on TV’s latest reality extravaganza — those “debates” that began in mid-2015 and look as if they’ll never end. They have sometimes pulled in National Football League-sized audiences and represent an entertainment and profit spectacle of the highest order.

So here’s a little rundown on those debates thus far, winners and losers (and I’m not even thinking of the candidates, though Donald Trump would obviously lead the list of winners so far — just ask him).  In those ratings extravaganzas, especially the Republican ones, the lack of media questions on campaign finance reform and on the influence of billionaires is striking — and little wonder, under the money-making circumstances.

The GOP Show

The kick-off August 6th GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, was a Fox News triumph. Bringing in 24 million viewers, it was the highest-rated primary debate in TV history. The follow-up at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, on September 16th, hosted by CNN and Salem Radio, grabbed another 23.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in CNN’s history.  (Trump naturally took credit for that.)  CNN charged up to $200,000 for a 30-second spot.  (An average prime-time spot on CNN usually goes for $5,000.) The third debate, hosted by CNBC, attracted 14 million viewers, a record for CNBC, which was by then charging advertisers $250,000 or more for 30-second spots.

Fox Business News and the Wall Street Journal hosted the next round on November 10th: 13.5 million viewers and (ho-hum) a Fox Business News record. For that one, $175,000 bought you a 30-second commercial slot.

The fifth and final debate of 2015 on December 15th in Las Vegas, again hosted by CNN and Salem Radio, lassoed 18 million viewers. As 2016 started, debate fatigue finally seemed to be setting in. The first debate on January 14th in North Charleston, South Carolina, scored a mere 11 million viewers for Fox Business News. When it came to the second debate (and the last before the Iowa caucuses) on January 28th, The Donald decided not to grace it with his presence because he didn’t think Fox News had treated him nicely enough and because he loathes its host Megyn Kelly.

The Democratic Debates

Relative to the GOP debate ad-money mania, CNN charged a bargain half-off, or $100,000, for a 30-second ad during one of the Democratic debates. Let’s face it, lacking a reality TV star at center stage, the Democrats and associated advertisers generally fared less well. Their first debate on October 13th in Las Vegas, hosted by CNN and Facebook, averaged a respectable 15.3 million viewers, but the next one in Des Moines, Iowa, overseen by CBS and the Des Moines Register, sank to just 8.6 million viewers. Debate number three in Manchester, New Hampshire, hosted by ABC and WMUR, was rumored to have been buried by the Democratic National Committee (evidently trying to do Hillary a favor) on the Saturday night before Christmas. Not surprisingly, it brought in only 7.85 million viewers.

The fourth Democratic debate on NBC on January 17th (streamed live on YouTube) featured the intensifying battle between an energized Bernie and a spooked Hillary.  It garnered 10.2 million TV viewers and another 2.3 million YouTube viewers, even though it, too, had been buried — on the Sunday night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In comparison, 60 Minutes on rival network CBS nabbed 20.3 million viewers.

The Upshot

So what gives? In this election season, it’s clear that these skirmishes involving the ultra-wealthy and their piles of cash are transforming modern American politics into a form of theater. And the correlation between big money and big drama seems destined only to rise.  The media needs to fill its coffers between now and election day and the competition among billionaires has something of a horse-betting quality to it.  Once upon a time, candidates drummed up interest in their policies; now, their policies, such as they are, have been condensed into so many buzzwords and phrases, while money and glitz are the main currencies attracting attention.

That said, it could all go awry for the money-class and wouldn’t that just be satisfying to witness — the irony of an election won not by, but despite, all those billionaires and corporate patrons.

Will Bernie’s citizens beat Hillary’s billionaires? Will Trump go billion to billion with fellow New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg? Will Cruz’s prayers be answered? Will Rubio score a 12th round knockout of Cruz and Trump? Does Jeb Bush even exist? And to bring up a question few are likely to ask: What do the American people and our former democratic republic stand to lose (or gain) from this spectacle? All this and more (and more and more money) will be revealed later this year.


New Technologies Give Government Ample Means to Track Suspects, Study Finds

January 31, 2016

by David E. Sanger

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — For more than two years the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies have warned that encrypted communications are creating a “going dark” crisis that will keep them from tracking terrorists and kidnappers.

Now, a study in which current and former intelligence officials participated concludes that the warning is wildly overblown, and that a raft of new technologies — like television sets with microphones and web-connected cars — are creating ample opportunities for the government to track suspects, many of them worrying.

“ ‘Going dark’ does not aptly describe the long-term landscape for government surveillance,” concludes the study, to be published Monday by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.

The study argues that the phrase ignores the flood of new technologies “being packed with sensors and wireless connectivity” that are expected to become the subject of court orders and subpoenas, and are already the target of the National Security Agency as it places “implants” into networks around the world to monitor communications abroad.

The products, ranging from “toasters to bedsheets, light bulbs, cameras, toothbrushes, door locks, cars, watches and other wearables,” will give the government increasing opportunities to track suspects and in many cases reconstruct communications and meetings.

The study, titled, “Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate,” is among the sharpest counterpoints yet to the contentions of James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, and other Justice Department officials, mostly by arguing that they have defined the issue too narrowly.

Over the past year, they have repeatedly told Congress that the move by Apple to automatically encrypt data on its iPhone, and similar steps by Google and Microsoft, are choking off critical abilities to track suspects, even with a court order.

President Obama, however, concluded last fall that any effort to legislate a government “back door” into encrypted communications would probably create a pathway for hackers — including those working for foreign governments like Russia, China and Iran — to gain access as well, and create a precedent for authoritarian governments demanding similar access.

Most Republican candidates for president have demanded that technology companies create a way for investigators to unlock encrypted communications, and on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has taken a tough line on Silicon Valley companies, urging them to join the fight against the Islamic State.

Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, has led the charge on the other side. He recently told a group of White House officials seeking technology companies’ voluntary help to counter the Islamic State that the government’s efforts to get the keys to encrypted communications would be a boon for hackers and put legitimate business transactions, financial data and personal communications at greater risk.

The Harvard study, funded by the Hewlett Foundation, was unusual because it involved technical experts, civil libertarians and officials who are, or have been, on the forefront of counterterrorism. Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law School, who heads the foundation, noted Friday that until now “the policy debate has been impeded by gaps in trust — chasms, really — between academia, civil society, the private sector and the intelligence community” that have impeded the evolution of a “safe, open and resilient Internet.”

Among the chief authors of the report is Matthew G. Olsen, who was a director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Mr. Obama and a general counsel of the National Security Agency.

Two current senior officials of the N.S.A. — John DeLong, the head of the agency’s Commercial Solutions Center, and Anne Neuberger, the agency’s chief risk officer — are described in the report as “core members” of the group, but did not sign the report because they could not act on behalf of the agency or the United States government in endorsing its conclusions, government officials said.

Encryption is a real problem, and the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies are right to raise it,” Mr. Olsen said Sunday. But he noted that in their testimony officials had not described the other technological breaks that are falling their way, nor had they highlighted cases in which they were able to exploit mistakes made by suspects in applying encryption to their messages.

Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard who convened the group, said in an interview that the goal was “to have a discussion among people with very different points of view” that would move “the state of the debate beyond its well-known bumper stickers. We managed to do that in part by thinking of a larger picture, specifically in the unexpected ways that surveillance might be attempted.”

He noted that in the current stalemate there was little discussion of the “ever-expanding ‘Internet of things,’ where telemetry from teakettles, televisions and light bulbs might prove surprisingly, and worryingly, amenable to subpoena from governments around the world.”

Those technologies are already being exploited: The government frequently seeks location data from devices like cellphones and EZ Passes to track suspects.

The study notes that such opportunities are expanding rapidly. A Samsung “smart” television contains a microphone meant to relay back to Samsung voice instructions to the TV — “I want to see the last three ‘Star Wars’ movies” — and a Hello, Barbie brought out by Mattel last year records children’s conversations with the doll, processes them over the Internet and sends back a response.

The history of technology shows that what is invented for convenience can soon become a target of surveillance. “Law enforcement or intelligence agencies may start to seek orders compelling Samsung, Google, Mattel, Nest or vendors of other networked devices to push an update or flip a digital switch to intercept the ambient communications of a target,” the report said.

These communications, too, may one day be encrypted. But Google’s business model depends on picking out key words from emails to tailor advertisements for specific users of Gmail, the popular email service. Apple users routinely back up the contents of their phones to iCloud — a service that is not encrypted and now is almost a routine target for investigators or intelligence agencies. So are the tracking and mapping systems for cars that rely on transmitted global positioning data.

I think what this report shows is that the world today is like living in a big field that is more illuminated than ever before,” said Joseph Nye, a Harvard government professor and former head of the National Intelligence Council. “There will be dark spots — there always will be. But it’s easy to forget that there is far more data available to governments now than ever before.”


Eyewash’: How the CIA deceives its own workforce about operations

January 31, 2016

by Greg Miller and Adam Goldman

The Washington Post

Senior CIA officials have for years intentionally deceived parts of the agency workforce by transmitting internal memos that contain false information about operations and sources overseas, according to current and former U.S. officials who said the practice is known by the term “eyewash.”

Agency veterans described the tactic as an infrequent but important security measure, a means of protecting vital secrets by inserting fake communications into routine cable traffic while using separate channels to convey accurate information to cleared recipients.

But others cited a significant potential for abuse. Beyond the internal distrust implied by the practice, officials said there is no clear mechanism for labeling eyewash cables or distinguishing them from legitimate records being examined by the CIA’s inspector general, turned over to Congress or declassified for historians.

Senate investigators uncovered apparent cases of eyewashing as part of a multi-year probe of the CIA’s interrogation program, according to officials who said that the Senate Intelligence Committee found glaring inconsistencies in CIA communications about classified operations, including drone strikes.

At least two eyewashing cases are cited in the classified version of the committee’s final report, according to officials who have reviewed the document. In one instance, leaders at CIA headquarters sent a cable to the agency’s station in Pakistan saying operators there were not authorized to pursue a potentially lethal operation against the alleged al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Zubaida . But a second set of instructions sent to a smaller circle of recipients told them to disregard the other message and that the mission could proceed.

The people in the outer levels who didn’t have insider access were being lied to,” said a U.S. official familiar with the report. “They were being intentionally deceived.”

The CIA’s mission regularly involves carrying out operations that are designed to deceive foreign governments and other adversaries. But officials said that eyewashing is fundamentally different in that it is aimed at an internal audience — sowing misinformation among the agency’s rank and file.

Even among CIA veterans, there are significant gaps in their awareness and understanding of eyewashing.

Five former high-ranking CIA officials, including several who worked in the general counsel or inspector general offices, said they had never heard the term or encountered the practice of using internal communications to mislead agency employees.

Fred Hitz, who served as the CIA’s inspector general from 1990 to 1998, said that intentionally deceiving agency employees seemed fraught with risk. “Somebody who is not clued in could take action on the basis” of false information, Hitz said. “That’s really playing with fire.”

But others said that eyewashing was a standard security practice that had been in existence for decades

It’s just another form of compartmentation,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, referring to the restriction of sensitive information to select recipients. He and others spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

The classic use of an eyewash is if you have a garden-variety source and all of a sudden he gains access to truly sensitive information,” the former official said. “What you might do is have a false communication saying the guy got hit by a bus and died. The large number of people aware of this source suddenly think he is dead. But the continuing reporting on that source and from that source gets put into a very closed compartment that few would know about.”

The former official described eyewashing as relatively rare, saying that during a career that spanned more than two decades he had “only seen maybe five or six” eyewash cables sent.

Federal law makes it a criminal offense when a government employee “conceals, covers up, falsifies or makes a false entry” in an official record. Legal experts said they knew of no special exemption for the CIA, nor any attempt to prosecute agency officials for alleged violations.

The CIA declined to comment.

Senate investigators appear to have stumbled into several cases during a five-year probe of the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation methods on alleged al-Qaeda operatives.

Eyewashing is not mentioned in the abbreviated version of the committee’s report that was released to the public in 2014, but it is cited in footnotes found in the full, 6,700-page classified document, according to officials who have reviewed it.

In one case, officials said, CIA operatives in Pakistan issued a cable that attributed the death of a senior member of al-Qaeda to a surge in tribal violence in northwest Pakistan, when in fact the militant had been killed in a drone strike.

The message appears to have been designed to obscure the agency’s lethal drone capability — even among employees based in Pakistan and cleared to handle classified information — before the drone campaign was widely exposed.

A cable on that subject would have been circulated widely in the CIA, officials said, including among hundreds of analysts and other employees at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center.

It may also have been accessible to officials at other agencies. Officials said they saw no indication that the false claim about the militant’s death had circulated beyond the CIA, but several noted that there appeared to be no foolproof way to prevent eyewash falsehoods from being repeated in analytic reports that in some cases are sent to the Pentagon or White House.

Everybody in the CTC has access to operational cables,” said a former U.S. official familiar with the case, referring to the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. “What if somebody does a paper on it? How do you control it?”

Former CIA officials involved in sending eyewash cables said they had never seen the practice cause serious repercussions, either by confusing agency leaders or leading to false intelligence being disseminated to other branches of government.

Even so, they acknowledged that the internal mechanisms for managing eyewash cables were largely informal, relying heavily on those involved in sending the cables to be in position to explain the matter to confused colleagues and contain any fallout. Those who send the follow-on cable are supposed to refer to its false counterpart, providing a potential key to future investigators or other outsiders.

Skeptics described the safeguards as inadequate.

When you introduce falsehoods into the communications stream then you can destabilize the whole system of intelligence oversight and compliance with the law,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had a CIA executive director who was engaged in criminal activity — you don’t want someone like him preparing eyewash cables,” Aftergood said, referring to Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the former No. 3 executive at the agency who in 2008 pleaded guilty to a corruption charge. “It makes it too easy to conceal misdeeds.”

A more elaborate apparent case of eyewash is described in a lengthy section of the Senate report focused on Abu Zubaida, who was considered the first senior ­al-Qaeda associate apprehended after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Before his capture, CIA operatives in Pakistan informed headquarters that they were closing in on Abu Zubaida and apparently asked for guidance on whether they had authority to plan an operation designed to kill him.

CIA officials at headquarters replied with a cable that was disseminated widely among the agency’s ranks in Islamabad, warning the station that it had no authority to contemplate such a lethal mission, former U.S. officials said. But that message was superseded by a separate memo telling a small circle of operators that they were clear to proceed.

The recipients of that overriding message were also told that only the eyewash cable would remain in agency records and that the “active statement” would be “removed from the system.”

It is unclear how Senate investigators discovered the competing memos, but several officials noted that the committee had access to more than 6.3 million pages of internal CIA documents and may have found email traces of the eyewash that were not purged.

Current and former officials said the operation envisioned in that exchange was never pursued. Instead, Abu Zubaida was captured after being gravely injured in a joint CIA-Pakistani raid on a compound in Faisalabad that erupted in a shootout.

Robert Grenier, who was the CIA’s top operative in Islamabad at the time, declined to comment on communications between the station in Pakistan and agency headquarters. But Grenier said that CIA officers in Pakistan “never had authority to take lethal action against Abu Zubaida.”

Other current and former officials disputed the characterization in the Senate report, saying they could not recall such an eyewash cable ever being sent and that it was inconceivable that agency leaders would send deliberately false guidance on a question of legal — let alone lethal — authority.

I’ve never seen the eyewash concept used in the manner you’re describing,” one former CIA official said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein ­(D-Calif.), the former chairman of the intelligence committee who presided over the multi-year investigation of the interrogation program, declined a request for comment.

Copies of the classified Senate report were provided to at least a half-dozen federal entities, including the Pentagon, the FBI, the Justice Department and the White House, although many copies remain unopened because of lingering legal and congressional disputes.

About a dozen former CIA officers were allowed to read the report before its release. The document has also been made available to members of Congress and some congressional aides, expanding its circulation beyond the intelligence committees.

References to eyewash — a term that dates to the 19th century — have surfaced in books on espionage as well as an article on the CIA’s website. In a mission depicted in the movie “Argo,” agency operatives posed as filmmakers in an effort to rescue U.S. personnel who had evaded capture in the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Iran. A CIA article on the operation describes phony artist renderings of a supposed movie set as “good ‘eyewash’ ” to help sell the ruse.

The practice of sending false internal memos originated in a Cold War era marked by frequent “mole hunts” for Soviet spies in the CIA workforce and arrests of operatives such as Aldrich Ames for selling secrets to Moscow.

But officials said that while eyewashing may help guard against Ames-like penetrations, it is largely aimed at planting misinformation among presumably loyal but lower-ranking employees who might inadvertently reveal classified information to friends or colleagues.

Normal cable traffic is read by almost everyone in a station,” said a former CIA official who held senior positions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “I don’t want hundreds of people to be in the loop.”

By issuing an eyewash cable and moving subsequent communications into “restricted handling” channels, the former official said, “I can take the distribution from 500 down to five.”

In some cases, the ensuing confusion is almost immediate. The former U.S. intelligence official said he had “seen instances where an eyewash cable goes out and people who need to be in the new-and-smaller compartment come rushing in in a panic and say, ‘This terrible thing has happened.’ And you say, ‘Hang on’ ” and reveal the truth.

Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

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