TBR News February 16, 2018

Feb 16 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 16, 2018:” Truth pressed to earth will rise again. This old saying, taken from the Latin, is quite true and in the present case, applies directly to the presidency of Donald Trump. He is grossly incompetent, waffling this way and that, full of bombast, delighting in confrontations (“I feel we should close down Social Security entirely!”) and in general, behaving like his Prozac wore off. More serious, however, are his connections with the Russians. The Russians have a superior intelligence system and Putin is a very astute and clever leader of his country. There is no doubt whatsoever that Trump was gotten at by the Russians and is fearful lest this emerges into daylight. It will. Magna est veritas et prævalet.”


Table of Contents

  • Is Donald Trump a Traitor? Part 1
  • Donald Trump’s Russian connections
  • The Boomerang Effect: How Netanyahu Made Israel an American Issue, and Lost
  • Randy Bryce Becomes First Congressional Candidate Whose Staff Unionized — and He Wants Congressional Staff Unionized, Too
  • Pentagon wants to replace Guantánamo’s Top Secret prison. Price per prisoner: $4.6M


Is Donald Trump a Traitor? Part 1

Americans must live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether Trump has the best interests of the United States or those of Russia at heart.

February 16 2018

by James Risen

The Interept

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.

It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.

At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)

What more can I add?

Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.

Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?

Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment

His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart.

Most pundits in Washington now recoil at any suggestion that the Trump-Russia story is really about treason. They all want to say it’s about something else – what, they aren’t quite sure. They are afraid to use serious words. They are in the business of breaking down the Trump-Russia narrative into a long series of bite-sized, incremental stories in which the gravity of the overall case often gets lost. They seem to think that treason is too much of a conversation-stopper, that it interrupts the flow of cable television and Twitter. God forbid you might upset the right wing! (And the left wing, for that matter.)

But if a presidential candidate or his lieutenants secretly work with a foreign government that is a longtime adversary of the United States to manipulate and then win a presidential election, that is almost a textbook definition of treason.

In Article 3, Section 3, the U.S. Constitution states that “treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Based on that provision in the Constitution, U.S. law – 18 U.S. Code § 2381 – states that “[w]hoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere” is guilty of treason.  Those found guilty of this high crime “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Now look at the mandate given to former FBI Director Robert Mueller when he was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was acting in place of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself because of his role in the Trump campaign and the controversy surrounding his own meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

On May 17, 2017, Rosenstein issued a letter stating that he was appointing a special counsel to “ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” He added that Mueller’s mandate was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” Rosenstein noted that “[i]f the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

How closely aligned is Mueller’s mandate with the legal definition of treason? That boils down to the rhetorical differences between giving “aid and comfort, in the United States or elsewhere” to “enemies” of the United States and “any links and/or coordination” between the Russian government and Trump campaign aides related to “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

Sounds similar to me.

As a practical matter, the special counsel is highly unlikely to pursue treason charges against Trump or his associates. Treason is vaguely defined in the law and very difficult to prove. To the extent that it is defined – as providing aid and comfort to an “enemy” of the United States – the question might come down to whether Russia is legally considered America’s “enemy.”

Russia may not meet the legal definition of an “enemy,” but it is certainly an adversary of the United States. It would make perfect sense for Russian President and de facto dictator Vladimir Putin to use his security services to conduct a covert operation to influence American politics to Moscow’s advantage. Such a program would fall well within the acceptable norms of great power behavior. After all, it is the kind of covert intelligence program the United States has conducted regularly against other nations – including Russia.

Throughout the Cold War, the CIA and the KGB were constantly engaged in such secret intelligence battles. The KGB had a nickname for the CIA: glavnyy vrag or “the main enemy.” In 2003, I co-authored a book called “The Main Enemy” with Milt Bearden, a retired CIA officer who had been chief of the CIA’s Soviet/Eastern European division when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed. The book was about the intelligence wars between the CIA and the KGB.

Today’s cyber-spy wars are just the latest version of “The Great Game,” the wonderfully romantic name for the secret intelligence battles between the Russian and British empires for control of Central Asia in the 19th century. Russia, the United States, and other nations engage in such covert intelligence games all the time – whether they are “enemies” or simply rivals.

In fact, evidence of the connections between Trump’s bid for the White House and Russian ambitions to manipulate the 2016 U.S. election keeps piling up. Throughout late 2016 and early 2017, a series of reports from the U.S. intelligence community and other government agencies underlined and reinforced nearly every element of the Russian hacking narrative, including the Russian preference for Trump. The reports were notable in part because their findings exposed the agencies to criticism from Trump and his supporters and put them at odds with Trump’s public dismissals of reported Russian attempts to help him get elected, which he has called “fake news.”

In addition, a series of details has emerged through unofficial channels that seems to corroborate these authorized assessments. A classified NSA document obtained by The Intercept last year states that Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, played a role in the Russian hack of the 2016 American election. In August, a Russian hacker confessed to hacking the Democratic National Committee under the supervision of an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, who has separately been accused of spying for the U.S. And Dutch intelligence service AIVD has reportedly given the FBI significant inside information about the Russian hack of the Democratic Party.

Given all this, it seems increasingly likely that the Russians have pulled off the most consequential covert action operation since Germany put Lenin on a train back to Petrograd in 1917.

There are four important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

This, my first column for The Intercept, will focus on the first track of the Trump-Russia narrative. I will devote separate columns to each of the other tracks in turn.

The evidence that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win is already compelling, and it grows stronger by the day.

There can be little doubt now that Russian intelligence officials were behind an effort to hack the DNC’s computers and steal emails and other information from aides to Hillary Clinton as a means of damaging her presidential campaign. Once they stole the correspondence, Russian intelligence officials used cutouts and fronts to launder the emails and get them into the bloodstream of the U.S. press. Russian intelligence also used fake social media accounts and other tools to create a global echo chamber both for stories about the emails and for anti-Clinton lies dressed up to look like news.

To their disgrace, editors and reporters at American news organizations greatly enhanced the Russian echo chamber, eagerly writing stories about Clinton and the Democratic Party based on the emails, while showing almost no interest during the presidential campaign in exactly how those emails came to be disclosed and distributed. The Intercept itself has faced such accusations. The hack was a much more important story than the content of the emails themselves, but that story was largely ignored because it was so easy for journalists to write about Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

To anyone who has studied the history of the KGB, particularly during the Cold War, the attack on the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party during the 2016 U.S. election looks like the contemporary cyber-descendant of countless analog KGB propaganda efforts. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the KGB frequently engaged in ambitious disinformation campaigns that were designed to sow suspicion of the United States in the developing world. The KGB’s so-called “active measures” programs would use international front organizations, cutouts, and sometimes unwitting enablers in the press to disseminate their anti-American propaganda.

The most infamous and dangerously effective KGB disinformation campaign of the Cold War was known as Operation Infektion. It was a secret effort to convince people in developing countries that the United States had created the HIV/AIDS virus.

In 1983, a newspaper in India printed what purported to be a letter from an American scientist saying the virus had been developed by the Pentagon. The letter went on to suggest that the U.S. was moving its experiments to Pakistan, India’s archenemy. Meanwhile, the KGB got an East German scientist to spread misinformation supporting the Moscow-backed conspiracy theory that the U.S. was behind the virus.

While these lies never penetrated the U.S. mainstream, they nonetheless spread insidiously through much of the world.

Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer during the 1980s when the KGB was conducting this disinformation campaign. He was stationed in East Germany in the late 1980s, and there is a good chance he knew about the East German component of Operation Infektion.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the KGB was broken up and its successor agencies renamed. But the KGB never really went away. Instead, it underwent an extensive rebranding that did little to change its culture and traditions.

The KGB’s First Chief Directorate, its foreign intelligence service, was renamed the SVR. Like its predecessor agency, it was still housed in the First Chief Directorate’s headquarters in the Yasenevo District of Moscow, which was known as the “Russian Langley” for its similarities to CIA headquarters. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I met many former KGB officials in Moscow, including Leonid Shebarshin, the last leader of the First Chief Directorate, who was running the agency in 1991 when communist hardliners launched a coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. By the time I met Shebarshin, he was retired and running an “economic intelligence” firm out of an office in Moscow’s old Dynamo Stadium, the home of the KGB’s soccer team. A mural on his office wall depicted scenes from the Battle of Stalingrad and the Bolshevik Revolution, signaling his immersion in the Soviet era.

After the Soviet collapse, the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate, which handled spy-hunting and counterintelligence, along with other directorates that handled the KGB’s internal police state functions, were bundled into a new organization known as the FSB, the Federal Security Service. I conducted extensive interviews with one of the most legendary spy-hunters of the Second Chief Directorate, Rem Krassilnikov, a man whose personal history showed how entwined Russian intelligence still was with its Soviet past. His first name, Rem, was an acronym for Revolutsky Mir – the “World Revolution” Soviet leaders had longed to bring about. His father had been a general in the NKVD, the Stalinist predecessor to the KGB, and whenever I talked to him, Krassilnikov made it clear that he still considered the United States his adversary. He proudly took me on a tour of sites around Moscow where he had arrested American spies.

No one even bothered to rename the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. During the Cold War, the KGB considered the GRU a lower-class cousin, much as the CIA has always looked down upon the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency. Today, the GRU has added cyber and hacking capabilities like those of the National Security Agency. The GRU was involved in the Russian hack of the 2016 American election, according to a classified NSA document obtained by The Intercept, yet it still operates in the shadows of the more influential FSB and SVR.

Russian intelligence was briefly weakened following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but under Putin – the first KGB man to run the country since Yuri Andropov died in 1984 – it has come roaring back. During his KGB career, Putin served in both the First and Second Chief Directorates. One of his key formative experiences occurred in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Putin was stationed in East Germany at the time, and his biographers have written that the personal humiliation he felt watching the Soviet empire collapse helps explain his drive to return Russia to great power status.

In 1998, Russian President Boris Yeltsin named Putin director of the FSB. Since coming to power himself, Putin has deployed his country’s spies in Chechnya, Georgia, the Crimea, eastern Ukraine, and Syria in a bid to reassert Moscow’s global influence.

Why wouldn’t he be willing to deploy his spies inside the computer system of the DNC as well?

The chronology of the attack on the Democratic Party is a sad testament to the overconfidence of the Clinton campaign. It also highlights the inattention of American intelligence and law enforcement and their failure to adequately warn the major political parties of looming cyberthreats to the U.S. electoral system.

In September 2015, the FBI made a halfhearted effort to tell the DNC that its computer system had been invaded. In November 2015, the FBI told the DNC that its computers were sending data to Russia, but even that didn’t seem to prompt much concern on the Democrats’ part. In March 2016, Podesta’s email account was hacked in a phishing attack, giving thieves access to thousands of his emails.

In May 2016, CrowdStrike, a cybercompany hired by the DNC after the party finally recognized it had a problem, told DNC officials that its computers had been compromised in two separate attacks with two sets of malware associated with Russian intelligence.

While the DNC used CrowdStrike, a private contractor, to conduct an investigation, it did not give the FBI access to its computer systems. That fact has since been seized upon by skeptics who say that CrowdStrike’s analysis can’t be considered credible. But according to a November BuzzFeed story, CrowdStrike’s lead investigator, Robert Johnston, was a former Marine captain who had previously worked at the U.S. Cyber Command, where he had investigated an attempted hack of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he identified as likely associated with the FSB. He had recent experience in identifying the signatures of hacking linked to Russian intelligence.

In June 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said WikiLeaks had obtained emails associated with Clinton. Just days later, the Washington Post reported that Russian intelligence had hacked the DNC’s computers.

In July 2016, just before the Democratic National Convention, Wikileaks released thousands of DNC emails, and the party’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign.

In September 2016, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, issued a statement that they had received classified briefings that made it clear that Russian intelligence was trying to intervene in the election.

“We believe that orders for the Russian intelligence agencies to conduct such actions could come only from very senior levels of the Russian government,” their statement noted.

The key moment in the 2016 campaign came on October 7, when three events unfolded one after another. That afternoon, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of the Office of National Intelligence issued a statement that U.S. intelligence believed Russia was behind the Democratic Party hacks and email releases.

“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations,” the statement read. “The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

That statement was immediately overshadowed later that afternoon when the Washington Post published the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump is heard talking about how easy it is for him to get away with sexual assault, including groping and forcibly kissing women.

Later that afternoon, WikiLeaks started tweeting links to emails hacked from Podesta’s account. WikiLeaks then began releasing Podesta emails on a regular basis throughout the last month of the campaign. Meanwhile, a group called DC Leaks, which is now believed to be a front for the Russian hackers who sought to intervene in the election, released more Democratic Party-related documents.

Within days, Trump was telling his supporters at rallies: “I love WikiLeaks.”

The scope of the impact of Russian hacking and subsequent disclosures of Democratic Party emails and data on the outcome of the 2016 election remains unclear. But the disclosures certainly helped take at least some of the media’s attention off Trump, and probably should be credited with giving him time to recover from the disastrous “Access Hollywood” tape. The pattern and timing of the disclosures also strongly suggests that the objective was to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Donald Trump.

In December 2016, a month after the election, the FBI and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center issued a joint report detailing the cybertools used by Russian intelligence to attack the Democratic Party.

The report is still illuminating today because it suggests that the original DNC hack in 2015 was part of a much broader Russian cyberassault on a wide array of American institutions, including government agencies. Originally, it seems, the Russians were not specifically targeting the Democrats, but were simply casting a wide net in Washington to see who might take the bait.

The agencies’ report determined that in the summer of 2015, “an APT29 [Advanced Persistent Threat 29, one of two Russian intelligence “actors” identified in the report, also known as Cozy Bear] spearphishing campaign directed emails containing a malicious link to over 1,000 recipients, including multiple U.S. Government victims. APT29 used legitimate domains, to include domains associated with U.S. organizations and educational institutions, to host malware and send spearphishing emails. In the course of that campaign, APT29 successfully compromised a U.S. political party.”

The report adds that the Russians quickly followed up when they gained access to the Democrats. “APT29 delivered malware to the political party’s systems, established persistence, escalated privileges, enumerated active directory accounts, and exfiltrated email from several accounts through encrypted connections back through operational infrastructure.”

While intervening in the 2016 election may not have been the initial purpose of the cyberattack, once the Russians opportunistically struck gold by breaking into the DNC, they went after the Democrats relentlessly.

“In spring 2016, APT28 [another Russian intelligence “actor”] compromised the same political party, again via targeted spearphishing,” the report states. “This time, the spearphishing email tricked recipients into changing their passwords through a fake webmail domain hosted on APT28 operational infrastructure. Using the harvested credentials, APT28 was able to gain access and steal content, likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members.”

By luck or design, Russian intelligence had obtained a vast trove of inside information from the Democratic Party in the middle of a presidential campaign.

In January 2017, just days before Trump took office, a remarkable report from the CIA, FBI, and NSA was made public, plunging the U.S. intelligence community into American politics in an unprecedented way. Its aftershocks continue to reverberate a year later.

The report states that “we assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” It continues: “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments. We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

The report also notes that “further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.”

Trump has sought to discredit the report, and by extension, the entire intelligence community, ever since. His cronies have chimed in, dismissing it as the work of the so-called deep state.

Yet interestingly, CIA Director Mike Pompeo – a Trump loyalist who has been criticized for transparently currying favor with Trump in hopes of being named secretary of state – still stands by the January intelligence assessment. In November, after Trump once again publicly trashed the intelligence community’s conclusions, the CIA issued a statement that “[t]he Director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment.” According to the CIA, “the intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed.” Pompeo’s willingness to stand by the assessment is clearly not in his own political interest and thus, lends credibility to the assessment.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, top intelligence officials, including Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, underlined their ongoing concerns about Russian election meddling, warning that Moscow once again seems to be seeking to intervene, this time in the 2018 midterm elections. In a congressional hearing, Coats suggested that the Russians believe they were successful in 2016 and want to build on their success in 2018. Coats said that “the 2018 midterm elections are a potential target for Russian influence operations,” and that “at a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

Further documentary evidence of Russian intervention in the 2016 election came from an important story published by The Intercept last June.

The story was notable because it was based on a classified U.S. intelligence document about Russian election hacking obtained through an unauthorized leak. All the other U.S. intelligence assessments and reports that have so far been made public about the issue have come through officially authorized channels. Thus, the NSA report leaked to The Intercept has the enhanced credibility that comes from being disclosed against the will of the U.S. intelligence community.

The classified report is significant because it reveals that Russian interference in the election extended beyond the direct attack on the Democratic Party and included attempts to gain access to the basic infrastructure involved in actually counting American votes. It details how the GRU conducted a cyberattack on a U.S. voting software supplier and engaged in spear-phishing to try to hack local election officials before the 2016 vote

The classified May 2017 NSA report, provided anonymously to The Intercept, shows that Russian hackers sought to pose as an e-voting vendor and trick local government officials into opening Microsoft Word documents loaded with malware that would let the hackers remotely control the government computers. To fool the local officials, the Russians first sought to gain access to the vendor’s internal systems, which they hoped would provide a convincing disguise.

“Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors [redacted] executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August, 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions, according to information that became available in April, 2017,” the report states. “The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to create a new email account and launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.”

The compromise of the vendor would provide cover for the direct attack on the local officials. “It was likely that the threat actor was targeting officials involved in the management of voter registration systems,” the report adds. “It is unknown whether the aforementioned spear-phishing deployment successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accesses by the cyber actor.”

The growing evidence that Russia was behind the attack on the Democratic Party now includes the confession of a Russian hacker in a Moscow court. The story of Konstantin Kozlovsky appears to be one of the most significant of the entire Trump-Russia saga. It is one of several intriguing tales now emerging that suggests that the secrecy surrounding the Russian hacking is beginning to unravel.

In December 2017, The Bell, an independent Russian news site, reported on Kozlovsky’s stunning testimony in Moscow City Court. Kozlovsky — a young Russian hacker who had been arrested, along with other members of the Lurk hacking group, in connection with the cybertheft of more than $50 million from Russian bank accounts — testified that he had conducted the Democratic Party hack on behalf of Russian intelligence. In an August 15 court hearing in Moscow, Kozlovsky said he “performed various tasks under the supervision of FSB officers,” including hacking “of the National Committee of the Democratic Party of the USA and electronic correspondence of Hillary Clinton,” and hacking “very serious military enterprises of the United States and other organizations,” according to the Bell.

The news site reported that Kozlovsky said he had conducted the hack at the direction of Dmitry Dokuchaev, a major in the FSB’s Information Security Center, the intelligence agency’s cyber arm.

When Kozlovsky made this statement in court, he was already facing serious criminal charges for hacking. He may have thought that claiming involvement in the DNC hack would help him with his ongoing criminal case, or he may have thought that he had nothing left to lose and so should tell all. He remains in pretrial detention in Moscow.

Dokuchaev, meanwhile, is a fascinating character, and his involvement in Kozlovsky’s story plunges it into the wilderness of mirrors of present-day espionage battles between the U.S. and Russia.

In December 2016, Dokuchaev was arrested in Moscow and charged with spying for the United States. He and three others have reportedly been accused of providing information to U.S. intelligence on the Russian hack of the Democratic Party. Along with Dokuchaev, FSB Col. Sergey Mikhailov, Ruslan Stoyanov of Kaspersky Labs, and Georgy Fomchenkov, a Russian businessman, have been charged with treason in the case.

Dokuchaev is now being detained in Russia, but since Kozlovsky’s confession was made public, Dokuchaev, through his lawyer, has told the Russian press that he doesn’t know the hacker and was not involved with the theft of documents from the Democratic Party.

In March 2017, just months after Dokuchaev was arrested in Moscow for spying for the United States, the U.S. Justice Department announced that he had been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of hacking Yahoo’s network and webmail accounts. Dokuchaev, identified by the Justice Department as a 33-year-old FSB officer, was one of four men indicted in the case. “The defendants used unauthorized access to Yahoo’s systems to steal information from about at least 500 million Yahoo accounts and then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials, and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies,” according to the Justice Department.

At the press conference announcing the indictments, officials displayed a large FBI wanted poster for Dokuchaev.

This chain of events leaves plenty of questions unanswered, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dokuchaev’s December 2016 arrest for treason in Moscow and his March 2017 indictment in the United States were somehow related.

While the Washington press corps has been obsessing over Donald Trump’s tweets and a ginned-up memo from House Republicans seeking to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation, another major break in the story has just begun to unfold in the Netherlands. In late January, a Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, along with Nieuwsuur, a Dutch current affairs television program, reported that Dutch intelligence service AIVD has turned over to the FBI conclusive inside information about the Russian hack of the Democratic Party.

The two news organizations reported that in 2014, Dutch hackers working for the AIVD gained secret access to the Russian hacker group known as Cozy Bear – also known as Advanced Persistent Threat 29 – a Russian intelligence unit behind the hack of the DNC.

Dutch intelligence first told their American counterparts about their successful penetration of Cozy Bear in 2014, tipping off Washington that the Russian hackers were trying to break into the State Department’s computer system. That warning led the NSA to scramble to counter the Russian threat.

In 2015, the Dutch were also able to watch, undetected by the Russians, as the Cozy Bear hackers launched their first attack on the Democratic Party, according to the two news organizations. In addition to gaining access to the Cozy Bear computers, the Dutch were able to hack into a security camera that recorded who was working in Cozy Bear’s office in a university building in Moscow near Red Square. The Dutch discovered that there were about 10 people working there, and they were eventually able to match the faces to those of Russian intelligence officers who work for the SVR.

The information flowing from the Dutch was considered so vital by the Americans that the NSA opened a direct line with Dutch intelligence to get the data as fast as possible, according to the Dutch news organizations. To show their appreciation, the Americans sent cake and flowers to AIVD headquarters in the Dutch city of Zoetermeer.

If the Dutch story is accurate, it would help explain why the U.S. intelligence community is so confident in its assessment that Russian intelligence was behind the attack on the Democratic Party.

The Dutch news organizations say that the AIVD is no longer inside the Cozy Bear network, and that Dutch intelligence has become increasingly suspicious of working with the Americans.

Since Trump’s election, who can blame them?


Donald Trump’s Russian connections

Отчет, представленный министру Колокольцеву

Report submitted to Minister Kolokoltsev

by Christian Jürs




The KGB had opened a file on Donald Trump in 1977, the year when Mr.Trump married Ivana Zelníčková, then a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelníčková was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA.

Zelníčková was born in Zlin, a town in Moravia. In the early 1970s she moved to Canada, first to Toronto and then to Montreal, to be with a ski instructor boyfriend. Exiting Czechoslovakia during this period was, the files said, “incredibly difficult.” Zelníčková moved to New York. In April 1977 she married Mr.Trump. Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992

According to intelligence files, both in Moscow and in Prague, Czech intelligence agents kept the Trumps under close surveillance in Manhattan. The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos. They opened letters sent home by Ivana to her father, Milos, an engineer. Milos Zelníčková had a functional relationship with the Czech secret police, who would ask him how his daughter was doing abroad and in return permit her visits home. There was continuing surveillance of the Trump family in the United States. At her request, and by her father’s insistence, Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., visited Milos in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,

As was the custom, the Czechs shared their intelligence product with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. Mr.Trump was of interest to Soviet intelligence for several reasons. In the first instance his wife came from a country under Soviet control and secondly during the perestroika period Trump was considered to be a good potential source as he was known to be a prominent real estate leader.  In the Czech intelligence files, communications from Ivana to her father mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. It was at this point that it appeared that Mr.Trump might embark on a political career and, if successful, be a first class intelligence asset.

Therefore, Mr. Trump was in an active file of the KGB and regarded as a highly potential agent/informant and, possibly to become a full KGB agent.

Through the offices of his wife, Mr.Trump was encouraged to consider the Soviets as a good business connection. The relationship would be known as an important “confidential contact.” doveritelnaya svyaz. доверительные отношения  (Trust relationship)

Trump biography

Donald John Trump (June 14, 1946)

He is of German/Scottish origin. One of his German relatives was an Arnold Trumpf, b, 27 October 1892 in Gifhorn and died 7, January 1985 in Garmish-Partenkirchen. Trumpf was a member of the Nazi party number 389 920 from 1 December 1930. He was a member of the SS Race and Settlement Office as an SS-Oberfürer

Trump was born and grew up in New York City. He received a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Trump took over running his family’s real estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded it to involve constructing and renovating skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. He also started various side ventures, including branding and licensing his name for real estate and luxury consumer products.

He managed the company until his 2017 inauguration as President of the United States.

Trump also gained prominence in the media and entertainment fields. He co-authored several books, and from 2003 to 2015 he was a producer and the host of The Apprentice, a reality television game show.

Trump owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015. According to the American financial Forbes magazine, he was the world’s 544th richest person as of May 2017, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion.

In 1977, Trump married his first wife, Czech model Ivana Zelníčková. They had three children: Donald Jr. (b. 1977), Ivanka (b. 1981), and Eric (b. 1984). Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump’s affair with actress Marla Maples.

In October 1993, Maples gave birth to Trump’s daughter, who was named Tiffany after the upper-class Tiffany & Company. Maples and Trump were married two months later in December 1993. They divorced in 1999, and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California.

In 2005, Trump married his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. Her original name was Melanija Knavs, born on April 26, 1970 at Novo Mesto, SR Slovenia, SFR Yugoslavia

In 2006, Melania became a United States citizen and gave birth to a son, March 20, 2006, Barron William Trump. Melania and Barron moved to the White House on June 11, 2017,

Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but his hotel and casino businesses were declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds. Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded.

Mr. Trump was quoted by Newsweek magazine in 2011 saying, “I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they’re very good for me” as a tool for trimming debt.

The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).

As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. Trump uttered “at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days” in office according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office. The Washington Post, also wrote, “President Trump is the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered… the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.”

Mr. Trump has a history of making racially-charged statements and taking actions perceived as racially motivated.

In 1975, Mr. Trump settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1973 alleging housing discrimination against black renters. In 1989, he was accused of racism for insisting that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the Central Park jogger case even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence.

He continued to maintain this position as late as 2016.

Mr.Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.

One of Mr.Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked for several years to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovich win the Ukrainian presidency.

Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials. Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump.

Members of Mr.Trump’s campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn, were in contact with Russian officials both before and after the November election In a December 29, 2016 conversation, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the recently imposed sanctions against Russia; Mr.Trump later fired Flynn for falsely claiming he had not discussed the sanctions.

Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.

In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.

In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel

In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.

By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.

Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”

In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.

Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.

Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”

In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors

During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.

In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.

Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns

A secret KGB memo under date of February 1, 1984 concerned the necessity of making an expanded use of the facilities of cooperating foreign intelligence services—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German intelligence networks.

The most revealing section concerned kompromat.

The document specifically requested any compromising information about Donald Trump, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself. Plus any other information that would compromise the subject (Trump) to his country’s authorities and the general public. Naturally the information could be used to cause him serious problems in his country if exposed.

Finally, the report mentioned that his attitude towards women was also of interest. The point of interest would be if he was the habit of having affairs with women.

Mr. Trumps’ first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin in 1986. His original position was Soviet ambassador to the U.N. Dubinin’s mission as ambassador was to make contact with America’s business elite.

There was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder. Mr. Trump was invited to meet the Ambassador. Ambassador Dubinin spoke fluent English and during the course of the luncheon Trump spoke at length with the Ambassador who proposed that Trump build a large luxury hotel, directly across from the Kremlin, in association with the Soviet government.

Mr.Trump at once became interested in the project and expressed his willingness to cooperate on such a project.

By January 1987, Mr.Trump had become a “prominent person” status and therefore Ambassador Dubinin deemed Mr.Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—was of assistance in this project.

Mr. Trump first visited the Soviet Union on July 4, 1987.

Mr. Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with his wife Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant. Ambassador Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow was a standard operation exercise by the KGB.

The Trump trip was orchestrated by the Intourist Agency which was under the control of the KGB. Its duty was to investigate and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union.

The Trumps were treated with great courtesy by Soviet officials and they were housed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square.

The hotel was connected to the Intourist complex next door and was under KGB control.

The Lenin suite had been fixed for electronic surveillance.

In November of 2013, the Miss Universe pageant was held iin Moscow

It was there that  Mr. Trump — then the pageant’s owner — spent several days socializing with Russia’s business and political elite and becoming acquainted with a wealthy developer whose connections his son would later seek to capitalize on. The developer, Aras Agalarov, offered to pass on information about potential rival Mrs. Clinton from Russia’s top prosecutor to help a projected Trump presidential campaign.

The contest was held at Crocus City Hall, a venue owned by Agalarov. The event would be a family affair: Agalarov’s son, a pop singer named Emin, performed on stage and his wife was a judge.

Mr.Trump remained on good and productive terms with the Agalarov family, at one point, appearing in a music video with Emin and sending him a videotaped greeting on his 35th birthday.

During his trip to Moscow on November 9-11, 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant, Mr.Trump surrounded himself with business people and those necessary to sign a deal which would bring a Trump Tower project to Moscow. These were: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov,Yulya (Yulia) Alferova,Herman Gref, Artem Klyushin, Vladimir Kozhin, Chuck LaBella, Rotem Rosen, Phil Ruffin, Alex Sapir, Keith Schiller, Roustam Tariko and Bob Van Ronkel.

At first, President Putin, who had planned on meeting Mr.Trump at the pageant, sent numerous individuals tied to the Russian construction sector to the event to discuss potential lucrative building plans and to ascertain Mr. Trump’s attitudes.

President Putin to establish a distance, stated he was unable to attend the pagent because of a last-minute visit from the King of the Netherlands.

Previous to this meeting, there had been no positive positions on the possibility that Mr. Trump, with Russian assistance and financing, might construct a luxury hotel in Moscow. Trump made several tweets thanking individuals in Moscow and bragging about his future plans. Then on November 12th, 2013 Trump posted a link to the Moscow Times, remarking that his organization was working on building a luxury hotel in Moscow “@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”

This hotel deal was finalized during Trump’s weekend stay in Moscow for his Miss Universe pageant. At the Four Seasons Hotel at Ulitsa Okhotnyy Ryad, 2, a private meeting was held between Mr. Trump and President Putin. As the President is fluent in English, no other person was present. President Putin praised the business abilities of Mr. Trump and said that he would be a “refreshing person” as President of the United States. President Putin said that his people would be pleased to support Mr. Trump and that if this support was deemed material in achieving a victory, President Putin had one request to make of Mr. Trump. President Putin said his best wish was to establish “friendly and cooperative attitudes” by both parties, firmer business contacts and an abandonment of the policy of threats to the Russian Republic. President Putin stressed that certain very right-wing groups in America had been constantly agitating against him and against the Russian Republic and he hoped that Mr. Trump, if elected, could ignore these few people and work with, not against the Russian Republic. Mr. Trump repeatedly assured the President that he woud be most eager to do just that and he agreed to work with various people in the United States who were friendly towards, and had connections with, the Russian Republic.

This most important conversation was recorded as a form of kompromat. And it is certain that a direct quid pro quo took place in November of 2013 between President Putin and Mr. Trump.

On June 16, 2015, Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for President

The methodology of Russian assistance:

The SVR has often sent intelligence officers to branches of the New York Public Library, and other public libraries, where they obtained access to the Internet, via library computers, without revealing their identity.

They placed propaganda and disinformation to educational web sites and sent e-mails to US media. It is a fact that the alternate internet site, WikiLeaks, is entirely controlled, out of Sweden, by the SVR and that they use this front to release genuine information to address issues they consider important to influence.

The articles or studies were generated by Russian experts who worked for the SVR. The purpose of these active measures was to whitewash Russian foreign policy, to create good image of Russia, to promote Anti-American feelings and “to cause dissension and unrest inside the US.

The materials used to support the candidacy of Mr. Trump were a series of emails from, and to, the Democratic National Committee which were perfectely genuine but selected to bring discredit on the campaign of Ms. Clinton. This material was part of a trove of such material obtained by an American domestic intelligence agent and sold to Russian interests.

In June of 2016, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his presidential chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer when they were told the Russian intelligence had acquired highly damaging information concerning Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate.

Russian property developer, Aras Agalarov had arragned this meeting. Subsequently the information gleaned from this meeting was given to Aras Agalarov from Russian prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika.

Because the Trumps, both father and son, were not discreet, the American Central Intelligence Agency, who were subjecting both Trumps to surveillance, learned of some of the contacts with Russian government personnel and one of their internal memos spoke very disparingly of these contacts.

Then, on September 6, 2016, there was an arragned accident in Moscow in which an oncoming vehicle was suddenly controlled to swerve across the median and collide with a State-owned BMW used by President Putin. The driver of the Presidential car was killed instantly. As the President was known to have been in China for the G20 summet meeting, the arraigned accident was not an assassination attempt but meant as a clear warning to the President to abandon his activities in support of Presidential candidate Trump.

It is known that the CIA has developed the methodology of controlling the speed and direction of a moving vehicle via its on-board computer system.

Messagings from the CIA section in the American Embassy in Moscow were intercepted and decoded by Russian intelligence that clearly indicated the reasons for the arrangned accident.

Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interests

 Оценка г-на Трампа как актива для интересов России

Russian intelligence has had an interest in Donald Trump since the year 1977 when we received an alert from a sister unit in Prague.

He was described as impressionable young man with large ambitions and money from his family real estate business.

His marriage to a Czech woman whose father was an element in that countries’ intelligence agency brought him to our attention and we went to some lengths to ascertain his potential value for Russian interests.

The initial impression of Mr. Trump was that he was extremely self-important and egotistical to a remarkable degree.

As our first hand knowledge of him progressed it became evident that Mr. Trump fancied himself as a man to whom beautiful women were attracted.

That they were attracted to his money is more evident.

Although it is true he is a person with whom one could establish good business contacts, Mr. Trump was, and is, an overbearing and intolerant person.

He is subject to mood-swings in that what is acceptable today is not tomorrow.

He is easily led by women to whom he is initially very attentive and once he feels he had their purchased loyalty, proceeds to turn his attentions to other women.

It was our experience with Mr. Trump that by supplying him a number of beautiful Russian women, he became besotted and was willing to agree to almost any proposal presented to him.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump is erratic in the extreme. He owes very large sums of money, for example, to the Deutsche Bank, sums he somehow forgets to pay. He also owes large sums to Russian banks but in this case, he dare not neglect to pay.

Although he and President Putin got on well together, Mr. Trump’s promises ought to be taken very cautiously.

Mr. Trump is so convinced of his superiority to others and so easy to influence that promises to one person could easily be forgotten when making identical promises to another.

His current wife, Melanija Knavs, has produced a son and this boy, quite attractive, is the idol of his mother. She has stated to one of our people that she is not happy with her marriage because of her husband’s constant, and often very obnoxious, persuit of other women and does not want her young son to associate with his father lest he hear Mr. Trump’s constant flow of foul and obscene language or see him grab at some woman’s breasts.

She planned to divorce him and take her son back to Yugoslavia but the scandal would do so much damage to Mr. Trump’s public image that she was dissuaded from divorce by the payment of a large sum of money and promises on the part of Mr. Trump to let his wife rear and be responsible for his son.

Insofar as his use to Russian interests, this is problematical due to Mr.Trump’s disturbed personality. He does recall, however, that we released unpleasant material about Mrs. Clinton and that the same sort of material could very easily be released about him.

On the one hand, he has no problem taking Russian money for his businesses but on the other, he is susceptible to pressure from American power groups such as the Christian religious sector, Jewish groups and the military which have virtual control of current American politics and governance.



The Boomerang Effect: How Netanyahu Made Israel an American Issue, and Lost

February 16, 2018

by Ramzy Baroud


Despite massive sums of money spent to channel public opinion in the United States in favor of Israel, unmistakable trends in opinion polls are attesting to the changing dynamics of Israel’s support among ordinary Americans.

Not only is Israel losing its support and overall appeal among large sections of American society, but among young American Jews, as well – a particularity worrying phenomena for the Israeli government.

The trend promises to be a lasting one, since it has been in the making for years, starting some time after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

It was on that date that the affinity between Israel and the US purportedly grew to unprecedented levels, since both countries claimed to be fighting “Islamic terror.” In reality, the attacks, the ensuing media discourse and subsequent wars have all coagulated the support of Christian Evangelists behind Israel, as they saw the widening conflict in the Middle East as part of a long-awaited prophecy.

It was precisely then that the support of Israel by American Liberals, especially those identifying with the Democratic Party, began to weaken.

With time, supporting or not supporting Israel became a partisan issue, which is, itself, unprecedented.

While the Israeli government under Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, exploited every opportunity to maximize support for Israel in order to achieve objectives deemed important by the Israeli rightwing, ultra-right and religious parties, Netanyahu’s conceited and confrontational style has alienated many Americans, especially Democrats.

Worse, Netanyahu’s policies of entrenching the Occupation, blocking any peace efforts and expanding illegal Jewish settlements, also began to shift the kind of support that Israel has historically taken for granted, that of American Jews.

A comprehensive Pew poll published in October 2013 indicated that a growing number of US Jews question the sincerity of the Israeli government in its alleged efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Palestine. Only 38% thought Tel Aviv was sincere, and only 17% agreed that the illegal Jewish settlements are conducive to Israel’s security. 44% thought otherwise.

The Israeli government, aware of the generational gap within the US Jewish communities, seemed more fixated on maximizing the unprecedented trend of support it was receiving from US Republicans and religious conservatives, especially Christian Evangelists.

Fast forward to January 2018 and Israel’s ratings among American Jews has plummeted even further.

According to a recent Brand Israel Group study, “support for Israel among Jewish college students in the United States has dropped 32% between 2010 and 2016,” reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The report was accompanied by stern warnings from the CEO and director-general of the influential Jewish Agency, Alan Hoffman, who described the findings as “extremely worrisome.”

However, no contingency plan is likely to reverse these numbers any time soon, since they are consistent with the overall perception of Israel among the US population.

The assumption that the US Jews are an insulated group which lends support to Israel, irrespective of political trends in the country as a whole, no longer suffices.

US Jewish communities are changing, and so is the entire country:

The number of those identifying as ‘liberal’ in the US has leaped from 27% to 41% between 2000 and 2015, respectively.

This change was accompanied by rising sympathy towards Palestinians by that same group as indicated by a May 2016 Pew poll. More liberal Democrats said they sympathized with Palestinians than with Israel, in a ratio of 40% vs. 33%, respectively.

At the time, it was prematurely concluded by various media analyst that the growing disenchantment with Israel had much to do with the feud between Netanyahu and then US President Barack Obama. Netanyahu had repeatedly challenged – and often humiliated – popular Democratic President, Obama, on various issues, notable amongst them is the expansion of the illegal settlements and the Iran nuclear deal.

The trend, however, continued, simply because once an issue falls in the realm of Washington’s partisan politics, it immediately becomes a polarizing one.

For decades, Israel was considered the only issue that united all Americans regardless of their political and ideological affiliations. That is no longer valid, and Netanyahu has played a major role in this.

The trend among Liberal Democrats was countered with another trend among Republicans, who have adopted the cause of Israel as their own. According to Pew, 79% of conservative Republicans support Israel, while 65% among liberal Republicans share their views.

While Christian Evangelists succeeded in making the unconditional support for Israel the litmus test for any candidate who seeks their vote, the Israeli cause is no longer a rally cry for Democrats.

Pew concluded that “the share of liberal Democrats who side more with the Palestinians than with Israel has nearly doubled since 2014 (from 21% to 40%) and is higher than at any point dating back to 2001.”

More studies by Pew were conducted in January 2017 and January 2018, all confirming that the trend is a lasting one.

Of all Democrats, only 33% sympathized with Israel according to Pew’s January 2017 poll. It was the “first time ever” that the Democratic Party “was split in nearly half between the support for Israel and the support for Palestinians.”

And as support for Palestinians grew among Democrats, so did the margin between the two major parties as the most recent January 2018 Pew research indicates.

While support for Israel among Republicans has remained high, a whopping 79%, support for Israel among Democrats has sunk even further, to 27%.

True, Netanyahu’s strategy in courting US conservatives has proved a success. However, the price of that success is that the relationship between Israel and the American public has fundamentally changed.

Netanyahu has shoved Israel into the heart of polarizing American politics, and although he has achieved his short-term goals (for example, obtaining US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel) he has irrevocably damaged the decades-long consensus on Israel among Americans, and in that there is a great source of hope.


Randy Bryce Becomes First Congressional Candidate Whose Staff Unionized — and He Wants Congressional Staff Unionized, Too

February 15 2018

by Zaid Jilani and Ryan Grim

The Intercept

With an announcement made this week, the campaign staff of Randy Bryce — a union ironworker who is challenging Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan — became the first in the country to form a union.

The contract was organized by the Campaign Workers Guild, a group of former campaign workers from all walks of life who had for years casually discussed the idea of unionizing, but finally got together to make it happen.

Colin O’Neill, an organizer at the CWG, told The Intercept that he had discussed the idea of organizing campaign staff for years with others who regularly worked for political candidates. He cited 80-hour workweeks and other persistently difficult working conditions as the reasons why they want to organize campaign workers.

“The industry is chronically underpaid and campaign workers are pretty overworked, so it was a pretty unhealthy situation for the workers,” he said.

“It was actually really great, it was kind of liberating,” Bryce told The Intercept about what it was like to be on the other side of the table in a union drive. “I spent almost a year as a full-time staff organizer for the Ironworkers.”

When asked if we will soon see the campaign worker union movement spread to other candidates, O’Neill said they are talking to a number of campaigns who have reached out and that in at least one campaign, both the candidate and campaign staff are supportive of the staff forming a union.

Lauren Hitt, a spokesperson for Bryce and a member of the new union, said that while the new contract does offer some paid time off and holidays, the hectic pace of campaigning could still drive staffers to work in cases in which they’re needed. “If Paul Ryan decides to tweet something idiotic about $1.50 on a Saturday, we’re all working,” she said. “Our first job is to get him elected.”

Currently, the CWG is just working with campaigns for candidates for office, but it is also open to expanding its focus. “We’re really open right now — the campaigns that we have a contract with and the ones we’re negotiating with,” O’Neill told us. “We’re very much open to the idea of working with issue campaigns. Really there’s no limit in terms of whether we’re willing to work with smaller or lager campaigns as well.”

O’Neill also confirmed that the campaigns the guild is actively working on organizing are Democratic candidates, but they are also open to working with campaigns from other parties. “It’s time for candidates to really live their values and support the labor rights they fight for,” he concluded.

Nate Rifkin, who served as the union steward for Bryce’s campaign, said in a statement that Bryce is that sort of candidate. “Unions fight for worker rights and dignity. They help facilitate more equal relationships between labor and management. Every worker deserves the right to join a union, and that includes campaign staffers. The workers on our unionized campaign are proud to work for Randy Bryce, a person, and candidate, who practices what he preaches,” he said.

For his part, Bryce is willing to go even further. The lack of recourse for Capitol Hill staff who face sexual harassment or abusive bosses has increasingly become a subject of debate in Washington. When asked how he feels about congressional staff unionizing as well, he was instantly on board. “Absolutely,” he replied. “I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be [a way to do it legally]. Question is what the actual bargaining unit would be.”

In other words, the question might be whether to organize workers in a single office, or to try to organize all congressional staff across offices who have the same duties, such as legislative correspondents, whose job is to read and reply to constituent mail.

Overall, Bryce said, the reaction he’s been getting has been overwhelmingly positive, but he has seen a comment or two — one in particular from an anti-union activist — that questioned why Bryce should be elected if he’s such a terrible boss that his staff had to unionize. As Bryce paraphrased the criticism, “You wanna get this guy elected, but you’re afraid of him and need to organize?”

The exercise, said Bryce, was useful to help rebut that negative image of organizing. “He just doesn’t get that this was a willing process,” said Bryce.


Pentagon wants to replace Guantánamo’s Top Secret prison. Price per prisoner: $4.6M

February 13, 2018

by Carol Rosenberg


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba-The Pentagon wants $69 million to replace the Top Secret prison where the accused 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and 14 other former CIA captives are kept.

The funding request, included in a massive 2019 Department of Defense budget package released Monday, warns that the current prison, Camp 7, is at risk of mechanical, electrical and secure-communications failure, which would be risky to the U.S. Army guards who work there.

Under the proposal, the “maximum-security detention facility” should last for 40 years and include a confidential, “legal visitation area.”

The construction proposal does not indicate how many cells the new prison would hold but stated, without explanation, that the facility “will be available for use by other components.”

With its current 15-captive population, building costs work out to $4.6 million per prisoner. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump made two Guantánamo-related pledges: To “load it up with bad dudes,” and to reduce operational costs to “peanuts.” So far, neither has happened.

The request revives a construction project championed by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly when he was the Marine general in charge of the U.S. Southern Command — and at its 2014 price tag. Then, the Pentagon repeatedly refused to seek the funds because it was Obama administration policy to empty the offshore detention center by moving some captives to U.S. lockups. Trump reversed that policy last month.

Reflecting how long it takes to get construction done at this remote U.S. Navy base, the proposed completion date is in July 2022, two years after groundbreaking — if funding is approved in time to complete the design in January and award a contract in May 2019.

The current Camp 7 is a bit of a mystery. Reporters can’t see it, the public can’t know how much the Bush administration spent to build it and lawyers who have inspected it are only allowed to describe it superficially because the site is classified as Top Secret.

In December, criminal defense attorney Walter Ruiz said it struck him as “just like this kind of beaten down, broken down, county-jail-looking kind of thing.” Ruiz, a Navy Reserve commander who as a civilian has defended death-penalty cases in Florida, added: “In fact, some of the Florida county jails are a lot nicer, smelled better.”

The specifications say the building would measure 25,000 square feet, making it a sort of designer prison in comparison to the 427,450-square-foot SuperMax federal prison in Florence, Colorado, of 411 maximum-security convicts. The SuperMax holds terrorists, including the “20th hijacker,” Zacarias Moussaoui, first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid.

A main difference between the two populations is, SuperMax convicts were tried in federal courts. Camp 7’s captives got there from three and four years in the CIA’s secret Black Sites, overseas prisons where agents sometimes kept captives naked, or in diapers, waterboarded some, rectally abused others, and used cramped confinement boxes and hot and cold temperatures to break the men in their pursuit of al-Qaida secrets.

A three-page Army document on the proposed project says the current Camp 7 is “deteriorating rapidly” with portions predicted to become “unusable in the near term,” but doesn’t say when. It casts the new facility as a necessity for the soldiers who work there.

In October 2015, a staff sergeant with a National Guard unit assigned to the high-value prison testified at the war court that a minimum of 28 guards work there each shift — a small, elite subset of the current, 1,700-strong military and civilian staff that runs the detention center under what is called Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF GTMO).

“Electrical, mechanical, and secure communications systems within the current facilities are stressed and at risk of failure,” the Army justification for a new building says. “The inefficiencies experienced in proper separation, seclusion, and control of occupants put the JTF GTMO staff at risk.”

Occupants include six men accused of war crimes in capital cases: five alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed 2,976 people and the alleged mastermind of al-Qaida’s USS Cole warship bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Others held there include an Iraqi man on trial and facing a possible life sentence for commanding insurgents in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion in response to 9/11, a Pakistani man who has pleaded guilty to war crimes and awaits sentencing, and seven others who are currently not charged with war crimes.


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