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Trump and the Russians: The BBC Contributes a Little Balance

Why are so many Americans so hostile to Russia? The question is powerfully evoked by a new BBC analysis of Donald Trump’s problems.

The 50-minute program, “Trump and Russia: A Long Relationship [1],” was first broadcast by the BBC World Service over the weekend and features extensive explication by several experts based in the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Although some of the participants ignored host Owen Bennett Jones’s exhortations to keep strictly to the facts, the program nonetheless generally avoided baseless innuendo and by comparison with recent U.S. mainstream media coverage seemed a model of impartiality. Certainly it was notable for avoiding the worst excesses of anti-Russian hysteria that lately has been so prevalent elsewhere.

As the BBC’s world affairs correspondent Paul Wood put it, “anything you can say about President Trump and Russia is still an allegation, not proven.” Wood went on to provide a useful summing up of the main allegations, enumerating them as follows:

  1. The Trump campaign allegedly entered into a treasonable conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the election.
  2. As a businessman who at times has been financially embarrassed, Donald Trump has allegedly been willing to take money from the Russian mafia.
  3. Trump is allegedly vulnerable to Russian blackmail because of sex tapes recorded in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

To this list must now be added the charge that in remarks allegedly made to James Comey about Michael Flynn, Trump was guilty of attempting to obstruct the course of American justice.

Probably the program’s most important contribution was to highlight the distinctly puzzling role played by U.S. espionage agencies. On the one hand, these agencies have been unanimous in claiming that it was indeed the Russians—and no one else—who hacked the Democratic National Committee and supplied embarrassing emails to Wikileaks; on the other hand, however, they have refused to provide hard evidence, suggesting that to do so might compromise their sources.

Yet it is not as if the American espionage services seem particularly deserving of our trust. After all, these are the same organizations (and indeed in some cases even the same individuals, with James Clapper as an example) that played such a notorious role in facilitating George W. Bush’s rush to war with Iraq in 2003.

So who really hacked the DNC’s emails? As Edward Lozansky, the most pro-Trump of Bennett Jones’s guests, pointed out, there are alternative theories and, until hard evidence can be adduced, the intelligence agencies’ story must be taken with a large pinch of salt.

For what it is worth, one theory has it that the real perpetrator of the hack was one of the U.S. intelligence agencies. This version [2] has been promoted [3] by among others the former top British diplomat Craig Murray and the award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry [3]. Its credibility has been bolstered by Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, who has denied that Russia was the source of the emails featured at the Wikileaks site.

This is not of course to suggest that the Russians lack high-tech spying capabilities. We can probably safely surmise moreover that there has been little love lost between Vladimir Putin and the Clintons. (Putin is evidently incandescent about Bill Clinton’s decision to push NATO to Russia’s borders.) But the fact is that many national governments share with the Russians the ability to have pulled off the DNC job. Some of them moreover might have seen an advantage in conducting a false-flag operation to wrong-foot the Russians and embarrass Trump. What can be said for sure is there is a fundamental contradiction in the Washington establishment’s story that (1) the break-in was a highly sophisticated job, and (2) it was executed so incompetently that the cyberspace equivalent of fingerprints were left behind for the U.S. intelligence agencies to find.

Owen Bennett Jones’s Trump analysis is part of a thoughtful series that is well worth a listen [1].

Eamonn Fingleton is the author of In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony [4].

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10 Comments To "Trump and the Russians: The BBC Contributes a Little Balance"

#1 Comment By Howard On May 23, 2017 @ 9:22 am

The Trump campaign allegedly entered into a treasonable conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the election.

This is as much an interpretation as an allegation. Let’s say that Russian intelligence gained access to factual information to which they were not legally entitled; that members of the Trump campaign knew about and approved of this acquisition; that the information was leaked to the public; and that the voters, partially on the basis of this leaked information, decided against Clinton. Even given all that, since the voters were making a free decision based on factual information, how the hell would this be a stolen election? And how exactly would Russian intelligence be any different than the “investigative reporters” who are so often lionized for obtaining classified or confidential information and revealing it to the public?

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 23, 2017 @ 10:28 am

For weekending Brits who want just enough “Trump news” to join in chit-chat at the office or at the local pub, this meandering Owen Bennett-Jones’ interview (for the notoriously anti-Trump BBC) of correspondents Wood, Rosenberg, Gatehouse (and guests Lozansky, Henry, and Panfilova) might be OK.

As for me, I found nothing new and I found the entire exceedingly-long exercise to be boring. I want those 52 minutes and 59 seconds of my life back. (I should have done the grocery shopping.)

On the other hand, in stark contrast, much credit to Eamonn Fingletone for all three links to the Robert Parry and the Ray McGovern/William Binney pieces which are chock-full of important information – some of which has not been reported in the mainstream media.

There is also another critically important *McGovern/Binney piece from May 20th – “The Gaping Holes of Russia-gate” – that connects more of the dots underscoring the increasing likelihood that it was one of the US intelligence agencies (most likely the CIA) that hacked the DNC emails, not Russia:

“What about the ‘Russian hacking,’ the centerpiece of the accusations about Kremlin ‘interference’ to help Trump? Surely, we know that happened. Or do we? On March 31, 2017, WikiLeaks released original CIA documents — almost completely ignored by the mainstream media — showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs (like Cyrillic markings, for example). The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the ‘Vault 7’ trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines. But the Deep State has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for ‘proving’ the Russians hacked into Democratic Party emails. In other words, it is altogether possible that the hacking attributed to Russia was actually one of several ‘active measures’ undertaken by a cabal consisting of the CIA, FBI, NSA and Clapper — the same agencies responsible for the lame, evidence-free report of Jan. 6.”

*“William Binney ([email protected]) worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA. Ray McGovern ([email protected]) was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president’s daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan’s most senior national security officials from 1981-85.”

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#3 Comment By MM On May 23, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

I’ll echo the question posed by Alan Dershowitz and Jonathan Turley: What specific federal crime is under investigation here? With Hillary, the statutes were pretty clear, and pretty clearly violated as I read the letter of the law.

False statements by Flynn WRT payments, obstruction of justice by Trump WRT Flynn, I understand all that. But what is the root crime that would justify a Special Counsel?

“Treason” is a political epithet, because per the statute such an act requires a defined “enemy” of the U.S. which itself requires a declaration of war.

Any knowledgeable lawyer, please enlighten me.

#4 Comment By MM On May 23, 2017 @ 1:25 pm

“So who really hacked the DNC’s emails?”

Assuming it was Russia, it makes no sense why the FBI allowed the DNC to turn over their server to a private security firm, CrowdStrike, to make the sole determination of responsibility. A second opinion would’ve been helpful, considering the co-founder of CrowdStrike is quite active in anti-Russian circles and has ties to a Ukrainian billionaire and the Clinton Foundation. This is no conspiracy theory, unless of course Buzzfeed and Slate are now in the bag for Trump…

#5 Comment By George Marshall On May 23, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

EF: For what it is worth, one theory has it that the real perpetrator of the hack was one of the U.S. intelligence agencies…Its credibility has been bolstered by Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, who has denied that Russia was the source of the emails featured at the Wikileaks site.

And why, in the wide, wide world of sports would you think Mr. Assange could add credibility to anything?

#6 Comment By Ted On May 23, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

No one in Washington is claiming this was a highly sophisticated job though. John Podesta clicked on a phishing email. That’s as low-tech as you can get. The Russia connection I assumed was humint linking Guccifer 2.0 and the other leakers to known Russian hackers, which would necessitate not leaking info.

I think there is a significant amount of smoke here. I am not a Russophobe, but having read a significant amount on the subject I find it highly suspicious:
-The Comey firing and reported obstruction
-Carter Paige’s espionage investigation
-the lies from Flynn and Sessions about Russia contacts
-Roger Stone’s claims of contact with Guccifer and foreknowledge of leaks
-Trump’s sons claiming (then denying) extensive financial ties with Russia
-the Steel dossier (Not saying I believe it, but it’s there)
-Trump’s campaign trying to remove language on Ukraine from the party platform
-Paul Manafort’s connections with Yanukovich
-Trump’s denial of Russian hacking and open support for WikiLeaks during the campaign.

You can say that’s all just smoke, but good Lord, I’m choking on it.

#7 Comment By Lllurker On May 23, 2017 @ 4:35 pm

In summary:

1) Allegations are as yet unproven.
2) One can use the fact that allegations have not been proven to cast shade on the “Deep State” … by using other allegations that also have not been proven. Glad we cleared that up.
3) you found another way to whine about US media.

Bravo!

Oh, and “its credibility was bolstered by Julian Assange.”

Seriously?

#8 Comment By Lee On May 23, 2017 @ 6:20 pm

Trump, Russia?

No one cares.

#9 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 23, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

MM says (1:25 p.m.): “So who really hacked the DNC’s emails?” Assuming it was Russia, it makes no sense why the FBI allowed the DNC to turn over their server to a private security firm, CrowdStrike, to make the sole determination of responsibility. A second opinion would’ve been helpful, considering the co-founder of CrowdStrike is quite active in anti-Russian circles and has ties to a Ukrainian billionaire and the Clinton Foundation.”

Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, agrees with you, MM : “What Comey admitted before the House Intelligence Committee was that he was unable, as he put it, to get access to the Democratic National Committee computers. Now that’s silly on the face of it. The Director of the FBI can always get direct access. Why did he not seek direct access? Because he knew…that if investigators really went in there, they would find out that it was not the Russians that hacked the Democratic National Committee. It was the CIA. Let me explain: This has gotten no attention in the mainstream press, but on the 31st of March Wikileaks released news that a new program developed the CIA and NSA hides fragments of texts and allows the CIA to make believe that another party is blamed for the hack. Russian, Chinese, Farsi, Arabic, and Korean were the languages used — the forensic investigation or the anti-virus companies were completely befuddled by that. Why? Because as the former technical director of the NSA [William Binney] has told me, this is a program that took 15 years to complete and that there are 700 million lines of code in it. OK? That means that an outfit like CrowdStrike cannot possibly detect who the real hacker was, but rather can only detect the signs, the tell-tale signs, that the real hacker left behind – and those were Cyrillic and the name of the first head of the Russian secret police. And so they can’t have it both ways. If the Russians did it, they wouldn’t have left behind tell-tale signs. We know now that Brennan had this capability – my friends and I concur, I can say with their support – that it’s just as likely, if not more likely, that it was John Brennan and the CIA that hacked into those DNC computers with a very specific program designed to blame someone else – namely, the Russians…What I’m saying is that if you look at Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, he was squirming. He said, and this is a virtual direct quote: ‘I know, it’s far better if you’re doing forensics, to get the actual physical access to the computers in question, but we didn’t do that. I know it would have been better to do that, but we had to rely on CrowdStrike.’ Now, CrowdStrike. What is their capability? Whatever it is, it’s not sufficient to uncover a program 15 years in the making, with 700 million lines of code, each line costing $25, as Bill Binney has explained to me. So, this is really, really amazing…Comey was not only inept as an investigator, but the very fact that he did not require the DNC to surrender their computers so that his technicians would look at [them] and find out – what? That the Russians hacked? Not on your life. He would find that John Brennan and the CIA had this very fancy program and the only way they could figure out what happened would be to go to NSA and ask them to rat on themselves.”

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#10 Comment By Johann On May 24, 2017 @ 7:50 am

Assange has never published any false or made up leaks. He has never divulged a source, but has denied that Russia was the source of the Clinton leaks. He has never been proven a liar or as being mistaken as has our own intelligence agencies and their leader, for example Clapper lying to Congress that the NSA does not do mass surveillance on Americans, or that Iraq for sure had WMD just prior to the US invasion. So, while its not saying much, overall, Assange has a better record than our intelligence agencies.