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Fake News Russian Mole

I spent a great afternoon eating poboys and getting caught up with an old friend who is a TV news producer back East. We’ve known each other since our Washington days in the early 1990s, when we were both getting started in our careers. He’s passing through town visiting relatives for the holidays.

We were talking at one point about the lack of trust people have in the news media these days, and both agreed that Donald Trump is only exploiting something that was already there. We also agreed that you can’t separate people’s distrust of the news media from its distrust of almost all major institutions in American life. [1]

Our conversation brought to mind one of the weirdest and most disturbing things that I experienced in my career. It was a story that my friend, in his job, also reported on at the time: the 2001 arrest of senior FBI agent Robert Hanssen as a Russian mole. [2] If you are, like me, a fan of the F/X spy series “The Americans,” this would be like the Stan Beeman character being secretly in the employ of the Soviets.

At the time of Hanssen’s arrest, I was a news columnist for the New York Post. A year earlier, pro-lifers were very concerned about then-AG Janet Reno’s decision to investigate pro-life organizations as potential domestic terrorists. Some official documents had been revealed indicating that this was going on. I received a tip from a very well connected Catholic church source who told me there were senior people at the FBI who were resisting what they believed was the Clinton administration’s attempt to use the agency to go after enemies of abortion rights. This source put me in touch with a friend of his: a very conservative pro-life Catholic FBI special agent named Robert Hanssen. My church source vouched for Hanssen. Besides, he was high up in the FBI, which is about as golden a source as you can hope for.

When I reached out to him by phone, Hanssen told me that the Clinton Justice Department was indeed trying to get to pro-lifers, but the FBI was resisting this internally. Citing “an FBI source,” I wrote about this in a column that got passed around a lot.

A year later, I found out that my source was indeed very well placed inside the FBI — and had been a Soviet agent since 1985. [3] He had been living a double life as a rigidly conservative Catholic suburban dad, but was secretly a sexual sicko whose espionage was allegedly connected to his perversions. Hanssen was a member of Opus Dei, and attended a suburban Catholic parish [4] where other Washington elites, including Justice Antonin Scalia and then-FBI director Louis Freeh, worshipped. It was the perfect cover. In fact, Hanssen’s own wife had no idea what he was doing, and was betrayed by him in intensely personal ways.

I tell you that personal background to point out that as a conservative Catholic opinion columnist, I was exactly the kind of journalist who was prepared to believe anything Hanssen told me. Even if I had not been a conservative or a Catholic, there would have been no reason to disbelieve such a highly-placed FBI source. Hell, the guy even fooled the FBI. I found out later that Hanssen was also a source for at least one other media conservative columnist, one with a much higher profile than I had.

All of this happened before the age of social media. If I were a TV screenwriter, I would love to develop a spy series set in the present day — maybe a successor to “The Americans” — in which a small cabal of Russian agents well placed in Washington institutions manipulated “fake news” to destabilize the United States. Hanssen manipulated my trust in fellow conservative Catholics, as well as in an institution like the FBI, and used me to undermine trust in the Clinton administration. It was ultimately not that big a deal — I don’t think I ever wrote another column about this particular story — but it easily could have been, had Hanssen wanted it to be. Experienced journalists have a more sensitive b.s. detector than I had at that stage in my career, but the other guy (that I know of) who used Hanssen’s information was a much savvier and experienced journalist than I was, and he got taken too.

In the end, Hanssen’s job as a Russian spy wasn’t to manipulate people like us. But if it had been, Hanssen could have done considerable damage. Today, in a Wild West information environment that includes social media, and a public that is predisposed to believe only what it wants to believe, a Hanssen figure inside the FBI, the CIA, or other agencies of government, and even the Church (Hanssen’s credibility with me depended greatly on his status as a solidly conservative Catholic) could do incredible damage by playing journalists and working social media.

The series I imagine would be only partly about spycraft. It would be as much about the nature of politics and media in an era of widespread institutional mistrust and fake news. An editor friend once suggested to me that it is very hard for any institution to hold on to its authority in an age of radical transparency, when every flaw stands to be exposed and exploited. Now, imagine a Russian espionage operation in which media-savvy moles buried deeply within Washington institutions — political, military, intelligence, legal, media, even religious — had this kind of material to work with. Imagine what they could do within our radically decentralized and anti-hierarchical media environment, in which professional standards mean less than ever, and entities like Wikileaks and Breitbart can be major political players. “The Americans,” in earlier seasons, had a recurring character who was a former leftist journalist turned celebrated right-wing firebrand, but who was secretly on the KGB payroll, but they never developed that storyline.

What kind of media figure would be a Russian asset today? What kind of institutional figures would be Russian assets precisely because of the radically shifting media environment, and the loss of institutional trust in American life — and their understanding of how to manipulate them? How would they operate? Just imagine the creative possibilities.

That would be a hell of a show. Somebody should make it, especially now that “The Americans” is filming its last season. I need something like it to watch.

100 Comments (Open | Close)

100 Comments To "Fake News Russian Mole"

#1 Comment By Dan Phillips On December 28, 2017 @ 11:20 am

Are you suggesting that the information about Clinton going after pro-lifers was necessarily false because Hanssen was otherwise compromised?

[NFR: No. I don’t know if the info was real or not. There was more to it than Hanssen’s claim, as I recall. But that was a long time ago, and I don’t remember. — RD]

#2 Comment By MarkedMan On December 28, 2017 @ 11:27 am

Rod, thanks for a thought provoking column.

Just a quick comment about Ron and Rand Paul, specifically. I can’t speak to the others mentioned, but the Pauls ran a lucrative newsletter for many years. When Ron was running for president, reporters started going through old copies and discovered it was a stinking cesspool of some of the most vile racist and white supremacist spew. The Pauls defense? Even though it had Ron’s name on it, even though it sometimes featured editorials penned by him, even though he and Rand made $100K’s off of it over the years, they never read it and had no idea what was in it. So, yes, it is easily believable that their website has been co-opted by Russians, or a host of other bad actors for that matter.

#3 Comment By Dan On December 28, 2017 @ 11:29 am

It doesn’t require belief in a conspiracy to view the media as intellectually dishonest and ideologically corrupt. I think that’s why nearly everyone believes the media is not trustworthy. Conservative media outright admits its bias, while left wing, traditional media denies its bias, but is comprised of nearly 100 percent ideological leftists. Any observer who is not blinded by their own biases or associations with other media members does not trust the media anymore. They have earned this reputation. In some ways, this makes the power of planting news stories less impactful. It becomes a matter of what one wishes to believe and not what is credible. There is no agreed upon, credible, set of facts. This isn’t all bad, because generally that agreed upon, credible set of facts have amounted only to agreed upon fiction, or bent portrait of reality anyway. Maybe, we are at the end of the reign of ‘reason’ over all human affairs and entering a new era. It probably won’t be pretty, but perhaps it holds some hope in reorienting us to the Truth.

#4 Comment By Floridan On December 28, 2017 @ 11:48 am

The only people not colluding with Russians was the Trump team.

If this is true, why are so many people in the Trump administration so dissimulating about their contacts with Russians. The obvious impression is they have something to hide.

#5 Comment By JWJ On December 28, 2017 @ 11:58 am

“When I reached out to him by phone, Hanssen told me that the Clinton Justice Department was indeed trying to get to pro-lifers, but the FBI was resisting this internally. Citing “an FBI source,” I wrote about this in a column that got passed around a lot.”
[5]

Just curious, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, was the information provided by Hanssen (and dug up by Judicial Watch) lies? Inaccurate? Disinformation or Reasonably accurate?

[NFR: Oh, you found it! I don’t know if it was inaccurate or not. I suspect it was accurate to some extent, since it was based on documents. The truth or falsity of the claims was not the point of my mentioning it here, only that I had an interaction with Hanssen. I forgot to mention in the main post that he took the conversation in a really weird direction, speaking of a lesbian conspiracy. I didn’t write any of that, and found it weird that he would bring it up. — RD]

#6 Comment By collin On December 28, 2017 @ 11:59 am

Wow! You were one of the first to suckered by Russian spies and the take over of the Republican Party by Putin himself!!!! (Sorry for the trolling)

Truth be told there was a significant amount of anti-abortion violence in the 1990s and it seems reasonable for the FBI have investigations. Not unlike the Trump administration having files on BLM today.

#7 Comment By Ken T On December 28, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

Paul:
The premise of the post is that the FBI and CIA, in the absence of Russian infiltrators, are straight shooters who wouldn’t sully themselves with disinformation campaigns?

No, the premise is that “the FBI and CIA” is not some monolithic entity, but rather a very large collection of disparate individuals with different opinions and different personal agendas, so that if anyone tried to engage in that level of disinformation campaign, there would be a significant pushback from those who would have a vested interest in doing so. Who would presumably have facts on their side that they would be able to put on the table.

#8 Comment By Robert Levine On December 28, 2017 @ 12:20 pm

What kind of media figure would be a Russian asset today? What kind of institutional figures would be Russian assets precisely because of the radically shifting media environment, and the loss of institutional trust in American life — and their understanding of how to manipulate them? How would they operate? Just imagine the creative possibilities.

You’re kidding, right? Imagine if Donald Trump hadn’t won the election. He would have set up a TV network by now, and it would be run by a Russian asset – himself.

#9 Comment By cka2nd On December 28, 2017 @ 12:48 pm

A very good movie was made about this case and released in 2007, “Breach,” starring Chris Cooper as Hannsen, Ryan Phillipe, in a role that I assume was fictionalized for the film, and Laura Linney as one of the leaders of the enormous operation the FBI was running to catch Hansen, identified before the film opens as the very mole he himself had at one time been charged with investigating and identifying.

“…pro-lifers were very concerned about then-AG Janet Reno’s decision to investigate pro-life organizations as potential domestic terrorists.”

I hope, Rod, that when you wrote about this investigation, that you pointed out that there was (and still is) a small, violent wing of the anti-abortion movement that could legitimately be called terrorists, as it’s supporters have bombed, gassed and acid-attacked clinics and shot providers and staff, sometimes in their own homes and in front of their very families. It’s a small, feeble hope, but I’d be happy to have it affirmed.

#10 Comment By kgasmart On December 28, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

All this hand-wringing about how the evil Rooskies have undermined our cherished democracy when we are in fact doing the exact same thing in, who knows, a dozen or so countries around the world at this very moment.

Of course the Russians sought to toss a monkey wrench into our electoral process. Are you really dumb enough to believe this was the first time? Are you really gullible enough to believe that other nations haven’t tried to do something similar over the years?

Rod, in your scenario the moles might be in the editorial hierarchy of the media giants themselves – relentlessly pushing the most divisive coverage possible in order to weaken the country.

#11 Comment By JonF On December 28, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

Re: Wikileaks claims that it has never, in 10+ years of operation, put out inauthentic documents. I don’t know for a fact if that claim is accurate

I don’t think we have any way to judge that, Noah. We don’t know the details of how Wikileaks vets its material and even if they are honestly trying to weed out fraudulent stuff (which would be in their interest to do if they want to keep their reputation somewhere above that of the National Enquirer), it’s hardly a slam dunk that clever fakes might not make it past their filters. As Rod here notes, it’s very easy to be fooled by things you want to believe because their bona fides appear to be in order.

Re: Why work at embedding an agent to fray American cohesiveness when you can just create a twitter handle or some bots to inhabit the comment sections of the news?

At some point people’s trust in what they read on Twitter, Facebook etc, will start to ebb– in fact I think we’re already to that point, so there’s still a reason to have agents deeply embedded within the establishment so “fake news” can come from reputable sources and be vetted as accurate, not be dismissed as some idiot’s tin foil hattery.

Re: Obama loaded these agencies with leftist ideologues who worked directly for the DNC and the Hillary campaign.

Um, how did he do that? This isn’t 1870; hiring at these agencies for rank and file positions is governed by Civil Services procedures: Presidents cannot simply pack them with ideologues and supporters. They can do that with the political appointments, as long as the Senate approves them, but those people leave when the president does.

Re: Websites whose audiences were once growing exponentially are finding their audiences growing less rapidly or even decreasing because of the people behind them being branded as Russian agents merely for disagreeing with our government’s policies.

Or maybe because those websites have lost credibility due to their ludicrous claims and debunked pseudo-scandals. Most of the push back I’ve seen has not involved ad hominem stuff (“You’re a Russian agent!”) but rather patient investigation of “news” that has turned out to a farrago of innuendos, or even outright lies. (also, just as a matter of practicality “exponential growth” is never sustainable. Some of those websites may have expanded to encompass their potential audience and that’s that.)

#12 Comment By David On December 28, 2017 @ 1:04 pm

Noah172 writes: “Wikileaks claims that it has never, in 10+ years of operation, put out inauthentic documents. I don’t know for a fact if that claim is accurate…”

No. No, it is not.

“As Ars reported Monday, the eventual dump of documents by the attackers included metadata showing Russian versions of Microsoft Office were used to edit some documents, and the name of an employee of a company providing information security services to Russian intelligence organizations was in document metadata showing the last person to edit at least nine documents. Multiple documents were proven to be forgeries, including one which appeared to be an invoice for a Bitcoin payment for mephedrone (“bath salts”) to be sent to the French National Assembly. The Bitcoin wallet and blockchain transaction data was easily determined to be fake.”

Source: [6]

If you follow the link in that article at “As Ars reported,” you’ll see Wikileaks admitting the metadata is real. So now you know, son.

P.S. Macron had a pretty clever campaign manager, huh?

#13 Comment By Jen On December 28, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

Season 6 of homeland covered this ground (a sock puppet farm hidden deep in the Virginia suburbs).

#14 Comment By Anne On December 28, 2017 @ 1:09 pm

What if? The Russians were up to their furry hats in dirty tricks via American social media, alternate media and the blogosphere during 2015-16. By now, you have to be either woefully uninformed or a Trump true believer to deny the evidence for that. Whether they made any meaningful inroads into the mainstream media, including Fox News, remains to be seen. As for Wikileaks, Assange gave away any cover he may have had in the summer of 2016 when he cavalierly “leaked” documents the Russians were known to have hacked from the DNC and Clinton. His Russian connection, rumored all along, can no longer be denied.

Considering how long they’ve been going toe to toe with Russians, from the Cold War on, America’s intel organizations should recognize the signs, although everybody seems to admit the internet skills Russians currently employ surpass the competition, including us, which may or may not be true, but true or not, the American political interests the Russians were backing in 2015-16 ended up, not only in power, but 1. publicly at odds with the nation’s own intel organizations and 2. considering what Russian hackers did or tried to do to America’s democratic apparatus (including a thwarted plot to sabotage actual voting machines), oddly friendly toward Russia and its autocratic leader who manages to make his own political competition disappear.

Of course, the recent tribal nature of American politics has played into Russia’s hands, and continues to do so with Republican congressmen shamelessly mounting a propaganda campaign against the FBI, all because they fear Special Counsel Bob Mueller and that agency will soon bring indictments against high-ranking members of the Trump administration, thereby threatening their chance to wield full power before the 2018 elections potentially break their hold on all three branches of government.

This kind of behavior was unthinkable back in 1973 when a Republican government was threatened by similar disclosures and indictments, but that was before so many Americans became so ideologically motivated and convinced that government itself was a bad thing. You can try tracing this to thisvor that ism in the vast philosophical history of the West, but I watched it develop rather quickly after the unceremonius dumping of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and the immediate rise of Rush Limbaugh and politically motivated talk radio. Before that, Americans were Democrats or Republicans according to whichever party offered them the best deal at the moment, but we all shared more or less the same point of view toward what constituted right, wrong and what was “scientifically proven” or fair. (And by the way, that never included religious differences on controversial issues such as abortion and divorce, which religious groups always disagreed on.) Now, too many hear only what they want to hear from the media of their choice. Any foreign power smart enough to notice could easily exploit the situation, and lo and behold, our intel agencies’ old nemesis, the Russians, up and did.

#15 Comment By Jonah R. On December 28, 2017 @ 1:26 pm

I’m not sure we need high-level or even mid-level moles when we have Facebook. I regularly see people share things from groups with names like “Being a Liberal,” “You Know You’re a Liberal If,” “F*** the Republicans,” and so on. (I’m making up those names off the top of my head, but the actual group names are in the same basic spirit.) The claims they make are often distortions based on a sliver of truth; even when they’re true, they’re designed to stoke maximum outrage. And when you look into these groups, it’s often very hard to find out who specifically is behind them. If you can find individual names associated with them, they often don’t have very deep Internet footprints. I’ve previously assumed that these groups were partisan dirty tricks, but now I also wonder if there’s outside influence too.

I’m sure there are versions of the same groups to appeal to conservatives, but I tend only to see the liberal and progressive ones because the majority of my friends are liberal or progressive. That makes me additionally nervous, because we’re all seeing different subjectively filtered feeds of information, which causes more chaos. Propaganda is cheap and easy in the 21st century, because most people will believe and amplify things they’re already inclined to believe; they have no motive for doubting the source, and the people most likely to want to doubt the source will never see that social-media posting at all. We have met the enemy, and he is the Share button.

#16 Comment By Old West On December 28, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

During the mid to late 90’s, I was close to a priest who was very involved in the pro-life movement. Trust me, the Clinton/Reno DOJ was doing some scary things to pro-life leaders. It was abusive — they were treated like domestic terrorists.

And it worked — many clergy backed off from their involvement. Bullying by men with dark suits, impassive faces, and earpieces is pretty effective. They would even show up in services and stand silently in the back of the church, refusing to speak to anyone who tried to engage with them — I saw it on a couple of occasions.

#17 Comment By M_Young On December 28, 2017 @ 1:45 pm

“a stinking cesspool of some of the most vile racist and white supremacist spew.”

You mean accurate figures on welfare use? Crime?

#18 Comment By M_Young On December 28, 2017 @ 1:48 pm

It’s hard to get worked up about ‘Russian assets’ or any so-called security threat when one political party and half the other one want stand for de facto open borders and massive demographic change. I mean, what are ‘we’ protecting.

#19 Comment By Ben H On December 28, 2017 @ 1:49 pm

It’s hard to imagine a dramatist being able to capture the weirdness and insanity of today, which is far more strange and wonderful than fiction.

It would take more ability and detachment to produce such a thing than currently seems to exist in that industry. Neither of these skills are all that evident in any entertainment ‘product’ out there today.

So any entertainment thingy would likely be a boring rehash of the current false narrative being pushed, with a heel turn by a major character 80% of the way through done in a way to enhance rather than undermine “#imwithher”.

#20 Comment By Noah172 On December 28, 2017 @ 2:29 pm

MarkedMan wrote:

When Ron was running for president, reporters started going through old copies and discovered it was a stinking cesspool of some of the most vile racist and white supremacist spew.

Writing this sentence sure made you feel good!

Criticism of the newsletter first came from Paul’s opponent in a Congressional contest in 1996, BTW.

The Pauls defense? Even though it had Ron’s name on it, even though it sometimes featured editorials penned by him, even though he and Rand made $100K’s off of it over the years, they never read it and had no idea what was in it

Paul said he didn’t personally write the particular passages which the media highlighted (a claim which associates of Paul supported), but he didn’t deny overall responsibility for production of the newsletters. He certainly never claimed a foreign actor was publishing under his name without his consent.

#21 Comment By GSW On December 28, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

“All this hand-wringing about how the evil Rooskies have undermined our cherished democracy when we are in fact doing the exact same thing in, who knows, a dozen or so countries around the world at this very moment.” @kgasmart

The truth that cannot be, apparently, be spoken out loud in the U.S.A. by the Clintonites and the nevertrumpers – ever eager to undermine Trump’s Presidency and ratchet up international tensions with the Russians.

1. There is not a single shred of a shred of proof that the Russians were responsible for Trump’s election.

2. All Great Powers, including (and even mainly) the U.S.A., attempt to intervene covertly and overtly in the domestic politics of other countries to effect favourable policy decisions.

[7]

[8]

#22 Comment By Noah172 On December 28, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

David at 1:04,

Wikileaks posted links to the Macron documents, but the publishing was originally 4chan and some Twitter people. Wikileaks didn’t do the vetting (although it is fair to criticize the group for publicize the unverified work of others).

A report by the French government cybersecurity agency ANSSI said that it could not prove Russian responsibility for the hack.

#23 Comment By Noah172 On December 28, 2017 @ 2:48 pm

JonF:

The governments whose documents Wikileaks publishes have every incentive to expose forgeries, but they don’t accuse Wikileaks of forgery (theft, endangering national security, aiding Putin, yes, but not forgery).

David at 1:04 comments that Wikileaks posted links to a hacked document expose done by others, which turned out to be questionable at least — and the target of the hack, the Macron campaign, did push back with accusations of forgery. (I responded to David at 2:42.)

#24 Comment By Niphon On December 28, 2017 @ 3:06 pm

Rod, Watch “The Same Sky” on Netflix. A German-made spy series set in Cold War Berlin. It’s so good.

[9]

#25 Comment By Lenny On December 28, 2017 @ 3:46 pm

John

Really? Is that what you call bombing Serbia into submission, and expanding NATO to the borders of Russia?

You hate to admit it, but the Clinton’s had more Reaganism in them than the douche-bag Putin elected . They believed America is a great country, not that we do as much killing as Russia

#26 Comment By Noah172 On December 28, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

I know Rod won’t confirm anyone’s guess at the other columnist who spoke to Hanssen, but here are mine for the parlor game:

1st (like another commenter above): Robert Novak

2nd: Tony Snow

3rd: Kate O’Beirne

Coincidentally, these people are all dead. I’m thinking Rod doesn’t want to speak for someone who is still alive, but I can’t think of a living person (other than PJB, whom Rod denies) who might otherwise be a likely candidate.

#27 Comment By Blinko On December 28, 2017 @ 4:17 pm

I searched for Eric Rudolph in your post. Odd that you would leave out a murderer who bombed abortion clinics.

So as far as the FBI looking at pro-life groups, they might have had a reason.

#28 Comment By Alex Curbelo On December 28, 2017 @ 4:44 pm

RT, Sputnik and even Pravda, that old war horse of the Soviet press, are akin to lemonade stands run by 8 year olds compared to the US mainstream media and its fake news.

#29 Comment By Alex Curbelo On December 28, 2017 @ 4:48 pm

The more I consume US mainstream media, the more I agree with the timeless wisdom of Thomas Jefferson.

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.

[10]

#30 Comment By OMM 0910 On December 28, 2017 @ 5:27 pm

Experienced journalists have a more sensitive b.s. detector than I had at that stage in my career

Rod, do you remember your quantum distance healer back in Dallas? Do you realize now that he was a mountebank snake oil salesman? That he would have told an Orthodox Jewish patient, a skeptic atheist patient, a Sufi Muslim patient, a Trotskyite Communist patient, any paying patient, that quantum distance healing is compatible with their beliefs? That he was flattering your Orthodox Christian beliefs in order to fleece you?

[NFR: I disagree with you. — RD]

#31 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 28, 2017 @ 7:39 pm

“By now, you have to be either woefully uninformed or a Trump true believer to deny the evidence for that.”

Uninformed by the WaPo or NYT, you mean, although “informed” isn’t quite the right word, since the evidence is about the same used to burn witches back in Salem. That is, just the subjective certainty that it must be true, based on whipping up mass hysteria through propaganda.

I don’t know any “Trump True Believers,” which also seems to be a made-up category that sums up the prejudices of ideologues who wish the world to be as they imagine it, rather than it really is. I guess, those True Believers who imagine Hillary Clinton to have been some sort of political savior who could only have lost through massive voter fraud perpetrated with the collusion of Jill Stein, Donald Trump and anyone who’s ever spoken with Americans who are of Russian descent.

#32 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 28, 2017 @ 7:43 pm

JonF, still confusing his own opinions and coming up with his own facts. Just baldly assert it, as if it’s true… when it’s not.
Ideology “Trumps” reality.

I have no dog in the fight when it comes to “liberals” and “conservatives.”

#33 Comment By Barry On December 28, 2017 @ 8:53 pm

Another:
“The only people not colluding with Russians was the Trump team.”

Floridan says: “If this is true, why are so many people in the Trump administration so dissimulating about their contacts with Russians. The obvious impression is they have something to hide.”

That’s what’s made the biggest impression on me. People who know far better are lying, on the record, under circumstances where they’re committing serious crimes.

#34 Comment By tzx4 On December 28, 2017 @ 11:06 pm

Distrust of the MSM? Oh yeah.
I have a 52 year old friend who, as best as I can tell,only trusts Info Wars, RT, Breitbart, and a host of obscure You tube channels including one Mr. Trump has, he tells me.
He has emotionally accused me of submitting to my slavemasters because I stand by the Constitution and rule of law. He claims there is no such thing as Left or Right, and then aligns with the far, far Right on issues. He recently told me how Pocahontas Senator Warren lied, and that totally undermines and invalidates her. When I pointed out a few of Trump’s lies, his reply was “I love Trump’s lies”.
I keep an open mind, even when my head is exploding listening to this otherwise compassionate caring well intentioned man talk politics.
Politics is in a very worrisome place right now.

#35 Comment By Nate J On December 29, 2017 @ 12:23 am

I guess you can throw me in the category of commenters here who wonder why now, all of a sudden, there is some push to defend the poor, little, victimized alphabet soup agencies. To me, it’s obvious that these agencies have almost no integrity left to defend, let alone for Trump or anybody else to undermine our confidence in. What confidence? What have the FBI or CIA ever done to make us trust them.in the first place?

I completely echo the sentiment that foreign threats to the republic pale in comparison to the greatest threat which exists domestically, funded by the American taxpayer. Has anyone ever seen the list of confirmed evil deeds the CIA and other deep state actors have been up to (before we even begin to consider the villainy they got away with)? Wiretapping political opponents, planning false flag operations against Americans, experimenting with unethical torture and mind-control methods, running drugs, guns, and money for some of the most disgusting you evil cartels on the planet, active involvement in the sex trade… there is nothing to respect here.

To modify the old quote, these intelligence agencies are like fire: a dangerous servant and a fearful master. America has let these beasts off their leash for years now and she will pay dearly. America in 2017 and beyond is the perfect convergence of entrenched military-industrial interests, an unaccountable and unconstitutional deep state running unchecked, and corporatism on steroids (including the structure of the media). Each leg of the stool seems to support the other.

Most distressingly, any attempt to shake up this order of things – this new, developing tyranny – is met with arguments like “You’re hurting our precious institutions!” or “Won’t somebody please think of the poor CIA!” Real change seems impossible.

#36 Comment By Richard Parker On December 29, 2017 @ 2:48 am

“If this is true, why are so many people in the Trump administration so dissimulating about their contacts with Russians.”

I missed the bill that made contacts with Russians a federal felony. Why do you know that some Americans have been caught talking to the Russian ambassador ?!!?

#37 Comment By Richard Parker On December 29, 2017 @ 2:51 am

“I forgot to mention in the main post that he took the conversation in a really weird direction, speaking of a lesbian conspiracy.”

I don’t think that’s a weird direction at all in discussing some policies of the Clinton and Obama administrations.

#38 Comment By Richard Parker On December 29, 2017 @ 3:09 am

“Um, how did he do that? This isn’t 1870; hiring at these agencies for rank and file positions is governed by Civil Services procedures: Presidents cannot simply pack them with ideologues and supporters. They can do that with the political appointments, as long as the Senate approves them, but those people leave when the president does.”

I think that you’re a little naive here. The initial hire may be by competitive testing, but after being hired, then preference, promotion, placement, and protection can be influenced by little “mafia’s”. At the government agency I work at, there are at least two “mafia’s”. One of these is gay and gay employees are promoted and positioned in very specific ways. Another little mafia is related to ex-employees of a predecessor organization taking very good care of each other.

Yes, you have to pass a (not very tough) competitive test to get in; what happens once you’re in depends on who may see you as a kindred spirit. Civil service regs and competitive testing are very good procedures, but they do not replace human nature.

#39 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On December 29, 2017 @ 9:55 am

I think Mr. Dreher describes the problem of trust rather one-sidedly. Meanwhile, treachery is one of the main Biblical themes. Mr. Dreher can not but know about this. Since time immemorial, people have been pondering over the dilemma of fidelity and freedom of choice. Islamic radicals contemptuously call representatives of the Christian world – infidels. But this is exactly what a Western man is proud of – freedom of choice. For example, who is Mr. Snowden? Is he a traitor or a fighter against total control of the system?
No matter how it is, a person is free to choose his espionage activity or not to choose. Special services, for their part, do not force anyone to spy. Recently, a report from one young Russian blogger attracted my attention. He decided to cross the United States from east to west without money, hitchhiking. He hooked up for freight trains, spent the night with the homeless and drug addicts under bridges, was taken to the police stations and released to move west again. One evening he walked alone along the road. The big pickup stopped nearby. The driver offered to bring up to the place he could spend the night. He got into the car and this guy brought him to his house. There was a high fence with barbed wire and hefty, guard dogs and the atmosphere was very gloomy. They entered the hall where a porn movie was on a huge plasma TV. The owner suggested: F–k me and I’ll pay you $ 20 for this. The guy began to refuse, then the owner raised the price to $ 25.
It’s not about the money, the guy explained. I just love girls…
You are probably from Russia? – The host assumed with surprise. No poblom, let’s watch porn with the girls together. However, the guy referred to a strong fatigue after walking and asked just to allocate a place to him where he could sleep until the morning. And this American understood him, he let him sleep, and in the morning he drove him by car to the station where the guy climbed onto the passing freight train and went further west …
Suppose two countries plan to start a war. In this case, could these countries allow such free movement of citizens of a possible enemy on their territory? If so, which of the two sides of modern spies overpowers: discipline and adherence to instructions or free choice and improvisation?

#40 Comment By Barry On December 29, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

December 29, 2017 at 2:48 am
“If this is true, why are so many people in the Trump administration so dissimulating about their contacts with Russians.”

Richard Parker says:
“I missed the bill that made contacts with Russians a federal felony. Why do you know that some Americans have been caught talking to the Russian ambassador ?!!?”

That’s my point exactly. Why are so many Trump guys lying so much, if they were not committing crimes?

#41 Comment By JonF On December 29, 2017 @ 4:32 pm

No, Richard Parker. I am not naive. I’m actually rather cynical when it comes to the ways of this world. But I do not consider tin foil hats to be an acceptable fashion choice ever. I was trying to polite about it, but frankly that is pretty much what I think of your opinions: they are just plain paranoid nuts.
As for human nature, that’s all over the map: wicked and saintly, courageous and craven, wise and foolish. Hitler and Mother Teresa are both examples of what human nature can do, though the vast bulk of us rise neither to her heights nor plumb his depths.

#42 Comment By JonF On December 29, 2017 @ 4:37 pm

Fran, it would be nice if you would cite something specific when you criticize people as you did with me above. Otherwise shall I assume you are just trash-talking with no particular content because you are having some sort of bad hair day?

#43 Comment By Warren Johnson On December 30, 2017 @ 5:00 am

Hi Rod,

Here are two quotes from the Time Magazine article of March 5, 2001:

“In one of the many letters he allegedly sent to Moscow, Hanssen claimed that what he really wanted was to be a double agent, like the British intellectual turned mole Kim Philby. “I’d decided on this course when I was 14. I’d read Philby’s book,” he wrote (although Philby’s autobiography was not published until 1968, when Hanssen was 24) in a rambling discourse last March to the SVR, Russia’s foreign-arm successor to the Soviet-era KGB.”

“He was born April 18, 1944, in Chicago to a veteran cop engaged for nearly 30 years in local anticommunist intelligence work.”

So here we have a (too?) neat explanation of why he did it. The overly smart teenage boy rebels against his father and/or his father’s job, and begins a double life at age 14. This pathology does not dissipate with age, but only deepens.

He is now age 73, presumably living still in federal prison. Would he be able/willing to talk to a journalist about his motives? A lead for your next book?

#44 Comment By Oakinhouston On December 30, 2017 @ 8:19 am

“I missed the bill that made contacts with Russians a federal felony. Why do you know that some Americans have been caught talking to the Russian ambassador ?!!?”

And some Americans have been caught denying, under oath, that they had talked to the Russian Ambassador.

#45 Comment By VikingLS On December 30, 2017 @ 9:13 am

What kind of media figure would be a Russian asset today?

Good question, Rod. Or, should I say, comrade?

[NFR: Tovarishch is the preferred term. — RD]

If they’re still using the word Tovarisch they’re almost definitely NOT Russians.

#46 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 30, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

I can tell you you’re completely mistaken about this misogynistic assumption:

“having some sort of bad hair day?”

#47 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 30, 2017 @ 4:50 pm

I’m afraid I have to agree with Nate J.

#48 Comment By No Comment On December 31, 2017 @ 3:05 pm

Nate J says:
December 29, 2017 at 12:23 am

But what about Trump’s tweeting!

#49 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 31, 2017 @ 11:36 pm

The indefatigable Robert Parry, who epitomizes journalistic integrity, posts this plea for a return to objective news reporting:

[11]

He recently suffered a stroke on Christmas, and I join many others in prayer for his full recovery.

#50 Comment By JonF On January 1, 2018 @ 5:34 pm

Re: I can tell you you’re completely mistaken about this misogynistic assumption:

What’s misogynistic about bad hairs days? Guys, unless bald, have them too.