This is one of those stories where you have to join the dots to see the picture. The central character is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray who was forced out of the diplomatic service because of his protests at the use of torture in that unfortunate Central Asian country.
He is also a friend of the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and by his own admission played a seemingly crucial role in ferrying the Democratic party’s emails to Assange.
By all accounts and appearances, Craig Murray is a decent man whose most grievous fault was a naive belief that his protests about the brutalities of Uzbekistan’s rulers might provoke a change of heart in the ranks of British intelligence about the value of torture as a source of reliable information.
The question that arises from yesterday’s intelligence hearing in Washington is very different but equally vexing; it is whether other ruthless people made Craig Murray an unwitting accomplice in the transfer of hacked emails taken from the Democratic Party and transferred to Wikileaks, a procedure that was presented to Murray as a leak from that party rather than a hack.
The evidence is far from categorical; as I say, more a case of dots which when joined together seem to make a picture.
First of all below is the relevant extract from the transcript of this morning’s hearing of the House Select Committee on Intelligence on the alleged involvement of Russian state intelligence in the hacking of Democratic Party emails during the recent presidential election campaign.
Congressman Adam Schiff is questioning FBI Director James Comey and the transcript is taken from the Committee’s own video of today’s proceedings, beginning at 1:29:40 and ending at 1:31:42.
The questioning concerns the role played by Roger Stone, a Trump factotum, a longtime Republican party activist, an admirer of Richard Nixon and a political operator with an alleged penchant for a dirty tricks – what was called ‘rat-fucking’ in the Nixon era.
Richard Nixon was one of Stone’s heroes, so much so that he got the disgraced president’s face tattooed on his back.
FBI Director Comey was unwilling to answer all but once crucial question in the section dealing with Roger Stone.
Schiff: Mr Comey, are you aware that Mr Stone played a role in the Trump campaign?
Comey: I’m not going to talk about any particular person here today, Mr Schiff.
Schiff: I’m going to continue to ask these questions because among other things I want to make sure that you are aware of these facts, whether you’re able to comment on them or not. Have you read press reports where Mr Stone proudly boasts about engaging in political dirty tricks?
Comey: I give you the same answer, sir.
Schiff: I mentioned before that Mr Stone was in direct communication with a creature from the Russian GRU, Guccifer 2.0 and that is something the intelligence assessment talked about, the role of Guccifer 2.0. Mr Stone, on August 17th, are you aware, received a communication from Guccifer 2.0 that said: ‘I’m pleased to say that you are great.Please tell me if I can help you anyhow. It would be a great pleasure to me’. Are you aware of that communication from essentially Russian GRU, through Guccifer 2.0 to Mr Stone?
Comey: I have to give you the same answer.
Schiff: Are you aware that Mr Stone also stated publicly that he was in direct communication with Julian Assange and Wikileaks?
Comey: Same answer.
Schiff: Are you aware that Mr Stone also claimed that he was in touch with an intermediary of Mr Assange?
Comey: Same answer.
Schiff: This question I think you can answer. Do you know whether the Russian intelligence service helped directly with Wikileaks, or whether they too used an intermediary?
Comey: We assessed they used some sort of cut-out. They didn’t deal directly with Wikileaks in contrast to DC leaks to Guccifer 2.0.
Schiff: In early October are you aware that Mr Stone tweeted: ‘I have total confidence that my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. Are you aware of that tweet?
Comey: I go back to my original answer.
Schiff: And are you aware that it was only days later that Wikileaks released the Podesta emails?
Comey: Same answer.
The crucial new piece of information from this part of yesterday’s hearing is the FBI belief that the Russians used a cut-out to get the Podesta emails to Wikileaks. There are several meanings of the term cut-out in the world of spies. The meaning in this case is the simple one: ‘a person or agency used as a pawn by intelligence agencies.’
Then read this article from The Daily Mail’s website dated December 14th, 2016:
In September last year Craig Murray was refused entry to the United States, for reasons that were never explained. The story can be accessed here.
According to Adam Schiff’s questioning of James Comey in Congress yesterday, Craig Murray’s visa denial came a few weeks after Roger Stone was in communication with the alleged Russian hacker, Guccifer 2.0 and was offered Guccifer’s assistance, and a few weeks before Wikileaks began publication of the Podesta emails, an event predicted by Roger Stone. Inbetween those two events someone in the US government decided to bar Craig Murray from entering the country.
The ban was lifted within days when liberal groups who had invited Murray to the States to address a meeting protested and the State Department relented. Murray has not revealed whether it was during his subsequent trip that he had his tryst with the Democratic party ‘leaker’ in the Washington, DC park.
According to Comey, the Russians used a ‘cutout’ to get the emails to Wikileaks. Craig Murray believes the source he met in a Washington park was somehow connected to the Democratic party and that the emails he was given were thus a leak not a hack, a version of events he has not so far deviated from.
The question is a simple one: was Craig Murray the unwitting ‘cut out’, used callously by others, not least Russian intelligence, to get the Podesta emails to Wikileaks? Unless, of course, he made the whole thing up.
(Note: In the recent past I have twice emailed Craig Murray via his blog asking for an interview about his role in this affair. Neither email was answered.)