Monthly Archives: July 2017

When Will We Get To See Trump’s ‘Golden Shower’ Tape?

That’s what I want to know!!

Collusion, The Documentary

Following the indictment of the PSNI by a judge in the Belfast High Court last week for its failure to complete an investigation into the activities of a joint UVF/Security Forces gang based at Glennane in Co. Armagh during the 1970’s, it is worth revisiting an RTE documentary on collusion broadcast in June 2015. I had a hand in the production. Enjoy:

Did Russia Want Its Trump Plot To Be Discovered?

Back on July 11th, in the immediate wake of the revelation that Team Trump had met Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 to discuss dishing the dirt on Hillary Clinton, I raised in a post, Amateur Hour At Trump Tower,  the following puzzling aspect of the affair:

What strikes this writer is the sheer amateurishness of the plot, not least the Russian failure to protect the secrecy of the emails flying between Russia and Trump Tower, or alternatively not using a more discrete and deniable way to make contact with team Trump, like flying the British contact to New York for a face-to-face meeting with people he seemingly knew well enough already.

If that was not feasible then the very least the Russians should have done was to ensure that both the British contact – former tabloid reporter turned music publicist, Rob Goldstone – and Donald Jr. were equipped with an email encryption programme…….

So why didn’t the Russians employ this basic precaution? Conspiracy theorists will doubtless conclude that this was a deliberate mistake intended to create confusion and conflict in American politics once the emails were discovered – and anyway who could have imagined a Trump victory last June?

I suspect, however, that the simpler explanation is the right one, that it was a simple cock-up born of stupidity and hubris on the part of the FSB, the post-Communist successors to the KGB.

Well, this is one of those instances when the spooks seem to prefer the conspiracy to the cock up.  In The New York Times today, former CIA station chief Daniel Hoffman suggests that the Russians wanted to get caught in order to cause political turmoil in the U.S.

What has been sold as a Russian plot to undermine Clinton and assist Donald Trump was really a clever ruse to throw American politics, and the media, into mayhem, dismay and disorder.

If so, it must be ranked as one of the cleverest and most successful counter-intelligence plot in recent history.

Whatever the truth, it makes for a fascinating read:

Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Russians are fond of a proverb, “besplatniy sir biyvaet tol’ko v mishelovke”: “Free cheese can be found only in a mousetrap.”

Having long considered the United States its main enemy, the Kremlin deploys a full quiver of intelligence weapons against America and its national security agencies, political parties and defense contractors. Its intelligence services, though best known for clandestine operations to recruit spies, also run covert “influence operations” that often use disinformation to try to affect decisions or events in rival countries. A central tool of those operations is “kompromat,” “compromising material”: things of seemingly great value that are dangled, at what appears to be no cost, before unwitting targets. This is the “free cheese” that ensnares victims in a trap.

I know all this from having spent much of my 30-year government career, including with the C.I.A., observing Soviet, and then Russian, intelligence operations. I came to realize that President Vladimir Putin, who spent his formative years in the K.G.B., the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, and served as director of its successor agency, the F.S.B., wants, as much as anything, to destabilize the American political process. For all his talk of desiring friendly relations, Mr. Putin favors a state of animosity between our two nations. By characterizing the United States and NATO as Russia’s enemies, he can attack within his own borders what threatens him the most — the ideals of liberty, freedom and democracy, of which the United States has been a defender.

This background is necessary for understanding the real meaning of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Kremlin-connected Russians and three representatives of Donald Trump’s campaign: his son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, then the campaign manager. The evidence that has emerged from this meeting strongly suggests that this was not an effort to establish a secure back channel for collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign but an influence operation with one simple objective: to undermine the presidential election.

No conclusive proof has yet emerged that the Kremlin arranged this meeting, and the Russians involved have asserted they were not working for the Putin government. Mr. Kushner himself told Senate investigators that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But to me, the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation was meant to be discovered.

The meeting was arranged by a British publicist named Rob Goldstone, who told Donald Trump Jr. via email that his client, the Russian pop star Emin Agaralov, wanted to share incriminating evidence on the Clinton campaign that had been obtained from the Russian government. Sophisticated Russian intelligence tradecraft that was meant to be kept secret would not have permitted such an insecure opening gambit for establishing continuing communication with the Trump campaign. They would not have used something as insecure as email, or relied on liaison cutouts who could so easily be traced to the Kremlin. Instead, the Russians who attended the meeting had obvious Kremlin ties, including Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Moscow lawyer who has done work on behalf of the F.S.B.; Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist who served in the Soviet military; and Mr. Agaralov, whose father is a real estate titan close to Mr. Putin.

I can’t say how news of the meeting broke, but once it did, Mr. Putin achieved one of his goals: throwing the American government into greater turmoil amid the frenzied media coverage, escalating F.B.I. and congressional investigations and intensified political conflict. And with the revelation that Russia was behind the meddling, Mr. Putin achieved another objective: to allow Russia, despite its economic and military inferiority, to claim that it could rival the United States on the global playing field. He could do all this while denying, with a wink and a nod, any involvement.

If this all sounds far-fetched, consider that the Russians have a long history of these kinds of operations, including in the United States. In the 1968 presidential campaign, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin unsuccessfully offered financial assistance to the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, according to a K.G.B. archivist, Vasili Mitrokhin. Mr. Mitrokhin also uncovered a Soviet intelligence campaign to spread vicious attacks in 1976 against Senator Henry Jackson, a Democratic presidential candidate known for his anti-Soviet views. Russia’s active-measures operations slowed during the 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin, but Mr. Putin has resurrected the art of covert influence often in conjunction with cyberwarfare, particularly against Georgia, Ukraine and the United States.

The most effective method to combat Russia’s intrusions into our political process is to be clear, transparent and honest with ourselves about how the Kremlin operates and what it hopes to achieve. The Trump campaign did not need to collude with the Kremlin for Russia’s cyber and covert influence campaign to be considered a serious breach of our electoral process, and hence our national security. The Trump administration and both parties in Congress need to speak with one voice against Russia’s attack on our democratic institutions. If they do not, Mr. Putin will have won.

This Is Why Trump Is So Dangerous…..

It is not just the unhinged megalomaniac in the White House who is the danger to the survival of the globe, but the military robots just underneath him.

US admiral stands ready to obey a Trump nuclear strike order

ROD McGUIRK
Associated PressJuly 27, 2017

View photos

U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift addresses an Australian National University security conference in Canberra, Australia Thursday, July 27, 2017. Swifts said he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if U.S. President Donald Trump ordered it and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander said Thursday he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if President Donald Trump ordered it, and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief.

Adm. Scott Swift was responding to a hypothetical question at an Australian National University security conference following a major joint U.S.- Australian military exercise off the Australian coast. The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.

Asked by an academic in the audience whether he would make a nuclear attack on China next week if Trump ordered it, Swift replied: “The answer would be: Yes.”

“Every member of the U.S. military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.

He added: “This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem.”

Trump’s America (cont’d)

July 27, 2017
By Joe Kloc

U.S. president Donald Trump, who in the 1990s posed as his own spokesperson to brag to tabloid reporters about cheating on the woman with whom he was cheating on his wife, appointed as his communications director Anthony Scaramucci, a former hedge-fund manager who in 2015 called Trump a “hack” from “Queens County” with a “big mouth,” and who after his appointment made several media appearances in which he said he loved Trump, said leaks from the White House offended him “as a Roman Catholic,” said he was going to “fire everyone,” and said he took the job so he could “aid and abet” Trump. Scaramucci told a journalist the president discussed with him his ability to pardon himself and members of his staff, a lawyer for Trump said Trump had never discussed pardons with anyone, and Trump tweeted that he could pardon whomever he wants. Trump then tweeted that because of the cost of health care for transgender soldiers he would ban them from serving in the U.S. military, which spends an estimated ten times as much on medications that treat erectile dysfunction; and Scaramucci praised Trump as a man capable of throwing a football in a “dead spiral” through a tire. Trump gave a speech before 40,000 Boy Scouts as young as 11 in which he announced that during his presidency children will say “Merry Christmas” when they “go shopping,” and told a story about when he was a “very young” man at a cocktail party in New York City with “the hottest people” and met for the first time a real-estate developer named William Levitt, who gave him life advice; and it was reported that Trump told the same story in a 2004 book, except in the latter version he was 47 years old and already acquainted with Levitt, who he claimed died two weeks after the party, but who news reports indicate spent the last 18 months of his life in the hospital suffering from a ruptured intestine. Trump said that he “could use some more loyalty,” joked that he would “fire” one of his cabinet members, told reporters that he regretted hiring another of his cabinet members, and accepted the resignation of his press secretary, Sean Spicer, who during his six-month tenure asked journalists to be “big boys and girls,” referred to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers,” was spotted on one occasion hiding from reporters behind bushes on the White House lawn, and was spotted on another occasion dragging up the White House driveway a mini fridge he had taken from his staffers so he could cool beverages in his office. Trump said he would “get somebody” if the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act did not pass the Senate; and, after the bill failed, Trump’s secretary of the interior phoned both of Alaska’s senators and delivered a message that one senator told reporters made it “pretty clear” that “pro-jobs” policies in the state “are going to stop.” Energy secretary Rick Perry had a phone call in which he discussed the “scientific development” of making fuel from pig manure and home-brewed alcohol with a caller who he thought was the Ukrainian prime minister but who he later discovered was a prankster from Russia. A Trump adviser said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators looking into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government were working for the Democrats because several of them had in the past three decades donated to the Democrats a total of $56,000, an amount less than the individual Democratic contributions of Trump’s son-in-law, his daughter, his secretaries of the treasury and commerce, and Trump himself, who has donated more than $250,000 over the past 20 years. One of Trump’s former campaign managers told a reporter that Trump has “the legal authority” to fire Mueller, a former Republican congressman said there would be a “tsunami” if Trump fired Mueller, it was reported that Trump has been considering firing Mueller, and meteorologists reported that a tropical storm named Don had formed in the Atlantic, but that it wouldn’t last long.
Sources are footnoted at the permanent URL for this Weekly Review.

Comments, clarifications, and corrections are always welcome at harpers-weekly@harpers.org. Please note that your letter may be included in next week’s mailing and on Harpers.org.

© 2017 Harper’s Magazine Foundation

Declassified FBI Files on Noraid, Parts 7, 8 and 9 (1983 – 1985)

*UPDATE: Thanks to Nate Lavey who points out that ‘RUC’ may in fact be FBI-speak for ‘Referred Upon Completion’ rather than the former NI police force. You can see here that the acronym/phrase is part of the government’s law and order lexicon.

Two of these FBI files in thebrokenelbow’s continuing analysis of the Nate Lavey FBI archive are skimpy affairs. Part 7, which begins in December 1983 and ends in September 1984 is a mere 19 pages long, nearly half of which have been nearly entirely redacted.

Part 8, which spans September and October 1987, is even shorter, at just twelve pages, and deals almost entirely with plans to deal with anticipated Noraid-inspired protests at concerts performed by the regimental band of the Grenadier Guards, a British Army outfit touring North America.

*Both files have, for the first time, markings which suggest that FBI intel on Noraid was now being shared with the RUC. In Part 8, for instance, a stamp announced: ‘RUC ON THIS’; in part 7 it appears that one document may have been partly based on RUC-provided intel.

These are the first such references to intel sharing with the RUC in the archive and they prompt an interesting question or two, to wit, what level of co-operation existed before this, and if this was a new development, how did it come about?:

Part 7 is the more interesting of the two documents, if only because less of it has been redacted and its contents demonstrate how closely the Irish-American community was under surveillance for signs of pro-IRA views and activity.

The FBI investigation described in the files begins when a TV viewer in Kentucky answered an advertisement ‘in support of a movement to oust the British from Northern Ireland’. The unnamed Kentucky citizen then received correspondence from, inter alia, the Irish-American Unity Conference (IAUC) and this sparks an FBI probe into the source of this contact.

The IAUC was of interest to the FBI because Noraid was one of nine Irish-American groups which came together at a conference in Chicago, Illinois in July 1983 to form the umbrella group whose aim was to agitate for Irish unity in American political life.

The sender turns out to be a man called ‘Delaney’ who was originally from Chicago but moved to San Antonio, Texas where the correspondence to Kentucky originated. We know his name because the redactor missed one instance where it appears.

‘Delaney’ turns out to be clean – ‘there is no derogatory information on him’, in FBI-speak – although he is active in the AOH. Interviewed by the FBI in Texas, ‘Delaney’ stated that his main aim was to promote ‘harmony between Protestants and Catholics’, but the FBI notes ominously: ‘….one cannot rule out, however, the possibility that (Delaney) harbors anti-British sentiments’.

The message from this document is that in its hunt for IRA sympathisers in the US, few in the Irish-American community were immune from FBI surveillance, even if they were members of respectable groups like the AOH or the IAUC, since they were linked with Noraid through the formation of the IAUC.

Given the absence of any further reference to ‘the Kentucky citizen’, it seems this person may have been a freelance fisher, and possibly a Unionist/British sympathizer, intent on discovering who had placed the TV advert and then passing on the intel to the FBI. I would not find this surprising since in my experience ‘dropping the dime’ is a major American past-time, a relic, perhaps, of hysterical anti-communism.

Part 9, a file which covers 1984 and 1985, is an altogether more substantial document at 168 pages in length; it includes evidence of two recurring features of the FBI’s dealings with Noraid: an apparent obsession with Noraid’s  annual summer trip to Ireland being one, and penetration of the organisation’s ranks in the search for intelligence being the other.

Both these activities were carried out in the belief that one way or another Noraid was the American vehicle used to provide the IRA in Ireland with money and guns to fight its war against the British.

The Noraid summer tour of Ireland, which usually happened every August, appears to have been regarded by the FBI as an opportunity for Noraid to deliver money to the Provos, and sending an informer along with the delegation, which could number over 100 people, was always an FBI priority.

Both these aspects of the FBI’s surveillance of Noraid appear very early on in Part 9 of the archive in a report of intel provided by what the FBI called ‘a confidential and reliable source of continuing value’ concerning Chicago Noraid leader, Alex Murphy.

The intel on Murphy is contained in a May 14th, 1985 ‘New York teletype’, i.e. a confidential message to the Director of the FBI from the FBI’s New York office, and this suggests that the source on Murphy was a figure in the New York branch of Noraid.

The teletype describes what appears to be a phone conversation between Murphy and an unnamed activist from Ireland. We know this because the report describes Murphy asking the activist how long he/she would be in the United States. The activist asks Murphy for an address in Chicago he could write to and there is some apparent talk of the activist appearing at Noraid fundraisers.

The fact that the ‘confidential and reliable source’ was privy to such an exchange – which common sense suggests was a conversation between Murphy and an IRA figure of some stature visiting the US – may mean that he or she was part of, or close to a high level of Noraid activity in New York.

A native of Belfast, born in 1912, Murphy had an FBI file since 1977, according to Part 9, when he was described as the head of Southside Chicago chapter of Noraid. The report adds:

Alex Murphy was also indexed in Chicago file 199F-465-44, page 4, dated August 1982, wherein he was referred to as being a suspect of having carried money from the US to the provisional IRISH REPUBLICAN ARMY (PIRA) in Ireland’.

Presumably in the hope of stumbling across another such transaction, the FBI’s informer in the ranks of the Detroit branch of Noraid had joined the delegation for the August 1985 tour of Ireland and a report dated August 22nd, 1985 details what he told his FBI handlers he had learned.

The informer, DE -T1, who has figured in earlier document in the Lavey archive, told his handlers that a branch of Noraid would be established in Norway, of all places, and that a hitherto unheard of Noraid front group had been created, known as the ‘Irish Defense Committee’. DE-Ti also reported on contacts between Noraid figures and presumed senior Provos, all of whose names are redacted in the document.

But of money changing hands between Noraid and the IRA there was no mention.

The FBI report also includes a New York Times’ report of Noraid’s participation in the internment anniversary march in west Belfast, traditionally the high point of the annual Noraid tour. Written by the paper’s London correspondent, Jo Thomas, the report carries a quote from Sinn Fein’s (and the IRA’s) director of publicity, Danny Morrison, which he might not like to be reminded of:

Mr Morrison said he saw no prospect of uniting Ireland by constitutional means. “There’s only two ways our troubles can be ended”, he said. “Either we surrender and give in, or we go on to victory.”

The FBI’s confidential sources reported on more than Noraid activity, as the following report on an April 26, 1985 meeting organised by IAUC and a body called the Justice for Ireland Committee illustrates. Noraid also sponsored the meeting and its chairman introduced the main speaker, Michael Farrell, the Northern civil rights and left-wing political leader.

MIchael Farrell, in his days as a student leader

The FBI report of the meeting is almost entirely taken up with Farrell’s remarks, which include the surprising claim that:

‘Irish opinion in both the Republic and Northern Ireland are turning in favor of the IRA.’

Anyway, here are the three FBI files, Parts 7, 8 and 9:

 

Claim Of IRA Heist Of $500 Million Art Haul Came ‘After A Few Guinnesses’!!!

File this under ‘ludicrous’ – and subtly racist.

A CBS television report, broadcast on July 12th, believe it or not, quotes a so-called art investigator as claiming that a half billion dollar art collection stolen from a Boston, Mass. art museum in 1990, is now in the hands of the IRA.

And how does Arthur Brand  – touted by CBS as ‘the Indiana Jones of the art world’, no less – know that the 13 masterpieces, including a Rembrandt and a Vermeer, valued at $500 million are now gathering dust in an IRA art dump? Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? It’s the IRA, so he gathered his intel in a pub, over what he calls ‘Guinnesses’. Where else could it happen?

Here is how the super sleuth knew he was on to the big story. By the way when will Americans learn that the plural of one glass or pint of Guinness is two glasses or pints of Guinness?` There’s no such thing as ‘Guinnesses’.

Anyway he managed to persuade a highly paid CBS reporter, a producer and a presenter to run with this rubbish:

“We have had talks with… former members of the IRA – and after a few Guinnesses, after a few talks – you can see in their eyes that they know more,” Brand said.

“How do we believe you?” Doane asked.

“Well, I have a track record. We have found some pieces back before. So let’s give this a shot,” Brand said.

I didn’t make that up. Here’s the full report:

Investigator “100 percent sure” stolen art in Boston heist is in Ireland

CBS News July 12, 2017, 8:51 AM

Twenty-seven years later, it’s still a mystery.

The biggest art heist in history, thieves targeted some of the highest-value art from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, leaving behind empty frames, tied-up security guards and few clues.

The 13 stolen masterpieces valued at around half-a-billion dollars included a Rembrandt and a Vermeer, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane.

“I’m 100 percent sure that they are in Ireland. Hundred percent sure. No doubt in my mind,” art investigator Arthur Brand said. He’s described as the Indiana Jones of the art world.

It’s an audacious claim to make after nearly three decades. But Brand alleges his leads point to the Irish Republican Army, or the IRA.

ctm-0712-art-investigator-arthur-brand.jpg
Seth Doane speaks with art investigator Arthur Brand

CBS News

“We have had talks with… former members of the IRA – and after a few Guinnesses, after a few talks – you can see in their eyes that they know more,” Brand said.

“How do we believe you?” Doane asked.

“Well, I have a track record. We have found some pieces back before. So let’s give this a shot,” Brand said.

Brand’s highest-profile find to date came working with German police to recover bronze horse statues which stood in front of Adolf Hitler’s Grand Chancellery building. He also helped recover Salvador Dali’s “Adolescence.”

“How is this stolen art used?” Doane asked.

“They use it as payment for drug deals, for arm deals,” Brand said. “Sometimes they use it for, like, art-napping. They kidnap paintings and they use it as – to get a lesser sentence.”

To find pieces the black market, Brand claims to have brokered deals with terrorist groups, the mafia and a slew of shady characters.

“On one hand you have the police, insurance companies, collectors, and on the other hand you have the criminals, the art thieves and the forgers. So there are two different kind of worlds and they do not communicate. So I put myself in the middle,” Brand said.

Recently he helped recover art which had been stolen from Westfries Museum in his native Holland.

“For the Netherlands – and especially for the town of Hoorn – these paintings are their history,” Brand said.

The paintings had been stolen in 2005 in the quaint town of Hoorn. Eleven years later, thanks to leads that Brand followed to Ukraine, five of the 24 pieces were returned with great fanfare.

“They stole a catalogue of 17th century Dutch masters,” museum director Ad Geerdink said.

“And you’ve left these empty frames as a reminder?” Doane asked.

“And as a protest,” Geerdink said.

“Why a protest?” Doane asked.

“Art crime, well, there isn’t anyone dead. Okay, it’s art – so many people don’t take it too seriously,” Geerdink said.

But, Brand said folks should. Interpol ranks art crime as the 4th highest-grossing criminal trade.

“When you steal a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh – this is… international cultural heritage. It belongs to you, to me, to the viewers,” Brand said.

The Gardner Museum is offering a $10 million reward and welcomes any efforts to get the stolen work back. But when we asked about Brand’s leads, they told us: “They’re not new… we’ve covered them years ago.”

“The museum is skeptical. The museum says your leads are dead-ends,” Doane said.

“Of course. Yes, but – well, we’ll see if it’s a dead end,” Brand said.

Navigating this underworld requires patience, a bit of luck – and a fair share of bravado.

Brand said he doesn’t care about the reward money, so what’s behind the drive?

“It’s the fame. If you solve the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft after 27 years, what more can you do?” Brand said.

It’s an irresistible challenge for what so far has been an unsolvable mystery.