Thursday, April 4, 2019

Today's Links

    “Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans…That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as ‘the Union of Europe’ which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the ‘new Asia.’”   Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, February 2012

"If it weren't for President Obama we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set up a whole sequence of event which are still unfolding today, including Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller's investigation. President Obama is responsible for that. It was he who tasked us to do that intelligence community assessment in the first place."
James Clapper, Obama's Director of National Intelligence

I've tried to convince them it’s not in their best interest. I think I failed at that. And so now we will turn to the other tools of American power to ensure that the Venezuelan people get a chance to have the democracy they deserve." Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State

Say, Victor Cha and , perhaps you were wrong and even a little alarmist at your prediction a month ago that the DPRK was preparing for a "launch" from its satellite facility. Care to admit you jumped the gun? (didn't think so).

1--Did Obama, Brennan And Clinton Illegally Collude To Take Trump Down?, 

Knowing his role as CIA head forbade him from intervening in domestic spying and trying to take the investigation from a low simmer to a high boil, Brennan got the ball rolling in August of 2016 by telling then former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a tale of Russians interfering in our election on Trump's behalf.

It worked. Pushed on by Brennan, Reid, then the most powerful person in Congress, wrote a letter to FBI Director James Comey citing "evidence of a direct connection" between the Trump campaign and seeking an investigation.

Not only did Brennan share intelligence with the FBI, but soon after, the Democrat-linked opposition research firm Fusion GPS began leaking the "Trump Dossier" to the media. The fix was in.

2--John Brennan’s Slender Reid, The Spectator

Brennan needed Reid to dirty up Trump, a task Reid was happy to perform, but not without first noticing Brennan’s weirdness about it. Reid was struck by Brennan’s “ulterior motive,” as he explained to David Corn and Michael Isikoff in Russian Roulette. Reid, they write, “had concluded the CIA chief believed the public needed to know about the Russian operation, including the information about the possible links to the Trump campaign.”

Even Peter Strzok, the Trump-hating FBI liaison to Brennan, knew before the election that the probe was a crock. But the FBI kept going under the prodding of Brennan and the White House. Brennan was desperately hoping for an October surprise and had selected Reid as one of his shock troops to deliver it. The problem was that he had nothing solid to give Reid....

Brennan would later testify before Congress that he had no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. But he didn’t care and needed to find someone equally reckless to make it appear to the public and the press that he did. In Reid, who once said to a Washington Post reporter that he knew of no “line” in campaign politics he wouldn’t cross, Brennan found his man.

3--Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Ankara in no uncertain terms that if Turkish forces took unilateral military action in Syria, it would have "devastating" consequences....

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay fired back at Pompeo, saying the US "must choose" whether it wants "to remain Turkey's ally or risk our friendship by joining forces with terrorists," which is how Ankara refers to the YPG and other Kurdish militias, and "undermine its NATO ally's defense against its enemies."

4--Lavrov's warning to Washington

I guarantee you that if there’ll be an attempt of a military intervention, the vast majority of Latin American states will outright reject it,” he said.

Despite the strong rhetoric from Washington, “I don’t think that the Caribbean Crisis will be recreated,” Lavrov said, adding that “there can also be no talk about ‘a second Syria’ in Venezuela.”

5--Venezuela FM visits Nasrallah 

6--Mother Jones spreading Russia disinformation?


7--archive --Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking


8--U.S. Expands 'Catch and Release' as Border Towns Struggle With Influx of Migrants


The surge of migrant families arriving at the southern border has led the Trump administration to dramatically expand a practice President Donald Trump has long mocked as “catch and release.”

With immigrant processing and holding centers overwhelmed, the administration is busing people hundreds of miles inland and releasing them at Greyhound stations and churches in cities like Albuquerque, San Antonio and Phoenix because towns close to the border already have more than they can handle.

Relief organizations in some cities are struggling to feed and house the migrants and warning that a public health crisis is taking shape, especially with sick infants and children among the many immigrant families who need medical attention.

“We’re asking volunteer doctors and nurses and community members to step up and do what the government should be doing. If this was a hurricane, FEMA would be on the ground helping,” said Jim Gannon, CEO and executive director of Catholic Charities in Albuquerque, New Mexico...

“The numbers are overwhelming right now,” said Gregory Archambault, ICE director of enforcement and removal operations in San Diego. “Everybody is stressed. The agency is stressed, the (local governments) are stressed, the law enforcement agencies. Everybody is stressed because there are these mass numbers of people.”...

ICE has been releasing asylum-seeking families so quickly that they don’t even have time to make travel arrangements. Families are given court dates, a head of household is often fitted with an ankle monitor, and they are dropped off at a charity-run shelter or bus station....

Authorities said family arrivals along the U.S.-Mexico border reached an all-time high in February of 45,827 arrests or denials of entry.
“We didn’t have family groups for years and years, like we have now,” ICE’s Archambault said. “Our facilities are not made for this. We have diapers and baby formula and all this stuff, like a nursery.”

In another sign of how U.S. authorities are being tested as rarely before, figures released Tuesday show a significant drop in prosecutions for illegal entry, even as arrests have climbed sharply. The numbers are at odds with Trump’s vow to prosecute everyone who enters the country illegally.


9--Russiagate began with John Brennan, Stephen Cohen

Was Russiagate produced by the primary leaders of the US intelligence community, not just the FBI?

 When did Brennan begin his “investigation” of Trump? His House testimony leaves this somewhat unclear, but, according to a subsequent Guardian article, by late 2015 or early 2016 he was receiving, or soliciting, reports from foreign intelligence agencies regarding “suspicious ‘interactions’ between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.” In short, if these reports and Brennan’s own testimony are to be believed, he, not the FBI, was the instigator and godfather of Russiagate....


 In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, John Brennan, formerly Obama’s head of the CIA, strongly suggested that he and his agency were the firstas The Washington Post put it at the time, “in triggering an FBI probe.” Certainly both the Post and The New York Times interpreted his remarks in this way. Equally certain, Brennan played a central role in promoting the Russiagate narrative thereafter, briefing members of Congress privately and giving President Obama himself a top-secret envelope in early August 2016 that almost certainly contained Steele’s dossier. Early on, Brennan presumably would have shared his “suspicions” and initiatives with James Clapper, director of national intelligence. FBI Director Comey, distracted by his mangling of the Clinton private-server affair during the presidential campaign, may have joined them actively somewhat later. But when he did so publicly, in his March 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, it was as J. Edgar Hoover reincarnate—as the nation’s number-one expert on Russia and its profound threat to America  ...

we now know that Steele had at least three other “sources” for the dossier, ones not previously mentioned by him or his employer. There was the information from foreign intelligence agencies provided by Brennan to Steele or to the FBI, which we also now know was collaborating with Steele. There was the contents of a “second Trump-Russia dossier” prepared by people personally close to Hillary Clinton and who shared their “findings” with Steele. And most intriguingly, there was the “research” provided by Nellie Ohr, wife of a top Department of Justice official, Bruce Ohr, who, according to the Republican memo, “was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.” Most likely, it found its way into Steele’s dossier. (Mrs. Ohr was a trained Russian Studies scholar with a PhD from Stanford and a onetime assistant professor at Vassar, and thus, it must have seemed, an ideal collaborator for Steele.) 

We are left, then, with a vital, ramifying question: How much of the “intelligence information” in Steele’s dossier actually came from Russian insiders, if any? (This uncertainty alone should stop Fox News’s Sean Hannity and others from declaring that the Kremlin used Steele—and Hillary Clinton—to pump its “propaganda and disinformation” into America. Such pro-Trump allegations, like those of Russiagate itself, only fuel the new Cold War, which risks becoming actual war any day, from Syria to Ukraine.)...

Listening almost daily to the legion of former US intel officers condemn Russiagate skeptics ever more loudly and persistently in the media, we may wonder if they are increasingly fearful it will become known that Russiagate was mostly Intelgate

10--Brennan was collecting Trump-connected intel before anyone else, archive NYT, May 24, 2017

John O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., testified Tuesday about a tense period last year when he came to believe that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was trying to steer the outcome of the election. He said he saw intelligence suggesting that Russia wanted to use Trump campaign officials, wittingly or not, to help in that effort. He spoke vaguely about contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials, without giving names, saying they “raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

11--Brennan  Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and Russia archive, may 23 2017

John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described on Tuesday a nerve-fraying few months last year as American authorities realized that the presidential election was under attack and feared that Donald J. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight.

Mr. Brennan, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned by a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates. The C.I.A. learned about those meetings just as it was beginning to grapple with Russian hackers and propagandists trying to manipulate the presidential race.

His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an F.B.I. investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.
“I know what the Russians try to do,” Mr. Brennan said. “They try to suborn individuals and try to get individuals, including U.S. individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly.”...

During his testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Brennan described Russia’s efforts around the world to use politicians to further Moscow’s objectives. “I certainly was concerned that they were practicing the same types of activities here in the United States,” he said.
He added that American targets were often unwitting in such efforts. “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” he said....

“I made sure that anything that was involving U.S. persons, including anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign, was shared with the bureau,” he said.

When he left his post in January, he said, “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”...

Mr. Brennan said Russia was trying to capitalize on the turmoil in Washington. “Even though the election is over,” he said, “I think Mr. Putin and Russian intelligence services are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment.”...

I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Mr. Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.”
Mr. Brennan’s prediction proved inaccurate. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered in the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. Mr. Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and has tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.

(Trump) has also tried repeatedly to beat back news reports about his campaign’s ties to Russia. White House officials tried to enlist the F.B.I. and C.I.A. to dispute stories early this year. Then, after the F.B.I. publicly confirmed its investigation, Mr. Trump asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion between Russia and his campaign, according to two former American officials. The Washington Post first reported Mr. Trump’s entreaties.

The White House regarded Mr. Brennan’s testimony as the latest example of a former official from the Obama administration describing great concern but offering no public proof of wrongdoing.
“This morning’s hearings back up what we’ve been saying all along: that despite a year of investigation, there is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

12--Pompeo Warns Turkey Against Attacking U.S. Proxies In Syria

Last month, the Turkish military established a command center in southeastern province of Sanliurfa that will manage any possible military operation in northeastern Syria. Ankara views the SDF as a threat to its national security and recognize some of its components, like the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as terrorist groups.
“We will definitely solve Syria issue on the field, if possible, and not on the table, as the first work after elections,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during an election rally in Istanbul on March 30, few hours before the inauguration of the new command center.
Despite Turkey’s threats, the U.S. is not apparently backing down. Earlier this year, Washington revealed a new plan to keep 200 troops in northeastern Syria for the long term. The U.S. troops will be a part of a multination force that could establish a safe zone to protect the Kurdish-held areas.
Pompeo’s new warning will likely further escalate the tension between the U.S. and Turkey. The relationship between the two countries has never been worse in the recent years. Beside the disagreement over northeastern Syria, Washington is also trying to prevent Ankara from purchasing the advanced S-400 air defense system from Moscow

 13--Multipolar world now unstoppable

No European capital – whether it be Paris, Rome, Berlin or London – intends to break the Atlantic pact with Washington. This is confirmed at every possible formal occasion. However, as Beijing becomes more and more central to questions concerning technology or the supply of liquid capital for investments or business expansion, the changes to the global order seem unstoppable...

It is no coincidence that for US strategists the two greatest dangers lie in the possibility of Moscow and Beijing, or Moscow and Berlin, cooperating and coordinating their efforts. The Berlin-Moscow-Beijing triangle, with the addition of Rome and Paris, represents a scenario for Washington that is unprecedented in terms of its challenge to US hegemony in Europe.

Wang Yiwei, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, during Xi Jinping’s historic visit to Rome expressed in concrete terms the changing global order:
"With the 16+1 cooperation plan between Central and Eastern European nations and China, several countries signed memoranda of understanding with China to jointly build the BIS. So far, the governments of 16 Central and Eastern European countries have signed memoranda of understanding on BIS cooperation with China. Currently, 171 cooperation agreements have been reached with 123 countries and 29 international organizations under the BIS
Papadopoulos explains that the only reasons the Trump team ever wanted to work with Russia were to stabilize Syria and Ukraine – and “to assure that Russia and China do not align in this devastating geopolitical alliance which will probably have many unpredictable consequences for the US in Europe and in Asia.”
But they never even got a chance to make any Russian connections, Papadopoulos says, adding that he was contacted by Israeli, Australian, and American intelligence – all of whom were interested in his “high-level connections in the Middle East” – but no Russians.

It goes to the core of how corrupt the Mueller investigation really was, into supposed Russian interference when no one on the Trump campaign and the transition team was even dealing with Russians,” Papadopoulos said. “I’ve never met a Russian…official in my entire life, and somehow I find myself in the middle of a fake Russian conspiracy!

The Mueller investigation zeroed in on Papadopoulos’ contact with Joseph Mifsud and Alexander Downer, both of whom the media portrayed as “Russian intermediaries” but whom Papadopoulos believes were working with the FBI, “dropping information in my lap that I did not want regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails in the hands of the Russians.” Papadopoulos even went so far as to report Downer to the FBI “because I thought he was spying on me.”

The truth is going to be out there” when Trump declassifies the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) documents, Papadopoulos predicts. “It’s probably going to show the Obama administration, with the aid of both the Australian government and the UK government, were coordinating and laying various traps for the Trump campaign to essentially undermine us and that’s what they did for the last two years.”
Papadopoulos, who calls himself “Patient Zero of the Russian conspiracy,” was the first Trump affiliate to be indicted under the Mueller investigation and served 14 days in prison for making false statements to the FBI.

15--Turkey Hits Back at Pence With Own Ultimatum Amid S-400 Row

"Turkey must choose. Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance? We've also made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries that threaten the cohesion of our alliance", Pence said during a meeting of NATO ministers in Washington....

"We have clearly warned Turkey that its potential acquisition of the S-400 will result in reassessment of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 programme, and risk other potential future arms transfers to Turkey, as well as lead to potential actions under Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) upon any government entities, private industry, or individuals involved in such a transaction".

“Turkey is very important to the alliance because of its geography and military capabilities. The Black Sea is the launching pad for Russia into the Mediterranean and Middle East and there are three lines of defence: the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the Greek islands and Crete. That is the reason NATO asked Turkey to join”, Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, former commander of the US Army in Europe, was cited as saying by The Times

17--Turkey hits back at Pence, says US must choose between NATO ally and ‘terrorists’


 18--Pence slams Germany for Russia ties

US Vice President Mike Pence has blasted as “unacceptable” Germany’s dependence on Russian energy and its failure to meet its military spending commitments as a key member of the NATO military alliance.
Pence told NATO's 70th anniversary gathering in Washington, DC, on Wednesday that Berlin’s insistence on completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to buy Russian gas was not acceptable and undermined Europe’s security.
"Germany must do more. And we cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on Russia," Pence told the two-day forum.
Washington has long taken issue with Germany’s plans to import Russian natural gas through the $11 billion pipeline project, which runs straight under the Baltic Sea.
The pipeline has also been criticized for depriving Ukraine, a staunch US ally, of lucrative gas transit fees.

Pence then repeated a warning by President Donald Trump that Berlin’s reliance on Russian energy would eventually make it a captive of Moscow.
"If Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as President Trump said, it could turn Germany's economy into literally a captive of Russia," Pence said.

The US has even warned that German companies working with Russia on the project could face sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Germany and some other nations, have accused Washington of using the CAATSA to meddle in their foreign policy and energy affairs.

19--Iran’s Rouhani: US blocking of aid to flood victims ‘unprecedented crime’

 20--Archive  British spies were first to spot Trump team's links with Russia 

 Exclusive: GCHQ is said to have alerted US agencies after becoming aware of contacts in 2015

article april 2017

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.
GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.
Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

Instead both US and UK intelligence sources acknowledge that GCHQ played an early, prominent role in kickstarting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, which began in late July 2016.
One source called the British eavesdropping agency the “principal whistleblower”

The Guardian has been told the FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow ahead of the US election. This was in part due to US law that prohibits US agencies from examining the private communications of American citizens without warrants. “They are trained not to do this,” the source stressed.

“It looks like the [US] agencies were asleep,” the source added. “They [the European agencies] were saying: ‘There are contacts going on between people close to Mr Trump and people we believe are Russian intelligence agents. You should be wary of this.’
“The message was: ‘Watch out. There’s something not right here.’”

According to one account, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, passed material in summer 2016 to the CIA chief, John Brennan. The matter was deemed so sensitive it was handled at “director level”. After an initially slow start, Brennan used GCHQ information and intelligence from other partners to launch a major inter-agency investigation.

In late August and September Brennan gave a series of classified briefings to the Gang of Eight, the top-ranking Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. He told them the agency had evidence the Kremlin might be trying to help Trump to win the presidency, the New York Times reported.

One person familiar with the matter said Brennan did not reveal sources but made reference to the fact that America’s intelligence allies had provided information. Trump subsequently learned of GCHQ’s role, the person said....

The person described US intelligence as being “very late to the game”. The FBI’s director, James Comey, altered his position after the election and Trump’s victory, becoming “more affirmative” and with a “higher level of concern”.

Comey’s apparent shift may have followed a mid-October decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court to approve a secret surveillance order. The order gave permission for the Department of Justice to investigate two banks suspected of being part of the Kremlin’s undercover influence operation.

According to the BBC, the justice department’s request came after a tipoff from an intelligence agency in one of the Baltic states. This is believed to be Estonia.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the same order covered Carter Page, one of Trump’s associates. It allowed the FBI and the justice department to monitor Page’s communications. Page, a former foreign policy aide, was suspected of being an agent of influence working for Russia, the paper said, citing US officials.
The application covered contacts Page allegedly had in 2013 with a Russian foreign intelligence agent, and other undisclosed meetings with Russian operatives, the Post said. Page denies wrongdoing and complained of “unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance”.

Late last year Comey threw more FBI resources into what became a far-reaching counter-intelligence investigation. In March he confirmed before the House intelligence committee that the agency was examining possible cooperation between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign to sway the US election.

Britain’s MI6 spy agency played a part in intelligence sharing with the US, one source said.

In a report last month the New York Times, citing three US intelligence officials, said warning signs had been building throughout last summer but were far from clear. As WikiLeaks published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, US agencies began picking up conversations in which Russians were discussing contacts with Trump associates, the paper said.

One source suggested the official investigation was making progress. “They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,” the source said. “This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.” 


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