Trust me I’m a Russia hawk – the Democrats are going too far

If only President Richard Nixon could go to China, per the hoary Beltway cliché, perhaps only yours truly could write this column. Longer than just about anybody, I’ve warned the public about the threat to Western democracy posed by Vladimir Putin’s aggressive spies and weaponized lies.

As a counterintelligence officer for the National Security Agency, I was combating Russian propaganda, what they call Active Measures, two decades ago. When the NSA contractor Edward Snowden defected to Moscow in June 2013, I called him out as the Kremlin agent he is – as the Kremlin subsequently admitted – which won me few friends among the great and the good. Over the past six years, I’ve explained how Russian intelligence operations work in the real world, based on my professional experience, to any audience that will listen.

Now, however, it’s time to apply the brakes. While I will never cease denouncing Russian spy games that threaten the West, it’s past due to differentiate serious counterintelligence work from politically motivated hackery. Simply put, Russian clandestine support to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the subject which Robert Mueller’s investigators are unraveling, has become nothing short of an obsession for many of President Trump’s political opponents.

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

Inside the Spy Scandal at the Heart of Jeff Bezos’ War With the National Enquirer

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos rocked American politics yesterday by exposing an effort by his nemesis American Media Inc., publisher of The National Enquirer, to blackmail the multibillionaire mogul. By publicly taking on the country’s most notorious scandal sheet, Bezos opened the door to an espionage scandal that threatens to rock the nation’s capital and beyond.

Posting salacious accusations of criminality on the web is no routine matter, especially when it’s the world’s wealthiest man doing it, but that’s just what Bezos did by explaining that AMI  attempted to coerce him into stopping his investigation into The National Enquirer’s activities.

This sordid saga burst into public view last month, when The National Enquirer published a salacious account of Bezos’ extramarital affair, complete with images of private text messages of an amorous nature between the Amazon CEO and his mistress. Bezos and his wife of 25 years soon announced their intent to divorce.

Not surprisingly, Bezos wanted to know how AMI got hold of his private messages, and when you’re worth upwards of $130 billion you can hire top-notch investigators. That’s when things got interesting. The National Enquirer isn’t accustomed to being in the hot-seat when it comes to having secrets exposed, since their business model is based on being the exposer, not the one being exposed. AMI, whose acquaintance with journalistic ethics can charitably be termed fleeting, has secrets to hide in this high-profile case.

Read the rest at The Observer …

In Moscow, There’s No Longer Any Line Between Spies, Lies & Terrorists

These days there’s no term more likely to attract the nut fringe than “false flag.” Citing it is a surefire way to rally online monomaniacs who believe that nothing in the world is as it seems to be. The belief that nefarious secret forces pull the strings behind events is for some as addictive as opioids.

This is unfortunate, since false flag is a perfectly legitimate term in the espionage world, and it’s far from new. Spies have masqueraded as someone else during their secret operations for as long as there have been spies. In extreme cases, intelligence services have undertaken terrorist attacks under a false flag to smear opponents and fool the public. Such cases, while rare, do occur.

They still happen today. A fair amount of the time, these incidents involve Russians, since the Kremlin perfected this dark art over a century ago, when professional provocateurs ran the tsar’s terrorism problem bloodily into the ground. A recent case of false flag terrorism illustrates that not much has changed in the last 120 years.

On February 4, 2018, unidentified assailants fire-bombed a Hungarian cultural center in Uzhhorod, the capital of Ukraine’s westernmost region. There were no casualties, but the attack raised worries among the 100,000 Hungarians who live around Uzhhorod, on the border with Hungary, their ancestral homeland. The status of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority has become a hot-button issue between Kiev and Budapest, and the terrorist incident made the touchy situation worse.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Donald Trump, the Kremlin and the ghost of Alger Hiss

Judging from the weekend’s ‘modern presidential’ tweets – always a decent metric of Donald Trump’s mood swings – the Special Counsel investigation into his Russian links is weighing heavily on our 45th president.

And no wonder. New reports indicate that Donald J. Trump may be in a lot hotter water than his MAGA legions want to believe. According to the New York Times, the FBI in the opening months of Trump’s administration opened a counterintelligence investigation into the new president to assess whether he is a pawn of the Kremlin, wittingly or otherwise.

Then the Washington Post reported that President Trump concealed the content of his one-on-one discussions with his Russian counterpart, even from senior administration officials and the US intelligence community. Whatever he and Vladimir Putin discussed is something President Trump doesn’t want known, even in classified channels of the government he heads. Calling this abnormal is being very charitable.

Airing of these troubling matters flummoxed the president, and during a softball interview with Fox News – whose nightly talkers fulfill a role in Trump’s Washington roughly analogous to KCNA’s in Pyongyang – Trump waffled a straight-up query, ‘Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia?’ The president replied in his customary word-salad fashion how ‘insulted’ he was by the Times’sreport, never answering the up-or-down question.

Read the rest at Spectator USA …

Maybe it’s time to accept that Huawei is a Chinese intelligence front

Established in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen in 1987, it didn’t take long for Huawei Technologies to become a top player in global telecommunications. Since 2012, it’s been the world’s biggest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. Last year, Huawei displaced Apple as the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker, after South Korea’s Samsung. Active in 170 countries, Huawei matters – to China and to the global economy.

Yet there have long been questions raised about the company, starting with the fact that Huawei’s founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, is a former senior technologist for the People’s Liberation Army. For years, Western counterintelligence has quietly warned about the company’s connections to the PLA and other Chinese security agencies.

Recently, those cautions have grown distinctly audible. Last February, the heads of the ‘big three’ US intelligence agencies warned Americans against buying Huawei phones, which they deemed a security risk. As FBI Director Christopher Wray explained, ‘We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values…It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.’

Read the rest at Spectator USA … 

Exclusive: Mueller Is Holding Top Secret Intelligence That Will Sink the Trump Presidency

Another day, another bombshell emanating from the Special Counsel investigation into President Donald Trump and his links to the Kremlin. We now have more proof that Robert Mueller really does know everything about 2016—and I can exclusively tell you how he knows it.

This latest reveal comes from a legal screw-up of gargantuan proportions. Yesterday, attorneys for Paul Manafort, the president’s disgraced campaign manager for the decisive phase of the 2016 election, filed papers with the Justice Department trying to prevent their client from spending the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary. They asserted that Manafort did not lie to Team Mueller, as the Special Counsel believes, but in the process, they made an epic redaction fail that blows the case wide open.

Manafort’s lawyers accidentally revealed that Team Mueller believes—and Manafort confirmed—that their client shared campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, one of Manafort’s closest friends and a longtime business partner. Moreover, Manafort conceded, he had discussed a “Ukraine peace plan” with Kilimnik “on more than one occasion.” Worst of all, Manafort met with Kilimnik in Madrid to discuss these matters, he admitted, without saying when (Manafort’s spokesman later stated the Madrid meeting was in January or February 2017).

Read the rest at The Observer …

What Do Mueller and the Kremlin Know About Michael Cohen’s Alleged Prague Trip?

No aspect of the scandal surrounding President Donald J. Trump’s hidden relations with Russia has been more controversial than the reputed summer 2016 trip to the Czech Republic by Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime consigliere. Now, a confluence of intelligence that’s found its way into the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller may finally provide some long-awaited answers.

As reported in the contested dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the former British senior intelligence officer and Russia expert, Cohen sojourned to Prague in late August or early September of our election year to secretly parley with Kremlin representatives. In Steele’s telling, Cohen went to the Czech Republic to deliver cash to Russian hackers to help swing the 2016 election Trump’s way. This account, if true, describes unambiguous collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin—exactly what the president has always denied occurred. If Cohen met with Russian spies in the late summer of 2016 to conspire against Hillary Clinton, that’s something a lot of Americans would term treason.

But did it happen? Cohen has always denied it did, while Team Trump have gone out of their way to attack the story, and Steele generally. Except Steele never claimed that everything in his dossier was corroborated. It’s raw human intelligence, taken from sources Steele couldn’t always talk to directly, and it undoubtedly includes some Russian disinformationIn particular, the Kremlin has spread lies about the Prague meeting, which indicates there may be something they’re trying to hide there.

Read the rest at The Observer …

The Truth Behind This Bomb That Took Down Pan Am 103 Over Lockerbie Remains a 30-Year Mystery

Thirty years ago this week, Pan Am Flight 103 was torn apart by an explosion as it cruised 31,000 feet above the Scottish Lowlands, 38 minutes after it departed London’s Heathrow Airport. The shattered Boeing 747, named Clipper Maid of the Seas, was bound for New York but never made its destination, falling in flames around the bucolic town of Lockerbie.

There were no survivors. The catastrophe claimed the lives of 270 innocents: 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 Lockerbie residents killed when the airliner’s fiery wing cratered in the middle of their town. One hundred and ninety of the dead were American, including a group of 35 Syracuse University students headed home for Christmas after a European semester abroad.

Once it was obvious that nobody survived the crash, the biggest investigation in British history commenced, painstakingly locating and cataloguing over four million pieces of wreckage—including thousands of body parts—spread over 850 square miles of the Scottish countryside. Within a week of the disaster, investigators discovered traces of explosive, revealing that the Lockerbie crash was no accident.

A bomb took down the 747, and FBI analysis revealed that the huge airliner was destroyed by less than a pound of plastic explosive, specifically Semtex from Czechoslovakia, packed in a Samsonite suitcase stowed in the plane’s forward left luggage container. The improvised explosive device was hidden in a Toshiba radio cassette player and was detonated by a barometric sensor designed to detect altitude.

Read the rest at The Observer …

Trump’s sudden Syria pullout reveals his administration’s chaos – and misguided priorities

President Donald J. Trump’s surprise announcement on Wednesday that he is withdrawing the US military from Syria has shaken the Washington, DC, foreign policy establishment like a thunderclap. While there have been nods of approval from skeptics about American interventionism in the Middle East, that’s a rare breed inside the Beltway.

Instead, DC foreign policy mavens, most of whom espouse neo-flavored beliefs (whether neoliberal or neoconservative) reacted with derision and horror to Trump’s proposed withdrawal from Syria’s terrible fratricide, ongoing for almost eight years. These media and think-tank denizens, once derided as ‘the Blob’ by Obama’s White House, have spoken with one voice, and it’s sharply critical of the president.

Prominent Republicans are among the harshest Trump critics, with Sen. Lindsey Graham leading the charge against the president’s Syria decision, which Graham claims ‘rattled the world.’ Most Democratic critiques of Trump’s announcement sound similar, when not identical. Here’s another reminder of the broad and deep Washington consensus that the only thing wrong with American military interventions, especially in the Middle East, is that there aren’t enough of them.

Read the rest at Spectator USA…

Mike Flynn’s Disastrous Day in Court Blows Apart Trump’s Deep State Conspiracy Theory

Every day of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, his White House has been dogged by allegations surrounding his 2016 campaign’s illicit involvement with Russia. For almost two years, his administration has been under scrutiny by the press and the Justice Department over suspect ties to Moscow.

President Trump’s defense has been not just stout denials of any untoward activities but turning the tables on his accusers. In a classic Trumpian move, the president insists he’s the victim of a far-reaching plot involving Democrats and various organs of the Federal government, which colluded in a doomed effort to keep the Republican nominee from the White House.

This is the up-is-down approach, where nothing is as it seems to be, and where not only was there NO COLLUSION but his accusers are the real colluders, and all their assertions fake news. To term this properly, it’s a conspiracy theory, and to believe it you must have no idea how the alleged “Deep State” actually works.

Conveniently for Trump, most Americans have no idea how our intelligence agencies function in reality, so millions of citizens have swallowed the president’s ridiculous narrative hook, line and sinker. That our commander-in-chief constantly reinforces its central tenets in tweets helps to keep his MAGA legions on-side.

Read the rest at The Observer …