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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This censored article predicts what Trump will soon do

In 2009, respected journalist Scott Anderson wrote a piece for GQ called Putin's Dark Rise to Power, which lays out the case that Vladimir Putin, shortly after taking office, established his hold on the Russian government by staging a series of terrorist events, which were blamed on the Chechens. As you will recall, Litvenenko made the same accusation before his poisoning.

Conde Nast (publisher of GQ) censored the article, making sure that it never appeared on the internet and never appeared in Russia. For a few years, the piece found a home on a Chechen web site. That site is now down. Until the publication of this post, this censored story could be found nowhere on the internet -- not even on the torrent sites.

I am making it available here because I think that this is not just a story about Russia's recent past; it's about our own future. I believe that Donald Trump will follow Putin's blueprint.

If required to remove this article, I will of course do so. However, I will then publish a detailed summary/rephrasing of the piece. Until then, I hope that one of my readers will make sure that Anderson's piece is published on a foreign site.

In other words, a request for removal will draw more attention to the contents of this article.

Everything below the asterisks was published in 2009.

*  *  *

Ten years ago this month, Russia was rocked by a series of mysterious apartment bombings that left hundreds dead. It was by riding the ensuing wave of fear and terror that a then largely unknown Vladimir Putin rose to become the most powerful man in the country. But there were questions about the nature of those bombings - and disturbing evidence that the perpetrators might actually have been working for the Russian government. In the years since then, the people who had been questioning the official version of events began one by one to go silent or even turn up dead. Except one man. Scott Anderson finds him.

The first building to be hit was the barracks in Buynaksk housing Russian soldiers and their families. It was a nondescript five-story building perched on the outskirts of town, and when the enormous truck bomb went off late on the night of September 4, 1999, the floors pancaked onto each other until the building was reduced to a pile of burning rubble. In that rubble were the bodies of sixty-four people - men, women, and children.

In the predawn hours of last September 13, I left my hotel in central Moscow and made for a working-class neighborhood on the city's southern outskirts.

It had been twelve years since I'd been in the Russian capital. Everywhere, new glass-and-steel buildings had gone up, the skyline was studded with construction cranes, and even at 4 A.M., the garish casinos around Pushkin Square were going full tilt and Tverskaya Street was clogged with late-model SUVs and BMW sedans. The drive was a jarring glimpse at the colossal transformation that Russia, its economy turbocharged by petrodollars, had undergone in the nine years since Vladimir Putin came to power.

But my journey that morning was to a place in "old" Moscow, to a small park where a drab nine-story apartment building known as 6/3 Kashirskoye Highway had once stood. At 5:03 on the morning of September 13, 1999 - exactly nine years prior to my visit - 6/3 Kashirskoye had been blasted apart by a bomb secreted in its basement; 121 of its residents had died while they slept. That explosion, coming nine days after the one in Buynaksk, was the third of what would be four apartment-building bombings in Russia over a twelve-day span that September, leaving some 300 citizens dead and the nation in panic; it was among the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in the world until September 11. Blaming the bombings on terrorists from Chechnya, Russia's newly appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, ordered a scorched-earth offensive into the breakaway republic. On the success of that offensive, the previously unknown Putin became a national hero and swiftly assumed complete control of the Russian state. It is a control he continues to exert today.

Where 6/3 Kashirskoye had stood there was now an orderly grid of well-tended flower beds. These surrounded a stone monument engraved with the names of the dead and topped by a Russian Orthodox cross. For the bombing's ninth anniversary, three or four local journalists had shown up, discreetly watched over by a couple of policemen in a nearby squad car, but there really wasn't much for anyone to do. Shortly after 5 A.M., a cluster of perhaps two dozen people - most of them young, relatives of the dead, presumably - trooped up to place candles and red carnations at the foot of the monument, but they retreated as quickly as they had appeared. The only other visitors that morning were two elderly men who had witnessed the bombing and who dutifully related for the television cameras how terrible it had been, such a shock.

I saw that one of the old men became quite emotional as he stood before the monument, repeatedly brushing at his cheeks to wipe away tears. Several times he turned and walked purposefully away, as if willing himself to leave, but he never got very far. He would linger by the trees at the edge of the park and then inevitably make a slow return to the shrine. Finally, I approached him.

I lived very close to here, he said, and I was awoken by the sound, I came rushing over and... He was a big man, a former sailor, and he waved his hands helplessly over the flower beds. Nothing. Nothing. They pulled a young boy and his dog out. That was all. Everyone else was already dead.

But as it turned out, the old man had a more personal connection to the tragedy. His daughter, son-in-law, and grandson had lived at 6/3 Kashirskoye, and they had all perished that morning, too. Leading me up to the monument, he pointed out their names in the stone, and desperately brushed at his eyes again. Then he angrily whispered: They say it was the Chechens who did this, but that is a lie. It was Putin's people. Everyone knows that. No one wants to talk about it, but everyone knows that.

It is a riddle that lies at the very heart of the modern Russian state, one that remains unsolved to this day. In the awful events of September 1999, did Russia find its avenging angel in Vladimir Putin, the proverbial man of action who crushed his nation's attackers and led his people out of a time of crisis? Or was that crisis actually manufactured to benefit Putin, a scheme by Russia's secret police to bring one of their own to power? What makes this question important is that absent the bombings of September 1999 and all that transpired as a result, it is hard to conceive of any scenario whereby Putin would hold the position he enjoys today: a player on the global stage, a ruler of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

It is peculiar, then, how few people outside Russia seem to have wanted that question answered. Several intelligence agencies are believed to have conducted investigations into the apartment bombings, but none have released their findings. Very few American lawmakers have shown an interest in the bombings. In 02003, John McCain declared in Congress that there remain credible allegations that Russia's FSB [Federal Security Service] had a hand in carrying out these attacks. But otherwise, neither the United States government nor the American media have ever shown much inclination to explore the matter.

This apparent disinterest now extends into Russia as well. Immediately after the bombings, a broad spectrum of Russian society publicly cast doubt on the government's version of events. Those voices have now gone silent one by one. In recent years, a number of journalists who investigated the incidents have been murdered - or have died under suspicious circumstances - as have two members of Parliament who sat on a commission of inquiry. In the meantime, it seems that most everyone whose account of the attacks ran counter to the government's version now either refuses to speak, has recanted his earlier statements, or is dead.

During my time in Russia this past September, I approached a number of individuals - journalists, lawyers, human-rights investigators - who had been involved in the search for answers. Many declined to speak with me altogether. Others begrudgingly did so but largely confined their statements to a recitation of the known inconsistencies in the case; if pressed for an opinion, they allowed only that the matter remained "controversial." even the old man in Kashirskoye park ultimately underscored the air of unease that hovers over the topic. After readily agreeing to a second meeting, at which he promised to introduce me to other victims' families who doubted the government's account, he had a change of heart.

I can't do it, he said when he called me back a few days later. I spoke to my wife and my boss, and they both said that if I meet with you, I will be finished.

I was curious what he meant by "finished," but the old sailor hung up before I could ask.

No doubt part of this reticence stemmed from recalling the fate of the man who made proving the conspiracy behind the bombings a personal crusade: Alexander Litvinenko. From his London exile, the rogue former KGB officer had waged a relentless media campaign against the Putin regime, accusing it of all manner of crimes and corruption - and most especially of having orchestrated the apartment-building attacks.

In November 2006, in a case that riveted the world's attention, Litvinenko was slipped a lethal dose of radioactive polonium, apparently during a meeting with two former Russian intelligence agents in a London hotel bar. Before the poison killed LItvinenko - it took an agonizing twenty-three days - he signed a statement placing the blame for his murder squarely at Putin's feet.

But Litvinenko had not worked alone on the apartment-bombing case. Several years before his murder, he had enlisted another ex-KGB agent in his search for answers, a former criminal investigator named Mikhail Trepashkin. The two men had a rather complicated personal history - in fact, back in the '90s, one allegedly had been dispatched to assassinate the other - but it had actually been Trepashkin, working on the ground in Russia, who had uncovered many of the disturbing facts in the case.

Trepashkin had also run afoul of the authorities. In 2003 he had been shipped off to a squalid prison camp in the Ural Mountains for four years. By the time of my visit to Moscow last year, however, he was out on the streets again.

Through an intermediary, I learned Trepashkin had two young daughters, as well as a wife who desperately wanted him to stay out of politics; combining these factors with his recent prison stint and the murder of his former colleague, it seemed likely that my approach to him would go as badly as had my conversations with other former dissenters.

Oh, he'll talk, the intermediary assured me. The only way they'll stop Trepashkin is by killing him.

On September 9, five days after the blast in Buynaksk, the bombers struck Moscow. This time it was an eight-story apartment building on Guryanova Street, in a working-class neighborhood in the city's southeast. Rather than a truck bomb, the device had been stashed on the building's ground floor, but the result was virtually identical; the explosion brought down all eight floors and killed ninety-four residents as they slept.

It was with Guryanova Street that the general alarm first went out. Within hours a number of Russian-government officials strongly suggested that terrorists from Chechnya were responsible, and the nation was sent into a state of high alert. As thousands of police fanned out to question - and in several hundred cases, to arrest - anyone resembling a Chechen, residents of apartment buildings throughout Russia organized themselves into neighborhood-watch patrols. Calls for retaliation rose from all political quarters.

At Trepashkin's request, our first meeting took place at a crowded coffee shop in central Moscow. One of his aides showed up first, and then twenty minutes later Trepashkin arrived in the company of his bodyguard of sorts, a muscular young man with a crewcut and an opaque stare.

Trepashkin, while short, was powerfully built - a testament to his lifelong practice of a variety of martial arts - and still very handsome at 51. His most arresting feature, though, was a perpetual amused grin. It gave him an aura of instant likability, friendliness, although I could imagine that anyone who sat across an interrogation table from him back in his KGB days might have found it unnerving.

For a few minutes, we chatted about everyday things - the unusually cold weather in Moscow just then, the changes I'd noticed since my last visit - and I sensed Trepashkin was trying to figure me out, deciding how much to say.

Then he began to tell me about his career at the KGB. He'd spent most of his years as a criminal investigator who specialized in antiques smuggling. He was, in those days, an absolute loyalist to the Soviet state - and most especially the KGB. Trepashkin was such a dedicated Soviet that he even supported a group that attempted to thwart the ascent of Boris Yeltsin in favor of preserving the Soviet system.

I could see that this was going to be the end of the Soviet Union, Trepashkin explained in the coffee shop. But even more than that, what would happen to the KGB, to all of us who had made it our lives? I saw only disaster coming.

And that disaster came. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia plunged into economic and social chaos. One particularly destructive aspect of that chaos stemmed from the vast legions of Russian KGB officers who suddenly entered the private sector. Some went into business for themselves or joined on with the mafiyas they had once been detailed to combat. Still others signed on as "advisers" or muscle for the new oligarchs or the old Communist Party bosses who were frantically grabbing up anything of value in Russia, even as they paid obeisance to the "democratic reforms" of President Boris Yeltsin.

Of all this, Trepashkin had an intimate view. Kept on with the FSB, the Russian successor to the KGB, the investigator found it increasingly difficult to differentiate criminality from governmental policy.

In case after case, he said, there was this blending. You would find mafiyas working with terrorist groups, but then the trail would lead to a business group or maybe to a state ministry. So then, was this still a criminal case, or some kind of officially sanctioned black operation? And just what did ‘officially sanctioned' actually mean anymore, because who was really in charge?

Finally, in the summer of 1995, Mikhail Trepashkin began work on a case that would change him forever, one that placed him on a collision course with the seniormost commanders of the FSB and, Trepashkin says, would lead at least one of them to plot his assassination. As with so many other incidents that exposed the malevolent rot in post-Soviet Russia, this one centered on events in the breakaway southern republic of Chechnya.

By December 1995, rebels fighting for the independence of Chechnya had fought the Russian army to a bloody and humiliating stalemate after a full year of war. The Chechens' success was not as simple as mere force of arms, however. Even during the Soviet era, Chechen mafiyas had controlled much of the Russian criminal underworld, so when Russian society itself became criminalized it played beautifully to the Chechen rebels' advantage. For their steady supply of sophisticated weapons with which to fight the Russian army, the rebels often had only to turn to corrupt Russian army officers who had access to such weaponry, with the funds for such "purchases" supplied by the Chechen crime syndicates operating throughout the nation.

Just how high up did this cozy arrangement go? Mikhail Trepashkin got his answer on the night of December 1, when a team of FSB officers stormed a Moscow branch of Bank Soldi with guns drawn.

The raid that night was the culmination of an elaborate sting operation, one that Trepashkin had helped supervise, designed to finally bring down a notorious bank-extortion team linked to a Chechen rebel leader named Salman Raduyev. It was a huge success: Caught up in the Soldi dragnet were some two dozen conspirators, including two FSB officers and a Russian-military general.

But inside the bank, the FSB men found something else. To ensure they weren't walking into a trap, the conspirators had planted electronic bugs throughout the building, and those were linked to an eavesdropping van parked outside. While their precautions obviously needed some fine-tuning, it begged the question of how the gang got their hands on bugging equipment.

All these sorts of devices have serial numbers, Trepashkin explained in the Moscow coffee shop, and so we traced the numbers back. We discovered that it had all come from either the FSB or the Ministry of Defense.

The implication of this was staggering, for access to such equipment was severely restricted. It suggested that high-ranking security and military officers had colluded not only with a criminal gang but with one whose express purpose was to raise funds for a war against Russia. By the standards of any country, that wasn't just corruption, it was treason.

Yet no sooner had Trepashkin started down that investigative trail than he was removed from the Bank Soldi case by Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB's internal-security department. What's more, he says, no charges were brought against any of the Russian officers implicated, and nearly all of those caught in the initial dragnet were soon quietly released. Instead, Patrushev ordered an investigation of Trepashkin. That investigation lasted nearly two years, at the end of which Trepashkin had reached his personal breaking point. In May 1997, he wrote an open letter to President Yeltsin detailing his involvement in the case and charging much of the senior FSB leadership with a host of crimes, including forming alliances with mafiyas and even recruiting their members into FSB ranks.

I thought that if the president knew what was happening, Trepashkin said, then he would do something about it. This was a mistake on my part.

Indeed. Boris Yeltsin, it turned out, was fabulously corrupt himself, and the letter alerted the FSB that they now had a serious malcontent on their hands. The very next month, Trepashkin resigned from the FSB, burn out, he says, but the harassment he'd been subjected to. But that didn't mean Trepashkin was going to go quietly into the night. That summer he brought a lawsuit against the FSB leadership and began filing complaints that extended all the way to the FSB director himself. It was as if, even at this late date, the investigator imagined that the honor of the Kontora (Bureau) could still be redeemed, that some as yet invisible reformer might step forward. Instead, his persistence apparently convinced some senior FSB officials that it was time for a permanent solution to their Trepashkin problem. One of the first people they turned to was Alexander Litvinenko.

On paper, Litvinenko looked just the man for the job. Having just returned to Moscow from a stint on the brutal Chechen battlefield as a counterterrorism operative, he had been transferred into a new and highly secretive of the FSB called the Office for the Analysis of Criminal Organizations, or URPO. While Litvinenko didn't know it at the time, it seemed the URPO had been formed to serve as a death squad. As reported in the book Death of a Dissident, by Alex Goldfarb and Litvinenko's widow, Marina, Litvinenko learned of this when he was summoned by the URPO commander in October 1997. There is this guy, Mikhail Trepashkin, the commander allegedly told Litvinenko. He is your new object. Go get his file and make yourself familiar with it.

When he did, Litvinenko learned of the criminal investigator's involvement with the Bank Solid case, as well as his lawsuit against the FSB leadership; it left him puzzled as to just what he was supposed to do with Trepashkin.

Well, it's a delicate situation, Litvinenko quoted his commander as saying. You know, he is taking the director to court and giving interviews. We should shut him up, director's personal request.

Shortly after, Litvinenko claimed his target list expanded to include Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch and Kremlin insider whom apparently someone powerful now wanted dead. Litvinenko stalled for a time, making continual excuses for his inability to carry out the assassination orders.

According to Trepashkin, at least two attempts were made on his life during this period: a failed ambush on a deserted stretch of Moscow highway, and a rooftop sniper who couldn't get off a clean shot. On other occasions, he says, he was tipped off by friends still in the Kontora.

In November, the alleged FSB plot against Trepashkin and Berezovsky was exposed in dramatic fashion when Litvinenko and four of his URPO colleagues appeared at a Moscow news conference to detail the kill orders they'd been given. Also in attendance was Mikhail Trepashkin.

And there, somewhat anticlimactically, the matter seemed to end. Litvinenko, the ringleader of the dissident officers, was summarily dismissed but otherwise suffered no immediate retribution. As for Trepashkin, after improbably winning his lawsuit against the FSB, he married for a second time and settled into his new job with the Russian tax police, determined, he says, to quietly serve out his term until he was eligible for retirement.

But then, in September 1999, the apartment-building bombings would shake Russia's political foundations to their core. Those attacks would also propel Trepashkin and Litvinenko back into the shadow world, this time with a common purpose.

Amid the near hysteria that gripped Moscow after the Guryanova Street bombing, early on the morning of September 13, 1999, authorities were called to check on reports of suspicious activity at an apartment building on the city‘s southern outskirts. Finding nothing untoward, security personnel completed their search of 6/3 Kashirskoye at about 2 A.M. and left. At 5:03 A.M>, the nine-story building was collapsed by a massive bomb, leaving 121 civilians dead.

Three days later, the target was an apartment building in Volgodonsk, a city south of Moscow. This time it was a truck bomb, and it left another seventeen dead.

In the Moscow coffee shop, Trepashkin grew uncharacteristically somber, staring into the distance for a long moment.

It just seemed incredible, he said finally. That was my first thought. The country is in an uproar, vigilantes are stopping strangers on the streets, there are police roadblocks everywhere. So how is it possible that these bombers are moving about so freely, that they have all this time to set up and carry out these sophisticated bombings? It seemed impossible.

Another aspect that Trepashkin had a problem with was the question of motive.

Usually, this is quite easy to find, he explained, it is money or hatred or jealousy, but for these bombings, what was the Chechens' motive? Very few people thought about this.

On one level, this was perhaps understandable. Antipathy for Chechens is deeply ingrained into Russian society, and it had grown much worse during their secessionist war in the '90s. Unspeakable atrocities were committed by both sides in that conflict, and the Chechen rebels had shown no compunction against taking their fight into Russia proper or targeting civilians. Except that war had ended in 01997, with Boris Yeltsin signing a peace agreement recognizing Chechnya's autonomy.

So why? Trepashkin continued. Why would the Chechens want to provoke the Russian government when they already had everything they had fought for?

And there was something else that gave the former criminal investigator pause: the composition of the new Russian government.

In early August 1999, just weeks before the first bombing on Buynaksk, President Yeltsin had appointed his third prime minister in less than three months. He was a slight, humorless main, virtually unknown to the Russian public, named Vladimir Putin.

The chief reason he was so little known was that, until a few years earlier, Putin had been just one more midlevel KGB/FSB officer toiling away in obscurity. In 1996, Putin was given a position in the presidential-property-management department, a crucial office in the Yeltsin patronage machine that gave Putin leverage to grant or withhold favors to Kremlin insiders. He apparently put his time there to good use; over the next three years, Putin was promoted to deputy chief of the presidential staff, then to director of the FSB, and now to prime minister.

But though Putin was still obscure to the general public in September 1999, Mikhail Trepashkin already had a pretty good sense of the man. Putin had been the FSB director at the time the URPO scandal went public and had personally dismissed Alexander Litvinenko for provoking it. I fired Litvinenko, he had told a reporter, because FSB officers shouldn't hold press conferences...and they shouldn't make internal scandals public.

But equally alarming to Trepashkin was who had been chosen to be Putin's successor as FSB director, Nikolai Patrushev. As head of the FSB internal-security department, it was Patrushev who had removed Trepashkin from the Bank Soldi case and who was now among those government officials most vehemently claiming a Chechen connection to the apartment-building bombings.

So what you saw was this dynamic building, Trepashkin said, and it was the government promoting it. ‘The Chechens are behind this, so now we must take care of the Chechens'.

But then something very strange happened. It happened in the sleepy provincial city of Ryazan, some 120 miles southeast of Moscow.

Amid the state of hypervigilance that had seized the nation, several residents of 14/16 Novosyolov Street in Ryazan took notice when a white Zhiguli sedan pulled up to park beside their apartment building on the evening of September 22. They became downright panicked when they observed two men removing several large sacks from the car's trunk and carrying them into the basement before speeding away. Residents called the police.

Discovered in the basement were three 110-pound white sacks wired to a detonator and explosive timer. As police quickly evacuated the building, the local FSB explosives expert was called in to defuse the detonator; he determined that the sacks contained RDX, a explosive powerful enough to have brought the entire apartment building down. IN the meantime, roadblocks were established on all roads out of Ryazan, and a massive manhunt for the Zhiguli and its occupants got underway.

By the following afternoon, word of the incident in Ryazan had spread across Russia. Prime Minister Putin congratulated the residents on their vigilance, while the interior minister lauded recent improvements by the security forces, such as the foiling of the attempt to blowup the apartment building in Ryazan.

There the matter may well have ended, except that same night two of the suspects in Ryazan were apprehended. To the local authorities' astonishment, both produced FSB identification cards. A short time later, a call came down from FSB headquarters in Moscow that the two were to be released.

The following morning, FSB director Patrushev appeared on television to report a wholly new version of events in Ryazan. Rather than an aborted terrorist attack, he explained, the incident at 14/16 Novosyolov Street had actually been an FSB "training exercise" to test the public's alertness. Further, he said, the sacks in the basement had contained not explosives, but rather common household sugar.

Contradictions in the FSB's account were manifold. How to reconcile FSB headquarters' sacks-of-sugar claim with the local FSB's chemical analysis that had found RDX? If this truly had been a training exercise, how was it that the local FSB branch wasn't informed ahead of time, or that Patrushev himself didn't see fit to make mention of it for a day and a half after the terrorist alert was raised? For that matter, why did the apartment-building-bombing spree suddenly stop after Ryazan? If the attacks were truly the handiwork of Chechen terrorists, surely the public-relations black eye the FSB had received over the Ryazan affair would spur them to carry out more.

But the time for such questions had already passed. Even as Prime Minister Putin gave his speech on the night of September 23 praising the residents of Ryazan for their vigilance, Russian warplanes began launching massive air strikes on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Within a few more days, Russian armored battalions that had been massed on the border for months crossed into Chechnya, marking the start of the Second Chechen War.

Events moved very quickly after that. On New Year's Eve 1999, Boris Yeltsin stunned the nation by announcing that he was stepping down from the presidency effective immediately, which made Vladimir Putin acting president until new elections could be held. And instead of holding them sometime in the summer, as originally scheduled, those elections would now occur in just ten weeks' time, leaving Putin's many competitors for the position little time to prepare.

In a presidential poll taken in August 1999, Putin had garnered less than 2 percent support. By March 2000, however, riding a wave of popularity for his total-war policy in Chechnya, he swept into office with 53 percent of the vote. The reign of Vladimir Putin had begun, and Russia would never be the same.

For our next meeting, Trepashkin invited me into his apartment. I was a bit surprised by this - I'd been told that, for security reasons, Trepashkin rarely brought visitors to his home - but I guess he figured all his enemies knew where he lived, anyway.

It was a pleasant enough place, if a bit on the spartan side, on the ground floor of a high-rise tower surrounded by other high-rise towers in southern Moscow. Trepashkin gave me a quick tour, and I noticed that the only space with even a hint of clutter was the tiny, paper-filled room - a converted walk-in closet, really - he used as his office. One of his daughters was home, and she brought us tea as we settled in the sitting room.

With a vaguely embarrassed smile, Trepashkin offered that there was actually another reason he rarely had work-related meetings at his home: his wife. She wants me to stop all this political stuff, but since she is away this morning... His smile eased away. Well, it's because of the raids. You know, they came charging in here - he waved toward the front door - with their guns, shouting orders; the children were terrified. It really affected my wife, and she is always worried it will happen again.

The first of those raids had occurred in January 2002. Late one night, a squad of FSB agents burst in and proceeded to take the apartment apart. Trepashkin maintains they found nothing but instead planted enough evidence - some classified documents from the FSB archives, a handful of bullets - to enable prosecutors to hang three "pending" charges over his head.

It was their way of putting me on notice, he explained, of letting me know they would come after me if I didn't straighten up.

Trepashkin had a good idea of what had sparked the FSB's attention: Just days before the raid, he had started getting telephone calls from the man regarded by the Putin regime as one of Russia's greatest traitors, Alexander Litvinenko.

Lieutenant Colonel Litvinenko's fall from grace had been swift. After his 1998 press conference alleging the URPO assassination plots, he'd spent nine months in prison on an "abuse of authority" charge and had then fled Russia as prosecutors prepared to move against him again. With the help of the now exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko and his family settled in England, where he joined forces with Berezovsky to expose to the world what they claimed were the crimes of the Putin regime. A primary focus of that campaign was getting to the truth of the apartment-building bombings.

So this is why he was calling, Trepashkin explained. Litvinenko couldn't come back to Russia, obviously, so they needed someone here to help with the investigation.

Easier said than done, for by January 2002, Russia had become a very different place. In the two years since Putin had been elected president, the once-thriving independent media had all but disappeared, while the political opposition was being steadily marginalized to the point of insignificance.

One indication of this chilling effect was the revisions performed on the shakiest aspect of the government's bombing story, the FSB "training exercise" in Ryazan. By 2002 the Ryazan FSB commander who had overseen the manhunt for "the terrorists" now supported the training-exercise explanation. The local FSB explosives expert who had insisted before television cameras that the Ryazan sacks contained explosives suddenly went silent on the whole matter and disappeared from sight. Even some of the residents of 14/16 Novosyolov Street who had appeared in a television documentary six months after the incident to angrily deride the FSB's account and insist the bomb was real now refused to talk with anyone beyond allowing that perhaps they'd been mistaken after all.

I told Litvinenko that the only way I could become involved was in some kind of official capacity, Trepashkin explained in his sitting room. If I just went out on my own, the authorities would move against me immediately.

That official capacity was fashioned at a meeting held in Boris Berezovsky's London office in early March 2002. one of those in attendance, a Russian member of Parliament named Sergei Yushenkov, would organize a blue-ribbon committee of inquiry into the bombings and make Trepashkin one of his investigators. Another attendee was Tatiana Morozova, a 31-year-old Russian émigré living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Morozova's mother had been killed in the Guryanova Street blast, and under Russian law that gave her the right to review the government's records on the case; since Trepashkin had recently obtained his license to practice law, Morozova would appoint him as her attorney and petition the courts for access to the FSB's Guryanova Street files.

So I agreed to both of these ideas, Trepashkin said, but the question was where to look first. So many of the reports were unreliable, and so many people had changed their stories, that my first goal was to get access to the actual forensic evidence.

Also easier said than done, for a hallmark of the government's response to the bombings had been a peculiar haste in clearing away the ruins. Whereas, for example, the Americans had spent six months sifting through the remnants of the World Trade Center after September 11, regarding it as an active crime scene, Russian authorities had razed 19 Guryanova street just days after the blast and hauled everything away to a municipal dump. Whatever forensic evidence had been preserved - and it wasn't clear that any had - was presumably locked away in FSB storehouses.

While what he discovered didn't pertain to the specifics of the bombings, Trepashkin did soon manage to come up with something quite interesting.

One of the odder footnotes to the whole affair was a statement that Gennady Seleznyov, the Speaker of the Duma, had made on the floor of Parliament on the morning of September 13, 1999. I have just received a report, he had announced to legislators. An apartment building in the city of Volgodonsk was blown up last night.

While Seleznyov got the basics right - an apartment building had indeed just been blown up - he had the wrong city; the blast that morning had been at 6/3 Kashirskoye Highway in Moscow. Which put the Speaker in kind of an awkward spot when an apartment building in Volgodonsk was blown up three days later. At least one Duma member found that puzzling.

Mr. Speaker, please explain, he had asked Seleznyov on the Parliament floor, how come you told us on Monday about the blast that occurred on Thursday?

In lieu of an answer, the questioner had his microphone quickly cut off.

To many observers, it suggested that someone in the FSB chain of command had screwed up the order in which the bombings were to take place and had given the "news" to Seleznyov in reverse.

Searching around nearly three years after the fact, Trepashkin says he determined that Seleznyov had been given the erroneous report by an FSB officer, though he won't say how he knows.

But with progress also came the potential for danger to Trepashkin. One of those who had attended the London meeting, human-rights activist and Berezovsky lieutenant Alex Goldfarb, became concerned enough about Trepashkin's welfare that he arranged a meeting with him in Ukraine in early 2003. The two had never met before, and Goldfarb found it an odd encounter.

He was one of the stranger people I've ever met, Goldfarb recounted. He had no interest in the philosophical or political implications of what he was doing. To him, this was all just a criminal case. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Is this guy crazy? Doesn't he appreciate what he's up against?' but I finally concluded he was this kind of supercop - you know, a Serpico figure. He was determined to do the right thing because it was the right thing to do; it was just that simple. Still, Goldfarb felt it his duty to at least alert Trepashkin to the deepening peril, the very little that could be done if the authorities decided to go after him. The more he pressed on this, though, the more Trepashkin seemed to bristle.

He didn't care about any of that, Goldfarb remembered. I think he still believed he was fighting to reform the system, rather than that he was up against the system itself.

But as it turned out, the hammer first fell elsewhere. In April 02003, Sergei Yushenkov, the Duma member who had hired Trepashkin for his committee of inquiry, was murdered in front of his Moscow home, shot down in broad daylight. Three months later, another committee member died under mysterious circumstances. The two deaths effectively ended the independent inquiry - which also meant that Trepashkin was now essentially on his own. Still, acting as Tatiana Morozova's attorney, he soldiered on - and in July 02003, he finally hit pay dirt. It hinged on another loose end in the case, one that no amount of cleaning up after the fact could quite tie off.

In the hours just before the Guryanova Street bombing, the FSB had released a composite sketch of a suspect based on information provided by a building manager. But soon after and with no explanation, that sketch had been withdrawn and replaced with that of a completely different man. This second man had long since been identified as one Achemez Gochiyayev, a small-time businessman from the region of Cherkessia, who had immediately gone into hiding. In the spring of 02002, Alexander Litvinenko had tracked Gochiyayev to a remote area of Georgia where, through an intermediary, the businessman steadfastly insisted that he had been framed by the FSB and had only run because he was sure they would kill him.

It made Trepashkin very curious to learn the identity of the man in the first sketch, even more so when, going through the voluminous FSB files on Guryanova Street, he discovered there wasn't a copy of it to be found anywhere. As a last resort, he started sifting through newspaper archives to see if any had run that sketch before the FSB had pulled it from circulation. And there it was.

It depicted a square-jawed man in his mid-30s, with dark hair and glasses. Trepashkin was convinced he knew the man, that in fact he had arrested him eight years before. He believed it was a sketch of Vladimir Romanovich, the FSB agent who had manned the electronic-surveillance van for the Raduyev gang during the robbery of Bank Soldi.

Trepashkin's first thought was to find Romanovich and try to compel him to reveal his role in the apartment bombings. Not likely. As far as Trepashkin could determine, shortly after the bombings, Romanovich had left Russia for Cyprus and died there in the summer of 2000, killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Trepashkin then tracked down the original source of the sketch, the Guryanova Street building manager.

I showed him the sketch of Romanovich, Trepashkin said in his sitting room, And he told me that was the accurate one, the one he had given to the police. But then they had taken him to Lubyakna [FSB headquarters], where they showed him the Gochiyayev sketch and insisted that was the man he saw.

With his bombshell, Trepashkin planned a little surprise for the authorities. the FSB had long since released the names of nine men they claimed were responsible for the Moscow and Volgodonsk bombings. Ironically, considering that the bombings had been the chief pretext for embarking on the Second Chechen War, none of these suspects were Chechen. By the summer of 2003, five of those men were reportedly dead, and two others remained at large, but the trial for the two in custody was slated to begin that October. As attorney for Tatiana Morozova, Trepashkin intended to attend the trial and introduce the Romanovich sketch as evidence for the defense.

He took an added precaution. Shortly before the trial's tart, he met with Igor Korolkov, a journalist with the independent magazine Moskovskiye Novosti, and described the Romanovich connection in detail.

He said, ‘If they get me, at least everyone will know why,' Korolkov explained. He was apprehensive, tense, because I think he already knew they were coming for him.

Sure enough, shortly after meeting with Korolkov, Trepashkin was picked up by authorities. while he was being held, the FSB conducted another raid on his apartment, this one involving a whole busload of agents.

I understand it was very exciting for the neighbors, Trepashkin said with a laugh, the biggest thing to happen around here in a long time.

They brought him up on an old FSB standby - possession of an unlicensed gun - but the judge, apparently familiar with that tired cliché, immediately dismissed the charge. Prosecutors then turned to the charges they still had pending on Trepashkin from the raid two years earlier and the classified he maintains were planted. It wasn't much, but it was enough; tried in a closed court, trepashkin received a four-year sentence for "improper handling of classified material" and was shipped off to a prison camp in the Ural Mountains.

In his absence, the two men tried for the apartment bombings were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Declaring the matter officially closed, the government then ordered all FSB investigative files on the case to be sealed for the next seventy-five years.

My last question to Mikhail Trepashkin was something of a throwaway.

We were standing on the sidewalk outside his apartment building, and I asked him if, in looking over the trajectory of his life for the past fifteen years, he would have done things any differently.

It was a throwaway because people in Trepashkin's position, those who have waged battle against power and been crushed, almost invariably say no: In the pursuit of justice or liberty or a better society, they explain, they'd do it all again and in just the same way. It's what such people tell themselves to give their suffering meaning.

Instead, Trepashkin gave a quick laugh, his face creasing into his trademark grin.

Yes, he said, I would have done things very differently. I see now that one of my flaws is that I am too trusting. I always thought the problems were with just a few bad people, not with the system itself. Even when I was in prison, I never believed that Putin could actually be behind it. I always believed that once he knew, I would be released immediately. Trepashkin's grin eased away; he gave a slow shrug of his powerful shoulders. So a certain naïveté, I guess, that led to mistakes.

I wasn't wholly convinced of this. More than naïveté, I suspected his "flaw" was actually rooted in a kind of old-fashioned - if not downright medieval - sense of loyalty. At our first meeting, Trepashkin had given me a copy of his official résumé, a document that ran to sixteen pages, and the first thing that struck me was the prominence he'd given to the many awards and commendations he had received over his lifetime of service to the state: as a navy specialist, as a KGB officer, as an FSB investigator. As bizarre or as quaint as it might seem, he was still a true believer. How else to explain the years he had spent being the dutiful investigator, meticulously building cases against organized-crime syndicates or corrupt government officials, while stubbornly refusing to accept that, in the new Russia, it was the thieves themselves who ran the show?

Of course, it was also this abiding sense of loyalty that rather paralyzed Trepashkin and prevented him from learning from his past "mistakes," from living his life any differently in order to get out of harm's way. For that matter, even the change of venue of our meeting from his apartment to the sidewalk outside was kind of a testament to Trepashkin's obduracy; his wife, returning home earlier than expected, had been so incensed at finding him meeting with a Western journalist that she'd promptly kicked both of us out of the house.

Well, what can you do? Trepashkin had whispered as we'd fled, as if he really had no control over the matter.

But perhaps his wife's edginess that day - September 25 - was rooted in something else. That afternoon, Trepashkin was headed downtown to meet with a handful of his supporters, and then at 6 P.M. they would hold a demonstration in Pushkin Square to demand a new investigation into the bombings. You should come by, he said with his usual grin. It could be interesting.

In the five years since Trepashkin had first gone off to prison, there'd been a lot of changes in Russia - but none of them particularly auspicious for a man like him. In March 2004, Vladimir Putin had been reelected with 71 percent of the vote, and he'd use the mandate to even more forcefully restrict political and press freedoms. In October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's leading investigative journalist and someone who had written extensively on the murky connections between the FSB and Chechen "terrorists," had been shot to death in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. The following month, it had been Alexander Litvinenko's turn to be eliminated.

But perhaps most dispiriting, it appeared the Russian public saw very little cause for worry in all this. Instead, with their economy booming on a flood of petrodollars, most seemed rather pleased with Putin's tough-guy image and his increasingly belligerent posture to the outside world, the whiff of superpower redux it conveyed. This image was fittingly captured in May 2008 when Putin, constitutionally barred from a third term as president (although he remained on as prime minister), officially handed the reins of state over to his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev. For the occasion, the two men donned matching black jackets with Medvedev in jeans, looking less like co-heads of state than a pair of gangsters as they strutted about Red Square. Even Russia's ferocious intervention in Georgia in August 2008, an act roundly denounced in the West, spawned a new burst of Russian national pride, a new spike in Putin's popularity.

Perhaps not surprising, then, the rally in Pushkin Square was a rather pitiful showing. Other than Trepashkin and his closest aides, perhaps thirty demonstrators showed up. Many of them were elderly people who had lost relatives in the bombings, and they stood mutely on the sidewalk holding up posters or faded photographs of their dead. The small band was watched over by eight uniformed policemen - and presumably a number of others in plainclothes - but it seemed quite unnecessary. Of the vast throngs passing on the sidewalk at rush hour, very few gave the protestors a second glance, and fewer still took the leaflet proffered them.

Watching Trepashkin that evening, it seemed there might be another way to understand why someone like him was still alive while people like Litvinenko and Politkovskaya were dead. Part of it, no doubt, is that Trepashkin has always shied away from pointing an accusatory finger directly at Putin or anyone else in connection with the apartment bombings. This fits with his criminal investigator's mind-set: that you only make accusations based on facts, on what is knowable and certain.

But surely another part of it is his single-minded focus on getting to the bottom of the apartment bombings, his bringing the same level of dogged tenacity to that case as he did to the Bank Soldi affair. This was the problem for Litvinenko and Politkovskaya: They made so many accusations against so many members of Russia's ruling circle that they gave their enemies safety in numbers. For Trepashkin, there is really nothing else but the apartment bombings, and if he is murdered, everyone in Russia will know why.

The irony, though, is that by continuing to push on with the case, and by continuing to call for a public investigation, Trepashkin may also be propelling himself ever closer to the answers that will destroy him. So long as those behind the bombings are confident that they have won or that they have at least sufficiently buried the past, he remains relatively safe. It is when the crowds start taking his leaflets that the danger to him grows.

That day may now be fast approaching. Amid the international economic collapse of the past year, few countries have been more ravaged than Russia, and almost every day brings accounts of new popular protests: against the oligarchs, against government policies, increasingly against Vladimir Putin himself. It may not be very long now before the Russian people start to ask themselves how all this was set in motion and remember back to the awful events of September 1999.

But it didn't come on that day in Pushkin Square. On that day, the throngs were still true believers in the Russian renaissance, and they hurried on past Trepashkin toward the subway and home, hurried toward the bright, shiny future their ruler has promised them.
Hello - this is also covered on a PBS Frontline documentary titled "Putin's way." Keep up the good work and I hope you are wrong in your assessment that this is Trumps path also, it is my worst fear.
Scary as hell. Good work, Joseph.
And if something happens, it won't be Hillary Clinton supporters who do the dirty work, it will be crazy Sander's supporters doing something that will be pinned on Hillary Clinton supporters. This could be so Snowball.
It's a given something will happen. Remember the Anthrax scare when Dubya first came into power illegitimately? First person killed was the journalist who published the drunk photos of Jenna Bush.

Also that "training exercise" excuse has been used a few times here also.

I'm agreeing with you something will happen. Especially to detract from the march on Saturday.
Joseph-just when i think you can't come out with a more 'wow' conspiracy theory you come out with one.

There are no crazy Hillary's supporters. They are as bland and fireless as she is. So if crazy stuff started to happen definitely not them.
I am a Hillary supporter and bland is definitely not how anyone would describe me. I miss her on the scene so much, but she just got trashed everyday so I guess we didn't deserve her.
I don't know. According to the WSJ and USA Today, the NFL Conference Championships are scheduled to be played on Sunday, January 22. No alternate plans have been published. The Super Bowl's contestants are at stake and that game has already been scheduled. If rioting and Reichstag events break out, combined with Kristallnachts everywhere, there will have to be Time Outs called during the endless coverage, for commercials, since Valentine's Day and Presidents Day sales are around the corner.

I don't know. A lot of fear, anxiety, and animus has been manufactured this time around. It's not palpable like it was in 1969, 1972, 2001, and 2004. The worst and only certain truth is that the poor get to eat beans and the rich get to eat the poor, but that isn't anything new.
I am getting tired of your one liners. Could you amp up the conversation a bit?
We kinda like smart trolls here. You are fast becoming a bore.
Can anyone point to additional acts of terror that occurred in Russia after January of 2009? This article implies that Putin was losing control, so if we find additional acts of terror after January of 2009, that might establish a pattern.
Putin faces sign of Mutiny in own government as protests break out
Anonymous, when the protestors were in LA stopping the freeway, Michael Corden of Late Night implied they were Hillary Clinton supporters when more likely the protestors were a combination of illegal immigrants, non voters Sander's supporters, and possibly even Stein supporters.
Alessandro, you are on to something. I have a long history of protesting, and many of my comrades were Nader, Obama and Sanders dupes. Like Denise Black, however, no one could mistake me for bland. Denise is right as well: we didn't deserve Hillary because we did not have her back regarding the biggest enemy. You both note the media bullseye on her and they are not done with her even now. I don't watch cable news (don't have the steel) but over at a relative's house they had it on and I nearly blew a gasket when some asshole was STILL talking about her emails and how there should be a "proper" investigation and then how "President Trump should pardon her."

If they are broadcasting their roadmap, I guess that's better route than blowing things up. Even more boring than our troll, but we could use some uninteresting times.
She mapped the road her supporters took for them. Twice she ran in both runs the same people destroyed her candidacy. Now you tell me if any ordinary person knows who his enemy is and not take any steps to defend himself. instead does exactly the opposite what would you say to that. What her supporters suppose to do? They were more angry for her than she was. But at some point you to start to ask yourself WTF
As for not deserving Hillary Clinton, there is a Jesus Motiff that the Clintons are traveling that needs to change. has for years advocated the Clintons get into the media game.
A future article on DailyPUMA will point out that the election was stolen simply by the fact that both congresses stayed republican. It's become common for there to be a split among our legislative and executive branches every time a new president is elected. Voters compensated for a presumed Clinton victory by keeping congress Republican, but the combination of a year's worth of Russian hacking in which the FBI said nothing to the DNC, the second Comey letter, and the voter rolls being scrubbed of hundreds of thousands of voters in key battleground states was enough to turn the election to Trump.
Much of that could have been altered if the Clinton's had provided the structure for a moderate democrat news channel in prior years.
Their own daughter Chelsea Clinton could run the channel. Instead, Hillary Clinton apparently spoke at dozens of Wall Street speaking functions over a two year period of time when she could have been visiting red states via the Clinton Foundation (with Obama's permission of course so they did not steal the limelight from him).
The Clintons have over focused on their message and ideas and perhaps under focused on creating opportunities for their own supporters. Thus when the Clintons are attacked, the response to the attack is thwarted by Progressive Cable News and lack of EARNED enrichment of those who support them but have no media base to contribute to.
It actually mimics a Jesus Structure of operation.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A brief note...

We're all grateful to President Obama for commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning. But isn't it time for Leonard Peltier? If he were anyone else, he'd be out of prison already.

I'd also prefer a commutation for Snowden. Why not? If Snowden comes home, he'd still be living under Putin.

Assange has tweeted that he would be willing to be extradited if Manning were to leave prison. Of course, this is a lie. Assange has made an arrangement with Trump and everyone knows it.

Meanwhile: I keep running into rumblings in the right-wing conspiracist community that something big is planned for the inauguration. An operation. Something Reichstag-y.

You can be sure that it will be designed to give Trump powers to attack the left.

I do NOT think that Trump will be assassinated. Nevertheless, I maintain that the JFK assassination should serve as our model for understanding parapolitical events.

If there is one thing that JFK researchers learned about, it's the concept of the false sponsor. Oswald was set up as the patsy in order to smear the USSR. CIA agent David Atlee Phillips -- who pretty much made a deathbed confession (or something similar) to his brother -- went to extraordinary lengths to create a fake trail pinning the blame on the Soviets. Phillips worked for CIA counter-intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, who was the actual mastermind of the assassination.

(By the way: Four important files on Phillips remains classified. If Obama really wanted to do the world a favor, he could release them. I doubt that he will.)

If my fears are true -- if something does go down on inauguration day -- you can be sure that Alex Jones and his ilk will promulgate a completely false version of events. AJ always falls for the false sponsor; he is, arguably, the single most predictable human being in this country.

Our mainstream media is also quite predictable: They will, of course, frame the matter purely in simplistic terms of "conspiracy theory" versus "non-conspiracy theory."

Wrong. As I have often said: The theories offered by right-wingers like Jones are always, always, always bunk while those proffered by lefties have a much better record. Right-wing theories = bad; left-wing theories = good (sometimes).

I've also often said that it's foolish to ask whether some conspiracy theories are real. Of course they are. The important point to recognize is that the right-wing conspiracy theorists are the conspirators.

If you didn't understand that point before, you will -- under Donald Trump. Whenever a conspiracy believer acquires power (Hitler and James Jesus Angleton are two good examples), he becomes a conspiracy practitioner. Invariably.
I'm figuring the event will be on Saturday, maybe as you predicted in Chicago.

I doubt the Donald would want attention taken away from him on Friday, but he certainly would want to steal the thunder from the protest march on Saturday.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Agents provocateurs and propagandists

James O'Keefe has been caught trying to instigate a riot at the inauguration.
The counter-sting, carried out by The Undercurrent and Americans Take Action, a project of a previous target of provocateur James O’Keefe, managed to surreptitiously record elements of O’Keefe’s network offering huge sums of money to progressive activists if they would disrupt the ceremony and “put a stop to the inauguration” and the related proceedings to such a degree that donors to the clandestine effort would “turn on a TV and maybe not even see Trump.” To have riots blot out coverage of Trump, the donor offered “unlimited resources,” including to shut down bridges into D.C.
A longer video of the interaction between Project Veritas operative Allison Maass and Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action was posted online Tuesday. In it, Clayton confirms with Maass that her goal is indeed to incite a riot at the inauguration. “What you’re asking for, let’s bullet point it,” Clayton says, referring to the donor Maass claims to be representing. “He says, I’ll give you $100,000 to shut down a bridge, incite a riot and make sure we hack the media narrative on the inauguration.”
A few of you may recall the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly, particularly the scene in which we learn that there are not one but two bombs in the car. The first one is the one they want you to catch. (One wonders how Mike Hammer gained his expert knowledge of such things.)

O'Keefe, I suspect, is the one they want you to catch. There will be others.

For a very obvious example of an agent provocateur action, check out the warning offered by this "red journalism" site. The Washington Times is still pushing the O'Keefe smear without warning readers that O'Keefe has been caught red-handed -- and not for the first time.

An entire propaganda machine is in place, designed to portray the anti-Trump left as violent. When the bombs start going off -- and let me repeat: I am predicting a nuclear event in Chicago -- the propagandists will find a way to blame not just ISIS but all progressives.

The Occupy movement was an utter cock-up from the word go, precisely because the left -- as it always does -- fell for the myth of consensus, the myth that hierarchy is always bad. Ask John Lewis: The Civil Rights movement would never have succeeded without leadership and discipline. Eschew discipline and you open the way for infiltrators and natural-born troublemakers. Occupy was destroyed from the inside by asshole anarchists, narcissists, and libertarians.

Always remember that Putin is the wealthiest man in the world, and he will stop at nothing to attain his goal of destroying NATO. To accomplish this, he will do whatever is necessary to strengthen his hireling, Trump. Putin has a troll army numbering in the thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- and he will insure that Trump keeps power in the US the same way Putin keeps power in Russia.

Sending a message. The trickery of a James O'Keefe relies on the use of propaganda. Rand calls it the "Firehose of Falsehood." This fascinating study goes a long ways toward explaining the 2016 election.
We characterize the contemporary Russian model for propa- ganda as “the firehose of falsehood” because of two of its distinctive features: high numbers of channels and messages and a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions. In the words of one observer, “[N]ew Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”

Contemporary Russian propaganda has at least two other distinctive features. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency.
Russian propaganda is produced in incredibly large volumes and is broadcast or otherwise distributed via a large number of channels. This propaganda includes text, video, audio, and still imagery propagated via the Internet, social media, satellite television, and traditional radio and television broadcasting. The producers and disseminators include a substantial force of paid Internet “trolls” who also often attack or undermine views or information that runs counter to Russian themes, doing so through online chat rooms, discussion forums, and comments sections on news and other websites.4 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that “there are thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, and vKontakte” maintained by Russian propagandists. According to a former paid Russian Internet troll, the trolls are on duty 24 hours a day, in 12-hour shifts, and each has a daily quota of 135 posted comments of at least 200 characters.
Experimental research shows that, to achieve success in disseminating propaganda, the variety of sources matters:

• Multiple sources are more persuasive than a single source, especially if those sources contain different arguments that point to the same conclusion.

• Receiving the same or similar message from multiple sources is more persuasive.

• People assume that information from multiple sources is likely to be based on different perspectives and is thus worth greater consideration.8

The number and volume of sources also matter:

• Endorsement by a large number of users boosts consumer trust, reliance, and confidence in the information, often with little attention paid to the credibility of those making the endorsements.

• When consumer interest is low, the persuasiveness of a mes- sage can depend more on the number of arguments support- ing it than on the quality of those arguments.9

Finally, the views of others matter, especially if the message comes from a source that shares characteristics with the recipient:

• Communications from groups to which the recipient belongs are more likely to be perceived as credible. The same applies when the source is perceived as similar to the recipient. If a propaganda channel is (or purports to be) from a group the recipient identifies with, it is more likely to be persuasive.

• Credibility can be social; that is, people are more likely to perceive a source as credible if others perceive the source as credible. This effect is even stronger when there is not enough information available to assess the trustworthiness of the source.

• When information volume is low, recipients tend to favor experts, but when information volume is high, recipients tend to favor information from other users.

What Matters in Producing and Disseminating High-Volume, Multichannel Propaganda?

• Variety of sources

• Number and volume of sources

• The views of others, especially the views of those who are similiar to the message recipient.

• In online forums, comments attacking a proponent’s exper- tise or trustworthiness diminish credibility and decrease the likelihood that readers will take action based on what they have read.
The experimental psychology literature tells us that first
impressions are very resilient: An individual is more likely to accept the first information received on a topic and then favor this information when faced with conflicting messages.13 Furthermore, repetition leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to acceptance:

• Repeated exposure to a statement has been shown to increase its acceptance as true.

• The “illusory truth effect” is well documented, whereby people rate statements as more truthful, valid, and believable when they have encountered those statements previously than when they are new statements.

• When people are less interested in a topic, they are more likely to accept familiarity brought about by repetition as an indicator that the information (repeated to the point of famil- iarity) is correct.

• When processing information, consumers may save time and energy by using a frequency heuristic, that is, favoring information they have heard more frequently.

• Even with preposterous stories and urban legends, those who have heard them multiple times are more likely to believe that they are true.

• If an individual is already familiar with an argument or claim (has seen it before, for example), they process it less carefully, often failing to discriminate weak arguments from strong
I strongly urge you to read the entire piece. What Rand doesn't tell you, of course, is that these techniques were pioneered by our own CIA. To prove that point, you should read up on the destabilization of Chile (Death in Washington by Freed and Landis is an excellent source) and on the work of Paul Linebarger.

Added note: Have I mentioned how stupid it was to label the main anti-Trump rally a "women's march"?  

Look, democracy requires a mass movement. Identity politics is the opposite of a mass movement. Always have been, always will be. The irritatingly predictable counter-argument that you are right now dying to make is nothing but pure casuistry.

Throughout the Reagan era, lefties kept opposing the Republicans with identity politics -- and guess what? The left kept losing and losing and losing to the hyper-conservatives. This strategy is a proven loser -- just like the myth of "consensus" -- yet the left keeps using strained argumentation to convince itself that this time, it's gonna work.
I like that Rand article. Gullibility taking the form of psychological internalisation is the curse of our time.

"What Rand doesn't tell you, of course, is that these techniques were pioneered by our own CIA". Indeed, and the CIA used them most extensively not against Russia but against the US population and against the population of the rest of the West, and then against the Arab world. (The "Arab spring" was CIA bullshit from the very beginning, as practically no lefties understand.)

The CIA probably thought that Russia was in their pocket because many Russians, especially middle class Russians, favour western consumer goods. That is true, but it doesn't mean Russia was ever going to roll over and play doggo for the US. They had practically no regard for the role in Russia of the notions of motherland, fatherland, and destiny. And they didn't appreciate that, as I keep saying, whereas the CPSU disappeared, the ~KGB got stronger.

After setting up Facebook, the CIA experienced a gigantic blowback.

The scale of blowback dwarfs what they got when they funded fundamentalist Islam in the 1980s.

Trump certainly needs a Reichstag event before too much time passes.

Side note: do you know why when Trump meets people the photos often show the pair of them doing a thumbs up gesture, or some other gesture that doesn't involve shaking hands?

It's because he is pathologically afraid of shaking hands. There's a massive HANDS thing going on with that guy. You know the triangle gesture he makes with his hands when sitting? He may be trying to "air" his hands.
Women planned their march not as a mass movement, but as a protest. Others have joined in. You cannot blame women for wanting to protest women's issues. You also cannot blame them for the way their march has been co-opted by others.
What was dumb about the Woman's March was the idea came up so soon after the election that it took away focus from Comey's letter and potentially putting up real heat for the electors to consider versus the faux 5 million petition that was started by a Sander's supporter.
I encountered the 3 comments parroting the same point of view and even using the exact same phrase under three different ID's on Nate Silver's 538 site.
The electors were never going to really switch. Even if you had a critical mass ready to switch-not likely, these are party die-hards, nobody was prepared to shield them from the firestorm they would have endured as a result. So they would-and could be pressured to "stay the course".

And it attacks the problem from the wrong end. We should be prepared to do things to keep them from getting to the point we need turn-coat electors. Back in 2001, there should have been a movement for voting reform and one to abolish the Electoral College jumpstarted. Now we should do so, and keep the pressure up to end it. Suffrage reform is never easy, and I have no illusions it would be a short course. Women took 80 years to get the vote. However, just having something up and running puts on the pressure and gains results. There were several states that already had women voting beforehand, which never would have happened if there was no underlying movement.

There is real discontent that has nothing to do with the CIA in the Arab world. The Arab would has a great deal of hereditary and generalissimo politics that is abusive to say the least. People go away to school and see that there's a better way of running things and no longer want to submit to the old ways
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My record for predictions has been pretty good recently. I apologize for that. Here's another prophecy: When the Trumpified intelligence community issues a report on Russian hacking, the results will expand upon the claims made in this Alex Jones video.

Not that I've actually seen the video at the other end of the link. If there's one thing I cannot abide, it's the voice of the King of the Fake News -- or, to use my preferred term, Red Journalism.

(We've already seen Trump and his cultists try to appropriate the phrase "fake news." They can't do the same with "red journalism." I trust that most of you caught the reference to the heyday of Hearst. Trump's favorite film is "Citizen Kane," so I'm sure he won't complain.)

These are the last few days of sanity. Savor them. Tick tick tick tick. In four days, the barking, slavering, rabid dogs of Hell with snap their tethers. Imagine the worst: It will be worse than that.

By the way: If you ask me, the best thing that can happen is Trump kicking the press out of the White House. Journalists sell their souls for access. Cut off all hope of access, and we may get journalism with soul. 
I don't like this silence from the Clinton camp on what's going on right now. If this another variation of the hight road fiasco, we all know how that turned out.
Your recent predictions have been accurate?

Since i've started reading you joseph what predictions have been accurate?

Every few days your on to the next not mentioning the past-lol
If you ask me, the best thing that can happen is Trump kicking the press out of the White House. Journalists sell their souls for access. Cut off all hope of access, and we may get journalism with soul.

I hate to say it, Joseph but...I agree with you on this. For months the media gave Ol' Yellow Stain verbal fellatio and flayed Hillary relentlessly, relying on BS fed in by Wikileaks and Assange, never asking why nothing like that was ever done to Trump. They repeated what they did during the Bush years.

Sadly, Trump hates their guts. And now, he's acting on it, with the presser last week being a sign of things to come--calling CNN "fake news", for instance. This despite the fact that most of the CEOs of these media companies are very chummy with Ol' Yellow Stain.

Perhaps now, after realizing that they are going to be treated lower than shit, the press will finally do its damned job and report news and investigate, not regurgitate crap spewed out to them by organizations with links to Putin and Ol' Yellow Stain.

That's my hope, anyway.
Gerry-Troll -- what predictions have been accurate? He said Trump was going to win.
When I went to school, I was taught by dons in academic robes who instructed ex cathedra and always emphasized the distinction between primary and secondary sources while acknowledging that secondary sources were pathetic necessities. These dons always invoked the Hebraic taboo against teaching in one's own name or voice, thereby instilling the respect for citing verifiable sources. Only Yaweh may teach in His own name or voice. Q: Why is God invisible? A: To prevent identity theft.

Journalists, even those with souls, are mere messengers unless they are witnesses and can prove it. Our information, news, and gossip consumptions have tended to forbid or discount out of hand journalists who witness and tell, forbidden in the silly name of objective reportage.

In our time, digital recording in real time via cheap devices has made primary sources ubiquitous and has made secondary sources (journalism)just so many corrals of cherry-picked information, gossip, or "news". You can't trust a weather reporter who doesn't show you the Doppler radar info.

The War Between the States began 16 years after Morse first demonstrated his telegraph invention. Electricity allowed information to travel at light speed. Battlefield reports would be tacked up on telegraph office doors for everyone to see. Then the names of the dead and wounded would follow. Edward R. Murrow got famous for being well known as a WW2 correspondent's radio voice while he was standing on a rooftop describing into a microphone the London blitz.

The first iPhone became available 9 years ago. The gap between Joseph Cannon, or you, and the primary-source Intel folks is no longer infinite.

Most crucial and worrisome, though, is that not too long ago, only nation states and governments had the financial resources to hoard or manufacture information; then large corporations could match that power (and oppress and destroy); but now more than a few individuals have that kind of financial power.

Not a prediction, but alternate history: Had Ralph Nader become president in 2000, he would have had no need or inclination to write his novel in which super rich individuals save the world from predictable catastrophes.

our correspondents got soul!
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Why is Christopher Steele in hiding?

Donald Trump's statements always reveal more than he intends.

On the "golden" dossier, he said that they were put together by a "failed spy afraid of being sued." Let's try to squeeze as much juice as we can get out of those six words.

First: What we've learned about Steele indicates that he was no failure, certainly not in the sense that we can call Trump a failed casino operator. When you research Steele, you keep running into the adjective "respected."

Second, and more importantly: What is the deeper meaning behind that remark about "being sued"? The dossier was prepared not by one man but by a company called Orbis, which has a regular address (11 Grosvenor Gardens, London). If Trump wants to sue, he can have someone go there and serve papers; he doesn't need to meet with Steele personally. Lots of people have sued Trump without serving him personally. (Lots and LOTS of people.)

So why did Trump say those words? The answer is obvious: He felt obligated to explain away the fact that Steele went into hiding.

The obvious answer leads to an obvious question: Why did Trump feel obligated to explain away the fact that Steele went into hiding? The wicked man flees when no man pursueth, and the wicked president-elect explains matters that he really ought not address.

Steele's partner was clearly terrified when he revealed that Steele had vanished. This man is not afraid of a lawsuit -- he's afraid for his life.

I think that someone said something to him. A threat. A warning.

Let me repeat: Trump always reveals more than he intends in his statements. He felt obliged to give a false reason for Steele's disappearance. Why?

At this point, let's have a little background...
Although the report credited to Mr Steele has been dismissed by its subject as “phony”, “lies”, and “fake news”, those who know him have given positive accounts of his earlier work.

One form Foreign Office official who said he had known Mr Steele for 25 years told The Guardian his former colleague was not the type to pass on false information.

“The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false, completely untrue. Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip,” the official said.

“If he puts something in a report, he believes there’s sufficient credibility in it for it to be worth considering. Chris is a very straight guy. He could not have survived in the job he was in if he had been prone to flights of fancy or doing things in an ill-considered way.”

After being outed as the author of the damaging dossier, Mr Steele is believed to have fled his Surrey home, and is said to be fearing for his safety, concerned about Russia’s reaction.
There's more on Steele here, in a piece by "Nigel West." This is a pen name for Rupert Allason, a conservative member of parliament who often writes on spooky stuff. (His book A Thread of Deceit is a must-read expose of various WWII espionage myths.) He is himself a controversial figure, so caveat lector and all that. Still, Allason has remarkable contacts, and when it comes to a "secret squirrel" like Steele, we need all the information we can get.
Steele is a man with a mission. He has excellent contacts within the Russian émigré community in London, and remains understandably bitter that very soon after his premature resignation one of the agents for whom he had responsibility as case officer, Sasha Litvinenko, was murdered in London on direct orders from the Kremlin.
He was Litvenenko's case officer? Huh!
Case officers inevitably develop relationships of trust with their assets and Steele lectured on the complex issues involved when he ran SIS’s Intelligence Officers’ New Entry Course (IONEC) at the training establishment in Gosport. IONEC graduates are taught not to “fall in love” with their agents but, contrary to the movies, few ever experience the trauma of an assassination.
One of the things Allason is trying to do here is to establish Steele's professionalism.
It may be that Donald Trump was honey-trapped in his Ritz Carlton suite, and he would hardly have been the first western diplomat, businessman or politician to have succumbed. A British, Norwegian and Canadian ambassador have been so entrapped. So was the first CIA officer sent to the Moscow embassy and, famously, an unrepentant French attaché asked for extra copies when he was the victim of a blackmail attempt by a KGB officer threatening to publish compromising photos. Another, less defiant Frenchman, shot himself to avoid the anticipated disgrace.

However sinister a view is taken of the ubiquitous Russian security and intelligence apparatus, and however ruthless Putin’s administration, the evidence in Steele’s dossier amounts to pretty thin gruel, with some confusion over the precise roles played by Source D and Source E, who switch roles midway through the series of reports. Sloppy drafting or suspicious inconsistency? Intelligence analysts are taught not to trim their sails to suit their paymasters, but this may indeed be the exception.
"Switch roles"? I'm not sure what Allason is talking about. Maybe I should re-read.

As I've stated in a previous post, this dossier is not finished intelligence and was never meant for public consumption. An assessment of the various sources would be conducted separately. That assessment would have to be kept very close, and perhaps not even written down, for the simple reason that any such document would reveal the sources.

We should also keep in mind that the 36 pages available to us at present are not the full and complete thing-in-itself.

It seems increasingly likely that the dossier was leaked by John McCain, who received it from British diplomat Andrew Wood. I suspect but cannot prove that Wood contacted McCain because "Source E" worked on McCain's 2008 campaign.

As noted earlier, I was told by an informant that Source E is Boris Epshteyn, the Russian emeigre who is Trump's inauguration chief and friend to his son. (In his most recent tweet, Epshteyn still brags about the fact that Jennifer Holliday is scheduled to perform. I presume he already knows the bad news.)

I probably should have mentioned in my previous post that Epshteyn is married to a Google executive. Maybe I should think about moving off the Blogger platform. (Any suggestions? I would prefer a free host located in the UK, if such a thing exists.) (Come to think of it, now that I've turned against Putin in a big way, it may be time to look for a replacement for Yandex.)

So here's an interesting poser: How could Litvenenko's case officer ingratiate himself with Boris Epshteyn?

If "Source E" has FSB contacts, then is it not possible that they recognized Litvenenko's case officer?

Steele's reaction to Litvinenko's death goes a long ways toward explaining why Steele felt so passionately about the Trump/Putin relationship that he "worked for free."
Glenn Simpson, a former investigative reporter with the Wall Street Journal, reportedly felt the same way about Steele’s findings and joined him in his unprofitable crusade, according to people familiar with the matter.

Simpson — who runs the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS — was contracted by some of Trump’s Republican opponents in September 2015 and sources said he and Steele began working together last July.
The Daily Mail says that Fusion GPS was the firm which hired Orbis. Note: That article is a pro-Trump hit piece which slams the Orbis dossier as "discredited." Not true. It hasn't been verified, but it has not been discredited; there's a difference.

How widespread is kompromat? In the preceding post, I said -- half in jest -- that the FSB probably has compiled blackmail information on Republican members of Congress in order to make sure that they stay compliant. That's not as fanciful a notion as some may think. Take a gander at this Guardian piece on the use of kompromat in British politics...
A former Foreign Office minister has claimed that senior British politicians are being targeted by the Kremlin for potentially compromising details about their private lives that might be used to discredit them.

The Labour MP, Chris Bryant, a former minister for Europe and ex-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Russia, said he had been a victim of such tactics himself, and was “absolutely certain” that high-profile government figures such as the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, will have been investigated by individuals linked to Russia or employed directly by Moscow.
Bryant, former shadow leader of the Commons until resigning last June, said technological advances made it far easier for enemies to acquire personal information. “You can do a lot of the work by long distance now, you don’t physically have to be close to somebody to be able to track them, using their mobile phones and so on,” he said.
Here's the truly frightening thing: The FSB will outsource the work.
London-based businessman Bill Browder, whose company was one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia before his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested and died in police custody after exposing a tax fraud worth more than £144m, said he was aware of other former British intelligence agents who had been hired to gather kompromat, compromising material that is intended to be used against someone.

“British companies are being hired to do the work of Russia’s FSB security service. They are collecting sensitive financial and personal information about London-based enemies of the regime as well as spilling the beans on national security and UK foreign policy,” said Browder.
Need I make the obvious point? If they're doing it in the UK, then you know full well that they are doing it here. Putin needs to keep Trump in power. Putin hopes to destroy NATO and to bring the former constituent states of the USSR back into the fold, and Trump has given every signal that he is willing to go along with that program.
Maybe I should re-read the thing also (Marcy refers her reader to Cannonfire for the text), but I'll assume that it's not the sources (D and E) that get switched midway, but the funders of the project who switch (from GOP to DEM), and I'll assume that the silly author isn't confused but intends to sow confusion.

Do we now have three men without a country: Assange, Snowden, and Steele?

Would anyone say I'm wrong if I believe that Trump stayed up late in the 1980's listening to Larry King on the radio? He talks just like Larry King, folks, I mean it, take it from me.

We are so bereft without the unashamed biased reportage of Izzy Stone (print), Howard Cosell (TV), and Paul Harvey (a.m. radio).

i think it's more likely he's hiding from Putin.
I'm wondering if Chaffetz is compromised. He's acting very strangely.
I'm wondering if Chaffetz is compromised. He's acting very strangely.

Good point, OldCoastie.

Remember that the RNC was also hacked--but Wikileaks was always leaking things related to Clinton and the DNC. That no one in the media asked, "Hey, where's the GOP stuff?" is telling.

Perhaps not all in the GOP are compromised, but it's clear that Ol' Yellow Stain and his inner circle are. Never forget that the media felt it was necessary to run after emails instead of look at the blockbuster that was in their possession.

@Amelie: Do we now have three men without a country: Assange, Snowden, and Steele? Interesting point, but unlike the first two, Steele has honor and integrity and isn't beholden to Putin--or Ol' Yellow Stain.
I don't believe for one moment that the recent former head of MI6's Russian desk, who ran IONEC (according to Rupert Allason anyway), and who had been Alexander Litvinenko's case officer, worked pro bono running agents gathering information suggesting that a strong contender for the US Presidency was a ~KGB asset.

Who is he hiding from? From everyone who wants to ask this supposed private-sector operator any questions, probably. The two questions that come to mind are these: "Mr Steele, did you write these documents?" and "Are the published versions altered in any way from what you wrote?"

Then there's the question of who redacted them.
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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Something's coming

For a brief period last night, my previous post -- the one identifying Boris Epshteyn as "Source E" in the Orbis dossier -- attracted a fair amount of attention. To my astonishment, the response was actually....nice. People thanked me and said pleasant things. As I wrote to several friends: "This is still the internet, isn't it?"

Why does Trump praise Putin? Slate asks: "If Trump isn't colluding with Russia, why does he act as if he is?" Damned good question. But let's go further: If Trump IS colluding with Russia, why does he act as if he is? From the standpoint of pure Machiavellian strategy, he should be badmouthing Putin, at least on occasion.

What's more, Putin -- an old spook who knows how the world works -- should have instructed Trump to say something anti-Putin. As things stand, the Russia factor plays no small role in Trump's plummeting popularity. So why can't Trump ameliorate the situation with a bit of insincere rhetoric?

The most frightening thing Trump has said recently was his promise to have a report out within 90 days on Russian hacking. You know damned well that he intends to transform the intelligence community into a kennel of trained dogs. Any report produced by a Trumpified intelligence community will blame all the world's ills on the Clintons or on another political opponent.

Mark my words: Trump is going to issue a report which accuses Clinton of dirty dealings with Russia. These half-truths and strained arguments will be expanded upon in very imaginative ways by the usual fake newsers.

In the Dubya years, intelligence was fixed around policy. In the Donald administration, intelligence will serve Trump's various vendettas and power-plays. The CIA will be about as reliable as InfoWars.

Hell, why not just go all the way and nominate Alex Jones as DNI?

Blowing up America. We forget how the little-known and little-liked Vladimir Putin achieved his stranglehold on power: There were a series of apartment bombings in Russia, which Putin's government blamed on Chechen terrorists, although nearly everyone outside of Russia suspects the FSB.

In one instance, FSB agents were seen actually planting the devices; when caught, the government came up with a ludicrous story about "a training exercise." In another case, a Putin ally made a speech decrying a specific bombing; unfortunately, the explosion went off two days later. Talk about jumping the gun!

I fully expect Donald Trump to resort to similar tactics. Of course, Alex Jones and his companions will not scream "False flag!" Right-wing conspiracy buffs spew those words as a matter of routine whenever tragedy ocurs -- but you can bet your last nickle that they won't offer such theories against Der Trumpenfuehrer.

In a sense, Donnie has no choice but to secure his hold on power with a series of Putin-esque false flags. Even before he takes the oath, Trump is on track to become the most despised president in history. His impeachable crimes are already blatant, and Paul Ryan would just as soon work with Mike Pence to achieve the dream of transforming America into Libertarian "paradise."

(On the other hand, I imagine that Putin and Trump are gathering all sorts of kompromat on every Republican in the House and Senate, just to keep 'em in line. Have they ever stayed in a Trump hotel? Smile! You're on Candid Camera!)

I may have already mentioned my primary suspicion about what will soon hit us: A "small" nuclear event in Chicago, in the area of Trump's tower on the river. This will be the American equivalent of the FSB apartment bombings.

There is also some indication that another false flag event has been planned for Russia itself. Check out this ultra-right fake news outlet:
This is a real quote from Mr. Putin himself.

“I Swear if they Bomb Russia, in Half an Hour Every Muslim Will Die”

Like him or hate him, he places the safety of his people above all else and is not ruled by political correctness.
"The safety of his people"? As when the FSB were caught planting bombs in apartments?

Something's coming, folks, and it's going to be both frenzied and grim. Trump and Putin know that they need to whip up a whirlwind of activity in order to silence opposition. We are poised to enter a time of madness.

John Lewis. I'm sure you already know the story: The revered John Lewis said that he considered Trump illegitimate. After a dramatic period of silence, our tweet-happy nitwit of a PEOTUS finally sent a nasty response, even though anyone with any political smarts would have advised him to keep his damned trap shut. Trump said that Lewis represents a crime-infested district, which is absolutely not true: Georgia's Fifth District is actually quite lovely. Just because Lewis is black doesn't mean that he hails from a hell-hole.

Worse, he accused Lewis of being "all talk" and no action. John Lewis? Seriously? When he was a Freedom Rider, he and his compatriots were subjected to nearly unbelievable violence. Meanwhile, Donald Trump evaded Vietnam by claiming that his foot hurt. (It got better.) Then he became a landlord who refused to rent to black people.

Bangin' away in Russia. Trump countered the watersportsgate allegations by claiming that he knows that hotels have hidden cameras, and thus he remains on his best behavior when abroad. The counterargument: Trump probably learned that lesson the hard way.

The shpritz-at-the-Ritz incident occurred (we are told) in 2013, but Putin had his eye on Trump long before. This GQ story is but one of many describing how Trump used to brag about his sexual escapades in Mother Russia...
But yesterday, in an unearthed interview from The Howard Stern Show in 2001, we were given a small reason to believe that the intelligence report was on to something. Trump and a gossip columnist named A. J. Benza got into an argument on the air in which Benza revealed something Trump had bragged to him about.
You may recognize Benza as the guy who hosted Hollywood Mysteries & Scandals, which was a terrific show. Benza is quoted as saying of Trump: "He used to call me when I was a columnist and say, “I was just in Russia, the girls have no morals, you gotta get out there.”

So there's an excellent chance that Putin "had something" on Der Donald way back then.

Most people know that Putin was this odd, nearly-unknown KGB guy who somehow rose to power under Yeltsin. But not enough people are asking: How did that happen? Evidence suggests that Putin scrambled into power by acquiring kompromat -- blackmail material. He was Mr. Videotape.

GQ gives the example of Yury Skuratov, who was investigating the crimes of Boris Yeltsin. Then a certain videotape appeared of Skuratov with a couple of hookers; he had to resign. The man who came up with that tape was none other than Vladimir Putin.

It's very likely that Putin had similar material on Yeltsin himself.

If Benza is right -- and I'm sure he is -- then Trump's escapades with those girls with "no morals" were captured for posterity. Vladimir probably still plays the tape from time to time. As LBJ used to say: "Never trust a man unless you got his pecker in your pocket." Donnie's pecker has been in Vladimir's pocket for a long, long time -- perhaps for the last twenty years.

If you want to know what Trump has planned, just watch these documentaries on Putin. Vlad provided the playbook.

“I was just in Russia, the girls have no morals, you gotta get out there.”

Funny enough, Joseph...that sounds similar to what Matt Taibbi said back in the early 00s when he was in Russia.

And yes, Trump has a lot of f**king nerve going after John Lewis. Lewis is a true hero and has more integrity and courage in his pinkie than Trump and the entire GOP have in their bodies.

But you know who also attacked John Lewis some months back? The Bernie-bros, upset that Lewis had questioned where their King had been during the Civil Rights movement. They even called Lewis a "sellout".

(BTW, not trying to re-litigate the primaries here. Just pointing out a bit of info.)

Marc, if there is any place on the internet where an anti-Berniebro should feel comfortable re-litigating the primaries, this is it. Hell, I'm still re-litigating 2008.)
People should never forget that after 911 Tony Blair heralded the agreement to share intelligence with Russia by comparing the 911 attacks in the US to the apartment bombings in Moscow.

The message?

Here it is:

"We've got far more in common with each other than we have with those whom we bomb to shreds on our own respective territories. Let's help each other in our lies, to our mutual advantage."

Tip: watch Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary. He was accused of being an apologist for Putin during the Brexit campaign; then just as suddenly, that line of criticism was squashed.

The ~KGB has many ears at Oxford University. That's where many of the filthy rich in Russia started finding it so easy to place their entitled sons and daughters after about 1990. (The Chinese filthy rich prefer Cambridge.)

Today the news is that

"Senior politicians like Boris Johnson are being targeted by the Kremlin for potentially compromising details about their private lives that could be used against them, a former Foreign Office minister has claimed."

"Mr Bryant told The Observer: 'Any minister who goes into the Foreign Office and has responsibility for Russia, they (Moscow) will be, in any shape or form, trying to put together information about them.'"

"'I am absolutely certain that Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Alan Duncan, who has the Russia brief, and David Davis will have been absolutely looked at.'"

Mr "Absolutely" - "Europe Minister" in the last Labour government and not exactly "A" List - strikes again, uttering these banalities. Foreign services and intelligence agencies do their job. Well what a surprise! Who would have guessed it?

He's obviously reading a script.

What are we being prepared for?
"Hell, I'm still re-litigating 2008"

That explains a lot.
Funny enough, Marc McKenzie, I just saw a comment in a thread yesterday that asked: 'whatever happened to Matt Taibbi? I used to adore him, but now he's.... changed.'

An interesting juxtaposition.

I'm surprised to give kudos to Sen. Marco Rubio for his questioning of Tillerson. When Tillerson demurred from saying Putin was a war criminal, Sen. Rubio described the kinds of weapons Putin used against the civilian Chechnyans. Cluster bombs, napalm, and thermobaric (fuel-air) explosives. The later can create blast pressures equal to atomic weapons.

We can only hope if Trump follows the Putin model, someone like a SecDef Matthis will restrain his weaponry, at least.

Since I've had the same thought as Joseph here, I have rented living quarters outside the country two weeks ago.


First of -Putin is a thug and a kgb killer.

However he's still the head of a country with Nucleur weapons that can actually reach USA.

What i really suspect is Trump wants 2 things from Putin.

1. He wants Russia to destroy Isis. Putin would have no qualms killing civilians to do it.
2. He wants to use Russia as an ally against China-whom Trump hates even more.

Getting along with Putin and thinking he's a good guy are 2 different things

Some time ago I read about the discovery of an internet server associated with the Trump campaign, which was used exclusively for communications with Russia. When Trump's people were questioned about this situation, the server went silent. Did I read this here?

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Watersportsgate: Did Trump's inauguration czar "leak" Donnie's dirty secret?

The Orbis dossier continues to have fascinating repercussions -- for example, we have just learned that the Senate Intelligence Committee will now hold hearings into Trump's Russian ties. Don't let anyone try to convince you that this decision is unrelated to the dossier.

The preceding post on "Watersportsgate" inspired a couple of informants to send me interesting leads. In fact, they may be bombshells.

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THIS POST. You won't find this information anywhere else. Only widespread discussion can generate verification.

As everyone now knows, the report containing the "golden shower" allegation originated with a private intelligence-gathering firm called Orbis, run by a respected former MI6 agent named Christopher Steele. Orbis caters to high-powered corporate clients. In that world, a private intelligence firm simply cannot stay in business if the product is sloppy or mendacious.

No-one can fairly claim that the dossier was put together for purposes of propaganda, for the simple reason that the text was never meant for public consumption. Buzzfeed put the dossier online only after learning that the American intelligence community was taking these claims very seriously -- seriously enough to brief both Obama and Trump.

Everyone is talking about those 36 pages, but few have actually read them (even though I went to the trouble of putting the whole lot through OCR; scroll down a couple of posts). Those who have bothered to read this material know that the true source for the "golden shower" story is not CNN -- not Buzzfeed -- and, ultimately, not even Orbis. Orbis got the story from three separate sources, labeled Source D, Source E and Source F.

Source D appears to be someone who works for Trump. Source F is someone who works for the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow.

The "big fish" in this barrel is Source E: He not only confirmed the watersports "kompromat" claim, he also spilled many another bean. In fact, I would say that those other beans are the truly important ones.

Writers for the Washington Post -- who have apparently seen an unredacted version of the dossier -- identified Source E as a Russian emigre who is very close to Donald Trump. But so far, no-one has given you a name.

Until now.

An anonymous informant tells me that Source E is Boris Epshteyn, the man who is running Trump's inauguration. As you may have heard, his job has not been an easy one. During the campaign, Epshteyn -- an investment banker born in the former USSR -- was often seen on cable television, defending Trump at every turn.

You are probably wondering: How can I be sure of this identification, since I have only one anonymous informant? In truth, I'm not certain -- not 100%. But the claim certainly seemed very plausible after I checked out Epshteyn's Wikipedia page and looked up this NYT biographical sketch.

Everything fits. EVERYTHING.

He's a Russian emigre. He knows Moscow very well. (Source E knew Source F, who works at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton.) He's extremely close to Trump. He got "in" with the campaign via a relationship with Trump's son.
In October 2013, Epshteyn helped moderate an investment event "Invest in Moscow!" The panel was composed mainly of Moscow city government officials, like Sergey Cheremin, a city minister who heads Moscow’s foreign economic and international relations department.
In the Orbis dossier, Source E's special area of knowledge seems to be investment in Russia.

Epshteyn got his start in Republican politics as part of the 2008 John McCain campaign. McCain has played an intriguing role in the saga of the Orbis dossier. The story at the other end of that link makes a lot more sense if you posit that McCain has a pretty good idea as to who was feeding information to Orbis.
Published reports conflict about how, when and from whom McCain learned about and obtained the memos.

In a story published late Wednesday on its website, the New York Times reported, without attribution, that McCain caught wind of the anti-Trump memos and got copies last month from David J. Kramer of Arizona State University's McCain Institute for International Leadership.

That would contradict other published accounts, including one Tuesday in the Guardian, which reported McCain "was informed about the existence of the documents separately by an intermediary from a western allied state" and "dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source."

CNN reported Tuesday that McCain learned about the dossier from "a former British diplomat who had been posted in Moscow."
The Guardian now identifies the intermediary as Sir Andrew Wood.

Why would a high-level British official contact McCain? Perhaps the UK wanted background information on the man we know as Source E. Perhaps they knew that McCain was in a position to divulge that kind of information.

Intriguingly, Ephsteyn is married to a Google executive. His Twitter feed has been very sparse of late, and contains no reference to the controversy generated by the Orbis dossier.

If Ephsteyn is Source E, then we may fairly presume that the joint intelligence task force investigating these claims went to the FISA court specifically to get permission to eavesdrop electronically on Boris Ephsteyn. Remember: Permission is needed only if the target is an American.

Permission was finally granted in October. I have no idea what the intelligence "haul" might have been.

And that's not all folks! Another anonymous informant sent me an astonishing link to a certain Google document marked "private." This document gives details of more than 200 companies in Russia that can be linked to Donald Trump.

Remember, Trump says he has no business dealings in Russia.

I suggest that you download this document right now; I have no idea how long it will be online. As for its credibility and accuracy -- well, in my opinion, this can be determined only after a large number of people start doing research. Could it be a hoax? Possibly. But if so, it is unlike any other hoax I've ever seen.

Boris Epshteyn was one of Trump's most prominent surrogates, second only to Kellyann. He was on TV so much, one wonders how he even had the time to read the daily talking points memo. He lied so remorselessly and concocted such audacious, fanciful excuses for the candidate, it made me ill to listen to him and I had to switch the channel.

If this turns out to be true, I wonder how CNN and MSNBC will feel about giving so much air time to a Russian double-spy. (I don't watch Fox.)
You've probably seen this:
"Trump: I assume A.J.’s clean. I hope he’s clean.
Benza: Meanwhile, he bangs Russian people…
Stern: Russian people?
Trump: Who are you talking about, Russian people, A.J.? I don’t know anything.
Benza: He used to call me when I was a columnist and say, “I was just in Russia, the girls have no morals, you gotta get out there.” [Trump’s] out of his mind."

Not sure if you've seen this:
(thread on Rosneft sale)
October 18 memo notes: "offered PAGE/TRUMP's associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft".
On December 7, Russia sold a 19.5% stake in Rosneft.
I'll note that most people seem to be interpreting "the brokerage of" as the full amount, but it seems to me that it could be just the opportunity to handle the sale; some kickback.
Also, ancillary to that.
Thanks, Joseph, for your view. Certainly more than I can figure out.

Truly jaw-dropping.
Thank you for your excellent investigation and journalism, and thank you for making this visible on Democratic Underground.
Astounding. Any sense of why Epshteyn would have talked? In the face of his rabid advocacy, what would his motive be?
Why am I after reading all of the stories on Trump's shower videos reminded of the Michelle Obama "Whitey" tapes that never materialized?
It would be funny if the videos were real and I would love to watch republican (and pro-Trump news media) heads explode, but I have my doubts.
"Calamari"? By any chance, do you work for the Koch-topus?

I was in the thick of the Whitey tape imbroglio and found out the hard way that the whole thing was the concoction of some GOP dirty tricksters. But I also consider myself something of an expert on political hoaxing -- I even wrote about half a book on the subject, a couple of chapters of which have appeared in this blog.

All I can say is, I've never seen a hoax like this. Most of them are lazy and contain obvious tells.

Your problem, Mike, is you think that the "pee" allegation is IT. You have to read the rest of that dossier.

Also, I must repeat: Orbis catered to some high-powered clients. You should chekc out the world of private intelligence firms (and not just Orbis). You simply don't last in that business if you peddle a bunch of crap. Reputation is everything.
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