February 10, 2018

Crisis:  Secret Negotiations, Memo Blocked, War with Iran (?), Trump & Reading, Democrats


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 10, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 10, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from February 10, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. U.S. Secretly Negotiated With Russians to Buy Stolen NSA Documents 
2. Trump Blocks Release of Memo Rebutting Republican Claims
3. Lawrence Wilkerson: I Helped Sell the False Choice of War with Iraq; It’s
     Happening Again with Iran

4. Trump Is Totally Ignoring Daily Advice From the CIA
5. Democrats Can't Run and Win on the Fact That Trump's an Idiot
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. U.S. Secretly Negotiated With Russians to Buy Stolen NSA Documents

This article is by James Risen on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

The United States intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives, according to sources familiar with the matter. The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Over the past year, American intelligence officials have opened a secret communications channel with the Russian operatives, who have been seeking to sell both Trump-related materials and documents stolen from the National Security Agency and obtained by Russian intelligence, according to people involved with the matter and other documentary evidence. The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package.

The CIA declined to comment on the operation. The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

I say, and I do so mostly because this is not so much about politics (though it is, of course, indirectly), but about the secret services that are behind politics, most of the doings of which tend to be made complete secrets.

Otherwise, it is somewhat self-explanatory: If some secret service attempts to steal secret materials from other secret services, it may succeed, and if it does, the other secret services may try to get it back by paying the first secret service.

And this seems to have happened, although it should be added that, while on may know something about some secret services (notably those of one's own country), and may do so by inference or by direct communication, I do not think there is anyone outside the secret services
of any country who knows everything or indeed most things, that the secret services do.

Here is some more:

At the time, the NSA was desperate to recover documents that intelligence officials believed Russia had obtained through a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers. The group stole highly secret NSA hacking tools and began releasing them on the internet in the summer of 2016. The Shadow Brokers theft of the hacking tools devastated morale at the NSA, putting its custom-built offensive cyber weapons out in the open. It was as if a bioweapons laboratory had lost some of its most deadly and dangerous viruses. U.S. officials wanted to identify which NSA documents the Shadow Brokers had stolen, so they could determine how badly the agency had been damaged by the theft.

But once the communications channel opened, the Russians on the other side offered to sell documents related to Trump along with the stolen NSA documents
In fact, this does give the reason why one secret service would want to pay another secret service. In this case it is because "U.S. officials wanted to identify which NSA documents the Shadow Brokers had stolen, so they could determine how badly the agency had been damaged by the theft."

But there is a lot of uncertainty when secret services deal with other secret services:
Further, it is not known whether the Russians involved in the channel are acting on their own or have been authorized by the Russian government to try to sell the materials to the United States. As a result, the Americans are uncertain whether the Russians involved are part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Moscow, either to discredit Trump or to discredit efforts by American officials investigating Trump’s possible ties to Russia, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Well... I certainly do not know what the Russians may know and want (and probably nobody really does, if not one of the leading Russians).

Here is the last bit thay I quote from this article:
The existence of the off-the-books communications channel, which has been a closely guarded secret within the U.S. intelligence community, has been highly controversial among those officials who know about it, and has begun to cause rifts between officials at the CIA and the NSA who have been involved with it at various times over the past year.
I say, which I do this time because - while I agree that making deals with other secret services about material they stole or claim to have stolen is not the typical activity of secret services - it seems to me fairly self-explanatory why a secret service might want to do so.

There is considerably more in this article, which is recommended.

2. Trump Blocks Release of Memo Rebutting Republican Claims

This article is by Michael D. Shear and Nicolas Fandos on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
President Trump on Friday blocked the release of a classified Democratic memo rebutting Republican claims that top federal law enforcement officials had abused their powers in spying on a former Trump campaign aide, a move that Democrats denounced as politically motivated hypocrisy.

Last week, the president moved quickly, over the objections of the Justice Department and the F.B.I., to declassify the contents of a rival Republican memo
drafted by House Intelligence Committee staff members. He claimed, incorrectly, that the Republican memo had vindicated him in the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference.

This does not come as a surprise to me, and I think that "the Democrats" may indeed very well be quite right that Trump is in fact indulging in "politically motivated hypocrisy".

Here is some more, that also happens to support the position of the Democrats:

Democrats expressed outrage at the president’s decision. “Republicans and Democrats on the Intelligence Committee voted UNANIMOUSLY to release this memo,” Representative Terri Sewell of Alabama, a Democratic member of the committee, wrote on Twitter. “@realDonaldTrump is not interested in transparency, he is interested in protecting himself and derailing the Russia investigation.”

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the committee, had said earlier in the week that he feared that Mr. Trump would play politics with the dueling memos.

Mr. Schiff, who has traded bitter Twitter messages with the president after Mr. Trump called him one of “the biggest liars and leakers” in Washington, warned this week that Mr. Trump might call for “political edits” intended to erase embarrassing parts of the memo, not information related to national security.

There is more in the article. I think Schiff may well be right, and this is a recommended article.

3. Lawrence Wilkerson: I Helped Sell the False Choice of War with Iraq; It’s Happening Again with Iran

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Fifteen years ago this week, Secretary of State General Colin Powell gave a speech to the United Nations arguing for war with Iraq, saying the evidence was clear: Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It was a speech Powell would later call a blot on his career. Is President Trump doing the same thing now with Iran? We speak to Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. He recently wrote a piece titled “I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again.”
Powell's saying that Powell's speech was "a blot on his career" is an enormous understatement:

He was lying - quite consciously: see below - to billions of people who watched his speech, and he did so in order to unleash a major war in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed.

But here is Lawrence Wilkerson:

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, during which time he helped prepare Powell’s infamous speech to the U.N. claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Powell’s speech was given 15 years ago this week, February 5th, 2003.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents. Let me take you inside that intelligence file and share with you what we know from eyewitness accounts. We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.

AMY GOODMAN: That was then-Secretary of State General Colin Powell speaking February 5th, 2003, before the U.N. Security Council. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, his chief of staff, has since renounced the speech, which he helped write. Well, his new op-ed for The New York Times is headlined “I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again.”

That was the background. Here is why Colin Powell was an enormous - very conscious - liar:

LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Amy, we put the speech together with, arguably, the entire U.S. intelligence community, led by George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, literally at Powell’s right hand all the time, seven days, seven nights, at Langley and then in New York, before we presented.

When I saw Nikki Haley give her presentation, certainly there was not the gravitas of a Powell, not the statesmanship of a Powell, not the popularity of a Powell. What I saw was a John Bolton. And remember, John Bolton was her predecessor, in terms of being a neoconservative at the United Nations representing the United States. I saw a very amateurish attempt.

But nonetheless, these kinds of things, when they’re made visual and the statements are made so dramatically, have an impact on the American people. I saw her doing essentially the same thing with regard to Iran that Powell had done, and I had done, and others, with regard to Iraq. So it alarms me. I don’t think the American people have a memory for these sorts of things. Gore Vidal called this the “United States of Amnesia,” with some reason.

In fact, Nikki Haley - the current US ambassador to the United Nations - did very recently say roughly the same things about Iran as Powell did fifteen years ago about Iraq.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, it’s very interesting that you have this moment now in U.S. history where the Republicans—some of them—are joining with President Trump in trying to discredit the intelligence agencies. And yet you go back to 2003, when you have a fierce criticism of the intelligence agencies, saying they were being used to politicize information, which, oddly, is what President Trump is saying, in a very different context.

LAWRENCE WILKERSON: You would have a lot of sympathy if you asked me if I have some doubts about the U.S. intelligence agencies, all 17 of them now, definitely. But let me tell you what I’ve done over the last 11 or 12 years, on two university campuses with really brilliant students, in terms of enlightening myself, gaining new insights into what happened not only in 2002 and '03, but what's been happening ever since and, for that matter, what happened ever since Richard Nixon, with regard to the intelligence communities.

What happens is you get people like Tenet, you get people like John Brennan, you get people like John McLaughlin, you get people like Chris Mudd, for example—Phil Mudd, who was head of counterterrorism for George Tenet and who tried at the last minute to get me to put even more stuff into his presentation about the connections between Baghdad and al-Qaeda. You get people like that who are at the top. That screens all the many dedicated, high-moral, high-character professionals down in the bowels of the DIA, the CIA, the NSA and elsewhere.

Well... I think I agree with Wilkerson on the level of the current leaders of "the U.S. intelligence services", but then I also think this does not differ much from the same level of the leaders of "the U.S. intelligence services" fifteen years ago.

But this is an interesting article, that is strongly recommended.

4. Trump Is Totally Ignoring Daily Advice From the CIA

This article is by Brendan Gauthier on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Trump is the first president in over half-a-century to forgo the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a written intelligence document compiled primarily by CIA analysts.

President Trump—whose Fox & Friends dependence and accompanying short attention span are hardly secrets—prefers an oral briefing, “according to three people familiar with his briefings.”

The PDB is highly classified, and it’s impossible to know how much detail is lost in its oral translation. But former CIA Director Leon Panetta worries that President Trump will miss important context, to the detriment of national security.

I say and I do so for two reasons.

The first is that I read myself about three times faster than I can talk. And while I know that is fairly fast, I would assume that the president of the USA, who himself thinks - or says he thinks - that he is a Genius, also should be able to read considerably faster than he talks.

Apparently he can not, and in any case it seems he does not. And my second reason is that I think Panetta is right - that is, I think that an oral presentation will be less complete and detailed than a written presentation, which a somewhat intelligent president should be able to get through considerably faster than an orial presentation.

But no. Then again, it seems Trump does read stuff - Yes! Yes! - namely this kind of material:

In August, VICE News reported that President Trump also twice daily requires so-called “propaganda folders,” containing “screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.”

I say, again. Well... I've said a long time ago that this psychologist sides with the more than 70,000 psychologists and psychiatrists who have said that he definitely looks as if he is a grandiose aka malignant narcissist.

5. Democrats Can't Run and Win on the Fact That Trump's an Idiot

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Democrats are marching, lemming-like, towards disappointment in November.  They seem to think that all they need to do is point out that Trump is an idiot, a plutocrat, a liar, and that he probably colluded with Russians in the 2016 elections, and they’ll win.

They’re wrong, and here’s why.

This election will be about turnout, just as 2016 was. And telling everyone how bad the other folks are, didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

I do not know whether Atcheson is right (of course), but I think he probably is, and here is his main reason:

What folks wanted then, and still want, is a Party that represents them.  And they know that neither party really does. Oh yeah, the Democrats use better rhetoric, and practice a slightly saner brand of sell-out, but they’re still sell-outs, and it’s the people’s wealth, rights and future they’re selling out.

And as long as that’s the case, they won’t recapture Congress in the midterms and they might not even beat Trump in 2020.
Yes indeed: I think that very well may be true, and I totally agree with Atcheson on his reason why: Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans really speak "for the people" that they all, nominally at least, represent.

What most Senators and Congressmen really represent is not the people, but the people who pay them, which very often happen to be the very rich bankers.

There is also another major problem:

Because the Democrats are trying to substitute a change in rhetoric for a change in course, the past is likely to be prologue, so let’s look at the numbers from 2016.

  • 65.5 million voted for Clinton;
  • 62.9 million voted for Trump;
  • 6.9 million voted for a third party candidate; and
  • 96 million didn’t bother to vote.

There are nearly 231 million eligible voters in the US, but only 135 million voted in the 2016 election.  Judged against recent turnout rates going back two decades or so, that’s not bad, but historically, it’s well below average, and it lags well behind other democracies.

In fact, this means that over 4 out of 10 (or 2 our of 5) of the American voters did not vote in 2016.

Here is Atcheson's explanation for the fact that there are so many American non-voters:

The majority of Americans hold progressive views on an issue-by-issue basis. They support expanding Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and they’re willing to pay for it; they want strong environmental protection laws and aggressive policies on climate change; they favor reigning in Wall Street, big banks, and corporate abuses; they favor strong campaign finance laws, and measures to roll back gerrymandering and voter suppression; they want schools that work, colleges that are affordable; a single payer health care system and a $15 minimum wage … the list goes on and on.

They don’t call themselves “liberal” or “progressive” because these terms have been negatively branded by the oligarchy, and because no one has been willing to package them into a coherent whole.  Sanders was the first to do so, and he remains the most popular politician in America.
I agree - I think - with the first paragraph, but with the note that the numbers presented are from 2014 and, more seriously, that these numbers represent what the majority of the Americans think "on an issue-by-issue basis".

Then again, this is not what Americans vote for, if they vote: What they vote for, if they vote, has been heavily polluted by political propaganda and lies, and these again are capable of heavily polluting the outcomes because many Americans are stupid or ignorant (about politics).

This is Atcheson's ending:

But the Democrats, for the most part, run from these things, not on them.  They support social justice issues like immigration because these issues don’t threaten their corporate benefactors or their fat cat campaign contributors. This is not to say these kinds of issues aren’t important – they are. But until and unless the Democrats take on the oligarchy, and back a specific progressive agenda, they will have little credibility with many voters.  As a result, many in the progressive majority will stay home.

The Republicans run on hate, greed, envy, fear, racism, xenophobia and a host of other limbic lizard-brained isms – all of which come straight from the oligarch’s playbook.  This appeals to a small, but passionate group who will show up at the polls.

The fact is, the majority of Americans know Trump is unfit to be president, but if they’re not offered a substantive alternative, the passionately ignorant minority will control the elections once again.cleardot.gif

I do not know. Atcheson may well be correct about the American voters, and he is - in my opinion - correct about the betrayals of most Democrats. I hope he is wrong about the American voters, but 62.9 million voters for Trump may be a "passionately ignorant minority", but they are also nearly half of the Americans who voted in 2016.

And this is a recommended article.


I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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