It is worth musing about the potential significance of disparate events, particularly when considering the ominous direction in which President Donald Trump has taken the country since he became president 10 days ago.
We’ve learned that when Steve Bannon and Donald Trump are creating a diversion for the press over there, we need to be looking over here, to see what they are actually doing that may greatly impact the government and the world.
See Dana Milbank, “Don’t get distracted by Trump’s ‘dead cats’,” The Washington Post, January 25, 2017.
For starters, there were a series of arrests of top intelligence officials in Moscow in the last few months. Earlier, U.S. intelligence officials had asserted high confidence in their judgment that Vladimir Putin was personally involved in Russian hacking of the November 8, 2016 presidential and congressional elections. They also included in a two-page annex to their public report, on January 8, 2017, references to the “Golden Showers” dossier compiled by a former British MI6 officer on Trump and prostitutes in Moscow. The classified report on Russian intervention in the election and annex may have included references to evidence from human intelligence sources.
Now, a former KGB head who may have been involved in fingering Putin for the Russian hack of the U.S. elections, has turned up dead in Moscow. He is also alleged to have been involved in the leak of information in the “Golden Showers” dossier, the contents of which were published by Buzzfeed.
While there was great skepticism about the “Golden Showers” dossier, given news organizations’ inability to verify its allegations, the death of a former KGB head now suggests that the dossier is a legitimate subject of press inquiry and reporting.
See Grant Stern, “Ex-KGB Chief Thought Dead As Source Of Trump Blackmail Dossier Leak,” Huffington Post, January 29, 2017 (02:33 pm ET).
There are various possibilities here.
One is that the Obama administration in its report on Russian interference in the election provided Russian intelligence agencies with the clues they needed to hunt down officials who had cooperated either with Steele or with U.S. officials.
A second is that someone in the U.S. government leaked information to the Russians that enabled them to conduct a “mole hunt” in Moscow, either as a result of receiving the classified report, or otherwise.
A third is that some of the information released by the Russians through their press is part of a disinformation campaign.
We need to get to the bottom of this matter.
(1) Scott Shane, David E. Sanger, and Andrew E Kramer, “Russians Charged With Treason Worked in Office Linked to Election Hacking,”
New York Times, January 27, 2017.
(O)ne current and one former United States official, speaking about the classified recruitments on condition of anonymity, confirmed that human sources in Russia did play a crucial role in proving who was responsible for the hacking.
The former official said the agencies were initially reluctant to disclose their certainty about the Russian role for fear of setting off a mole hunt in Moscow.
Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, noted that the intelligence agencies’ report on the election attack found with “high confidence” that Russia had carried out the election attack, which involved fake news stories and propaganda as well as the hacks and leaks.
“It was always pretty obvious that they had more than just the computer evidence,” Mr. Galeotti said. “The arrests are a big deal.”
The arrests, according to reports by the Russian newspaper Kommersant and Novaya Gazeta, among others, were made in early December and amounted to a purge of the cyberwing of the F.S.B., the main Russian intelligence and security agency.
(2) Andrew E. Kramer, “Top Russian Cyber-crimes Agent Arrested on Charges of Treason,” New York Times, January 25, 2017.
If confirmed, the arrest would be one of the highest-profile detentions for treason within the F.S.B. since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
(3) Tim Johnson, “Russians may have arrested a source in U.S. probe of election meddling,” McClatchy DC, January 27, 2017 (7:26 p.m.).
(4) Shaun Walker (Moscow, “Russia accuses cybersecurity experts of treasonous links to CIA; Rumours swirl of connection to revelations about US election hacking, as state media says Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev ‘betrayed their oath’,” The Guardian, January 31, 2017 (18:19 EST).
(5) Robert Mendick and Robert Verkaik, “Mystery death of ex-KGB chief linked to MI6 spy’s dossier on Donald Trump,” The Telegraph, January 27, 2017 (9:30pm).
(6) Seth J. Hettena, “A Mole in the White House?” Seth Hettena: Just a guy who thinks the US president is an agent of a foreign power blog), January 31, 2017.
Is there a high-level Russian mole in the U.S. government who tipped off Russian officials regarding the identities of U.S. espionage agents in Moscow?
Trump’s first 10 days in office are reminiscent of the first days after Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over the government in Russia in 1917.
The executive orders of the first week came so fast, and were so sweeping, that it has been hard for journalists to keep up by providing serious analyses and assessments of their impacts.
FBI Director James Comey, who seemed to help throw the election to Trump by announcing less than two weeks before the election that the FBI was reopening its e-mail investigation of Hillary Clinton, has had nothing to say about an FBI investigation that is apparently underway into contacts between the Trump campaign with Russian officials prior to the November 8 elections. We have heard nothing, not even in response to Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid’s letter to Comey on the subject last summer.
Meanwhile, top White House strategist Steve Bannon has played a key role in drafting and getting Trump to sign an executive order naming him to be a permanent member of rhe National Security Council, while downgrading the participation of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence to meetings where their input is needed–a matter presumably to be decided by Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser.
If Trump and Bannon can pull this off, they will have succeeded in injecting the president’s chief political adviser into deliberations which define the foreign policy and security interests of the United States, while enabling Flynn and Bannon to shut out the Chairman of the JCS and the Director of National Intelligence from key deliberations.
This would enable Trump and Bannon to actually define what is the truth–without being contradicted in the NSC. In short, political control over national intelligence might be achieved.
As the flap over the excutive order halting entry to the U.S. of refugees and nationals of seven Muslim countries grabs the headlines, we must wonder whether there is any connection between the arrests in Moscow and Steve Bannon’s draft of Trump’s executive order on the NSC.
Bannon and Flynn have both been reported to be drawn to Putin and Russia, if for different reasons, whereas President Trump has yet to make any strong criticisms of either Putin or Russia.
Will we ever know if there is a Russian mole in the highest levels of the American government? Will we ever know who that mole is is? If there is a mole who tipped off the Russians, he or she is is preemptively guilty of treason.
Why do Trump and Bannon want to include the latter on the NSC, while downgrading the participation of the top U.S. military and untelligence officials in its deliberations?
If they have something in mind with respect to Russia which they want to surprise the country with as a fait accompli, as they surprised the country in the last week with executive orders, what could that something be?
Coould it be the lifting of sanctions against Russia, which were imposed after its invasions of the Crimea and the eastern Ukraine in 2014?
Could it be recognition of the Russian annexation of the Crimea?
Could it be a reversal of U.S. support for NATO’s strengthening of its defense against Russia in the Baltics and Eastern Europe?
If Bannon and Trump are playing to their alt-right base, which is very fond of Russia as “a great white power”, was the ommission of any mention of the Jews in the Holocaust proclamation last Friday the powerful tweet of a dog whistle for that base?
If Putin has kompromat or compromising information on Trump, he my be using that as well as renewed hostilities in the eastern Ukraine to pressure Trump to make one or more of the concessions lisred above, or others.
It may take a few days to sort out these musings, and to list the sources on which they are based,
The Trenchant Observer