“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Not buying it. Remember the Slam Dunkers? When I first heard this report had a "high confidence" attached to it, my immediate sense was of the warm whiff of bullshit.

Unpacking the New CIA Leak: Don’t Ignore the Aluminum Tube Footnote

This post will unpack the leak from the CIA published in the WaPo tonight.
Before I start with the substance of the story, consider this background. First, if Trump comes into office on the current trajectory, the US will let Russia help Bashar al-Assad stay in power, thwarting a 4-year effort on the part of the Saudis to remove him from power. It will also restructure the hierarchy of horrible human rights abusing allies the US has, with the Saudis losing out to other human rights abusers, potentially up to and including that other petrostate, Russia. It will also install a ton of people with ties to the US oil industry in the cabinet, meaning the US will effectively subsidize oil production in this country, which will have the perhaps inadvertent result of ensuring the US remains oil-independent even though the market can’t justify fracking right now.

The CIA is institutionally quite close with the Saudis right now, and has been in charge of their covert war against Assad.

This story came 24 days after the White House released an anonymous statement asserting, among other things, “the Federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day,” suggesting that the Russians may have been deterred.
This story was leaked within hours of the time the White House announced it was calling for an all-intelligence community review of the Russia intelligence, offered without much detail. Indeed, this story was leaked and published as an update to that story.

Which is to say, the CIA and/or people in Congress (this story seems primarily to come from Democratic Senators) leaked this, apparently in response to President Obama’s not terribly urgent call to have all intelligence agencies weigh in on the subject of Russian influence, after weeks of Democrats pressuring him to release more information. It was designed to both make the White House-ordered review more urgent and influence the outcome.
So here’s what that story says.

In September, the spooks briefed “congressional leaders” (which for a variety of reasons I wildarseguess is either a Gang of Four briefing including Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid or a briefing to SSCI plus McConnell, Reid, Jack Reed, and John McCain). Apparently, the substance of the briefing was that Russia’s intent in hacking Democratic entities was not to increase distrust of institutions, but instead to elect Trump.
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The difference between this story and other public assessments is that it seems to identify the people — who sound like people with ties to the Russian government but not necessarily part of it — who funneled documents from Russia’s GRU to Wikileaks.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

[I]ntelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees.
This is the part that has always been missing in the past: how the documents got from GRU, which hacked the DNC and John Podesta, to Wikileaks, which released them. It appears that CIA now thinks they know the answer: some people one step removed from the Russian government, funneling the documents from GRU hackers (presumably) to Wikileaks to be leaked, with the intent of electing Trump.
Not everyone buys this story. Mitch McConnell doesn’t buy the intelligence.
In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.
That’s one doubt raised about CIA’s claim — though like you all, I assume Mitch McConnell shouldn’t be trusted on this front.

But McConnell wasn’t the only one. One source for this story — which sounds like someone like Harry Reid or Dianne Feinstein — claimed that this CIA judgment is the “consensus” view of all the intelligence agencies, a term of art.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
Except that in a briefing this week (which may have been what impressed John McCain and Lindsey Graham to do their own investigation), that’s not what this represented.
The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered. [my emphasis]
That’s a conflict. Some senior US official (often code for senior member of Congress) says this is the consensus view. Another senior US official (or maybe the very same one) says there are “minor disagreements.”

Remember: we went to war against Iraq, which turned out to have no WMD, in part because no one read the “minor disagreements” from a few agencies about some aluminum tubes. A number of Senators who didn’t read that footnote closely (and at least one that did) are involved in this story. What we’re being told is there are some aluminum tube type disagreements.

Let’s hear about those disagreements this time, shall we?

Here’s the big takeaway. The language “a formal US assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies” is, like “a consensus view,” a term of art. It’s an opportunity for agencies which may have differing theories of what happened here to submit their footnotes.

That may be what Obama called for today: the formal assessment from all agencies (though admittedly, the White House purposely left the scope and intent of it vague).

Whatever that review is intended to be, what happened as soon as Obama announced it is that the CIA and/or Democratic Senators started leaking their conclusion. That’s what this story is.

Update: One other really critical detail. When the White House announced the Obama review today, Wikileaks made what was a bizarre statement. Linking to a CNN story on the Obama ordered review that erred on the side of blaming Russia for everything, it said, “CNN: Obama orders report into WikiLeaks timed for release just prior to Trump presidency.” Even though none of the statements on the review focused on what this story does — that is, on the way that the DNC and Podesta emails got to Wikileaks — Wikileaks nevertheless interpreted it as an inquiry targeted at it.

Update: And now David Sanger (whose story on the Obama-ordered review was particularly bad) and Scott Shane reveal the RNC also got hacked, and it is the differential leaking that leads the spooks to believe the Russians wanted Trump to win.
They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.
In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public.
This may be a fair assessment. But you would have to account for two things before making it.
First, you’d need to know the timing and hacker behind the RNC hack. That’s because two entities are believed to have hacked the DNC: an FSB appearing hacking group, and a GRU one. The FSB is not believed to have leaked. GRU is believed to have. So if the FSB hacked the RNC but didn’t leak it, it would be completely consistent with what FSB did with DNC.

NYT now says the RNC hack was by GRU in the spring, so it is a fair question why the DNC things got leaked but RNC did not.

Also, Sanger and Shane say “largely documents” from Dems were leaked. That’s false. There were two streams of non-Wikileaks releases, Guccifer, which did leak all-Dem stuff, and DC Leaks, which leaked stuff that might be better qualified as Ukrainian related. The most publicized of documents from the latter were from Colin Powell, which didn’t help Trump at all.

Update: It’s clear that Harry Reid (who of course is retiring and so can leak speech and debate protected classified information without worrying he’ll be shut off in the future) is one key driver of this story. Last night he was saying, “”I was right. Comey was wrong. I hope he can look in the mirror and see what he did to this country.” This morning he is on the TV saying he believes Comey had information on this before the election.


FBI sent planeload of agents to frame Assange in Iceland, got snubbed by minister

© Chip East
The US sent a “planeload of FBI agents” to Iceland in 2011 to frame WikiLeaks and its co-founder Julian Assange, according to a former Icelandic minister of interior, who refused them any cooperation and asked them to cease their activities.

In June 2011, Obama administration implied to Iceland's authorities they had knowledge of hackers wanting to destroy software systems in the country, and offered help, then-Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson, said in an interview with the Katoikos publication.

However, Jonasson said he instantly became “suspicious” of the US good intentions, “well aware that a helping hand might easily become a manipulating hand.”
Later in the summer 2011, the US “sent a planeload of FBI agents to Iceland seeking our cooperation in what I understood as an operation set up to frame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks,” Jonasson said.

Icelanders seemed like a tough nut to crack, though.

“Since they had not been authorized by the Icelandic authorities to carry out police work in Iceland and since a crack-down on WikiLeaks was not on my agenda, to say the least, I ordered that all cooperation with them be promptly terminated and I also made it clear that they should cease all activities in Iceland immediately,” the politician said.

So the US were told to leave, and moreover, the politician made things quite clear for them.

“If I had to take sides with either WikiLeaks or the FBI or CIA, I would have no difficulty in choosing: I would be on the side of WikiLeaks,” he said.

J√≥nasson went on to discuss other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden: the Althing, the Icelandic parliament, debated whether Snowden should have been granted citizenship, but “there hasn't been political consensus” on the matter.
“Iceland is part of NATO and such a decision would be strongly objected to by the US,” Jonasson said.

Both whistleblowers have spent several years under protection: Assange has been staying in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for about four years, while Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in 2013, and he is still staying at an undisclosed location there.


  1. Army beats Navy first time in 14 years.

  2. I put this up on the previous thread right when Deuce posted a new topic.

    Mr. Tillerson is an oil man from Texas with international ties to not only Russia but also Kurdistan. He might just be the perfect pick since virtually every international situation seems to be centered around oil. Who has it and who needs it and who wants it. Time will tell. Regardless, Trump has once again picked a business person instead of a career blood sucking politician. Giuliani, my favorite, is perhaps too old to do the job. Who knows. Sometimes the mind writes checks the ass can't cash.

  3. Kurdistan ?

    I'm changing my mind about the fellow.

  4. Be very skeptical about intelligence reports in general. Check out the update on the FBI in Iceland above.

    Obama administration of course.

    Trump is right to distrust intelligence reports being fed to him by the Obama administration

    1. .

      At least three of the Intelligence heads have admitted lying to Congress. Clapper and Brennen and a guy from the Bush administration.

      I'm sure they are the tip of the iceberg, the ones that got caught and were forced to admit it. Lying is what these guys do. Wikileaks and Snowden have shown they don't really care who it is they lie to.


  5. By and large I think it is obvious that Obama has been lazy.

  6. A good thing too, cause he's somewhat crazy and if he hadn't been lazy things would be much worse.

  7. .

    The Communications Director of the RNC, Sean Spicer, was on CNN today regarding the alleged hacks by Russian agents.

    Smerconodick asked him about the NYT story asserting that the RNC had also been hacked. Spicer denied the Times story. First, he disputed the idea that 17 US intelligence agencies agreed with the assessment that Russia was behind the hacking. He pointed out that there were disputes among the groups. He pointed to earlier statements by many intelligence authorities that there was no GNC hack. He also said that the RNC had run their own review and no evidence of a hack was found.

    When pressed, Spicer said, 'Show me the proof' which left the CNN guy with no argument.

    Little chance that will happen.

    Since 2001, we have seen how the game goes.

    - Accusation by intelligence agencies
    - Demands to see the evidence by public
    - Intelligence agency claims that providing the evidence is impossible since it is sensitive and would jeopardize methods and sources


  8. In forty days, they will be back to their usual global warming and the LBGTQSCP agendas.

  9. White House: We’re probably not going to empty out Gitmo before January 20th
    Dec 10, 2016 5:31 PM by Ed Morrissey

    Doubtful if anyone wants to take them and piss The Donald off.

    The New York Times’ Charlie Savage notes that the direction of detentions may change in a hurry after January 20th:

    In fits and starts, the president has whittled down the remaining prison population, citing the high expense of imprisoning people there and portraying its continued operation as a symbol that fuels anti-American sentiments. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has said he will keep it open and “load it up with some bad dudes.”

  10. College instructor tells students that Trump's election was an 'act of terrorism'

    Video goes viral, college threatens student with legal action for recording video.

  11. Deuce mentioned Obama was a lazy ass....Thankfully !! --

    December 11, 2016
    Did golf save the United States?
    By Scott Mayer

    Nearly eight years ago, as Barack Obama took office, Rush Limbaugh opined that he hoped that the new President would fail. While the media attempted to spin his words into wishing ill upon the nation, it was clear to those of us Hillary Clinton labels "deplorables" exactly what it was that Rush meant.

    Fast-forward to today, and it's clear that Obama didn't fail, and was instead wildly successful in his fundamental transformation of the U. S. into what Time Magazine now calls the "Divided States of America." While I too wish Obama had failed, I also can't help but recognize that things could in fact be much worse than they are today.

    A couple of months before Donald Trump shellacked Hillary Clinton in the election, President Obama took some time away from his busy golf schedule to continue his global apology tour, in Laos, where he twice implied that Americans are lazy. Interesting words coming from a president who has played more than three hundred games of golf during the course of his seven-year presidency. Yes, I say seven years, because, during the nearly eight years since he took the oath of office, he has spent close to one entire year of his presidency whacking a little white ball around.

    In a sane world, the employer (American citizens) would clearly have terminated an employee (Obama) for such a lax attitude toward work. But a gimmie is surely in order for this particular putz, as his golfing escapades may have actually turned out to be a good thing for the vast majority of Americans.

    Could it be that the combination of a lazy president and the game of golf actually helped to save the U. S.? Just think of what this divisive community organizer could have accomplished if he instead worked during just one-half of those extra 300 days....


  12. Idaho Elevator Report: Condi Rice backs Tillerson as Secretary of State

    1. John Bolton may sign on as Tillerson's Assistant Secretary of State.

    2. 'Deputy' Secretary of State, rather.

      Already being called The Dynamic Duo.