Friday, August 31, 2018

Obama blocked White House photojournalists from newsworthy events, NY Times photographer compared Obama policy to Soviet Union or Russian Tass. White House Correspondents Assn. equated Obama actions to censorship-The Atlantic, Nov. 21, 2013

11/21/2013, Angry White House Photojournalists Demand More Access to the President,” The Atlantic, Abby Ohlheiser

“A coalition of media organizations sent the White House an angry letter on Thursday, protesting the administration’s apparent preference to block photojournalists from newsworthy events with the president, only to release “official” photos from Obama’s own photographers after the fact.” 

“A coalition of media organizations sent the White House an angry letter on Thursday, protesting the administration’s apparent preference to block photojournalists from covering newsworthy events with the president — often on the grounds of “privacy” — only to later release “official” photos from Obama’s own photographer after the fact. The White House Correspondents Association and a handful of other organizations argue that this practice is more or less the same as state censorship. It is, they write, “as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens.” 

The letter, also signed by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press Managing Editors and the White House News Photographers Association, adds that “journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties.” The letter provides a list of recent newsworthy events where photographers were restricted, including a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a presidential meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and the First Family’s meeting with Malala Yousafzai. The coalition also includes individual outlets, such as ABC News, Fox News Channel, The New York Times.The protest is just the latest in a series for White House correspondents critical of how the administration handles the media. In August, the press at a daily briefing got into a spat with Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who made the mistake of slamming the use of anonymous quotes in articles on White House policy. The journalists in the room noted that the administration routinely gives official statements to the press via unnamed “Senior Administration Officials.”  
Of course, those journalists involved in the daily coverage of the White House have something of a symbiotic relationship with the administration, making some of these criticisms fall flat.
They all want access and it’s never doled out in equal measure. But there’s a bit of a difference between a reporter working with a series of semi-official anonymous quotes to build a case, and a photographer trying to work around a lack of access. The reporter can construct a piece from what’s available, noting omissions as needed. A photographer cannot frame and depict a scene without being allowed in the room. 
According to the National Journal, today’s letter came complete with its own dramatic, confrontational scene between reporters and administration officials in charge of controlling the president’s image. New York Times photographer Doug Mills told Press Secretary Jay Carney in October that the administration was “just like Tass,” a reference to a state-owned Russian media outlet.”
“This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.”

“Abby Ohlheiser is a former staff writer for The Wire.” Obama image from The Atlantic

Update: Record 11,500 crowd at Trump Indiana rally +2000 outside...10,000 rally for Trump in Evansville, Indiana, in support of Mike Braun, Republican candidate for Senate-UPI, Aug. 30, 2018


8/31/18, “Evansville Trump rally got Ford Center’s largest-ever crowd, Evansville Courier and Press, Thomas B. Langhorne
“Thursday night’s Trump rally drew the Ford Center’s largest crowd ever, according to manager VenuWorks. The turnout: 11,500 people, with another 2,000 unable to get in."…

Following 5 photos from Evansville Courier and Press:

Captions for images 3, 4, and 5:

3. Crowd erupts with cheers as Trump enters rally

4. People watch from their cars as Trump arrives on Air Force One

5. Trump fans planned ahead, brought cards and card table to use while waiting in line to see Trump in Evansville


Continuing with original post:

More than 10,000 of Trump’s supporters waited in line for hours to hear him speak before the Thursday night rally.” Ford Center, Evansville, Indiana

8/30/18, “Thousands of Trump supporters flock to Indiana rally,” UPI, Jessie Higgins

President Donald Trump supporters flocked by the thousands to his rally in Evansville, Indiana on Thursday night.

The president spoke for more than an hour discussing a range of issues, including his support for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun, jobs and immigration. He also brought up some familiar rally talking points, such as the media and his opponent in the 2016 presidential election Hilary Clinton.

During the rally, Trump took aim at Justice Department and FBI leadership after tweeting criticism of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week.

“The Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now,” Trump said. “People are angry. What’s happening is a disgrace. And at some point I wanted to stay out but at some point if it doesn’t straighten out.”…

About midway through the rally, Trump brought Braun up to the podium, where he expressed his loyalty to the president.

“He needs a true ally, not somebody that says something when you’re in Indiana and does something differently when you’re in D.C.,” Braun said to applause from the crowd.

Trump then read aloud an article from the Indianapolis Star, describing a poll that named Braun’s opponent, Democrat Joe Donnelly, the least effective Democrat in the Senate.

“A vote for Mike’s opponent, Sleepy Joe, is a vote for Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and who else — Maxine Waters,” Trump said.

More than 10,000 of Trump’s supporters waited in line for hours to hear him speak before the Thursday night rally.

“I’ve never seen a president before,” said Don Schneider, 83, of Evansville, as he waded through the half-mile line to get in. “And I’m really excited to see this one.”

Like many of Trump’s supporters at Thursday’s rally, Schneider said he is a staunch Republican, and he supports Trump’s economic policies.

“I think the liberal cause has gone crazy,” Schneider said. “They want everything free, free college tuition, free everything. But nothing is free. Somebody’s got to pay for it.”

Schneider, a retired accountant, has been a Republican all his life.  

But in recent years he had grown dismayed by Republican politicians.

“Even conservatives were half way liberal,” Schneider said. “I’m old school, and I see where our country is going from where it came from. And it’s going down.”

Others at the rally echoed Schneider’s sentiments.

Sherri Flynn, a community college business professor from southern Indiana, said she supported Trump during his campaign, and continues to support him because of his foreign trade policies.

Trump has sought to renegotiate trade deals with Canada, Mexico, China, and other trade partners. He recently announced the United States and Mexico had reached a new agreement that would take the place of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and that he was optimistic Canada would join.

This was welcome news to Flynn, who said she teaches her business students about the negative trade balance that exists between the United States and its trade partners and how it harmed American businesses.

“I like (Trump’s) policies that support free enterprise, especially his policies on trade,” Flynn said. “I am very happy that it looks like Canada is going to join the new trade deal.”

During his speech Trump discussed the ongoing NAFTA negotiations with Canada and threatened to impose new automobile tariffs if a deal isn’t reached by Friday.

“If it doesn’t happen we’ll put tariffs on the cars coming in from Canada and that’ll be even better,” Trump said. Because I’ll tell you what this country is tired of being ripped off by other countries.”

For many Trump supporters at Thursday’s rally, it is the president’s economic policies that they most agree with.

Several people said his tax breaks were directly responsible for increasing their take-home pay, and his pro-business stances have created new jobs in the region.

“His lowering taxes really helps us,” said Nicole Wink, from nearby Owensboro, Kentucky. “I work at a bank and we all got pay raises and the starting pay at the bank went up because of the tax cuts.”

Although large Trump protests were promised at the rally, there were few squabbles between protesters and supporters. The protesters were contained to an area near the event center….

Shortly after Trump took the stage the rally was interrupted by a protester who was drowned out by boos from the crowd as Trump stepped back and called for her to be escorted out of the venue.

“Where the hell did she come from?” Trump said. “And now tomorrow you’re going to read headlines, ‘Trump had protesters all over the place. ‘One person!'”

“I wish people would stop protesting him,” said Judy Elber, of Winslow, Indiana, as she waited in the line to get in. “I didn’t agree with Obama or Clinton, but I kept my mouth shut and respected the office. Whoever it is in office next, even if it’s not Trump, I will respect the office.”

Elber, who is wheelchair bound because she can’t afford knee surgery, was being pushed through the line of supporters by her daughter. She said she likes Trump’s support of military, and she hopes he will fix the healthcare system so she can afford to surgery on her knees.

Like other supporters, Elber could not think of anything on which she disagreed with the president.

Among his supporters, there were few criticisms of the president — save one.

“I’d like to see him get off Twitter,” said Cameron Meade, from Washington, Indiana, who supports Trump for his pro-law enforcement and pro-military stances. “I’d like to see him behave a little more professional.”

Other’s agreed.

“Sometimes his Twitter is a little harsh,” said Terri Burton, who came to the rally from nearby Princeton, Indiana. “I love Twitter, but I think he should chill out a little bit.”

Burton and her husband say they are in lock step with many of the president’s policies on the economy, immigration, trade, and abortion, among others.

“Trump for 2020,” she said, with a big smile. “He’s our president!”” image from upi,
"President Donald Trump held a rally in Evansville, Indiana Thursday in support of Senate candidate Mike Braun. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo"

DHS created and nurtured Russia hacking claims without evidence using terms such as "targeted," "potentially targeted," "scanned," and "probed" which media sold as "Putin hacked the election." DHS has no evidence of "Russian" election interference in Illinois, Arizona, or any state-Gareth Porter, Consortium News...(Selling "Putin hacked the election" is intended to force US taxpayers to bomb Russia and murder Putin)

"The facts surrounding the two actual breaches of state websites in Illinois and Arizona, as well as the broader context of cyberattacks on state websites, don't support Russian government interference at all." In the case of Arizona, "After meeting with DHS officials in early October 2017, however, [Arizona Sec. of State] Reagan wrote in a blog post that DHS “could not confirm that any attempted Russian government hack occurred whatsoever to any election-related system in Arizona, much less the statewide voter registration database.” What the DHS said in that meeting, as Reagan’s spokesman Matt Roberts recounted to me, is even more shocking. “When we pressed DHS on what exactly was actually targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computers system,” Roberts recalled."

In article below, “grossly and deliberately deceptive” DHS “Russia scare” claims are documented. Among DHS celebrities milking this scam is ubiquitous, camera loving, Jeanette Manfra. DHS personnel use terms that don't mean "hacking," such as "targeting," "scanning," or "attempts to penetrate" which mean nothing but are intended to be heard as "Putin stole the election," US taxpayers must murder Putin. DHS claimed 21 US states were hacked by Putin, which has been disproved, but at the time DHS said they couldn't tell states exactly how Putin did it because it's "classified." That's heard as: US taxpayers must line up tanks on every inch of Putin's border, prepare to bomb Russia and murder Putin. Trump administration intelligence chief, Dan Coats, also promotes DHS lies apparently eager for US taxpayer funded bombing of Russia and murder of Putin.

8/28/18, “How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites,” Gareth Porter, Consortium News 

“The narrative about Russian cyberattacks on American election infrastructure is a self-interested abuse of power by DHS based on distortion of evidence, writes Gareth Porter.
“The narrative of Russian intelligence attacking state and local election boards and threatening the integrity of U.S. elections has achieved near-universal acceptance by media and political elites.  And now it has been accepted by the Trump administration’s intelligence chief, Dan Coats, as well.

But the real story behind that narrative, recounted here for the first time, reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created and nurtured an account that was grossly and deliberately deceptive. 

DHS compiled an intelligence report suggesting hackers linked to the Russian government could have targeted voter-related websites in many states and then leaked a sensational story of Russian attacks on those sites without the qualifications that would have revealed a different story. When state election officials began asking questions, they discovered that the DHS claims were false and, in at least one case, laughable.

The National Security Agency and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating team have also claimed evidence that Russian military intelligence was behind election infrastructure hacking, but on closer examination, those claims turn out to be speculative and misleading as well. Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU military intelligence officers does not cite any violations of U.S. election laws though it claims Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

A Sensational Story  

On Sept. 29, 2016, a few weeks after the hacking of election-related websites in Illinois and Arizona, ABC News carried a sensational headline: “Russian Hackers Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrated 4.” The story itself reported that “more than 20 state election systems” had been hacked, and four states had been “breached” by hackers suspected of working for the Russian government. The story cited only sources “knowledgeable” about the matter, indicating that those who were pushing the story were eager to hide the institutional origins of the information.
Behind that sensational story was a federal agency seeking to establish its leadership within the national security state apparatus on cybersecurity, despite its limited resources for such responsibility. In late summer and fall 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was maneuvering politically to designate state and local voter registration databases and voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” Such a designation would make voter-related networks and websites under the protection a “priority sub-sector” in the DHS “National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which already included 16 such sub-sectors.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior DHS officials consulted with many state election officials in the hope of getting their approval for such a designation. Meanwhile, the DHS was finishing an intelligence report that would both highlight the Russian threat to U.S. election infrastructure and the role DHS could play in protecting it, thus creating political impetus to the designation. But several secretaries of state—the officials in charge of the election infrastructure in their state—strongly opposed the designation that Johnson wanted.   

On Jan. 6, 2017—the same day three intelligence agencies released a joint “assessment” on Russian interference in the election—Johnson announced the designation anyway.

Media stories continued to reflect the official assumption that cyber attacks on state election websites were Russian-sponsored. Stunningly, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2016 that DHS was itself behind hacking attempts of Georgia’s election database.

The facts surrounding the two actual breaches of state websites in Illinois and Arizona, as well as the broader context of cyberattacks on state websites, didn’t support that premise at all.

In July, Illinois discovered an intrusion into its [online] voter registration website and the theft of personal information on as many as 200,000 registered voters. (The 2018 Mueller indictments of GRU officers would unaccountably put the figure at 500,000.) Significantly, however, the hackers only had copied the information and had left it unchanged in the database.

That was a crucial clue to the motive behind the hack. DHS Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications Andy Ozment told a Congressional committee in late September 2016 that the fact hackers hadn’t tampered with the voter data indicated that the aim of the theft was not to influence the electoral process. Instead, it was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.Ozment was contradicting the line that already was being taken on the Illinois and Arizona hacks by the National Protection and Programs Directorate and other senior DHS officials.

In an interview with me last year, Ken Menzel, the legal adviser to the Illinois secretary of state, confirmed what Ozment had testified. “Hackers have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006, Menzel said, adding that they had been probing every other official Illinois database with such personal data for vulnerabilities as well.  “Every governmental database—driver’s licenses, health care, you name it—has people trying to get into it,” said Menzel.

In the other successful cyberattack on an [alleged] electoral website, hackers had acquired the username and password for the voter database Arizona used during the summer, as Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan learned from the FBI. But the reason that it had become known, according to Reagan in an interview with Mother Jones, was that the login and password had shown up for sale on the dark web—the network of websites used by cyber criminals to sell stolen data and other illicit wares. 
Furthermore, the FBI had told her that the effort to penetrate the database was the work of a “known hacker” whom the FBI had monitored “frequently” in the past. Thus, there were reasons to believe that both Illinois and Arizona hacking incidents were linked to criminal hackers seeking information they could sell for profit.

Meanwhile, the FBI was unable to come up with any theory about what Russia might have intended to do with voter registration data such as what was taken in the Illinois hack. 

When FBI Counterintelligence official Bill Priestap was asked in a June 2017 hearing how Moscow might use such data, his answer revealed that he had no clue:They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said the struggling Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future elections by knowing what is there and studying it.”

The inability to think of any plausible way for the Russian government to use such data explains why DHS and the intelligence community adopted the argument, as senior DHS officials Samuel Liles and Jeanette Manfra put it, that the hacks “could be intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes and potentially the outcome.”  

But such a strategy could not have had any effect without a decision by DHS and the U.S. intelligence community to assert publicly that the intrusions and other scanning and probing were Russian operations, despite the absence of hard evidence. So DHS and other agencies were consciously sowing public doubts about U.S. elections that they were attributing to Russia.

DHS Reveals Its Self-Serving Methodology

In June 2017, Liles and Manfra testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that an October 2016 DHS intelligence report had listed election systems in 21 states that were “potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”  

They revealed that the sensational story leaked to the press in late September 2016 had been based on a draft of the DHS report. And more importantly, their use of the phrase “potentially targeted” showed that they were arguing only that the cyber incidents it listed were possible indications of a Russian attack on election infrastructure.

Furthermore, Liles and Manfra said the DHS report had “catalogued suspicious activity we observed on state government networks across the country,” which had been “largely based on suspected malicious tactics and infrastructure. They were referring to a list of eight IP addresses an August 2016 FBI “flash alert” had obtained from the Illinois and Arizona intrusions, which DHS and FBI had not been able to  attribute to the Russian government.

J. Manfra
The DHS officials recalled that the DHS began to “receive reports of cyber-enabled scanning and probing of election-related infrastructure in some states, some of which appeared to originate from servers operated by a Russian company.” Six of the eight IP addresses in the FBI alert were indeed traced to King Servers, owned by a young Russian living in Siberia. But as DHS cyber specialists knew well, the country of ownership of the server doesn’t prove anything about who was responsible for hacking: As cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr pointed out, the Russian hackers who coordinated the Russian attack on Georgian government websites in 2008 used a Texas-based company as the hosting provider.

The cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect noted in 2016 that one of the other two IP addresses had hosted a Russian criminal market for five months in 2015. But that was not a serious indicator, either. Private IP addresses are reassigned frequently by server companies, so there is not a necessary connection between users of the same IP address at different times.

The DHS methodology of selecting reports of cyber incidents involving election-related websites as “potentially targeted” by Russian government-sponsored hackers was based on no objective evidence whatever. The resulting list appears to have included any one of the eight addresses as well as any attack or “scan” on a public website that could be linked in any way to elections.

This methodology conveniently ignored the fact that criminal hackers were constantly trying to get access to every database in those same state, country and municipal systems. Not only for Illinois and Arizona officials, but state electoral officials.

In fact, 14 of the 21 states on the list experienced nothing more than the routine scanning that occurs every day, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Only six involved what was referred to as a “malicious access attempt,” meaning an effort to penetrate the site. One of them was in Ohio, where the attempt to find a weakness lasted less than a second and was considered by DHS’s internet security contractor a “non-event” at the time.

State Officials Force DHS to Tell the Truth 

For a year, DHS did not inform the 21 states on its list that their election boards or other election-related sites had been attacked in a presumed Russian-sponsored operation. The excuse DHS officials cited was that it could not reveal such sensitive intelligence to state officials without security clearances. But the reluctance to reveal the details about each case was certainly related to the reasonable expectation that states would publicly challenge their claims, creating a potential serious embarrassment. 

On Sept. 22, 2017, DHS notified 21 states about the cyber incidents that had been included in the October 2016 report. 

The public announcement of the notifications said DHS had notified each chief election officer ofany potential targeting we were aware of in their state leading up to the 2016 election.” The phrase “potential targeting” again telegraphed the broad and vague criterion DHS had adopted, but it was ignored in media stories.

But the notifications, which took the form of phone calls lasting only a few minutes, provided a minimum of information and failed to convey the significant qualification that DHS was only suggesting targeting as a possibility. “It was a couple of guys from DHS reading from a script,” recalled one state election official who asked not to be identified. “They said [our state] was targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”

A number of state election officials recognized that this information conflicted with what they knew. And if they complained, they got a more accurate picture from DHS. After Wisconsin Secretary of State Michael Haas demanded further clarification, he got an email response from a DHS official  with a different account. “[B]ased on our external analysis,” the official wrote, “the WI [Wisconsin] IP address affected belongs to the WI Department of Workforce Development, not the Elections Commission.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said DHS initially had notified his office “that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites.” But under further questioning, DHS admitted to Padilla that what the hackers had targeted was the California Department of Technology’s network.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Byron Dean also denied that any state website with voter- or election-related information had been targeted, and Pablos demanded that DHS “correct its erroneous notification.”  

Despite these embarrassing admissions, a statement issued by DHS spokesman Scott McConnell on Sept. 28, 2017 said the DHS “stood by” its assessment that 21 states “were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure.” The statement retreated from the previous admission that the notifications involved “potential targeting,” but it also revealed for the first time that DHS had defined “targeting” very broadly indeed. 

It said the category included “some cases” involving “direct scanning of targeted systems” but also cases in which “malicious actors scanned for vulnerabilities in networks that may be connected to those systems or have similar characteristics in order to gain information about how to later penetrate their target.”

It is true that hackers may scan one website in the hope of learning something that could be useful for penetrating another website, as cybersecurity expert Prof. Herbert S. Lin of Stanford University explained to me in an interview. But including any incident in which that motive was theoretical meant that any state website could be included on the DHS list, without any evidence it was related to a political motive.

Arizona’s further exchanges with DHS revealed just how far DHS had gone in exploiting that escape clause in order to add more states to its “targeted” list. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan tweeted that DHS had informed her that “the Russian government targeted our voter registration systems in 2016.” After meeting with DHS officials in early October 2017, however, Reagan wrote in a blog post that DHS “could not confirm that any attempted Russian government hack occurred whatsoever to any election-related system in Arizona, much less the statewide voter registration database.” 

What the DHS said in that meeting, as Reagan’s spokesman Matt Roberts recounted to me, is even more shocking. “When we pressed DHS on what exactly was actually targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computers system,” Roberts recalled.

In April 2018, a CBS News “60 Minutes” segment reported that the October 2016 DHS intelligence report had included the Russian government hacking of a “county database in Arizona.” Responding to that CBS report, an unidentified “senior Trump administration official” who was well-briefed on the DHS report told Reuters that “media reports” on the issue had sometimes “conflated criminal hacking with Russian government activity,” and that the cyberattack on the target in Arizona “was not perpetrated by the Russian government.”

NSA Finds a GRU Election Plot 

NSA intelligence analysts claimed in a May 2017 analysis to have documented an effort by Russian military intelligence (GRU) to hack into U.S. electoral institutions. In an intelligence analysis obtained by The Intercept and reported in June 2017, NSA analysts wrote that the GRU had sent a spear-phishing email—one with an attachment designed to look exactly like one from a trusted institution but that contains malware design to get control of the computer—to a vendor of voting machine technology in Florida. The hackers then designed a fake web page that looked like that of the vendor.

They sent it to a list of 122 email addresses NSA believed to be local government organizations that probably were “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The objective of the new spear-phishing campaign, the NSA suggested, was to get control of their computers through malware to carry out the exfiltration of voter-related data.

But the authors of The Intercept story failed to notice crucial details in the NSA report that should have tipped them off that the attribution of the spear-phishing campaign to the GRU was based merely on the analysts’ own judgment—and that their judgment was faulty.

The Intercept article included a color-coded chart from the original NSA report that provides crucial information missing from the text of the NSA analysis itself as well as The Intercept’s account. 

The chart clearly distinguishes between the elements of the NSA’s account of the alleged Russian scheme that were based on “Confirmed Information” (shown in green) and those that were based on “Analyst Judgment” (shown in yellow). The connection between the “operator” of the spear-phishing campaign the report describes and an unidentified entity confirmed to be under the authority of the GRU is shown as a yellow line, meaning that it is based on “Analyst Judgment” and labeled “probably.” 

A major criterion for any attribution of a hacking incident is whether there are strong similarities to previous hacks identified with a specific actor. But the chart concedes that “several characteristics” of the campaign depicted in the report distinguish it from “another major GRU spear-phishing program,” the identity of which has been redacted from the report. 

The NSA chart refers to evidence that the same operator also had launched spear-phishing campaigns on other web-based mail applications, including the Russian company “”  Those targets suggest that the actors were more likely Russian criminal hackers rather than Russian military intelligence.

Even more damaging to its case, the NSA reports that the same operator who had sent the spear-phishing emails also had sent a test email to the “American Samoa Election Office.” Criminal hackers could have been interested in personal information from the database associated with that office. But the idea that Russian military intelligence was planning to hack the voter rolls in American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory with 56,000 inhabitants who can’t even vote in U.S. presidential elections, is plainly risible.

The Mueller Indictment’s Sleight of Hand 

The Mueller indictment of GRU officers released on July 13 appeared at first reading to offer new evidence of Russian government responsibility for the hacking of Illinois and other state voter-related websites. A close analysis of the relevant paragraphs, however, confirms the lack of any real intelligence supporting that claim. 

Mueller accused two GRU officers of working with unidentified “co-conspirators” on those hacks. But the only alleged evidence linking the GRU to the operators in the hacking incidents is the claim that a GRU official named Anatoly Kovalev and “co-conspirators” deleted search history related to the preparation for the hack after the FBI issued its alert on the hacking identifying the IP address associated with it in August 2016.

A careful reading of the relevant paragraphs shows that the claim is spurious. The first sentence in Paragraph 71 says that both Kovalev and his “co-conspirators” researched domains used by U.S. state boards of elections and other entities “for website vulnerabilities.”  The second says Kovalev and “co-conspirators” had searched for “state political party email addresses, including filtered queries for email addresses listed on state Republican Party websites.”

Searching for website vulnerabilities would be evidence of intent to hack them, of course, but searching Republican Party websites for email addresses is hardly evidence of any hacking plan. And Paragraph 74 states that Kovalev “deleted his search history”—not the search histories of any “co-conspirator”—thus revealing that there were no joint searches and suggesting that the subject Kovalev had searched was Republican Party emails. So any deletion by Kovalev of his search history after the FBI alert would not be evidence of his involvement in the hacking of the Illinois election board website. 

With this rhetorical misdirection unraveled, it becomes clear that the repetition in every paragraph of the section of the phrase “Kovalev and his co-conspirators” was aimed at giving the reader the impression the accusation is based on hard intelligence about possible collusion that doesn’t exist.

The Need for Critical Scrutiny of DHS Cyberattack Claims 

The DHS campaign to establish its role as the protector of U.S. electoral institutions is not the only case in which that agency has used a devious means to sow fear of Russian cyberattacks

In December 2016, DHS and the FBI published a long list of IP addresses as indicators of possible Russian cyberattacks. But most of the addresses on the list had no connection with Russian intelligence, as former U.S. government cyber-warfare officer Rob Lee found on close examination.

When someone at the Burlington, Vt., Electric Company spotted one of those IP addresses on one of its computers, the company reported it to DHS. But instead of quietly investigating the address to verify that it was indeed an indicator of Russian intrusion, DHS immediately informed The Washington Post. The result was a sensational story that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. power grid. In fact, the IP address in question was merely Yahoo’s email server, as Rob Lee told me, and the computer had not even been connected to the power grid. The threat to the power grid was a tall tale created by a DHS official, which the Post had to embarrassingly retract.  

Since May 2017, DHS, in partnership with the FBI, has begun an even more ambitious campaign to focus public attention on what it says are Russian “targeting” and “intrusions” into “major, high value assets that operate components of our Nation’s critical infrastructure”, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors.  Any evidence of such an intrusion must be taken seriously by the U.S. government and reported by news media. But in light of the DHS record on alleged threats to election infrastructure and the Burlington power grid, and its well-known ambition to assume leadership over cyber protection, the public interest demands that the news media examine DHS claims about Russian cyber threats far more critically than they have up to now.”

“Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His latest book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.”


8/31/18, "Oh Dear: More Devastating Leaks From Bruce Ohr Testimony," tcth, sundance

"In another article containing information from Bruce Ohr’s closed-door testimony we highlight two key points (emphasis mine):
Kim Strassell – […] Congressional sources tell me that Mr. Ohr revealed Tuesday that he verbally warned the FBI that its source had a credibility problem, alerting the bureau to Mr. Steele’s leanings and motives. He also informed the bureau that Mrs. Ohr was working for Fusion and contributing to the dossier project.
The admission that Nellie Ohr was contributing to the dossier is a really important specific point.  We always suspected some of the dossier content was attributable to Mrs. Ohr, this confirms that suspicion.

Additionally, on the day before Mr. Ohr testified to congress, embarrassingly the New York Times launched a proactive defense surrounding his predicted testimony; within the August 27th article they cited Fusion GPS as a source saying Nellie Ohr never worked on the dossier (see screengrab):


Obviously Mr. Ohr did not tow-the-media-predicted-line.

Secondly, more information from Ms. Strassel:
[…] Congressional sources tell me that Mr. Ohr revealed Tuesday that he verbally warned the FBI that its source had a credibility problem … Mr. Ohr said, moreover, that he delivered this information before the FBI’s first application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant against Trump aide Carter Page, in October 2016. (link)
This is key, because it further erodes the validity of the Carter Page FISA application. If Bruce Ohr was warning the FBI about the lack of credibility of the primary source behind the evidence provided to the FISA Court, then there is no doubt the Woods Procedures were not followed.

The FBI and DOJ failing to heed a warning on the content of the primary information, or to provide that warning to the FISA court, shows a direct intent to mislead the court by the FBI officials presenting the information to Main Justice for the FISA application.  Who signed it?


 Oct. 2016 FISA Court application, View this document on Scribd


Added: Trump should immediately declassify all documents:

"The only way to clear up this messy saga is for Trump to immediately declassify all documents -- without redactions -- relating to the Mueller investigation, the FISA court warrants, the Clinton email investigation, and CIA and FBI involvement with the dossier and the use of informants."

8/30/18, "The Truth Will Set Us All Free," Victor Davis Hanson, Real Clear Politics

"Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was star-crossed from the start. His friend and successor as FBI director, James Comey, by his own admission prompted the investigation -- with the deliberate leaking of classified memos about his conversations with President Donald Trump to the press.

Mueller then unnecessarily stocked his team with what the press called his "dream team" of mostly Democratic partisans. One had defended a Hillary Clinton employee. Another had defended the Clinton Foundation.

Mueller did not at first announce to the press why he had dismissed Trump-hating FBI operatives Lisa Page and Peter Strzok from his investigative team. Instead, he staggered their departures to leave the impression they were routine reassignments.

But Mueller's greatest problem was his original mandate to discover whether Trump colluded with the Russians in 2016 to tilt the election in his favor.

After 15 months, Mueller has indicted a number of Trump associates, but on charges having nothing to do with Russian collusion. They faced inordinately long prison sentences unless they "flipped" and testified against Trump.

We are left with the impression that Mueller cannot find much to do with his original mandate of unearthing Russian collusion, but he still thinks Trump is guilty of something.

In other words, Mueller has reversed the proper order of jurisprudence.

Instead of presuming Trump innocent unless he finds evidence of Russian collusion, Mueller started with the assumption that the reckless raconteur Trump surely must be guilty of some lawbreaking. 

Thus, it is Mueller's job to hunt for past crimes to prove it.

While Mueller so far has not found Trump involved in collusion with foreign citizens to warp a campaign, there is evidence that others most surely were colluding -- but are not of interest to Mueller.

It is likely that during the 2016 campaign, officials at the Department of Justice, FBI, CIA and National Security Agency broke laws to ensure that the outsider Trump lost to Hillary Clinton. FBI and DOJ officials misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to obtain warrants to surveil Trump associates. National security officials unmasked the names of those being monitored and likely leaked them to the press with the intent to spread unverified rumors detrimental to the Trump campaign.

A spy on the federal payroll was implanted into the Trump campaign. Hillary Clinton's campaign team paid for research done by a former British intelligence officer working with Russian sources to compile a dossier on Trump. Clinton hid her investment in Christopher Steele's dossier by using intermediaries such as the Perkins Coie law firm and Fusion GPS to wipe away her fingerprints.

As a result of wrongful conduct, more than a dozen officials at the FBI and DOJ have resigned or retired, or were fired or reassigned. Yet so far none of these miscreants has been indicted or has faced the same legal scrutiny that Mueller applies to Trump associates.

Hillary Clinton is not facing legal trouble for destroying subpoenaed emails, for using an unlawful email server or for the expenditure of campaign money on the Steele dossier.

No president has ever faced impeachment for supposed wrongdoing alleged to have taken place before he took office -- not Andrew Johnson, not Richard Nixon, and not even Bill Clinton, who lied about his liaisons with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. With the effort to go back years, if not decades, into Trump's business and personal life, we are now in unchartered territory.

The argument is not that Trump committed crimes while president -- indeed, his record at home and abroad is winning praise. The allegations are instead about what he may have done as a private citizen, and whether it could have reversed the 2016 election.

The only way to clear up this messy saga is for Trump to immediately declassify all documents -- without redactions -- relating to the Mueller investigation, the FISA court warrants, the Clinton email investigation, and CIA and FBI involvement with the dossier and the use of [US taxpayer funded] informants.

Second, there needs to be another special counsel to investigate wrongdoing on the part of senior officials in these now nearly discredited agencies. The mandate should be to discover whether there was serial conflict of interest, chronic lying to federal officials, obstruction of justice, improper unmasking and leaking, misleading of federal courts, and violation of campaign finance laws.

It is past time to stop the stonewalling, the redacting, the suppression, the leaking to the press and the media hysteria. The government must turn over all relevant documents to two special counsels and free each to discover who did what in 2016.

Americans need the whole truth to ensure equality under the law and to thereby set us free from this nearly two-year [US taxpayer funded] nightmare."



Comment: If Illinois is such a big example of Putin's work, why didn’t anyone demand a recount of 2016 Illinois results? The US has no checks and balances to protect the people against all powerful government. “Both” political parties have identical agendas: open borders, Endless Unwinnable Wars funded by US taxpayers, extreme globalism, America Last trade deals, massive central government, and fake elections. As in monarchies, US elections can’t change anything because the unelected run everything. The overthrow of the country has taken place--the fact that no one is saying so out loud doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. US monarchs have made clear they’re above all laws. What else do you need to know?