“The intelligence world is a wilderness of mirrors”
— James Angleton (Former head of CIA Counterintelligence)
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
— John le Carré
Among the many labyrinths in the narrative of Lee Harvey Oswald, is his time in Mexico. Did he go to Mexico City just before arriving back in Dallas? Did he visit the Soviet Consulate? Was the CIA aware of his visit? Documents confirm that they were, but that’s not the story they told publically.
Among the more serious and sober minded people who have looked into this, one of the corollaries to the Mexico City issue, is the question of whether or not Oswald had a double. Research suggests that he did in fact have a double – a man who had more than a passing physical similarity to Oswald and who also traveled to the Soviet Union at approximately the same time a Oswald, and returned to the U.S. and approximately the same time that Oswald did.
Which brings us to The Steele Dossier and related questions.
Yesterday John Solomon had an article in The Hill about the dossier. He reports the following:
“Those are just some of the highlights from the day that Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson — paid by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to find dirt on her GOP rival — met secretly with a top Justice Department official, right after Trump won the 2016 election.
And all of it was captured in the official’s handwritten notes — a contemporaneous record that intelligence professionals tell me exposes the flaws plaguing the early Russia collusion case.
For example, Simpson told then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr during the Dec. 10, 2016, meeting in a Washington coffee shop that he believed Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, was the “go-between from Russia to the Trump campaign.”
Yet, Simpson allegedly acknowledged that most of the information Fusion GPS and British intelligence operative Christopher Steele developed did not come from sources inside Moscow. “Much of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (? not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.,” Ohr scribbled in his notes.”
First notice the trick – the not so sleight of hand – where Solomon connects Ohr to the HRC campaign hiring Fusion, presented as if there were not a thousand other things in between the hiring and the meeting. Per Solomon HRC, she wolf of America’s imagination – hires Fusion and right after they cash the check, they have the meeting.
The suggestion that the dossier relied on a former Russian intelligence agent, is not any more or less surprising than anything else attached to the dossier. We already know Fusion and Steele used intermediaries and cutouts. We already know that the Russians assumed Steele was/is still in effect an operative of MI6 and/or a subcontractor to the U.S. intelligence agencies.
What it does do, is open a door to a reason for the Rusians to have attempted to murder a former operative living in the UK. Sergei Skripal may or may not have had something to do with Fusion, Steele, and the CIA. It is entirely plausible that he did, or that he was attacked to send a message to anyone else who might have or might be thinking of sharing information with the U.S. or British intelligence.
Using WMD in the UK is a level of insanity fraught with the potential for catastrophe, but as risky and as crazy as it is, it is a degree less risky and less crazy than doing it in the U.S. Besides, since Putin Inc. has already opened a franchise in the U.S. and Boris Johnson is not yet the occupant of 10 Downing, killing someone in England is the lesser of two evils.
But as interesting as all of that is, it is in fact something of a sideshow to Solomon’s article.
“Cohen has emphatically and repeatedly denied any role in connecting Russia to the Trump campaign. His lawyer, Lanny Davis, declined comment Thursday.
Simpson admitted in sworn testimony last year to the House Intelligence Committee that he had contact with Ohr after Trump’s election victory. But Ohr’s notes provide the first detailed public account of what the two men actually discussed.
Congressional investigators now are scouring them for evidence that Simpson and Steele had influence over the Russia probe, even after Steele was dismissed as an FBI informant in November 2016. Investigators want to know if any players in the Russia probe gave Congress false testimony.
One notation that stands out is Simpson’s account that he asked Steele to talk with Mother Jones reporter David Corn about their muckraking on Trump and Russia in the final days of the election. At the time, Steele still worked as an FBI source.
Corn’s Oct. 31, 2016, story was one of the most definitive to allege possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, creating an important talking point for Democrats in the final days of the campaign.
“Glen asked Chris to speak to the Mother Jones reporter. It was Glen’s Hail Mary attempt,” Ohr wrote.”
The Cohen in the above excerpt is of course Trump’s lowrent Roy Cohn, Michael Cohen – Trump’s “fixer” and Village Idiot.
We shall return to him shortly.
What stands out in the above, is of course that Fusion boss Simpson wanted Steele to talk to a reporter while Steele was also working for/with the Feds.
The suggestion being that it smacks of – ironically – collusion except the purpose of the collusion was to stop Trump. This of course feeds the conspiracy wing of Trump Inc. As we have said previously, even a malignant troll can be right. Or as Joseph Heller had it: Just because you’re paranoid that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
But it also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be out to get you especially if you are insane, and on the payroll of a foreign government, run by a world class psychopathic gangster with access to lethal chemical cocktails, the means to use them and the will to use them the risks be damned. In other words, Al Capone may have been a dangerous lunatic capable of killing people, but he didn’t have an air force.
This in turn brings us back to a point we raised in regard to the less than nuanced analysis of Marcy Wheeler.
The idea that the intelligence agencies and the semi-private “ex” operatives of the world were terrified of Trump should surprise no one. That they were racing around from Russia to England, to the U.S. and back again seems par for the course. That Fusion was in a frantic state does not discredit them or their work. What would discredit them would be if they had done nothing or actively futzed around. That their effort could be legally questionable, or could be spun as questionable again says nothing about them and everything about the state of concern in response to Putin-Trump and the mendacity of the Quislings in the establishment.
And so about the “Hail Mary.”
“When Simpson testified before Congress, he said he and Steele acted out of a sense of duty. “For him it was professional obligations. I mean, for both of us it was citizenship. You know, people report crimes all the time,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In his House testimony, though, he conceded not knowing if what he and Steele dug up amounted to a crime: “At the time that we — you know, that Chris decided to take this to the FBI, I wasn’t convinced of the facts of anything in terms of — I wasn’t convinced that there was a specific crime that occurred.”
So, congressional investigators want to know why — if Simpson acted purely on the basis of civic duty — he and Steele went to the press shortly before Election Day with allegations before the FBI completed its work”
In other words what is now also possible is that there was another attempt to interfere in the election, and it was conducted by former British intelligence operatives who may or may not have been colluding with American intelligence agents.
Which if true, does not mean Trump isn’t a wholly owned subsidiary of Putin Inc. It does mean that in response to Putin Inc. efforts to overthrow the government of the U.S. freelancers and agents of the government, made an effort to alert the public to what may have been a multi-faceted coup or series of disruption campaigns, decided to destabilize the already rickety and partially sclerotic American political machine.
This in turn forces any reasonable person to remark that the hall of mirrors – the funhouse that is America’s politics and the place where it intersects with organized crime, the corruption of ward bosses, unions, the cops, the media, and the intelligence agencies is nothing more or less than the skeleton of just about any Thomas Pynchon novel. Or Dashiell Hammett. Or minus the aliens, about 90% of the X-Files.
The establishment of course chuckles dismissively in response. Absurd they say – next thing you’ll be telling us is that if you want to understand America you can read a Philip K Dick novel.
We have addressed this issue previously:
And so back to Solomon:
“Early on, Ohr’s notes detail, the conversation focused on a theory apparently offered by Simpson that revolving Trump team members — former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, followed by informal adviser Carter Page, then Cohen — forged a secret channel with Moscow to hijack the election.
All three men long have been cited in the Russia investigation; each denies any coordination with Russia. But Ohr’s notes are the first to quote Simpson as suggesting the three essentially were shark-tooth spies who replaced each other in a secret plot.
“He identified Michael Cohen, a lawyer in Brooklyn w. Russian (Brighton Beach) clients, as the go-between from Russia to the Trump campaign who replaced Manafort and Carter Page,” Ohr’s notes read, quoting Simpson’s alleged narrative.
The notes suggest guilt by association, citing Cohen’s wife and suggesting one of Cohen’s in-laws had real estate dealings in Moscow “with ties to the Kremlin.”
“Cohen may have attended a meeting in Prague, possibly in September, about this,” Ohr quoted Simpson as saying — a claim that became public a month later, in January 2017, when BuzzFeed published a version of Steele’s uncorroborated dossier.
Cohen’s lawyers have rebutted every mention of their client in the dossier, pointedly noting he has never been to Prague.”
We have previously wondered when someone would start asking questions about what surely must be a vast network of other characters – in other words – Brighton Beach, or Little Odessa, has been a labyrinth of Russian intrigues since Trotsky first road the Brooklyn streetcars in search of a good blini and an ethical Communist.
Nothing has changed.
Pynchon may be verbose and complicated but he’s not wrong or beside the point. Of course there are people in Brighton Beach who are involved in any number of things that will land them on someone’s radar – NYPD, Hoovers, Langley, FSB, the Mob, the NY Times, MI6, Mossad, and so on.
But then there’s this curiosity:
Cohen and Carter Page keep popping up as having been to Prague. And they keep saying we were never there and we can prove it.
And that is one of those things that, in theory, is not difficult to prove one way or the other. Either there’s video and passport stamps or there aren’t.
Except of course, unless you have a double. Or someone hacks a database and suddenly there’s no record of you being in Prague or conversely there is all of a sudden a record of you having been there when you weren’t, or you were but not at the hotel in the record having a meeting with someone who you have never met.
If you posit that people inside the U.S. and British intelligence community had reason to believe Trump was as they say, compromised, and that as with the period right before 9/11, alarm bells were going off in any number of places, then it becomes possible that someone decided to shake the wire to see what came back.
And so make it appear that players were in Prague. Because the point is to see what Putin Inc. or its subsidiaries do in response. Or if the players were there, then screw with the record to see what Putin Inc. does, or they really were there and then pretend you have the wrong picture or even (per Marcy Wheeler) some of the correct picture in order to catch the other guy in a lie, or a half truth that if expressed offers you the opportunity to say: I never said I like vanilla ice cream and vodka; how did you know?
All of which brings us to the other issue that as one would expect, no one in the establishment wants to discuss. Trump may be ten different kind of evil and he may be ten different kinds of insane, and he may be utterly corrupt and compromised by his assorted connections to and with the Russians. But he didn’t arrive from another planet. New York real estate goons are not rare. The assorted byzantine connections between American gangsters and Russian gangsters, and bankers and spooks and the loose affiliation between millionaires and billionaires, is not going to come as a shocking surprise to anyone who isn’t a professional moron or an amature naif. Or is being paid to pretend that they are that stupid.
And so, back to Solomon:
“I shared the Ohr notes I obtained to career intelligence professionals with years of experience analyzing data, sorting the reliable from the garbage.
All had the same reaction: The information, on face value, has the lowest level of credibility. It was second- or third-hand, they noted, and couched with lots of caveats like “may,” “possibly” and “others disagree.”
The alleged Simpson statement that he went to the media as a “Hail Mary” stood out to those professionals as an act of desperation that they would see as weighing against the motives of an intelligence source.
A couple of the experts flagged that most of what Simpson allegedly told Ohr was not from Moscow — where the alleged plot was supposed to be based — but from a reported Russian in the United States who later seemed to disappear, according to Ohr’s notes.
“First thing I’m wondering is whether that Russian was part of a ‘kompromat’ operation to further roil the U.S. election rather than a whistleblower,” one of the experts opined.”
In other words this is a repeat of what appears in the Marcy Wheeler piece in which the whole thing – Trump, the Kompromat, etc – are all part of a devious Russian, Blofeld, Dr. No operation designed to get everyone to chase shadows.
We have already examined the defects in that theory and stand by them. It is simply not credible that the if the U.S. and British spooks have publically said they believe the Russians under Putin have been doing this shit for years – going back to the days of the czar – that the spooks would be caught by surprise. Even they are not that stupid.
And notice that last paragraph. A “kompromat operation to further roil the U.S. election.”
Well that’s curious. Kompromat is dirt used to control someone for fear of exposure. It is not a false flag operation though a false kompromat operation is another possibility, but only if the target is likely to have done something that could prove catastrophic if made public.
The grammar here is no idle matter. You have a source telling Solomon, I’m an expert, and the source is using precise technical terminology in a vague and imprecise manner.
A kompromat operation designed to roil vs a whistleblower is no small issue but in order for dirt to be effective people have to believe the target is vulnerable. If the target isn’t vulnerable then your showing your hand with a tell that reveals you’ve got a pair of twos while the other guy has a full house.
Trump? No sir, the man’s clearly as ethical as a Catholic school girl, who loves rainbows and unicorns.
This of course is a repeat of the Wheeler method. “Experts” who say things that on examination seem just off kilter enough, to suggest it’s not the spooks who are being played, but the media.
Consider this from Solomon:
“And all wondered why a Justice official — Ohr — who was not in the chain of command in the Russia counterintelligence probe, and whose wife worked for Fusion GPS on the Trump project, interviewed Simpson at all.
The Ohr interview and many other now-public actions in the Russia collusion case are “breaking every protocol at the fundamental level of intelligence gathering,” one highly decorated intelligence professional told me.”
Well that is an interesting question.
Here’s an interesting answer. The Hoovers at some point refused to talk to Fusion which, given the gravity of the situation, forced Fusion to make use of a personal contact. A contact that surely the spooks knew about because they have to do background checks on people with whom they do business, and since Steele had been with MI6 if the man so much as sneezed, alarm bells would have gone off from London to Langley.
To parse that further – the way Solomon is writing the story, Fusion are a bunch of rookies and amatures who fucked up and got played. Except that Steele wasn’t cashiered by MI6. He was promoted. It’s certainly possible that in some lite version of Smiley’s People he’s a fraud, but that even if true just forces a reasonable person to double down on the assumption that the story being told to and by Solomon is suspect. But the fact is one has to ask, if Fusion is that slipshod, how the hell have they stayed in business? Did the HRC brain trust not vet them? Did the establishment lizard people around the Clintons just throw a dart at a board, or pull a name out of hat without making use of their vast institutional memory to select someone who, however nasty, could be trusted to do the dirty work of opo research?
And what exactly are the “protocols at the fundamental level of intelligence gathering?”
A cursory examination of the history of what passes for protocols among the spooks, reveals a contraption that combines the lethality and precision of an apex predator, and (to borrow an old joke) rushing to the bridge of the Titanic, after it hit the iceberg, only to discover that the captain is Daffy Duck.
Notice that like Wheeler, Solomon is coughing up a hairball and is selling it as if it’s a breath mint. That is, he ignores the extraordinary history of the spooks, and instead tells us, without proof, that he’s taking the word of experts.
Well that’s mightly white of him.
And then finally, Solomon sticks the landing with a classic dismount:
“Whatever their assessment, Congress has a wide, new mandate to investigate the Simpson-Ohr-Steele contacts with renewed vigor and lots of questions that did not exist just a few short weeks ago: What was on the memory stick? What did Ohr do with the information? Did the FBI rely on it for future court actions? Did the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that approved surveillance warrants know Ohr was getting information from the Simpson-Steele operation after Steele had been dismissed?
Those answers could make for a long, politically hot autumn in Washington.”
The idea that Ohr threw away the stick doesn’t pass the giggle test. And while the FISA Court is as constitutionaly legitimate as a nose in the middle of your forehead is genetically ideal, the fact remains that if the stick was passed on to the Hoovers and they used the contents to get the judges at FISA to say it passed the sniff test, then it is no more or less illegitimate then anything else they would present as probable cause to issue a warrant.
And of course none of that eliminates the very real possibility that the Hoovers fucked up. As a former high ranking establishment creature of the system said: catching bank robbers is one thing. Counter-intelligence is something else altogether.
But in the end there is that borderline Damon Runyon writerly barf – a long hot autumn in Washington.
That is the quintessence of being a hack. It’s not just that we live in a world of airconditioning – a criticism which fools will dismiss as being the limp dick of a persnickety literalist, but is in truth the appropriate criticism of slack reasoning. Yeah we get it – the pressure is on and DC is a cauldron of intrigue and clandestine meetings in dimly lit bars, and yada yada yada, and I expect you to die Mr. Bond.
The machine grinds on. It’s not the 1950s anymore. It’s not even the 70s. The media is getting played and people like Solomon and Wheeler are tripping over themselves to repeat what is really highly polished gossip that, upon examination, falls apart like a “Rolex” you bought for five bucks on a street corner.
Oswald in Mexico City.
Mulder, it’s me.
Solomon can be read here:
Note: To clarify, Steele works for Orbis which was subcontracted by Fusion GPS.